Sega Saturn Magazine Interview with Yuji Naka

Interview Data:

Sega Saturn Magazine Issue 36 (Transcribed by Dockaych)

Did you have any input into the creation of Dreamcast?
I've been involved with the Dreamcast project itself pretty deeply Since the completion of NiGHTS I got involved with the Dreamcast hardware project and put my thoughts across. There are many things reflected from my input in the final hardware design.

What do you think are the Dreamcast's strongest assets?
The high resolution display of the Dreamcast is not available on any other console. Also RAM size is very important. We have 24mb of RAM - 16mb working RAM and 8MB for textures. Saturn only has 4MB and the Playstation has 2MB. The strong SH4 CPU power allows me to implement anything I want to do in the program. This combination of high-resolution, huge RAM size and strong CPU is extremely attractive for programmers and artists.

The Dreamcast was launched at the New Challenge Conference. What new challenges has Dreamcast given you as a designer?
The most challenging aspects of Dreamcast are the communications areas with the modem and the VMS. With Sonic I'm not really pursuing communications, but in the future I look forward to exploring it.

Would you like to see a Sonic coin-op since the Dreamcast hardware is going to be used in the arcades?
Sonic Team is not working on any arcade games at the moment. I do have a strong interest in the arcade division, but I have to concentrate on the consumer division. It's a conflict in my mind because when I joined Sega I wanted to create coin-op games, but I was assigned to consumer R&D. At the beginning of my career I was weeping every day saying "I want to create coin-op games!". However, I am enjoying the current situation and we're focusing on Sonic.

As one of Sega's most celebrated designers, do you have input into any other projects at Sega of Japan?
Well, I'm a Dreamcast project member, so I attend several meetings regarding internal projects. However, I am pretty busy right now concentrating on Sonic Adventure.

The Sonic Team hasn't actually produced an original Sonic game for the Saturn. Why is now the time to bring him back for Dreamcast?
After I created the four Sonic Megadrive games I wanted the create different worlds. That's why I created NiGHTS and, just at the end of NiGHTS' development, I heard about Dreamcast. I believed that Dreamcast would help the Sonic Team to produce the best quality Sonic games.

Sonic Team's games effectively sold the Megadrive in the West. Does this effect how you are targeting the game?
I am targeting a global market with this product. When I create any game I never fail to incorporate global market concerns in portions of the game.

The first Sonic games was coded in Japan and you moved to the US to produce the next three - were you tempted to take the Sonic Team abroad for this game?
I did have an intereest in developing the game outside of Japan because I've been affected by many experiences abroad. I toured around the United States and South America amongst other places and you will see some scenes in the new Sonic game where I want to reflect in the game what I experienced in my travels.

Sonic Adventure seems to be an incredibly complex game. Where did the inspiration come form?
I thought of the concept itself right at the end of the development of the NiGHTS project - around August 1996. Actual development on Dreamcast started last July (July 1997).

How big is the team?
I started this project with around 20 people - seven programmers, ten artists and three games designers. With these 20 people I developed the title for 10 months. As we approach the end of the project, we've got more than 60 people working on Sonic Adventure.

Were there any difficulties conceptualising Sonic as a 3D game?
Because Sonic's very fast, you have to create a huge scale simulation. I've put huge efforts into creating a big map. Of course, I have to focus on details of the 3D world, but I have to create a vast scale map as well. This is the most difficult aspect of Sonic Adventure. If it were Mario or a slower character, I wouldn't have had to create maps quite as large as this. I created a huge world first for Sonic, but then I thought "Why not utilise thses maps for other characters?" Maybe I could add some variety to the game - not just running quickly through this huge world. That's one of the key concepts in the game.

What were the beginnings of taking Sonic into a 3D world?
The first starting point were experiments in which I tried to see how the Sonic system would work in 3D…

Was the 3D section of Sonic World, seen in the Sonic Jam compilation, a part of thse experiments?
You got the point - that was actually part of the experiments I carried out to see how Sonic would work in 3D.

We half expected Sonic World as a full-on Saturn game…
At the time I created that 3D section of Sonic Jam, I obviously knew about Dreamcast, and just couldn't resist putting Sonic Adventure on the new hardware.

Forgetting graphics and technical aspects… what's new about Sonic?
The core part of the game is a very standard action game, but this is a key, fundamental part of any action game. This time I've added many background stories and I want to give the game a huge sense of scale.

Will Sonic Adventure be a multi-player game or are you just concentrating on the single-player experience?
It has a one-player mode only. If time allows then I want to add a challenge mode.

Are you planning any special modes in the game? How will you make players come back once the game is complete?
There are six mini-games in the main game and you can play these repeatedly. I also want the game to have a lot of replay value, so you don't just clear the final objective. I've got some nice ideas to make users play the game over and over, but right at the moment I can't make any comments about this.

All six characters have six acts to complete - so the acts tie in with the oher story lines you experience as you play as other characters?
The story's not going to change, but you'll see the characters from a different point of view and you'll see the action from their perspective. For example, Sonic is attacked by Knuckles at one point, but when you play as Knuckles you'll realise why you have to attack him.

What are the main aspects of past Sonic games that we can expect to see in the new title?
The feel of the speed of past Sonic games and the variety in the game. Having these varieties will attract not only the traditional action game fans, but also many other consumers who have not played a Sonic game before.

How does it feel to redefine such a popular character?
This is a very difficult project, but it's my pet project and I really love working on it.

How far will the final game push the Dreamcast technology?
I believe that I am doing my best efforts to get the best perfomance from the hardware, but with any hardware platform there's a learning curve in game development. In the near future you'll see greater performance, but at the moment I think we're getting the best performance we can.

How did you find the Yamaha sound chip to work with?
I'm quite comfortable with the sound chip. We can do nice 3D sound and components wise, the capacity is more than double of the Saturn's.

Do you have any special plans for the game's soundtrack?
Rather than using electronic or techno, I prefer live music. So this time Sonic is very "rock 'n' roll". Each character has their own main theme, along with the title track. All six songs were recorded in Los Angeles and New York.

Will you be taking special advantage of the VMS?
I have a specific idea about using the VMS and this game is sure to have VMS functions. I can give you one clue and it's related to A-life [a concept from NiGHTS], but right now I can't make any other comments! [laughs]

Could Sonic Adventure be converted to PC?
It can't be done, only on Dreamcast! I think it's still very difficult to run this game even on a high-end PC. The Voodoo2 3D graphics card is still a long way off teh performance of the Dreamcast.

Did you look at any other games during the development of Sonic Adventure? Has anything really impressed you?
I feel that I'm ahead of other games, so when I look at Playstation and Saturn games I don't see too many impressive things. There are a couple of good PC games, but these days I'm too busy to play them!

What do you believe is the most remarkable aspect of Sonic Adventure - what do you think you will be creating that has not been seen before?
This is the fastest 3D action game combined with the biggest game world ever made in video-games!

Mr Naka - thank you very much.


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