>> Wednesday, July 4, 2007
CD-i veterans and Philips employees aside, new visitors to Interactive Dreams may not have a clue what the Philips CD-i was about. This introduction below is a summery of what previously has been published by other sites like Le Monde du CD-i. It deals with a very basic start, some of which is used at Wikipedia (a main start for anyone who wants to know what CD-i was) Here's an introduction to CD-i, 'the Interactive-Dreams way':
Let me be clear from the start the Philips CD-i was not meant as a real games console. Instead, Philips launched the CD-i format in 1990 to introduce a multimedia machine competing with the CD-ROM format, offering videos, photos and music on a CD to play on your television. One of the key selling points to convince people CD-i was better than CD-ROM, was by claiming you don't have to use a seperate computer anymore. In 1990, this was a unique experience to offer on a simple format just like the audio CD. The format has been developed in an alliance of Philips, Sony and Matshushita, known as The Green Book. The Audio CD format was standardized in The Red Book; CD-ROM was standardized in The Yellow Book.
The CD-i (Short for Compact Disc Interactive) was invented around 1985 but commercialized in 1990, so it took a long while to arrive at the consumer market. The Digital Video add-on was released in 1993. CD-ROM was aimed at the 'professional' user, CD-i was there for the 'casual' consumer. It all went a little different.
Any company was allowed to produce a CD-i player, as long as the Green Book specifications were met: Motorola 68000 processor at 15Mhz, 1 MB of memory (RAM), one drive at single speed, 8 KB of internal memory and the operational system CD-RTOS. So, CD-i was not able to play just CD-i's. The CD-i player was able to play the following kinds of discs:
-CD Graphics (CD+G)
1. Video CD
2. Photo CD
Philips produced several types of CD-i players, to serve every kind of consumer. why are there so many CD-i players? It has been the policy of Philips I guess, but most of all, more brands were involved with CD-i than just Philips. That's why you can also get a Sony CD-i player, a Grundig CD-i player, a Goldstar CD-i Player, and so on. But Philips was responsible for 90% of all CD-i hardware, I guess. More types appealing to more people, like portable systems, developers system, high-end consumer systems..... For you who just want to play some games, I recommend the 470 or 490 player (basically the same). If you don't know what I'm talking about, be sure to check out the CD-i Player index of the ICDIA website.
Important to know is that every CD-i player plays the same discs. Just be sure some games need the Digital Video Cartridge. CD-i is a 16 bit machine, and the Digital Video Cartridge was something of an upgrade with a 32 bit RISC processor so the CD-i could play full motion video in MPEG1 format. Some games use digital video to show off some fast-pace gameplay. And it is just to play movies, to play the Video CD format, and so on. The front boxart of the CD-i disc normally sais it's a base case title (stating Compact Disc interactive) or a title requiring the Digital Video Cartridge (stating Digital Video on CD-i).
The CD-i 210 was the highest selling. It is mainly a stripped down version of the CD-i 220 (Matchline product). The 210 was sold at a price of 800 dollars.
In 1994, Philips introduced the CD-i 450, built to compete with real videogames systems like 3DO, Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive. The 450 player also marked the return of Magnavox to the videogames platform. It is a cheap version of the CD-i format (only 400 dollars).
Originally CD-i was meant to offer educational and reference software. The educational part of software was very important for CD-i. Philips aimed at children playing and learning at the same time with CD-i. They hoped CD-i would be highly adapted in school programs. Philips also developed for adults several programs about culture, art, encyclopedias, documentairies, courses and so on. Really, games were not on the mind of Philips. They only developed some basic board games like Battle Ship, Jigsaw, Text Tiles, simple games like that. Slowly Philips funded more projects to develop games on CD-i, with Alien Gate by The Vision factory as a remarkable change in the quality games possible on CD-i.
In theory, this educational and reference approach was very innovative, never seen before and without Internet as a real competitor in the early ninetees a good idea. Unfortunately, even before launch the japanese developers stepped out of the alliance and Philips decided to go for it alone. There are only a few left-overs of the japansese involvements, like the Sony CD-i player and Panasonic CD-i prototypes. I think, if Sony (pics here) and Matsushita continued support in CD-i, the term "Interactive" would have been cool now instead of 'obscure' as what it is these days...
Still, in my opinion the list of CD-i games is very good, and if you are willing to search, you can find a lot of high action arcade games on CD-i:
The 7th Guest: An instant succes on CD-i promoting the just available Digital Video Cartridge. Classic puzzles in a full motion rendered 3D mystery house. The 7th Guest is a horror story told from the unfolding perspective of the player, as an amnesiac. The game received a great amount of press attention for making live action video clips a core part of its gameplay, for its unprecedentedly large amount of pre-rendered 3D graphics, and for its adult content. In addition, the game was very successful, and is widely-regarded as a killer app that accelerated the sales of CD-i.
Mad Dog Mc Cree: Live action shooting offered by American Laser Games, straight from the arcades. CD-i offered the best graphics available out of all console versions. This is what made "Interactive Movies" popular. Mad Dog McCree is the first live-action laserdisc video game released by American Laser Games. It originally appeared as an arcade shooting game in 1990. It gained a lot of attention for its real-video style, bearing similarities to recent Hollywood westerns.
Litil Divil: Starring Mutt, this is what the mascot of CD-i could have been. Along with Marvin from The Apprentice he is the best known CD-i character. Litil Divil is also a puzzle game full of cartoon graphics, mazes and ofcourse: puzzles to solve.
Solar Crusade: The sequel to Chaos Control was the very last CD-i game ever released by Infogrames in 1998. This marked the end of the life of CD-i. It's a very cool and fast 3D shooting game, on-rails so you control the cursor to shoot your opponents.
Dragon's Lair: Thanks to Digital Video this shows the power of CD-i: Real TV animation in a cartoon movie you can control by clicking the right button on the right moment. You influence the story of the cartoon but if you choose wrong you are killed. Frustrating but beautiful at the same time.
Secret Mission: One of the best games which don't need a Digital Video cartridge. A puzzle game much like the style of point and click adventures, previously popular on CD-ROM only.
The Lost Ride: Another rail-shooter built as a roler-coaster: Shoot your way to the end of a beautiful rendered maze in Digital Video. This game also featured a rare technique on CD-i: Seamless Branching.
Micro Machines: A classic 2D racing game, top-view. Everybody knows Micro Machines, it has been released on virtually every platform, including CD-i.
Tetris: The game that made the Nintendo Game Boy hugely popular, even got an official version made by Philips.
Burn:Cycle: a 1994 CD-i title that encompasses puzzle play and 3D graphics with live action footage. The game's star, Sol Cutter, is a small-time data thief whose latest steal at the beginning of the game comes with a nasty sting. The Burn:Cycle virus has been implanted in his head and has given him a two-hour realtime deadline to find a cure before his brain deteriorates completely. You, as the player, must guide Sol out of Softech and into the Televerse in order to find his cure. Various obstacles and games stand in his way, and there is the overarching realisation that Burn:Cycle has been planted by someone with malicious intent. Finding this within the time limit completes the game.
International Tennis Open: Can you imagine this was one of the most realistic tennis sims on any console? This is what makes Infogrames' Tennis pretty popular.
Most people remember the CD-i because of the link with Nintendo. Click the link to read more about the involvement of Nintendo with Philips CD-i.
Zelda - The Wand of Gamelon
Link - The Faces of Evil
Hotel Mario; the only game starring Mario which has been officially released.
I hope this selection will convince you the Philips CD-i actually has some good games to offer. But it's true Philips wasn't the most popular in creating videogames and even with all the efforts of funded third party projects, the title library on CD-i remained low. One interesting aspect of CD-i is that it could play Video-CD; but only if you upgraded the CD-i player with a so-called Digital Video cartridge (MPEG1 decoder):
The best games on CD-i required a Digital Video Cartridge. Check out this list if you want to know which games do.
And.... all kinds of accessories were available for use with CD-i. Can you tell which ones are used for what purpose ;) The roller controller was there for children and they could easily scroll the cursor with the big blue ball, and the roller controller was not breakable, at least for a kid ;) The splitter was needed to play two-player games on newer models from the CD-i 4xx series. Using the splitter you were able to connect a second controller. Also, to connect the player to the Internet, the splitter was needed to connect the CD-i modem to the CD-i player.
Philips even produced a portable version of the CD-i and OEM'ed the LG CD-i player (370). The portable players were very expensive, so not a lot of consumers actually bought it...
CD-i was the first console to enter the Internet right from your couch, right on your own television.
I hope we'll continue the History story of CD-i soon; it's a beautiful story!
Credits: This post is inspired by the history of CD-i posted by Le Monde du CD-i. However, the pictures are available on virtually every CD-i website, which makes it hard for me to credit the originals.