- Multi-tap also refers to a text-entry system for mobile phones.
A multitap is a video game console peripheral that increases the number of controller ports available to the player, allowing additional controllers to be used in play. A multitap often takes the form of a box with three or more controller ports which is then connected to a spare port on the console itself.
Mainly sports games have supported multitaps due to the multiplayer aspect of some sport games, though some role-playing video games and first person shooters have taken advantage of multitap support.
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The first multitap device to be produced was by NEC-Hudson Soft for the PC-Engine / TurboGrafx-16 in 1987. The PC-Engine is one of the few consoles to have been originally fitted with only one controller port. To make "multiplayer" gaming possible, one had to purchase the Turbo Tap, expanding the PC-Engine to 5 players.
Electronic Arts - Sega's most important 3rd party developer for the Sega Mega Drive/Sega Genesis - released the 4 Way Play to make four-player sports games possible. Shortly after that, Sega released its own four-player adapter which was incompatible with EA's adapter. The way out of that difficult situation was a slightly redesigned adapter by Sega, which supported both the Sega and the EA formats.
Codemasters developed a quasi-multitap for the Mega Drive called the J-Cart, first released in 1994. The game would have two extra joypad ports built into the cartridge itself, thus negating the need to buy extra hardware (beyond two more joypads) to play four-player games.
Nintendo, in conjunction with Hudson Soft, released in 1993, the Super Multitap for the Super Nintendo. It could be purchased bundled with the well regarded game Super Bomberman which helped establish the popularity of the peripheral. Several other compatible SNES Multitaps followed. With the success of the Nintendo device, the term "multitap" became synonymous with similar devices.
A few games released for the Amiga home computer system after 1995 included support for custom-built multitaps. Instructions for how to build a multitap were included in the manual to classic Amiga racing sequel Super Skidmarks. The Amiga multitap would plug into the computer's parallel port and provide two additional ports for use. Earlier, the Amiga version of Bomberman, Dynablaster had already included support for a similar device.
64-bit era and beyond
The PlayStation multitaps also allow the same number of memory cards as controllers. In games such as Dead or Alive 2: Hardcore, this allows all players to insert memory cards and track their personal statistics. The PlayStation 2 allows the use of 8 controllers and 8 memory cards simultaneously by plugging in a Multitap in both controller ports.
In recent years the multitap has become an increasingly redundant peripheral, with most console designers preferring to simply expand the number of controller ports on the console itself. While the first console to actually feature 4 built-in controller ports was the Bally Astrocade, that feature would not be widely used again for well over a decade until the arrival of the Nintendo 64. Subsequent consoles, with the exception of Sony's PlayStation 2, all included four ports as standard. With the advent of standard wireless controllers in the next generation of consoles, the days of the traditional multitap seem to have come to an end.
Method of operation
Many systems were not designed with multitaps in mind, and so require some clever design to work. Because of this, games usually have to be specially written to include multitap support.
The most common way of implementing 8 and 16 bit multitaps is to multiplex the signals from each attached controller in some way. Some systems have unused lines available on the controller port, designed for future expansion, which can be used. Another popular technique is to serialise the data from each controller. Since the NES/SNES uses a serial bus for standard controllers, creating a multitap is simply a case of increasing the amount of serial data available to the console. In that way, an almost unlimited number of extra controllers can be connected.
Later systems used more complex buses, such as the N64 serial bus, the Dreamcast Maple Bus or USB. These buses tend to be more modular and can already support more than one device per port, making the multitap little more than a hub.
- "Quadro-Power". Megablast (in German) (Joker Verlag). 1994-03-30. p. 29.
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