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Allie

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I just finished Shenmue II (again) the other day, so I saw the Saturn Shenmue video again, which I hadn't seen in a while. Watching it again made me think, how the fuck did they do this with stock Saturn hardware? Parts of it look too complex for even the N64 to handle. A lot of it looks pretty similar to the final game (with simpler graphics, obviously), especially the parts from Shenmue II. I also noticed that Ryo looks noticeably younger in that build of the game, whereas other characters like Lan Di, Iwao, and Ren look pretty similar (at least in overall design) to the final game.

The reason "Ryo" looks younger in the Saturn prototype footage is because Shenmue was originally intended as the first of several spin-off games telling the backstory of the Virtua Fighter universe, with this installment being Akira's origin. If you've ever seen the Virtua Fighter anime or some of the images on Akira's disc in the CG Portrait Collection, Ryo's early design makes a lot more sense. In the final game, Ryo's main character model ID is still AKIR, and at one point in development, the entire project still had the working title of Virtua Fighter RPG: Akira's Quest.

As for how AM2 managed some of the techniques demonstrated in that video, it's quite easy to figure out if you break down each scene, though I'll only concentrate on a few of the most notable examples for now...

In the dojo, you can see a large portion of the wall flicker out of the camera's view, which is carried over from the same problem occurring with the wall surroundings in Fighting Vipers on the Saturn, to use another of AM2's previous examples (the same thing happens later in the warehouse where Ryo encounters Ren and his gang). To save on the overall geometry count, my guess is that AM2 was using a combination of mostly static angles and larger textured polygons to provide detail, hoping the occasional glitch wouldn't break the illusion too much.

Speaking of illusions, how about the sequence where Ryo enters Ren's hideout to examine several cassette tapes? For a single frame before the camera angle changes, any elements being generated by the VDP2 chip have a slight head start over anything handled on VDP1. In this case, the floor moves quite drastically, and there are many further instances of this throughout the same video. Actually, it's a regular occurrence in many Saturn games, though I notice it most in the opening sequence of Virtua Fighter Remix and VF2, where the exact same method was used for rendering ground layers.

Continuing with this scene, how is it that the table and chairs are more detailed than everything else around them, both in terms of polygonal complexity and texture resolution, yet also appear to exhibit clipping issues with 3D elements? If my understanding is correct, it's because they're actually sprites. To be more specific, they were originally created as models and captured at the necessary angles, which are then stored as bitmaps and placed into a room as needed. You can even see one of the chair legs glitching through to a place it shouldn't be, although its exact position never changes, suggesting this was a "feature" inherent to the texture and not a real time issue.

On a more general level, the frame rate appears to be somewhere in the region of 12-15 fps, which is rather consistent with later Saturn titles of a similar complexity like Panzer Dragoon Saga. However, unlike that particular game, Shenmue doesn't seem to have any points where real transparent effects were being utilised. Instead, AM2 was getting by with the common dithered alternative, which is far less taxing on the hardware and easy to implement in SGL, the software library this department created internally. Although most shadows give the impression of being alpha blended, this is merely a result of the source video's low quality combined with several generations of compression - at certain stages, the dithered pattern or giveaway blue/rainbow artifacting is present, such as when Ryo opens the hatch leading down to the basement.

I think Yu Suzuki must've had a pretty clear plan in his head from the very beginning, though obviously there were plenty of changes. That also makes me think that he probably already had a pretty clear plan for Shenmue III before II was even finished.

From what I can gather about the production of this game, Yu Suzuki first completed a design document for what he conceived as a 16-chapter series by the end of 1996. Based on the Saturn footage we have, it's clear this first game didn't just incorporate the first chapter, later released as a standalone installment for Dreamcast, but large parts of what eventually surfaced as Shenmue II, which actually spans chapters 3 through to 5, its last disc once being meant to serve as the opening of Shenmue III. I once read somewhere that Shenmue II was planned to conclude with Lan Di's escape in a helicopter, followed by the short scene where it's revealed that Ryo must then travel to Guilin. However, it's believed that Sega felt this wasn't enough of a suitable climax, especially as there were concerns about a third game being financially possible.

Beyond a few leaked images and some locations from beyond the Guilin area being found through data mining, it's no secret that at least the opening five chapters of the overall Shenmue saga were in development simultaneously, with most of this content dating back to the Saturn era. Of course, it's also believed that the second chapter - Ryo's boat journey to Hong Kong - was never intended to be played, but instead referenced in later interactions. For example, at the start of Shenmue II, you can speak to a mother who thanks you for protecting her daughter from an attacker. In a short graphic novel, it's revealed this was another fight with Chai, who uses the child as a human shield before finding himself launched overboard. There's now talk of this battle featuring in Shenmue III either as a flashback or playable sequence, even if its conclusion would be predetermined.

Finally for now, I seem to recall it once being mentioned that a large part of the first Shenmue in its Dreamcast form was produced after the game's content had been split to have chapters 3-5 held back for the sequel. A lot of the earliest media for Project Berkley/Shenmue featured ideas that wouldn't feature until Shenmue II, though Shenmue Chapter 1: Yokosuka (to use its Japanese title) has some improvements when compared with what came later. Although most of these differences are minor, where in Shenmue II do you see phones with realistically moving cords, not to mention the generally less consistent frame rate and sections plagued by the lack of texture filtering - roof tiles and the red brickwork of the Aberdeen region especially suffer as a result of this.

Sorry for such a lengthy reply, but I think it's a shame we've yet to see a proper Digital Foundry type retrospective on the Shenmue Saturn Version footage. While it's not doing anything exceptionally special, the sum of its parts is an overall quality of presentation that few developers were able to match on either of the two other major consoles from this era, and I feel that it's more than worth studying to such a degree. If anything, I'd say this prototype stands as one of the most remarkable fifth-generation tech demos. Now that I think about it, would this level of graphical complexity have been possible on the Sony PlayStation or Nintendo 64? I'm sure the PS would have come the closest, but not without some compromises. For one, the larger sprites made possible by the Saturn's dual-VDP setup would need to be switched out for polygons, and that would have led to more frequent glitching, particularly when combined with the cinematic angles that AM2 chose for cutscenes.
 

la-li-lu-le-lo

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The reason "Ryo" looks younger in the Saturn prototype footage is because Shenmue was originally intended as the first of several spin-off games telling the backstory of the Virtua Fighter universe, with this installment being Akira's origin.

I know about Virtua Fighter RPG, but looking at the Saturn video, I think the character's appearance at that stage looked closer to the final version of Ryo than he did to Akira. He just looks younger. That's just my impression of it, though.

As for how AM2 managed some of the techniques demonstrated in that video, it's quite easy to figure out if you break down each scene, though I'll only concentrate on a few of the most notable examples for now...

There was one scene in particular where the camera is rotating around a room (I think it's a building in Aberdeen or Wan Chai) and there appears to be more geometry than I thought the Saturn or any of its competitors could handle. I guess you could explain it by saying parts of it are prerendered sprites or something, like you suggested, but it doesn't look like that.

Sorry for such a lengthy reply, but I think it's a shame we've yet to see a proper Digital Foundry type retrospective on the Shenmue Saturn Version footage.

No need to apologize, I always enjoy your posts. Do you know the part I'm talking about in the Project Berkeley video? It shows an early version of Lishao Tao doing moves in front of a large moon. In the final version of Shenmue II, the sequence is much longer and the moon looks different, but the parts of it that were in Project Berkeley were still there in the final game, and the overall look is very similar. I won't go into it, but I have a theory (hypothesis?) that this scene is meant to be a symbol for something that's supposed to happen later, presumably in Shenmue III or beyond.

Speaking of Shenmue III, I've been looking at some of the videos of it that have been released, and I noticed that the English voice actor for Ryo doesn't sound right at all. He sounds like he's in his 30s or 40s, and Ryo is supposed to be 18. What are they thinking with that? As long as Japanese speech is an option, I'll be happy. It doesn't really make sense why they wouldn't include that as an option, since they're making both English and Japanese speech versions, but I don't know if they will or not. There doesn't appear to be any clear indication either way from any of the materials or information they've released so far.
 

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Sorry for such a lengthy reply, but I think it's a shame we've yet to see a proper Digital Foundry type retrospective on the Shenmue Saturn Version footage. While it's not doing anything exceptionally special, the sum of its parts is an overall quality of presentation that few developers were able to match on either of the two other major consoles from this era, and I feel that it's more than worth studying to such a degree. If anything, I'd say this prototype stands as one of the most remarkable fifth-generation tech demos. Now that I think about it, would this level of graphical complexity have been possible on the Sony PlayStation or Nintendo 64? I'm sure the PS would have come the closest, but not without some compromises. For one, the larger sprites made possible by the Saturn's dual-VDP setup would need to be switched out for polygons, and that would have led to more frequent glitching, particularly when combined with the cinematic angles that AM2 chose for cutscenes.

Don't be sorry for lengthy replies when they are as awesome as yours was. Super informative!
 

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Nothing really. I'm content.
 

la-li-lu-le-lo

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As long as Japanese speech is an option, I'll be happy. It doesn't really make sense why they wouldn't include that as an option, since they're making both English and Japanese speech versions, but I don't know if they will or not. There doesn't appear to be any clear indication either way from any of the materials or information they've released so far.

In case anyone was wondering, I think I found an answer to this question. On the Epic Games store it lists Japanese under "Languages Supported", so I guess that answers it. I guess it technically could mean that it changes the language based on the region, but that seems unlikely. If that were the case, then the Japanese language option probably wouldn't be mentioned on the US version of the Epic Games store website (which it is). So that seems pretty conclusive to me, which is good.
 

JustAnyone

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Mine list would be:
Forza Horizon 4 developer version
Burnout paradise feb 22 2007 and breaker island builds
Burnout 3 debug build
Need for speed most wanted 2012 november 24 2011 build
Need for speed carbon/u2 builds from demo period

Oh, and also, Xbox 360 XNA Blue tribal kit (without art on sidecar) and PS3 Test kit, maybe DECH 2k Series
 
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Allie

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There was one scene in particular where the camera is rotating around a room (I think it's a building in Aberdeen or Wan Chai) and there appears to be more geometry than I thought the Saturn or any of its competitors could handle. I guess you could explain it by saying parts of it are prerendered sprites or something, like you suggested, but it doesn't look like that.

The only scene I can think of that matches this description is where the camera slowly pans from left to right past an empty street café with some furniture visible at roughly the 1:30 point, though you also get to see a little outside detail to either side of this building, which reveals the very background layer (and almost certainly the floor) to be static VDP2 elements. Incredibly, everything else does seem to be polygonal, and apart from a few low resolution textures, there really is an incredible level of polygonal complexity in this outdoor area. On the other hand, you don't see any NPCs, and I can spot a few sections where repeating textures may help identify the exact polygon count. If you consider that such parts would have run on the lower end of the 12-15 fps scale I mentioned earlier, I'm sure this was easily within the Saturn's capabilities as a tech demo. Adding in collision detection, AI, interactivity and other characters - even your own - is where performance may have taken a hit. If anything, it appears those tables and chairs are proper 3D, as opposed to the other example we'd previously discussed. AM2 likely came up with different solutions for specific scenarios to provide a relatively consistent frame rate...

Do you know the part I'm talking about in the Project Berkeley video? It shows an early version of Lishao Tao doing moves in front of a large moon. In the final version of Shenmue II, the sequence is much longer and the moon looks different, but the parts of it that were in Project Berkeley were still there in the final game, and the overall look is very similar. I won't go into it, but I have a theory (hypothesis?) that this scene is meant to be a symbol for something that's supposed to happen later, presumably in Shenmue III or beyond.

I suspect that was a key sequence Yu Suzuki really wants to keep in, but it remains to be seen whether this turns out to be prescient. Maybe those "exotic" techniques that Ryo witnessed Lishao Tao using may end up proving useful when he inevitable encounters Lan Di again? At the very least, I'm convinced there's a good reason for his being recommended to her in the first place.
 

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consider that such parts would have run on the lower end of the 12-15 fps scale I mentioned earlier

Always enjoy reading your posts. Something I noticed in the video is frame rate could definitely end up in the single digits at times. Being a slower paced game I'm sure they were ok with low performance, if only to maximize the graphics to the absolute limits. This was the generation where some games definitely had the potential to have frame rates dip down that low in some situations. I'm looking at you Nintendo 64. I think it's a tradeoff people would have been ok with at the time given the crazy amount of detail they have the Saturn pushing. It would have been a solid contender for the best looking game of that generation, no doubt.
 

la-li-lu-le-lo

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I suspect that was a key sequence Yu Suzuki really wants to keep in, but it remains to be seen whether this turns out to be prescient. Maybe those "exotic" techniques that Ryo witnessed Lishao Tao using may end up proving useful when he inevitable encounters Lan Di again? At the very least, I'm convinced there's a good reason for his being recommended to her in the first place.

I have some thoughts on this (spoilery):

The moon features prominently in both Project Berkeley and the final game. This seems like it could be important, because the stars and the sky are mentioned multiple times as something important, though it isn't explained as to why. Also, in this scene Lishao Tao gives her half of the Yin-Yang stone to Ryo. The other half belongs to her brother Ziming, who joined the Chi You Men. Maybe Ryo will eventually meet Ziming, and maybe some part of the scene with Lishao Tao foreshadows what will happen.

I think the reason Ryo met Lishao Tao was not just for her to teach him techniques but also to teach him about life in general. He ignores a lot of what she says, especially the part about not seeking revenge, but maybe later on he'll realize she was right. I read some interview a while back where Yu Suzuki said that at some point in the series, Ryo might give up on the idea of revenge entirely. It makes sense that maybe at some point his goal will change from getting revenge to just trying to understand the secrets of the dragon and phoenix mirrors and his and Shenhua's part in all of it.

Yeah, I think about this stuff way too much.
 
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Allie

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I suspect that Ryo will prepare to fight Lan Di, which upsets Shenhua. During their warm-up, Lan Di recognises the stone that Xiuying gave Ryo as connecting her to Ziming, or maybe she will arrive just in time for both fighters to realise their efforts are pointless, since Ryo is only pursuing Lan Di out of revenge, and even if he was to somehow win, Lan Di doesn't want to accept that someone may then be expected to avenge his death, as Xiuying may have to if ever anything happened to Ziming. Ryo and Lan Di then decide to join forces with a reluctant Shenhua, because she has information that can further reveal the secrets of the newly reunited mirrors. Instead of outright killing or handing Ryo over to his fellow masters in the Chi You Men, Shenmue III could see Lan Di point to where the cartel's other leaders are, starting with Niao Sun, who it's almost certain we'll get to meet, in the hope their combined power and that of the mirrors is enough to bring down this organisation for some reason, the rewriting of their predetermined fates taking place on what turns out to be an important moonlit night.
 

la-li-lu-le-lo

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Interesting theory...
...but I rather doubt Lan Di will end up joining forces with Ryo. What might happen instead though is that Ziming might find out that Ryo has the stone and then he realizes he made the wrong decision by joining the Chi You Men, and decides to help Ryo retrieve the dragon mirror from Lan Di.

We may find out soon, and that should be pretty interesting.
 

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Unrelease port soul reaver 2 - ps1 & dreamcast.
The Dark Prophecy Legacy of Kain unrelease game - ps2 & xbox
another build of the game legacy of kain
 

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WipEout 1 prototype for PSX (the early tracks!)
Maken X prototype for Dreamcast.
The Fallen prototype for PSX (open world!)
Blade & Barrel prototype for N64.
Spanish Blood prototye for SAT.
Ninja prototype for SAT (transparency mode 7 effects!)
Clayfighters prototype for M2.
Black & White prototype for PSX.
Aeon Flux prototype for PSX.
and much more...
 

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One other thing that is maybe not a grail, but something I would really like to see (and is almost impossible to find) is the full version of PureVex for PC. I have the demo and it’s pretty cool, but it would be pretty awesome to play the full version. If you don’t know, this was a Japan-only PC game that for some reason is very rare, and it ran only on the PowerVR PCX2, using PowerSGL. It’s so rare that you can’t even find a disc image of it on the internet.


In case nobody saw it before. Here it is.
 

la-li-lu-le-lo

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In case nobody saw it before. Here it is.

Yup, I've played it quite a bit now. It's a pretty cool game, rather difficult though. I've been meaning to make a video about it; as far as I know, there's no video footage of the full version online at the moment.
 

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Yup, I've played it quite a bit now. It's a pretty cool game, rather difficult though. I've been meaning to make a video about it; as far as I know, there's no video footage of the full version online at the moment.
Glad to hear. Was a long odyssey to get a physical unit of this one, after many years trying to bid on any that appeared for a reasonable price, and ended up being funded by a contact of mine and me.

Played lots already on my Matrox PCX2 PowerVR card, too.
Can say this with Nirgends(another PowerVR we saved even before PureVex was even a reality) were the most difficult stuff to purchase and dump, for once and for all.
Enjoy, as I won’t let this pieces of software disappear anytime soon!

Wish to see some full gameplay pop as I don’t have atm equipment to capture my VGA port here, and need a splitter again first to make it more comfortable and record at the same time.
 

la-li-lu-le-lo

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Glad to hear. Was a long odyssey to get a physical unit of this one, after many years trying to bid on any that appeared for a reasonable price, and ended up being funded by a contact of mine and me.

Played lots already on my Matrox PCX2 PowerVR card, too.
Can say this with Nirgends(another PowerVR we saved even before PureVex was even a reality) were the most difficult stuff to purchase and dump, for once and for all.
Enjoy, as I won’t let this pieces of software disappear anytime soon!

Wish to see some full gameplay pop as I don’t have atm equipment to capture my VGA port here, and need a splitter again first to make it more comfortable and record at the same time.

So you're the one who released it online, huh? Thanks a lot for that! I've already gotten a lot of enjoyment out of it. I didn't know that Nirgends was released also - is that on Legends World too, or somewhere else?

My card is a Matrox m3D too - mine has the original box and discs. Besides this game, I also really enjoy playing Virtual On, Tomb Raider, and Revolté on the m3D. Moon Racer is pretty cool too.

I don't have equipment for doing a VGA capture either - but I have a pretty nice camera, and was planning on shooting footage of the game running on my NEC XV29.
 

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An early prototype of Def Jam Fight for NY. How early? The earliest one known is the E3 build. Mostly because that's where most of the unused content for the game is.
That is all. Would've added a Tiger Woods PGA Tour build to the list but I already found one to buy.
 

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Mine list would be:
Forza Horizon 4 developer version
Burnout paradise feb 22 2007 and breaker island builds
Burnout 3 debug build
Need for speed most wanted 2012 november 24 2011 build
Need for speed carbon/u2 builds from demo period

Oh, and also, Xbox 360 XNA Blue tribal kit (without art on sidecar) and PS3 Test kit, maybe DECH 2k Series
Looking at my old post, thought i might update it as some stuff became public
Forza Horizon 4 developer version - no longer wanted actually
Burnout paradise feb 22 2007 and breaker island builds - already public
Burnout 3 debug build - screw burnout 3, I want Burnout Revenge early builds (or even burnout rush hour)
Need for speed most wanted 2012 november 24 2011 build - already public
Need for speed carbon/u2 builds from demo period - still needed
Oh, and also, Xbox 360 XNA Blue tribal kit (without art on sidecar) and PS3 Test kit, maybe DECH 2k Series - Got the XNA kit, even better version than i expected, and for PS3 testkit, no longer needed as that is useless actually, would rather get a DECR 1400a kit
Also, SSX3 early build from 2003 may or june
 
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