Featured Article: Retro Sumus Interview

Star-Spangled Box Art

I realise that this post will date extremely quickly, but as it's US Independence Day I thought I would take a quick look at something relevant, but that we haven't really touched on in the past - the different types of US Dreamcast hardware and software packaging. But first: a public service announcement:
Happy Independence Day!
Now that's out of the way, let's begin. The PAL Dreamcast packaging never actually changed from the day the system was launched, to the day Sega drop-kicked the Dreamcast into a wheelie bin. It was always the same - the blue and white boxes, minimalist text and a few warning labels. From a design perspective, this packaging was perfectly serviceable and suited the Dreamcast's image well. There were a few special edition cardboard sleeves that went around the console boxes (and the House of the Dead 2 gun set), but for the most part PAL hardware boxes didn't vary. In the US though, the packaging underwent something of a major redesign about a year after the system's launch.

The original packaging looks like this:
How a Dreamcast looks when you've got a hangover.
As far as console boxes go, it's quite nice. The slightly out-of-focus console lit from various angles with orange and blue is certainly eye-catching, and the design on the left that mirrors the Dreamcast GD drive door and LED lens is a nice nod to the actual physical styling of the console. Indeed, Sega also used this 'side bar' design on the game boxes/manuals too. Elsewhere in the hardware catalogue, the imagery was replicated - the keyboard and controller boxes also used a similar design:
How the controller looks when you've got a hangover.
How the keyboard...you get the idea. Sigh.
It appears that at some time in 2000, Sega decided to re-brand they system, the peripherals and the games, and the Dreamcast entered the 'black' era. According to this article from Games Radar, this was an attempt to counter Sony's PS2 although there's no real evidence to support this theory. My own theory about the colouring of the Dreamcast's original packaging (and the console itself) is that Sega were keen to distance the Dreamcast from the Saturn and perform a complete switch-up of colour schemes. That they would revert to a predominantly dark-coloured packaging design and completely drop the 'Sega' bit from their product logo is something that was obviously decided at board level...but makes little sense to me at least. Regardless, the switch was made and this rather fetching new design (complete with 'the ultimate gaming system' tagline) was introduced:
Sitting quite a way from the TV here.
The whole 'space' thing is really quite nice and affords the system an 'other worldly' appearance. Mimicking the images of a satellite orbiting the Earth or a space ship chasing the sun around a planet, it sends a message that the console is not of terrestrial origin and offers experiences that can only be found by heading to the cosmos. Or maybe I'm just talking corporate advertising shit. The peripherals also found themselves getting the same treatment:
That's a long wire if it reaches all the way to the sun.
The long and short of it is, Sega changed the Dreamcast's US branding around a year after the console launched. The reasons for it are not fully known, but both designs look good. The only thing that can be seen as a negative is that if you have a large collection of NTSC-U games, the black and white game cases can look a bit odd when they're all mixed up on a shelf. But that's just me being a pitifully sad nerd.
Ryu wondered where he'd left his car keys as the traffic warden approached.
What do you think? Which do you prefer? Comments please! Right. I'm off to whistle The Star-Spangled Banner and drink Budweiser from a cowboy boot.

Developer Interview: Isotope SoftWorks' Coraline Annis

Isotope SoftWorks is a developer with a plan - a plan to bring independently developed first person shooting action to the Dreamcast. Isotope currently has two such titles in development - SLaVE and Hypertension: Harmony of Darkness. Both are FPSs, and both are coming soon via GOAT Store...but they really couldn't be further apart in terms of aesthetics and narrative. The Dreamcast Junkyard really wanted to know more about what makes Isotope tick, and so we got together with founder and lead programmer Coraline Annis to discuss the exciting projects currently under way and due for release in the near future.

DCJY: Hi Coraline, thanks for taking the time to talk to us. Could you give a little bit of background to Isotope SoftWorks and TDG Mods? Who are you and how did you form as a developer?

Coraline Annis: My name is Coraline Annis (Corbin) and I’m the founder and lead programmer for Isotope SoftWorks. TDGMods stands for “The Doom Gods Mods” and was the name of my first independent mod team that formed Hypertension. The name change was done to move away from the “mod” and “Doom” mindset, and to differentiate that the current team working on Hypertension is completely different from the previous. The TDGMods monikor is only kept on to honor the previous developers throughout the lifetime of the game itself.

I was very small when I figured out I wanted to work on computer games. I got my start through a utility called DeHackED for DOOM, and BUILD for Duke Nukem 3D in my early years. It was awhile before I tried bigger things, but I got my start pretty much like everyone else in the 90’s industry. Determination led to the formation of TDGMods in high school, and many failed projects later, we are where we are today. Isotope SoftWorks is the ultimate culmination of all of our hard work to get where we are now, and believe me, it was very hard and complicated. None of this was started with a plan, we just kept rolling with it until we had enough to say “Hey, check us out!”
Hypertension features some impressive lighting effects
If you notice, historically, we have always presented our games with actual media, and not a bunch of concept art or babbling to a camera. In the end, I think that’s why people still believe in us, because we have never been big on ‘talk now, show concept art later’ - it’s always like, here’s in-engine material, suck on that! Haha!

And, despite my formal name being Corbin, I underwent a transition and now go by Coraline, but you’ll see my legal name accredited simply because it seems to confuse a lot of people or they don’t have the maturity to show respect towards me. I’ve never really addressed that part of myself publicly in detail, so there might be a time when I will, but for now it’s not important. I’m still the same person that’s worked on these things all these years anyway. Just prettier ;)
Isotope SoftWorks' new logo.

DreamPod Episode 8



iTunes
Stitcher
Buzzsprout
YouTube

As well as being available on iTunes, Stitcher, Buzzsprout and YouTube, DreamPod is also listed on the UK Podcast Directory. Nominations are now open for the 2015 UK Podcast Awards, and while our podcast suffers from the usual issues an amateur production encounters, we have one thing a lot of the others don't: absolute passion for the subject. None of the team get paid for any of this content, yet we do our best to bring new, fresh content to the Dreamcast community as often as we can. We do this all in our spare time.

To this end, we'd be honoured if you'd show your support for the only Dreamcast-centric podcast around by giving us a nomination. The very notion that a Dreamcast podcast could be at a prestigious awards ceremony like this is mind-blowing in 2015 - 14 years after the system was cut loose. Please consider nominating us by visiting our listing page here and clicking on the big red button!

10th Anniversary Competition - Part Two

Part one of our 10th anniversary competition went spectacularly well. Your submissions were fantastic and really showed how much the Dreamcast still means to us all as gamers. It's time to move on though, and we're pleased to unveil your second opportunity to win one of the fabulous Dreamcast Collection vinyls kindly donated by Sega Europe.

Last time we wanted your memories, but this time we're going to test your knowledge of the Dreamcast's outstanding library. Below, you will find cropped screens from 25 of the Dreamcast's finest, worst, most common and not-so-common titles. It's a real mixed bag but the one thing linking them together is this: guess them all correct and you could win the second vinyl and find yourself rocking out to the dulcet tones of Crazy Taxi, Sonic Adventure and Space Channel 5. Well, the PSN/XBLA versions of Crazy Taxi, anyway.
A worthy prize.
A keen eye will be required here, as will an in-depth knowledge of every genre from the Dreamcast's library. Once you think you've got them all, put your answers in a numbered list and email your entry to admin@thedreamcastjunkyard.co.uk. In the likely event that we get multiple correct entries before the deadline, the winner will be drawn out of a hat - it's best to keep these things fair and simple.

What are you waiting for?! Get studying these images...

Rare Dreamcast Premiere Posters Surface On eBay

The UK launch party for the Dreamcast is the stuff of legend. I've heard many a recounted tale of booze and debauchery from industry types who were lucky enough to be invited, in some cases (rather interestingly) by means of a VMU with a 'golden ticket' attached:
Look who it is!
The event took place during the annual European Computer Trade Show (ECTS) in September 1999, where a private party was held at the Empire Theatre in Leicester Square, London. The thing that makes this private launch party so interesting is that a lot of fairly (now) extremely rare merchandise was handed out to revellers. How rare? How about 'I bet you've never, ever seen these' rare? Here you go:

Developer Interview: Hucast Games' René Hellwig

Based in Germany, Hucast is quite possibly the most prolific publisher and developer of indie Dreamcast games on the planet right now. Since Sega officially abandoned the system, no other outfit has published more games and done more to keep the dream alive for those wishing to purchase new titles for their favourite white box. In our latest developer interview, we caught up with René Hellwig to discuss the latest announcements from Hucast, the appeal of the Dreamcast, and Hucast's stance on the porting of Atari Jaguar games...

DCJY: We’re pretty sure that most people reading this will know who Hucast are, but for those who maybe aren’t familiar, could you give us a bit of an insight into the history of Hucast and what you're all about?

René Hellwig: Hucast started in 2008 right after Last Hope was released for Sega Dreamcast by Redspotgames. I started this because I felt the need to make a modern shmup which was impossible to realize with the Neo Geo. The result was DUX.

Speaking of DUX, Hucast’s shmups are very well known - which shooters of yesteryear did you enjoy playing and where do you draw your inspiration from when designing a new game?

I love R-Type Delta and DoDonPachi Daifukkatsu. But a lot of retro shmups inspired me for my games. For Ghost Blade, I was also inspired by Halo 4 for the look of the game. I'm not sure if anybody would notice this but I chose a very modern sci-fi look. However, in the end I always make my own graphical style, and I hope Ghost Blade looks as unique as DUX looked in back 2009.
Ghost Blade is released in September 2015

In Search Of The Barber

The Dreamcast's various advertising campaigns hold a certain fascination for me. The It's Thinking and Mr Sega/Yukawa campaigns from the US and Japan respectively were massively successful and we've looked at them in the recent past (just don't mention the Spud Dive). Before you groan 'not another advertising post' though, please bear with me. This is slightly different for reasons which will become apparent. The European advertising campaign for the Dreamcast launch was made up of several different TV and cinema adverts, but the one most people will be familiar with is this one:

The advert is known as Shave, and I'm sure you've seen it before and possibly even remember when it was shown on (European) TV and in cinemas back in that brief period in 1999/2000 when the world was gripped by Dreamcast-mania.

So let's break it down. Robbie William's Let Me Entertain You blares, rather appropriately from the speakers as a bunch of fresh Foreign Legion recruits are lead into the barber's studio of some form of military installation. Three barbers await, and are labelled as players one, two and three and then quickly set about engaging in a battle to see who can shave their conscript's head the fastest. Player 2 comes out on top as the guard looks on, the younger competitors beaten by the experience of their older adversary. Victorious, the character whom we will henceforth refer to as The Barber, gives a wry smile to the camera as the story comes to a close. It's not a bad advert by any means, and sets the scene perfectly - the Dreamcast was all about multi-player competition after all, what with it's online gubbins. There are some negative points, such as the way no game footage at all was used (and likewise in the other advert from this campaign entitled Buoy) but that's a different story.

Now, I did do a post fairly recently were I looked briefly at the European campaigns, but this time I want to focus solely on something that has been bugging me for a while: just who is the winning barber in this advert? For a very short period between 1999 and 2000, this man's face was plastered all over TV and cinema screens, a poster showing him posing with a barber's chair and hair clippers could be found in pretty much every games shop in the land, and the vast majority of Dreamcast games came with a 'coming soon' pamphlet in the rear compartment with this guy all over them. But do a Google search for 'Dreamcast barber' or words to that effect...and do you know what you'll find? Nothing. Not a bean, other than a few images like this - most of which come from this very site:
So the question remains: just who is the actor who portrays The Barber? What is his name? Did he appear in any other productions and what did he make of his 5 minutes of fame? In the famous words of Sherlock Holmes, the game is afoot...

Pictures Speak A Thousand Words

Yes, we've already posted this on Facebook and Twitter but it seems a shame not to post it here too. Created with VMU tool, some people have misconstrued this to mean that we think the recently-announced Shenmue 3 should come to Dreamcast. Not so - what this means is that if the Dreamcast had been the success it so rightly deserved to be, Yu Suzuki would probably have finished the Shenmue trilogy on the Dreamcast as originally intended. Feel free to share, re-blog, whatever. It's a great image, even if we say so ourselves.

10th Anniversary Competition Part One: We Have A Winner!

Firstly, we have to thank everybody who entered the first part of our competition to win one of three limited edition Dreamcast Collection vinyl records. They really are lovely items to have in your collection, and we must also thank Sega Europe for giving us the opportunity to run this little contest. Alas, there can be only one winner per competition and it was ridiculously tough to choose who should get the prize. The vast majority of the entries were fantastic tales of how you first got into the Dreamcast, and many a Christmas morning or late night gaming session of yore was recounted. And for this, we thank you from the bottom of our beeping VMUs. It's truly amazing just how entwined the Dreamcast was (and still is) in a lot of peoples' gaming life.

We can only give one of these vinyls away though and we will showcase the winning entry at the bottom of this post. But before we get to that, here are a selection of some of the best entries that unfortunately weren't the winner. If we could give everybody who entered one of these vinyls, we most certainly would...
We asked you to tell us what the Dreamcast meant to you, and you responded magnificently. To be fair, we knew you would - a sharp mind, intelligence and creativity are all hallmarks of the typical Dreamcast fan!

Developer Interview: Retro Sumus' Carlos Oliveros

Spanish indie developer Retro Sumus came to the fore in late 2014 when new Dreamcast-bound visual novel AMEBA was announced. Since then, work has been progressing steadily behind the scenes and we decided it was about time that we uncovered just what Retro Sumus is all about. In this exclusive interview with lead writer Carlos Oliveros, we find out a little more about the team, AMEBA and discover that there's another extremely promising (and previously unannounced) Dreamcast game on the horizon...

DCJY: Could you tell us a little bit about Retro Sumus? Who makes up the team and what are your roles?

Carlos Oliveros: Retro Sumus is both our name and our tag line, so to speak. It's Latin for "we are back," or "we are retro" which in my humble opinion makes for a nice Twitter hashtag, don't you think?

#Yes

Right now, the team is made up of four fine gentlemen: Daniel aka Chui, Abel, Juanjo and yours truly. Chui is like Cypher from the X-men and understands any computer language you throw at him, or like Cypher from the Matrix now that I think of it, as he seems to see the world in code. Abel is our 3D designer and the owner of the brain behind Project Q (we'll get to that). Juanjo is in charge of the sound department, and I'm the main writer/translator and the communication guy.

For our first announced project AMEBA, we're recruiting a 2D artist and two more screenwriters to help us put everything together, as it's quite a big story for such a small team.
The original AMEBA teaser artwork
But you have known and/or worked with each other for a while now, haven't you?

In short, yes. I was one of the translators for Watermelon's Pier Solar and, after the Mega Drive release and the fans asking for a PC and a Dreamcast conversion, I introduced Chui to Tulio from Watermelon, as they were looking for a capable programmer to port the original Mega Drive code to more modern platforms. Being the awesome fella that he is, and the creator (or co-creator) of so many emulators and tools for the Dreamcast and other machines, he jumped at the chance and has become Tulio's right hand since, as far as I know. I only knew Chui for his emulators and had talked to him a few times before that, but we began working closer and chatting every other day from then on, as he worked on porting the game and I translated all the new content.

I think Chui brought Abel with him to Pier Solar. There was a Mode7 level in the original game which had to be remade from scratch for the conversion, so he did the 3D for that stage. That initial work was in fact the germ for Project Q.

Juanjo had never worked on any videogame related project. He's a piano teacher and producer, and the current keyboardist for spanish bands Efecto Mariposa and Los Aslándticos. When I told him about my ideas for AMEBA, he didn't even let me finish and said he wanted in. I was honoured, as he knew I couldn't possibly pay him (for now anyway) and didn't care at all. He immediately improvised a beautiful piano tune that will become one of the main themes for the game.

Shenmue 3 Kickstarter Announced At E3 2015

In light of the last two posts here, we realise we're running the risk of this place becoming The Shenmue Junkyard...but news of this magnitude cannot be ignored. After years - 14 years in fact - the third and final chapter of Ryo Hazuki's quest to find (and possibly kick the face and ass of) Lan Di is finally going to become a reality. It seems all the years of 'save Shenmue' tweets and speculation have actually paid off as Yu Suzuki took to Sony's E3 2015 conference to reveal a Shenmue 3 Kickstarter project with a goal of £2 million. At the time of writing, Kickstarter has been experiencing issues due to the number of people trying to access the Shenmue 3 page, so we're pretty confident the project will reach it's target in a matter of hours let alone days.
Still scanning for sailors.
As with all Kickstarter projects, there are several different levels of pledge, ranging from $5 all the way up to $10,000 - one of which will furnish the backer with the genuine Ryo Hazuki leather jacket worn during the original Dreamcast press campaign, while the other will offer the backer the opportunity to have a private dinner with the development team. Both of these top tier pledges have already been snapped up, however.

The video featured on the Kickstarter page is clearly a work in progress and features a slightly re-designed Ryo, but his nonchalant voice acting remains intact as does the familiar musical score, so it'll be interesting to see how faithful to the previous games the final product turns out when it hits in late 2017.

Hopefully, Suzuki will limit (or completely leave out) the tedious crap from Shenmue 2 (like moving boxes around a warehouse for minimum wage) and deliver a fitting finale for the series. Also, we'd just like to confirm that the Junkyard has backed the project, so if it doesn't reach it's target, don't blame us (it will).
We know.
Want to be a part of the history of Shenmue? Check out the Kickstarter here.

Update: Shenmue 3 has been successfully funded.

DreamPod Episode 7


Feel free to either listen here, or click the links below to choose your podcastin' poison:

iTunes
Stitcher
Buzzsprout
YouTube

The song used in the outro is the awesome 'Dreamcast 2 Song' by Keith Apicary, and can be purchased for just $1 or 67p here. If you'd rather just watch the epic video, point your eyes below:


On the brink of the new century, Sega cast a shadow upon the future. That shadow changed video games forever. They were no longer known as games. They were now dreams. Dreams that came true.

Apt lyrics following the recent Shenmue 3 announcement.

Praying In Yamanose

Thanks to a mischievous little Tweet from Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki yesterday depicting a forklift outside of the E3 Expo the Internet promptly broke.

And it wasn't the first time.
Look what Mr Suzuki found at E3.
Every time the name Shenmue 3 is spoken, even whispered, an upswelling of emotion takes hold of any gamer that once held Nozomi Harasaki’s hand. To every gamer who hunted Lan Di, fought to avenge a loved one’s honour and, yes, spent a hell of a lot of time driving forklifts, the concept of a third Shenmue title is literally mind blowing. It’s enough to make even the most secular gamer get down on their knees and begin praying.

And, it’s obvious why - vision. Yu Suzuki had a single vision, an epic tale to tell and over the course of the first two titles, games that - for all of their mechanical clumsiness - transported the gamer into one of the best and most engaging narratives the medium had ever seen. It’s a world that is beautifully singular in comparison with most of today’s open world experiences.
I always liked Nozomi. Reunited in Shenmue 3?
Regardless however, the history of the Shenmue franchise is now old and, if we are being totally honest, a little stale. Like its great partner in non-release-ity (yeh, that word construction didn't really work did it) Half-Life 3, the burning hunger for its release, the non-stop speculation, theorising and talk have started to sully its non-existent reputation. Because that’s the thing isn't it - the more people talk about the first two games, the more their limitations and problems are brought to the fore. Judgements are dispensed rightly or wrongly according to modern standards and they hurt, driving a wedge into how the franchise is depicted.

While in 1999 Shenmue was seemingly reviewed fairly honestly, with its narrative, characterisation and scope praised, yet its mechanics and open world teething problems criticised, today Shenmue is held up as either an unfinished masterpiece cruelly locked away from the world, or a now old man’s grandest folly that deserves to be left in the past.
This just looked stunning when first released in 2001.
Of course, neither of these statements are true. The thing is though, through their diametrically opposite positioning, they do craft a crucial question that, at least in my eyes, has still been left unanswered - what should Shenmue 3 actually be? You see, because while millions of people would literally sell their soul to Cthulhu for it to be announced - me included! - I think if you asked all of them what you think it should be, then I think you’d receive some markedly different visions.

I've spoken to people who would be quite happy for a third title to be literally kick-started in the old engine. Others want the same formula with HD graphics. I've seen others who fight the corner for a GTA-style experience and yet more who want a Telltale episodic graphic adventure. And this is just their grand vision. Details such as movement, fight mechanics, interactivity, physics and more are left unspecified. Personally, I feel the Shenmue franchise could learn a lot from the recently released The Witcher 3, which was put together with a smallish team on just a US$32 million budget (the first two Shenmue games were developed for US$70 million, which is close to US$100 million today).
Just imagine the freedom that Shenmue 3 could offer the player with today's hardware.
The point is though, regardless of the cost, a clear vision must first be established and, if you were to ask me right now who is capable of achieving that, then I'm afraid I'm going to have to default back to Suzuki. I've always been a fan of games that held an intrinsic purity and Suzuki managed to create one of the most complexly pure game series I've ever played. The problem is, finding people in the modern gaming industry who are happy to take a punt on such a project, a project where there would be no safety net, no Call of Duty profit margin, is an incredibly difficult task.

All we need now is someone to give Mr Suzuki that money because, I've got to say, my knees are really starting to hurt.

"Meeeeeeooooowwwww."

“Yes Tama, I know, someone should definitely give Mr. Suzuki another $50 million to make Shenmue 3.”

"Meeeeeooooowwwww!"

“Yes, I agree, Mr. Suzuki should definitely not bring back Tom Johnson.”

"Meeeeooooowwwww!!!"

“What? Oh you just want more dried fish… fine. I’ll just pop down to Tomato.”

Yu Suzuki Tweet Breaks Internet

The Shenmue 3/Shenmue HD rumour mill is working overtime right now, and it probably doesn't help that Yu Suzuki has also tweeted a picture of Ryo Hazuki's favourite mode of transport:
Translation: 'Found at E3'
We're happy to wager that this is little more than a wind up, but those rumours just won't go away...

Touché Mr Suzuki, Touché.

On the subject of Shenmue, Data Discs are offering some rather excellent-looking vinyl LPs featuring tracks from Mr Suzuki's magnum opus here. They're only £20 a pop, and though the special edition has already sold out, they look well worth the (pre-order) asking price.
A bonus track of traditional sea shanties has yet to be confirmed.