A Metropolis Street Racer Treasure Trove

OK, this is the third Metropolis Street Racer related article I've posted here in the space of a fortnight, but this time I think you'll thank me for it, rather than shake your head in disgust before falling to your knees and screaming at the sky as dark, ominous thunder clouds gather and threaten to unleash a maelstrom of biblical proportions. After the preceding articles about some of the more interesting track side details to be found in Bizarre Creations' epic racer; and the follow up article detailing the hidden 'missing persons' posters dotted around the San Francisco and Tokyo circuits, comes this third instalment in which I will showcase some images and documents I'm pretty confident have never previously been published online.
A few days ago, I was contacted by somebody on Twitter (a person who wishes to remain anonymous) who asked if I was interested in a Dreamcast-related disc. Naturally I was, and a few days later the disc turned up in the post with no letter and no return address. Very strange, I'm sure you'll agree. Being the kind of person who risks infecting his computer with malware first and asking questions later, I threw the disc into my drive and explored the shit out of it with wanton abandon. I was met with things, most wondrous things...but mainly a treasure trove of Metropolis Street Racer screenshots, artwork, logos, shots of the game's wire frame models and development screens, as well as some press releases and a developer interview.

Personally, I have never seen a disc that looks like this before. I've seen all manner of GDs and prototype discs in my time, but never one of these blue and white Sega Europe branded 'confidential material' discs. That said, I do know that several collectors in the community have these, and their contents vary wildly, and some even contain the Dreamcast SDK on them.
There's over 250MB of stuff on the disc, and for something produced in 2000 that's pretty hefty. On closer inspection, it appears to be the type of high quality, pressed CD-R that would be sent to magazines of the era or other media outlets, and the documentation included reinforces this theory. However, for the preservation of your sanity's sake I'll only be reproducing some of the most interesting stuff here, so the main developer interview and some of the previously unseen wire frame/development screens and hi-res computer generated artwork. If you really want to see the press releases etc., then let me know in the comments.
Are you ready? OK - let's kick things off with some nice shots of the 'behind the scenes' stuff...

Development Screens
All of these images are contained in a folder labelled Technical Development, and appear to be screen grabs from a workstation on which the development software was running. I don't really know much more than that, but it's interesting to see all the sidebars and menus etc. Also interesting is the level of detail in the shots showing vehicles - the rev counters, gear ratios and the like. Some of the shots also clearly show the trajectories of environmental elements too, such as helicopters and the planes we looked at in a previous MSR article (click for larger versions).
Bizarre Creations Developer Interview / Q & A
This interview is a pretty legthy document and looks to be a sort of introduction to Bizarre Creations and the history of the studio. Prior to Metropolis Street Racer, it's unlikely that the vast majority of people outside of the racing game scene would have been familiar with the name, so it's pretty useful and was probably intended to be printed in magazines (or at least, partly used in features). Beware, this is pretty lengthy, although it's also a totally fascinating glimpse into the development cycle and also how optimistic developers were on the future of the Dreamcast...

Metropolis Street Racer
Bizarre Creations – Developer Q&A

Bizarre Creations

So who are Bizarre Creations?

Bizarre Creations is an independent software development house, based in Liverpool, UK. We’ve been developing games for over 12 years, and are probably best known for the first two Formula 1 games developed for Sony Psygnosis. We try to produce games which are enjoyable, both to look at and to play and which make maximum use of the technology on which they are developed.


How did the company start?

Martyn Chudley, a programmer/designer, formed the Company over 12 years ago, rather than going to University. He produced games for the C64, Atari ST, Amiga and Sega Megadrive – back in the days when you could do it on your own!

When the PlayStation came along, Martyn needed to take on permanent staff, and so the current Bizarre Creations team was born. We’re now over 30 people, but have remained small and focussed, as we feel that’s the best way to produce high quality games.


Which games do you feel are your greatest successes to date?

Well, obviously Formula 1 and F1 97 / Championship Edition have been our best commercial successes, selling over 2 million units each. However, we still look back fondly at ‘The Killing Game Show’, and also hope that our current projects will be successful too.


There are some pretty freaky pictures on your website – what are the people at Bizarre really like?

Well, some are a little bizarre, we must admit! Basically, we’ve chosen people who want to work at Bizarre, and who want to work on games. People have come from a wide variety of backgrounds and skills, and have generally not worked in games companies before. But all of them share a passion and dedication to games and their development.


What sort of games do the teams play when they’re not writing games?

A huge variety of games! When some games have come out, we shock our local ‘Game’ store by asking for them to reserve 10 copies!! Generally, people enjoy a wide range, depending on what mood they’re in. FPS, platformers, beat-‘em-ups, RPG’s, racing games, adventures – you name it, and someone will be into that style!


How can people find out more about Bizarre Creations?

The best way is to have a look at the website – www.bizarrecreations.com – where you can find out about our games, and what we do. Check out the ‘Beyond Bizarre’ page for the strangest bits, if you dare!



The Metropolis Street Racer Team

Tell us more about the people working on Metropolis – were they already a team before the game started?

Some of the team were people taken from the original Formula 1 team – and so they’ve got a lot of games experience, especially with racing games. We’ve obviously had to expand the team more than just the F1 people, as next-generation projects generally need more people than previous generation consoles. But now the team is established, most of them will probably stay together for the next project.


Where have the new people on the team come from – were they working on games elsewhere?

Well, with the new Metropolis Artists, we seem to have taken a job lot from Teesside University’s!! In general, people haven’t worked on games before – we’ve only got 2 people in the whole company with games experience previous to Bizarre. So they’ve either come straight from college, from other non-game related jobs, or from being unemployed.


Are they all racing game addicts?

Some of them are. And working on a game as intense as this, you become very involved in the game anyway. There’s often hotlap competitions going on – we all pretend it’s for ‘testing’ purposes though!


How many people work on each part of the game?

There’s a Producer who oversees the whole project, and he has an Associate Producer to assist him. There’s also a Tester who works on the project when required, and our Technical Director also assists where needed.

On the programming side, we have one Programmer who does all the technical side, one who does the game code, one on the AI, one doing special effects and one who does the sound and music coding.

The Artists generally focus on 3D modelling, 2D textures and presentation, or in some cases, both. We have six Artists modelling the cities, two Artists who are solely on 2D work, and one Artist who models the cars.

So that totals up to five Programmers, nine Artists and four ‘project support’ staff who are there when needed. And that’s quite a big team!


And who’s in the team?

Well, here’s the people who are working on the game at the moment:

Brian Woodhouse – Producer
Nick Wiswell – Associate Producer
Programmers – Martyn Chudley, Roger Perkins, Phil Snape, Dave Al-Daini and when needed, Walter Lynsdale
Sound Programming – Jonathan Amor
Artists – Jon Dugdale, Mark Sharratt, Steve Heaney, Lee Carter, Derek Chapman, Julie McGurren, Gren Atherton, Paul Spencer and Glen Griffiths
Testing – Ged Talbot



How the Project Started

How and when did the project start initially?

Sega came to us in the days of the Saturn, to see if we’d work on a project for them then. We had a look at the Saturn, but decided to wait until their next generation of machines. So we kept in touch, and when they were developing Dreamcast, they came back with the idea of us signing up for the first wave of 1.5 party titles.


Whose idea was it to develop Metropolis Street Racer?

They wanted us to do a racing game – after a couple of earlier plans, it was settled on a ‘a city based street racing game’. So really it was their idea to make the best use of the skills that we had demonstrated with Formula 1. 


Did Sega give you a clear outline of what they wanted, or did they leave the design up to you?

They left the design up to us, but all through the design process, they kept an eye on what we were doing, and let us know if they didn’t think that an idea would work in the game. In this way we could be as creative as we wanted, but knew that if we went too far ‘off the rails’, Sega would be there to make sure that the game was still focussed for the marketplace. All in all, that’s worked very well.

Also, our Producer is Kats Sato, an ex-Sega Japan artist and Designer, who has worked on racing games before in Sega’s prestigious AM division. He’s been very helpful in providing a Japanese perspective, and so we hope the game will have appeal across all territories.

Who chose the name, and was it ever called anything different?

When it was still a secret project at Sega, it was originally codenamed ‘Project Crimson’ (for reasons lost to history). However, this had to be hastily changed, as one clever journalist managed to find out about its existence. So we got suggestions from the team, and ‘Metropolis’ was voted as the best title. This was expanded to Metropolis Street Racer (or MSR) last year.



Research

Has it taken a lot of research to develop the game?

Yes! It’s been more than we ever anticipated – both in terms of time and expense! To build exact replicas of the city, you have to have a phenomenal amount of materials of all descriptions. Also, it’s important that the artists are totally familiar with the place that they are modelling, and have as much reference as they can.


How exactly do you go about building a city from scratch – where on earth do you start!?

We started with tourist maps, as these helped us to choose the areas most suitable for modelling, in terms of popularity, interest and good racing. Then we need a layout, so it’s onto accurate street plans, government survey maps, land usage data, topological maps and aerial photographs to get the layout and heights correct. And finally it’s onto the hard graft of hand-modelling all of the individual buildings!


What research materials have you collected from the cities?

When you’re at the city, you have to become a kleptomaniac, and pick up ANY material that will be useful, from local guides, to tourist videos. We’ve even got hold of things like architects and surveyors plans, especially where there’s been changes to the places that are happening. 

You need everything you can get your hands on, to supplement the maps, photographs and surveys you’ve already got. But most importantly, it’s the specialist research photographs and videos that the artists and researchers take themselves, that make all the difference.


Did you have to travel a lot? Who went places from the teams?

Oh yes! The artists have had to travel a lot to get the materials they need. It’s extremely useful for the artists to have actually seen what they’re modelling. One of the artists visited Tokyo when he was half way through building part of the city – he said it was like a week-long déjà vu! So far, we’re up to 250 thousand air miles for research trips and over 100 train tickets to London! 


It looks like some of the buildings are almost photographic – are they taken from photographs?

Yes, and that’s what’s making a great difference to the game. Back in the 32 bit days, you couldn’t afford to use photographic textures, as the machines only had a small amount of VRAM to store textures. But the Dreamcast has a massive 8MB of VRAM, and an amazing compression system, meaning that you can have high colour, high-resolution textures taken straight from the photographs – which means the cities can look really realistic!


What sort of photographs does a researcher need to take for the artists?

There’s three types of photograph that the artists need, coupled with video footage, to assist them with the cities. Firstly, there’s a general ‘street shot’ which sets the scene for the area, and helps them to identify each building on the maps.

Then the specific buildings have to be photographed one-by-one, to help with modelling each individual structure. And finally, there’s the texture photographs, where each part of the buildings have to be photographed in as much detail as possible, to allow the texture artist to extract a good texture for the particular area.


Does anything need to be done to a texture photograph before it’s used, or can it just be scanned in and applied to the model?

There’s always some work to be done. Firstly, there could be something obscuring part of the shot – for example a car or a person in front of a shop, or a tree branch in the way higher up. These have to be removed, and the artists have a lot of clever techniques to clean up the photograph and ‘paint in’ what’s really underneath.

Then, when the image is clean, the artist has to make sure everything lines up. If you think about a tall building, when you take a photograph looking upwards at it, the image is distorted by perspective, and the building appears to be trapezoid rather than rectangular. So we have to use image stretching methods to make sure that the image is straightened, so it can be placed onto the rectangular model of the building.


Would the game have been different without so much research?

Yes, we think it would. There are many, many racing games out there in made-up locations, or take inspiration from real cities, but have buildings that are in the wrong place, or are the wrong size, or just look wrong. Without the research the sense of scale wouldn’t have been so accurate, and we’d have definitely had less detail. The large amounts of photography have also given us a greater range and accuracy of colours than non-realistic games. Ideally, we want people to walk past a shop window playing that game and think it’s a video of the city concerned!



Cities

Why choose London, San Francisco and Tokyo?

Because they’re well-known, popular places to visit, and are good representatives of the key territories that they game will be released in. The fact that Sega has offices in each of them actually didn’t have anything to do with it, believe it or not!


Did you plan from the start to build the cities as they are now, or did you have to research the best way to model them first?

We had to start with a lot of research, as there’s many ways we could have gone about this. We looked at generic cities like you’ll see in many other games, with buildings ‘suitable’ for the area, but not taken from real life. We also looked at taking ‘set pieces’ such as Trafalgar Square, Shibuya Station, Pier 39, and then linking them together with made-up areas. 

Also, we researched into the best methods of modelling the cities. Did we build individual parts in SoftImage, and link them together with purpose built tools? How would we add the game information such as split lines or circuit details? In the end, we decided to take probably the most ambitious route, which was to build the cities true to life.


Which was the most difficult city to research, and which was the most difficult to model?

Probably Tokyo in both cases, because of the language barrier and the difference in buildings and ‘street furniture’ from those we are used to. All the maps we’ve got are in Japanese, and so you can’t just read ‘park’ or ‘bus stop’ or whatever, the same as we can for the UK or America. Also, there’s some amazing older architecture such as the Asakusa temples, which we’ve had to model in detail as well.


Did you change which areas to build at all – for example, after seeing them in real life?

Yes, a couple of the areas were changed around a little – and also one was made larger and one reduced in size, as the extra part was rather dull both to drive and to look at. Of course, the one we decided to enlarge happened to be in Japan, clocking up yet more air miles!!


How long does it take to build an average city area? Do some areas take longer than others to build?

Each area is definitely a different modelling challenge from the other, as they all have their own style and atmosphere. But taking an average example, the initial office-based research probably takes a couple of weeks, and then a visit to the city usually takes a week to gather the early research. The photography and videos take about a month for a full-time researcher to do the bulk of the research for a city – so about 1-2 weeks per area.

Then we get to the modelling. Preparing the ground mesh – the accurate street plans and height data – takes probably 1-2 weeks per area. Then comes the most time consuming part. It probably takes about six to eight months to fully model an area to the level you see in the game today. In addition, it takes about 2 months for a texture artist to prepare all the textures. So if one person did the research, modelling and textures, you’re looking at probably a year’s work PER AREA – pretty time intensive!

Tell us about the areas – where are they and what are they like?

Well in no particular order, the following description list all of the areas in the city, and details what type of areas they are, and what we’ve modelled…..


San Francisco

Area 1 – Fisherman’s Wharf
This is a big tourist area, with plenty of restaurants and shops, and attractions such as the wax museum, Ripley’s ‘Believe it or not’ and Pier 39. It’s the place that you catch boats to Alkatraz, and has a view of the island across the bay. 

Area 2 – The Financial District
This is a maze of large, impressive modern office blocks, with many banks, the Emarcadero centre, and the Port of San Francisco World Trade Center. The massive Transamerican Pyramid looms over the area, looking down on the brand new railway line, which we’re modelling as it’s being built!

Area 3 – Pacific Heights
This is the exclusive residential area, with the massive hills that people always associate with San Francisco, featured in films like ‘Bullitt’. It contains some beautiful and very expensive properties, ranging from small ornate wooden affairs to towering  flats of various and almost outlandish design.


Tokyo

Area 1 – Shibuya
The main focus of Shibuya is it’s trendy shopping and nightlife areas. It’s popular with the tourists, and the massive Shibuya Square crossroads is a common sight on TV programmes about Japan. It has a massive train and bus station, and at night, it’s a blaze of neon and TV screens.

Area 2 – Shinjuku
This area is dominated by its business and finance occupants, with their towering 200m+ headquarters, including Japan’s tallest building – the Government Buildings. A major train station takes shoppers to the narrow shopping streets, specialising in electrical goods.

Area 3 – Asakusa
Asakusa is a strange blend of the ancient and modern. Right next to the gritty urban areas, are a maze of traditional and ancient Japanese Temples. There’s plenty of tourist shops, and near the river crossing, there’s parkland overlooking the strange brewery with its huge yellow sperm placed on top!


London

Area 1 – Trafalgar
Based around Trafalgar Square, with its statues, lions and pigeons, the areas extends up to the trendy Leicester Square area. It also takes in Piccadilly Circus, with Eros overlooking the neon signs, down to the end of the Mall, with the impressive Admiralty Arch.

Area 2 – Westminster
No film on London is complete without the Houses of Parliament and Big Ben, but this sprawling area also includes Westminster Abbey and Waterloo train station. Crossing the Thames via Westminster and Lambeth bridges, it also takes in the County Hall, St Thomas's Hospital and Lambeth Palace.

Area 3 – St. James's Park.
Based in main areas of Government and State, this includes the familiar areas of Horse Guards Parade, Whitehall, Parliament Street and Square, Birdcage Walk, The Mall and St. James's Park.  From the area you can also see the Big Ben area, extending on to the Ministry of Defence building, Downing Street, the Cenotaph, the Queen Victoria Memorial and of course, Buckingham Palace itself!


Is there anything missing from the areas you’ve built?

There’s a few back streets which have been closed off as they were too narrow for the game, or not suitable to include, for example, dead end streets. There’s also a lack of items such as ‘no entry’ signs, traffic lights, etc, which could cause you to break the law, as requested by some of the car manufacturers.


Have you had to get permission to use the shops and advertising hoardings? What has been the general reaction?

Yes, we do. It seems strange, as you see videos of the real city in news stories, travel programmes or similar, but in video games, we still need permission. So Sega have had to approach everyone, and generally the reaction has been positive. 


Do you think people will buy the game to get to know the areas of the cities, like as tourist guides before they go?

It would be nice to see, yes! We hope the game will point out some of the exciting and beautiful places we’ve modelled in the cities, and maybe even inspire a few extra visitors! And we hope after playing the game, visitors to the city will at least feel a few areas area familiar to them…..

Is there a facility in the game to add other cities as add-on packs, or would that be too difficult?

Well, it would be a simpler thing to do if the game was a basic ‘race this circuit then race that circuit’ type of game structure, but Metropolis is more complex and involving that that. So as the game stands now, with the cities, routes, challenges and areas are linked into the structure of the game, it would be extremely difficult to add additional cities. Sorry!



Cars

Are all the cars in the game convertibles and if so, why?

The main game cars are convertibles, yes. We chose them because they’re cool, sporty and desirable, they fit the feel of the game perfectly, and there’s a great range of performances which will fit in well with the game’s progression. Also, MSR isn’t a car ‘collect-‘em-up’ so we don’t want to just try and add loads of cars that are unnecessary for the gameplay itself.


How realistic are the models – colours, shapes, etc?

They are modelled to a high level of accuracy, both inside and outside. We take the model, dimensions and colours from the manufacturer’s specifications, and that includes the wheels and basic interiors too.


How did you get all the research for the cars? What sort of things have you got to help you build them?

We’ve got everything we can, from manufacturers models, through plans, layouts, and drawings to showroom brochures. We’ve also got a lot of our own research, via the internet, from showrooms, and from taking highly detailed photographs from all angles of the models that we’re representing. In terms of the dynamics, we’ve got the same sort of thing – manufacturers details and our own research.


Are there any cool extra details you’ve added to the cars that you’d like to tell us about?

Well, we’ve built them in intricate detail, and they do have little added extras which aren’t really involved in the game, but do look good. These include things like all the lights on each model are functioning and in the correct place, and also working brake callipers on the wheels!


How accurate are the car performances and handling? Have you taken into account the different characteristics of the cars?

Each car has its own characteristics, which are taken from manufacturers’ data. Obviously, there’s a large handling difference between front and rear wheel drive cars, but there’s also a large number of parameters that are put into the complex dynamics model. These include things like the wheel positioning, engine power curves, gears and grip of the tyres.


How many cars can you ‘own’ in the game at any one time? Does the player get the chance to try the cars out before they choose?

The game allows you to run a garage of up to six cars, but you can also stick with just one car if that’s what you want. As your choice of car is important to the game, then you’ll have the chance to try out cars before you challenge to win them.


What can the player do with the cars if they win them?

When you win the car that you’ve challenged for, you get to pick the colour and numberplate when you add it to your garage. You can choose the colours you like best for each car, or go for a unified look and plates for your cars – the choice is yours! And then you can choose to race them in any of the challenges and races in the game – but choose wisely, as some cars are better than others at certain things!


Which of the cars would people in the team pick to own themselves?

Well the current favourites from the team are:
Mitsubishi Lancer Evo 6 (from the boy racers!)
TVR Chimaera
Audi TT
Honda NSX or S2000
Toyota Supra
Rover MGF
Mitsubishi GTO
Fiat Barchetta 
And one person who’d be happy with any as long as he swap it for a diesel transit van – ours not to question why!!!



Gameplay

You’ve hardly said anything about the gameplay so far – why is that?

Metropolis is not the usual racer that some people may be expecting. The gameplay system is unique, and we therefore haven’t wanted to give out too much information that could be useful to our ‘gaming rivals’ out there! And we want to make sure that it’s 100% polished before we announce it to the gaming world.


Is the game like Gran Tourismo? Is it a car ‘collect-‘em-up’?

No, it’s quite different from Gran Tourismo. Sega have got their ‘Gran Tourismo’ type of game with Sega GT, and we’ve always been aiming in a different direction. We want to give racing game fans something new to try, to give a big variety of games in the marketplace. So MSR is more a game of skill and strategic racing, rather than a ‘race to collect cars’ theme.


When will you be giving out the full details about the gameplay?

As in the last question, we don’t want to give full details until it’s all finished, as giving half-baked ideas won’t show the full scope of the game, and may be more confusing than anything. We anticipate being able to reveal the whole thing in a month or two’s time.



Sound and Music

We hear the sounds have been taken from real cars? How did you go about getting them?

The real car sounds were recorded at a research centre that has an “anechoic chamber”. The cars were recorded with microphones to the front and rear of the car, and recordings were taken at a range of different revs. Other sounds such as the car’s tickover, starting-up and horn also recorded. We also had manufacturers resource material of the car being driven , for example going up and down the gears. 


Are there other sounds in the game? Could you give us a few examples?

There are plenty of additional sounds there to enhance the realism of the cities. Examples of the ambient sounds we have are birds, dogs barking, police car, birds, roadworks, church bells etc. and all of the sounds’ volumes, pitches and pans can be changed in real-time to simulate 3D positioning and Doppler effect. We even have chiming clocks such as Big Ben’s Clock Tower, which chime on the hour using the Dreamcast’s internal clock as a reference.


Does the sound of the car change at all, for example, depending on the view? 

Each car uses two sets of samples - one recorded from the front that is predominantly the engine, and one from the back which has a larger proportion of the exhaust note.  As the camera position changes, so does the car sound, the most noticeable transition being when the ‘in-car’ camera is selected, giving a harsher, more raucous sound.

The Dreamcast’s built in sound DSP has also been used to add reverb to the circuits.  This is calculated in 3D from the positions of buildings and other objects such as bridges, tunnels and trees.  So, for example, as you go inside a tunnel the engine sound reverberates around and as you go past a line of trees you can hear them whooshing past.


What about the music – what style(s) have you chosen?

We’ve chosen a whole selection of styles – ranging from dance through to J-Pop, from Jazz through to Rock and even Country music. You can choose what you listen to, using the game’s unique music selection system.


Who has done the music – is it licensed or available elsewhere?

All the game’s music has been specially written to suit the game by Richard Jacques, Sega’s own musician. None of it is licensed – both Sega and ourselves felt that Richard’s music would help give the game its own identity. Check out the Sega Europe website for updates on where it will be available.


An early article mentioned a car radio in the game – can you tell us how this is used?

That’s right – it’s how you choose what you listen to in the game. The radio system has three stations per city, with musical styles appropriate to the particular station. The radio stations aren’t real ones, but are based on real life stations. As an example, in London there is Capital Jazz (modern jazz and jazz funk music), The Underground (dance music) and West Central One (general pop music).

Each station has jingles, real adverts and DJs talking and introducing the tracks, randomised to make it sound natural. The DJ scripts and adverts have been recorded using a selection of specialist voice actors, including American and Japanese actors.

For those who would prefer, the music can also be played as ‘virtual’ CDs giving a selection of tunes without any DJ speech.



Internet and VMS

What are you planning in terms of Internet support within Metropolis?

As we’ve not released full information on the gameplay, we can’t really give details on the Internet support, as it’s linked into the main game itself – sorry! 


And what about the VMS – will you have a purpose for that in the game?

Yes, the VMS is used for recording game data as usual, and we can reveal that we have plans to make use of the VMS-to-VMS connectivity, too.



Sega 

When did you first get to know Sega?

We first talked to Sega back in 1996, just after the original Formula 1 was shown at E3. Kats Sato, now our Producer, liked the game, but Psygnosis had not given any information about the developer. So Kats, ever resourceful, had to resort to underhand tactics to find us. He unplugged the machine, and then asked someone at Psygnosis to restart the game, thus finding out logo!

So we met up with the Sega guys, and were really impressed how everyone was in it for the love of games, rather than being business people who didn’t know about the end product. We’ve even seen Irimajiri-san taking off his badge at Tokyo Game Show so he could sneak round and play some games without being recognised!


How are Sega to work with?

Great! Sega are focussed on games, and care about the product itself, which really shows, as their titles are all quality releases. They are cool guys, all with a sense of humour, which you need when you’re working with us! They provide all the support we need for the game – but we’re still having trouble getting Kats to make the tea when he visits!!


As you’re based in Europe, do you have much contact with Sega Japan, or do Sega Europe sort out everything for you?

Sega Europe deal with most of the day-to-day issues, but that doesn’t mean that we feel isolated from Sega Japan. We have people coming to visit us, and when we’re down in London seeing them, we often have the chance to pop out for some food with people from Sega Japan. We’ve visited the HQ a couple of times, and our Technical Director knows that their technical people can answer any complex questions via Sega Europe.


What is a 1.5 party developer? What special treatment do you get from Sega?

It’s an expression that Miyake-San, COO of Sega Europe, coined to show that these close developers were not in-house (1st party) but were closer than the normal 2nd party publishing deals. We’re basically a group that have been chosen to produce specific high-quality titles for Sega, to be sold alongside their impressive in-house games


Who looks after the project at Sega? What do they do?

Firstly, we have our Executive Producer, Kats Sato, who is assisted by Jose Aller where he needs it. From the technical side, there’s Serge Plagnol and his team with Colin Carter’s Internet group sorting out networking issues. There is a large marketing and PR presence at Sega now, with Jim Pride looking after this side of things for us.


Sega didn’t have an outstanding success with the Saturn, so were you worried about working with them?

No, not at all. Sega have an excellent games heritage, and after seeing what Dreamcast had to offer, we knew that they would be back on form again!



Dreamcast

When did you first hear about Dreamcast, and what did you think of it?

It was back in 1997, when it was still called either Dural or Black Belt, depending on who you talked to! We were excited about it, of course, and honoured to be asked to give input about the components of the machine. When the final specifications were given to us, and the first development kits arrived, we were really happy that we’d chosen to work on it!


Have Sega got a winner here?

Yes, we think so. It’s got a lot of things going for it – it’s a nice, developer-friendly environment to work with, the development tools are reliable, efficient and relatively cheap, and it’s been released at a price that’s well within even the ‘impulse purchase’ range of many people’s pockets! With the games that are coming out, and the capability that’s still to be discovered within the machine, there’s a lot for Sega to smile about!


How do you think the launch of the Dreamcast has done? What have Sega got to do to keep up this success?

Great! With over 3.5 million machines out there already, that can’t be bad! To keep the momentum going, they’ve got to keep a steady stream of top-notch games coming out. However, if you look at the number of new titles being announced each week, we think they’ve got that base covered too.


What do you think the Dreamcast’s best features are?

From a purely selfish point of view, it’s got to be the ease of development, and the power that’s still there to discover in the machine. But in a market perspective, it’s got to be the affordable Internet capability, as that’s something which is taking gaming to the next generation for those who haven’t experienced it before.


Are there any things you’d change about the Dreamcast, now you’ve got to know it?

We’d probably add a couple of extra buttons on the controller, maybe, and also it’d be good to have the orange swirl here in Europe as well, but you can’t have everything!


How is the Dreamcast to program for? Is it much different from other consoles you’ve worked on?

It’s extremely easy to set up, and equally user-friendly to program for. It’s really as low level as you want it to be as well. PC developers can choose to use the familiar Windows CE environment, and console developers may be more comfortable with Sega’s flexible ‘Kamui’ libraries. And if you want to go to grass roots level to hit the hardware, you can do that too.


What is a Dreamcast development kit – what does it look like and how do you program for it?

The development kit is a small cream-coloured box, similar to a small PC. It has a GD drive to allow you to access and test GD-ROM’s and is connected to a PC via the SCSI port. Basically, the programmer will write code on the PC using whichever code editor they prefer, and then use the Hitachi compiler and Codescape run the code, sending it down the cable to the dev kit. The dev kit has its own monitor or TV, which will then display what’s being run. The Dev Kit also has its own hard drive to emulate making a GD of the game.


What programs do the Artists use, and what languages do the programmers use to develop for Dreamcast?

The artists are using SoftImage for modelling, PhotoShop for texturing and our own in-house game package called ‘MetGP’ for placing additional information such as game data, circuit splines, cameras etc. into the game.

The programmers use C and SH4 Assembler languages to code in, and are using Sega’s Kamui development environment for the Dreamcast.


How much of the Dreamcast’s power are you using for Metropolis?

Oh, it’s that old chestnut again! A machine’s ‘power’ is something which constantly changes, the more you get to use it. Development is a learning experience, and so the ‘maximum power’ goalposts keep moving. It’s like when you first learn to ice skate, you’re slow, and don’t know many tricks, but the more you practice and experiment, the better you get!

No-one sets out to try and ‘only use 65% of the machine’ – we all try as hard as we can to get the most out AT THAT POINT IN TIME. So we’re going to be using as much power as we know how to squeeze out of the machine at the moment, but as for the future, just watch this space!


Is there much power left in the machine? Will games continue to amaze us again and again?

Yup. Look at the Megadrive as an example. Just when you thought there was nothing left in it, out came Toy Story with it’s amazing 3D engine section! And what about the PlayStation – remember how we all were bowled over by Gran Tourismo when it first came out? Dreamcast has plenty left to offer, and we’re all still learning – just wait and see…..


How will Dreamcast fare against the next batch of consoles coming out – the PlayStation 2, the X-box and the Dolphin?

Very well, we feel. There’s room for more than one console in the marketplace, and even if the other machines prove to have more power,  Dreamcast has some very nice features which should keep it in the running.



What about the Future?

Will there be a Metropolis 2? If so, can you give us any information about it?

It’s something we’d be keen on doing, yes, and we hope Sega will be up for it too. But can you let us get the first one finished before we start thinking about the possibility of a second one please?!


What other games have Bizarre got planned for the future?

We’ve got Fur Fighters coming out on Dreamcast pretty close to the time that Metropolis is due out. We’ll be developing the Fur Fighters series some more, and have also got some other ideas that we’re thinking about too.


Will you be sticking with Dreamcast?

Yes. Although we’re still a multi-format developer, we know that Dreamcast has a great deal to offer, and it’s really made a mark in the marketplace. We’ve got no plans of dropping Dreamcast at all in the foreseeable future.


Where do you see Bizarre Creations being in five years time?

Probably in a slightly bigger building, although we’re not planning on expanding hugely.  If the current office is anything to go by, we’ll have even more arcade machines, every flavour of pot noodle possible in the snack cupboard, real sleeping quarters rather than the camp beds we’ve got now, and thousands of ‘happy meal’ toys taking over everyone’s desks!

In terms of games, we could well be on ‘Metropolis 6 – the RPG’ and ‘Fur Fighters 8 – the Dancing Simulator’. Dreamcast 2 with interactive neural probes will be released and we’ll also still be talking about ‘doing another F1 game at some time, but not quite now’.…!!


What’s going to happen in this ‘next-generation’ of video game consoles?

Oh, if we all knew that, then it wouldn’t make the debates so much fun! It looks like this year there’s going to be two next-generation consoles which will be battling for supremacy – but each has different things to offer, and they could easily exist side-by-side in the same way that the SNES did with the Megadrive/Genesis. So that would be good news for gamesplayers!


And what’s going to happen in the future of video games?

Who knows!! Hopefully games will ultimately become interactive films or sports, and we can all play out our ultimate fantasies in gloriously high detail. As next-generation consoles become dominant, we should to see bigger, better and deeper evolutions in the genres we know and love, and exciting new genres being developed for us all to explore. 


Bizarre Creations - February 2000

Hi-res Artwork
As the name (and the images) suggests, these are computer generated images designed to give an artist's impression of the game. One or two of these might be familiar - the image featuring the white car (the first image below) was used for the cover of issue 3 of the Official UK Dreamcast Magazine. One of these appears to feature an early vehicle design, too. Pretty sure these haven't been published online previously.
Screenshots
Finally, we have some screens provided by Bizarre Creations for publication in magazines. There are literally hundreds of these, all categorised by city (London, Tokyo and San Francisco) and show a variety of lighting effects and special effects. Some of the effects shown are actually different in the final build of the game, and there are a couple that show advertising boards (most notable is the Sega logo with Sonic the Hedgehog) that weren't in the final game, either.
Feel free to share these images, but please give credit if you do. Once again, thanks go to our mysterious benefactor and if the promise of further unseen Dreamcast-related discoveries comes to bear fruit then we have some exciting things to look forward to!

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8 comments:

Daniel Turner said...

wowser! lot of great stuff there

RJAY63 said...

Thanks for posting Tom, great find! I've seen some of those "METGP" screens before (from a feature on the old CVG website did), but nothing as extensive. I guess there are no screenshots or any information about the online leaderboards on that disc by any chance?

Tom Charnock said...

Hey RJAY, I thought you might find this stuff interesting. No there’s nothing on the disc regarding the online leaderboards sadly. There’s also references to a missing folder that is meant to contain comparison shots of the locations in game and reality, as well as textures, but neither folder exists.

Florian Wallin said...

Really nice article! Thanks. Msr is a great game

Tom Charnock said...

Agreed - wonder what else there is left to discover about this game. Probably loads haha!

DoubleVision said...

Some amazing info, thanks

jon lee said...

blimey, awsome massive interview. I didnt realise sega had any hand at all in the games inception.

Spaceturnip said...

Excellent article Tom - each and every one of these MSR articles is making me want to go and start the game over.