Virtua Racing/Development

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Model 1 version

Virtua Racing was developed simulaneously with what was then known as the "CG Board" - the Sega Model 1 system[1]. The board spend three years in development[2], with Yu Suzuki of Sega R&D 8 (soon to be Sega AM2) involved with its creation from the beginning.

Games constructed out of 3D polygons were not new by 1992. Namco and Atari Games had put forward 3D arcade racers some years prior with Winning Run (1988) and Hard Drivin' (1989) respectively, and Suzuki wanted to move away from its sprite-based taikan games that had dominated the 1980s into something truly 3D.

Virtua Racing was given the all-clear to become a fully fledged arcade title during the Model 1's development, thereby becoming the first game for the system. However, as the hardware was still in development when the game design began, in the early days Sega AM2 had to simulate the software using a PC.

On the 27th March 1992, Sega, at a press conference at the Takanawa Prince Hotel[3] announced and demonstrated this new game, then titled B.V. to the public[4]. B.V comprised of a cabinet shaped like full-sized Formula 1 car (in white), with a 36-inch[5] wide-screen monitor mounted in front of the driver's seat. The monitor, jointly developed by Victor[4] was one of the earliest widescreen monitors ever produced - Victor had produced its first one in 1991. In this form, B.V. was simlar to deluxe edition of the final game. There was no talk of linking cabinets for multi-player races at this stage, and indeed the demo on display only involved time trials[5] (plus a screen displaying technical details of the CG board).

B.V. was playable during the final Kokusai Sports Fair, from 26th April to the 5th May, 1992[4], held in the Yoyogi National Gymnasium. A prototype of Virtua Racing, now known as V.R. was also playable at Shibuya GOLD on 10th July[6].

Virtua Racing was also the first game to feature human characters rendered with 3D polygons, both as mechanics and spectators, in fully polygonal 3D environments. The polygonal 3D human models used in Virtua Racing later formed the basis for the character models seen in Virtua Fighter.[7]

The car in Virtua Racing is loosely modelled after the handling of "a Bugatti sports car", as its light-weight design and narrow wheels made the driving experience more fun[8]. Yu Suzuki had no qualms in simply replacing the model with an F1 car, citing the game isn't meant to be treated like a realistic simulation[8]. 1992 Ferrari and McLaren-Honda engines were also researched and a Honda NSX was hired for a period[2].

Ten tracks were originally created for the game, but only three were used[9].

Mega Drive version

The Mega Drive version and the SVP chip were announced at CES in Summer 1993,[10] before releasing in 1994.[11] Sega had originally planned to release a steering wheel peripheral for the Mega Drive specifically for this game, but the idea was shelved.[12] While initially aimed for an early 1994 release, Sega had difficulty sourcing the parts for the SVP chip, meaning although the game was complete, its release was delayed until June[13].

The Mega Drive project was headed by Koichi Nagata, then assistant-manager of Sega AM2[8]. He worked closely with Yu Suzuki to reduce the number of expensive mathematical calculations so that the game could be replicated on the Mega Drive[9]. Nagata's team had trouble replicating the feel of fast cars, so under the instructions of Suzuki, Sega lent him a Honda NSX to drive "furiously" to understand how fast cars handle[9].

Originally six courses were planned, but this was reduced to the standard three courses from the arcade game[9]. It was decided that it was better to have three "highly detailed" tracks than six that weren't half as interesting[9].


Virtua Racing

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Books: Virtua Racing Hisshou Kouryaku Hou (1994) | Virtua Racing: Official Racing Guide (1994)
Videos: Virtua Racing: Virtua Video (199x)