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Showing posts with label Shoichiro Irimajiri. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Shoichiro Irimajiri. Show all posts

Examining Yu Suzuki's 'Tower Of Babel' 1998 Dreamcast Tech Demo

Way back in May 1998, Sega of Japan held a conference announcing the impending arrival of its new console. It was to be named Dreamcast. The Sega New Challenge Conference was the first time that the world was formally introduced to Sega's successor to the Saturn, and the hype was very real. The gaze of the world's press was focused on a small lectern on a darkened stage, as Sega of Japan President  Shoichiro Irimajiri revealed the final form of the new console; while on a huge screen behind him tech demos showed off what the hardware was capable of.
1998 was a magical year.
The first of these demos showed a Irimajiri's head rendered in real time, while various effects were applied to it - lighting, textures and morphing effects showed what the Dreamcast could do. It also featured a glimpse of a fully rendered 3D Sonic the Hedgehog, the first time we got to see the model that would later be used in Sonic Adventure. To this day, the 'Iri-San' tech demo has remained undumped and is most likely locked away in a vault somewhere in Sega's Japanese headquarters.
 Image source: Edge Magazine issue 60
The second tech demo, and the focus of this particular article became known as the 'Tower of Babel' demo, where viewers were taken on whirlwind tour of a fully polygonal settlement built around the base of an enormous tower. The squat buildings set on an idyllic isle, the sun setting in the distance while the huge cylindrical tower rose above the winding streets. It really is a striking and curious scene, and while it may not seem very impressive by modern standards, back in 1998 these types of sequences had never been seen running in real time on console hardware; and as you might expect they were spread across the pages of gaming magazines the world over.
Image source: Edge Magazine issue 60
I personally remember seeing the images of the Irimajiri and Babel (or Babylon, as it's sometimes referred to) tech demos reproduced in glorious fuzz-o-vision in the pages of several magazines at the time of the Dreamcast's announcement; and being amazed and excited in equal measure. But then, after the initial excitement made way for the actual launch of the system (and with other tech demos coming along too - which have similarly never been leaked online); I pretty much forgot about Irimajiri's floating head and the mysterious little village huddled on that lonely rock in the shadow of a tower. That was until I finally got to see the thing for myself in real time, and thanks to the power of the internet, so can you...