It is currently Sat Oct 21, 2017 5:58 pm

All times are UTC - 7 hours





Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 32 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next
Author Message
PostPosted: Tue Apr 11, 2017 11:29 pm 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:49 pm
Posts: 7233
Location: Chexbres, VD, Switzerland
I think the FDS was a very hot selling machine, it seems to have been suddenly abandoned somewhere about the end of 1987 or the begining of 1988 by Nintendo for piracy reasons. The planned american version of the FDS was even cancelled completely. Anyone has more info about what exactly was going on ?

I am especially wondering about how brutal the abandon was, in 1987 hundreds of games were released for the system, in 1988 I guess almost zero (Is there somewhere a list of FDS games and their release date (other than Wikipedia's shitty incomplete list) ?).

I think the system was seriously underused - most games are signle-disk only and many of them were ports of NROM cartridge games anyways. Few FDS games really made good use of the expansion audio's possibilities. Also since the system comes with a CPU IRQ counter, using this to create interesting things with $4011 PCM audio is an obvious possibility that wasn't ever used in any FDS games.

I remember that least Highway Star (jap. version of Rad Racer), Final Fantasy 1 and Mega Man 1 were planned to be released on the FDS but were switched to cartridge format at some point in their development.

The year 1987 is where NES games started to be really good and epic games (although some already were prior to that), and where the cartridges started to contain more advanced mappers, more memory and being better used overall. But this seems to come with an unexplained incredibly quick downfall of the FDS in japan. Where can I have more details of what actually happened to the accessory to be abandoned so quickly despite never being used to its fullest ?


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 12:44 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Jan 22, 2012 12:03 pm
Posts: 5730
Location: Canada
I remember reading that they thought it was the most effective way to make bigger games, but between the time they started developing the FDS and when it was finally ready they were shocked to find that larger cartridge ROMs were coming down in price and becoming viable instead.

I thought what I read was in this interview about Metroid but it doesn't quite seem to say what I remember. I'll keep looking.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 12:51 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 9:10 am
Posts: 578
Location: Estonia, Rapla city (50 and 60Hz compatible :P)
I would think piracy had something to do with it. It was apparently very easy to read and write the disks it used.

_________________
http://www.tmeeco.eu


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 1:41 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 10:27 pm
Posts: 282
Location: Hong Kong
TmEE wrote:
I would think piracy had something to do with it.

Yes, and the main reason the unit was SO popular here.

Ironically, popular Famicom game copiers such as the Game Doctor and Game Converter used the FDS for distribution of pirated cart games(as opposed to later generations such as the SFC and N64, where pirated games were distributed in 3.5" floppies or CD-ROMs), so they themselves made an official peripheral that enabled pirates to pirate (nearly) everything.

The disk games were already sold at much lower price than cart games(this already lowered developers' interest in making games for it because of lower turnover), since their business model was that a kid could buy a blank disk from Nintendo and then buy a game from a service station, to have it written to the disk (I think the Nintendo Power carts for later generations was a similar idea), and the disk could be rewritten with another game once the kid got tired with the old game. So part of the revenue was supposed to come from sales of the physical disks and another from the game writing service.

People finding ways to copy disks themselves (with appropriate software, and hardware revisions of the drive to counter this only had limited success) just killed their revenue from the service, and that the arrival of unofficial (Quick) disks meant that they earned nothing from the disks either. Adding the fact that people even pirated cart games with the disks no wonder they eventually decided to pull the plug.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 3:00 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:49 pm
Posts: 7233
Location: Chexbres, VD, Switzerland
Quote:
since their business model was that a kid could buy a blank disk from Nintendo and then buy a game from a service station, to have it written to the disk

But most if not all FDS disks I own have a proper game labels on them. So I can't believe the people bought blank disks and had them written at some service station.

Quote:
Ironically, popular Famicom game copiers such as the Game Doctor and Game Converter used the FDS for distribution of pirated cart games

How did that work ? Assuming we're talking about NROM games, the ROM fits a single disk side easily but needs to be remapped from $8000-$ffff to $6000-$dfff. This can't be easily done without some fairly advanced hacking (changing lots of pointers). Also, some code that sets the correct mirroring have to be inserted before running the actual game. The NMI vector on FDS is hardwired to something else than the cart space, so the game has to be hacked in order to work at all. So I can't see how hacking NROM cart games to FDS would be so obviously simple.

Quote:
so they themselves made an official peripheral that enabled pirates to pirate (nearly) everything.

Quote:
People finding ways to copy disks themselves [...] just killed their revenue from the service,

How did that work in detail ? I tought the FDS has some serious copy protection mechanisms - the disks needs to have a "Nintendo" shape graved into them, so that ordinairy QuickDisks that were available for other computers couldn't be used without some serious modifications to either the disk or the FDS drive unit. Also there's some software protection aswell, I think the first file can't be overwritten, the cart adapter prevents that, or something in the like I don't remember the details.

Finally, a whole disk side (64kb) do not fit into the adapter's memory (32kb) so copying a disk to another disk isn't that simple and need to be split up into several operations. This assumes an initial bootleg disk is somehow produced to have a copy program in the Famicom memory in the 1st place.


Last edited by Bregalad on Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:03 am, edited 1 time in total.

Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 3:33 am 
Offline
Site Admin
User avatar

Joined: Mon Sep 20, 2004 6:04 am
Posts: 3470
Location: Indianapolis
Bregalad wrote:
Quote:
Ironically, popular Famicom game copiers such as the Game Doctor and Game Converter used the FDS for distribution of pirated cart games

How did that work ? Assuming we're talking about NROM games, the ROM fits a single disk side easily but needs to be remapped from $8000-$ffff to $6000-$dfff. This can't be easily done without some fairly advanced hacking (changing lots of pointers). Also, some code that sets the correct mirroring have to be inserted before running the actual game. The NMI vector on FDS is hardwired to something else than the cart space, so the game has to be hacked in order to work at all. So I can't see how hacking NROM cart games to FDS would be so obviously simple.


You're thinking in terms of the FDS RAM adapter. The copier sits between the Famicom and the FDS RAM adapter. So they're free to add their own RAM and mappers, and any signals passed between the the FDS and Famicom can be manipulated as needed. I'm pretty sure that none of those copiers actually dumped carts, you would have bought the games on disks and they would have been mapper-hacked already.

One interesting thing I found when doing some research on the Game Action Replay, apparently the ASIC in there is the same one that was used in some Famicom copiers. Same deal on SNES with the Naki Game Saver, it uses the ASIC from the Game Doctor SF.

Also I doubt this is a major reason for the FDS getting pulled, but I remember reading somewhere that shop owners were not happy with the massive size of those disk writer kiosks.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 4:33 am 
Offline

Joined: Tue May 28, 2013 5:49 am
Posts: 808
Location: Sweden
Ericj explains a bit how pirate devices and disks works here: http://www.famicomdisksystem.com

Although piracy was certainly a problem with FDS, I don't think it was that big of a problem in Japan. It was more in other Asian countries.

Bregalad wrote:
Quote:
since their business model was that a kid could buy a blank disk from Nintendo and then buy a game from a service station, to have it written to the disk

But most if not all FDS disks I own have a proper game labels on them. So I can't believe the people bought blank disks and had them written at some service station.

But they did. I don't think you could buy blank disks, but there are Disk Write exclusive games like Eggerland Souzou no Tabidachi. You told the store clerk what game you wanted and then the clerk would write the disk for you (the Disk Writers were never operated by customers as far as I understand). You could provide your own disk, but maybe the store clerk could use a blank disk too for some extra cost. The clerk would also provide you with labels and manual (usually a cheaper monochrome fold-out manual, I have a few of these). If you look at some of your disks, they might have several labels on top of each other, that means it has been rewritten multiple times. Also sometimes you find out that the content of the disk doesn't even match the label.
But there where also retail disks that was sold with a real non-foldout manual. The Wave Jack series came in a large box with a small novella for a manual, stickers and a radio drama cassette-tape. I heard all these extra goodies was designed to discourage piracy.

Quote:
The disk games were already sold at much lower price than cart games(this already lowered developers' interest in making games for it because of lower turnover)

But how could this be the case? Disks where cheaper because they where cheaper to produce than carts, not because the profit was lower right? And rewriting a disk must be even cheaper for the consumer because you even provide the disk (so you actually loose one of your old games) and only pay for the software itself. No reason to decrease the profit, both the developers and the customers saves money on FDS games.



The main flaws of the FDS (partly from Japanese wikipedia):
* Writing and reading times are long compared to carts.
* When the FDS was released in 1986, 128 kB ROM cartridges already existed. And in june the same year, Ganbare Goemon! Karakuri Douchuu on a 256 kB ROM cart was released. The limits of the FDS format was quite clear early on (Zelda, the first game already used up over half of a disk). And as carts became cheaper to produce, the benefits of the FDS became obsolete.
* Saving - Battery RAM appeared in 1987 and I guess it became cheaper and cheaper.
* Expansion Sound - Konami and Namco started putting sound chips in the cartridges, using the same pins designed for the FDS sound. I guess as cartridge technology became cheaper, this made the uniqueness of the FDS sound non-existent.
* It required to by an extra peripheral (unless you had a Twin), which probably at least discourages smaller developer companies.
* Piracy was probably a factor too.

All the benefits of the FDS became obsolete quite fast, as cartridges became cheaper to make I guess. Although it was hot selling at first, I mean there still are quite a lot of FDS games out there. Square loved the format and released several.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 5:22 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:49 pm
Posts: 7233
Location: Chexbres, VD, Switzerland
Quote:
You're thinking in terms of the FDS RAM adapter. The copier sits between the Famicom and the FDS RAM adapter.

How does that work? I still don't understand at all, how you can automatically make a FDS game out of a cartridge game without human romhacking involvement - I doubt it's possible. Even if this was (by somehow automatically substracting $2000 to all pointers), having an anti-piracy measure based on this would be extremely simple - check some pointers and crash the game if they don't point to the intended ROM area.

If the copier doesn't make a FDS game at all but just use the FDS for storage of cartridge data, then why would it use the FDS at all ? Using a regular disk instead seems like a better option.
Quote:
* When the FDS was released in 1986, 128 kB ROM cartridges already existed. And in june the same year, Ganbare Goemon! Karakuri Douchuu on a 256 kB ROM cart was released. The limits of the FDS format was quite clear early on (Zelda, the first game already used up over half of a disk). And as carts became cheaper to produce, the benefits of the FDS became obsolete.

You could easy reach 256kb or more by having multi-disk games, a possibility that was only rarely used. Apparently this was planned (e.g. For FF1) but Nintendo shutted down the possibility very quickly for an obscure reason.
Quote:
* It required to by an extra peripheral (unless you had a Twin), which probably at least discourages smaller developer companies.

Sure, but once you have that peripheral, you get extra sound, CPU IRQs and other nice features that multiplies the FC's possibilities for free - this was hardly ever put to good use by commercial FDS games. Similar hardware was only used in cartridge late in FC's live, and almost exclusively by 3rd party cart makers. Only the MMC5 is a Nintendo-made mapper which exceeds the FDS in terms of possibilities.
Quote:
* Expansion Sound - Konami and Namco started putting sound chips in the cartridges, using the same pins designed for the FDS sound. I guess as cartridge technology became cheaper, this made the uniqueness of the FDS sound non-existent.

You said it - that makes a good reason for Konami and Namco stooping to develop games for the FDS. That doesn't make a good reason for the vast majority of smaller companies which made their carts only through Nintendo.

Quote:
* Piracy was probably a factor too

I'm pretty sure it was, but I don't understand what happened exactly. If there was no problem, the FDS would have faded slowly as cartridge games became less expensive and more powerful. Instead, the FDS seems to have vanished extremely quickly in the last quarter of 1987 for an obscure piracy-related reason, this is what I'm particularly interested in.


Quote:
Although piracy was certainly a problem with FDS, I don't think it was that big of a problem in Japan. It was more in other Asian countries.

So why would Nintendo stop to sell FDS games ? My understanding is that the Famicom was released exclusively in Japan - other Asian countries either got an official PAL NES or (most likely) a flood of famiclones, with fake carts and XXX in 1 games. Nintendo lost the marked here anyway, I don't see how games originating in Japan in FDS or cartridge form would make any difference - they'd be pirated in other Asian countries anyway. If anything FDS makes it harder to read the data - dumping a ROM is dead easy, reading a weird disk which is only supported by the FDS itself and weird computers not as much.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:13 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Wed Feb 13, 2008 9:10 am
Posts: 578
Location: Estonia, Rapla city (50 and 60Hz compatible :P)
Those weird computers were normal computers in that part of the world :P

_________________
http://www.tmeeco.eu


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:29 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Nov 19, 2004 7:35 pm
Posts: 3943
Nintendo didn't anticipate Mappers taking over instead of disk games.
UNROM and CNROM were very simple mappers, and all they need is some 74 series glue logic, and the CHR RAM. Third parties used mappers first, while Nintendo was still messing around with the FDS.

_________________
Here come the fortune cookies! Here come the fortune cookies! They're wearing paper hats!


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 6:31 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:49 pm
Posts: 7233
Location: Chexbres, VD, Switzerland
OK I admit I used this idom because I had no idea which computers exactly used the Mitsumi QuickDisk nor how common they were. But I assume Nintendo choose this format purposely because it was rare/uncommon and reduced piracy risk (as opposed to more common 5" floppy disks). Even though I'm pretty sure the casing of Nintendo's disk differers from other Mitsumi QuickDisks, and that the FDS would refuse to load a game stored on an non-nintendo Mitsumi QuickDisk.

Quote:
Third parties used mappers first, while Nintendo was still messing around with the FDS.

A lot of 3rd parties were also messing with the FDS.


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:21 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 10:27 pm
Posts: 282
Location: Hong Kong
As there are walls of text here and as usual if I read all of these my headasplodez I'll just reply based on quickly screening the posts.

Bregalad wrote:
How does that work? I still don't understand at all, how you can automatically make a FDS game out of a cartridge game without human romhacking involvement - I doubt it's possible.


As already pointed out, the copiers themselves couldn't dump games. They're actually RAM cartridges with some mapper capability built in(not unlike modern Flashcarts like the Powerpak), so cart games were saved on disks, and you insert the sides of the disks one by one to load them into the copier and thus the copier itself was a virtual cart. As size of games became larger and larger and more and more new mappers were invented obviously you couldn't play all games with a single copier. So there were a lot of revisions to these copiers, presumably newer revisions would have more RAM and support more mappers. So even had (limited) expandability that could have their RAM expanded and mapper chip sets swapped for newer versions(I think some of them even provided some of the extra sound chips). Though in fact, some games actually played worse than using emulators nowadays(especially those with complex mappers), probably due to incomplete mapper support(I think some of the games were even mapper hacked to "work" with copiers). I remember games that used CHR banking for animation usually flickered horribly and had a lot of slowdowns.

I think the pira..."content providers" dumped games via peripheral cards inserted in Apple II or PC computers(I remembered seeing them), not unlike how we dump ROM contents nowadays.

Quote:
If the copier doesn't make a FDS game at all but just use the FDS for storage of cartridge data, then why would it use the FDS at all ? Using a regular disk instead seems like a better option.


The question is, why not? Buying the FDS unit alone let us people play the FDS games for cheap (and we they're not even paying the original copyright holders), and buying also a copier enable m... er... them to play both cart and FDS games for cheap, so why attach an extra drive to your console(and you had to pay for it also)? The point is, the copiers were actually smart enough, that when you inserted a FDS disk it would work as an ordinary FDS game and when you inserted a cart game dumped on disks it would automatically read the contents into the copier's RAM and even prompted you to insert the other sides one by one until completion. Some copiers even provided PAR cheat code support and you could even write savestates to disks.

They were a big thing here, and as IP laws weren't as strict BITD you could find ads of game copiers in magazines, and eventually on TV even(though they're only advertised as cheat devices there, everyone knew what they were).

Quote:
I'm pretty sure it was, but I don't understand what happened exactly. [b]If there was no problem, the FDS would have faded slowly as cartridge games became less expensive and more powerful. Instead, the FDS seems to have vanished extremely quickly in the last quarter of 1987 for an obscure piracy-related reason, this is what I'm particularly interested in.


I could only say that if you lived here you would know what happened. While a number of gamers were willing to pay for the real things (like for example, one of my friends pre-ordered and imported DQ4) nearly all of us did still play carts dumped on disks, especially those that were "not that worthy of paying".

Also, Nintendo did made a number of revisions to the unit in attemp to counter disk backups(I think you could google for this) but the protections were mostly beaten quickly (when we people bought FDS drives here they're immediately modded by swapping some chips or cutting some traces or whatever). I've heard that the last revision was probably not moddable, so people just made sure they bought earlier revisions. Even if you own a drive that is unmodded(or unmoddable) you can still play games written on disks by other people(shops, etc.), just not able to copy games yourself. This shows that Nintendo DID care for piracy, but they probably literally rage quited once they realised they couldn't help further. Note that while they discontinued the unit (as state on Wikipedia) the official game writing service was still available long afterwards, survived even after the turn of the millenium.
The unlicensed games were quite possibly another important factor.

Quote:
So why would Nintendo stop to sell FDS games ? My understanding is that the Famicom was released exclusively in Japan - other Asian countries either got an official PAL NES or (most likely) a flood of famiclones, with fake carts and XXX in 1 games. Nintendo lost the marked here anyway, I don't see how games originating in Japan in FDS or cartridge form would make any difference - they'd be pirated in other Asian countries anyway. If anything FDS makes it harder to read the data - dumping a ROM is dead easy, reading a weird disk which is only supported by the FDS itself and weird computers not as much.


In fact, we had the PAL NES officially released here, but it was a total failure. No one would buy a NES here. Real gamers bought imported NTSC Famicoms (some sloppily modded to PAL, but more were actually modded to support AV, as many people here already had Apple IIs hooked up to a NTSC monitor), for many reasons, with the FDS(and copiers) definitely a main reason, and that we preferred playing Japanese import games(especially the RPGs) instead the usually inferior NES game library. That's why Nintendo itself eventually released a PAL Famicom here.
(Note: Famiclones weren't popular here as they may not be compatible with some of the later popular games such as the FF and DQ series. Instead, Famiclones were very popular in Taiwan, and they had SMS clones as well.)


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:34 am 
Offline

Joined: Sun Sep 19, 2004 11:12 pm
Posts: 19115
Location: NE Indiana, USA (NTSC)
Thank you for the first-hand experience from Hong Kong.

Gilbert wrote:
Though in fact, some games actually played worse than using emulators nowadays(especially those with complex mappers), probably due to incomplete mapper support(I think some of the games were even mapper hacked to "work" with copiers). I remember games that used CHR banking for animation usually flickered horribly and had a lot of slowdowns.

Similarly to the way Chris Covell's Solar Wars was hacked from CNROM to UNROM for Double Action 53, before I added true CNROM support to the builder and menu. But because it only changed CHR banks at a blank screen, it worked well.

Here in Indiana, USA, the only thing I ever owned that used Quick Disk was a Smith-Corona Personal Word Processor. And the only blank Quick Disk media I ever saw was labeled as "Smith-Corona DataDisk".


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 10:39 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Sun Dec 12, 2010 10:27 pm
Posts: 282
Location: Hong Kong
Pokun wrote:
But most if not all FDS disks I own have a proper game labels on them. So I can't believe the people bought blank disks and had them written at some service station.

There were sealed games that you could buy like cartridges(Kikikaikai was a very good example as it came in a large box with feelies) but at the same time they also sold blank disks. I think if you use the official service, they would provide you with authentic labels to stick on top of the old ones. (Even pirated games would occasionally provide you with labels.)

Quote:
But how could this be the case? Disks where cheaper because they where cheaper to produce than carts, not because the profit was lower right? And rewriting a disk must be even cheaper for the consumer because you even provide the disk (so you actually loose one of your old games) and only pay for the software itself. No reason to decrease the profit, both the developers and the customers saves money on FDS games.

Because the service was really cheap. As you already read the Wikipedia page, it mentioned that writing a game only cost 500 yens on average, compared to a cart game costing around 4000 to 5000 yens at that time (I think a sealed FDS game was around 2000 yens), I wonder even though it was expensive to produce the cartridges, the revenue in selling FDS games was still much lower. Note that while it cost you nearly nothing to write to a disk the games still cost money to be developed.
The fact that in a region (here) where people copied games themselves they earned nothing from the games, from the physical disks and from dumped cart games, didn't help.

Quote:
Square loved the format and released several.

Square was one of the largest contributers to the format(after Nintendo itself, of course). They even lured a number of developers and formed [url=https://ja.wikipedia.org/wiki/ディスク・オリジナル・グループ]DOG[/url] to develop FDS games, and the results? Most of the games released with the DOG brand were developed by Square itself. I'm not sure, but the low turnover of the FDS games was possibly a reason for their financial problem at the time. Seeing why they called Final Fantasy Final Fantasy(the "Final" actually meant this would be their final game if it didn't sell, not unlike why Tecmo called Dead or Alive Dead or Alive).


Top
 Profile  
 
PostPosted: Wed Apr 12, 2017 11:34 am 
Offline
User avatar

Joined: Fri Nov 12, 2004 2:49 pm
Posts: 7233
Location: Chexbres, VD, Switzerland
Gilbert, thank you for sharing your experiences I still don't understang. From what I understand, the market of other Asian countries was basically lost to piracy anyways, no matter whether they released cartridge or FDS games. However, at home in Japan, the piracy was insignificant, no matter whether they released FDS or cartridge games.

Thus I don't see how they rage-quitted FDS in favor of cartridges, knowing the other east asian markets were lost anyway.

About Square, I just knew they released a game about Cleopatra and another space shooter whose name I forgot which uses the same sound effects as FF1. They also released the japanese version of 3D worldrunner for the FDS, but Rad Racer was already moved to cartridge format, even though it was obviously developped with the FDS in mind.

I am really sad FF1 wasn't released for the FDS. Imagine Nobuo composing a soundtrack with one extra channel, and a game on 4 disk sides. This would've be more epic. However I hope they wouldn't need to load data from disk before and after each battle - this would clearly be intolerable.


Top
 Profile  
 
Display posts from previous:  Sort by  
Post new topic Reply to topic  [ 32 posts ]  Go to page 1, 2, 3  Next

All times are UTC - 7 hours


Who is online

Users browsing this forum: No registered users and 3 guests


You cannot post new topics in this forum
You cannot reply to topics in this forum
You cannot edit your posts in this forum
You cannot delete your posts in this forum
You cannot post attachments in this forum

Search for:
Jump to:  
Powered by phpBB® Forum Software © phpBB Group