Pioneer CLD-A100 (LaserActive)
LaserActive - August
1993 Japanese Launch
LD-based computer game format, LaserActive, was launched in Japan on August
20th. The US is expected to follow on before the end of the year. Pioneer
describes LaserActive as an "interactive home-entertainment system"
that is based around a new Y89,800 modular comb player, the CLD-A100.
front panel recess (bottom left-hand corner, behind a flap) is designed to
accommodate plug in modules, three of which have so far been announced. The
Y39,000 PAC-S1 is required for SEGA Mega discs, the Y39,000 PAC-N1 for NEC
system discs and the Y20,000 PAC-K1 is for karaoke. Each of the modules has the
ability to decode CD+Graphics. The SEGA and NEC modules will play existing CD
and cartridge games as well as Pioneer have newly developed LD-based ones. The
August player launch was accompanied by five Y9,800 laserdiscs with five more
planned by October. By the year-end Pioneer expects to have 17 LaserActive
Pioneer believes it has a technological advantage over CD games is with the
vastly increased data capacity available on laserdiscs. No matter how they are
configured, any programme or game fitted on to a CD is limited to 540 megabytes
of data. For audio only this will result in the familiar audio CD with a playing
time of up to 80 minutes. If the CD is used for still images up to 7,000 can be
stored at full bandwidth. The new Video CD off-shoot of CD-I promises 72 minutes
of moving video but only by vastly reducing the bandwidth and consequently the
reality of the images. A standard NTSC digital audio laserdisc on the other
hand, has this 540 megabyte data store exclusively available for full
bandwidth audio and can still offer 54,000/108,000 full bandwidth stills (or
the equivalent 30/60 minutes moving video) CAV/CLV. On top of that, the FM
analogue audio channels can be brought into use for high quality audio. All
these capacities are for just one side of the LD. Whereas a CD programme is
severely limited by the data capacity of the small disc, the LD has abundance of
the picture on LD is still analogue based is often given as a reason for the
trend to digital video on CD as the latter is more simply integrated into the
computer environment. Once data is digital it becomes more easily moved about
and adaptable, but digital encoding remains data intensive and so with a
'closed' application (i.e. one that functions as a self-contained system without
need to interconnect) like a games system, the analogue LD still has a lot going
for it. Pioneer doesn't exclude the possibility of digital video in the future,
though, and there will very likely be further modules compatible with CD-I/Video
CD and others. Pioneer has recently announced a set of data compression chips
that would seem ideally suited to such applications (see story elsewhere).
the appeal of games being added to the combi concept, Pioneer predicts
LaserActive could be equally turned to electronic publishing (for example,
image databases) and education. In some ways, many of the benefits of
LaserActive have been available on LD before but often tied to specific computer
systems and designed for specialised applications. Something like the UK Domesday
AIV disc should be attainable with LaserActive but at consumer prices.
Patrol - A Mega-LD 3-D shoot-
'em-up set on Mars in the near future. The participant sees the planet
from the cockpit of a space fighter and has to engage approaching enemies. The
game has seven rounds with the spacecraft being able to absorb a certain amount
of damage before the game is terminated. The high quality computer graphics and
extremely fast scrolling background are claimed to match arcade game standards.
Great Pyramid - Is a moving
video encyclopedia for the Mega-LD module. (But what a confusing choice of
title; surely out of five launch titles they could have managed better than have
two of them with pyramid in them?) This is a 4,000-year history of Egypt
focusing on the pyramids, pharaohs, Egyptian gods and mysteries of the
civilisation. The disc is accessed by clicking on on-screen icons. [Pioneer]
- An interactive movie with much of the footage shot in London. Professor
new inventions are stolen and the player must track down the culprit. The disc
can switch between maps of the city and footage of the actual location. The disc
is bilingual (Japanese/English). The second side comprises a guided tour of
England in the standard LD format with a narration by Japanese actress, Hideko
Econosaurus - For the NEC
module, this Hudson Soft produced game is in a quiz format that up to four
people can play. It has an ecology theme and is based on the Ryo Hondo comic
Hideko Hara [Pioneer].
Demon's Judgment - Another
one for the NEC nodule, it is again a quiz game. Demon Kogure a popular Japanese
rock star, acts as host and passes judgment on the participants. There are 20
themes with a total of 100 questions. The target audience is a large gathering
rather than just one or two players. [Planet]
Mate - Strip poker in which
the participant takes on three porno actresses at either poker or roulette.
Every time the player wins a hand the actresses sheds an item of clothing The
film footage is 35mm originated thus ensuring high quality visuals. Innovative
use of lighting and clever angles give an interactive feel" says the
publicity material! Angel Mate is targeted at an adult audience, one that will
have the NEC module too. [Planet]
Roller Battle - An
aerial battle game for the Mega module. The explosions are encoded in Dolby
Surround to add realism. [October release - Pioneer].
Requiem - Is an interactive
adventure with a mystery storyline for the NEC. The task is to unravel
the plot through conversations with 40 characters. The on-screen text can be
switched between Japanese and English [October release: Riverhill Software].
- An NEC 3 D shooting game featuring high speed high quality computer graphics
and which claims to achieve a level of virtual reality not previously seen in
home video games. It takes place in
Geopolis, a floating city in Osaka Bay
with the players piloting Vajra, a flying robot created by ancient telekinetic
powers. Vajra must combat Kugutsuki demons that have been re-incarnated.
[October release – Pioneer]
Berserker - Another space
shooting game with humans battling aliens in the year Omega 193 (that's next
Thursday week in old money).
[October release - Pioneer].
further stimulate LaserActive development, a Multimedia Creators Network has
been established the first fruits of whose work should appear in December. The
idea is to combine the diverse talents of game specialists, moviemakers and
academics to develop new themes and programmes Three titles are currently in
A museum style database of 3-D worlds created by a combination of computer
graphics, film footage and 3-D audio. The programme is making use of both
Japanese and American talent. [Provisional December release.]
Brain - The title is a
reference to the melon-shaped brain that it is unique to dolphins. Dr John C.
Lilly a leading authority on dolphins. Bob Talbot a top underwater cameraman,
and Estelle Myers, the Australian dolphin researcher are putting together this
interactive programme. [Provisional February 1994 release.]
- The world's seven great
civilisations are investigated in this edutainment programme produced in
conjunction with NUK Enterprises. Kadokowa Shoten Publishing and Dai Nippon
Printing. [Provisional May 1994 release].
if the LaserActive concept proves a commercial success it will find its way to
Europe too. At best that's unlikely to be before the end of 1994. possibly,
later. What remains to be answered is whether Pioneer will attempt to produce
PAL format LaserActive discs. There are problems. To begin with, the PAL LD
standard is either analogue or digital audio based, but not both as is the case
with NTSC. Therefore one of Laser-Active’s features is immediately out the
additional problem might be with converting existing games to PAL. Here in the
UK we have experienced this barrier before when Pioneer introduced its MSX
format PX-7 computer, one of the features of which was the ability to control
specially made arcade-type games, such as the Strike Mission disc
illustrated. While Pioneer strongly intimated these discs would appear in PAL
format they never did. Part of the reason could well have been the low take-up
of the computer itself but there was also a suggestion that the conversion work
necessary was prohibitively difficult and/or expensive. Unlike a normal
linear video that just needs to be run through a standards converter (albeit
with a degradation in picture quality), the computer related coding of the games
and the fact that the discs were 30-frame based apparently proved too much of an
will be interesting to see whether Pioneer has found a way round this impasse.
Alternatively, it could just introduce LaserActive as an NTSC-based format in
the first place, thereby avoiding any such problems with programme interchange.
By the looks of it, several of the initial LaserActive discs have been designed
for the English, or more accurately, American in speaking market.
a guide to the probable UK cost of LaserActive the Y89,800 that the
CLDA100 sells for is approximately Y89,800, more than a basic LD/CD
combi in Japan. If the same percentage increase applies here this doesn’t t
sound too bad, but the Mega and NEC modules could well translate to £250 each
which is inure intimidating, especially as the player and one module together
will result in a hardware cost nudging £1,000. The Y9,800 L LaserActive LDs run
about twice the price of a budget movie or premium pop music release in Japan,
so for the UK something around £40-00 would seem likely.
These goggles are used for
LaserActive games like 3 D Museum, Melon Brains and Goku, but they can be used
with any adapter that accepts a 1/8" plug, so can be used
with 3D DVD's and VHS tapes as well as the Sega Master System games.