Ask the M2 Developer

M2 related information in here please.
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3DOKid
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Post by 3DOKid » Sun Aug 08, 2010 8:21 am

NikeX wrote:Interview with Mr. Phil Burk

NikeX: Mr. Burk, do you have any information about 3DO and your former time at that company?

Mr. Burk: I was one of two people in the company with an office. It was because I was an audio guy and made lots of strange sounds that would disturb other people. 3DO was the first 32 bit game console with CD-Rom, 3D graphics hardware, and an audio DSP. But it is often overlooked in the history of game hardware.

I started NTG (New Technology Group) in September of 1992 when there were about 2 people. By the time I got there they had built the 3DO prototype using wirewrap technology. It consisted of 14 boards and ran at 1/4 speed. I worked on the audio DSP and was able to make a few changes to increase performance. I also developed the audio software which was a unit generator based library.

Once could create oscillators, filters, envelopes and other audio units on the DSP and connect them together to make complex sounds. All this was controllery by a 'C' API.

NTG merged with 3DO and we shipped the 3DO Game Console. I then started working on the new M2 product, which was code named Bulldog. It was named after John Sell who would not let go of an idea after he got a bite of it.
(Mr. Burk uploaded a picture of the first Bulldog design team. From left to right are John Sell, Phil Burk, his Boss RJ Mical, (?), Peter Broadwell, Don Gray and Dale Luck.

M2 had a new design for the graphics engine and an enhanced audio DSP. It was used in some arcade machines but was not shipped as a home unit. We then spun out as Cagent and designed the MX system. MX had high performance graphics engine and a new RISC style DSP. Nintendo liked it and almost boght it for their console but they could not reach a deal with our new Korean owner Samsung.

(Mr. Burk uploaded some photos) of one of the first dev kits and a later dev kit and one of the wirewrap boards after the PALs had been removed. He wrote: Note that MADAM and CLIO on the first kit are up on a multi-layer riser. That is because AT&T wired the silicon backwards in the first chip that we got from the fab. They rotated it 180 degress. So we had to create a riser board to map the wrong pins to the right pins.

NikeX: Many people didn't understand the philosophy behind the 3DO. But maybe you have heard such things often.

Mr. Burk: 3DO was both underestimated and over-hyped, if that's possible. The 3DO was a technical success and we dominated the market for about one year.
But, in my opinion, three things killed it. One was the high price of the unit which orginally cost about $600. 3DO was trying to make money on the console sales. That high price limited our market penetration.
Second was the stock market bubble. 3DO was over-hyped by Wall Street. Reporters were outdoing each other to praise 3DO. One analyst wrote a story right after CES that burst the 3DO stock bubble. After that it became hard to sell stock to raise money and the stock options were not useful for attracting new hires. A more realistic slow ramp up in stock value would have been better for us.

Third was a fab disaster. SEGA was very interested in buying our M2 chip for their next console. But when we got the first prototype chips back from the fab, they were missing a layer of metal. Some engineer at the fab left a line out of a script. This killed all the on-chip RAMs including the graphics texture RAM and the DSP RAM. So, the demos we showed to SEGA did not have any textures and ran very slow. The next chip worked fine but it was too late.

NikeX: Only because of the layer and the script. A whole system development, and a deal with SEGA for nothing. What were the feelings of the M2 dev. team?

Mr. Burk: We were bummed but the new fixes chips came out a couple of months later. We just concentrated on getting the software working. We figured out there would be other buyers.

NikeX: What happend then? What did 3DO tell you?

Mr. Burk: Everything. Trip Hawkins was honest with the employees.

NikeX: Mr. Burk, you are the founder of Mobileer, and Mr. Hawkins founded Digi-Choc. But he is not a rival in business, isn't he?

Mr. Burk: We are not rivals. I sell ringtone player software. He sells video games.

NikeX: Samsung and 3DO cancel MSP project - what does that mean?

Mr. Burk: They talk about forming a new company. That was Cagent. We developed the MX chip, the successor to M2. When that closed, Microsoft bought the technology and hired many of the engineers for WebTV. They tried to hire me but I wanted to do contracting.

NikeX: 3DO sold the M2 technology to Panasonic. And the CORE M2 / Bulldog team? What were they doing: New projects, making updates?

Mr. Burk: By this time we were already starting MX. I was developing a RISC style DSP for audio synthesis.
That was brilliant. Thanks.

So NTG was only Dave Needle and RJ Mical for two years just working on the hardware.

I wonder where they go the money from? It sure as hell wasn't from developing the Lynx, I guess from the sale of Amiga right...?

Whas was that story that broke the 3DO Stock bubble? They were valued at one point $300 Million. Which seems a little execessive. I know Trip Hawkins was running about saying it was 50x leap in performance over the SNES and Gensis, but in story just after CES, EDGE Magazine published a story that reckoned it was a 6x leap. They also talked about the games at CES not running on a 3DO at all, but running on Mac Quadras. I wonder if that was it?

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Post by Mobius » Thu Feb 17, 2011 12:38 am

Strange, how did I never notice this thread before? It was a good read!
MaxTheVool wrote:
NikeX wrote:Thank you Mr. Werner für being here and your trust.
I have a question:.
Is this the Mercury you are talking about:
Yes indeed. There was an Opera title called something like "3DO toolkit" or something like that which let you see what files were on your memory card and so forth and do other system-y things. It was written by the same guy who wrote Mercury.
I think this must be Game Guru. Toolkit was the set of tools in the developer SDK.
MaxTheVool wrote:
pitsunami wrote:Glad to have you here MaxTheVool...welcome! 8)

I would be very interested in any stories hardware related,prototype photos or anything if possible. I know it wasnt your job but maybe you know sth we dont! :)
I can't think of any good M2-related ones. I do remember one day when I was still doing developer support for Opera and someone was poking around in the very low memory addresses, where the ROM is, and found a message like "ask about the time the cops showed up at 3 a.m." or something like that. If someone has an Opera ROM image (which someone must if there's an emulator) you can probably find it.
I've been wondering about this for years! It seems to be some sort of "credits" section in the ROM. Here's the full text:

This WHOLLY ODD collection of code brought to you by:..Dale "You mean my house burned down last month and I never noticed?" Luck.-=RJ=- "Hey, I never approved those messages!" Mical.Joe "You were asleep at the time" Pillow.Dave "Strictly corect" Platt.Bryce "Angel of death" "Nesbitl" Nesbitt.Stephen "Not Stephan" Landrum.Andy "I miss my Cats" Finkel.Chris "Whaddya mean you took it out?" McFall.Drew "Don't touch my toys" Shell.Mr. Pockets.Nerf(tm) brand weapons.Phil "I can't hear you" Burk.Stan "I thought you were done" Shepard.Steve "That !@%$#& drive" Hayes.Bill Long.Barry Solomon..And all those who were not in the building at 2am when the cops.showed up.

How come Bill Long and Barry Solomon didn't get nicknames?? :)

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Hi Alex

Post by johnwbyrd » Mon May 16, 2011 10:34 pm

Nice to see you. Of course I remember you when you came on at DTS. I remember also when you wrote that 2-D shooter... I think you also wrote that facial morph demo? That was some heady stuff for 1995.

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Post by oldskool » Wed May 18, 2011 5:08 am

Nice inside information about the M2. I am surprised that I missed this last year, but I do admit that I rarely poke my head in these parts of the forum.
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