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Thread: *Must Read* New Hideki Sato Interview on the Saturn

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    ESWAT Veteran Team Andromeda's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    One reason I translate this articles is so we don't have to rely on what you think

    But seriously, read it:

    https://www.sega-16.com/forum/showth...he-Sega-Saturn

    Anyway, as it says, the Hitachi developers created the SH-2 in response to requests from Sega for features such as a 32-bit multiplier and asynchronous DRAM circuit, so I think it's accurate to say the SH-2 was essentially designed for the Saturn.
    I have read it and then one also reads that Sato 'picked' the SH2 that doesn't read like SEGA and Hitachi developed the chip together. I very much doubt Hitachi would spend millions on R&D in the hope that SEGA would pick their chip to others.
    I suspect the partnership really happened after SEGA picked the chip and Hitachi based some of its staff in SEGA in 1993 Most of SEGA CPU's for their Arcades and home consoles were commercial chips, like a lot of consoles to be fair.
    Last edited by Team Andromeda; 12-30-2021 at 08:55 AM.
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    Mega Driver Hedgehog-in-TrainingMaster of Shinobi Gryson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Team Andromeda View Post
    I suspect the partnership really happened after SEGA picked the chip
    Will you please actually read the article?

    It clearly says the development of the SH-2 occurred after Sega decided to adopt the SH. It then proceeds to describe the Hitachi staff designing the SH-2 to include the features that Sega requested.

    The article is the account of the SH's creators. I think we can rely on it.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    Will you please actually read the article?

    It clearly says the development of the SH-2 occurred after Sega decided to adopt the SH. It then proceeds to describe the Hitachi staff designing the SH-2 to include the features that Sega requested.

    The article is the account of the SH's creators. I think we can rely on it.
    I have read it and I've also read what Hideki Sato had to say how he looked at what chips were around who picked the SH2 and also he was pleased that he later found out the SH2 could be stacked together
    That doesn't read to me like a CPU that was designed solely around the Sega Saturn and a CPU that SEGA and Hitachi developed together in complete partnership, that's all. I could well be wrong

    No doubt SEGA made requests to Hitachi over changes SEGA's engineers were looking for. I thought that was part of the course of SEGA's console and Arcade chips and no doubt Hiatchi looked to SEGA to use their CPU's; A great way to get really established and sell millions of CPU's.

    I liked the SH2 it was a great choice and the 1993 September partnership between both corps also gave SEGA full access to Hitachi 800 media force distribution network. Helping SEGA break NCL monopoly over the supply chain for consoles. Which no doubt help Saturn become SEGA's most successful console in Japan. It just seemed really good around

    Most of the stuff said about the Saturn is old tosh. It was a great system, with great graphics/sound and amazing games. It was just outclassed by SONY for top-end 3D. I feel the bigger mistakes was the handling of 32bit Sonic and splitting the Sega development and user fanbase between 2 rival 32bit systems, which never made any sense to me at any level.

    The Jupiter project was a far better idea and in a funny sort of way. The Series S should that way might have just worked.
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    A new online magazine devoted to Sega came out in Japan the other day called Beep21 (by the same people behind the famous Beep! print magazines of the 80s and 90s).

    The first issue features some incredible (and incredibly lengthy) interviews with Hideki Sato, Naoto Ohshima, and Koichi Nakamura.
    Thank you so much for posting this - repped!

    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    Sato: To be honest, in the beginning, I wasn’t thinking of 3D capabilities for the Saturn at all. This was partially my fault, but additionally, the game developers at Sega at the time had basically no knowledge of 3D game development. They had all been raised in the environment of 2D sprites and backgrounds, and the only developers who had any real experience with 3D were Yu Suzuki and AM2 with the Virtua series. I personally had created proposals for a number of polygon-based arcade systems by that time, and the only one who had shown any interest was Suzuki. Actually, all of the other developers wanted to continue developing using the same system they were used to. If you looked at every single Sega employee within the home console division, there were practically no programmers or designers who had any knowledge of polygon technology.

    What was special about Yu Suzuki at the time? He majored in math at university. More so than electronics, you have to be good at math to do 3D. That’s why Suzuki was ahead of everyone else in creating 3D polygon games. So, the situation at Sega was that if we made developers work on 3D games, they would have to study the fundamentals of math and geometry from scratch. Even the designers would have to study it. Up to then, designers had been drawing art pixel-by-pixel on a flat plane, including background art. If they suddenly had to do 3D CG art, they would have to learn it all from step one.

    I had taken a look at Sega’s development teams at the time and concluded, “It’s going to be impossible for them to do 3D games.” I mean, we had over 1,000 developers working in the development division at Sega then. The Saturn was going to be released in 1994, but software development for it had to begin in 1993—and in some cases even in 1992. With all that in mind, I concluded that there was no way Sega’s development assets would be able to do 3D. However, the PlayStation completely embraced polygons.
    This is the crux of the situation right here. You could have the best hardware in the world and it wouldn't matter if your employees don't know how to use it. I realize hindsight is 20/20, but would it really have been that hard to hire a few math majors or pay your employees to take calc and linear algebra? Maybe that wasn't the culture back then but today companies routinely fund continuing education for employees. If they couldn't get up to speed in time maybe it would have been better not to release the Saturn in 1994?

    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    Well, in a recent interview Ed Annunziata talked about those times inside SOA and it seems to me that internally the creators weren't sold much less asking for the 32X either.
    I tend to think the 32X was more of a plan by Kalinske to keep/expand the freedom they had, so they would work on 32X games independently from SOJ, have their "own" platform, etc.
    IIRC there's also interviews of the time about SOA wanting to beef up the Saturn prior to its US release.
    Again, it all sounds to me like they wanted to have their own lane by having their own hardware.

    I like Ed's interviews 'cause he sounds genuine to me and more like a creative mind than the corporate bs narratives you usually get from former SOA people:
    https://www.arcadeattack.co.uk/ed-annunziata-interview/
    43:00 - 32X pitch, hating the idea of bridging the gap, being convinced by Joe Miller, not willing to develop an Ecco game to it, how Kolibri was conceived.

    51:15 - 3D Kolibri and final 32X thoughts.
    It's a cool interview except it kills me every time he pronounces Kolibri as "Kolly-Bree". It's supposed to be "Ko-Lee-Bree", as in the genus for violet eared hummingbirds. Kind of hilarious he was inspired by an angry hummingbird though.

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    Mega Driver Hedgehog-in-TrainingMaster of Shinobi Gryson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post
    This is the crux of the situation right here. You could have the best hardware in the world and it wouldn't matter if your employees don't know how to use it. I realize hindsight is 20/20, but would it really have been that hard to hire a few math majors or pay your employees to take calc and linear algebra? Maybe that wasn't the culture back then but today companies routinely fund continuing education for employees. If they couldn't get up to speed in time maybe it would have been better not to release the Saturn in 1994?
    Interesting questions.

    One goal I have in posting translations like these is to hopefully move people away from the kind of hindsight-biased armchair theorizing that dominates any discussion of Sega's past. I think it's much more interesting to understand the rationale behind these difficult decisions than to try to appear superior from the vantage point of hindsight.

    So many people have accused Sega of "burying their heads in the sand" concerning 3D graphics when it came to the design of the Saturn. The situation is so much more complex than that.

    The first thing to consider is that these design decisions were taking place in early to mid 1992. To put that in context:

    • Sonic the Hedgehog, the hottest game Sega had ever developed, was released less than a year before.
    • Street Fighter II, also released the previous year, was reviving and boosting the arcade scene around the world.
    • Virtua Racing was only released towards the end of 1992. A smattering of polygon-based arcade games had been released before then but failed to become smash hits.
    • Doom was only released at the very end of 1993.


    But, setting all of that aside - what this interview with Sato shows is that it was never about whether or not 3D was the future of gaming (as Sato said, he himself had attempted to promote 3D arcade hardware within the company). The initial Saturn design reflected a practical problem: developing 3D software was a huge unknown for developers, and not only in a technical sense. Was 3D viable beyond the racing genre? Would users prefer blocky polygons over richly detailed pixel art in their RPGs? What kind of budgets and timetables were required to develop 3D games? From Sato's 1992 perspective, it must have been a huge gamble. It was far safer to go with the known quantity.

    So, I don't really think this was a problem that could be solved by educating employees in calculus. Most of the industry lacked the know-how of designing games using polygons. That is why the release of Virtua Fighter was such a monumental point in the PlayStation's history - it sparked the imaginations of Japanese developers. I should also point out that once it became clear that 3D was going to be important for the next console generation, Sega's developers did adapt. But it was that unknown that caused Sato's initial miss.

    And I do love Sato's reasoning as to why Kutaragi and the PlayStation team were able to emphasize 3D from the start: they just didn't know any better. Their ambitious naivety about the game industry is what allowed them to take the risk from the beginning. It could have easily backfired, though. What if there was no showcase 3D title like Virtua Fighter? What if the hardware turned out less capable than necessary? What if publishers just couldn't afford the increased costs?

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    And I do love Sato's reasoning as to why Kutaragi and the PlayStation team were able to emphasize 3D from the start: they just didn't know any better. Their ambitious naivety about the game industry is what allowed them to take the risk from the beginning.
    ^ This.


    Also, I took (somewhat recently) calc I/2/3. I'm not sure what that has to do with 3D, but I did take linear algebra and definitely saw the connection there - but 3D isn't really my thing.

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    Quote Originally Posted by turboxray View Post
    ^ This.


    Also, I took (somewhat recently) calc I/2/3. I'm not sure what that has to do with 3D, but I did take linear algebra and definitely saw the connection there - but 3D isn't really my thing.
    You're right, I took calc before linear algebra so in my mind I just think of them being in that order, but it isn't necessary.
    Back in the 90s I wrote a simple raycaster engine in C++/DJGPP, it wasn't very good or anything but it was a learning experience.

    My only point is that it isn't that hard to get started with that sort of stuff if you're willing to put in the time to learn a few new skills.
    Not having a background in math really limits what you can do.
    Last edited by axel; 12-30-2021 at 10:38 PM.

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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post

    This is the crux of the situation right here. You could have the best hardware in the world and it wouldn't matter if your employees don't know how to use it. I realize hindsight is 20/20
    It's always about the games and a game that says 'Buy Me' . The Vita was such an amazing handheld and it had awesome tech, but it just never got enough good games or market share to get wide support.
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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post
    My only point is that it isn't that hard to get started with that sort of stuff if you're willing to put in the time to learn a few new skills.
    Not having a background in math really limits what you can do.
    The scope of the required changes were far bigger than that though.
    It's not all about programming.

    As cited in the interview, the artists weren't ready for that either.
    It's reasonable to assume that they had pretty good and streamlined process for pixel art/sprites creation, sprite animation, coloring, etc.
    For 3D it takes a whole different process - animation for once, can be quite different - with a whole new set of tools.
    They weren't at all used to create assets for texture mapped games, etc.

    Also, 3D was far more challenging (and less proven) in some genres than others.
    3D arcade racing games were still using the same default camera angle of the scaler ones or even the older line-scrolling and animation based stuff. Steering wheels and pedals had been analog for years already, gameplay wasn't that much different, etc.

    3D fighting games had maybe expanded a bit more on the gameplay but for the most part you could still play them as their 2D counterparts.

    But those are just two genres.
    How about platformers, beat'em ups, action adventure, etc.?
    Yeah, that would take a lot longer to figure out. If anything, figuring out the camera, the gameplay scope and the world rules would already be a nightmare. And I'm not even talking about coding anything yet.
    Bigger teams are also more difficult to manage.

    As Gryson said, the context can't be ignored.
    Sega had tried several ways to have major console hits before Sonic but it was Sonic, a fast-paced mascot 2D platformer which gave them what they wanted and then some.
    It wasn't the shmups, it wasn't the super scaler downports, it wasn't a racing game, etc.

    In hindsight it's logical to criticize a lot of their choices but hardly any of them came out of thin air.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Gryson View Post
    And I do love Sato's reasoning as to why Kutaragi and the PlayStation team were able to emphasize 3D from the start: they just didn't know any better. Their ambitious naivety about the game industry is what allowed them to take the risk from the beginning. It could have easily backfired, though. What if there was no showcase 3D title like Virtua Fighter? What if the hardware turned out less capable than necessary? What if publishers just couldn't afford the increased costs?
    I wonder if this last part is selling Kutaragi a little short. For example, in Revolutionaries at Sony it is explained how the team worked diligently to reduce operations in the polygon processing units by optimizing linear algebra calculations to optimize the circuit design, similar to how Yu Suzuki (supposedly) optimized the model 1 board to the point that it would be cheap enough to sell. That hardly seems like an unfocused isolated attempt. The separation of polygon processing math away from the CPU to the "GPU" was also a very critical decision. Once the hardware was clearly capable and cheap, and publishers were interested in escaping Sega/Nintendo, there would have been very little cause for concern.

    I suspect it may have been initially naive ambition upon seeing Virtua Fighter, but shortly after Kutaragi's team was able to lean on Sony's vast resources to hire/interact with engineers that were experienced with 3D, probably from the movie industry that Sony had roots in but Sega/Nintendo had absolutely no connection with. They were the ones who were able to provide the resources to engineer a powerful and efficient 3D engine. This isn't mentioned anywhere, but it's my theory for what actually tipped the scales. Just "taking a risk" early wouldn't have been enough I think.

    There actually aren't a lot of resources about the details of the PS1's hardware engineering like there are for Saturn (thanks to Gryson!). Even Revolutionaries was only 20% about the engineering, and the rest was about the business side of things. I wonder if there are more resources in Japanese.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Blades View Post
    I wonder if this last part is selling Kutaragi a little short.
    Yep, maybe SONY News workstations or whatever they were called ) also gave SONY a heads up too and I think we're also selling Namco short too. System 21 came out long before Model 1 and System 22 also came out a bit before Model2; I remember members of the Panzer Dragoon team saying Star Blade was a massive inspiration to them with its 3D graphics and polygons. Think we also sell CORE short too, just look at what a 15 man team did on their 2nd 3D polygon game They showed up most of the world, and no doubt the polygon graphics in a lot of Microcomputers gave the likes of CORE a huge headstart, while most of Japan was in 2D. Speaking of which, can't help but think one of the main reasons Saturn was hurt too, was the move with the PC's to leave Assembly and move to C. It really helped the Mega Drive in the west than many PC games could easily make the switch to the MD, but for the Saturn, this wasn't quite the case and this was an area SONY called so spot on and it really helped the PS.
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    damn, that was good - must spread around some rep etc etc


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    Quote Originally Posted by axel View Post
    You're right, I took calc before linear algebra so in my mind I just think of them being in that order, but it isn't necessary.
    Back in the 90s I wrote a simple raycaster engine in C++/DJGPP, it wasn't very good or anything but it was a learning experience.

    My only point is that it isn't that hard to get started with that sort of stuff if you're willing to put in the time to learn a few new skills.
    Not having a background in math really limits what you can do.
    Yeah, and having even a single person obsessed/expert/etc on the team that people can go to, is definitely a big help. The 3D "IPT lead" haha.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Barone View Post
    The scope of the required changes were far bigger than that though.
    It's not all about programming.

    As cited in the interview, the artists weren't ready for that either.
    It's reasonable to assume that they had pretty good and streamlined process for pixel art/sprites creation, sprite animation, coloring, etc.
    For 3D it takes a whole different process - animation for once, can be quite different - with a whole new set of tools.
    They weren't at all used to create assets for texture mapped games, etc.
    That's also a fair point. You have the programmers, but you also have the artists and the game designers themselves.

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    Mega Driver Hedgehog-in-TrainingMaster of Shinobi Gryson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Blades View Post
    I wonder if this last part is selling Kutaragi a little short. For example, in Revolutionaries at Sony it is explained how the team worked diligently to reduce operations in the polygon processing units by optimizing linear algebra calculations to optimize the circuit design, similar to how Yu Suzuki (supposedly) optimized the model 1 board to the point that it would be cheap enough to sell. That hardly seems like an unfocused isolated attempt. The separation of polygon processing math away from the CPU to the "GPU" was also a very critical decision. Once the hardware was clearly capable and cheap, and publishers were interested in escaping Sega/Nintendo, there would have been very little cause for concern.
    By "increased costs," I meant the costs of developing games (e.g., the greatly increased number of staff, the increased time). I was pointing out factors that were really out of the hands of Sony, to demonstrate that they were taking a big risk in the direction they chose (which occurred well before the release of Virtua Fighter).

    I'll post a few excerpts here that add to what Sato has said:

    When the Sony team was trying to attract 3rd parties in 1993, they were told the following by presumably Capcom (Revolutionaries at Sony, p. 63):

    Does Sony really want to commit suicide with the game business? Ours is a 2-D-image culture; we have no interest in 3-D images.
    Akira Sato, the PlayStation marketing boss, said the following (Revolutionaries at Sony, p. 58):

    When we asked them to join us, the software houses all said, '3-D computer graphics won't happen for another ten years. Only people who have no idea of the realities of software development would talk about programming games in computer programming language (C).'
    Namco, one of the leaders in 3D arcade tech at the time, responded in the following manner to Sony (Revolutionaries at Sony, p. 61):

    Namco, for example, found it utterly inconceivable that 3-D computer graphics could soon make its way into the home market. They responded to Sony at their first meeting: "The PlayStation represents extremely advanced technology. We doubt that it can be applied to consumer equipment." ...At that time an arcade game machine incorporating computer graphics technology cost $18,000.
    Here's a quote demonstrating that the decision to make the PlayStation 3D-based was not clear-cut even within Sony:

    [Sony producer] Akagawa said that it was challenging to properly budget and push for games that used 3-D graphics. "What if we make the PlayStation using 2-D hardware? Such an idea was seriously considered," Akugawa said. Former Sony Computer Entertainment chairman Shigeo Maruyama explained that Sony employees visited other game companies to see how 3-D graphics could be presented, as no one inside Sony besides "father of the PlayStation" Ken Kutaragi really understood it.
    The release of Virtua Fighter in August 1993 coincided with the shift in Sony's favor. Here is a quote from Teruhisa Tokunaka, the overall manager of the PlayStation project (Revolutionaries at Sony, p. 65):

    We can't thank Sega enough for the timing of Virtua Fighter's release. They proved at just the right time that it was possible to make games with 3-D images. From then on, the tide turned in our favor.
    Demonstrating the impact that Virtua Fighter had on other developers, including Namco (Revolutionaries at Sony, p. 70):

    Namco, like its rivals, was taken aback by Sega's Virtua Fighter. Sega, Namco's archrival in the arcade game machine market, had developed a 3-D combat game that turned people's heads. A new genre of 3-D computer graphics, a technology many had believed would not be commercialized until the next century, had made a bold appearance in the market for arcade game software.
    Kutaragi gambled on 3D. He gambled that developers/publishers would be interested, that games would be feasible with the tech, and that users would be interested.

    An interesting comparison is the way that Sega gambled on networked gaming beginning in 1990 with the Mega Modem. No one can deny that online gaming is huge now and that Sega had the foresight to implement it in its consoles before anyone else, but it was still a gamble that didn't pay off.

    In 1992, Sato was unable/unwilling to risk Sega's consumer business on such a big gamble. Sony forced their hand, though.

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