Propeller Arena Dreamcast, when airplanes didn't yet have wings (early prototype)
Propeller Arena is a cancelled video game for the SEGA Dreamcast console. The game was being developed by a company called AM2, a division of SEGA, and was to be published by SEGA itself. Propeller Arena was originally scheduled for release in 2001, but was eventually cancelled due to the events of September 11, 2001.
The game was an online multiplayer air combat title that allowed players to pilot different aircraft and take part in aerobatic combat and other challenges. It featured both single-player and multiplayer modes, with the online multiplayer component particularly prominent. Propeller Arena's ambition was to take advantage of the Dreamcast's built-in modem and online capabilities to offer an immersive online gaming experience.
However, due to the tragic events of September 11, which involved the use of aircraft as weapons, SEGA decided to cancel the release of Propeller Arena out of respect for the victims and their families. The game was essentially finished at the time of its cancellation, and preview copies had already been sent to the media, so gameplay extracts and screenshots of the game exist.
Old name of the game?
Although Propeller Arena was never officially released, some prototype versions of the game have since surfaced online. These prototypes give players a glimpse of what the game might have been like.
Since then, several builds of Propeller Arena have been released (seven, including an E3 demo you can download here on the game's homepage), and many people have already been able to sample the delights of killing each other in aerial battles worthy of the greatest war films of contemporary cinema. The version of the game featured in this article was not very advanced, but this new beta opens the doors to behind-the-scenes secrets of Propeller Arena's development. It gives a glimpse of AM2's game at the very beginning of its creation.
Yes, very early...
Propeller Arena, the game to include in a Dreamcast-Mini? The context of its cancellation will always prevent a proper release...
Propeller Arena (Apr 3, 2001 Prototype)
The discovery of this prototype of Propeller Arena Dreamcast, in the early stages of its development, is a real godsend. Numerous elements, whole sections of the title, were abandoned and finally cut when the game went GOLD (i.e. sent to the press to be duplicated and boxed). Reading between the lines, several conclusions can be drawn. Of course, everyone will have their own theories, but here are mine, summarizing the essential points of this build analysis:
AM2, the studio responsible for Propeller Arena, initially wanted to offer several different game modes for single- and multiplayer aerial combat. In the end, the team settled on just one: Battle Royal. The idea of one squadron of aircraft fighting against another, with a novel system of giving orders to teammates, seemed attractive. Unfortunately, the two different Team Battle modes don't really add any value to PA. The designers probably should have created two distinct player interfaces to differentiate the Battle Royal mode from the Team Battle mode. Players might well have felt lost, and it wouldn't have been easy to get to grips with the game, not to mention the extra programming work required to do so.
In its early days, Propeller Arena was more about scoring. The developers probably wanted to offer PA a high degree of replayability, by offering gamers the chance to always do better, to outdo themselves, by collecting as many points as possible during skirmishes in the 10 available battle arenas with their varied looks. Points were calculated on the basis of the number of enemies killed, the number of times your aircraft were shot down, and perhaps other criteria. This new scoring system stands in stark contrast to the method finally chosen, which is the order of players' positions at the end of a game and their kill counts (first, second, third etc.), the podium principle.
The removal of the altimeter from the player interface is understandable. The player has no use for it. It was just a gadget to give the game a simulation feel. The creators of Propeller Arena probably thought it would be complicated for players to navigate through a 3D space. Not so.
The menus have been simplified as much as possible, so that all the custom options, for example, fit into a single window. The way the game settings are displayed on this prototype, full of menus and submenus, is very messy.
This early build of Propeller Arena, apart from the differences visible once the game is launched, tells us more about the SEGA studio's vision for their game once development has begun. As the project progressed, AM2's developers constantly tried to streamline PA in order to offer the best gaming experience to us, the gamers. The result lives up to our expectations!
This new prototype shows Propeller Arena in an early state of development. The file dates indicate April 3, 2001, leaving around 6 months between this prototype and the date of the considered final version of Propeller Arena, September 11, 2001 (a fateful date). This prototype version of AM2's game is very special - judge for yourself!
Video of the prototype
There is no risk of not being able to read it
The build loads briefly against a blue background (Could the Debug Mode be triggered here?) before moving on to the game's autoload screen. This window, meanwhile, is presented with a green rather than black background, revealing the Propeller Arena logo in the background.
As is often the case with early prototypes of Dreamcast games, the size of the logo and font on the "Presented by SEGA" screen is larger than usual. This is also the case for the development studio's coat-of-arms, the darling of the company with the blue hedgehog.
AM2's developers shouldn't really have started work on the game's pixelated presentation on the Visual Memory Unit (VMU). There are no motifs featuring Yu Suzuki's production. The save system is functional, however. The game's illustration icon (red PA icon), in the console's file menu, is provisional, since it shows the initials PA (Propeller Arena) instead of the head of one of the characters animated with a thumb in the air. The space required for saving is 4 blocks (s), not 10.
It's too easy...
The final version uses only the ADX sound codec, and not the video container format developed by CRI Middleware MPEG Sofdec as on the prototype. This observation is made on the screen listing the codecs used. Perhaps it's just an error in using the window following the AM2 acronym.
The "SEGANET THE GAMER' DESTINATION" page is not displayed.
Propeller Arena's title screen is slightly different, with the studio copyright inscription removed from the top right of the game's brand image. Black bars will be added to the bottom and top of the screen to give it a 16:9 aspect ratio, so to speak.
From 1 to 100 in a few seconds
Too complicated this time...
Loading times are fast, and are quantified after the "Loading" mark (from 0 to 100 for sure). The progression of "Loads" is shown in the final version with the punctuation mark "...".
The "Training Area" single-player mode did not exist or had only just been planned at this stage of PA's development. Perhaps it corresponds to the "Training" mode, alas not accessible, hidden in the main Quick Battle menu...impossible to play and confirm...
Remnants of one of the game's early names "Propeller Arena Aviation Battle 2045" remain. This provisional title is hidden everywhere, sometimes in the background of certain menus (Option, Network Battle, etc.) and even at the end of the cutscene replacing the auto-demo. The project's best-known code name was "Propeller Head Online".
User name registration for the Online
The main menu has six options, rather than the five found on some well-known versions. It is displayed in a simplistic form without the window name in the upper left corner. Compared with the usual main menu, the options are displayed in the wrong order, in a vertical scroll bar rather than across the entire screen. The six page options and their special features :
Championship (present in the September 11, 2001 prototype)
Quick Battle (present in the September 11, 2001 prototype)
Option (present in the September 11, 2001 prototype)
Records (unique to this version), see below
Web (unique to this version), see below
Network Battle (present in the September 11, 2001 prototype as Network)
Records : scoring was certainly planned for Propeller Arena, as this menu proves. Once inside, 3 choices are offered to the player: Championship, Network Battle and Time Attack. The first 2 don't work, while the last one allows you to view the best pre-recorded times from the locked Quick Battle mod, Time Attack. Note that this menu is also present in the general game options (this time only Time Trial). It glitches regularly. As Time Trial is not playable, the Records menu is of no interest.
Web : this temporary menu is probably there to test the functionality of copying emblems from Dreamcast memory to the VMU. In other versions of PA, the emblems appear at the top of the title screen once the game has been completed with a driver (see photo of title screen above). This is not the case here. The prototype creates a new save file (green PA icon in the console's file menu, pictured above) for the emblems, instead of saving them to the game's general save...
All the options in the Network Battle menu are fully accessible, unlike those in the previously known Network menu, most of which were blocked. The differences are obvious. You'll be able to preview and interact with them, unfortunately without being able to pass authentication and establish an online connection, and get an idea of the premises of online implementation for Propeller Arena Dreamcast. This menu would deserve a chapter of its own, as the video presentation of the prototype is sufficient in itself. This menu is explained in detail in the prototype article of June 15, 2001.
The build's other menus deserve their own detailed analysis. A chapter is devoted to them. Many design ideas were not retained, and elements were cut during development...
The presenter's voice-over, the famous narrator, is not heard at any point in the game's menus. Perhaps SEGA hadn't yet cast dubbing actor Greg Irwin. Propeller Arena's entire voice system had not yet been integrated into the prototype, since no voice, regardless of the actor, can be heard. There's no record of them in any of the game's files.
Propeller Arena on Model 1
A swooping flight among the buldings
By browsing the prototype's ADX sound files (this is the BGM.AFS file, usually named ADXSOUND.AFS), 31 music tracks could be extracted. The known version of Propeller Arena has 21. Please note, however, that this does not mean that they are all audible in-game. Many of the songs are placed there provisionally, as they don't correspond to any of the tracks that are usually perceptible. Some songs may be early versions (drafts) of the music in the final version. The songs are not titled (except for 1). They are named by a code name, e.g. PH01. No music content identification program recognizes them.
When the game is paused, the prototype includes 10 songs, as opposed to the 19 in the final version. The "SELECT" and "VOICE VOLUME" audio options are not present.
A different song is played during the title's introductory cutscene, during the auto-demo by pressing no buttons in the title menu. PA's introductory cutscene bears no resemblance to the one players are familiar with. The pilots in their first design don't wear helmets (not good). One of the game's first titles, "Propeller Arena Aviation Battle 2045", comes into view at the end.
Intro comparison video
Even in the scripted sequences following the selection of an aviation ace, aggressive hard-rock soundtracks are not yet available at this stage of the game's development.
Aeroplane engines don't roar during the pilots' exhibition cutscenes. What's more, you never see the silhouettes of the characters during these short real-time scenes, when they should be smiling and get a chance to shine on the screen. They had the jitters....
Menu navigation sounds are tuned higher than usual when they are the same as those normally used.
Propeller Arena's soundtrack is a skillful blend of Punk Rock. The voice-overs and music are elements that set PA apart from other SEGA titles. Fun and, above all, good sound: the ingredients were there to make this an exceptional title...
Main menu options
All AP options logically appear in a single window. This is not the case here, where each of the game's configuration options has its own dedicated page, with a vertical scroll bar showing the various choices available.
Game Settings :
Settings allow you to modify the game in ways that are not normally possible. Some of these new options seem more aimed at developers than players, notably invincibility activated in the "No Damage" control panel, or bullet loss (or not) in "Bullet (automatic aiming?)".
Unfortunately, the "Window" option (which certainly adjusts the image to the screen) is locked, but perhaps a hack will enable you to enter this new menu.
There are seven difficulty levels: VERY EASY (unique to this version), EASY, NORMAL, HARD, VERY HARD (unique to this version), MANIAC (unique to this version) and HELL (unique to this version). On the version considered final, Propeller Arena can only be played on 4 difficulty levels, including EXTREME, which can be earned by completing the game three times with the same aircraft on at least Normal difficulty. EXTREME must surely correspond to one of the difficulties specific to the PA prototype.
The number of lives, continue, in the eponymous option can be shaped as follows: 3, 4 (unique to this version), 5, 6 (unique to this version), 99 (unique to this version) and INFINITY (unique to this version). Customization to 10 is not available in this build.
The Time Limit window is something that's only available in this build. It's possible to configure the length of time a game will last. The Point Limit option of the commercial version (yes, I know, it was never commercialized), is not yet a setting featured in this prototype.
At least there's enough Continue
Game Device :
This is where you'll find the menu for shaping the controller's buttons to your personal preferences. It's a little more complex than on recent versions of the game, and even a little bizarre. Comparative photos of the Custom submenu are better than explanations (DL = D-Pad Left, for example).
Usually, player 1 can set the controller settings for the other players. On this prototyped version, each player, with his pad, has to do it himself.
The second Analog/Digital sub-menu is used to change the keys used to control the aircraft, the Joystick or the D-Pad.
The difficulty of hell
The rest in bulk:
D-Pad or joystick?
As in the main menu, Records is something that can only be seen on this beta, this time only for scores in the (non-existent) Time Attack game mode.
Test Mod is unfortunately locked, as are many options and modes in this build. It will be unlocked in another prototype...surprise...
Some options from later builds are missing, such as the ability to change the color of items to be collected in an arena (red, green and yellow).
During the programming of Propeller Arena, the developers simplified the rendering and interactivity of their arcade game's menu option to make it as user-friendly as possible. When Propeller Arena's menus were too sophisticated for the game's designers...
The Quick Battle mod
Propeller Arena normally offers only one multiplayer mode, Battle Royal, set by default. Entering the prototype's Quick Battle menu, an unfamiliar window opens with six multiplayer modes, two of which are new and three of which are inaccessible:
Unique game mode
Computer versus computer
Team Battle (playable, NEW)
Team Battle 10Point (playable, NEW)
Battle Royal (certainly the equivalent of the final version's only multiplayer mode)
4 VS 4 (NEW and LOCKED)
Time Attack (NEW and LOCKED)
Training (NEW and LOCKED)
By choosing Team Battle or Team Battle 10Point, a new menu appears, allowing you to set a few game variables, such as "P1 VS COM", "P1 VS P2" and "COM VS COM", which is ideal for taking pretty pictures, since the player interface disappears and the planes are piloted by the computer (a kind of Replay).
When selecting Battle Royal, the menu for selecting the number of players (1, 2, 3, 4 with the design of the 4 Dreamcast controllers), the first sub-menu normally accessible, is called "Entry Game" on this build and not "Player Entry". The flashing "Press A to Join" message below the Dreamcast controller image does not appear on the prototype. Player 1 chooses the number of players who will compete for victory (using the "Right" button on the D-Pad); in the final version, each player is invited to press the "A" key if they wish to join a game. There are other special features, as shown in these two photos.
Perfect for beautiful photos
The features following the Entry Game window are listed and explained in the sections "Choosing characters and their planes" and "Choosing battle arenas". You thought you were finished ? But this is just the beginning...
The choice of characters and their planes
The budding aviators deserved their own section. As already noted on another production (Shenmue II Game Jam) from SEGA's flagship studio, AM2 wasn't content with their first character design. The clothing and appearance of the characters would change throughout the development of Propeller Arena until they had the look desired by the game's design team.
On the aircraft pilot selection screen, in Quick Battle's three multiplayer modes, the build’s specificities become apparent. Unlike the pilot selection page in Championship mode, the prototype submits it in a provisional, unpolished layout. The image of the pilot's plane will eventually replace the orange box in which it says Team 1 (2, 3 etc.) found in this beta. A new window, unique to this early version of PA, appears just before the choice of battle arenas. It is possible to modify the artificial intelligence of non-player opponents by making them stronger (from 0 to 10 in the LEVEL option).
Driver selection page
On arriving at the selection screen for aircraft pilots in Championship mode, each with their own character traits (which may explain the changes made to their design to accentuate their mentality), the first differences are revealed. The crest with the aviator's name is more pronounced and larger. The airplane, modeled in the colors of his red baron apprentice, appears next to his logo, although it shouldn't be displayed. The navigation cursor between the different aerobatic aces is not correct. The prototype doesn't mention the informative message "PLAYER 1: PRESS START" usually located below the character's name.
All (or almost all) aviators are unlocked by default in this AP build, so there's no need to acquire them as you progress through the game.
New parameter settings
Aircraft pilots such as Air Shark Blimp, HKT-7700 and Lil' Susie, which can be unlocked as the game progresses, cannot be selected. Either they weren't planned at the time, or their modeling simply hadn't begun.
The NPC models used for the Sol & Ray and Shadow bonus pilots are the same as Eagle Jay. The animation, on the other hand, is the right one.
While the basic animation of the pilots, i.e. when they first arrive on their data sheets, is already implemented, they remain static thereafter. Hex Candy's excitement is animated in a different way in this version.
Temporary character model
After a selected aerobatic pilot, a mini cutscene should show them with their plane ready for takeoff. The sequence is generic for all the pilots, with no glimpse of them.
None of the interior cockpit views for the 10 aircraft in this Propeller Arena prototype have been finalized. Either the textures are missing or roughly textured, or the instrument panels are not detailed or are not those ordinarily visible. For the exterior view of Shadow's aircraft, its jet engines are not burning.
Unfinished interior view
Some features of aviators (comparisons)
Muscle Bros : Nobody would recognize him from one version to the next if his name didn't appear on the screen. In beta, this seasoned pilot must have been a Sex Pistols fan, judging by his green iroquois. His origin and ethnicity will be modified by the change in his skin tone.
8-bit Beat/8bB : Green suits him perfectly, as opposed to yellow. Perhaps the AM2 team, by making him wear other clothes, wanted him to have the design of a dangerous but funny character, an oddball... He’s the maverick of the Propeller Arena gang.
Golden Knife : Here's the old man from the airplane squadron. His definitive look makes him seem cultured and wise. Not yet holding his cane in his hands, perhaps he hadn't yet been injured in an aircraft crash...
Pizza King : This brave guy looks chubbier in this build. His name should be Pizza Fat. The definitive choice of military fatigues gives him a more adult look. He looks less serious in the commercial version.
Shameless Cats : Not safe for work, she has more breasts on the prototype. In the final version, she's less naked. Her face, eyes and haircut...what can I say...she's scary.
It's always fun to see how characters change their look during the development of a video game. The reasons can be varied: self-censorship, a better distribution of the different populations present in the software, a wiser or wackier look for the NPCs to bring out their personality (way of being) even more, and so on.
The choice of fighting arenas
What would Propeller Arena have looked like if it had been released years earlier on SEGA's Model 1 arcade system? Some of the maps in this prototype may answer that question.
Arena selection page
The screen used to select the battle arena, regardless of game mode, features a number of changes. The build lists them as stage numbers (1, 2, 3, 4 etc. ) written in the middle of a colored box. The green frames in the middle and bottom of the "Stage Select" menu are not replaced by photos of the map scenery. The "Sky High" level label is abbreviated to "Sky Hi".
Once the level has been selected in Quick Battle mode, a game should start automatically. This prototype invites the player to a brand-new menu, Game Start, asking him or her to confirm the choices made by pressing "A" in order to finally begin a game of Propeller Arena.
Some environments have no collision system, so the plane can fly through the scenery (Airport, Old Castle, Fars East Ruin). Beware, however, that the plane will crash if it reaches the ground, and it may even fly under the battlefield for a while before crashing.
The volcano in the Volcano stage erupts at the start of a play. This exploding mountain animation logically takes effect after a certain lapse of time in the final version.
New window before loading an arena
Some level features (comparisons)
Giga Plan : The level has no relief or decorative elements. A green circle on the ground delimits the playable area of the map. No need to say anything more about the t...
Far East Ruins : The levels in this Propeller Arena build were definitely not finished. All you can make out are the raised shapes of the elements on the ground.
Phantom Island : Scenery elements were not yet textured. The map is normally played at night, not during the day. The weather is not as clear as on the prototype, as a thunderstorm illuminates the darkness of the final version.
Airport : The Boeing 747, on the runway, is not moving for takeoff, so animation is non-existent. The same applies to rockets and space shuttles, which usually take off after a certain number of seconds have elapsed. The Nazca (or Nasca) lines...where are the aliens?
Old Castle : The map is in an early playable version. The application of textures on scenery elements was not yet effective.
Unlike Propeller Arena's characters and menus, there was no real adjustment to the playing fields. They were already in their definitive form, without taking into account the absence of the texture apply for some of them.
To fully enjoy this Propeller Arena prototype, you'll need to play it without a VMU connected to the console. Once the memory cards are plugged in, a bug prevents the aircraft from being piloted correctly (perhaps due to the Flycast emulator).
The aiming system pattern employed is a small square rather than an X-shaped cross. When an adeversary is in the player's line of sight, at less than 500 meters, a large orange circle usually surrounds the targeting system, something that was not yet implemented on the prototype. The lack of aiming assistance makes it harder to shoot down an enemy aircraft.
The arrow (a compass, in the same style as Crazy Taxi) indicating which direction an opponent is facing is always in the same color, and not in the color assigned to one of the five competitors (Battle Royal mode).
Best jump is not recommended
The "READY" and "GO" information at the start of a game has a smaller font size. Their color does not match that of the final version of Propeller Arena.
During a naval air battle, the game can ask the player to press the "X" button (the symbol of the key appears on the screen) to automatically pursue the enemy plane in pursuit. A cinematic sequence ensues, in which all you have to do is pull the trigger to hit the target every time. This gameplay component had not yet been taken into account at this stage of PA's development.
Here we go
The "Y" button is assigned to machine-gun fire, unlike the default "A" button in the final version. To attack with a missile, it is imperative to press "X" and not "Y" as usually requested. The image of the flashing button (Y Push) does not appear in the bottom left-hand corner of the screen.
When only ten seconds remain of the time given at the start to achieve the mission objective of killing as many people as possible, the prototype displays no final countdown.
When the aircraft stalls, the image of a Joystick with an animation that moves it continuously from left to right normally appears with an orange progress bar under the name of the complication currently encountered by the aircraft. It explains the maneuver to be carried out to straighten the aircraft's nose, either by alternating between the directions of the Joystick required. This gameplay element did not yet exist on this early prototype of AM2's game.
In championship mode
The championship game mode is set in team (red, the player's) versus team (green, the computer's), a brand-new game mode. Normally, it's a Battle Royal.
In the beta, the player is obliged to win the game, otherwise they won’t be able to move on to the next round of the competition. On the definitive version, the player can reach at least third place before the game asks to use a "continue" and start the level again. Differences are noticeable on the "CONTINUE" screen (text size and color).
Game Over Debug Information
During the progress of a championship, after each map played, there are normally two results screens: one showing the results of the game just completed, and the other showing the overall result since the start of the Championship mode. The second is non-existent on this prototype.
Championship mode ends after the Phantom Island arena, and the Game Over screen appears with debug information at the top. This isn't the only place where developer warnings appear: the "Clear Stage" window, just after the one displaying the scores of the just-completed game, also contains them.
Before you start killing each other in an arena, the prototype doesn't mention the name of the map (Airport, Tower City etc.). It simply says ROUND 1 (2/3/4 etc.), and not 1ST BATTLE (2/3/4 etc.) with the name of the place where the aerial duels will take place.
The pause menu (START)
GAME RESET : A new option for returning to the controller screen (Battle Royal) or to the driver selection page (Team Battle and Championship).
RESET : To return to the title screen, the option should be named Quit Game.
EXIT : To return to the game, the option should be called Continue.
The "RETRY" option does not yet exist. Other options are missing, please refer to the audio chapter.
Messages explaining the function of the designated option often include a different text than the known one.
The pause menu box is red instead of orange. It is wider than that of the final version.
As you may have noticed from the many photos illustrating this article, the user interface is something that will be completely changed during the rest of Propeller Arena's development.
1: Kill count bar (player and enemy)
2: Portrait of the player's pilot (leader) + aircraft logo
3: Orders to give to teammates (tactical)
4: Teammates' information bubble
5: Altimeter and speed
8: Portrait of opponents (leader) + aircraft logo
7: Radar + time counter
6: Life bar + power bar (special moves)
Final version :
7: Enemy pilot logo + kill count
2: Player's pilot logo + number of kills
6: Time counter
4/5: Life bar + power bar (special moves)
Interface analysis :
1/Battle Royal and Team Battle 10 points : When the player dies, a green square appears on the right-hand side of the kill bar. When the player kills an opponent, a red square appears to the left of the kill bar. The aim is to fill the kill bar with as many kills as possible before the time runs out (to be verified).
1/Team Battle and Championship : Each team, red for its own and green for the opponent's, starts a game with 5 kills each. The aim is to fill the kill bar of your color, or to score the most kills with your team before the time runs out. When a team member dies, a green square appears on the right-hand side of the kill bar. When a team member kills an opponent, a red square appears to the left of the life bar. If one of his teammates is shot down, his squadron loses a kill square, as does the opposing squadron (check how this works). It's possible that the death of the player (leader) loses 2 kill points, and that killing the leader of the rival team gains 2. Be careful not to shoot your fellow players!
The number of kills is not quantified to the right of the player's logo or to the left of the enemy aircraft icon, as in the final version. At the end of a scuffle, a screen displays the player's statistics, based on a brand-new point-based calculation system. This window stands in stark contrast to the podium method finally chosen, which ranks players by the number of kills they have scored at the end of a game.
Result Battle Royal
Result Championship and Team Battle)
2,4 and 8 : Each pilot has a portrait of the team leader, strangely enough even in Battle Royal. The aviators are named on the prototype A0 (the player's name and leader) A1, A2, B0 (the leader of the opposing team, unless I'm mistaken), B2 and B3. Normally, they're just represented by the logo of the character and his plane. In a conversation bubble new to the build, as if reading a comic strip, they communicate on-screen, giving details of what's currently happening for them. For example, they use a skull and crossbones symbol to warn that they've just died, or they can ask for help by writing "Help" in a cartoon-style font next to their face.
3 : This prototype-specific feature allows you to give orders to your teammates, of which there are three: "Attack Ennemy Leader", "Come Together" and "Attack in a bunch" (to be verified if this really affects the AI and its repercussions in Battle Royal).
5,6 and 7 : The altimeter was a great idea, but now it's useless. The developers will remove it at a later date. As a result, the speed bar will have its own location. The life and power bars will also have their own dedicated place in the final version's player interface, whereas they were tied together in this early PA build. Radar is also something that will be removed during development of Propeller Arena.
On closer inspection, the process of simplifying the player interface is clearly visible. The developers went straight to the point. They really wanted something that would make sense from the very first seconds of play.
As is often the case, development options are not insignificant, and are even a plus for a game in prototype format. This build of Propeller Arena has just a few of them:
The Free Camera:
In order to roam freely in PA's environments, the trick to accessing the Free Camera is to pause the game. By pressing the "B" button on Player 1's controller, the message "Debug Camera" will appear above the kills bar. The "Left" and "Right" triggers are used to move forwards and backwards, while the Joystick is used to orientate the camera in the desired direction. By holding down the "B" button and then using the Joystick directions, the camera will move sideways or up and down.
To remove the START menu from the screen, press "B" a second time; a third time will return the game to normal mode, when the Debug Camera is activated. If this doesn't work with the controller connected to port A of the Dreamcast, try pressing "B" on a pad connected to port B/C or D. This is not really clear.
Button pressure control :
This development option is activated, or deactivated, by plugging a controller into the console's D port. Once the game has been paused, it is necessary to press "A" with the 4th controller. The right-hand side of the screen will then display information relating to button presses on Player 1's controller (not all buttons are taken into account).
Button pressure control
Important: There could be many more development options active and everywhere (in the game, in menus etc.). For example, once I was able to make the development option label appear in the controller configuration of the Device Settings menu without being able to reproduce it (see photo). Maybe it was just a bug....
LemonHaze from Team Wulinshu, thanks to him, was able to hack the game and unlock the TEST MOD feature in the option menu and the game mods previously inaccessible in Quick Battle: 4 VS 4, Time Attack and Training.
To unlock the new game modes and the test development option, download the demul_april file and open it with the Cheat Engine program, once the game has been launched on the Demul emulator.
You can download demu_april below:
To get all the game modes :
The number 0 in the Value column for Adress 2C0A1B04 (Full Game Check) must be changed to 1. All modes will be available in Quick Battle.
Before the game crashes
The 4 VS 4 and Training modes crash when loading the environments of the selected map. The Time Attack mod is playable, except that the number of planes shot down is not displayed in the kill bar, and the result at the end of a game is not saved in the Record (best time) menu that appears just before starting a game. The objective is undoubtedly to shoot down 10 planes as quickly as possible. The game is over once 999 seconds have elapsed. All the mechanics around the game mod are not finished, so when a game is over, no results are displayed in the game window, only a replay of the game with debug information in the bottom right-hand corner.
To get TEST MOD :
The 3 Test Mode Menu Adress must have a cross in front of them in the Active column. In the Value column, address 2C5C6010 must be modified and renamed to 0x0C0C2314, address 2C5C6014 must be renamed to 0C0C230C and finally address 2C5C6018 must be changed to 0x0C0C2320.
4 VS 4
Once in the options, nothing will be displayed. This is normal. Press "A" on the pad to load the TEST MOD menu and go straight to the MOTION VIEWER submenu. Interactivity with this menu, in this build, is very limited. Fortunately, the full TEST MOD menu is available without limitation in the June 2001 prototype. This already gives a glimpse of the animation test tool that AM2 developers had or were going to use for Propeller Arena.
Enjoy this alternative version of Propeller Arena Dreamcast.
You can download this build of Propeller Arena Dreamcast below:
If you'd like to download further Propeller Arena prototypes - seven in all - and read a detailed article about this game from AM2, you can visit the game's homepage: Seven new Propeller Arena Dreamcast prototypes on the horizon
Special thanks to:
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".
Similar prototypes (Unreleased): Agartha (DC) - Emulateur officiel Megadrive (DC) - Castlevania Resurrection (DC) - Half Life (DC) - Dalforce XOP (DC) - Flinstone (DC) - 4 x 4 Evolution PAL (DC) - Ring : L'Anneau des Nibelungen (DC) - Ecco 2 (DC) - Kyskrew (DC) - Propeller Arena (DC) - Geist Force (DC) -Scud Race Tech Demo Dreamcast - Shenmue 2 US (DC) - The Red Star (XBOX) - Heaven's Drive ( version japonaise de Burnout 1) pour PS2 - Jekyll and Hyde (DC) - The Grinch Jap (DC) - Worms Pinball (DC) - Quake 3 Arena japanese version (DC)
More than 200 prototypes, documents and presskits have been dumped or scanned, and are available for free download in the "Releases prototypes and documents" section.