Virtua Racing is an early 3D polygonal racing game that was released in the arcades in 1992 and later on for the Mega Drive / Genesis, Sega 32X, and Sega Saturn. The arcade version served as the debut for the Sega Model 1 board, the first in the popular Sega Model series of arcade system boards, and thus Virtua Racing is often seen as the start of the 1990s 3D gaming revolution.
Utilizing a dedicated 3D graphics board (much like Namco's System 21), the Sega Model 1 was the most powerful gaming system up until that time, with polygon rendering capabilities and floating-point performance far beyond what other gaming systems at the time were capable of. It was also the first arcade game to represent human characters, though these early human character models looked dated after Virtua Fighter released in 1993.
In early 1992, Sega intended to add texture-mapping to the Model 1 system, but were unable to do at the time; they later succeeded in adding filtered texture-mapping to the Sega Model 2 arcade system by late 1993, beginning with Daytona USA, a spiritual successor to Virtua Racing.
Deluxe arcade cabinets
There was a Deluxe version, known as the V.R. DX cabinet type, which is a single-player machine and has a 16:9 aspect-ratio monitor (the first use of a widescreen aspect ratio monitor in a video game), and 6 airbags (3 on each side) built into the seat that will inflate and "nudge" the player when cornering, and one more airbag on the player's back that inflates under braking. The seat is also adjustable via "forward" and "back" buttons using air pressure. V.R. DX's force-feedback steering also uses two pneumatic cylinders to rotate the steering wheel, which differ from the electric motor-and-clutch system that the upright and twin versions use (which have no inbuilt air system), so the steering feel is quite different.
A special deluxe cabinet of Virtua Racing was released, called Virtua Formula. At the time, this deluxe cabinet was very expensive (in the UK, for example, it cost as much as £250,000 for the cabinet and £3 per play).
This deluxe cabinet featured 4-8 Formula 1 race car replicas, each one with its own large monitor and with the controls in the car corresponding to actions in the game. Each car was hydraulic-powered, where the controls were hydraulically controlled, with even the back axle slipping out when the player skids.
The deluxe cabinet supported multiplayer for up to eight players, in contrast to the standard cabinet which supported up to two players. The deluxe cabinet also featured an on-air CCD camera, which passes through each racer, showing their facial expressions on a monitor above the cabinet. It also featured a commentator screen, with an announcer called Virt McPolygon.
The deluxe cabinet was powered by two Sega Model 1 arcade boards, in contrast to the standard cabinet which was powered by a single Sega Model 1 board.
Sega Model 1 arcade hardware
- CPU (Central Processing Unit) processors:
- Main CPU: NEC V60 (32-bit RISC) uPD-70616 @ 16 MHz (3.5 MIPS)
- Sound CPU: Motorola 68000 (16/32-bit) @ 12 MHz (2.1 MIPS)
- Performance: 5.6 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second)
- Main GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) and FPU (Floating-Point Unit) co-processor:
- Main GPU & FPU: Fujitsu TGP MB86233 (32-bit) @ 16 MHz
- Floating-point performance: 16 MFLOPS (Million Floating-point Operations Per Second)
- Music sound chip: Sega MultiPCM (custom 28-channel PCM) @ 8 MHz, 8 MB ROM
- Sound effect chip: Sega MultiPCM (custom 28-channel PCM) @ 8 MHz, 8 MB ROM
- Sound timing chip: Yamaha YM3834 (FM Synthesis) @ 8 MHz
- GPU abilities: Floating decimal point operation function, axis rotation operation function, 3D matrix operation function
- Video: Shading, flat shading, diffuse reflection, specula reflection, two layers of background scrolling, alpha channel
- CPU performance: 5.6 MIPS (2x CPU)
- Floating-point performance: 16 MFLOPS (FPU)
- Geometry: 180,000 polygons per second, 540,000 vectors per second
- Rendering: 1,200,000 pixels per second
- Resolution: 512 x 384 pixels
- Colours on screen: 16-bit colour (65,536 colours)
The Virtua Formula deluxe cabinet later released in 1993 used an additional second Sega Model 1 arcade board to power the game. This essentially doubled the system's performance.
- CPU performance: 11.2 MIPS (Million Instructions Per Second)
- Floating-point performance: 32 MFLOPS (Million Floating-point Operations Per Second)
- Geometry: 360,000 polygons per second, 1.08 million vectors per second
- Rendering: 2.4 million pixels per second
The technology for the game was considered ahead of its time, which resulted in a larger than average Mega Drive / Genesis cart (although perfectly compatible with all Mega Drive / Genesis models) and a higher than average price tag (around $100 in the US).
The 32X version of the game, named Virtua Racing Deluxe, was released in 1994 . It performed much closer to its arcade counterpart and included two extra cars ("Stock" and "Prototype") and two new tracks ("Highland" and "Sand Park"). The game was not as popular as its Mega Drive / Genesis predecessor, due to the poor sales of the 32X.
The Sega Saturn version, an arcade-perfect port, was published in 1995 by Time Warner Interactive. The Saturn release has the game soundtrack, which can be listened to in any CD player. The Saturn version also includes ten new courses and four new cars. Unlike other versions, it features Grand Prix mode, where players drive a series of cars and the tracks to earn points. The Grand Prix mode has other vehicles such as go-karts, formula 1 cars, and a prototype concept car.