Thursday, July 19, 2018

Why you need to read The Sega Arcade Revolution...

The Sega Arcade Revolution is a dream to read - it’s informative without being overwhelming; it’s technical without being dry. The way in which Horowitz weaves Sega’s arcade history through the development backstory of over 60 games is seamless and smart. Whilst some of the content amounts to a beautifully compiled regurgitation of existing interviews and documentation that an ardent Sega fan may have previously read, this is complemented with informative new translations to keep the experience fresh. Overall, this is the simplest way to digest Sega’s sprawling arcade history without referring to an array of disparate sources.

The choice of games hits all the right notes, highlighting the innovations and limitations of each title, rather than presenting each as a bona-fide classic. I loved the Power Drift backstory which detailed the unorthodox methods employed by the development team. They constructed a physical plaster and paper model of the tracks, which were raced with remote controlled cars. This tested the technical validity of the designs before translating tracks into software.

If I was to level one criticism at The Sega Arcade Revolution, it would be with the supporting imagery. This is mostly limited to dry US flyers, coin-op trade magazine covers and corporate photos. It would have levelled up the experience to see design docs, concept artwork and Japanese promotional imagery closer to the creative process. I’m presuming this was due to licensing limitations and access to the source material. The cover is a particularly odd choice, given so few Sega arcade games use 6 buttons, but it does reinforce the old adage - so don’t judge the book by it!

A book of this depth and quality is a rare occurrence and I applaud Ken Horowitz for pouring passion into a project that, at times, felt like it was written for me personally rather than for a wider audience. I’d advise anyone with even a passing curiosity about the inner workings of Sega to purchase a copy.

Monday, July 02, 2018

CannonBall Interview [OutRun Week on Scarflix!]

Youtube channel Scarflix are hosting a week of awesome OutRun related content!

There's even an interview with an awkward British guy, talking about CannonBall...

Also check out:

Top 5 Things You Didn't Know about OutRun

Tuesday, June 12, 2018

The Insanity of Sega Super Circuit (セガスーパーサーキット)

I’ve always had a strange fascination with Sega Super Circuit (SSC). SSC was conceived and developed by Sega’s Mechatronics R&D department, and it went through a series of iterations between 1987 and 1990. It was a bold attempt to combine multiplayer arcade racing with real world remote controlled cars. Visitors to venues including Sega World, Tokyo could watch up to 6 RC cars whizzing around a track, set in a futuristic city, that when unravelled was 103 metres long. 

The track itself took up a total floorspace width of 20 metres, with each section between 1.5 and 2 metres wide. This was not an attraction that would fit in your typical arcade! 

The 6 participants raced an RC vehicle, controlled from a converted OutRun deluxe cabinet. The 26 inch cabinet monitors relayed video footage from the CCD camera onboard each RC car. The cabinet’s controls were mapped to the RC’s controls, allowing players to steer, accelerate, brake and reverse. The cabinet’s motion would even kick in during collisions and whilst steering. The advertising boasted that the sense of speed was close to 300 km/h when playing. 

The RC cars themselves were relatively compact: 16cm by 35cm and weighing in at 1.9kg including the battery. 

SSC was hosted by a live commentator, with a dedicated team required to keep the attraction running successfully. In many ways the concept has parallels to a modern e-sport competition, with the added advantage of something physical for spectators to enjoy. 

Best race times, lap times and general champion ranking were displayed in leaderboards by the course. 

There was also a bank of 6 external monitors for on board views of the action.

An operator control room, situated in the middle of the track housed a set of 10 inch screens to monitor the race. From here, it was possible to configure endurance races, (apparently including “Le Mans 24 hours” and “Indianapolis 500”) as well as sprint races. Exactly how these worked is unclear. The races themselves look somewhat chaotic from the surviving video footage. Reports from those lucky enough to try the exhibit first-hand, claim it was rather difficult to even drive straight! 

What impresses me the most about SSC, is its scale and ambition. It's a manifestation of Sega at the height of their arcade powers. The footage shows that the camera feed from the RC cars is imperfect and prone to breaking up; Sega were clearly pushing the limits of late 80s technology.  It must have been a complex operation to run logistically and it’s hard to imagine arcade operators beyond Sega having the space or resources to maintain such a complex attraction. It must have cost a fortune to design, construct and operate.

  • July 1987 - Sega Super Circuit (then known as ‘Super Game Z’ and a joint venture with Nissan) was first demonstrated at Communication Carnival Yume Koujou '87 [youtube]
  • 1988 - SSC is officially named and demonstrated at the 88 Amusement Machine Show [youtube]
  • 1989 - SSC exhibited at YES '89 Yokohama Expo [youtube]
  • 1989 - SSC transferred to Sega World, Tokyo Roof
  • 1990 - Last known operational date


The configuration of SSC varied dependent on the venue. This included changes to the number of cars on track, through to changes to the track design. The earliest version, featured different car designs, a minature roller coaster and giant monster prop

Super Game Z was reportedly a design influence on Sega's 1988 sprite scaling kart racer, Power Drift. 


I recently managed to purchase the original flyer for the attraction. It wasn’t easy to find and there were no high quality scans online, and so finally here they are! Please link back to this blog if you make use of them. High quality versions here.

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Play OutRun on the Nintendo Switch via CannonBall

CannonBall was recently ported to the Nintendo Switch console by Modern Vintage Gaming. Hoorah, OutRun everywhere! 

Github Repository here

Wednesday, March 21, 2018

The Space Harrier prototype featuring a Harrier Jet!

It's common knowledge that Space Harrier was originally intended to feature a harrier jet. However, technical limitations regarding the rotation of the jet sprite meant that this idea was dropped late into development. Recently, some screen captures surfaced from a video showing the prototype machine in action at the Amusement Show in Japan. 

The side-art and marquee are different. However, the colour palette and general aesthetic appear similar in the screenshots. 

The above cabinet design is similar to the prototype drawing that appears in Yu Suzuki's GameWorks Vol 1.

Of course, it was too late to change all aspects of the design, and Space Harrier still launched with an aircraft inspired control panel. The jet idea was fully realized two years and two hardware cycles later when Sega released the X-Board hardware with AfterBurner. Custom maths hardware, and extra sprite data enabled Yu Suzuki's original vision to be executed competently by this point. 

Sources: 1, 2 

Tuesday, February 06, 2018

Build Your Own OutRun Cab: Dorimaga Papercraft Model

Following on from the Space Harrier model, I've (finally) scanned the the September 2004 issue of Dorimaga magazine.

This includes Sega History Papercraft Vol 3, a constructable model of the deluxe sitdown OutRun Cabinet. How cool is that?

If you have any issues in the series, please let me know.

High resolution scans here.

Thursday, January 18, 2018

Build your own Space Harrier cab: Dorimaga papercraft model

Thanks to Sean Tagg for scanning the Space Harrier papercraft model included with Dorimaga magazine.

Sean mentions, "I enlarged the sheet to A3 and laminated it. I have used this to then make a model from balsa wood. The screen is a photo keychain. The seat is fabric too! Just need to add the coin tower."

Here's the finished article, now with coin tower:

Finally, a link to the scan if you want to build one yourself.

...and yes, I need to scan my Dorimaga OutRun magazine at some point soon. I've misplaced it for the time being, but it will show up somewhere!