>> Monday, March 26, 2007
When people saw the rolling demo of this game for the first time in 1995, Dead End shot up to the top on many people’s wish-list for CD-i. A driving game based on MPEG footage of a futuristic city, combined with intense shooting made for a mouthwatering prospect. Finally CD-i would have a game to go alongside with the graphic speldour or Playstation’s Ridge Racer. So understandably it was a big disappointment when the game was ultimately cancelled.
The demo many people saw was actually quite different from what the project was originally planned to be: an actual racing game based on MPEG footage, where the driver would actually be able to accelerate and brake. This was made possible by a revolutionary technique called ‘Continuously variable MPEG video frame rates’ developed by Philips Media Los Angeles’ software engineers. What this technique basically did was to slow down and speed up the video stream the CD-i player would play, based on the player’s commands (accelerating and braking). The MPEG stream was the pre-rendered streets the player would be racing on. The fact that the graphics would be pre-rendered (just like Chaos Control or Solar Crusade for example) would guarantee spectacular graphics for this racing game, probably even better than Ridge Racer, since the Playstation game would rely on real-time rendering of the graphics.
Cryo Interactive worked closely with Philips Media to incorporate this technique, but in the end decided it would be a lot easier to have the MPEG video play at a fixed rate instead, since they were having difficulties incorporating the ‘Continuously variable MPEG video frame rate’s. It would take away the racing part of the game, so they decided to name it a ‘driving game instead of a ‘racing game’. Of course it’s not much fun to merely have to drive around streets dodging cars and objects, so that’s probably when Cryo thought of mounting a gun on the top of the car to make at a driving / shooting game. This final specification was then developed into the game which was first demo’ed at E3 in 1995 (in a playable form) and in this rolling demo (april 1995).
At present no reasons are known for the cancellation of Dead End. Speculations range from the came being too difficult to develop, too expensive to finish or a lack of worldwide CD-i sales which made the project commercially less attractive.
A spokeperson about Dead End: "Dead End is a game I got involved with from the very beginning, when Philips Media was still going strong, and again it was going to be based on another technique I invented: "Continuously variable MPEG video frame rates" (a subtle variation around seamless branching, at the frame level). It was not going to be implemented directly by Philips though, and I only served as a consultant to the company that owned the project. Believe the project went through several restarts because of technical difficulties in the implementation (engineers were having problem grasping the technical concept of fooling the MPEG decoder into playing video at unusual frame rates), and the last version I saw had been scaled down quite a bit: it was playing the video at a fixed rate, which kind of defeats the purpose of a racing game. I remember seeing some really cool MPEG footage of Highway 1 from Malibu to Santa Monica, created by a production studio in Paris (France) for this game, and it looked great on CD-i. I believe there was also an arcade version of Dead End under production by that same company, with dedicated hardware for accelerating/decelerating the MPEG video playback rate, but I never saw it finished either."