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Classic Interview: Unreleased Dreamcast Games

The July 2000 issue of the Spanish DC Magazine included interviews with developers of two games that were announced for the Sega Dreamcast but never released, Dronez and Black & White. Dronez was in development by NIGMA Software and reportedly shared an aesthetic and gameplay similar to the light disc fights in the movie classic Tron. Originally slated to be a launch title, it was in development for several years and eventually shifted over to PC and remade.

Black & White was a “god” game developed by Peter Molyneux’s Lionhead Studios (Fable) that combined strategy and complex learning artificial intelligence. It was scheduled for a late 2000 release but was repeatedly delayed. Ultimately, the Dreamcast version was scrapped when Sega discontinued the console. Lionhead released the game on PC in March 2001 where it won multiple awards and sold over two million copies.


We’re here waiting to see what comes our way from Japan and the U.S. and the French get the idea to create multiplayer online games for the Dreamcast.  We spoke to the people at Zetha GameZ in Paris, whose first Dreamcast game, DroneZ, comes out at the end of the year. This game is along the same lines as the Atari arcade classic Discs of Tron and updates it with impressive 3D environments, online play, and bosses at the end of each level. You control a character who has to eliminate other players (either human or computer) that swarm on the other platforms.

Shots are pretty slow but they bounce off the walls, making the key to victory the ability to take an enemy by surprise by taking advantage of the ricocheting shots while dodging enemy fire (and ricochets). It sounds pretty good, so we went to speak to Giovanni Caturano de Setha to see how it was going.

DC Magazine: How is DroneZ coming along?

Giovanni Caturano: It’s coming along well. We’re now working with the online mode, and we’re getting the game’s single-player mode ready. The engine is pretty fast; it’s solid and stable, although the AI needs some refining, most of all the final bosses.

The graphics and models are all ready, except for a few bosses. We also have the soundtrack done (with more than 20 tracks) and most of the sound effects.

DC Magazine: When will it be available?

Giovanni Caturano: It’s hard to give a solid date because we don’t know how much time it will take us to put the finishing touches on the game after testing. I’d say it would probably come out between E3 and the ECTS 2000 [European Computer Trade Show] (May and September).

DC Magazine: Have you had many difficulties when programming online play?

Giovanni Caturano: No, not more than with any other network, although that doesn’t mean that there hasn’t been problems with Sega’s network. Our principle objective is that PC and Dreamcast players can play together.

DC Magazine: How does the online system work?

Giovanni Caturano: Parts of the game engine will be transferred to your Dreamcast in real time, instead of your DC having to process that data itself. The whole system will be based on this principle of “distributed computation” that assures a flued game in most cases and avoids drops while data is delayed between your console and the server.

DC Magazine: Who will distribute the game in Europe?

Giovanni Caturano: Various distributors around the world have shown interest but we haven’t yet reached an agreement with any of them. When we make our decision, we’ll announce it.

DC Magazine: Are you planning to make more games for the Dreamcast?

Giovanni Caturano: Yes, but it’s still too early to talk about them, sorry.

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One of the most exciting online games currently in development is Lionhead’s Black & White. It’s another variant of the “divine creation” simulators, and the brains behind all this are the people responsible for Populous and Theme Park. In the game, you face seven other participants in a mythical world and in it you Intermingle elements of the “divine creation” simulator and virtual pets, as you create your own character and then send them into battle for global supremacy.

Graphically, the game promises to be one of the best. The worlds are very well done, with great detail and as if that were not enough, you can zoom in with the camera without losing even a bit of quality. Additionally, the characters are very varied. To find out more about what’s planned for the Dreamcast version, we’ve gone to the person who can explain it best: Peter Molyneux; the head of Lionhead and creator of Black & White.

DC Magazine: How is the conversion going for the Dreamcast?

Peter Molyneux: It’s going very well. In just two months, we already have almost the entire landscape complete and Krisalis (who is in charge of the conversion) believes that by E3 (Note: This interview was held at the end of April) we will already have the creatures incorporated into the game.

DC Magazine: When will the game be ready?

Peter Molyneux: Definitely before holiday 2000, but we’d like to release it in October.

DC Magazine: Is it hard to create the online modes for Dreamcast games?

Peter Molyneux: The obvious answer is that 33k isn’t going to be enough. We all yearn for more bandwidth but converting Black & White from PC to Dreamcast has been made easier with Sega’s support. There are many aspects of the game that require special attention; like game saves, the locations of the objects, the towns and villages, the statistics of the opposing creature, and all this. Anyway, the “ping” times [the amount of time it takes for the data to travel between two computers or two consoles over the network] of the European server have had excellent results in the tests and we’re operating with a very reliable system. So, unlike what’s happening on Windows and Mac OS, the thing seems to work. Every aspect of the PC multiplayer experience will be included on the Dreamcast, including the awesome Gathering. We’re not going to leave anything out.

DC Magazine: How will the online games in Black & White work?

Peter Molyneux: There are two multiplayer modes: Black & White: The Gathering and Black & White World. In the first, players will be able to take their creature for a walk on the network and meet, chat, play and fight against other players’ pets. You can then place your creature back in the solo game and it will remember all the “experiences” it has had in the Gathering. The second mode offers players the possibility of traveling through the network to a special world where they can fight against seven other players, who are also like gods, to see who is the most powerful.

DC Magazine: How important will play over the Internet be in the future for video games?

Peter Molyneux: I think that the importance is utmost. We constantly see (especially in the United States) more and more interesting games on the Internet, and the fact that Sega and the other manufacturers of new generation consoles integrate their new machines to the Internet means that multiplayer games have a very bright future. It will be fascinating to see how these manufacturers and designers start to create online games because at the moment, all the games on the Internet are on the PC. I really want to see what kind of games we can enjoy with online consoles.

DC Magazine: What do you think of the Dreamcast?

Peter Molyneux: The Dreamcast has come out a year ahead of everyone else. That means that developers have already become more familiar with its capabilities. But to maintain this lead we need to see more Shenmue-level games. Original and unique games are what will make the Dreamcast grow.

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