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.