Points: 175
Cyber Grunt
Cover Story: It Came From Outer Space!


The Disappearance of Yu Suzuki: Part 1

In the first half of our extensive interview, Hang-On, Virtua Fighter, and Shenmue creator Yu Suzuki talks about the old days at Sega and current industry trends.

Continued (page 3 of 4)

JM: What made your team, Sega AM2, stand out so much was that they were always working on the most powerful hardware at Sega, which usually meant that it was also the most powerful gaming hardware in the entire industry. This was of course before the advent of consumer-level 3D gaming cards for PCs. Did the hardware inspire the games, or was the hardware developed because of the games you wanted to make?

YS: I would come up with the type of game I wanted to make first. But I usually couldn't make it with Sega's current game board, so in order to make that game, Sega would have to make the hardware for it. [Laughs] I figured that other teams at Sega would be able to make games on the hardware as well, though, so I calculated that in when putting in the request.

JM: Which was your favorite technology to work on of all the hardware at Sega?

YS: There isn't really a favorite but the hardware we used for Virtua Racing and Virtua Fighter 2 are the most memorable to me -- the Model 1 and Model 2 boards. It was the first hardware capable of 3D graphics, and I was involved in its development from the drawing board. The chip used in the Model 2 came from military equipment from Lockheed Martin, which was formerly General Electric Aerial & Space's textural mapping technology. It cost $2 million dollars to use the chip. It was part of flight-simulation equipment that cost $32 million. I asked how much it would cost to buy just the chip and they came back with $2 million. And I had to take that chip and convert it for video game use, and make the technology available for the consumer at 5,000 yen ($50) per console or else nobody would buy the hardware. But I did it. And because I was able to do that we were able to put textures on the Virtua Fighter 2 characters.

JM: Was it difficult to have these discussions with Lockheed Martin at the time? They were used to working on military contracts, and not with video game developers.

YS: It was very difficult. They told me they'd make it cheap, but their concept of making it cheap is selling it for a tenth of the price, which is still $200,000. Of course, Sega's president wanted it for $50. If you spend $2 million in development to make one chip, the cost is $2 million per chip. But, if you sell 2 million consoles, that's $1.00 per chip.

So it was tough but we were able to make it for 5,000 yen. Nobody at Sega believed me when I said I wanted to purchase this technology for our games. At the time GE Aerial & Space, CRC, and Evans and Sutherland were the three major companies with virtual simulator technology. And the USSR had collapsed and the government wasn't spending money like they used to on military equipment, and so these companies had to find other avenues of revenue.

JM: What made you want to make 3D games in the first place? You made the racing game Power Drift, which used 2D sprites to simulate 3D, but then Virtua Racing was the first one to use polygons, which added a realism that you couldn't achieve with 2D.

YS: My designs were always 3D from the beginning. All the calculations in the system were 3D, even from Hang-On. I calculated the position, scale, and zoom rate in 3D and converted it backwards to 2D. So I was always thinking in 3D.

JM: So did moving to 3D make your job easier when you did Virtua Racing?

YS: It never got easier because I'm always trying to maximize the hardware capacity. Tak Hirai is a programmer so I think he understands, but there were difficulties back then that don't exist now. We made hardware and then created games to fit the hardware. The total span of making the hardware, creating the game, and then selling it was one year.

We were constantly working on a new CPU. When you work on a brand new CPU, the debugger doesn't exist yet. The latest hardware doesn't work because it's full of bugs. And even if a debugger exists, the debugger itself is full of bugs. So, I had to debug the debugger. And of course with new hardware there's no library or system, so I had to create all of that, as well. It was a brutal cycle.

JM: Do you think developers now have it easy because they have all this middleware and graphics/sound/physics/effects libraries and ready-made game engines at their disposal?

YS: Yeah, I think developers nowadays have it a lot easier. I used to make arcade games, so this might come off as rude, but I used to think that the developers for consoles had it easier because the consoles wouldn't change for about five years. They'd have game libraries and the debugger would work.

As an example of how hard it was, I would write "100" into the memory. Then, I'd go back to read it and it wouldn't come back as "100." And there was a lot of bad hardware where you'd have to go to one location to enter memory, but go somewhere else to read the same information. So we'd have to create hardware, debug the system, and create a game all in a year. It was tough. There's one more thing that is different about game development now compared to back then. Then there was a programming language called C. Back then if you were programming in C, it didn't work because it was too slow.

JM: Right. That's why veterans would write in assembly. Because that's what you'd use to get the best results from your hardware.

YS: Unlike now, C was really slow back then. The fastest program that I used was 200 times faster than C. However, in general it is a good thing that game development became standardized with C. Just like it was a good thing that manual cars became automatic. The driver can concentrate on driving.

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Comments (57)

  • micronaut65
  • Deliberate need for another dinner invite. Yu Suzuki & JM.

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  micronaut65

    Yu Suzuki and James Mielke must be two of my favorite people to listen to. Both have something interesting to add and Yu Suzuki should have a complete museum of his work with Mielke as the virtual currator. Back when Space Harrier was my game of choice (next to Out Run) I could never find out very much about this master game designer of the arcade (and home console, Sword of Vermillion). Glad you got to put together this interview and I would agree with everyone who recommends you never quite writing! And I hope one day Yu Suzuki is recognized as the "father" of modern videogames. He IS the reason I am as big a Sega devotee today.

  • MasterOtogi
  • "Subtlety" is not a word reserved for Yu Suzuki

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  MasterOtogi

    I agree he was indeed sega's master of intensity!!

    I still want another sword of vermillion game!!

    Asian copies are titled "Yu Suzuki's Sword of Vermillion"

  • sulidos
  • I agree

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  sulidos

    this purely awesome, thanks to 1 up and milkie

  • GHNeko
  • You're a boss.

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  GHNeko

    This is gaming journalism. This is real. This is...superb.

    I'm okay with going to kotaku and nintendopower and browsing my cult forums like Smashboards and Sonic Retro to stay up to date with what's going with my games. But until now, I had no clue who the hell this guy was despite being a Sega fan and a supporter of arcades. So for one, I thank you for opening my eyes to such an influential person in the world of gaming. Secondly, I wholeheartedly thank you for writing this piece. The whole thing was inhumanly refreshing and it felt like I was a kid reading books again. My eyes wouldnt stop. The page wouldn't stop scrolling. And in what felt like a matter of seconds, I was already at the bottom of the page. I kinda hoped this wouldnt end for a while. Hahaha.

    I truly do appreciate you taking the time to bring this stuff to us. This is the kind of reading material I can spend hours reading because of just how it teaches me more about a hobby/lifestyle that I embrace.

    The whole gaming communities need more articles like these. Very seldom do I get to read stuff of this calibur.

    I could beg and plead for you to write more like this here, but you probably wont. Maybe staff will see reader reaction and have you guest write as a regular or something. Hahahaha.

    If you have more articles like this on a different website, I would be thrilled to know. If not, then disppointment.

    But regardless, once again. Thank you for giving me such a quality article to read. It was amazing from start to finish and I'm extremely giddy to read the second part. ♥

  • Sidion
  • Super nice interview...

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Sidion

    I like to click through these types of articles over and over and from different computers and what not so maybe the ad rate will rise and the powers that be will be inclined to fund more things like this!

  • falcon_spawn
  • DEEP stuff.

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  falcon_spawn

    Wow.  First word I can think of.  This guy, Yu Suzuki, did a LOT of good.  Older-school video game designer on the same level as Shigeru Miyamoto and all of that.  I was fascinated by all the tech details of his responses.

    • Milkman
    • I enjoyed the tech stuff as well

      Posted: 12/08/2010 by  Milkman

      I know it only appeals to a small percentage of people, but it really shows how they used to do it in the old days when they talk about the compilers and debuggers and how hard it was and how short a time they had to do things in. Amazing.

  • alimn
  • This is alimn aka Ali M.N, the person who devoted himself for Yu Suzuki!

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  alimn
    Thank you very much, James Mielke, 1UP! and Master "Yu Suzuki!" I have a big respect for Q Entertainment and Mizuguchi san beside now I have more respect for 1UP for providing us this stuff, These are truly deep, educative and like a classroom for all people not only gamers or developers. I am more than happy for begin a big supporter of Yu Suzuki for years, and I am more positive regarding my decision for moving from my country, all the way to San Francisco, to study Game Design, wishing to be a good student and follower of Suzuki-san, I have been supporting Yu san, Shenmue, Virtua Fighter and etc over years, my posts over Shenmuedojo.net and 1UP, IGN and other places such as facebook/twitter can prove that you made my job easier by providing such a deep interview, I even did articles and a BOOK! about Suzuki and his creations back in my country to highlight how big is Yu!, I admire you, I admire you, I admire you and my wish is visiting Yu Suzuki at some point before I pass a way...as for Shenmue World, I truly believe we all soon are gonna be a part of this tiny but big world, no matter if gamer or not, it's a solid form of interactive media not only a game.... I believe in YS, and will support him until I die. Best Regards, Ali M.N
  • shady78
  • brilliant

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  shady78

    only a quarter way through, but brilliant so far.

  • Concave_boy
  • This interview is simply fantastic.

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Concave_boy

    I've been somewhat of a Sega fanboy ever since I laid eyes on an ubiquitous blue hedgehog running to and fro onscreen. I bought the Genesis, followed that up with a Saturn, and supported Sega with their innovative, yet doomed, Dreamcast.

    I just love being able to read into the insights of one of gaming's most innovative developers. Suzuki's work has provided me with countless gaming memories. Shenmue was definitely the progenitor to today's sandbox games and I'm glad Suzuki is given credit to that.

    I just hope that his fervor and passion for innovation and fun transfers over to today's developers. He is definitely one of the greats.

    Thanks for such a great read, Milky. I've always admired your contributions to gaming publications.

    P.s: Next time you ever talk to Suzuki, please be sure to ask what he thinks about the infamous "Rolling Start" song from Daytona USA. hahaha


  • milk-me
  • Great read

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  milk-me

    James - fantastic feature. Now that I've actually read it (!) not only is is better than ours, it's probably the best ever - and that's just part one...

    • Milkman
    • Many thanks

      Posted: 12/08/2010 by  Milkman

      Glad you enjoyed it.

  • GeoffVDL
  • This is a title greater than three words.

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  GeoffVDL

    This kind of reporting is what I would love to see more of in the gaming press. I know that it probably earns less in pure clicks than reviews and previews, but it's far more interesting and exciting than the usual regurgitated press release content. That stuff I can get anywhere, and sometimes it's actually a struggle to avoid it. I'd rather have original stuff like this any day of the week. 

    Thanks to Milkman are in order here. Thank you, kind sir, for this excellent interview. It's a scoop and a half and a joy to read.


    • Milkman
    • You can't imagine

      Posted: 12/08/2010 by  Milkman

      How glad I am to read this sort of feedback. I know some people probably won't care about an interview like this, or may dispute the opinions I offer, but that's OK. When someone enjoys it for all the right reasons, as you so clearly explain here, it really makes it worth the effort. Thank you.

  • milk-me
  • Couldnt have tried THAT hard...?

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  milk-me

    "despite numerous attempts to go through the channels at Sega, and despite overtures from various freelancers with "connections," I could never get this interview off the ground"

    Even these clowns got him while he was "elusive"...

    Now it's pretty much open season! ;)

    • Milkman
    • There's a difference

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  Milkman

      between soundbites he dished out at the press conference for Shenmue Gai that the media (including me) was invited to, and a 5-hour conversation that we had at YS Net before the Shenmue Gai reveal. But thanks for creating a 1UP account just to post links to what we already knew, and to a 5 year-old Kikizo interview.


      Re: What you said below. I can understand. The Kikizo article was actually an inspiration to track him down again. Believe it or not, it was really tough to get a hold of him. It just so happened to dovetail with his coming out party for Shenmue Gai. Either way, I was just glad to catch up with Yu-san. That was the most important thing to me. Not whether anyone else was getting quotes from him. I hope you enjoy the giveaway signed game contest.

    • milk-me
    • Yah but...

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  milk-me

      ...in fairness it does look like Games TM (at least) has a proper 1-1 in the next issue rather than spunking out this press conference; either way OBVIOUSLY I'm just being a dick because I'm pissed than our till-now unbroken, 7-year-only-English-language-YS-interview-streak is now broken by YOU, James. How dare you.

    • milk-me
    • Good work

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  milk-me

      Dude, I know how tough this was and I know why you put your journo hat back on just to make it happen. The sad this about the Kikizo interview was that we COULDN'T PUBLISH THE BEST BIT and people still remember us not for GETTING Yu but for that fucking Shenmue 3 story a year or two prior!

  • Super_Goblin
  • JM!

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Super_Goblin

    Ur the man! cool article, I hope you don't stop writing man....

    Ps. please give us more Shenmue

  • jesterspawn
  • Great Work

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  jesterspawn

    I try to avoid hyperbole, but this is the sort of interview that gaming historians decades from now will be referencing and museum curators will be studying. We need more articles like this to preserve the "golden age" history of our relatively young industry.

    • Milkman
    • Very humbled

      Posted: 12/08/2010 by  Milkman

      Thank you for such kind words.

  • Ninjimbo
  • Great article

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Ninjimbo

    I've always known what games Yu Suzuki was involved but I never thought of him as the progenitor of an entire era of videogames. This interview is giving wonderful insight.

    Great job guys.

    • Milkman
    • Thanks

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  Milkman

      It's worth it if gamers like yourself are able to better appreciate someone like Yu Suzuki. I'm just trying to give credit where it's due.

  • exwai_z
  • Noice

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  exwai_z

    Great article. Cant wait for part 2.

  • ShenmueAddict
  • Shenmue III

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  ShenmueAddict

    Suzuki-san we just want Shenmue III let story go on

  • ShenmueAddict
  • Shenmue III

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  ShenmueAddict

    Suzuki-san we just want Shenmue III let story go on

  • MOBIUSfuture
  • amazing

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  MOBIUSfuture

    Amazing feature so far..... Very well done. Thank you.

    • Milkman
    • I hope you enjoy

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  Milkman

      Part 2. I think we really pick up some steam there.

  • Club_Sega
  • Wow! Awesome!

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Club_Sega

    Mielke, wow man, this is a great feature!    Shenmue and Yu Suzuki, thank you so much for putting this interview together, words can't express how happy it is to read this!   We all want Shenmue 3!!   = )  

    Also, can't wait for ChildOfEden this Spring, oh what a game!!     Since you have been at QEntertainment and working with Tetsuya Mizuguchi, I'm sure it has been a BLAST!!      

    PS  When I read this feature, I listened to Shenmue music in the background, and it gave me goosebumps!   = )           

  • zombieslippers
  • Don't want to get all gushy..

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  zombieslippers

    But this is the best 1/2 article written all year. 

    P.S. Hey Mister, wanna wrestle?

    • Milkman
    • I hope you feel

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  Milkman

      the same about the second half!

  • Exevalon
  • Good Interview

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Exevalon

    Awesome interview James, good insight and good to know whats up with Yu Suzuki.

    "The problem is that the industry focuses too much on the extravagance of the graphics. Gorgeous graphics equal high quality, but it's expensive to make those games. So it's good that we are not being strapped down by hardware limitations, but games have rules. Shogi has its rules, Chess has chess rules, and soccer has soccer rules -- you play with a team of 11 members and you can't use your hands. And video games are games, as well. So there are rules. We should focus our creativity on making interesting rules in a game instead of focusing on the visuals. The game providers have to shift their focus. And the consumers have to also not look at only the graphics. The players are actually already beginning to realize this. You can see it in social-networking games."


  • blubluskies91
  • Its so sad :(

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  blubluskies91

    Im a Sega kid and have been since I was 4. Now 21, Sega consoles are dead leaving the millions, loyal to the company bastardized in console platform mmarket. I have Nowhere to go and realize my blue sky sega dreams .. Please sega come back and make consoles again WE MISS IT DAMMIT! CANT YOU SEE??!

  • I Truly Miss...

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  FAUNA


  • ahmad1912
  • Many thanks to J. Mielke

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  ahmad1912

    I really wanted a big gaming website to do an interview with Yu Suzuki to let us know where the hell is Yu or what he was doing in the past 10 years. Yu Suzuki is one of the best devs of all time. Last year I wrote an article http://www.vgarabia.com/2009/07/15/shenmue-3-will-not-work-on-current-generation-of-consoles/ about why we may not see Shenmue 3 on current generation of consoles and suggested that Sega should release Shenmue 1 and 2 on Psn and XBL before thinking about the third one. I hope the next part of the interview to shed some light about if we are going to see a true sequel to Shenmue 2 one day.

  • rdk_nl
  • Great Article, had to wait years...

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  rdk_nl

    Great Article! Can't wait to read the 2nd part tomorrow.

    Keep up the good work!

  • Karny
  • I don't often comment on articles...

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Karny

    But this one is just so good!

    Gaming misses giants like Yu and 1UP really misses Mielke.

    I honestly can't wait for the second part of this... and I hope Mielke will return for future cameos on 1up.

    Also, one day... I'll have my revenge on Lan Di for what he did to my father...

    • Milkman
    • I miss

      Posted: 12/08/2010 by  Milkman

      Interacting with the 1UP crowd on a regular basis. I'll try to post more blogs. Job + baby = no time!

  • vormison
  • Incredible!

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  vormison

    It's pretty sad what gaming has become.  I'd rather read an article about old developers than even play most current games.

    Are people really going to look back 10 years from now and talk about the incredible things Call of Duty brought to gaming?  Sega was a company that took risks and it killed them.  But without that, we wouldn't have had 3/4 of the great franchises that I still hold dear to my heart.

    Shenmue and Shenmue II were games that could be taken seriously and were truly a work of art.  I can't say that for very much since Sega stops supporting the Dreamcast.


    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  BLACKSTAR84



    I really miss your features and the information and insight about Japanese development that you had, nobody else had even BEGUN to pick up until years later.  Interviews like these are gems, and show off really good journalism

    • Milkman
    • 1UP

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  Milkman

      Is doing just fine as they are. But I'm glad to chip in when I can. :)

  • Pacario
  • Great Feature

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Pacario
    Mr. Mielke, you've done some fine work here. Thanks for providing us with an interview with one of industry's greats when no one else would!
  • -GaNgStA-
  • Reading this was like playing an awesome Dreamcast game

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  -GaNgStA-

    Can't fuckin wait for part 2.

    J. Mielke - I've always loved your work, from your interviews to hardcore Street Fighter articles, but this? This is the ultimate piece of gaming journalism... and sadly, it's probably the last. This new generation of "writers" and blogers seems to lack respect for the "Great Ones". Most of them never even played Virtua Fighter, not to mention the Shenmue.

    You read an interview with this guy thinking "who the fuck runs this industry now", while briliant people are getting bored behind their desks? The most anticipated games these days are Call of Duty titles and GTA sequels.

    I guess we wanted this mainstream mob to play our games, but after a while of equilibrium, they took over and now we have to play theirs.  


    Thank you so much for this...

    • Milkman
    • You're welcome

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  Milkman

      New games are good too. It's not their fault that they're new. But old games are nice as well. :)

  • Nobbyworks
  • Gilbert Gottfried...

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Nobbyworks

    ...the resemblance is disconcerting.

    • jesterspawn
    • /facepalm

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  jesterspawn

      Now I can't un-see it.

      You've tainted my perception of a living legend. Thanks.

  • SNKrenaissance
  • Great Interview Milky

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  SNKrenaissance

    Looking forward to the next part.

  • Zanoh
  • Pure Nostalgia

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Zanoh

    A great 1 up writer AND the great Yu Suzuki sharing information on old times. :)

  • YoctoYotta
  • Mr Mielke

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  YoctoYotta

    It's good to read your words again. Don't be a stranger!

  • Jan3d
  • Again,

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  Jan3d

    thank you for this! Can't wait to read the rest of it tomorrow!

  • orient
  • A living legend.

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  orient

    I'm so glad that people still have as much respect for Yu Suzuki as I do. The fate of the Dreamcast and Shenmue is the most tragic tale in the history of the gaming industry.

    Great interview. I can't wait for the next part. Reading Suzuki-sans thoughts on Shenmue is bound to deliver a bitter-sweet blow of nostalgia. Maybe even a glimmer of hope, who knows.

  • jvaudio
  • Thank you!

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  jvaudio

    I would like to thank Mielke and the people at EGM for putting this together.  It was nice to know that catching up with him was something that Mielke has had a desire to do for some time.  I agree that he never got the credit that he deserved for the work he has done. 

    To this day, my most memorable gaming experience was booting up Shenmue for the first time and watching that incredible cinematic. 

    Hopefully the EGM guys can convince Mielke to catch up with Itagaki sometime soon.  The two of them seem to get along really well, and they are always great interviews.  Of course, if this were to interfere with Child of Eden, it would have to wait.  I can't wait for that game!

    • Milkman
    • EGM didn't have anything to do with it

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  Milkman

      But thank you in return anyway! This was a 1UP venture, completely. EGM is now a separate entity, but also a fine publication!

  • solidarsin
  • Wow...

    Posted: userComment.createdDate by  solidarsin

    EGM, Shenmue, Yu Suzuki, Milkman...

    This is like a movie of your favorite TV show after the TV show is cancelled. The movie comes out years later and recaptures what made the show so great.

    I have been a avid EGM reader from September 97 until the final issue. Times have changed, lives have changed yet this interview reminds me how some things never will. My Favorite things never will change just grow.

    To all involved with enormous sincerity THANK YOU!


    • Milkman
    • It's nice

      Posted: 12/07/2010 by  Milkman

      to read this kind of feedback. I'm just glad to see there are still a lot of people who appreciate Yu-san. :)

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