Tuesday, July 5, 2022

Poll Result: Patrons' Choice Topic for July 2022

Every month Phantom River Stone holds a poll among our patrons to choose a topic for the blog in the coming month. After tallying the votes (including accumulated votes from previous months), the winning topic that has been voted this time is:

"Sega's Patent Application for Magic Weather & Magic Rooms"

Magic Weather

Revolutionary when featured in Shenmue, the "Magic Weather" system controls the ever-changing climate and weather conditions experienced during play.

In the "Making Of" documentary about Shenmue produced by NHK in 1999, the narrator introduced it as follows:
"The game contains a system that realistically recreates the weather and other natural phenomena. That system is called Magic Weather. In the game, the weather changes as time passes: fine, cloudy, rainy. These changes are based on the long-term weather data for Yokosuka, the town in which the game is set.

"Let's consider a case in the actual game where it is, say, fine one day and rainy the next. The weather conditions encountered by the player will differ depending on how they go through the game. For a player that moves ahead rapidly, they may visit a certain house on a fine morning. On the other hand, a player who plays more slowly may end up visiting the house the following night in the rain."

Famously, the first game even includes historical data for the actual 1986/87 weather in Yokosuka, which can only be enabled after clearing the game.

Yu Suzuki highlights the weather system at the Shenmue Premiere in Yokohama

Magic Rooms

The second system, "Magic Rooms", refers to the use of a set of rules to automatically decide the layout of furniture across a large number of rooms. Its use in Shenmue II can be famously seen in the rooms of the buildings in Kowloon.

Yu Suzuki once described Magic Rooms as follows:
"When we were making Kowloon Walled City, I wanted to put everything in the rooms we made. There were thousands of rooms, and I wanted all of them to be free to roam. The designer told me it was impossible, so I thought there was no use in entrusting that task to him (laughs), and that’s when I thought, we could just make the program create them itself."


Examining the Patent Application

In 1998, Sega Enterprises filed a patent application outlining a number of new algorithms, with Yu Suzuki listed as the inventor. Although the algorithms were not given a specific name, two of them - Magic Weather and Magic Rooms - can be recognized from the details given.

In this upcoming post, we'll examine relevant sections of the patent and see how they were described and perhaps learn some more about how the systems work behind the scenes.
A chart from the patent application, specifying changing weather conditions

Coming soon to the blog!

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