Sega Model 3 & The Dreamcast - WTF Went Wrong?!?

Discussion in 'General Gaming' started by MrThunderwing, Nov 4, 2017.

  1. MrThunderwing

    MrThunderwing Rising Member

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    Hey Assembler peeps, how's it hanging?

    Please check out my latest video, discussing the Sega Model 3 arcade board, The Dreamcast and the arcade ports that never came out on it.

     
  2. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    First of all, thanks for your great channel - I've often referenced this just to follow Supermodel's progress, especially when it comes to emulating all those Model 3 titles that never made the jump from arcade to home platforms.

    As for why so many of Sega's mid-to-late '90s racers (including quite a few on the Model 2) remained arcade exclusive, I suspect the biggest hurdle was the Saturn and then Dreamcast not being able to match the power of the boards co-developed with Lockheed Martin. Of the few Model 3 games that did make it to the Dreamcast, both Virtua Fighter 3tb and Sega Rally 2 were significantly compromised for different reasons, while console-specific titles such as Metropolis Street Racer, Sega GT and Daytona USA 2001 offered far more content than Sega would typically include in its coin-ops. Along with Gran Turismo, I'd suggest that PlayStation software like Formula 1 provided greater value for money than Sega's output. The arcade version of VF3/VF3tb may have still been somewhat cutting edge visually by 2000, but it had little chance against the massively improved Soul Calibur or even Dead Or Alive 2.

    Licensing issues may be the cause behind several higher profile arcade efforts by Sega not being converted, even when any possible hardware limitations are now mostly a thing of the past, though I'm not entirely convinced the company as a whole sought to move away from its reliance on AM ports. I remember there being a lot of promotional buzz around the likes of Get Bass, Crazy Taxi, The House Of The Dead 2, F355 Challenge, 18 Wheeler, Confidential Mission and Zombie Revenge all turning up on Dreamcast in forms that were mostly indistinguishable from their coin-op counterparts, yet VF3tb and Sega Rally 2 surfaced as launch-era titles without much in the way of hype. Maybe the real problem was that management within Sega knew consumer sensibilities were rapidly changing, forcing a tightening of quality control? Sega's arcade products rarely looked and played anything less than fantastically, but the games we Dreamcast owners ended up getting were usually more substantial than had been expected in a world before Gran Turismo came along.

    Also, just as there was incredible pressure on Sega to deliver flawless Saturn versions of Virtua Racing, Virtua Fighter and Daytona USA at launch, only for all of these to turn out massively flawed, perhaps there wasn't as much weight placed on VF3tb or Sega Rally 2 early into the Dreamcast's life, never mind the fact that SCUD Race didn't go any further than an early tech demo? Instead of pushing its more traditional arcade heritage, I seem to recall Sega putting greater emphasis on AM conversions that offered something different. Besides, it can't have been easy to see the once prolific AM2 dry up while it continued pouring resources into its first major console showcase, this being what ultimately became the only two parts in the Shenmue franchise until recently, which took years to develop at the cost of more expected sequels. For example, I'm convinced the long wait between VF3 and VF4 did greater harm than any steps in the wrong direction that were taken after VF3tb, plus there was a huge gap to Virtua Cop 3, which similarly derailed the momentum already established by previous installments in that series.

    P.S. Keep on "scumulating!" ;)
     
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  3. MrThunderwing

    MrThunderwing Rising Member

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    Heh heh, will do! Thanks for the kind words and the very eloquent reply.
     
  4. f2bnp

    f2bnp Peppy Member

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    Hey this looks like an awesome video and this subject is something that's been bothering me for a while, so I will definitely check it out :).
     
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  5. Twimfy

    Twimfy Site Supporter 2015

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    Great video. I'm a huge Dreamcast fan but being 15 when it was released, I wasn't a frequenter of arcades and had therefore was probably a part of the "collective conciousness" of gamers that you talk about. Weening myself off of the PS1 whereby I'd sink hours into Gran Turismo and FF7, hyped games on the DC such as Sega Rally 2 and VF3TB left me feeling short changed, especially seeing as I didn't have the weight of arcade nostalgia to make the purchase of one of those titles feel justified.

    That said as I've gotten older I can appreciate the importance of what you've discussed, but it is very hard to say wether or not those ports would have had any impact on the Dreamcasts success. Their release could have changed history for the better or sunk the console even faster via stereotyping, I guess we'll never know. I think the saddest thing is however is that they obviously chose not to burden the console with too many arcade ports but then did very little to fill the gap. Even their own attempts were sub-par and lacking...Sega GT springs to mind.
     
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  6. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    Another aspect that I don't think helped the Dreamcast was the fact it launched in such crucial markets as America and Europe without any of its few AM conversions having online support, though I do recall Sega once saying there were problems with BT here in the UK when it came to getting the infrastructure up and running to a standard where the console's network features would be reliable (Sega Europe was also forced to drop its early "up to six billion players" marketing campaign tagline because of this being deemed misleading by the Advertising Standards Authority). As one of the only games that was massively expanded in comparison with its coin-op source, I'm confident Sega Rally 2 would have been more highly regarded if only it contained global multiplayer features outside Japan - not even the PlayStation 2 could offer this until much later, giving Sega's hardware a key selling point over its biggest rival. However, I recall once reading a comment by someone from AM2 regarding the problems with getting something like the Virtua Fighter series to work in this sense before support was finally adopted with console versions of VF5, so we can probably rule out a similar outcome for VF3tb ever being possible. From what I remember, the most impressive showcase for the Dreamcast in terms of it being an internet-capable platform to begin with revolved around certain games that had websites you could access from the disc, such as Sonic Adventure. By contrast, the Saturn at least had a small handful of NetLink-enabled titles. Can you imagine the Dreamcast launching with something like Daytona USA 2001, rather than this limping out at the end of the console's life, where it didn't even have its biggest online feature in Europe?
     
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  7. MrThunderwing

    MrThunderwing Rising Member

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    Yeah, it feels like yet another missed opportunity sadly.

    Oh man, I totally forgot about the Dreamcast advertising. That Dreamcast advert over here in the UK talking about the 6 Billion players featuring those 4 barbers was just the most retardedly ill-advised bit of marketing ever. An advert for a new console that didn't feature a single bit of in-game footage or even mention anything about what games were going to be released or mention the console's very competitive price. Yet another example of Sega shooting themselves in the foot. Show me the games you muppets! That's what I want to see!

     
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2017
  8. dark

    dark Dauntless Member

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    Probably had something to do with sega switching over to the naomi as their main arcade platform. Since the naomi hardware is so similar to the DC, it must cost way less and take way less development time to port a naomi title to DC rather than a model 3 title, and on top of that, it would be the newest released arcade games and most cutting edge games being ported, which would make good press and make the console seem new and great. While the DC got some model 3 (and model 2? Dynamite Cop) ports early in its life circa 1999, and I'm sure everyone on this website would have preferred to get ports of all model 3 games, I don't think it would have looked good in the press and for joe average gamer if sega continued releasing their older arcade games from 1996/1997 on their "next gen" console in 2000/2001.

    On the wishful thinking standpoint, I wonder if one could somehow take the scud race tracks out of the katana technical demo and convert/insert them into daytona usa 2001, perhaps the scud race car models as well from the other scud katana tech demos...
     
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  9. MrThunderwing

    MrThunderwing Rising Member

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    It's a nice thought, would be pretty awesome to be able to race on Scud's Beginner day track in Daytona or Race on 777 Speedway with the F40 (the closest I've got to that odd but awesome racing game mash-up feeling was the first time I got to use the Hornet (aka AGES) from Daytona USA on the Outrun Bay and After Burner tracks in Sonic and All Star Transformed).
     
  10. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    The very earliest advertisements for the Dreamcast in both America and Europe didn't include any game footage, which I'm sure was an attempt on Sega's part to adopt more of the cool approach that had served Sony so well - just look at the award-winning Mental Wealth or Double Life spots from 1999 to see what the competition was doing right. Of course, it helped that Sony had long since established the PlayStation through campaigns where actual games were shown, giving the company room to be more artistic with its later efforts, while Sega believed it could hit the ground running. Oh, and they did themselves absolutely no favours by having the music of Robbie Williams so prominently featured in the Shave and Buoy spots, especially as these were shown in cinemas, where I recall hearing people dismiss the Dreamcast as something being desperately marketed to casual players rather than the hardcore fanbase that could remember its old edgy visual identity. I'm fairly sure these adverts appeared before films like Star Wars Episode 1: The Phantom Menace, but such a high profile movie clearly had no great effect on Sega's performance when the company seemingly had such an insubstantial message to make. Also, it frustrated me no end that Sega felt their official Dreamcast magazine here in the UK would fare better when steered in a direction more suited to a typical lads rag of the day rather than a serious monthly publication, as its predecessor had been. You'd never have seen a multi-page fashion article loosely themed around Sega Rally 2 in SSM, that's for sure!

    P.S. I forgot to mention this earlier, but the "six billion players" tagline backfired so much that a representative from Sega Europe was even dragged onto the BBC's Watchdog programme to try and talk their way out of a proverbial corner.
     
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  11. MrThunderwing

    MrThunderwing Rising Member

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    Likewise, I remember seeing the advert in the cinema too and hearing equally unimpressed mutterings from nearby people. Don't think I ever saw the 'Buoy' advert... If I did I certainly can't remember it now. That's interesting about the Watchdog thing, I'll have to see if it's been uploaded anywhere. I used to buy the official Saturn Mag religiously when it came out and loved every issue of it (I've still got the Panzer Dragoon Saga disc 1 they gave away free on the cover of an issue, I think it might have been the final one if memory serves). I really can't recall the official Dreamcast one though. Did Sega change publishers? If the old Mean Machines and C&VG crew weren't involved it might go some way to explain why I wasn't that interested in it. Not long after I got my Dreamcast (in late 2000) I went to work in Australia for a year on a travelling Visa with a stopover in South East Asia that lasted for about 4 weeks on the way home, so that was like a 13 month gap away from any of the UK gaming mags, so I think the official mag may have been on it's last legs by the time I got home.
     
  12. Greg2600

    Greg2600 Resolute Member

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    SEGA never recovered from the string of losers (CD, 32X, Saturn). Playstation was wildly successful, and Nintendo fans and kids were still invested in the N64. Heck the PS1 was the system of choice for many ppl even after the PS2 was released.
     
  13. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    To cover a few of your recent points, the first disc of Panzer Dragoon Saga came with issue 31 of SSM, while the magazine as a whole lasted through to 37 volumes in total. However, you were right to say that EMAP - the company behind SSM, C&VG and Mean Machines Sega - wasn't responsible for the eventual Official Dreamcast Magazine. From what I've read, EMAP did make a proposal to Sega for this, but one of the key staff members recalled none of their hearts really being in yet another similar videogaming project, especially as they'd just launched the GameOnline domain that included plenty of Dreamcast articles, not to mention the console was getting a lot of page space in C&VG. If you're interested to see Dennis Publishing's winning pitch (that I consider a bad case of style over substance), which also ended up being released on shelves as a preview special in slightly modified form, it's available here:

    http://segaretro.org/File:ODM_UK_Preview.pdf

    Curiously, I've never seen EMAP's version of what could have been ODM, though it's claimed this probably wouldn't have involved many of the old SSM team, who'd already moved on by mid-1999... For example, Gary Cutlack had chosen to fully managing the beloved UK: Resistance website, and Richard Leadbetter became editor of PSW then later Xbox World, with EMAP ultimately selling C&VG to Dennis in 2002. More recently, Richard's latest venture, Digital Foundry, has been responsible for arguably the best articles over at Eurogamer, where he's currently providing technical breakdowns on the latest PS4 Pro and Xbox One X software. Also, if you've not seen the DF Retro offshoot series produced by John Linneman, I'd highly recommend checking episodes of this out!
     
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  14. sayin999

    sayin999 Officer at Arms

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    Reason why Genki was picked for vf3 was because some of it’s staff use to be part of Am2. Yu Suzuki picked them himself as am2 was deep in development of Shenmue. During Dreamcast era Sega was putting more of an emphasis on console titles than arcade to give it a better chance.

    Even then after launch of the Dreamcast the company put out a policy that all arcade conversions had to have extra modes and gameplay so they would be considered valued. If you look at some model 2 conversions for Saturn amount of content is pretty bare bones.

    Naomi took focus do to cost and quick turn around for dc conversions since the hardware was basically dc in arcade form but with more ram. Model 3 boards were really expensive to make and at this point conversions of model 3 games weren’t practical as so much time had passed. Think reason why Daytona USA got a remake was because the arcade version sold so well while Daytona USA 2 never quite did as well as the first one.

    Sega Rally 2 had a troubled dev history when it came to DC conversion. Original developer that was responsible for conversion was struggling to pull it off. Meanwhile team porting Sega Rally 2 to pc were making quick progress. Guessing since they had to make Microsoft happy by having a game made with win ce and the pc conversion was coming together quickly, it seemed more practical to port pc version. Really odd no win ce games on dc ever had good frame rate.
     
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  15. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    I'll not bore you all with the details now, but AM2 spent much of 1998 working on not only what became the first two Shenmue games, but Saturn conversions of Sonic The Fighters and Virtua Fighter 3 that both never saw the light of day (the latter was ironically cancelled by management at Sega Japan because they feared it would harm sales of Genki's superior effort for the Dreamcast, which Yu Suzuki didn't even know existed until he delivered his own team's finished 32-bit treatment for approval in September '98). What probably didn't help Genki is that the Dreamcast software development kits still weren't complete when they started work on bringing VF3tb to the console, meaning they were forced to instead reproduce the game using NAOMI libraries and then port this over. If you compare the earliest media of their conversion with later preview builds, it's clear that AM2 suddenly being available to assist made all the difference, as the visual quality became much closer to the Model 3 original, though the results still weren't 100% accurate.

    As for Sega Rally 2, the initial 40% prototype featured at the Autumn '98 Tokyo Game Show in non-playable video form was being handled by the same CS division that had produced Virtua Racing Deluxe and Daytona USA Circuit Edition. Word quickly filtered back to the powers that be at Sega of fans and journalists alike being disappointed by how unfinished this high profile conversion was, and with just weeks until it was scheduled to arrive on shelves as a Dreamcast launch title, management made the decision to significantly delay the end product until January the following year, bringing in a new team that was later officially named Smilebit to spend just six weeks doing whatever they could to bring this game up to the kind of standard expected for a Model 3 conversion. Because there had been pressure from Microsoft for at least one of Sega's internally-developed Dreamcast titles to make use of Windows CE, the developers simply took the PC version that was in simultaneous production and ported what had already been completed, improving on this later.

    For all the talk of Sega learning from the countless mistakes it had made during the Saturn era, it's odd that the supposedly developer-friendly Dreamcast was only weeks from release, yet still didn't have final SDK kits. Of its planned launch titles, VF3tb had to use the NAOMI as a workaround in order to make the projected deadline, while Sega Rally 2 and Sonic Adventure each missed the crucial release window by a short amount, just as the likes of Clockwork Knight or Panzer Dragoon weren't able to make a difference on Saturn from day one. Sure, the launch software line-up for other territories was massively improved, but the Dreamcast hit shelves in Japan with only VF3tb, similar to how the Saturn had the first VF and little else to begin with. I don't ever recall finding the exact sales figures, though it wouldn't surprise me if VF3tb shifted units at a 1:1 ratio with the console, which is how VF1 moved on the Saturn...
     
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  16. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    Yu Suzuki clearly didn't hold anything against Genki for how VF3tb turned out on the Dreamcast, since they were again enlisted to help lend their expertise with the racing genre to develop the initial prototype for Out Run 2. Much like how he came in at the last minute to provide input that helped shape the final version of SCUD Race, it's believed that Suzuki made some late suggestions that turned Out Run 2 into the game we all know and love today. In both of these cases, I seem to recall it being mentioned that he objected to the early drifting mechanics playing too realistically, feeling that Sega needed to build on what he considered the key feature that led to Daytona USA becoming such a popular arcade hit: its exaggerated drift style when compared with titles being offered by the company's rivals. Curiously, it should be noted that the original Sega Rally had a similar approach, which likely came from designer/director Kenji Sasaki, who started off working on the first Ridge Racer at Namco before going on to join Sega, where he later contributed significantly to the Initial D series as its executive producer.
     
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  17. MrThunderwing

    MrThunderwing Rising Member

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    Some really interesting facts there, particularly with regard to Yu Suzuki's guiding hand helping to shape Outrun 2 into the awesome game it turned out to be. Interesting as well about Smilebit's involvement in the DC version of Sega Rally 2 (particularly as I put the boot into it so much) as they went on to create one of my favourite ever original Xbox games in the form of Panzer Dragoon Orta, (especially if you upscale it on an Xbox 360 - if you've got a PAL version like me, there are work arounds to get past the game crashing bug after the third)

     
  18. TriMesh

    TriMesh Site Supporter 2013-2017

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    Given the huge architectural differences between model 3 and the DC, those ports would have been a painful experience for the people doing them - especially for the later games running on the STEP 2.x model 3 hardware which had about 3 times as much texture RAM as the DC has total video RAM.

    It's also interesting to note that VF3tb, which did get ported, was one of the games running on the original STEP 1.0 model 3 hardware, which was quite a bit slower than the later ones and had an overall RAM capacity that was about the same as the DC, although very differently partitioned.
     
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  19. Taucias

    Taucias Site Supporter 2014,2015

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    As far as I recall, the DC had built in VQ texture compression to help it maximise the use of VRAM, so I am not sure how big an impact the variance with Model 3 would have had. VQ is supposed to give a 8:1 ratio on textures, or something like that. Also VF3tb conversion was developed on alpha Dev kit hardware only about half the final spec of the DC and it was a rushed development.
     
  20. TriMesh

    TriMesh Site Supporter 2013-2017

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    Yeah, that is standard on those PowerVR chips - it certainly helps, but I'm basing my conclusion they were squeezed on texture space simply by comparison of the visuals on the later (STEP 2.x) model 3 games and the DC. In total, the STEP 2.x model 3 boards had about 46MB of RAM in the video subsystem distributed around various functions, and the DC has 8MB. Interestingly, the DC actually has more main RAM than the model 3 does (16MB as opposed to 8MB).

    The other thing is that arcade games tend to be quite carefully optimized for the hardware they are running on and systems as complicated as the model 3 normally have lots of quirks you have to be aware of if you want to get best performance out of them. Normally these end up impacting (or at least informing) the way the game is designed, so if you subsequently try to port it to another platform you often find that the things that were changed to fit in best with the original platform get in the way on the new one.

    Compare the apparent ease of porting Naomi games to the DC - the Naomi has twice as much main RAM, twice as much video RAM and about double the 3D performance of the DC, but apart from that it's the same architecture and there aren't any devious tricks in the code you have to undo.
     

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