Tuesday, October 01, 2019

Raiding Hiro's Sega Audio Archives

In recent years, Sega consolidated its scattered Tokyo offices to a centralised building in Ousaki. One office that closed at the start of 2019 was the Otorii office. This office had been the key development hub since September 1985, shortly after Hang-On development concluded. As such, intriguing development materials were unearthed in the process.

Sega Otorii Office Building

Hiro posted a vast collection of audio planning documents and media from 1985 through to the early 1990s. When Hiro joined Sega in 1984, music was composed on hand-written sheets.


Space Harrier Sheet Music. Note that game was called 'Heli' at this stage, as the fantasy theme had not yet been adopted.

Synthesizers used to compose the melodies included the Yamaha DX-7 for Space Harrier and the Yamaha PSR-70 for AfterBurner. The sheet music was manually transcribed into Macro Music Language for the audio engine to process. This took the format of the note, followed by its length (e.g. C-4, L4, A#4, L8). Once assembled, the actual audio could be tested on hardware. Needless to say this would have been a time consuming process.

Hiro's ROM cartridges for the Yamaha DX-7 Synthesizer

For the arcade games of this era, sound comprised lo-fi 8-bit samples used for voices, drums and sound effects. The samples were paired with a YM sound source (typically a Yamaha YM2203 or YM2151 chip), mostly used for melodies. YM sounds could be created and edited with an audio editor, which ensured each game had its own style, despite sharing audio hardware. For example, AfterBurner's 'Final Take Off' uses the YM to drive the melodies, but the overlaid guitars are in fact samples.

Data was saved to 8 inch floppy disks.

The following labels read 'OutRun 2' in reference to the revision of the music, as opposed to being anything to do with OutRun's sequel. I wonder if the earlier revisions of the OutRun music still exist?



OutRun's 'Passing Breeze' was initially named 'Passing Wind', until someone pointed out the flatulence reference. So the disk below must date from the end of the development process!


AfterBurner was aptly referred to as 'Top Gun' during development, and the final audio program code appears to have been named TG.HEX. Some of the disks are dated 9th September 1987. 





It appears that data was transferred over the years between 8 inch floppy, through to 5.25 and 3.5 inch floppy for preservation. 




Here we can see the list of commands Power Drift's main 68k program code needed to send to the Z80 Sub program in order to trigger the relevant sound. 





The final Power Drift master. Later on Digital Audio Tapes (DAT) replaced reel-to-reel recordings. 




Friday, July 12, 2019

AfterBurner City Cabinet

This popped up on Yahoo auctions and I thought it was worth preserving here. In Japan, Sega appear to have released an official conversion kit to turn a generic Sega City cabinet into AfterBurner.

City cabinets are relatively small (580 x 715 x 1000 mm) and at only 60kg, less than half the weight of a normal upright AfterBurner.








Sunday, February 10, 2019

Sega Game Cards

Western arcade gamers were accustomed to overflowing pockets of loose change, but Japanese arcade centres had a more elegant solution: Game Cards. These were magnetic cards, pre-loaded with credits and read by a card reader attached to the arcade cabinet. As the card was used, the reader punched holes to denote the number of credits used.


Two types of card were common: 500 cards provided 12 credits and 1000 cards 24 credits. Most games were set to 2 credits per play, although this was variable. For ¥500 you therefore gained credits and a collectable card to keep.

Cards were branded by game, but could be used with any compatible machine. It was common for game centres to add their personal branding to the cards and many variants exist. The system was reportedly not successful in the long-term (source: Sega Arcade History).

The Sega cards were numbered as follows. I'll complete missing entries as I find out more information.

1 SPACE HARRIER (Number not shown on card)
2 FANTASY ZONE (Number not shown on card)
3 OUTRUN
4 ALEX KIDD
5 SUPER HANG-ON (1000 version)
6 DUNK SHOT
SUPER HANG-ON (500 version)
8 AFTERBURNER
9 SUPER LEAGUE
10 HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMP
11 THUNDER BLADE
12 HOT ROD
13 GALAXY FORCE II
14 POWER DRIFT
15 UNKNOWN

16 UNKNOWN

17 TURBO OUTRUN

18 SUPER MONACO GP

19 G-LOC (1000 Version)

20 G-LOC (500 Version)

21 R-360

Cards were also available exclusively at the AM and AOU trade shows from Sega booths. Some example follow.

24th AM SHOW (OUTRUN & HOTROD)


25TH AM SHOW (HEAVYWEIGHT CHAMP & THUNDER BLADE)

87 AOU SHOW (SUPER HANG-ON, then HANG-ON II)

88 HAPPY NEW HARRIER
SEGA ATTRACTIONS

OTHER GAMES



Special thanks to Sean Tagg for helping me with images and information for this post. Don't let this man spend any more money on game cards. Or at least donate him some for free!