Armchair Arcade Announcement: March 2008 is the Month of CDTV/CD32!

Matt Barton's picture

It's the month of CDTV/CD32!It's the month of CDTV/CD32!Do you know what month it is? Do you have any idea what good times await you this month on Armchair Arcade? It's the Month of CDTV/CD32, of course! Brace yourself!

That's right--this month at Armchair Arcade, your friendly editors will be focusing our attention on Commodore's intriguing duo of CD-ROM based platforms. We'll be bringing you historical information, hands-on looks at emulation and gaming, videos, editorials, collector information...Good God, it's practically like owning one of these units yourself! Please share with us all of your stories and thoughts about the CDTV and the CD32. Do not hold anything back. This is The Month of the CDTV/CD32.

Wikipedia wrote:

The Amiga CD32 was the first 32-bit CD-ROM based video game console released in western Europe and North America. It was first announced at the Science Museum in London, United Kingdom on 16 July 1993, and was released in September of the same year. The CD32 is based on Commodore's Advanced Graphics Architecture chipset, and is of similar specification to the Amiga 1200 computer.

In case you haven't guessed it, each month we'll be covering a new platform, so if you have any ideas for future months please let us know.

From Bill Loguidice:
I'd just like to point out for those who are totally new to the platforms, what to make of the Commodore CDTV and Commodore CD32.

The Commodore CDTV was released in 1991 and was a large and expensive set-top-box (it looked much like an oversized component CD player or large modern DVD/Blu Ray player), when such things were still a novelty. Other such contemporary boxes included the failed Memorex VIS (essentially a 386 PC running a proprietary version of Windows; as an owner I can tell you it's painfully slow), distributed in Radio Shack stores, and Philips CD-i, which was fairly long-lived, but not necessarily considered a success. The idea was to combine the prowess of a game console with the amazing versatility of a multimedia PC, the latter meaning the then-fresh concept of interactive encyclopedias and other similar reference works. The nifty thing with the CDTV though was that it was essentially a set-top-box version of the popular Amiga 500 computer. You simply add the mouse, keyboard and disk drive, and you have an Amiga 500 running AmigaOS 1.3, with the added bonus of the CD-ROM drive (which was a clunky add-on for the Amiga 500).

A good selection of software was released for the CDTV, though, as was par for the course with early CD-ROM technology, many were just disk conversions with CD soundtracks or animated cut scenes. Of course many reference works were released.

Due to both system cost and roughness of early set-top-box concepts, the unit was not a success. Further, being limited to Amiga OCS/ECS (generally 32 to 64 colors), rather than Amiga AGA architecture (generally 256+ colors), may have also played a factor. Regardless, none of the set top boxes of the time made it, so Commodore was certainly not alone.

Enter the CD32, which came out in 1993. This was less of a set top box - though it still served that function - and more of a game machine, eschewing the CDTV's remote control for a gamepad. It also wasn't quite as fancy, featuring a simple flip top CD reader versus the CDTV's caddy-based system. Much like the CDTV was a converted Amiga 500, the CD32 was a converted Amiga 1200. However, unlike the CDTV, it took a bit more to turn it back into a computer than just adding a keyboard, mouse and disk drive, instead requiring a separate add-on prior to the addition of the extra accessories. Needless to say, the add-ons are quite valuable on eBay these days and show up infrequently. There was also an MPEG add-on for the CD-32, which allowed it to play Video CD's (CD-i format) and supported better motion video for cut scenes in the few games that supported it. This type of add-on also appeared on systems like the Philips CD-i (later units had it built in) and the 3DO, back when Video CD's were hoped to take the role that DVD's did several years later (Video CD's are roughly VHS quality, but don't degrade over time like tapes do).

As with the CDTV and Amiga 500/2000 games, many Amiga 1200 disk games were simply converted to a CD, often with little or no concessions for extra features besides the occasional enhanced sound or cut scenes. The CD32 did better in Europe than it did in North America, but it really didn't stand a chance as the Commodore as we knew it ceased to be in 1994, ending any of the platform's potential (and frankly, it wouldn't have stood a chance anyway against the coming Sony PlayStation juggernaut).

Today, working CDTV units can be had for between $100 - $150, and working CD32 units can be had for between $60 - $100. Just like the Amiga 1200 (and its AGA-based architecture) can play many Amiga 500/2000 (OCS/ECS) software, the CD32 can play many CDTV titles without issue. When I'll be going over the real hardware for my part in this month's feature platform, since I only own the CD32 at the present time, I will be focusing on that unit, but I do have some software that was intended for the CDTV.

With all that said, I'll reiterate what Matt said above, in that we're very excited by "theme months" at Armchair Arcade and look forward to everyone taking an active role. Enjoy!

Comments

Matt Barton
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My CD32 Story

I must admit that my CD32 story is not a pleasant one. I first heard about this unit at about the same time I was coming to grips with the unpleasant fact that my favorite platform was headed into extinction. At the time, I owned an Amiga 3000, and was wondering what to do. The 1200 seemed like a downgrade, but the 4000 was simply too expensive. There were constant rumors about an AGA upgrade for the 3000. However, the time seemed right to jump to the PC platform, even though I despised that move.

Then I began hearing about the CD32 and thought that maybe, just maybe, Commodore had a plan to pull itself out of the fire. Then I saw a picture of it on a BBS and thought it was a sick joke. I thought someone was trying to be sarcastic, saying that the future of the platform was a game console instead of the wonderful personal computer that it was. The CD32 looked like a toy, nothing more. I remembered Commodore's famous marketing campaign--"Why buy a game when you can buy a computer?" and thought--yeah, this is a mistake.

After that shock wore off, I started wondering if this meant that Commodore was ready to release a CD-ROM drive for the other Amiga platforms, or whether the CD32 could interface somehow with a "real" Amiga. Of course, the CD drive never materialized, which meant that any Amiga CD-ROM games would be limited to the CD32 (or I suppose there may have been third party add-ons; if so, I was unfamiliar with them at the crucial time). I was still waiting for an AGA upgrade for my 3000 which never came.

Nevertheless, I've been wanting a CD32 for some time now, having been impressed by the few games I've seen for the system. Captive springs to mind, of course, but I've seen other great looking games. To my mind, it might be the best solution for a casual Amiga gamer; it'd definitely be easier than mucking about with a 1200 or 600, the other viable choices as I see them.

As far as the CDTV is concerned, I have zero experience with that box.

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Matt Barton
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Commercial for CD32
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Mark Vergeer
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I am on the lookout for a cd32

MrCustard has acquired a cd32 a while back and I've been on the lookout for one ever since. The cd32 is a great machine - far to expensive for me at the time it came out - with the ease of use of a true console.
Even though I don't own one yet, I do know some quirks about the system and how to get the games running on OTHER machines! AND it's also possible to run regular Amiga games on the CD32 and CDTV!

Check back in here regularly for updates on that and more.

And here a little one of those 32x32 icons I do, this time of the CD32 control pad.



Editor / Pixelator - Armchair Arcade, Inc.
www.markvergeer.nl

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yakumo9275
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reviews

(download both and unrar to make the magazine pdf file)

cdtv review in ACAR;
http://www.racevb6.com/acar/jun91.part1.rar
http://www.racevb6.com/acar/jun91.part2.rar

cd32 review in ACAR (this is a really nice review, mobo pics, etc.)
http://www.racevb6.com/acar/dec93.part1.rar
http://www.racevb6.com/acar/dec93.part2.rar

I like the obligatory "That makes it 16bits better than Sega or Nintendo but 32bits behind Jaguar" comment.

-- Stu --

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Bill Loguidice
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Bits
yakumo9275 wrote:

I like the obligatory "That makes it 16bits better than Sega or Nintendo but 32bits behind Jaguar" comment.

-- Stu --

I didn't download those yet (thanks), but I cringe at the quote... Bits really were irrelevant, particularly when comparing the Jaguar to anything else, since the system was rarely properly tapped (some would argue never), resulting in many 16-bit-like games, let alone 32-bit.



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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Matt Barton
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C'mon Guys !!!

All right. C'mon, guys, I want to see your thoughts on the CDTV and CD32! Thank you, Mark, Bill, and Stu, but I want to see *everyone* chiming in here. Let us know what you think about these Commodore platforms, even if it's just to say "I don't know a damn thing about them!"

To get the ball rolling, I have thought of some questions that I would like everyone to answer. Please don't think I'm being pushy, but I really want this "month of X platform" thing to succeed. Obviously, for that to happen, we need people pitching in who don't normally pitch in. Yes, that means YOU, Mr. Lurker. Get off your butt and type something!!

1. Did you consider buying a CDTV or CD32; why or why not?
2. What CDTV or CD32 games would like to see reviewed (or video reviewed!!) here at AA? Or, better yet, why not review it yourself and post it for all of us to enjoy!!
3. Was the CDTV and/or CD32 a brilliant concept or a really stupid mistake on Commodore's part?
4. Why didn't these units succeed better than they did?
5. What are the advantages or disadvantages of buying one of these platforms vs. a standard 500 or 1200?

Thanks for your help. I can't wait to read YOUR response, so please don't sit on your thumbs here. Make my day by posting your opinion, even if you think you are not qualified to talk about this topic. Let's get the ball rolling!! Or should I say, let's get the Boing Ball Boinging!!! :)

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yakumo9275
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comments
Matt Barton wrote:

1. Did you consider buying a CDTV or CD32; why or why not?
2. What CDTV or CD32 games would like to see reviewed (or video reviewed!!) here at AA? Or, better yet, why not review it yourself and post it for all of us to enjoy!!
3. Was the CDTV and/or CD32 a brilliant concept or a really stupid mistake on Commodore's part?
4. Why didn't these units succeed better than they did?
5. What are the advantages or disadvantages of buying one of these platforms vs. a standard 500 or 1200?

1 - No, the CDTV was.. too much like an overpriced cd player. I didnt really geat what Commodore was going for with the device. It may not have helped that I was not a console guy, so I didnt go 'Ohh its NES like but better!'. I just went.. ooh.. it goes in the lounge.. where the family sits and not here in the computer room... plut it ran the old kickstart 1.3 when machines were coming out with 2.0 on them...

The CD32, well it looked awesome but again, I was not a console gamer so didn't see the point. The world had yet to see the playstation.. and really thinking about it, it was defintly 'old'. Sure it had colours but there was no 3D awesomeness that the playstation would exploit 12 months later.

Why buy a CD32 when you can buy an A1200 and do more with it?

2 - Id like see some CDTV stuff reviews as the CD32 had nothing... great. Was there anything that was not just a port of a standard Amiga title? I thought most things were just pressed on CD and voila. CD32 title!

3 - CDTV was more like.. a vision. a prototype that shouldnt have really hit the market and CD32 was.. well it was way underpowered. Everyone knew the rumours coming out of 'fantastic new games machines'. Atari was hyping the Jaguar 64. People knew the playstation was coming.

Compared to what was in the market (SNES, MegaDrive, TurboGrafix), it could compete but it came too late in the cycle of that gaming era.

4 - They didnt succeed because people wanted an Amiga.. not a games console. It had no killer title. Wolfenstein was blowing minds and 3D was suddenly hot... and the Amiga had a hard time dealing with realtime 3d like PC's could. I also dont remember much in the way of advertising.

5 - CD32 vs A1200? no comparision. A1200 beats it hands down, since CD32 is a cutdown A1200... and the CDTV an A500... Anytime commodore made a "cutdown" anything it was next to useless. The A500 was the only "cutdown" model to be of any use. Look at how may cutdown models of the C64, VIC20 etc they made...

-- Stu --

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Matt Barton
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W00t!

It's the month of CDTV and CD32!

W00t!

I'm so excited I wrote a little poem about the CD32:

Roses aren't red,
Violets aren't blue,
Is there something with my CD32?
No, just adjust the hue.

Thank you.

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Harmik
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NTSC and Pal

Hello i have an NTSC CD32 with a TV that can switch from Pal to NTSC can i get Pal games from Ebay and use them ? Do i have to do anything special ?
Thank You :)

Harmik

Bill Loguidice
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Amiga Mouse
Harmik wrote:

Hello i have an NTSC CD32 with a TV that can switch from Pal to NTSC can i get Pal games from Ebay and use them ? Do i have to do anything special ?
Thank You :)

Harmik

Do you have an Amiga-compatible mouse? From Wikipedia: "Like all later Amiga computers, the CD32 has a hidden boot menu that can be accessed by plugging an Amiga mouse into port 2 and holding both buttons down ..." You can access the NTSC/PAL switch by accessing the boot menu. Most titles should work fine.



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Bill Loguidice, Managing Director | Armchair Arcade, Inc.

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