What arcade board VF4 will be on has been answered!

Discussion in 'Junky's Jungle' started by Kruza, Jan 31, 2000.

  1. Kruza

    Kruza Well-Known Member Gold Supporter

    What's the verdict on VF4? Click on the link below! The second from last paragraph has the long-awaited answer!

    And oh yeah, the rest of this article is pretty good too! /images/icons/smile.gif


  2. Guest

    Guest Guest

    what the fuck ever. i don't trust anything i read anywhere regarding games and hardware. especially not from gamefan. i'll believe it when i see it on soj's pages.

    btw, bet y'all didn't know there's four different versions of the Model 3 board: M-3 Step 1, M-3 Step 1.5, M-3 Step 2.0, M-3 Step 2.1...
  3. ice-9

    ice-9 Well-Known Member

    The author of that piece is Kevin Williams, who I have conversed with before. He is a freelance writer but commonly writes for RePlay Magazine. He specializes in the arcade industry.

    Here is the full article.

    There has been much discussion lately regarding the current lineup of arcade hardware Sega has in the works, but it seems that the coverage thus far has been high on speculation and low on factual evidence. The recent ATEI-fueled speculation (a common occurrence in the coin-op sector) has generated enough gossip and claimed 'leaks' to sink the preverbal battleship.

    Let's cut through the speculation and hit on some facts, for a change. To date, since the launch of the NAOMI (New Arcade Operation Machine Idea, in case you were wondering) and with it, House of the Dead 2, Sega's attempted to forego the "usual improvements" (as seen with the progression of Model 3 to Model 3: Step 2 and other revisions), and stick with the original architecture--squeezing the most out of one original hardware concept. The need for developers who have licensed the NAOMI to use a 'standardized' board from Sega was obviously a factor in this decision.

    Sega, having fragmented their R&D efforts of late, has managed to deflate a lot of the hunger among their developers to be working on the latest (and greatest) arcade hardware platform. News from outside of Sega R&D--with the departure of various team members--makes it clear that there has been a battle raging among developers for Sega to move on to a so-called "Model 4" architecture, due to many of the limitations that the NAOMI hardware has demonstrated.

    For the history books, Sega's moved through this progression of 3-D graphic hardware (and the games that launched them) to date:

    System 32 - Rad Mobile (1991)
    Model 1 - Virtua Racing (1992)
    Model 2 - Daytona USA (1994)
    Model 2a / Model 2b - 1994/1995
    Model 2c - Wave Runner (1996)
    Model 3 - Virtua Soccer 2 (1996)
    Model 3 Step 2 - Virtual On 2 (1998)
    NAOMI - House of the Dead 2 (1998)
    Hikaru - Brave Firefighters (1999)
    NAOMI+ - 18 Wheeler (2000)
    Model 4 - Virtua Fighter 4? (2000/01?)

    The Hikaru hardware variation has been the main source of confusion among most consumer game observers, with mistakes being made regarding the system actually being the fabled "Model 4" architecture. In fact, Sega's original R&D structure was constantly developing new prototype hardware, attempting to entice software producers to support their latest ideas. It has been reported that the breakaway team supporting the original 3Dfx direction (which you may remember was canceled at the last moment) for the Dreamcast/NAOMI, actually created the Hikaru to prove their point…a Model-3 Step-2 type of situation, as it were. Brave Firefighters was a texture memory-intensive game concept, requiring realistic-looking flames, which lent itself very easily to the direction the Hikaru hardware concept was heading. However, Emergency Call Ambulance has proven there is still life in the older system, as it is the last Model 3 game in development. Stories of the Hikaru being merely a "double NAOMI" are a little too simplistic, as anyone who's dealt with Sega CGI boxes will tell you.

    Sega management's been taking pains to deflect the amusement trade from speculating about a replacement for the NAOMI, in an attempt to keep it from losing credibility in the fashion-driven 3-D CGI development sector. It wasn't until late '99 that Sega admitted that several games were being developed on non-NAOMI hardware, a loss of credibility possibly deflating the "Dreamcast bubble" arcade-to-home pedigree.

    It's clear, following Ferrari F355 and Airline Pilot--games that used the linear connection feature of the NAOMI (connecting two or three boards together in an attempt to boost power, similar to running two 3dfx boards in SLI on your PC)--that the company feels hindered by the restrictions of the NAOMI concept (the one-screen version of Airline Pilot actually runs faster than the three-screen deluxe cabinet). It is with 18 Wheeler that Sega's admitted defeat, creating an enhanced version of the NAOMI (known privately as the NAOMI+). This deviation means that arcade-to-Dreamcast conversions could prove even slower to materialize, and be less than arcade-perfect, as the gap between Dreamcast and the ever-changing NAOMI arcade hardware widens.

    The NAOMI+ will continue to see use at AOU on Star Wars: Episode One, and on a new driving game rumored to be a sequel to Out Run. The limitations of even the NAOMI+ were leaked by the ex-Star Wars Trilogy team producer recently, when he confirmed that graphical resolution had been compromised in favor of frame-rate, to achieve the type of speed needed to capture the spirit of the film.

    The real news, however, is that a Model 4 architecture is a serious development plan at Sega. Even though top management is against this hardware direction, the requirements for the Virtua Fighter 4 concept meant that Sega R&D was given a green light for a super-enhanced, NAOMI-based platform. Leaks by Yu Suzuki himself and various well-placed Sega European Sales Representatives have muddied the waters somewhat, but it's safe to say that JAMMA 2000 will see a brand-new 3-D, coin-op hardware platform from Sega.

    For the record, Namco will also reveal their arcade variant of the PlayStation 2 (a replacement to the System 23 hardware), and there is news that Konami will have a replacement to their once-fabled Cobra hardware. Though the ArcadePC "boom" actually proved to be more of a fizzle, the 3-D arms race is still alive and well in today's arcades!

    - Kevin Williams

    ice-9 | Sennin
  4. Guest

    Guest Guest

    ice-9: You say you have conversed with the author of the article. Do you have any idea as to how likely he is to be knowledgeable enough to make the Model 4 statements, so that we should take them at face value?

  5. Llanfair

    Llanfair Well-Known Member

    I agree with Wolfstudent. Who knows what Kevin Williams knows or doesn't know. It's clear he did not know about the various versions of the Model 3 architecture as Rich pointed out. And what game used the Model 2a/ Model 2b architecture in Sega's history? He omitted this as well.

    I am firm believer in what Rich's dogma - I'll believe it when I see it on SoJ's web pages, etc.


    <font color=white> Llanfair the prized <font color=green>cabbage</font color=green></font color=white>
  6. ice-9

    ice-9 Well-Known Member

    Obviously, Kevin was speculating in the latter half of his article, but, as a specialist in the industry, he is privy to information and insider rumor/speculation that we are not exposed to. Thus, he does have a better basis for prediction as to what technology VF4 will appear on.

    I am not really all that concerned about the name of the board--Model 4, Naomi 2, whatever--but more of how he feels things seem to point to a new/upgraded hardware solution for the game. But yes, Llanfair and Rich is correct, this is still just idle speculation, no matter how alluring.

    I hope we will see Sega's definite and official plans this JAMMA.

    ice-9 | Sennin
  7. ice-9

    ice-9 Well-Known Member

    This is Kevin's follow up article, also from Gamefan. It clears a few things up.

    Regarding my previous coverage of the NAOMI, Hikaru and Model 4 situation, GameFan has asked me to attempt to offer a bit more detail to my admittedly brief descriptions. This, following a number of e-mails questioning some of the information and requesting more in-depth discussion.

    Let me first reiterate that the amusement sector, and in particular, Sega's R&D divisions, are highly protective of their 3-D technology. If it hadn't been for certain high-profile leaks, resulting from the turmoil surrounding the re-organization of the AM teams into the new SegaSoft R&D groups, then we would have no information at all. It would be dangerously naïve for anyone to think that the current state of 3-D boards employed by Sega is set in stone, with the company developing three architectural prototypes to every one they actually use. Nor that any information leaked is not subject to great change.

    But the question persists: How did we get to this point?

    Following the development of the Model 2, achieved--in part--by a joint venture with then-Martin Marietta in 1994, Sega devised a plan that would see the company attempt to develop a three-board strategy. The first systems would be applied in high-profile attractions used in the company's growing Amusement Theme Park games (VR-1 and Power Sled). These would be expensive 'grandstand' systems. The second ones would be used in deluxe cabinets, targeted at the amusement market. Finally, the third systems would focus on cost-effective units, for use in upright cabinets…which, at that point, Sega hoped would be powered by a derivative of the consumer (Saturn) architecture, offering a cheap route to home console ports.

    By the launch of the Model 3, this plan, and Sega's fortunes with it, were under threat. It became clear to management that extravagant 3-D CGI development would have to make way for a more realistic and cost-effective solution across the board. AM4 was charged with both developing a strategy that would offer power and performance, and a package that could be "standardized," allowing a one-fit solution. Laborious evaluations of the latest 3-D PC technology resulted, initially, in a 3dfx-based architecture, but following last-minute political difficulties, a PowerVR2 direction was chosen…a decision that would drive a wedge into the loyal AM4 team and come to haunt Sega.

    What took place was a move from the popular but expensive Model 3 architecture to new hardware, linked to a licensing strategy that Sega hoped would encourage former competitors to embrace it as their platform of choice, and reduce the build price in mass production. That was the plan, anyway…

    Model 3 Step 2 (1998)
    From the original hardware, the PowerPC 603e chip had been upgraded to a 603ev, a chip with a larger cache and lower power consumption. In addition, the clock speed has been upped from 100MHz to 166MHz. Polygon count has also doubled, going from 1 million polygons/second to 2 million, for finer details, better-looking models, and more accurate collision detection, adding 8MB of additional RAM. It was a stop-gap solution that allowed the development teams more time to get familiar with the new hardware (NAOMI), while continuing to produce new games.

    AM1 and AM2 would battle to be the first group to develop on this improved architecture, and their texture-intensive Virtual On 2 and Harley Davidson & L.A. Riders games pushed the envelope. L.A. Riders was, at the time, the largest texture-intensive database ever created by Sega (or any other coin-op developer, for that matter).

    Ocean Hunter (Sega's ill-fated underwater game) used a modified version of the Step 2, known as the Model 3 Step 2.1, which had additional texture and compression power (allowing for some of the impressive water effects contained in the game) and features that would go on to affect the development of the Hikaru hardware--which I'll discuss later in this article. Emergency Call Ambulance is the last game developed for the architecture, but was oft-delayed due to a number of management and team changes. Sega perceived it to be a very strong game, though, and a worthy addition to their "Real Life" arcade series.

    NAOMI (1998)
    NAOMI (New Arcade Operation Machine Idea). This system, with technical capability between a Model 2 and a Model 3, was the replacement to the ST-V system, using the Sega Dreamcast consumer architecture. The hardware is capable of producing 3.5 million polygons/second, with the Hitachi CPU SH-4, NEC Power VR2, and the Yamaha SISP sound engine, offering expandable texture memory. The system supports the JAMMA New Standard (JVS). Sega has developed four basic types; two have been designed for racing games, and two for stand-up arcade titles.

    The system debuted with House of the Dead 2 and wowed onlookers. Designed for use in over 40 different titles to date, it's been licensed by companies such as Jaleco, Namco, Capcom, SNK, and Tecmo. The system offered the straight route to consumer application with a promised quick conversion to the Dreamcast; however, in reality, this has proven a harder task than originally promised. Still, the technology is quite impressive.

    NAOMI Network Variant (1999)
    Also known as the 'inter-connecting' variant. The plan was to offer the 'big' gaming experience with existing hardware, an idea borrowed from the 3dfx capability and improved importance of linking multiple boards to achieve enhanced performance. It's currently used in big-screen applications.

    The first game to make use of this feature was Airline Pilot, which ran three NAOMI boards interconnected, one powering each monitor. Ferarri F-355 Challenge went one step further, with four alleged NAOMI boards working in unison--three to drive the triple-monitor setup, and a fourth for network capabilities.

    Hikaru (1999)
    Even with the promises of the NAOMI, the drawbacks became obvious early in the product's development cycle. The new CSK directive was not to build new technology, but instead of living with what was available, the R&D division cried for an improvement to the system's flagging performance. In order to skirt the "letter of the law," the team created an interconnected Dual NAOMI system, but within a single-board set--not a true "dual" NAOMI. This system also included additional texture memory and enhanced clock speed, incorporating a custom Sega graphics chip and possessing larger memory capacity.

    The development of Brave Firefighters was tied to the development of the Hikaru board; the game benefited from impressive two-player action, with realistic fire and water effects, building on AM team members' requests for improved realism within the game environment. Originally a "black sheep" project, the game's popularity forced Sega management to admit they were using an alternative to the base NAOMI hardware (though sugar-coating the pill by making the "dual NAOMI" claims).

    NAOMI Plus (tentative name) (2000)
    This architecture, currently in development, takes the lessons learned from the Hikaru hardware and applies them to a board revision of the original NAOMI. Additional texture memory and a larger capacity memory aside, the new hardware will also make use of an improved CPU and possibly, the newer PowerVR architecture. It would be unfair to call this a "new" board, but in the time-honored process of Sega "enhancement," highly reminiscent of a Model 2C or Model 3 Step 2 derivative. How this will affect Sega's track record regarding ease of conversion to the non-enhanced Dreamcast is unknown. The machine should also be well-placed to make use of the new 'Entertainment Cyber Space Technology,' based on a fiber-optic connection which will link facilities and gamers together. This is a highly secretive plan, and could be the introduction of a totally new kind of network arcade gaming.

    Model 4 (tentative name) (2000)
    Possibly the most speculated-upon graphical hardware since the buzz created by the Model 3 when it launched with Virtua Fighter 3. Public information is scarce, though a number of private demonstrations leading up to the AOU show this year suggest a strong polygon count and amazing high-detail textures. The importance of being seen as a powerful "grandstand" graphical system has not been lost on Sega, though the company's change of management strategy still seems to make this expenditure a bit frivolous.

    Reputed to be launched before JAMMA with Virtua Fighter 4: Digital Assault (tentative name), the game and hardware will make good use of the new networking technology that Sega is developing. Rumor has it that the first driving game for this hardware will be a sequel to the famed Out Run.

    Hopefully, this information will help even the layperson gain a better handle on the thinking that has led to Sega's current developments in arcade CGI technology, and will also explain the variations in hardware development and the reasons for them. Remember that, given Sega's track record in hardware development, nothing has been set in stone; for all we know, the NAOMI Plus route may be abandoned for a sped-up Model 4 direction. The overnight swap from 3dfx to Power VR is a prime example of the sudden changes that sweep this highly competitive sector of arcade development.

    ice-9 | Sennin

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