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Yu Suzuki reflects on Sega career, teases Shenmue


Longtime Sega producer Yu Suzuki delivered his first-ever American talk at GDC, providing a history of his experiences at Sega, from Champion Boxing through the canceled Psy-Phi, a touch-screen based arcade fighting title. It was canceled, by the way, because it hurt players' fingers. He mused that it would work on DS or Kinect, where either a stylus or several feet of air come between your fingers and the screen.

Its indirect ancestor, Suzuki's fighting game Virtua Fighter, was actually built from a combination of two unexpected elements: a virtual pit crew and military tech. When the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, military technology companies, including those developing 3D hardware for simulators, had to go private to survive. And that gave Suzuki the access to powerful 3D tech he wanted in order to add textures to his "flat" models. Although it was prohibitively expensive at first -- Sega tasked him with getting a $2 million chip down to $50 for consumer hardware, which the company eventually did. That explains the presence of the Soviet collapse on Suzuki's personal timeline, by the way.

Suzuki related a few amusing anecdotes about life at Sega. The prototype for the R-360 cabinet was a chair strapped to a giant electronically-controlled wheel -- in which a programmer became stuck, and was left suspended upside down overnight as an example of why the team had a buddy system for R-360 programming. When Suzuki himself tried out the prototype, "I was scared. I was told not to eat before I sat on the wheel."

Suzuki also claimed that when former Sega president Hayao Nakayama saw a "lovely" moving picture of a game, he would declare the game ready to ship immediately. To combat this, Suzuki said he set up a button under his desk that would "destroy" the image on his screen when Nakayama neared.

Oh, and of course Suzuki addressed the pile of Shenmue 3 questions that were coming in from attendees (host Mark Cerny said he had divided written questions into "when is Shenmue 3 coming out" and the rest), by saying that he thought Sega would let him make it. But budget is the sticking point.

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