Sega-AM2: The Kikizo Interview 2004
Hot new details on OutRun2 exposed in this exclusive interview with SEGA-AM2's Makoto Osaki & Sega Europe's Kats Sato - including new courses and modes.
AM2 is Sega's most respected development studio, responsible for some of the biggest gaming innovations of all time. Projects like Virtua Fighter and Shenmue redefined their respective genres, but there are perhaps more resounding examples.
The first thrilling into-the-screen arcade racer, OutRun, debuted in 1986 - and a just few years later, the modern 3D arcade experience debuted with Virtua Racing and Daytona USA - the direct result of tireless effort from visionaries Yu Suzuki and Toshihiro Nagoshi. In late 2003, the long-rumoured OutRun2 debuted in arcades - and now it's coming to Xbox with a whole lot more extra than you might expect.
We recently had the opportunity to sit down with AM2's Development Director Makoto Osaki, for an extensive OutRun-flavoured chat. Mr Osaki joined Sega in 1993 and first worked with Toshihiro Nagoshi on Daytona USA. He now takes charge of all development, reporting to Hiroshi Kataoka, the AM2 president who succeeded Yu Suzuki when his Digital Rex studio was created.
As well as taking care of projects developed inside Sega Japan, including OutRun2 arcade, Mr Osaki has also been heavily involved with the Xbox OutRun2 project, developed by UK-based Sumo Digital, in conjunction with Sega Europe and its top producer, Kats Sato.
Enjoy this first of our massive, four-part Sega interview blowout. Next up is Sonic creator Yuji Naka. So keep it Kikizo - you know it makes sense.
Kikizo: At what point within AM2 was the decision made to make arcade OutRun2 and bring the franchise back to arcades?
Makoto Osaki: One of the main reasons was technology. OutRun2 is a very fun driving game, it's not really similar to other racing games. We used the Chihiro, Xbox-style arcade board. It can draw great distances, and that suits OutRun really well, so that's what influenced the decision to bring back OutRun.
Kikizo: How would you describe OutRun2 compared to the original?
Makoto Osaki: The graphics are completely different from the original OutRun, with beautiful scenery, and we've even put great animation on the woman in the passenger seat so you can see her reaction to everything!
Kikizo: You recently expressed concern about the large rental and used game markets that exist in the west, and that it might be an obstacle in bringing OutRun2 home - are you still worried about that, and will you be adding anything to the game to increase its longevity?
Makoto Osaki: I am still worried about that, but after many discussions with Kats Sato [Producer at Sega Europe], he gave us a lot of ideas about what enhancements should be put in the Xbox version, and I am satisfied that they will be OK for the conversion. Another reason is actually Sega Europe is really keen to bring OutRun2 to console. Europe is a very unique market and there are many, many driving game fans, so if Sega Europe is really keen and willing to do it then I am happy for it to happen.
Kikizo: I am glad Sega Europe sees it that way, because I know from my point of view, a lot of friends in the UK were very keen to see it come to console. So exactly what modes are there to increase longevity?
Kats Sato: The Xbox version has Arcade Mode, Heart Attack Mode and Time Trial Mode, like the arcade version does, but it also has Xbox Live mode and Mission Mode. Mission Mode has more than 100 extra missions for fans to play.
Kikizo: The conversion itself is graphically flawless - there's nothing to separate it from the arcade original, and obviously there were a lot of doubts about whether that could be accomplished because of the significantly higher RAM on board Chihiro - how was it accomplished at Sumo Digital?
Makoto Osaki: I really appreciate what Sumo Digital has done. The Xbox version is running on 64RAM rather than the arcade version's 128, that's half the memory, and yet the graphics are exactly the same as the arcade. It's very impressive and we really appreciate it. In fact AM2 was surprised it has been done so successfully.
Kikizo: What does Mr Suzuki make of this conversion given that he is such a Ferrari enthusiast and that his heart is so close to the original?
Makoto Osaki: Yu-san has obviously seen both versions now and he's really happy with the conversion. It is hard to say how much passion he has for the new OutRun 2, because he is the kind of person who doesn't show his passion so obviously.
Kikizo: Yeah, in fact we once asked him which of his games he had been most proud of in his career and he couldn't really answer as pride was not something he really feels...
Makoto Osaki: Exactly!
Kikizo: Do you think AM2 or any other departments will be keen on using Sumo Digital again, considering how good this is?
Makoto Osaki: Yes.
Kikizo: Cool. Is this the first time AM2 has used an external western company to port a game to console?
Makoto Osaki: Yes it is.
Kikizo: Will you use more western developers to convert games to console?
Makoto Osaki: If I can find a good producer like Sato-san, [pats Sato-san on back] then we would like to work with more western developers!
Kikizo: Considering Sega Europe is trying to acquire as much content to publish as possible, what message does this OutRun deal sends to potential developers that Sega could work with?
Kats Sato: Osaki-san and myself both think there is a lot opportunity for the European developers. There are many great European developers, but Sega has its own colour and its own theme. If a developer who understand what Sega wants to achieve, then we can shake hands, it all depends how willing they are to work with Sega.
Kikizo: Has Microsoft been supportive of you with regards to Xbox Live?
Kats Sato: Actually Microsoft Europe has given us really good support with Xbox Live. We chose Xbox because of Xbox Live, and also the visual quality. One of the reasons we assigned Sumo Digital is they demonstrated they can really embrace developing Xbox Live features. Sumo Digital already had a connection with Microsoft Europe about Live technical matters. Sega Europe also has a strong connection with Microsoft Europe. But also, Microsoft US is also very keen about this product.
Kikizo: Which market do you think OutRun is more oriented towards ultimately?
Makoto Osaki: There are so many driving games nowadays, especially inside arcades. Back when the original OutRun came out there weren't many racing games. It is harder now to compete with all these modern racing games, but we think OutRun is different enough to other racing games. We don't think anyone else can do something like OutRun 2, except Sega.
Kikizo: Do you have a release date?
Kats Sato: I can't say exactly, but Sumo is working really hard to convert it. We're aiming to release it this autumn, but I can say definitely before the end of the year.
Kikizo: One of the most distinctive things about OutRun2 is the scenery, and the different backgrounds you drive past. A lot of OutRun fans are wondering whether the Xbox version will offer any additional new stages.
Makoto Osaki: There is an additional set of courses, but I cannot say what they are. We are now asking Sumo to test the new courses but we have not decided which ones to use yet. Once we have decided, you may be surprised! It will be a big bonus for the users, and something you should look forward to!
Kikizo: Cool! We shall look forward to it. Thanks very much for your time today.
Click here for our Xbox OutRun2 hands-on playtest... and stay glued to Kikizo for the next three parts of our big Sega focus.
Editorial Director, Kikizo
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E3 2004: Direct feed Xbox trailer (640x480, 1Mbps)
E3 2004: Showfloor gameplay - entire game (640x480, 1Mbps)
Official direct feed video of arcade version [320x240, 1444kbps]
Twenty hi-res videos from the arcade version [480x360, 1447kbps]