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The memories of The Flinstone in Viva Rock Vegas Dreamcast (its prototype and White Label)

In the early 1960s, William Hanna and Joseph Barbera created a series of cartoons that would become a huge success. The Flinstones family had just been born. The Barbera brothers' production included 166 25-minute episodes, first broadcast in the United States between September 30, 1960 and April 1, 1966.

The adventures of Fred Flinstones and the cartoon's protagonists take place in the Stone Age, in a prehistoric fantasy world where dinosaurs, mammoths and other long-extinct animals coexist with cavemen using anachronistic objects similar to those of the twentieth century. For example, the characters drive cars made of stone, animal skins or wood, and have to use their feet to start them. This touch of originality, depicting an advanced modern society equivalent to our own in Paleolithic times, will be the hallmark of the cartoon and add to its charm.

Given the scale of the phenomenon, countless spin-off products were created. There's something for everyone: figurines for children, animated TV movies, live-action films and video games.

Flinstone Dreamcast cover

Flinstone homemade cover.png

Logo of the game


Almost every console has had a more or less successful adaptation of the Flinstones. Even The Dreamcast was due to have its own 128 bit version, which was cancelled, based on Hanna-Barbera's work retracing the adventures of Fred and his gang, but this time inspired by the script of the homonymous 2000s film "The Flintstones in Rock Vegas". It's the Flintstones on SEGA's latest console that we're talking about in this preservation article, with a poignant behind-the-scenes account of the game's tumultuous development from one of the game's programmers.

This is a reminiscence of a time 20 years ago. Some/many details may be inaccurate.

The Flintstone in Viva Rock Vegas and its development.

After working on V-Rally 1999, Lucky Luke and Army Men for Aqua-Pacific, Don Williamson (quoted in italics from this article), a young programmer in his early twenties, wanted to acquire new professional experience while he was between companies. Since he already knew Paul A. and Ben W. from F.F., he joined them to work on a brand new physics engine, the one that would later be used for The Flinstones in Viva Rock Vegas Dreamcast (VRV).

«They were already working on VRV, so I had no idea where the concept came from. We all shared a love of Mario Kart

Game video (White Label)

Some games smell of suffering, others don't. Flinstones on the White Queen is one of those that had a chaotic development. In just eight months, the small F. F. team assigned to the project had achieved the impossible, delivering a game to its publisher Swing! Entertainment Media AG. It was no mean feat - nothing had gone exactly to plan!

«From then on, I lived the craziest eight months of my life, with 120-hour weeks for two months and 36-hour shifts. I was the only person left at the end, having exhausted everyone else.»

After several months of hard work, no proven progress had been made on the game code. There was no usable 3D engine, even on the PC, and no game at all. It's important to understand that, at the time, there was no 3D engine available to everyone. Each development studio had to create one from scratch. Today, there are powerful generic engines used by most games in the industry, Unreal Engine being the best example. The people in charge of the artistic side (Niall, Martin and Kostas), on the other hand, were making progress with the creation of tracks, vehicles and characters. However, they had no way of testing their work live. No tools, such as a level editor, had yet been provided. The project was treading water.

«So I was asked to take over and started rebuilding everything from scratch. Within a week, we loaded textured tracks supplied/created by the artists and flew around them from the new engine. The tracks were created in Lightwave and textured in a very old tool called U-View, as texturing in Lightwave Modeler (sic) wasn't good at the time.»

Video of the start of Highway and Raceway race creation in the game engine

In the video above, you can see how the race maps had been built without taking gameplay into consideration, as there was none when they were created. By the time gameplay arrived, the developers hadn't been able to modify the tracks to make them fun.

«Developing a typical racing game involves first building your simulation model and then constructing the tracks that fit it. The same applies to any other type of game, such as a platformer. The reverse is true for games like VRV

LightWave 3D is a high-level 3D computer graphics (CGI) program, including 3D modeling, animation and rendering, developed by NewTek. The program is used not only in video games, but also in the cinema. Famous films such as Titanic and Jurassic Park used it.

From model to in-game rendering in the Bedrock Bonanza race ( internal realistic rendering test + final cel-shaded rendering)


As a result of these setbacks, development of the game was falling behind schedule. The publisher was becoming worried and impatient. It was decided to code a simple, very rough car simulation in a few days, without any collisions, "integrating the physics engine later.

«I loaded one of the car models and ran a basic 2D particle physics simulation with some sliding constraints. I spent a few hours fine-tuning the feel and gave it to one of our designers who was working on another project at the time (VRV had no dedicated designers). We managed to create something fun to drive on the track.»

The team could breathe a sigh of relief: they had something, a technical demo, to submit to Swing, who was satisfied. The developers could finally think about building something for real. The game could now take shape.

«I continued to work on the engine, pipeline and construction tools: building skyboxes, adding lights/shadows and light baking for levels, fog, creating an efficient visibility system to be able to quickly render huge levels, adding a Lightwave scene loader for artists to place level objects, particle systems, sound engine, and so many other things I've forgotten.»

In this case, the pipeline is the entire game engine (the elements of its construction) compartmentalized into several parts. The pipeline is the process of all the components. It's all the software that places the work of each component in the right place, and so on. Once the engine has been finalized, if you wish to make a modification to it - add a new car, for example - this will start the first stage of the pipeline.

The skyboxes are a rendering technique for skies. The game has a top, bottom, back, left, front and right texture for the sky. These are merged to create a cube or sphere (see photo). It is within this cube or sphere that the level will be created.

Example of cubic Skyboxes


Ben W. helped Don Williamson fill the gaps in the physics engine and development tools. He was the first person to work on the Dreamcast's main rendering engine. Things were finally going well, and they felt like they were catching up with the complications they'd encountered so far.

«I was finally free to bring all my work on collision detection and physics and do the car simulation properly. I think it took another month before I had a decent car on the track, with connected wheels, head-turning drivers, a real connection with the world and a mediocre control system.»

At this stage, the vehicles were very strange-looking and lethargic. The cars behaved like modern remote-controlled scale models (RCs). This didn't fit in with the spirit of the cartoon, which was set during prehistoric times. The adjustments required to stiffen their steering were endless. As this was a full physics simulation with an LCP (academic term) solver for contacts, the young development team couldn't simply fudge things and make them up as they had done with the first demo.

«Everything had to be made up of real forces and torques and I simply didn't have the time to deal with them, especially as there were more important problems with physics at the time, such as the need for continuous collision detection to prevent fast cars going through and getting stuck in the traffic posts!»

These are original car ideas that never saw the light of day.


In automobile videogame simulations, the vehicle involves physics at all times. The game has to work against gravity, which means that when the player collides with something, it's difficult to simulate/calculate what to do in each situation. Future collisions must also be detected. All this can be integrated into an algorithm that takes each factor into account and optimizes it. This is called LCP. LCP helps create realistic physics and collisions.

The world of video games is constantly evolving. As technology develops day by day and tools are perfected, professionals in the game industry are constantly having to learn how to master it. Programmers love this task, which turns into a fun challenge for them. The more complex, the better. Above all, they are enthusiasts. They learn as the industry innovates.

«As I learned many years later, there are ways to modify a car's physical simulation enough to make it really fun, but I never had the time to find out because of our brutal schedule. If I'd had the experience and knowledge of any kind of schedule back then, I'd have opted for our original particle car! In this business, you eventually learn to always question the resources you're given, otherwise you quickly burn out.»

But as if all the problems encountered so far weren't enough, the fine F.F. team was faced with a major obstacle: Artificial Intelligence. No one had any experience in this field or knew where to start. A programmer sent by the publisher, the best in the world according to Swing, came to help. For several weeks, he wrote an enormous amount of code before finally capitulating before the enormity of the task. According to him, it was unfeasible to write AI for this game.

«He was probably right: he certainly saw the engine's progress at the time, had a better idea of the schedule than the rest of us, and realized that a lot more work was needed to make his chosen method of simulating AI (feeding directly into the physics engine) possible. He wasn't 20 and he wasn't as stupid as the rest of us, so he wasn't thinking of ways to get things done as quickly as possible.»

To understand how AI works in a racing game, and to appreciate all car simulation games, we need to imagine that the player moves the stick or the directional cross on the joystick to change the direction of the wheels, and that the triggers turn the wheels, moving the car forward or backward. When the wheels are in motion, this creates speed on the car. The AI will artificially reproduce this process, but as there is no joystick and no human being behind the screen, it has to calculate which way to turn the steering wheel and how hard to pull the trigger. The game uses the same code as the player for the AI. It is still impossible to truly "simulate" a human driver.

As is often the case, you have to adapt to overcome obstacles on the road. That's when Ben W. came up with a solution that could save the day. The idea was to do everything using splines placed in Lightwave, and to create much simpler car-tracking code. It still took several weeks, but the AI of the opposing cars was finally implemented.

«I had to work on colliding physical objects with non-physical ones - it wasn't pretty or satisfying, but it worked.»

Now it was time to make the user interface, the game menus, the car selection menus, the level selection menus, the options menus etc., and highlight them with pretty little animated icons. Mat A., who had just finished a Barbie game, took charge.

Main title (prototype)


Main title (prototype)


Bonus car model (The Great Gazoo)


Game rendering with realistic graphics (internal test)


Final game rendering (cel-shading)


The publisher's logo


The Flamingo


Melrock Place (Melrose Place)


The tenth hotel/casino complex built on the Strip


The historic Sands Hotel and Casino in Vegas


Fred's place of work


What kind of funny tree is this?


The famous wedding chapels at Rock in Vegas


Welcome to the city of vice


There's nothing better than a drink at the Oasis after an exhausting race


Don't touch, it stings


The prehistoric Walt Disney World Resort?


Relaxing in the shade of a tree

After four months, the game was finally starting to look like an automobile experience, but not a game as such. It ran on both PC and Dreamcast. Surprisingly and incomprehensibly, there was no one directing or designing the project to guide Don Williamson and his co-workers. As a result, there was no logic of progression or accomplishment. They were on their own. They'd had to take it on with no experience at all, while at the same time increasing their workload.

Bugs were beginning to surface from the QA (Quality Assurance: the process of identifying all bugs and reporting them to the developers). These had to be corrected to bring the best gaming experience to players. The development of Flinstone Dreamcast was decidedly unlucky: as soon as the first anomalies in the code became known, Swing wanted the game to be released within the next two months, leaving VRV designers no time to fine-tune their title.

«I could have used all that time to make the cars fun to drive, or to fix the annoying boundary cases in the simulation (you could easily get stuck in single-polygon fences at grazing angles).»

By the time Flinstone was submitted to SEGA for approval (twice), the members of F. F. were so exhausted that most of them had to stop working before falling ill. Only Don Williamson was left to react to all the bugs that SEGA and Swing found. At one point, the game was unable to load more than 3 or 4 levels before running out of memory. To carry out this test, in the early 2000s, the game had to be run in a loop for 24 hours, loading maps continuously (Loop Test).

«I started disassembling the whole game and engine to improve memory management efficiency for consoles without virtual memory, and I felt that I too was running out of steam. Eventually, we reached 24 hours and a few hundred levels.»

While SEGA had just announced the disastrous news that the Japanese company was withdrawing from the world of console manufacturers, to make matters worse, the latest build of VRV had just seen a major crash bug that only occurred on physical GD-ROM versions of the game. There were only ten blank GD-Rs (confidential red discs) left to burn new discs and find out what was causing the problem. Since SEGA would be closing its London offices the following week, it was impossible to obtain more in order to rectify the problematic bug.

«We were on our last GD-R. I made one last decision and engraved it. What else could I do? It worked! We had our launch copy. We had a version of the game with all the SEGA and Swing bugs fixed that they wanted to fix. I only felt a slight sense of elation, because I was so broken. I went home and slept for days.»


One of many houses in Bedrock


The Strip of Rock in Vegas


A game of Black Jack at the casino?


Although this Dreamcast version was cancelled, a promotional version (a White Label), probably intended for the press, has since surfaced. If the game had been published, it would probably have been released in late 2000 or early 2001. The print run of this official white disk is small - the Unseen 64 website speaks of around 12 engraved copies - and it has become one of the rarest and most prized games among Dreamcast collectors.

«I can completely believe that the White Label version was considered a <50 game and that no one thought it prudent to release something like that on a now-dead platform. In our minds, we had built something from scratch in 8 months, with a very small team. We had gained considerable production experience and could put it to good use for our next games. But when we looked at the game, we realized that it wasn't fun at all. It was disappointing, but there were so many other things to be proud of.»

Flinstone Dreamcast, the game

The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas on Dreamcast is a cancelled (Unreleased) car racing game, developed by F. F. and to be published by Swing! Entertainment, and distributed by Virgin Interactive Entertainment. It is based on the 2000s film of the same name, itself inspired by Hanna-Barbera's famous Flintstones franchise.

Game rendering with realistic graphics (internal test)


This videogame adaptation is a wacky simulation of kart racing featuring the characters and environments of the Hollywood blockbuster. The game's Cel-Shading graphics, pioneered by Jet Set Radio Dreamcast, are closer to the cartoons than to the film. The later Playstation 2 version, developed this time by Toka but still published by Swing, will be graphically closer to the film.

«I don't think we would have liked the realistic style of the PS2 version. I think realistic characters were sketched/modeled, as well as the original cartoon characters, but we weren't allowed to use the cartoon image because it was a film license.»

Realistic model of Fred Flintstone, Colonel Slaghoople and Dino Baby (left to right)

Game modes


Bowling pin bonuses (prototype)


Model of the in-game mansion


Rendering of the mansion on the race minimap (prototype)


The Flintstones in Viva Rock Vegas is a pure arcade game, a Mario Kart Like, set in the colorful, wacky world of Fred and his gang. Like all games of this genre, bonuses (bowling ball, homing ball, glue, oil, shrinkage, invincibility and much more) are to be collected from the various circuits in order to finish first. No holds barred. They are obtained by hitting bowling pins, which are a nod to the cartoon.

«Over the course of several 36-hour caffeine-fueled workdays, I added: different game modes (single race, tournament, split-screen multiplayer, time trial), ghost car recording and playback, weapons (bonuses), lap count, checkpoints, steering check, dead zones with Gazoo recovery, pickup (coins for speed, bowling pins for weapons), car surface reaction, direction arrows to next checkpoint (levels were huge), AI difficulty levels, race position calculations, music and sound effects integration, pause mode, camera management. Ahh, there was so much more.»

It's up to players to choose from several of the most advanced Stone Age vehicles and get ready to put their feet up and burn up the stages from Bedrock to Rock Vegas in the famous and infamous "Boulderball Run". This race is illegal, but it's the only way to win the grand prize, the "Boulderball" diamond ring, the "Boulderball Run" gems and therefore the key to Wilma's heart. The aim is to win all the diamonds available by finishing first on each circuit and adding them to Wilma's ring. Only then will Wilma agree to marry the game's hero - the player - and honeymoon with him in Rock Vegas.

From model to in-game rendering in the Slaghoople Challenge (in-house realistic rendering test + final cel-shaded rendering)

The Flinstone Viva in Rock Vegas

With the testimony of the game's programmer, it is now possible to realize the complications encountered during the development of The Flinstone in Viva Rock Vegas. The game, which was shunned by gamers and had a bad reputation, can now be seen in a different light.

The earlys cars models with their in-game equivalents

These renderings were made before the project was started and the cartoon look adopted. The appearance of the cars in the models below won't really change - the idea was already there.


Barney Rubble is Betty Rubble's blond-haired caveman husband and Bamm-Bamm Rubble's adoptive father. His best friend is his neighbor, Fred.

Elizabeth Jean "Betty" Rubble ("born McBricker/O'Shale") is the beautiful and very seductive wife of Barney Rubble, the adoptive mother of Boum-Boum Rubble, and the grandmother of Chip and Roxy.


Mr. Slaghoople is Pearl Slaghoople's husband and Wilma Flintstone's father in the Flintstones franchise. He is portrayed as a stern man who, like his wife, strongly disapproved of Wilma's choice to marry Fred.


Wilma Flintstone  is the redheaded woman married to caveman Fred Flintstone, daughter of Pearl Slaghoople and mother of Pebbles Flintstone. Her best friend is her neighbor, Betty Rubble.

Fred is Wilma's husband and the father of a little girl named Pépite (Agathe). His best friends and neighbors are Betty and Barney. Fred lives in the fictional prehistoric town of Bedrock.


Pearl Slaghoople is Wilma's mother, Pebbles' grandmother and Fred's mother-in-law. She hates him a lot and doesn't have a good relationship with him. She looks like Wilma, but her build is that of a man.


Roxie, the film's villain, is the girlfriend and partner of Chip Rockefeller, who is opening a new casino in Rock Vegas. Roxie is a showgirl at the casino, and Chip uses her to seduce Fred and Barney into doing his dirty work.


Here are a few examples of how to model track elements with their in-game equivalents

Model in the Carnival Chase race


Model in the Swamp Slammin race


Model in the Swamp Slammin race

Model in the Swamp Slammin race


Prototypes and White Label

An analysis of the contents of the earliest prototype shows that the build was created on July 30, 2001 at 12:53:34. This prototype of The Flinstone in Viva Rock Vegas Dreamcast would have been burned around one and a half months before the promotional version (White Label), dated September 19, 2001. This beta is made up of 12 tracks, unlike the 13 on the white label (WL). This is the only GD-R (DC's confidential red disc) known and located to date.

The development studio’s logos at the start of the game are slightly different between the prototype and the white label versions

Once you've reached the title menu, the "PRESS START" information will change to "PRESS START BUTTON" when the game switches to GOLD.

The prototype is automatically in English and does not allow you to select your preferred language after the title screen. However, the language can be changed in the game options.


This build has major music problems. It sometimes cuts out in the menus of the Flinstone Dreamcast prototype. Some menu navigation sounds don't match from one version to the next, perhaps due to the lower sound settings. Others are missing. Once a race has started, the cars have no audio at all (this is due to the engine noise volume setting being too low). Some races have no musical soundtrack at all.

Informative messages, such as the one asking whether the player really wants to quit a race from the pause menu, will be adjusted to look better and be more visible. The layout of the box in which they appear will be retouched when the White Label is engraved.


Normally, when the player moves the vehicle backwards, the camera rotates 180°, allowing the player to see the track and steer correctly when driving in reverse. On the prototype, the camera angle remains fixed as if the car were moving forward. It should be noted that the view differs from one version to the next, with a closer perspective and a new angle of inclination.


The animation of the drivers' heads nodding when the car is in motion is strange and in no way resembles the familiar one. This problem is repeated once the vehicle has stopped. When stationary, the wheels of the Flinstones’ racing cars are sometimes in motion rather than stationary.

The directional arrow (compass system) at the top of the player interface, indicating where to turn, had not yet been integrated into the racing mechanics.

The handling of the cars, their steering, also seems to be something that has been improved between the 2 known versions of Flinstone Dreamcast, perhaps this is what Don Williamson explained above. Wheel steering response is faster and more responsive on the prototype (to be confirmed)....

The Flinstone Viva in Rock Vegas (Jul 31, 2001 Dreamcast prototype).jpg

You can download this build of The Flinstone in Viva Rock Vegas Dreamcast below:

The Flinstone in Viva Rock Vegas (Jul 31, 2001 prototype)

The Flinstone Viva in Rock Vegas WL (Sep 19, 2001 Dreamcast White Label).jpg

You can download the Flinstone Dreamcast White Label below:

The Flinstone in Viva Rock Vegas WL (Sep 19, 2001 White Label)

Important information:

The promotional version (WL) of Flinstone Dreamcast is the most interesting if you just want to play and try out the F.F. game. The prototype is only of preservation interest, it doesn't bring anything new to the game.

I'd like to thank Don Williamson: for his availability, his kindness, for taking the time to answer my questions and more. His testimony takes us back in time to the development of The Flinstone in Viva Rock Vegas!

We can only thank the entire team at F.F. (Mobygames link) for making The Flinstone in Viva Rock Vegas Dreamcast, despite its flaws.

Feel free to have a look at the "other unreleased games" I've found. For the more curious among you, I've created a "list of all Dreamcast unreleased games".

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