The most flattering impression of Dreamcast after E3 1998

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I remember reading this sometime just after E3 1998, and hoping it was true. It was's impression of a then-unnamed 3D shooter which would later be known as Geist Force.

Thursday 28 May 1998 They will say it wouldn't happen. But it did. Sega of America topped their press conference with a lacklustre TV comedian - and tailed it with the first in-game action on the Dreamcast system. It blew us away.

Bernie Stolar talked at some length about the hardware, the marketing architecture and some third-party American publishers broke cover (see separate story). He tantalised us for twenty-five minutes before revealing the 'Tower of babel' demo - on video. There was none of the interaction demo-ed inside of the japanese conference. Maybe because of that, I was slightly underawed by the demo - yes it looked up to the standard of any high-end PC 3D accelerated game to date - exceptionally smooth, exceptionally detailed 3D in hi-res. But there was no movement on the island and muchly little life to the exercise. As a clinical demonstration of the hardware - ok.

Then casually, as he walked off, Stolar said he would like to show us the latest work of one of Sega's American teams. "Bear in mind," he cautioned, "this is only using 20% of the system's capacity".

The screen came to life and we were plunged into the mostly incredible 3D space world ever seen. It was obviously a 3D shoot 'em up, from a third-person panzer-style viewpoint. The craft was a hyper-detailed X-wing style fighter (very large on screen). It swooped behind a huge spider creature scuttling through a canyon. This was enormous.
This was in three seconds - the audience, genuinely, gasped and then laughed in delight. No such reaction had accompanied Tower of Babel. This was truly in another world.

The scenes flicked rapidly. Now the craft was careering through an asteroid field. Dozens of asteroids seamlessly animated. The crafted swooped below down into a cavern which concealed a huge metallic structure. the amount of movement on screen only ever seen before during FMV sections but you may TELL it was realtime.

We then had a look of a craft select screen, hinting what ground-based character units were also available.

Next cvg saw third-person flybys of the craft battling hundreds of on-screen objects. We flew past huge floating islands with cities built on top of them.

The finale of this 30-second opus, was an astounding boss encounter. The craft came in behind a huge diaphanous jellyfish, its translucent bell billowing out before us. Like nothing ever seen before.

Reflecting afterwards, Paul Davies and myself agreed that the resolution was unprecendented, and that we saw no pop-up or fogging at all. This is not in a same league as 3DFX-driven games, smart-looking as they are. The jellyfish showed how 'real' Dreamcast can be. As for Model 2, Model 3 - this load of comparisions are now REDUNDANT. This machine can do VF3 standing on its head. The game cvg saw looked better than any Model 3 game out there.

Are cvg susceptible to hyperbole and overenthusiasm? I don't reckon so. Until those final moments, I had been relatively unmoved by the details, and a few years back when I saw N64 at Shoshinkai I was impressed, but not rabid. I am now rabid.

I reckon even the hard-bitten games media left the event with a new opinion of Sega. Now we endeavour to see more before the show is out...
CVG Staff reported in August

More on SEGA's 3D Shooter Shown at E3!
It seems that Dave Rees believes that the Dreamcast can produce visuals that rival CG sequences,
as he reported in the August issue (No. 3) of Gamers's Republic:

"The truth is, SEGA rescued the show (E3) from being a huge disappointment by revealing the newest addition to their family behind closed doors: Dreamcast, which I fortunately got a glimpse of. What were my impressions? "Am I dreaming?" I asked myself as I leered in utter amazement at the demonstration of an untitled 3D shooter running on SEGA's upcoming console. The footage on display equaled some of the highest quality CG sequences I have ever seen. It was flawless, seamless, beautiful, and just hard to imagine as an actual real-time environment. I almost felt as if we weren't ready for this technology; it was just too much power for us to handle. How could this system be affordable? With a cynical peer aimed at Neal Robison, SEGA's Director of Advanced Developer Support, I asked, "Are you telling me that this is an actual real-time engine running on Dreamcast?" His return was a vehement "absolutely".

Sadly, when Geist Force was revealed later that year at TGS, it wasn't nearly as impressive since what was on display then was realtime.

IGN's impressions:

Sega's fabled "E3 Shooter" gets shown at TGS

October 15, 1998 - Shown to an awe-stuck industry crowd prior to last May's Electronic Entertainment Expo, Geist Force was on display at the Tokyo Game Show in video-only form - and it's an almost entirely different game to the one we saw just five months ago.

Developed by Sega of America's internal studio and sporting cinematics by Netter Digital Entertainment, Inc, who also do the special effects for Babylon 5, Geist Force is an enormous 3D flying shooter set on an alien planet in the distant future. The game features hundreds of miles of 3D mountains, deep canyons, erupting volcanoes and rushing rivers. The game also offers full-3D special effects with true-to-life physics. When an explosion occurs, a player's ship and the objects in the immediate area will be jolted by the blast, as would occur in the real world.

The Tokyo Game Show demo was allegedly nearly 80% complete, but is largely unpopulated by enemies and suffers from occasional slowdown. What's odd is that the version shown at E3 was packed with enemies, was smooth as silk and was bristling with all sorts of special effects not in this version.

Needless to say, there's plenty of head-scratching going on, and there's even been talk that what we saw prior to E3 was actually pre-rendered footage and not a game utilizing 20% of Dreamcast's potential power.

Much can - and probably will - change with the game before its early December release rolls around in Japan. We'll keep you posted.

I'd so very much like to see a video of what Sega showed of Geist Force at E3 1998.
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