How Toy Story Squeezed More Colour Out Of The Sega Genesis

GIF: Youtube (Gamehut)

When Toy Story was getting its debut on the Sega Mega Drive, there was one problem. Pixar's film was a vibrant delight, with lots of bright, vivid colours - and the Mega Drive could only display a meagre 64 colours.

So, the developers came up with a solution.

The trick was outlined on GameHut, the YouTube channel started by the founder of TT Games Jon Burton. Burton worked on Toy Story back when TT Games was still called Travellers' Tales, so it's understandable he'd know some of the challenges behind the scenes.

One of those challenges was colour. The Mega Drive/Genesis could only display 64 colours from a possible 512, which was complicated if you had a bunch of stuffed and plastic toys, set in environments that were bright and vivid in their own right.

So the developers came up with a neat trick.

Image: Youtube (GameHut)

By using a special mode, the developers were able to access more unique shades of red, green and blue, widening the possible range of colours that could be displayed on screen. That made things a little easier, although they still had to work a way around the 64 on-screen colour limit.

The early decades of gaming are full of clever engineering and programming tricks like this. A lot of them have come to light thanks to interviews, streams and direct chats with the developers, but there are still many, many more to be uncovered. It also makes you wonder what the modern equivalent of programming wizardry looks like, especially when the hardware has advanced so far.


Comments

    Hmmm. I'm not sure that a heading "how X did something" is an appropriate title, given the answer is basically "They did something cool. We aren't going to explain it, but trust us-it really was cool"...

      But the video does explain it? It literally goes into how exactly they did it... if you don't feel like clicking the video, that's up to you of course. The articles just a gateway to the video realistically. You're in a digital age, use the digital media at your disposal.

      But if not, the simplified version was this:

      By using a special mode, the developers were able to access more unique shades of red, green and blue, widening the possible range of colours that could be displayed on screen. That made things a little easier, although they still had to work a way around the 64 on-screen colour limit.

      That's exactly what they go into in the video, in a more detailed description, but that's what it comes out as still.

      Last edited 09/10/17 8:07 pm

        I can't watch it, videos are blocked by the work servers, so a basic run down would be fantastic. I guess it's above the writers ability though.

      Splitting hairs about the title? Seriously?

    And I don't think chucking a video of it counts. At least explain the basics in the article. Not everyone wants to click onto videos.

      Actually, the video is really worth watching, and it would be hard to explain without the video accompanying it.

      If it was a Kotaku produced video I’d agree more. But, if I was a content maker on YouTube and some article basically covered my video to the point that people didn’t need to watch it, I’d be a little miffed.

      As it is, I feel like the article explains enough to know whether you want to watch the video or not.

    I remember on the Atari 800 they used the low resolution of American televisions to bring colour to the monochrome 320x200 graphics mode. If you placed white pixels in particular locations, they would end up mostly on either the red, green or blue phosphors, letting you have colour in the otherwise monochrome mode.
    Only problem was it didn't work on the slightly higher resolution PAL TVs so the colour was all over the place in Australia.

    Spectrum 512 paint program on the ST used a timing trick to bring 512 colours to the otherwise 16 colour mode. You had to work a lot harder last century to get good graphics :)

      Dragon Breed on the C64 did this too, swapping colours several times per second to give the illusion of different shades

    Wait, Toy Story came out in the Megadrive era?? I could've sworn it was during the PlayStation era.

    Game Hut is my new favourite channel on YouTube. I always loved TT games, and I really, really love Bram Stoker's DRACULA/Legend of Galahad on the Mega Drive. Puggsy is great too. Really off-beat games that aren't perfect, but are totally worth a shot if you dig Amiga-style stuff.

    Insight into games like this - games that are I cherish, but in reality are curiosities at best to most people is the best thing to happen to my internet in AGES.

    The Megadtive I got for my birthday came with this as a bundle and I remember thinking back then that it looked really different to any other game on the system, awesome to hear why.

    HAM mode on the original Commodore Amiga was the weirdest way of getting lots of colour on the screen - you could display all 4096 colours but there was a lot of limitations.

    It also makes you wonder what the modern equivalent of programming wizardry looks like...A well-documented rendering API?

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