Saturday, September 8, 2018

d3t's "Toughest Project": Interview on the Shenmue I & II Rereleases [PCGamer]

PC Gamer has published an interview with Noel Austin, technical director at d3t Limited, the development studio behind the rerelease of Shenmue I & II to modern platforms.

Noel reveals some fascinating pieces of information about the way the original games and the challenges involved that will surprise even veteran fans.

We recommend reading the full article (link below), but here is a condensed summary:
  • The project got underway in October 2015, when d3t gained access to the "massive" Shenmue archive of data and started planning their approach.
  • At least 20 developers in total worked on the code over the course of the project, with the team size growing to around 10 developers at its largest point.
  • The project was "by far the toughest" project d3t has ever done.
    • Source code was not available for the Dreamcast libraries (and hence for Shenmue I which was released only for that console).
    • For Shenmue I, some of the biggest challenges were around the hardware:
      • Sound: the loop points, reverb, volumes, envelopes etc that were specified within separate programs for the Dreamcast's audio chip had to be reverse engineered.

      • Graphics: certain features present in the Dreamcast's GPU were not available on the target platforms, such as "modifier volumes" (which give the ability to change the behavior of a defined area) for light and shadows. One consequence of this was that shadows in Shenmue I have been implemented similarly to the Shenmue II Xbox version so occasional artefacts may be seen due to this. 
    • For Shenmue II, although source code was available for the ported libraries of the Shenmue II Xbox version, there were still many files missing which had to be reverse-engineered from assembly code.
    • Conversion of the memory and data handling, which was 32-bit on the original consoles but 64-bit for the modern platforms. This resulted in many bugs, both apparent and subtle, needing to be resolved.
    • Comments left in the original code were written in Japanese (and, in the case of the scripting language used only for Shenmue I, so were the function names and variables). A best attempt was made at understanding these using Google Translate.
  • Also briefly noted was the reason why widescreen was not used for cut scenes: they were originally designed for a 4:3 ratio (albeit with a letterboxing effect in Shenmue II) and "didn’t work correctly" in widescreen mode, so black bars were added to preserve the original appearance. Presumably this refers to graphical anomalies becoming visible, such as characters remaining on-screen when they are supposed to have left the scene.
One of the most interesting parts of the interview was about previously-unknown findings from the source code showing the incredible level of realism Yu Suzuki was striving for:
  • The moon in Shenmue II is not simply a texture but an actual 3D object that is illuminated by the sun in the distance and produces actual phases.
The moon in Shenmue II is an actual 3D object.
The moon in Shenmue II is an actual 3D object.
  • The Lucky Hit games adjust the physical behavior of the ball based on the weather and temperature, calculated by the time of day.
Lucky Hit: the ball is affected by atmospheric conditions!
Lucky Hit: the ball is affected by atmospheric conditions!

Noel also gave mention to the fan sites and forums of the Shenmue community as "incredibly useful" resources for the developers during the project, citing the Shenmue Dojo and the Shenmue Translation Pack team in particular.

This interview gives some great insight into the project, and I hope anyone who might have thought that this was a "lazy port" in any way will appreciate the amount of work and effort that has clearly gone into it. I also look forward to hearing more details in future interviews with d3t.

Read the full interview at PC Gamer: Link to interview

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  1. Oh Memories time for a rant Shenmue2 rant rpg should not be linear it just does not work modern company try to sell lie adventure games speed games should stay were they are the linear shenmue2 was slow all you do is complain first part of game all rpg are good when they pull you in shenmue2 does that but they done that later sequal in games up and down and up that the history of games so I am use to that

    1. Thanks for your rant :) Shenmue does a great job of giving the player a certain amount of freedom, while at the same time having a a well-defined story.

  2. That's incredible man, it makes me even prouder of being a Shenmue supporter. These devs did their very best at delivering the "Shenmue" experience.

    1. Totally, and in a way that stays true to the originals.

  3. I herd sega put too much silly option on genesis remake back to yu master piece of a mess shenmue2 it lack trap in a game part that made shenmue1 so good the first realalty rpg The exploring is not free like other jrpg both work in there own way sega was falling that hurt Shenmue 2 it's still won of my favorite games the music was awesome Shenmue 3 New trailer music wow on to trap in a world yu gets technology