Not long ago Sega unveiled the latest arcade title in their line-up called Dream Raiders. We will be getting some hands-on time with the game in about a month when it makes an appearance at the IAAPA 2012 trade show in Orlando, FL. I wanted to find out more about the game before then and so I got a hold of Patrick Michael, the head of Sega Amusement Europe’s R&D division. He has been extremely busy getting Dream Raiders and some other games ready for the show but he was kind enough to answer some of the questions I had for him about this new game.
(Click on any image below for a full view)
Adam Pratt (Arcade Heroes): How long has the Dream Raiders project been in the works?
Patrick Michael (Sega) –We first discussed the concept about 3 years ago and have been in development for about 18 months
AP: What were the inspirations for the game? Could you describe the brainstorming process that was behind the development of this title?
PM: We have always been interested in creating a product to bridge the divide between “passive” simulator rides and game experiences. Our goal was to create a “ride” with a casual shooting element that encouraged inexperienced players and gave them a more interactive experience and ultimately delivered a sense of achievement. We wanted to have a wide range of motion experiences that were suitable for all ages and felt that a dream motif was a great way to encompass such a variety of level designs. We wanted the cabinet to be strong link to the theme and brainstormed the idea of it being a “Dream Machine” that transported its occupants into these adventures.
The cabinet development process was very detailed and involved a lot of prototyping. Quite early on in this process we realized that if we wanted more freedom of motion the guns would be need to be attached to the seat and move with the players rather than be fixed to the monitor cabinet. In developing the seat itself we did a lot of experimentation with the positioning of the players centre of gravity and how that affected the sensation of motion. We discovered by simply allowing the players feet to hang naturally rather than supporting them with a foot rest the sensation changed.
We carried out a number of secret site tests quite early on in the development process to look at how players reacted to the cabinet and software. The first test had only a handful of completed levels but gave us a real insight into the more casual audience that we were hoping to attract. Gamewax and Sega staff spent a lot of time watching reactions and analysing players interactions with both the cabinet and software. In a way this is my favourite part of the development process where players first interact in a real world environment. It is easy in this industry to have preconceived ideas about what players want from a game only to have them destroyed at an initial R & D site test. Thankfully the early reactions were really good.
AP: What is the storyline behind the game and the motivation for what the player will do?
PM: We did have a pretty complex back story but that has slowly been stripped during development and testing as we really did not want to lose the momentum of the game by using cut scenes and other narrative devices. We have tried to make it a casual experience that allows the player to make their own interpretation. You begin the game in a futuristic laboratory seated inside the “Dream Machine” with a cybernetic host inviting you to simply select the dream adventure of your choice. You are then transported into a strange world with no real explanation. Each level features a very different theme and mode of transport but they all have crystals to collect and enemies to destroy!
AP: Are there any new features that sets this game apart from other on-rails light-gun shooters?
PM: I would describe it as an evolution rather than a revolution. We have tried to create a cost effective cabinet that still delivers a “wow factor” and a different game experience.
AP: How big of a team has been involved in the creation of the game? Has it all been produced in house in the UK?
PM: In total across hardware and software around 30 people have been working on the project in the U.K. We have of course had a great amount of support from our colleagues in Sega Japan R & D with the development.
The software has been developed by a third party developer here in London. Gamewax have a hugely experienced arcade team and it has been a pleasure working with them. (AP Note: Gamewax has previously created games for Sega, ICE, Taito and Namco including titles like Gaia Attack 4, Go Go Grand Prix, Pigs Might Fly and Wacky Races)
The cabinet was designed in-house by our R & D design team based in Cardiff
AP: With dreams being the inspiration, are there any elements from real dreams from a team member being integrated into the experience?
I would say there are hints of a few real dreams hidden away in the game along with nods to some films and games that we love. Just don’t ask me where the idea for the 50 foot garden gnomes came from!
AP: What was the greatest challenge the team faced in creating the game?
PM: I would have to say the biggest challenge in this kind of development is delivering a unified experience, bringing the cabinet, visuals, audio, motion & wind together create a great game.
AP: How has the game tested so far? How have player reactions been to it?
PM: On the whole really positive. It is always incredibly satisfying to see non-traditional players of all ages play your game and we have seen a lot of repeat play from people wanting to see all the game has to offer.
AP: This has been marketed differently than other Sega arcade titles in recent memory, with “SpyCam” sneak peeks and a dedicated Facebook page to reach out to fans. Why the change in direction and has it been effective?
PM: This was really born out of our new online/social direction. I am really keen to get players involved with our games as early as possible. It is so important to remember that without the players we are nothing!
AP: Will there be a non-motion version available at some point as well?
PM: No plans at present. Personally I do feel that the motion is too integral to the experience to remove it.
AP: What is the target price for Dream Raiders?
PM: At the moment TBC but I expect it to be competitively priced next to similar pieces.
AP: The video seemed to present one particular enemy type, how many different kinds of enemies are there? Are there bosses?
PM: The robots are a recurring theme throughout that came from the original back story but the enemies are linked to the level themes and are pretty varied. Each level features a “boss” at its end.
AP: Are there any secrets players will want to seek out?
PM: My lips are sealed!
AP: With various options in hardware to pick from, why was Ringwide selected as the unit to power the game?
PM: Primarily this decision was based on cost. In the current economic climate we need to deliver cost effective products that will maximize an operators return on investment. Ringwide has been designed by Sega Japan to deliver a robust, reliable system with a long lifecycle for video products whilst meeting the all-important price point that the market demands. Obviously given a more buoyant economic situation we would have loved to use a cutting edge system to deliver a more detailed graphical experience but we are all very pleased with the results.
AP: With the 55″ screen, what resolution does the game run at?
The game is running at 720p. With a higher specification game board we would have liked this to be a true 1080p title.
AP: Could you describe how the wind effects work in step with the game as it plays?
We are using an axial flow fan sited in the control panel area to try to mimic the acceleration in airflow that the player would feel based on their perceived velocity and what is happening around them. We originally sited the fans above the monitor but due to the motion we could not direct the airflow satisfactorily towards the player in the moving seat. It is a nice addition to the gameplay experience.
AP: Is there any sort of “deleted content” that had been planned for the game but was ultimately cut?
PM: Sadly as with all games development there are always elements that end up on the “cutting room” floor. There are always things that we would love to do given more time/budget not only in the game software but also in the cabinet design and peripherals. We are very pleased with the results that we have achieved but we always wish for more!
That’s all for now, I really want to thank Mr. Michael for taking time out of his busy schedule to answer my questions and provide some new media of the game, it’s greatly appreciated! We will have more about Dream Raiderssoon, including video showing the game in motion and of course the game will be at IAAPA in a few short weeks were we will get some hands-on time with it as well. Thanks for reading!