top of page

Red Dog Dreamcast, on the road to Argonaut and its prototypes!

Developed by Argonaut, this 3D shooter was mostly worth it for its Dreamcast-like graphics but especially for the superb explosion and smoke effects. The Red Dog universe is luxuriously textured and the action is full of stunning visual effects. The objective was to smash everything in your way, armed with lasers and protected by a shield.

Matt Godbolt, who has moved away from the industry, is now making his skills available to an American hedge fund. He had worked as a programmer on Red Dog with Matthew Porter, who is still working in the industry at Dovetailgames on train simulation titles. The 2 companions remember it as if it was yesterday.»

Matt Godbolt: «Red Dog is my first real game, working with two incredible coders (Matt Porter here, and Saviz Izadpanah as well). Matt was my lead programmer and I still have fond memories of working with him. I don't think I joined the project until late 97/early 98. The first time I met them was in the car on the way to SEGA Europe headquarters to introduce us or get the devkits or something like that.»

Argonaut was a British development studio that employed 140 people at the end of the production of Croc 2. The company was at the origin of numerous achievements on Playstation, Saturn, Nintendo 64, PC and Dreamcast. Among the flagship titles of the English company, we find one, A mythical Super Nintendo game, precursor of the real-time 3D on console, which sold 4 million copies: Starfox!

Matt Godbolt: «As part of a reconciliation between Argonaut and Nintendo (following the Starfox episode), Shigeru Miyamoto (from Nintendo)came to the office and played several of our games in development, including Red Dog. I was one of the people he played against in multiplayer, which is still a highlight of my career, more than 20 years later.»


Red Dog and its development

It was at the end of 1997, when work on Croc was coming to an end and they were waiting for the last XR/TRC (compliance tests) from SEGA for the Saturn version that the idea of Red Dog was born. Saviz Izadpanah, in his spare time, had put together a buggy demo that was running on his PC, in the Colindale (The exact address: 70 Colindale Ave, London NW9 5ES, UK.) premises. It showed a buggy driving through a rough polygonal field.

Matthew Porter: «It was a fun prototype he had developed to learn about spring stress and vehicle suspension modeling. It was actually pretty close to what we used in the final game!»

Argonaut's team of twelve people (including two female artists, Soo Cole and Mel Amadi) for the RD project, newly installed in offices in Edgware (a British town, located in the London district of Barnet), could start designing Red Dog on Power VR cards (SET 2) in order to get the first renders of the game.

Matt Godbolt: «In fact, it took a while before everyone was in the same place to create this game! I think we changed locations 2 or 3 times as a team during its development. We were in the middle of the floor, then on the first floor, then in the middle of the floor again (and then another change when we moved to the SWAT game...another story...while we also finished the US localization of Red Dog for Crave

The Power VR cards, also called SET 2, were the first development kits for the Dreamcast. It was a PC graphics card that allowed the development studio to start the development of their game while waiting for the real development kit (SET 5) that would arrive later (more details here).

Matthew Porter: «There were two project code names under discussion before the console was called Dreamcast: Blackbelt and Katana. It wasn't entirely clear what the final name or specifications would be for a while. I think we got some indication of "the ambition to aim for somewhere between the power of Model 2 (SEGA's arcade terminal) and Model 3 (Model 2 evolution) as an initial direction.»

Red Dog promotional video made to sell the idea to SEGA

It was with the Dreamcast that PAL 60 hz had entered the lexicon of game development. It was going to become a standard. One of SEGA Europe's technical support staff had put this option in the SDK (a set of tools provided with a hardware platform, an operating system or a programming language) of the Dreamcast platform and had lobbied for it to be included in all PAL titles. Sony, with its Playstation 2, will take time to propose its games with the choice of 50 or 60 hz frequencies.

With the 128 bytes generation, SEGA wanted everything to be really professional. The Japanese manufacturer demanded to receive the source files of the texts used in the game (credits, dialogues etc.) to make sure that everything was legal and to avoid certain excesses.

Matthew Porter: «In previous projects, we've had calls to friends/family in the credits list, references to our favorite soccer players in the game's character names, etc. With Red Dog, everything became a little more professional.»

SEGA was picky with Red Dog. The company had threatened Argonaut to withdraw the game because it did not have dynamic lighting.

Matthew Porter: «I would have liked to have done a better job on the dynamic lighting. The lighting we had was mostly the result of spending a whole weekend working on it after SEGA got a little testy. It's a miracle that it works. But really, it would have been even nicer to make it more sophisticated.»

The Croc team with Matthew Porter in his striped shirt at the front, right of the photo

Argaunut Team Croc.png

In the parking of the building during a summer party, Matthew Godbolt wears the beige Thundercats t-shirt

Argaunut Team.png

Anna Larke testing Croc on PS1

Croc Playstation 1 test Argaunut.png



The design team used 3D Studio Max (an editor designed by Kinetix and later acquired by AutoDesk) as the working environment for placing objects, trigger points, etc.. At the end, they would hit a big "export my level" button that would produce C game script logic from the mapped data, built in static library, linked to the game engine and run the game preview [mode].

During the development of RD, a surprising problem occurred. The scale was unintentionally distorted. The field of view, the lack of detail and the camera angle made the vehicle look like a toy tank in a toy city in some levels. This perspective problem was corrected after having a lot of fun with it.

Matt Godbolt: «We had a lot of fun with our art team. I remember Dave Taylor (the lead artist, I think) calling the President's house "the President's mouse" and drawing a mouse (in actual scale rather than the "toy" scale he perceived) on the front of the house...»

The funky effects they abused:

One of the artists (Leon?) had bought AfterFX and found a nice ring explosion effect. This effect was pretty quickly integrated into the builds as part of the missile explosion effects. It was used on several other detonation effects afterwards.

Matt Goldbot had created a lightning effect that could only be used once for a specific boss weapon. The effect was nice, and it was quickly used everywhere, so much so that the Team had to reduce it afterwards.

Matthew Porter: «It looks great if we use it here, here and oh... why not here too!»

Saviz Izadpanah had coded some nasty spiders. They were meant to be fought in one place. They would ultimately be seen in several maps of the game.



Red Dog is a game developed at a time when the industry was looking for itself and changing. Nowadays, 20 creators to make an average title would be illusory, the current standard being 50 to 100 people with a cost spread over the whole project, both internal and external with outsourced teams.

Matthew Porter: «Production values have increased along with platform generations, and the added bulk of titles (GD-ROM vs. Blu-Ray 50 dual layer for example) can bring an implicit expectation to make more content per title. The complexity of titles (and the current prevalence of multiplayer compared to the early 2000s) means that QA teams are also larger on average today than they were then!»

Red Dog and its distribution

At the wheel of a futuristic tank, the player evolves on a very rough terrain. The goal is to advance on board this off-road vehicle nicknamed Red Dog (hence the name of the game) by killing everything that moves until the confrontation with the boss of the level. The universe is made up of creepy tunnels filled with biomechanical spiders and alien bases full of enemies. The enemies can come from anywhere.


The battle era is planet earth, with 15 different environments to visit. The mission seems straightforward enough but it’s a tough one since the difficulty is high. You have to destroy the Haak forces who turned hostile while trade agreements

Red Dog is a classic action game with its many styles of enemies, doors to unlock to cross new areas and all kinds of bonuses to collect (shield, weapons, armor regeneration etc.). RD could have been a Rail Shooter!


Matthew Porter: «I think I was determined to make an On-Rails game engine (I was into things like Time Crisis, Starblade, etc.). By the time I figured out how we could get started, the other programmers had actually already written a Free Roaming terrain renderer.»

Where the game made sense, as it often does, was its multiplayer mode allowing up to 4 players to compete on the same TV. You could choose between: Deathmatch, Bomb Tag (cat and mouse), Knockout, Suicide bomb Tag, Stealth Assassin, Flag Runner and King of the Hill (take and defend an area). There was plenty to do to spend a fun afternoon with your friends.


Matt Godbolt: «I think we're all very happy with how the multiplayer came out. Sefton and Poz did a great job balancing the levels, and we enjoyed playing them as a team.»

Red Dog was the only Argonaut game to be released on Dreamcast. There was another DC prototype render/game called "Blob" but nothing really substantial. The RD engine would later be used for an Xbox game : SWAT : Global Strike Team whose code name was Kleanerz.

Matthew Porter: «It was clear in 2000 that we weren't making much money with that platform (the Dreamcast), and the teams had moved on to the new worlds of the PS2 and the first Xbox kits at that time.»

The US release of Red Dog saw a new publisher in charge : Crave. The US version is not a simple port of the European one. New content was added, especially within the “Challenge” mode.

Matthew Porter: «From memory, rather than just porting the build for the US and changing the publisher's name, we took a little bit more time with this version to add some new Challenge mode games. So I think the US version of RD is actually the definitive version to own.»

The Red Dog prototype of September 9, 1999

This prototype version is dated September 1st 1999, about 8 months before the final European version. The prototype has 7 tracks as opposed to the 3 tracks of the final version.

Some files are specific to the build like levels (TRAIN.LVL and SWAMP.LVL for example) that seem to have been cut or renamed later. Unfortunately, these maps are incomplete and can't be played as is (further checks are needed). The Argonauts developers also left a file inside the prototype called "SEGA.lib". SEGA.lib is a package containing SEGA Ninja Library Ninja Ver 01000086. No check was made to see if these were existing versions or not, because the functions are known (to be checked).

Matthew Porter: «The swamp is RD on a boat in the beginning with some kind of flying boss that I spent ages on and wasn't getting anywhere fast with.»

Content extraction comparison between the prototype (left) and the final version (right)

Red Dog Dreamcast Prototype content.jpg
Sega Dreamcast Red Dog Prototype content.jpg

Matt Godbolt: «I think there was a level that started with RD entering a train and then being in the top car, with the locomotive moving on a track while the enemies were flying.»

You can download the SEGA.Lib file below


Some differences

This prototype is complicated to explore. There are too many differences to list them all. Here are some of them:

Even if it is not in the prototype, the Argonaut logo

Argonaut logo Red Dog.jpg

Impossible to go further in this level

Argonaut Red Dog Dreamcast Prototype.jpg

The prototype starts directly on the title screen (it will be modified later) of RD without going through the steps of the "Presented by Sega" window and the logo of the development studio.


Red Dog Dreamcast Title Prototype.jpg


Dreamcast Red Dog Final title screen.jpg

Auto-demo, by pressing no button on the title screen, is not yet implemented.

The icon that appears on the memory card mentions "Red Dog c Argonaut 1999". It will be replaced in the final version by an animation of the letters R and D repeating. Be careful, when plugging a VMU into the 4 controllers of the console, when the game starts on the Demul emulator (Flycast doesn't work for this prototype), the screen stays black/purple. It must be a bug.

Objective: shoot in the bunch

The layout of the menus, the background and the font as well as its color do not correspond between the final version and this beta.

Argonaut Dreamcast Red Dog Prototype.jpg
Red Dog Prototype Dreamcast Main menu.jpg
Main Menu Red Dog Dreamcast.jpg

Red Dog may finally be easier

Dreamcast Prototype Red Dog.jpg
Prototype Dreamcast Red Dog.jpg
Sega Red Dog Argonaut.jpg

When starting a new game, the prototype allows you to choose the difficulty level which is not normally possible.

The Scorpion King

Volcano Red Dog boss Dreamcast.jpg

The place where RD appears in the levels, whether in single or multiplayer mode, may differ from one version to another. This is clearly visible in the level "The Volcano" in a single player game. The player interface will undergo changes during the further development of the game.

Matt Godbolt: «We made it dark and dirty. I know SEGA wanted more lighting effects.»

Dreamcast Red Dog Argonauts Prototype.jpg
Sega Dreamcast Red Dog Volcano.jpg

The boss, a nasty scorpion, of the map "The Volcano" is buggy. Its combat mechanics don't seem to be perfected yet. Once dead, it does not disappear. The game can't go to the next level.

Elements of the setting are adjusted in the final release version of Red Dog. For example, in the multiplayer arena "Castle" in this prototype, ramps are placed in other locations. Many of the arenas have unfinished names. They are also all unlocked without the need to progress normally in the game.

Audio does not always match between the prototype and the commercial copy of the game. For example, the vehicle engine has no sound.

When playing this prototype, players will not necessarily recognize the usual Argonaut game they used to play.  They will feel like they are playing a completely different version of Red Dog!

Red Dog (Sep 01,1999 Dreamcast Prototype).jpg

You can download this build of Red Dog Dreamcast below:

Red Dog (Sep 01, 1999 Dreamcast Prototype)

The other prototypes of Red Dog

Red Dog - Superior Firepower (Sep 29, 2000 prototype) - GDR Front.jpg
Red Dog - Superior Firepower (Nov 2, 1999 prototype) - GDR Front.jpg
Red Dog (Jan 29, 2000 Dreamcast prototype).jpg


These old Dreamcast prototype releases from Red Dog have been re-dumped using the standards, so they use the .bin/.cue format. You can use GDIDrop to convert it to .gdi if that's what you prefer. Many thanks to Sazpaimon for his research on GD-R dumping methods. More information to come on the Hidden Palace website!

The source code of Red Dog

On September 26, 2022, Matt Godbolt was able to officially share the source code of Red Dog. This rarely happens and deserves to be highlighted. You can find it below:

I would like to thank Matthew Porter and  Matt Godbolt: for their availability, their kindness, for taking the time to answer my questions and more. Their testimonies allow us to go back in time to the development of Red Dog!

I thank all the team involved in the Red Dog project (Mobygames).

Special thanks to:

  • Vince for the English correction of the text of the article.

  • VincentNL for his expertise on the file SEGA.Lib.

More than 200 prototypes, documents, presskits have been dumped or scanned, you will find them in free download in the "Release of prototypes and documents"

bottom of page