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Dreamcast devs reflect on how the industry has changed since the console's debut

“Up until the Dreamcast it felt like you were always fighting against limitations, be it capacity, performance, or quality before creating a game.”

Shenmue lead system programmer Takeshi Hirai recalls his days developing for the Dreamcast.

Several game developers spoke with Gamasutra ahead of the 20 anniversary of the Dreamcast’s release, many of whom shared the feeling that the Dreamcast captured a unique and creatively-freeing moment of game development history.

Takeshi Hirai, lead system programmer on the original Shenmue, for instance, explained that both the Dreamcast and that ’90s-’00s era of game development represented a uniquely freeing chapter in the industry’s history that is quite different from today.

“I could just create something if I thought it was interesting, in those days,” says Hirai. “There wasn’t as much content saturation, and people’s digital hobbies weren’t as diverse. Before the internet became overwhelmingly popular, people wanted new experience, the ‘search culture’ didn’t exist yet. In that era creators could easily feel that making something that sells means to [create] something totally new.”

That sentiment is shared by Yumiko Miyabe, art director on Space Channel 5 (and character designer for the game’s upcoming VR reboot).

“When I heard in-house that the name of the game console would be ‘Dreamcast,’ it sounded enigmatic to me,” said Miyabe. “The word ‘Dreamcast’ didn’t have an image reminiscent of a conventional game console. It made me feel the company’s spirit to challenge a new field, going beyond the conventional. “

Like Hirai, Miyabe is still in game development and notes that the industry was an entirely different beast than it was around the time of the Dreamcast’s launch.

“It doesn’t even feel like 20 years have passed,” says Miyabe. “But the economy has gotten worse, so even if you develop a game, I don’t think we can say, ‘Let’s make a new thing even if outside the project’s budget!’ like you could back then.”

“Recently I met an old Sega fan who told me that Sega’s games gave them a dream to work toward at the time,” she continues. “Can current game companies give dreams to those who are spending their youth? We must show them that the creators of our generation who know the brightness of the time can put their dreams and bright feelings into new games.”

The full piece has more from Hirai and Miyabe on the Dreamcast’s legacy and early days, alongside memories from the developers of games like Sonic Adventure, Samba De Amigo, and Seaman in addition to PR and account managers that oversaw the console’s 1999 launch.

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