Virtua Fighter 3(Shenmue) on Sega Saturn

Discussion in 'Unreleased Games Discussion' started by chanchai, Sep 6, 2012.

  1. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    On the subject of multi-pass rendering, we already know that AM2 was open to external technical assistance when Team Andromeda offered their dynamic camera system from Panzer Dragoon Saga to help with the development of Shenmue. Taking this into account, and considering that Burning Rangers was also in production around the same time frame, could it be possible that Sonic Team provided the multi-pass rendering technique they'd utilised for VF3?

    I've heard conflicting (and mostly second hand) accounts from those who've seen Saturn VF3 in action, with nobody seemingly able to confirm whether it ran at 30fps or 15, as with the Shenmue prototype footage. Now, there's no doubt that a conversion running at a quarter of its Model 3 counterpart would have suffered in the animation department especially, and based on those who claim to have seen the Aoi tech demo it seems as if fluid movement definitely wasn't sacrificed, so we can effectively rule this theory out.

    Then again, who's to say the character movement showcase was representative of either the first or second complete revisions? The persistent rumour is that the earlier finished build was more like a progression of the graphics seen in Fighting Vipers and Fighters Megamix, while the later update introduced more than just rudimentary polygonal levels somehow, despite only being rejected a few short weeks after the initial July 1998 rejection date first mentioned by Sam Pettus.

    On the other hand, what if the Saturn was being made to render a large number of flat shaded elements on the first pass, with a second cycle dedicated to adding textures? This would not only be similar to how Sonic Team was able to layer transparent effects over polygonal data rendered in the previous frame, but could mean that 30fps was still achievable. Even a single screenshot would be enough to help us visualise how such a conversion was even possible...

    Also, didn't Panzer Dragoon Saga also use similar techniques in places? I'm fairly sure there are transparency and background manipulation effects at play that led to the overall frame rate being reduced - there's just no way the sections where you walk around on foot needed to be capped at 15fps unless the whole game was set to run at a universal speed for the sake of consistency.

    Finally for now, I'd love to know if the fight sequences in a 32-bit Shenmue ran any faster than the free roaming and plot-advancing segments, as the success of this game's playability at such a low frame rate may be a clue as to how well a theoretical 15fps VF3 may have worked. Honestly, if I was to go back through the years I'm sure someone with enough time and patience could easily compile a book of my previous discussions on this unreleased title, which is all the more impressive when you count the number of people who've actually seen it in action!
     
  2. Druidic teacher

    Druidic teacher Officer at Arms

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  3. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    I know that SGL OS 3.02 had a reflective mapping sample (called Chrome, I seem to recall), but what is this bump mapping demo you mentioned? I don't think I've ever seen that...
     
  4. chanchai

    chanchai Rising Member

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    Can't imagine Sega trying something with 15 frames.
    All 3D fighters on Saturn show....playfields in the background is the way to go...no polygons.
    Megamix came out christmas 96 in japan. Probably using some sort of saturn VF3 port studies. For example the implementation of the moves, but also wolf background looks great....the whole playfield in the background has kind of heat animation. I always thought megamix was a way to say sorry for the missing port, but because the release was that early, vf3 still wasn't canned.
    Until now we have only confirmation for Aoi dancing on an empty background on saturn hardware. That gives absolutely no hint in which direction VF3 was heading. I still believe Suzuki would have delivered the best playable solution. 60 frames is a must, 3D backgrounds aren't. Even "flat rings" where acceptable in a way. Putting in some rings a wall or a cropped playfield(Pais roof stage). A round ring for Takarashi stage and so on...
    If played FV again on saturn.....the lighting combined with goround shading is quite a nice combination....because there are so many stages with lightning.....works better then in megamix....where VF2 stages aren't optimized for that and fighters where rushed. Still i think the VF2 polygon fighters with the extra texture work.....was the way to go....

    By the way the DC port had a few flaws even if it played well. Yu Suzuki was especially proud off the animation of (aois) clothes. In the port her Kimono was cropped....
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013
  5. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    Although I have to admit that at the time of its release VF2 for the Saturn was indeed an impressive sight, the addition of polygonal stage elements, Gouraud shading and light sourcing made Fighting Vipers/Fighters Megamix less clinical looking in my opinion. The fact AM2's later titles were able to add more graphical effects without sacrificing the frame rate made them all the more amazing, and considering the likes of D-Xhird ran at 30fps and were even more remarkable then I'd have been happy for Yu Suzuki's team to trade both speed and resolution for an even more accurate conversion of VF3.

    One point I forgot to mention earlier concerns another trick Sonic Team utilised during the creation of Burning Rangers - specifically how all transparencies were rendered at a fraction of the resolution compared with everything else. I found that it only became really obvious when you placed a character over a large area of translucent background details and remained stationary, but what if this same technique could have been used in Saturn VF3? There was once a rumour that the basic 3D stage data of Revision 2 was drawn in a lower resolution than even the characters, which were displayed at 320x224. Would this even be possible?

    By the way, other visual hints as to how Saturn VF3 may have looked include Virtua Fighter Kids and Digital Dance Mix. The former only came to exist because AM2 were testing out ways to recreate VF3's facial animations on the 32-bit console, while the latter is an extension of the Aoi tech demo that was discussed before. Similar to how such varied models as Sonic The Hedgehog, Takashi Iizuka and Candy/Honey from Fighting Vipers made their way into the Model 2 version of Sonic The Fighters as placeholders, Namie Amuro was used to test a preliminary character movement demo for Saturn VF3 in mid 1996.

    At this point in development, AM2 was still conducting preliminary hardware research, and despite my not sure who gave the green light, someone* within Sega of Japan clearly thought it was be a good idea to cash in on her native success back then. Besides, putting together a few barely interactive sequences based around just two songs and a handful of novelty puzzle games can't have taken more than a few days at the most. I seem to recall that Digital Dance Mix appeared not too long after the Power Up press conference of November '96, but following the release of Fighters Megamix it's like AM2 went quiet for a year or so.

    The reality is that converting Sonic The Fighters and Virtua Fighter 3 to the Saturn was taking up most of the team's resources, plus we know that following its cancellation as a 32-bit project some time in '97 the "Shenmue" assets were carried over to the next generation platform then still known as Katana. We've now seen a claim (that I have absolutely reason to doubt, since it matches previous accounts) that Saturn VF3 literally turned up without prior warning at Sega's European offices already completed in its second form near to the ECTS '98 event, which again ties in with earlier comments.

    My best guess is that after two years of speculation on the subject, AM2 wanted to reveal a finished VF3 to the world as perhaps their final title on the Saturn, knowing that Shenmue was already progressing as a killer app for the Dreamcast. With its predecessor the biggest selling game for the system, Saturn VF3 was highly anticipated and would surely have sold well - especially in Japan and also Europe, where the series had a cult following thanks to SSM's almost religious worship of the series. However, all this changed when Genki stepped in six months prior to the Dreamcast's launch promising an arcade perfect conversion...

    I can't remember the exact source, but either Saturn Fan or Famitsu was definitely quoted as confirming that VF3 had been spotted up and running for both of Sega's consoles, though at the New Challenge II show it became painfully obvious Genki's efforts were far below the Model 3 standard. Of course, the final Japanese version came close enough for most, with even former SSM editor Rich Leadbetter pleading through a preview via the GameOnline website for critics not to miss the bigger picture. In its later localised forms, VF3tb was about as close to the arcade masterpiece as any outsourced conversion could ever hope to be.

    So, if Saturn VF3 was completed in July '98, why did Sega reject what could have been a well-needed hit to aid the company in its transition from one generation to the next? AM2 clearly didn't regard Genki's conversion as a threat to their own Saturn work, since it was Yu Suzuki that personally made the suggestion for this company to handle the task - a decision based on his trust, as I covered earlier in greater length. Even if AM2's work was indeed shot down outright, they clearly felt compelled to go back and push the Saturn even harder over the next few weeks, leading to the final cancellation just two months later.

    I'm not sure how even AM2 could have made such a difference to a game they'd been slaving over since November '96 in such a short period, though it's possible a lot of the changes between the two known revisions came from implementing concepts that were either left out of the earlier complete build due to deadline issues or only discovered once the basic engine was functioning. Let's not forget that Saturn VF3 benfitted from several months of preliminary research and development, plus nearly two years of actual production by the point it was officially laid to rest in September '98, only weeks before VF3tb's Japanese launch.

    Finally, the biggest problem with this entire scenario is that we can't even be certain Saturn VF3 was AM2's main priority. Shenmue was the most ambitious and expensive project in Sega's history, with the final credits including several outsourcing groups along with documented assistance from internal departments such as Team Andromeda, whose contributions I explained earlier. With this in mind, if the core of VF3 was built on a progression of the existing Fighting Vipers/Fighters Megamix engine, maybe the conversion process took so long and wasn't shown off publically because Shenmue was more important?

    Whatever the case, it's always refreshing to see people willing to openly discuss this game after so long. Then again, I guess it probably helps that a few die-hard enthusiasts continue to remain hopeful for any new information and don't mind collecting their thoughts to try creating a likely vision of how it may have looked, even if there's now very little chance of the Japanese developers responsible abandoning their code of honour or secrecy to reveal the true story for the benefit of a very small hardcore group tucked away in a little corner of the Internet they're unlikely to realise exists in the first place!

    *Wasn't it Yu Suzuki himself who admitted to being the Namie Amuro fan?
     
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  6. chanchai

    chanchai Rising Member

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    I'm a huge VF Fan. And believe me there is a big difference in gameplay if you change the frame rate. The whole game, each animation and collision is fame rate bound. Huge difference playing VF1 /Remix or 2, better no mess with such things....Sega and Namco never changed framerate in fighting games for the home ports........in racers its a different story. i would even say....non 60 frame fighters aren't taken serious by hardcore fighters(missing responsiveness)...they aren't top of the pops...for example namcos soul blade....with its usless nice to look at 3D backgrounds
    FV and Megamix fighters look quite ugly(low res) except some victory poses....the fighters are also very blocky. Last bronx saturn last sega fighter tends to show that fv/megamix were graphically heading in the wrong direction...because that graphical engine was abandoned ......the new engine was much closer to vf2 efforts...
    Maybe Aoi demo hints if the fighters were going the high res direction....i hope so
    Lastly i'm still very skeptical if VF3 was finished or had progressed much. Usually there where always working progress screens in magazines. Except games that where not announced. Shenmue maybe was running on pc ....those are saturn graphics of course....but who knows how the framerate would have been....if not running on development kit. For example sonic-x-treme frame rate in senns engine was at the beginning quite lousy...
    And a dancing aoi...without adversary and background can't be taken serious as hint for the coming fighter engine...

    yeah fantastic discussion ;-)

    Still would appreciate if someone would open his mouth without fear of being sued, after all these years....with Shenmue it wasn't a problem after all....and the story about sonic x treme was also told in all detailled. It's really the last big saturn secret....and one of the biggest deceptions for the fans. Hell we deserve a final answer....Segas of Japans arrogant attitude was told to have been buried after Nakayama left..
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013
  7. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    That video of Shenmue was confirmed by several AM2 members as being taken directly from stock hardware, and while I'm prepared to admit if I'm wrong on this, didn't the first Virtua Fighter run at 30 frames per second on the Saturn? I can't speak for the other staff involved with Saturn VF3, but a journalist who spoke at length with Yu Suzuki on this very subject revealed a few years back that the reason he continues to remain silent publically is less about Japanese arrogance and more his disappointment at this being the first project he led at Sega to be undermined... following that his beloved Shenmue was left incomplete and the VF series became more streamlined as opposed to carrying on the revolutionary progression last seen in its third iteration - it's hardly surprising he doesn't want to comment openly, since even the once unquestionable master hit producer eventually became victim of the company's notoriously volatile politics!

    Digital Dance Mix ran at 60fps in the Saturn's high resolution mode and came after the compromised visuals of Fighting Vipers and Fighters Megamix. Then again, just like the Aoi tech demo, there wasn't actually that much happening. I'd love to know if the Aoi tech demo was high res as well, though I suspect even this would have been entirely representative of the final Saturn VF3 based on the few accounts I've read that included more technical observations. AM2 was clearly aiming to lower the resolution and frame rate to allow for more graphical effects, plus higher polygon counts to enable at least basic 3D backgrounds. Don't forget that until approximately 60% into the conversion process, Last Bronx for the Saturn was reported as containing fully polygonal stages. As a result of late development optimisation, AM3 dropped this feature to keep the speed up, though in this particular case it didn't really matter as the 3D fence surrounding the ring masked the fact all of the other background elements consisted of scrolling parallax bitmaps (similar to all of AM2's post-VF2 efforts on the Saturn in this genre).
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013
  8. chanchai

    chanchai Rising Member

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    Virtuafighter 1 on model 1 was running with 30 frames i believe......the 32x and remix versions certainly are....only the ps2 10th anniversary version runs with 60...but it also has the vf4 movement set...its a fake port.
    On saturn from VFRemix on...every fighting game was running with 60frames.....
    Racing games only with half the arcade frame rate.....to allocate more cpu resources into polygons....
     
    Last edited: Jul 25, 2013
  9. chanchai

    chanchai Rising Member

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    By the way Last Bronx fighter are low res..recognizable because of the pronounced aliasing. They still look much better then FightingVipers/Megamix fighters because they have much more polygons and better texture work on them. Dead or Alive has both, fighters and backgrounds running with high res...

    Great technical saturn achievers...let's not forget Decathlete and Die Hard Arcade....with their impressive Results......
     
    Last edited: Jul 27, 2013
  10. Celine

    Celine Gutsy Member

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    Savaki looks really great, to think it was done by an unknown developer...
    Does it use hi-res graphics?
     
  11. Yakumo

    Yakumo Pillar of the Community *****

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    Yes, it sure does. It is pretty basic compared to the Sega 3D Fighters but still very nicely done.
     
  12. americandad

    americandad Familiar Face

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    So.. when is Saturn Shenmue leaking.. hm?

    It looks very impressive, not to say amazing!
     
  13. Druidic teacher

    Druidic teacher Officer at Arms

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  14. mfpower

    mfpower Guest

    Wish the shenmue saturn version will ever be released public!
     
  15. Anthaemia.

    Anthaemia. The Original VF3 Fangirl™

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    All eyes should be on Yu Suzuki's appearance at the upcoming GDC show, where he's expected to join Mark Cerny for an hour-long discussion about the development of Shenmue. Considering how advanced the Saturn prototype was, he's likely to at least give us some new insights into this period of the game's production, with the best possible scenario being that we get to see exclusive video footage, if not playable code. On the other hand, he may just dust off the same clip that featured as a bonus feature in Shenmue II. I'd be personally more interested to see anything from Saturn Virtua Fighter 3, as we still have no (visually confirmed) idea of how this would have looked, apart from claims it was based on an evolution of the same engine that had previously been used for the conversion of Fighting Vipers, later Fighters Megamix and the also unreleased 32-bit console treatment of Sonic The Fighters. Despite this outcome being highly unlikely, my fingers remain crossed for something fresh at this event...
     
  16. americandad

    americandad Familiar Face

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    Ooh that's interesting, will it be streamed?

    Yes! Leak it now you fat and greedy nerds!
    The_Simpsons-Jeff_Albertson.png
     
  17. tkeely4777

    tkeely4777 Rapidly Rising Member

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    I'll need to see if I can dig it up, but I very vividly remember reading an interview with a developer in an issue of Game Players Magazine that went pretty in-depth on specifically how they were using the hardware to bring VF3 to life on the Saturn. I will post scans if I can find the issue.
     
  18. rob black

    rob black <B>Site Supporter 2013</B><BR><B>Site Supporter 20

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    Did you find the issue?
     
  19. tkeely4777

    tkeely4777 Rapidly Rising Member

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    Sadly, no. I went through my back issues pretty thoroughly and couldn't find the interview. I'll give another look sometime soon.
     
  20. PedroHf

    PedroHf Newly Registered

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    After some years, just watched the Shenmue Saturn trailer again.

    I think It was kind of a huge tech demo.
    -Each scene is optimized, and modeled to take maximum advantage from the VDP2, with great results. For example, the apartment scene with REN, the roof is just a very good VDP 2 Layer. Some objects are also pre-rendered into a layer, for example the chairs, when they look for the cassette.
    -For cut-scenes, I suppose they were using the same streaming technique Naughty Dog used on Crash Bandicoot, everything looks pre-baked.
    - For the head details, also, a different model for the cut-scenes.
    - Walls look strange, some of them dont look like normal VDP1 texturing. (Maybe some kind of DSP pre-processing? No idea.)
    Impressive, but I dont think it was possible to create a full game like this, the amount of optimization is insane..

    Probably some of this techniques were used for the VF3 port.. the high detail models for cut-scenes, very cleaver use of VDP2, and maybe streaming of pre-calculated (very simple) 3d scenario coordinates, based on camera angle, rendered into a VDP2 layer at lower resolution?
     
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