Rumor Mill: Sega Trying to Make a Comeback

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 21, 2011 by Jon Rivera for an outside publication)

 

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The Sega RingEdge.

 

After the commercial failure that was the Sega Dreamcast, Sega has been out of the hardware market for quite some time. With game development and publishing being the two main priorities for the company Sega has been churning out a great deal of titles for all major platforms including Nintendo systems. It was hard to believe that Sonic the Hedgehog games would ever be developed for the same system that Mario titles would be released on. It would seem that hardware does not exist in Sega’s future.

However, several patents issued from Sega have unearthed old questions that originally had answers. One thing to keep in mind is that Sega has been using a pretty advanced arcade hardware for its current arcade game development endeavors. One of the first games to use this hardware technology was a robot combat game easily paralleled with the Virtual On franchise called Border Break. The hardware it used was the Ring Edge system board. This hardware is essentially a computer in a horizontally set enclosure which has ports on the back for display signal, power peripherals. In terms of the device’s specifications Ring Edge the CPU is a 1.8 GHz Intel Pentium Dual-Core, the GPU is an Nvidia GeForce 8800GS with 384 MB of video memory, Supports DVI (could be adjusted to support VGA / HDMI), has 3 USB ports, contains a 32 GB solid state hard drive, has support for Ethernet and Sega ALL.NET, uses the Microsoft Windows Embedded operating system variant, and supports 5.1 high definition audio.

 

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A patent for a new controller.

 

 

These are all features that one would expect to be in a current generation game system and a solid state drive for file storage is a nice feature. Though this is for arcade applications, there is a slightly less powerful variant of this hardware known as Ring Wide which cuts a couple of features like storage and the amount of ports. The Ring Wide architecture is more of a viable candidate for making a home entertainment platform.

However, these two hardware skews would a moot point without the fact that Sega Enterprises is the assignee of a few patents approved from 2008 to 2010 that reveal controller designs and concepts for modular expansions. Some of these features range from something as simple as an arcade joystick to having add-ons like a six axis pack and support for precision control with a trackball attachment. There also patents for a basic controller that can be used for classic games if the platform had support for an online infrastructure that allow users to download and play classic Sega games. The last patent was for a memory unit that is able to interact with both a controller and the console.

 

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Border Break is one of the games that will take advantage of this new hardware.

 

 

These patents use some design styles that look like something belonging to the Dreamcast or the Saturn. However, it is common for conceptual design patents to use aesthetic designs from previous devices if the concept is still in its infancy. This is most likely true for the controller designs that take on the appearance of the Sega Saturn 3D controller. The retro game controller is obviously a new controller design in terms of aesthetics which does not look like anything that Sega would have designed in the 1990’s. The Dreamcast-esque look in the memory storage device abstract may be relevant to Sega’s past registering of the Dreamcast 2 name for a website domain. As of right now, the domain name expired on June 19, 2011 and has not been renewed yet. It is not confirmed that Sega is planning on getting into the hardware business again, but just the fact that Sega has the decent hardware that can be repurposed on top of patented designs for control and memory storage devices makes it easy to think that Sega is up to something. Though the failures of the Sega CD, Sega 32X, Saturn and Dreamcast nearly destroyed Sega the company has been making a comeback with publishing and developing software in house. Perhaps Sega is capable of getting back into the game.

If Sega were to attempt a platform push the company would have to figure out how to slowly separate from developing for the three major hardware platforms and rekindle the company’s relationship with third party publishers and developers. It would great to see Sega restore itself to its original glory as seen in the Genesis days. Unfortunately it may be some time before this ever comes to pass if it does at all.

Shadows of Lylat Development Slowing Down

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 12, 2011 by Jon Rivera for an outside publication)

 

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A side by side comparison of the original Arwing and the redux version for Shadows of Lylat.

It appears that development on the fan made Star Fox game called Shadows of Lylat has slowed down to a snail’s pace over the past few months. There is very little information specifically as to the reason for this. Shadows of Lylat has been in development for the PC for several years now and has been utilizing the Freespace 2 engine. As a labor of love there is no aim make money on the final product. The main goal of this project is to bring Star Fox back in a way that is reminiscent of the first two games in the franchise; most specifically Star Fox 64.

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A still shot of the Arwing flying on planet. Possibly Corneria.

 

Unfortunately, there is little news on the ongoing progress of Shadows of Lylat and the main website has not revealed any more updates past the last update in July of 2010 which reported on some new music tracks to be included in the final game. Unbeknownst to anyone who may rely on this one site for SoL info, more relatively recent new is available on game-warden.com about how the development process has been moving along.

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Another shot of game play on planet.

 

However, even the Shadows of Lylat forum is showing a slow down in updates pertaining to progress. There have not been many screenshots released recently and only a couple of threads show recent activity. The last trailer was released on July 2, 2009 and showed some of the game in action. It looks like a legitimate Star Fox game that feels familiar, but also looks to be a more sophisticated experience as opposed to previous games in the series which have been intended for all audiences.

The slower pace of development is even discouraging some of the members of the SoL community. Some members have been following this project for years now. One of the forum members SHADOW FOX recently stated in the ‘Info’ section of the forum:

“I can’t help but feel that this whole project is dead. This is the first time I’ve checked this site in a few years, and it seems like there’s no info on progress…”

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The new conceptualization of the Great Fox.

A broad explanation has been offered by a member of the Shadows of Lylat Team in an attempt to shed some light on the game’s current state. Web developer for the SoL website Brock Barnett (a.k.a. Brockenstein) spoke out on the issue and responded with:

“All I am at liberty to say is we are weighing out the pros and cons of a few decisions right now. By no means is the project dead. Sorry for the slowdown in updates though.”

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A shot of the Arwing flying alongside the Great Fox.

Hopefully these design choices will be worked out and set in stone so that development on Shadows of Lylat can resume as normal. This work in progress may not be dead, but there has been no mention of anything in the form screenshots, videos, or even a playable build in the near future. For now, anyone with invested interest in this dream project may be waiting some time before a demo is released.

 

 

Got a line on some new info in the world of video games? drop us a line at: solidstateromcast@gmail.com

Mirror’s Edge 2 no Longer on Hiatus

(Editor’s Note: This article was originally published on July 8, 2011 by Jon Rivera for an outside publication.)

 

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This viral faux wanted poster featuring Faith Connor’s visage was widely distributing in an effort to build hype for her debut in Mirror’s Edge in 2008.

 

Roughly three years have passed since Mirror’s Edge debuted on the Xbox 360 and PS3 in late 2008. This, along with immensely successful sci fi horror third person shooter Dead Space, made up a double shot of original intellectual properties in an attempt on EA’s part to freshen things up in the industry. This effort was only half successful as Dead Space has moved on to be a popular franchise as where Mirror’s Edge has been left behind. However, it is not hard to see why this is the case.

Dead Space was a relatively safe move on EA’s part, but Mirror’s Edge was a bold yet risky move and the game did not pull the numbers that EA was expecting. Clearly, Mirror’s Edge did not fare well with the critics or the holiday season release. Nonetheless, lead producer Owen O’Brian went on to say that the first Mirror’s Edge was meant to be one part in a trilogy as far as the story arc goes. On top of this, it was confirmed in the middle of 2009 by EA Europe’s senior vice president Patrick Söderland that a small development team at DICE was working on the follow up to Mirror’s Edge. Unfortunately, there has been very little information on how the development was progressing.

At first it seemed as if Mirror’s Edge 2 was a possibility and that this IP would grow into a franchise, but in the middle of February EA officially pulled the plug on the project. Allegedly, a prototype made by the DICE team was presented to EA which resulted in EA rejecting the build outright. While this may have been a questionable move, it is important to note that EA could have been reallocating development muscle to work on Battlefield 3 which is from one of the company’s larger franchises.

This caused a substantial amount of unrest in the gaming blog community. Over time the first game garnered a dedicated fan base. Some of these folks have been waiting ever since first game launched three years ago. This discontent must have made its way back to EA because the company issued a response to 1up.com stating that Mirror’s Edge is “an important franchise”, but refused to comment on Mirror’s Edge 2’s current state and did not confirm or deny any rumor relating to EA pulling the ME2 team in order to work on Battlefield 3. During a recent Gametrailers.com interview, Frank Gibeau of EA alluded toward Mirror’s Edge 2 no longer being put on hiatus and also hinted at this title taking full use of Battlefield 3’s Frostbite 2 engine. He also went to say that everyone at the company has much love for the franchise which is curious considering how rocky the development process has been thus far and what Gibeau has stated in the past in ill favor of the first Mirror’s Edge game.

Mirror’s Edge definitely had a very striking visual style that was the antithesis of most other games that take place in the first person perspective. There are not many games like Mirror’s Edge and more people in the gaming community are realizing it and fans of it are most likely ecstatic to know that EA has not given up on this franchise. Hopefully, other developers and publishers take notice and will also not shy away from creating games that are different and attempt try things that other games do not.

 

 

Got a line on some new info in the world of video games? drop us a line at: solidstateromcast@gmail.com