Sunday, May 5, 2019

Yu Suzuki's Research Trip to China Part 2: Textures & Bajiquan | Translation

Yu Suzuki's Research Trip to China Part 2: Yu Suzuki Comments on Virtua Fighter Development | Translation

This topic was selected by Phantom River Stone patrons in our monthly poll for a topic choice.

In the early 1990s, Yu Suzuki made a seminal trip to China. His objective was to research and gather material for his upcoming Virtua Fighter 2, and this research also influenced his concept for a "Virtua Fighter RPG" which eventually came to be known as Shenmue.
In this post we translate comments Yu Suzuki made on return from his trip in Beep! MegaDrive magazine, in which he talks about his motivation for travelling to China to help prepare for developing the next Virtua Fighter game, Virtua Fighter 2, as well as the state of development on Virtua Fighter 1 for the Sega Saturn.

A note regarding the year of the trip: in his GDC 2014 presentation, Yu Suzuki gave the year of the trip as 1993, however based on the information in this magazine article published soon after the trip was made, it actually took place in early 1994.

The translation starts from here.

Yu Suzuki (Head of Sega AM2 Research Division)

Yu Suzuki flew across to China on March 21st [1994] to gather material (and practice training?) for a period of 12 days as preparation for the development of Virtua Fighter 2. In his first words on returning, he speaks enthusiastically about VF2 and the Saturn version of VF1.

Yu Suzuki Talks About His Trip: the Full Picture of Virtua Fighter 2 Emerges!

The research trip to China was eventful and really interesting, but what struck me first was the colors of the Chinese mainland. Perhaps due to the yellow sand*, the color of the sky, the color of the water and so on is different to Japan.
*Note from Switch: this refers to the yellow sand or dust that can be carried on the high winds from Mongolia.
So first of all, I went to the famous Forbidden City, as seen in The Last Emperor, and gathered various texture data. Things like the Forbidden City's walls, the balustrades, and the structure of the Forbidden City itself: they all felt wonderfully fresh. And, as I'm sure you can guess, in the up-coming Virtua Fighter 2 I'm planning to use the Model 2 [arcade system board] employed in Daytona USA, and apply textures.
Scenery from China may be turned into textures in VF2.
My primary objectives for this trip were to track down the esoteric secrets of Bajiquan and to visit the grave of Li Shuwen (a famous Bajiquan martial artist). But along the way I also saw a lot of other places and things such as Shaolin Temple and other forms of martial arts. Of course, this isn't something definite at this current point, but I have been considering increasing the number of characters if there are some interesting martial arts. If I were to include new ones then I'd say I would add around 4, and I think it would be good to have a couple of them using Chinese martial arts - and so I went over to China to observe.

However, I intend to keep the original characters from the previous title even in the new VF2. I want to consolidate the original characters a little more. VF1 had an extremely short length of development, so towards the end of development I was going flat out to give each character a distinct personality and I wasn't able to perfect certain aspects.

During this research trip, I fully realized upon seeing the real thing that it had a completely different impact from seeing it on video, and it had a markedly-different sense of reality that was backed by its history. If you actually look closely at Akira's Bajiquan, some of the moves that we've gone and put into VF1 are such that they prompted a Bajiquan artist to say, "We don't move like that...".
Showing CG illustrations of Virtua Fighter, which were popular with the Shaolin Crane's Fist monks.
So I'd like to ground VF2 more in the environment and era where each of these martial arts were cultivated, and carry through the original 8 characters in a way that aims for greater reality.

At the moment, in terms of development work, firstly we're porting from Model 1 to Model 2. Then, once we have the previous Virtua Fighter 1 playable on Model 2, we'll move forward with developing VF2. In VF2 I'll be trying to do the things that weren't possible under the program structure of VF1, and, thanks to the hardware performance being more than twice as good (Ed: Model 2 is capable of 60fps, twice that of Model 1), I think we will be able to realize speedier and more intelligent movement.

In particular, during this research in China, I took a knee strike to my chest from a Xingyiquan monk, so it was really fruitful. [laughs]
Actual combat (?) with a Shaolin Hawk's Fist monk.
When it comes down to it, there are some things you can't understand until you've actually been thrown. [laughs] I'll talk more about that another time, so please look forward to it!

Virtua Fighter for the Sega Saturn

The Saturn version is slightly delayed, but personally I think it is turning out pretty well. I'm not trying to make it the same as the one in the arcades, but it will be built to "full specs", in other words so that all the [fighting] moves can be used perfectly. However, the polygon count will slightly decrease, but in return the Saturn can use textures so I think it will have its own special qualities compared to the arcade version.

Of course, if there's anything in VF1 that needs improvement, I'll release it after making those fixes. In any case, the project itself aims not to downgrade the specs or make compromises, so you are going to love it. I should be able to show it in some form at the Toy Show in June, but my projects always change completely in the last one or two months, so I wouldn't want it all to be judged at that point. But ultimately, I'd like to achieve arcade quality in a condensed form.

-- End of translation. Translated by Switch @ Phantom River Stone ---

Source: Japanese Beep! MegaDrive magazine, June 1994.

Continue on to Part 3
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