This is not just about Bubsy 3D

This started with just a quick analysis of Bubsy 3D, but that bobcat hole just kept going!
Instead, turning into why Bubsy 3D and most early Playstation games look the way they do.

But first, A bit about Bubsy 3D!

Bubsy 3D comes up as one of the worst games in the Playstation’s library.
In it’s defense, it was among the first ‘open world’ 3D platform games created.
Sure tank controls (Up/Down: moving & Left/Right: rotating) are horrible now, but it was common in early 3D games.
And the fixed camera was also very common, the L2 button controls the camera, this was a time before dual analog sticks.

The design of the game is pretty limited, Bubsy can jump, shoot, run (or swim in water levels), climb and glide.
The level features are interesting but stark, moving platforms, helicopter switches and a rail system.
For it’s lack of design and features, it does have a lot of gameplay with 18 levels (some large), 4 bosses and repeatability in that collecting all the pieces of the rocket gives you the “good ending”.

However, it’s always criticized for it’s (lack of) visuals and often compared to Crash Bandicoot and Super Mario 64.
The only thing they have in common is that they came out weeks apart from each other.

Why was Bubsy 3D mostly flat shaded?

A few reasons, the game runs at the PlayStation’s highest resolution, which is in interlace mode.
This resolution on the Playstation was mostly for low CPU GPU tasks like rendering static images (ie intro & menu screens) or videos (MPEG).
Very few games run at this high resolution in game and in 3D.
It forced the fastest display refreshing the TV & Playstation can perform, (PAL:60 NTSC:50 frames per second).
And well, flat coloured polygons is what the hardware can render the fastest! (NB: lines aren’t polygons).

Bubsy 3D PS1 VRAM
[The VRAM is hardly used with empty spaces and duplication, see above (notice there’s no double buffering)]

Perhaps the original concept was to make Bubsy 3D similar in style to what 3D games were already out in 1994.
Like Sega’s early 3D “Virtua” games which are mostly flat shaded, but unfortunately very dated for the end of 1996.
I personally like the style, it’s reminiscent of the late 80’s and early 90’s 3D.
So with very little textures, I guess it made sense to use the largest amount of VRAM for resolution.

[Read More…]