How much more powerful was the N64 compared to the PlayStation anyway?

Jun 8, 2004
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Eh, there really wasn't anything about the PS1's sound processor that the N64 couldn't do. Actually it should be better because the CPU and co-processor that handled sound where more powerful (N64).

Perhaps it was heavy compression or complete removal of some audio that could give the impression PS1 was better but it was far from being technical.
N64 sound was a step back from even the SNES. The n64 had no dedicated sound chip. Sound processing was done by the main CPU, and it ended up being balancing act between sound and game code (game code being far more important, so sound suffered). Same thing happened to the GBA. The PS1's sound chip was a better version of the SNES sound chip. Not just from a sound processing point of view, but also from the actual sound it outputs. Far more dynamic range, especially really low bass (just like the SNES).
 
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It's funny that when you think about it, Nintendo pretty much gave Sony the 32 bit era. Would have loved to see the Nintendo Playstation.
Who knows, maybe we'll get another shot at that possibility in a few years.

It's crazy how far removed from the gaming industry my group of friends were back in the day. We only played multiplayer N64 stuff along with the usual Nintendo series and thought it was the best system ever. The original Playstation had so little presence that I was suprised to find out Sony had actually won that generation.
 

JordanN

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Eh, not much powerful at all. The only thing the N64 had over the PS1 was superior image quality thanks to perspective correction, texture filtering and edge anti-aliasing. Texture quality on N64 was hideous and the machine was polystarved.
This doesn't make sense. PS1 had only 3mb of ram whereas N64 had 4mb (8mb if you include expansion pak). In addition, N64 had better texture compression abilities whereas PS1 textures where saved as low depth. Textures are bound to be better on N64 and they are.

And the poly starve comment is completely wrong.
 

meta4

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And yet I revisit the top few games in my N64 library more often than my entire PS1 collection combined. No denying the N64 had some awful droughts, but at the end of the day I'd still give its library the nod based on the insane longevity of its flagship titles.
Exactly the opposite for me. N64 library does not even compare....
 
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The N64 has a CPU that's about three times faster than the PS1s (90Mhz vs. 33), a lot more RAM (4MB expandable to 8MB with the Expansion Pak for N64, versus 2MB on PS1), hardware perspective correction, anti-aliasing and Z-buffering, and more -- in terms of hardware, it's significantly more powerful.

However, because of bias, many Playstation fans have a very hard time admitting that, even now... it's kind of silly. Yes, the PS1 does have two advantages over the N64, in terms of 3d graphics hardware: first, average PS1 games use more polygons than average N64 games, and second, N64 texture resolutions are on average lower. However, the perspective correction, anti-aliasing, and other hardware features far more than outweigh that. And as for polygon counts, one common thing on the PS1 was having polygons overlap, so as to hide those polygon seams that otherwise are everywhere in PS1 games. On the N64, that's not necessary because it actually knows where the polygons are, so you can use fewer polygons. (And yes, it is possible to match high-end PS1 polygon counts on the N64, with developers good at programming for the system. The N64 is harder to program for than the PS1 is, though, that is true. At least it's not as hard as Saturn...) Of course it is true that N64 textures are lower resolution, though, but I think that the fact that they have no jaggies (thanks to the anti-aliasing) and are not warped and popping all over the place matters far more, myself. The N64 was the first console that could do those things.

As for the fog thing, PS1 and Saturn games use pop-up, while N64 games cover over that popup with fog. Actual draw distances are pretty much the same, in my experience; the only real difference is that the N64 covers its popup with fog, while the other systems, not having that hardware effect, don't usually. I prefer the N64 look, myself -- it doesn't change the viewing range, sure, but at least it hides the ugly popup.

The big thing the N64 struggled with (compared with the PS1) is the number of polygons, I believe. I don't think I ever read about the N64 having trouble with particles, especially from game experience.
You're right that N64 games usually have fewer polygons than PS1games, but I wouldn't call that "struggling", because it's not much of a problem, I think, as I say above.

No, the thing that the N64 struggled with was high-resolution textures. It is possible to do good texture work on the N64, as you can see in Battle for Naboo for instance, but it's very difficult and requires top-notch programmers.

The PS1 was incapable of providing perspective correction for the 3D graphics it showed on screen. So whenever the camera moved, you could see all the polygons warp and change form.
Right. I assume people who prefer PS1 graphics are used to that, or something, and don't mind it? I certainly do...

It definitely was back in the day, especially when everything back then looked like a beefed-up SuperFX game; compared to that, the N64's texture filtering, Z-buffering, and anti-aliasing made what you see on the screen look like a blurry boxy version of reality, as opposed to barely nothing resembling it.
Agreed.

I still love you, Saturn.

Remember, you still had the best console ports of Duke Nukem Forever and Quake, with real-time coloured moving light sources and an unshakable framerate that Nintendo and Sony owners could only ever dream of. You also had multicoloured transparencies in Sonic R that Mario Kart 64 was never able to match.

No bullshit, the Saturn was a weak 3D machine compared to the Playstation and N64, but Traveller's Tales and Lobotomy Software pulled off some goddamn miracles with Sonic R, Duke Nukem and Quake
.
Yeah, the Saturn does have better 3d hardware than it's usually given credit for. I mean, the system really only had Western developer support from mid 1995 - late 1997, and Japanese from late 1994 - late 1998. Comparing PS1 to Saturn games from that time frame alone, the Saturn doesn't come off too badly. Sure, PS1 graphics are better in most cases, but it's not usually by all that much. Most 3d Saturn games look similar to, and just a little worse than, their PS1 counterparts. It's not some huge difference. And the Saturn had a LOT of rarely-tapped power, too, because of how hard it was to program for. A huge number of Saturn games only ever use one of the two CPUs, for instance, because programmers had no idea how to deal with dual-core processors yet.

Even considering that the Saturn is weaker than the PS1 in 3d, I think, but it's pretty close. For instance, that Saturn Shenmue test video shows what the system can do when pushed hard. The real problem is that the Saturn was very hard to program for, so few actually managed to accomplish anything near its best. The hardware was too complex for its own good, it was not well designed.

Oh, the Saturn does have one huge weakness versus the PS1 -- hardware transparencies are VERY difficult to do on Saturn, while they're quite easy on PS1. Most Saturn games just use cross-hatching instead of true transparencies, and you can tell. As a result special effects often look worse on Saturn. A few games show that it is possible to manage transparency on the Saturn, somehow, but it was almost never accomplished. But otherwise, the Saturn compares well.

So I learned just recently that the Saturn used rectangles for polygons?
Yeah, the Saturn, and the NVidia NV1 video card for the PC (and also the 3DO, I think?), use quadrilaterals instead of triangles. Triangles won out because they're more versatile overall, but some systems tried out quads instead, before triangles became the standard.

Well I never said one was better than the other, rather there were games on the PSone that held up, and many of those games were helped by FMVs and prerendered backgrounds. You sound a bit insecure, don't worry I am not dogging the N64.
The N64 can do FMV and prerendered backgrounds, though... it requires more work than the PS1, but RE2 of course shows off very impressive use of FMV, and Ogre Battle 64's prerendered backgrounds look pretty nice, among some others.

N64 sound was a step back from even the SNES. The n64 had no dedicated sound chip. Sound processing was done by the main CPU, and it ended up being balancing act between sound and game code (game code being far more important, so sound suffered). Same thing happened to the GBA. The PS1's sound chip was a better version of the SNES sound chip. Not just from a sound processing point of view, but also from the actual sound it outputs. Far more dynamic range, especially really low bass (just like the SNES).
Excepting the Dreamcast, which had powerful sound hardware in it for some reason, has any console since the N64 had a dedicated sound chip? Don't they all work like the N64 did now? I know that dedicated sound hardware is better, because it gets that off the CPU, but just putting it on the CPU is quite common these days, that's for sure.
 

dimb

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Lots of late N64 games looked like dreamcast games to me back in the day.
Please, let's not get crazy. The Dreamcast is leaps and bounds ahead of the PS1 and the N64. Even early Dreamcast games blew N64 games out of the water. There was literally years that separated the two machines.
 

jett

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Eh, there really wasn't anything about the PS1's sound processor that the N64 couldn't do. Actually it should be better because the CPU and co-processor that handled sound where more powerful (N64).

Perhaps it was heavy compression or complete removal of some audio that could give the impression PS1 was better but it was far from being technical.
:lol what

Sound quality on the N64 was nothing less than putrid. Even ignoring redbook audio, sequenced music on the PS1 absolutely trounced the hideous crap that the N64 produced.

This doesn't make sense. PS1 had only 3mb of ram whereas N64 had 4mb (8mb if you include expansion pak). In addition, N64 had better texture compression abilities whereas PS1 textures where saved as low depth. Textures are bound to be better on N64 and they are.

And the poly starve comment is completely wrong.
Owning both machines and having played nearly hundreds of games on both of them I simply call it as I see it. Textures on the vast majority of N64 games were a blurry and messy soup. Characters on the games were noticeably blockier to me as well, scenery too.
 

JordanN

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N64 sound was a step back from even the SNES. The n64 had no dedicated sound chip. Sound processing was done by the main CPU, and it ended up being balancing act between sound and game code (game code being far more important, so sound suffered). Same thing happened to the GBA. The PS1's sound chip was a better version of the SNES sound chip. Not just from a sound processing point of view, but also from the actual sound it outputs. Far more dynamic range, especially really low bass (just like the SNES).
I don't see why this matters. Modern consoles don't use dedicated sound processors but are no doubt superior at it.
 
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I imagine the cartridge medium is what really crippled the N64s textures. It did allow them to have next to no loading times, though. Tough decision to make back then.

I don't see why this matters. Modern consoles don't use dedicated sound processors but are no doubt superior at it.
Yeah... things were a bit different back then.
 

Man

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Yeah, the Saturn, and the NVidia NV1 video card for the PC (and also the 3DO, I think?), use quadrilaterals instead of triangles. Triangles won out because they're more versatile overall, but some systems tried out quads instead, before triangles became the standard.
The simplified math of triangles (they are always flat!) just makes everything easier. 2 triangles >>>>> quadrilaterals.
 
Jun 8, 2004
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This doesn't make sense. PS1 had only 3mb of ram whereas N64 had 4mb (8mb if you include expansion pak). In addition, N64 had better texture compression abilities whereas PS1 textures where saved as low depth. Textures are bound to be better on N64 and they are.

And the poly starve comment is completely wrong.
The n64 had a 4,096-byte limit on a single texture. That hurt the n64's capabilities considerably. The ps1 had no such limitation and thus it could have much higher resolution textures and it showed. Limited cartridge space didn't help the n64 in this regard either.
 

jett

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CD piracy was huge on the PS1 so in reality the decision wasn't tough at all for Nintendo.
Really, that's how you rationalize it? The PS1 sold oodles more software and hardware than the N64. Going with carts was a really dumb decision that cost Nintendo a lot of third party support.
 
Jun 8, 2004
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I don't see why this matters. Modern consoles don't use dedicated sound processors but are no doubt superior at it.
We have multicore processors now. Sound processing is trivial. Back then it took a significant chunk of CPU time. Nintendo it seems has gone back to using a dsp to handle sound in both the 3DS and Wii U.
 
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Well since no one bothered to look up the wiki and see the actual comparison let's get some numbers into this -

Playstation specs-
32 bit cpu clocked at 33.8688 mhz
30 mips
bandwidth of 132 MB/s
1 kilobyte of sram
2 megabytes of system ram

3d cpu co-processor could run 66 mips
360,000 flat shaded polygons per second
180,000 textured polys per second
(so if you wanted 30 fps graphics you could display 6000 polygons per frame)

as well there was an MDEC chip responsible for decompressing images and video
80 mips , could display mjpeg and h.261 video files

another gpu was on board for processing 2d imagry
24 bit color depth , resolutions from 256X224 up to 640 x 480
adjustable frame buffer
unlimited color lookup tables
emulation of simultaneous backgrounds (used for parallax)
flat or gouraud shaded polys as well as texture mapping
included 1 megabyte of video memory

Seperate sound chip on board supporting 24 sound channels at a sampling rate of up to 44.1 khz and had 512 kilobytes of memory.


On top of that obviously the console used a cd rom drive so you could play cd sound right from the disc as well as store movies (although mjpeg was horribly inneficient, requiring each frame to be a full jpeg image as well as running at 15 frames per second)

N64 specs-
the cpu in the n64 was a beastly 93.75 mhz , it was also a true 64 bit processor but games generally didn't bother with it because 32 bit ran faster
bandwidth was 250 MB/s

the sound and graphics processors were 2 seperate but connected units- they had a 1 gb/s bus between them , these processors actually had a z buffer unlike the playstation so textures didn't warp on N64 games. The downside is that it was very hard to program for which meant you could get anywhere from 100,000 to 500,000 polygons a second out of the machine. As for sound you could pull 100 channels at a time if you used it only for sound, samplling rate was 48khz with 16 bit audio but since the system used carts everything got compressed.

N64 had 4megabytes of unifed memory (8 if you bought a ram pack)that could run at 562 MB/s but apparently access times for the memory were slower then needed

N64 could render at 256X224 , 320X240 and 640X480.


so what I'm getting is that on paper the N64 had more memory , faster processors and could quite simply do far more then the playstation but it was more difficult to access this added power, requiring the use of tons of custom micro code and more importantly since they went with cartridges everything had to be insanely compressed to fit on the tiny cart size on offer.

A single Cd rom could hold 650 megabytes versus the launch carts on n64 holding a tiny 8 megabytes. By the end of it's life there existed a couple of 64 megabyte carts but even still, look at say a multi disc final fantasy game on playstation and cut out the movies - I think the game is still nearly 100 megabytes. Kind of makes it all the more impressive that resident evil 2 even had a port to the n64 at all.
 
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N64 was great at clean, colorful games with limited texture detail. Many of the best looking games for the system were cartoony in nature for a reason. Technically, it could look a lot better than what PSX could provide, but something like Metal Gear Solid or FFIX would never work on the system for a variety of reasons.

If we're talking about which system is more "powerful", that means a lot more than basic visual output. I'd argue the PSX was more "powerful" in that developers had a LOT more options when developing for the system.

N64 offered severely limited sound, limited visual style due to texture limitations, and quite honestly the controller was designed around a specific type of game. The negatives outweighed the positives. If you want to argue which system was better designed for mascot platformers, N64 would win hands down.
 
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I prefer the PS1's low res pixelated textures to the N64's muddy ones. Grew up with an N64 and never played PS1 games until I got a PSP.

I prefer PS1 graphics to N64 graphics even if the N64 is superior.

/shrug
 
I programmed for both consoles back in the day.

N64:
+ Unified Memory
+ Programmable Vertex Shaders
+ Bilinear Filtering
+ Z Buffer
+ Mipmapping
+ Alpha Blending
+ Expandable Memory
- Slow memory
- Small texture cache
- ROM management was a pain

PS1:
+ Fast VRAM
+ Ability to pipeline CPU instructions with GTE instructions
+ Dedicated SPU with extra RAM
+ Simple SDK
+ CD-ROM
+ Performance Analyzer
- Near clipping solution required some effort
- No Z Buffer
- Limited blending (add/subtract/50% on GPU)
 
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I'm not rationalizing guys. Just saying that Nintendo chose the cart route because they didn't want to lose out on any potential money to pirates.

I agree that it was a very stupid move on their part to stick with carts when the industry was clearly moving in a different direction altogether.
 
Jun 8, 2004
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so what I'm getting is that on paper the N64 had more memory , faster processors and could quite simply do far more then the playstation but it was more difficult to access this added power, requiring the use of tons of custom micro code and more importantly since they went with cartridges everything had to be insanely compressed to fit on the tiny cart size on offer.
You forgot the insanely small 4,096-byte limit on textures (which was halved if you used mip mapping). They did some tricks to get around this late in the n64's life like in Conker's Bad Fur Day.
 

Man

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Can someone explain why the lack of z-buffer made PS1 games look weird?

You can measure the depth of any pixel on screen, not just by the vertices ('polygon corners') themselves.
Helps with determining visibility (don't draw stuff that's hidden behind other stuff), how textures are gradually laid out over a surface etc.
 
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I don't see why this matters. Modern consoles don't use dedicated sound processors but are no doubt superior at it.
It matters in that it means that designers had to use a part of the CPU to cover sound, but yes, overall it doesn't matter much. The N64 was powerful enough to manage both sound and video on the main CPU without too much trouble. I certainly think N64 games often have great sound and music, and it can do more than the SNES could.

Please, let's not get crazy. The Dreamcast is leaps and bounds ahead of the PS1 and the N64. Even early Dreamcast games blew N64 games out of the water. There was literally years that separated the two machines.
No, if you cut the resolution to 640x480 interlaced (as opposed to progressive scan like the Dreamcast could do, but not any consoles before it), chop the framerate to 20-30 instead of the 60 that most DC games run at, and drop the texture resolutions down to N64 levels, I think that most Dreamcast games would run just fine on the N64 with minimal other modification. Even most Dreamcast exclusives don't show much of the extra power of the system beyond those three categories I just mentioned, I've always thought... DC graphics have never impressed me that much beyond the N64, they really do look like high-def N64 graphics to me.

Now, there are a few DC games that push the system more, and show that it had more power than most of its games showed. Dead or Alive 2 would be a good example of that, or Test Drive Le Mans for racing games. So sure, the N64 couldn't match DC games that actually get the most out of the system. However, in the DC's very short life span, most of the games actually released for it don't get anywhere near there. Most look more like, well, PS1 or N64 games with those three categories I mentioned improved on. Of course, many were exactly that, but the exclusives weren't much better, a lot of the time.

For a great example of how close the N64 can come to average "good for a game during its lifetime but not seriously pushing the hardware" Dreamcast visuals, excepting texture resolution, screen resolution, and some visual effects (the DC has extra lighting and reflections), look at the N64 and DC versions of one of my favorite games, San Francisco Rush 2049. The N64 does a very impressive job with the game, and looks pretty much identical in terms of level geometry. The framerate's good too, and there's no fog either. The DC version has those advantages I mentioned, but that's about it...

Dreamcast: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6hD1nStrTw
N64: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=G9CphvhE4oA

Both versions were praised for their graphics when the game released in late '00.

As for top-end DC visuals, here's Test Drive Le Mans, which I mentioned earlier. Yeah, the N64 couldn't do that. But no other DC racing games actually released look as good as this, either. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=T2YqzqGhu5I

I imagine the cartridge medium is what really crippled the N64s textures. It did allow them to have next to no loading times, though. Tough decision to make back then.
Most people put the biggest blame on the 4KB texture cache.

Yeah... things were a bit different back then.
No, the N64 did pretty well without dedicated sound hardware.

The simplified math of triangles (they are always flat!) just makes everything easier. 2 triangles >>>>> quadrilaterals.
Yeah, there are a few circumstances where quads are better, but they are very few.

Shadowman had great graphics. This video compares the DC, Playstation, and N64 versions.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=woJ1GUmL0Xw
Yeah, Acclaim definitely pulled off some of the N64's best graphics. They were right up there with Rare, on their top end... Acclaim's one failing was that they were maybe a bit too okay with reducing framerates in the name of better graphics (see Turok 2 in hi-res mode, most notably), but still, they did some very impressive visuals.

:lol what

Sound quality on the N64 was nothing less than putrid. Even ignoring redbook audio, sequenced music on the PS1 absolutely trounced the hideous crap that the N64 produced.
Many N64 games have great music.

Owning both machines and having played nearly hundreds of games on both of them I simply call it as I see it. Textures on the vast majority of N64 games were a blurry and messy soup. Characters on the games were noticeably blockier to me as well, scenery too.
I've never noticed characters to be noticeably blockier, but anyway, that's not a real advantage for the PS1, just that the N64 was harder to program for. As for textures, as I said in my last post, I can't understand how people can criticize the textures so much, but completely ignore how PS1 visuals are unbelievably aliased, jaggy, pop all over the place, etc... how is THAT better than blurry textures??

Well, no, SNES won that one.
Not according to some Sega fans.

I feel like as years have gone on, it's generally accepted that SNES won that gen. Can't really use BLAST PROCESSING and MORTAL KOMBAT HAS BLOOD as a part of your argument anymore.

PS1 vs. N64, on the other hand... that war is still ongoing.
You've never been to a Sega fan forum, have you. Try Sega-16, you'll find quite a few people who would strongly disagree with your belief here...

so what I'm getting is that on paper the N64 had more memory , faster processors and could quite simply do far more then the playstation but it was more difficult to access this added power, requiring the use of tons of custom micro code and more importantly since they went with cartridges everything had to be insanely compressed to fit on the tiny cart size on offer.
Well, I'd say that the N64 has some built-in advantages. That hardware Z-buffer, anti-aliasing, and triple buffering really make a huge difference -- even in otherwise ugly games, you won't have any texture warping, perspective issues, or jaggies! In contrast, even the otherwise best looking PS1 or Saturn games have those issues because of the hardware.

A single Cd rom could hold 650 megabytes versus the launch carts on n64 holding a tiny 8 megabytes. By the end of it's life there existed a couple of 64 megabyte carts but even still, look at say a multi disc final fantasy game on playstation and cut out the movies - I think the game is still nearly 100 megabytes. Kind of makes it all the more impressive that resident evil 2 even had a port to the n64 at all.
Yeah, Nintendo started out with 8MB as the only size option. 16MB was added in late '97, 32MB in late '98, and 40MB and 64MB in 1999. That's how it always works with cartridge systems, with smaller sizes at first and larger ones later on, but it was a drawback for earlier N64 games, sure. Now, you can fit a great N64 game into 8MB, but it's certainly better if you have larger options available.
 
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N64 games usually had terrible framerates (around 20, frequently less) which I noticed even back in the days. While games like Perfect Dark and Turok 2 were damn impressive, the framerate was simply ridiculous. Expansion pack aggravated the problem by enhancing the resolution. You had cleaner graphics, but the framerate went from shitty to "are you fucking kidding me?"

Playstation games were much closer to 30 fps in many cases.

N64 3D games were technically better looking, but they also had many downsides. Lack of poly, texture limitation, aforementioned framerate, which the playstation seemed to cup better with.

Both consoles had their advantages and disadvantages and at the end, both were visually appealing to me for different reasons.
 

TheD

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Mar 29, 2012
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The trash cans outside your house.
The problems the PS1 (and Saturn) are multifold, but most of it comes down to lacking a Z-Buffer.
Without a Z-Buffer they can not do per a pixel depth, without per a pixel depth you can not do perspective correct texture mapping (that is the reason that textures distort).
Lack of per a pixel depth also means you have to do polygon sorting to find out what polygon is in front of the other (that is why in PS1 and Saturn games polygons can appear through objects that are in front of them).
It also means that you can not do texture filtering.


The problems with the N64 are that all textures that are going to be used in a frame all had to be loaded into a very small onchip texture cache (the reason it had so many low res textures).

The other problem is that RSP 'microcode" was kind of slow, in reality the RSP was another MIPS CPU and the microcode was just the program it runs to do polygon processing.