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Friday, March 27th, 1998
Dynamite Dekka on PVRSG?
As reported last week, there was rumor that SEGA's Dynamite Dekka (sequel to Die Hard Arcade which ran on SEGA's Saturn arcade hardware the ST-V Titan board) was to be shown at the The Amusement Showcase International (US arcade show) running on PowerVR Second Generation hardware. Well, the rumor is false. The game was shown at the show but it was running on SEGA's Model 2 hardware. 

Phantasy Star for Katana?

    Speaking of Phantasy Star, gamers can expect a new version of that game to be released shortly after Sega releases the Katana. I found that information by accident and that is great news.
If this is true then that would be fantastic. Having a RPG like Phantasy Star on the Katana that would take advantage of the incredible 3D capabilities of this machine would be awesome! This would be a very good introduction title for the North American market, since RPGs have sold like hot cakes for the Saturn, proving that this genre is a favored genre among the game playing masses.
(source: GameFan)
 
Wednesday, March 25th, 1998
Bernie Rules America
Information from Next Generation Online:
    Bernie Stolar was promoted from Sega of America's chief operating officer (COO) to president and COO of the North American division of Sega. Stolar will report to SOA's chairman and CEO, Shoichiro Irimajirim, who was recently named representative director and president of Sega Enterprises.
    Stolar's main purpose now will be to prepare for the launch of Katana. The new president has three goals for the new console that will launch in 1999: 

    1.breakthrough first- and third-party games 
    2.a strong retail presence 
    3.cutting-edge consumer marketing and communications 

    "I have always believed that Sega has the assets to capture and maintain the dominant share of the videogame console market. We have the biggest and most creative software development teams in the world, some of the most popular videogame characters and properties, and a brand awareness that most companies would kill for," said Stolar. "We're going to focus our efforts to better utilize Sega's core strengths so that in working closely with our software partners, retailers and consumers, we will all win." 

Bernie is clearly on the job since there has been quite a number of announcements by 3rd party publishers indicating that they will be producing games for SEGA's Katana. Based on the rumors about the specifications of SEGA's new wonder machine, one has to question whether anyone can go wrong in a successful introduction of such hardware. What is important is the sustained development of software for this console. So far everything looks good except that release date is a long ways away!
 
Friday, March 20th, 1998
D2 Set For Late May Introduction
Warp's Katana action-adventure that once was under development for the ill fated 3DO/Panasonic M2 system and then for the Saturn, is as mentioned previously to be released for SEGA's Katana. At the Tokyo Game Show today with SEGA not releasing any information on the Katana, Warp has gone ahead and announced that they will be showing D2 on the Katana, May 23rd in Japan. SEGA has not yet indicated on what date the Katana will be introduced. We can only expect that SEGA will show the Katana system in full before May 23rd or on that date.

Katana Arcade Game to Be Shown Next Week?
Next week will be the The Amusement Showcase International which is a US arcade show. SEGA will be showing Dynamite Deka (a Diehard Arcade-like sequel) at this show. It has been indicated before that some employees at SEGA of America have seen this game running and it was thought that it was running on SEGA's PowerVR arcade hardware. It was said that the visuals in this game approached SEGA's Model 3 arcade board! It unknown at this time whether SEGA's PowerVR arcade hardware is based on their upcoming Katana console or a much higher spec PowerVR arcade board. (Source: Next Generation Online article)
 
Thursday, March 19th, 1998
First PVRSG Screenshots!
GamesMansion brings us the first ever screenshots from the PowerVR Second Generation accelerator card! As mentioned earlier, SEGA Katana's graphics chip will be based on a version of the PVRSG.


(click the images for larger pictures)
(Note: the screenshots were not taken with a GameBoy camera!)

Here is a quote from article at GameMansion: 

    The 0.25 micron board has now been passed for 'fabbing' and is currently passing through the final engineering stages en route to becoming a reality. Videologic expect to have the advanced card (which will run much faster than the prototype we were shown) by early April. Testing will then follow, during which time development cards will be shipped out to coding teams. At that stage the Q&A team will decide that the card's ready for market and it'll go into full scale mass production by May. It should be in the shops for June or July.

    What these images neatly illustrate is the precision with which PVRSG accelerates graphics. Instead of muddying the images on-screen in the name of smoothing, the card uses extremely advanced filtering to supply all the colour, fogging, reflective and light-sourced effects that coding teams demand these days. We hope to bring you the first benchmarks from this card within the next six weeks.

It will be interesting to see what SEGA's software engineers can do with this hardware. There is no doubt, they will make it shine!
 
Wednesday, March 18th, 1998
Another Developer for Katana
The Katana is clearly on a roll with a steady string of announcements by developers who are working on games that will run on SEGA's next generation console. The latest comes from the company Revenant Inc., which is developing a game called Akolyte. The game looks to be some kind of 3D action/adventure type of game. A quote from their site: "Revenant, Inc. is dedicated to developing world class realtime multiuser gaming worlds for the purposes of entertainment and enrichment." This hints at the multiuser aspect of Akolyte. This would fit in well with the communications ability of the Katana. (Source: DreamFusion)
 
Tuesday, March 17th, 1998
Three More Days to the Tokyo Game Show!
The Tokyo Game Show is on for March 20th to the 22nd. Even though SEGA of Japan has already indicated that they will not be using this show to introduce the Katana, there still might be something shown like maybe some video footage of games that are running on the Katana hardware. Saturn 2 Tech Pages will have the info when it comes in!

CD-ROM Prices Are Falling through the Floor
CD-ROM prices have dropped about 25 percent since the beginning of the year, with some EIDE 32x drives going for as low as $59 US. This means that the drive that SEGA is using for the Katana has just become a lot cheaper. Saving money on the CD-ROM will allow for more functionality in other areas like maybe more RAM. Hopefully pricing will drop enough for SEGA to offer a 32x CD-ROM drive as oppose to the 12x to 16x drive that has been rumored for the Katana. Here is an article by ZDNET on the price drop.

SEGA is hiring!
Next Generation Online has indicated that SEGA of America is now hiring people to prepare the Katana for introduction into the North American market. SEGA has indicated that the Katana will be introduced into North America in 1999. Hiring people this early into 1998 when the introduction is in 1999 makes you wonder. Maybe a 1998 surprise introduction?
 
Saturday, March 14th, 1998
Release Date Speculation Continues
Here is the latest speculation over the Katana release date, courtesy of the New York Times (Saturday, March 14th, 1998) national edition. 

"Now, SEGA will have to court retailers all over again when it brings its new console to market, which is expected to be Internet interactive. The company is secretive about the new machine but has said it plans to introduce it in the fall"

This quote is from an article in that issue concerning SEGA's withdrawal of the Saturn from the North American market. Introduced in the fall may indicate the Japanese market as the article did not indicate which market. 
 
Friday, March 13th, 1998
Nothing but Open 'Skies' for the Katana
The game 'Skies' from SegaSoft is rumored to being one of the games that will appear on the Katana. Paradigm the developers behind this game are reported to be in the process of securing a Katana Development kit. No indication has been given if Paradigm or SEGA will do the port. If you want to see some PC screenshots of this game, then check out the Skies Website. (Source: email by Rajeev)

A Quote From TechWeb
Here is an article from TechWeb with a quote on the SEGA and Microsoft alliance:

Sega "will focus on developing a powerful platform" to attract a wider range of customers and support from a wider range of third-party software publishers, the statement said. This could be achieved, the company said, "by establishing alliances with such key industry players as Microsoft."
 
Thursday, March 12th, 1998
Street Fighter 3: 2nd Impact
Recently there was news that Capcom signed on to produce games for SEGA arcade version of the Katana hardware. Today, IGN indicated that they have received information from SEGA of Europe that Street Fighter 3: 2nd Impact is too be released for the Katana home console. This is one title will all will be eagerly waiting to see if the Katana is a 2D powerhouse along with being a 3D powerhouse.

Katana Release Date
Here is a quote from Next Generation Online on the possible release dates for the Katana console for the different regional markets: "Two months ago, Sega Japan confirmed that Katana will arrive in Japan in late 1998. Sega US has officially said that the new, PowerVR-driven console will arrive in North America in late 1999, but many industry sources have suggested that early 1999 is more likely." A word to SEGA concerning the North American release. If Sonic is ready then the console is ready for release.

Katana to Come With A Modem?
Comments by Sega Enterprises president Shouichirou Irimajiri to the Japanese newspaper Nikkei Sangyou Shinbun:"I think we can launch an innovative next-generation console that will enable the user to communicate with PC users via an online network by this summer." It sure sounds that a modem will be included as standard equipment with every Katana. Mr. Irimajiri also mentions a timeline of 'this summer'. Will Japan being seeing an earlier then expected launch then Fall of 98?
 
Wednesday, March 11th, 1998
Dual Operating Systems
Developers wishing to develop for the Katana will have a choice of two operating systems. One is a version of Windows CE 2.0 called Dragon. The other OS will be supplied by SEGA and is called Atlas. Atlas is a smaller more efficient OS then Windows CE 2.0. Atlas will have a graphics library created by SEGA called Ninja. The Atlas OS/Ninja graphics library along with Katana developer hardware is to go out to developers this month. Even though Atlas is a smaller more efficient OS then Dragon, do not think in anyway that Dragon is a inefficient OS, cause this operating system from Microsoft has received rave reviews from many technical publications and should not be confused with the negative reports given about Microsoft's other operating systems. Windows CE 2.0 is not Windows95 even though they share a lot of similarities. 

Dragon: The main advantage of Dragon is that is will allow the easy conversion of games from the PC to the Katana. Dragon will take up at least 1.3 MBytes of Katana's main system RAM out of a possible 8 MBytes. It is unknown yet what amount of ROM space will be used by this OS or if the OS is going to be loaded completely from CD-ROM. Note that Katana may come with 16 MBytes of main system RAM depending on cost considerations. It would make sense for SEGA to include 16 MBytes of main system RAM, if SEGA wants PC developers to port their games across from the PC, since games on the PC are becoming more and more memory intensive. A version of Direct X 5.0+ graphics library is to be included with the Dragon OS. No information has been released on the minimum RAM requirements for Direct X 5.0+. Another main advantage of this OS is that we can count on Microsoft encouraging developers to port games over to Katana. 

Atlas: Games will shine on this OS and there is no question that all of SEGA big hits will appear on the Katana using this efficient operating system. Atlas benefits greatly from the extensive experience SEGA garnered from the Saturn operating system. Any developer wanting to get the most out of Katana's hardware should stronglyconsider using Atlas and the 'Ninja' graphics library. 

SEGA and Microsoft will most likely be charging developers a licensing fee for the use of Windows CE 2.0/Direct X 5.0+ and Atlas/Ninja. It is recommended that SEGA improves it 3rd party relations by giving away Atlas/Ninja so as to encourage higher quality games. 

The Katana has a huge developmental advantage that the Saturn never had, in having two separate mature and complete 3D graphics libraries available early on. The ease of developing for the Katana is a order of magnitude greater because of having these libraries available. 

Developers knowing that a giant like Microsoft is supporting the Katana will more likely to want to develop for this new console system. So far, SEGA is doing everything right to turn katana into a huge success!
 
Sunday, March 1st, 1998
Vector Quantization Compression
SEGA's console the Katana is suppose to come with 8 MBytes of graphics memory. Some people have questioned if this is enough memory. The items that will make use of this graphics memory will be 1) the frame buffer, 2) polygonal data (infinite planes), 3) code, and 4) textures. We will examine the memory requirements for these items. 

Frame buffer: 
720 by 480 (max resolution) at 24 bits: 2,073,600 Bytes (double buffered) 
This is the maximum size the frame buffer space will be. Some games may use a lower resolution or a lower color depth like 16 bit color, so the frame buffer memory requirements would be lower in those cases. 

Polygonal data and Code data: 
This will very from game to game and we will assume that 2 MBytes of the graphics memory will be used by these two data items. There is no question that this assumption is a bit on the high side with most games most likely needing less then 2MBytes. 

This leaves 4 MBytes of graphics memory for texture data. The new second generation PowerVR graphics chips will come with a powerful and efficient compression algorithm called Vector Quantization. This algorithm uses a lossy compression scheme, meaning that information is lost in the compression process, which is referred to as distortion. The amazing thing about this graphics compression algorithm is that it can provide compression ratios as high as 8:1 with almost no noticeable loss of visual quality. The greater the compression, the greater the distortion of the image. As indicated, a compression ratio of 8:1 will allow for a image to have very little distortion. We will examine a few possible compression ratios to see how much texture data can be stored in 4 MBytes of graphics memory. 

2 times compression: 2 * 4 MBytes = 8 MBytes of textures 
5 times compression: 5 * 4 MBytes = 20 MBytes of textures 
8 times compression: 8 * 4 MBytes = 32 MBytes of textures 

So as you can see Vector Quantization compression can provide for a lot of textures to be stored in 4 MBytes of graphics memory. It will be interesting to see how effective this compression scheme will work out to be. There is no question that the inclusion of the algorithm is a huge benefit to games that will be running on the Katana. Note: since textures are filtered and will be anti-aliased, any information that was lost with VQ compression will most likely not be noticed.