Black Belt from a Lockheed Perspective

Two former Lockheed Martin employees, N-Space's Erick Dyke and Dan O'Leary voice their views on Sega's move to use 3Dfx instead of a Lockheed Martin solution.

April 29, 1997

With experience in developing for Model 2 (Desert Tank) and having helped develop the Model 3 hardware while at Lockheed Martin, Erick Dyke and Dan O'Leary have indicated that it would have been difficult for Sega to make a better decision in terms of a graphics subsystem.

"3Dfx has proven itself. Just look downstairs (at CGDC). Nearly every major demo at every booth is running off of some form of the Voodoo graphics chipset," said O'Leary. While consumers have yet to establish a standard in 3D acceleration, most of the developers projects and demos were using Voodoo as their target platform.

Commenting upon the strengths of the proposed Black Belt Dyke said: "Not only is Sega getting the hottest chipset around, but with Microsoft in its corner it will be getting useful libraries; something the Saturn desperately lacked."

The major question facing the duo was why did Sega neglect its long-term hardware partner Lockheed Martin when designing the hardware? O'Leary stepped up to the plate answering: "Sega has to find the cheapest but most powerful hardware it can. Lockheed Martin is still trying to figure out how it fits into the consumer space seeing as it has traditionally worked in the simulation arena. 3Dfx on the other hand was created from the ground up to be a consumer level product. It isn't at all surprising that Sega has gone this route."

When comparing Lockheed's Model 2 and Model 3 hardware to the proposed Black Belt specification, both O'Leary and Dyke felt that that Black Belt would be far more similar to developing for the Model 2 than Model 3. "The Model 2 is a beautiful board that is simple to get right to the metal, " said Dyke. "The Model 3 was designed around more of a traditional simulator model with a host and GPU arrangement where the database runs the entire game."

While Dyke mentions getting to the metal easily, some developers such as Scott Corley and Dave Perry both voiced some concern over Microsoft's OS getting in the way. "Good developers will cut through the OS to get to the metal as they need it." says Dyke. "As long as Microsoft doesn't force the OS upon the developers it should be fine."

With the ease of development that is expected to go along with the system, and the double-edged sword that this situation can present, Dyke said that Sega's quality assurance program should help to weed out games from developers that are relying too much upon the base libraries or that are quick ports of substandard PC titles.

Both Dyke and O'Leary also pointed to one non-technical element that is different at Sega presently than it was at the launch of the Saturn: executive personnel. Both men cited the fact that Bernie Stollar was a major factor for the third party support that PlayStation enjoys and the fact that Stollar is now responsible for generating that same third party support for Sega. "They've assembled a really good team at Sega now and it's going to be interesting to see what the next generation brings." said Dyke.

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