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Spirit of Speed 1937 Dreamcast/PC, its history, its development and the Broadsword Interactive archive

One of the best-selling genres in the video game market today is car racing, whether it is rally or circuit style. In the circuit racing format, there is the closed saloon style (touring cars) and the open style (Formula 1). In 1998 and still today, the market was flooded with F1 titles.

Spirit of Speed 1937 was intended to be an original racing title that would take the player out of the classics and into the mythical races of the 1920s to 1939. Broadsword Interactive, the studio in charge of the game, hoped to compete with Grand Prix Legends, which took place in the late 1960s.

At that time, the cars had poor handling and a lot of power. They didn't run around the circuit as if they were on rails, they slid around corners with drifts on all four wheels, the norm at the time. Driver safety was not a concern, neither for the drivers nor for the general public. Accidents were spectacular.

Spirit of Speed 1937 artwork

Early prototype video Dreamcast

The Spirit of Speed

The adventure of Spirit of Speed by Broardswords Interactive

Spirit of Speed 1937 Dreamcast is the last game credited to LJN, a video game publisher reduced to a simple logo after being bought out in 1990 by Acclaim Entertainment (special release of 80 prototypes). The LJN trademark was mainly used by Acclaim to get around Nintendo's restrictions on the number of Nes titles a publisher could publish in a year (5 unless I am mistaken).

3D Studio Max 2.5

Although LJN is listed in the credits of SOS 1937, the real development studio in charge of the game is Broadsword Interactive based in the UK. Founded in 1995, the small UK company was originally a subsidiary of production company Broadwsord Television. At the time, BI was to provide resources for a TV show mixing virtual reality footage with live action. The show, known to the British as Knightmare, aired between 1987 and 1994.

Spirit of Speed is the first game created by Broadsword Interactive. The idea for a historical car game set before the Second World War came about as the development team drove past the famous Brooklands circuit in England every day. Prior to this, the team had been involved in the conversion of Wipeout PC in support of Psygnosis.

The PC version of SOS was to be financed by Microprose. In 1998, the American publisher ran out of cash and sold its catalogue to Hasbro, a company mainly known in the toy world. The MicroProse brand would still be used, but it would now be controlled by the toy manufacturer. The complications were just beginning for Broadsword. The development of the game was going to be affected by this handover from the owners of SOS 1937. For the Dreamcast version, Acclaim will take care of its distribution after having bought the rights from Hasbro.

Two or three producers, all with different visions of the game, went back and forth during the creation process of the title. One wanted a racing game with arcade style gameplay, the next wanted a more realistic driving experience. The physics of the vehicles kept changing, and in the end SOS 1937 suffered from poor handling. Hasbro had the last word with what they considered to be a suitable approach to marketing the game. The Broadswords team, with its hands tied, could do nothing!

The engine used by SOS 1937 is called BORIS (Broadsword Object Rendering and Interaction System). Other technologies such as Glide, Direct3D and EIDOS Escape/DirectSHow were used by the game development team.

To promote the PC version, marketing campaigns are non-existent on Dreamcast, MicroProse now a label of Hasbro, had organised events to present Spirit of Speed 1937. One of them took place on August 2nd 1999 in the prestigious Silverstone circuit. The press was invited to discover "The Spirit of Speed" (the old name of the game) during the "Coys International Historic Festival".

Plagued by catastrophic development and pressured by Hasbro to release the game, the result is unequivocal: Spirit of Speed 1937 is not finished and suffers from numerous defects. However, Broadsword's desire and ability to market a waffled game was there!

3DSMax Spirit of Speed 1937.png

3D Studio Max 2.5

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Physic Shema

Spirit of Speed 1937 Physic cars.png

Gravity Shema

Gravity SOS 1937 Dreamcast and PC.png

Structure of a car

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Let's not even talk about the Dreamcast version which will be destroyed by the critics. Sales did not follow with 16,255 copies sold in the US. According to Mike Phelan of Dreamcast Junkyard, only 39 Japanese copies were sold in the land of the rising sun. Why did Acclaim insist on releasing it in Japan?

Playing the game

Have you ever wondered what it was like to drive the huge racing cars of early motorsport? Speeding around steeply banked circuits like Brooklands or Monza, clinging to a steering wheel one metre in diameter on solid tyres less than 15 centimetres thick? What about the brakes? What brakes? SOS 1937 would allow players to experience these sensations...

Spirit of Speed 1937 PC Demo

The challenge of driving the cars of the 1930s is incomparable to that of driving today's Formula 1 cars. Yet the men and women who drove these cars are still considered the greatest pioneers and heroes of their time. If motor sport has become more democratic, it is partly thanks to them.

In the early decades of the twentieth century, motor racing was mainly a hobby for the wealthy, but for many it became an obsession, an addiction to speed. Fortunes were won and lost, as well as many lives. The search for the adrenaline rush was more important than anything else, they lived for the love of thrills and speed.

Ingame Spirit of Speed 1937

Spirit of Speed offers a unique and exciting driving experience for driving game fans. The game features legendary cars from the pre-war era, which were very powerful but unsafe. This was the most dangerous period in the history of motorsport!

Meticulously selected tracks, ranging from high-speed concrete ovals like Brooklands to challenging country circuits like Montlhéry, from the desert heat of Tripoli to the urban circuit of Pau, are designed to offer a challenging variety of environments that will test the skills of even the most hardcore racing fans while maintaining the interest of the casual player.

In-game objective

You start your career in the Decade Challenge as a novice driver with the ultimate ambition to reach the top and gain public recognition as a world-class racing ace. You must first establish your credentials and status as a driver by qualifying for international events. To do this, you compete in races on your local circuit to win prizes and win bets against your rivals.

The more money you earn, the better the choice of car you get. These cars are classified according to performance bands, A, B and C. After a modest qualifying period, the race schedule for the year's race series is published. The order is completely random and will be different each time the game is played.

Your opponents in the Decade Challenge will also have developed their skills on their local circuit and will be entering the first race of the season with the car of their choice. It is recommended that you start as a novice with a C class car. Experienced players may opt for a higher difficulty level and a higher class car or a modified version if they can afford it

As you progress through the season, you can take on a particular opponent for a bet in a head-to-head challenge. This can be a good way to raise money, but it comes with risks. You too can become the subject of a bet. Bets appear at the bottom of the screen in the form of a telex message that scrolls from right to left.

As the years pass, new tracks are built and existing circuits are modified. The tracks then become available for the season of the corresponding year and for the following one.

SOS 1937
Spirit of Speed 1937

Progress is presented after each race in the form of newspaper headlines and at the end of each year in the form of old film clips

Characters

Each character is fully modelled in 3D and textured. They age as they complete the decade-long challenge. The modelled heads have animated expressions and gestures that allow them to have a range of pre-defined interactions with other drivers, particularly in the head-to-head challenge.

The characters appear in the "choose a driver" section of the homepage as cigarette card caricatures and, once selected, they transform into a full 3D version.

Manager Character - Wally

Sketch Wally SOS 1937
Wally Draft SOS 1937

Czechoslovakia

Artwork The Spirit of Speed
Spirit of Speed 1937 Dreamcast Draft
Sketch Spirit of Speed PC

USA

Rough SOS 1937 DC
Sos 1937 sketch pc
Spirit of Speed 2002 Sketch

Germany

Artwork SOS 1937 PC
Spirit of Speed Dreamcast Artwork
Rough Spirit of Speed 1937

Italy

Sketch spirit of speed dreamcast
SOS 1937 PC artwork
The Spirit of Speed PC artwok

United Kingdom       

Dreamcast SOS 1937 sketch
Dreamcast Spirit of Speed 1937 draft
Spirit of Speed 2002 PC sketch

Belgium        

Sos 1937 rough
Spirit of Speed 1937 DC
Spirit of Speed 1937 PC rough

France

Spirit of Speed 2002 sketch
Sketch Spirit of speed 2002 pc
Video game Sketch

The characters, once animated, blink, have a questioning expression etc. before returning to their initial positions. Each individual behaves differently depending on whether they are intimidated (unconfident) or confident (presumptuous)).

Beginning of character modelling with different expressions

Spirit of Speed 2002
Spirit of Speed 1937
SOS 1937

Example storyboard

The opening cutscene first storyboard:

The opening scene begins in a cinema. It's a posh place. The people sitting there are fidgeting slightly, some of them are smoking. The projection screen is covered with a scalloped silk curtain. Suddenly, an image and a logo appear behind the curtain before it rises. The image and logo give way to a video of car racing from the 1930s in front of the astonished audience. The style of the projected film is very vintage.

The camera slowly approaches the projection screen so that the image is full screen. The video of the car race slowly fades to the Brooklands circuit as it is today. The track is overgrown with weeds and abandoned. The camera slowly descends to the road and almost lands on it, looking through the weeds. An empty packet of crisps falls to the ground, silence reigns except for the increasing sound of wind and leaves blowing across the tarmac.

The shot fades into a view of the same section of the circuit, the weeds and decrepitude of the place disappearing as a shiny, well-maintained track comes into view and a heavy race car speeds towards us with an ever increasing din.

Storyboard Spirit of Speed 1937

The opening cutscene second storyboard :

You are in a gloomy workshop. A single lamp illuminates the engine compartment of a racing car. The rest of the car glows softly in the ambient light. You can barely make out the chaotic interior of a typical 1930s garage. Mechanics work feverishly on the engine and wheels.

The camera rotates slowly as it gets closer to the car. The mechanics finish their work and retreat into the shadows leaving the driver to start the engine. The car roars and the lights in the workshop come on, casting hazy rays of light on the car and the driver.

The large sliding doors of the garage, made of dark green enamel, rumble open, throwing the reflected light of the summer day outside. The camera pulls back, the car begins to move slowly forward. The vehicle moves from darkness to sunlight producing bright reflections on the car's paintwork and deep, dark shadows below. The camera rises as the car turns sharply and heads towards the starting grid to join the other competitors who are queuing up.

Storyboard video game

Some Cutscene with explanation

The Newspapers:

The first pages of the logs that appear at the end of each race need to be very structured to take into account the number of variations that need to be taken into account throughout the Decade Challenge.

  • Title Section : This area contains the title "The Motor Gazette". It alternates with "Motoring Magazine" to the right. This section is fully localised and contains the magazine titles for the country concerned.

  • The titles section : This area contains the following titles: "**** wins ****" (eg Fabrizio wins Pau). The second title is "****S BRILLIANT VICTORY" (for example, BUGATTIS BRILLIANT VICTORY). The logs reflect the actual result of each race.

  • Black and White Photograph : This section contains a black and white photograph of the winning driver.

  • The date : This date will be scheduled to be the publication date after the race.

  • The general design : It faithfully follows the style of the publications of the time, both in terms of graphic design and printing technology (monochrome, spot colours, three-colour process, etc.).

Getting kicked out of the car after an accident:

For very serious head-on collisions, which occur only very rarely, we switch to an FMV (pre-recorded video) of a driver being blown into the air after a terrible crash. A cloud of smoke disperses beneath him. As he hovers, a wheel passes over his head and a muffler underneath him.

SOS 1937 storyboard
Storyboard

The tracks

All tracks are built in 3D Studio Max (see SOS 1937 documents). The track building process was split between building in 3D Studio and analysis in the game engine. Instant feedback of the track's appearance in the game was crucial to maintain efficient production. There was no specific polygon budget for the entire circuit, but the number of polygons drawn per frame in the game engine should ideally not exceed 2000.

Circuit Stige

All textures were created in Adobe PhotoShop, and tended to be hand-painted or derived from photographs and 3D renderings. The size of a single texture was limited to rectangular dimensions of 2n pixels, and alpha channels were allowed at 1 or 4 bit resolution.

Several processes were involved in the construction of the tracks, which could generally be divided into several stages :

Sitges track spirit of speed 1937
  • Construction of a base track.

  • Construction of the surrounding landscape.

  • Trees, fences, hedges and other objects associated with the loft in the background.

  • Introduction of buildings, stands and other objects of interest.

  • Placement of trees and vegetation in the custom editor.