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Philips CD-i
November 26, 2012 2:53 PM   Subscribe

The Philips CD-i was a unique blend of CD player and gaming console, with "interactive" playback capabilities. The only completely interactive music CD for the platform was released by Todd Rundgren in 1993. A reference guide for everything CD-i can be found here.
posted by MattMangels (29 comments total) 9 users marked this as a favorite

 
Todd Rundgren couldn't WAIT to bomb some dodongos.
posted by delfin at 2:57 PM on November 26, 2012 [6 favorites]


I think I had a night where this thing completely blew my mind. Like the first Playstation, you could put in an audio CD and it would make pretty geometric patterns to the music.

In 1997 this was the future.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 2:57 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


In my pursuts, I got my hands on and read several issues of CD-i Magazine. Few consoles have ever failed at justifying their existence as the CD-i.

That being said, I love the little guy.
posted by griphus at 2:59 PM on November 26, 2012


The only reason I was ever aware of the CD-i was because the channel that would later become UPN ran the same exact infomercial for it every morning before Ronin Warriors.
posted by Holy Zarquon's Singing Fish at 3:04 PM on November 26, 2012


Todd Rundgren was an unlikely technology evangelist in the 90's. He did amazing things with the Video Toaster.
posted by Chinese Jet Pilot at 3:04 PM on November 26, 2012


CDTV or GTFO!
posted by dumbland at 3:05 PM on November 26, 2012 [2 favorites]


The Philipscdi.com project is a fairly new idea

Looks like the last update was 2007.

I remember this thing. It was ridiculous. Surely there must be better links, though. (Or am I missing it.)

"Lemme tell ya. I have a lot to say about this system--so much that it's going to take me several videos to cover it."
posted by mrgrimm at 3:05 PM on November 26, 2012


The 90's are great because there's just so many ideas that are just running right ahead of the available technology.
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:06 PM on November 26, 2012 [5 favorites]


The concept is brilliant. And I'm loving looking at the UI. I actually want one.
posted by 13twelve at 3:10 PM on November 26, 2012


Hardcore Gaming 101 has a neat piece on the late Dale DeSharone who worked on some stuff for the CDi.
posted by juv3nal at 3:12 PM on November 26, 2012 [1 favorite]


"We shot a really low-budget movie at 384x280, how can we sell it?"
"Well, I was going through Sierra's dumpster and found all these rejected adventure game puzzle ideas."
"RAISES ALL AROUND."
posted by griphus at 3:13 PM on November 26, 2012


I seem to remember playing a pretty good port of Dragon's Lair on one at my local Sears when I was a kid. They also liked to play Star Trek V a lot, so I saw that more than a few times. It was whizbang compared to the laserdisc players, at least to a kid.

I was done with it once I saw the 3DO, though.
posted by wierdo at 3:15 PM on November 26, 2012


Why am I reminded of HyperCard?
posted by tommasz at 3:20 PM on November 26, 2012


I'm starting to think that "Obsolete Technology Tuesdays" should become a Thing on MetaFilter.

By the way, Todd also released a "normal" CD version of No World Order called "No World Order Lite" (link goes to Grooveshark; someone had uploaded just about every single thing Todd has ever done to YouTube but they recently closed their account). I'm really getting a kick out of "Fascist Christ". Once you get past the thick layers of early 90s white-guy rap cheesiness you realize that it's really just great music.
posted by MattMangels at 3:24 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I attended a CD-i conference in LA back when Phillips was just bringing the thing to market. I came away utterly unimpressed. Laggy animation. Insufferable wait times. Etc. But...wow...That was my very first exposure to serious tech true-believers. The devs showing their creations in the ballroom were really, really, really wild-eyed scary. They were all convinced that this thing was the true road to digital Mecca.

I still have my CD-i diagram template, though. Swag!

I particularly remember a pair of French devs who, in addition to not shutting-the-fuck-up-already smelled really bad. Like, "came over in a container ship with no bucket" bad
posted by Thorzdad at 3:41 PM on November 26, 2012


My Step Father is an early adopter to everything tech. He bought one of these back when it first came out. The price was very high and the controls/controller were a bit wonky, and I want to say you only could have one controller, which I think hurt it's chances as a gaming system. I will say despite it's flaws it was pretty innovative for the time and I did love the Caesars World of Boxing game.
posted by remo at 3:51 PM on November 26, 2012


Link: The Faces of Evil

We Will Never Forget!
posted by sourcequench at 5:00 PM on November 26, 2012


Yes, but does it have Sewer Shark?
posted by Durn Bronzefist at 5:52 PM on November 26, 2012


I worked on a CD-i project once. Once.
posted by davejay at 6:53 PM on November 26, 2012


DO TELL

What was development on that thing like?
posted by griphus at 6:57 PM on November 26, 2012


> What was development on that thing like?

I also worked on CD-I development, and it was unfortunately not so much fun.

The number one issue was the tiny memory size. While there were a few 2MB machines, you had to write everything to the least common denominator, the 1MB machine. This meant that it was impossible to keep your assets (audio, images and animations) in memory - you had to bring them in on demand from the disc and page them out when you were done.

Fair enough, and the development kit did handle loading things in the background BUT there was no pre-rolled way to handle the callback logic. One of the engineers at the place I was working eventually came up with some sort of framework, but it was too little, too late.

Overall, the Optimage development system was fairly solid, but not extremely solid - had a lot of features but not enough features.

The good parts were the amazing audio compression. If I recall, there were three levels of compression, and at the highest compression you could get a channel of voice data at 1/16 the the bandwidth of a mono audio track - and you could get multiple such tracks off the disk and decompress 'em on the fly. At the time, this was astonishing!
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:33 PM on November 26, 2012 [3 favorites]


I own one of these. The "i" part was kind of useless to me given that most of the time I used it I did not have a tv hooked up to my stereo. It replaced an older Luxman cd player. It's sound couldn't touch the Luxman, but while the Luxman broke after a few years, the Philips CDi is still functioning decades later.
posted by caddis at 7:37 PM on November 26, 2012


God it was crap. Like playing games on a satellite TV box.
posted by GallonOfAlan at 12:51 AM on November 27, 2012


Hey, the CD-i! I want to say it's a system only a mother could love, but the prospect of a Jaguar post sounds appealing right now so glass houses, stones etc. Good post.

sourcequench, it's impressive how CD-i had three Zelda games and they were so bad awful people don't even acknowledge them. Even that satellite game receives more love.
posted by ersatz at 4:11 AM on November 27, 2012


The only reason I was ever aware of the CD-i was because the channel that would later become UPN ran the same exact infomercial for it every morning before Ronin Warriors.

I went through a phase of watching lots of infomercials, often repeatedly. This is one of them. I can still vividly picture the lady grooving to "If I Ever Lose my Faith in You" after slipping in a copy of Sting's Ten Summoner's Tales (it seems to be a different infomercial than the one available on YouTube.)

But man, even as an impressionable child who loved Zelda, I knew that those were a mess.
posted by SpiffyRob at 7:48 AM on November 27, 2012


I wanted one of these because I knew there were Zelda games on it. In retrospect, my dad's refusal to shell out for it allowed me to dodge quite the bullet.
posted by owtytrof at 1:24 PM on November 27, 2012


sourcequench, it's impressive how CD-i had three Zelda games and they were so bad awful people don't even acknowledge them. Even that satellite game receives more love.

But man, even as an impressionable child who loved Zelda, I knew that those were a mess.

I wanted one of these because I knew there were Zelda games on it. In retrospect, my dad's refusal to shell out for it allowed me to dodge quite the bullet.


*cough*

The two CDi titles, Link: Faces of Evil and Zelda: Wand of Gamelon (hereafter LZ), are good games. In fact, they are very good games. Don't pull away from this statement in disgust, and please save your hate email until the end, but perform for me one small favour and acknowledge these three facts:

1) Nearly every source of information (both online and in print) fails to describe the actual gameplay or show more than a few scant images of in-game action.
2) Many sources simply provide blanket criticism, especially of the cinemas, without detailed explanation, and then only show you images of the cinemas (which is why this article contains not even a single such image).
3) You have probably not played either game, and if you have, you've possibly not gotten very far.

Henry Jacobsen said, "People would rather be wrong than be different." This is certainly the case with LZ. They're not mind-blowingly fantastic, they're not the best Zelda games (though in this author's opinion they're far superior to Adventures of Link on the NES), and they do have obvious faults which I will highlight. But they are fun and do have merit, which makes their universal criticism all the more sad.

posted by juv3nal at 4:46 PM on November 27, 2012


they're not the best Zelda games (though in this author's opinion they're far superior to Adventures of Link on the NES)

If that isn't damning with faint praise, I don't know what is.
posted by Strange Interlude at 7:51 PM on November 27, 2012 [1 favorite]


Does he mean Zelda II: The Adventure of Link? Between the 2D-platforming and the Nintendo-hard ways of increasing the difficulty in sideview platformers, Zelda II is the most underrated game of the main series. Don't bully the small folk, HG101 ;)

If Philips had seen a top down design, they would have said that it didn't... They would have looked at it just visually, as opposed to gameplay. And that was what they were most concerned with. Does the CDi game look visually different from other game or computer systems, and are we making less use of the graphics? The possibility that the top down might have been more fun for gameplay, wouldn't have affected them. So we definitely pushed for the side view.

From this and his last comment, it seems Philips mainly cared to show off their system and the devs were saddled with making two games at once. The gameplay videos I've seen were rather underwhelming, so I may disagree with HG101 on this one.
posted by ersatz at 5:28 AM on November 28, 2012


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