Collector unearths playable file for original, cancelled D2 - the 3DO M2 game thought lost to history

"I've been looking for it for 10 years now..."

You'd be forgiven for not knowing about the 3DO M2. It was supposed to be the follow-up to the 3DO game console, but it was cancelled abruptly in 1997 under pressure from Nintendo's N64 and Sony's PlayStation. The 3DO M2 became little more than a footnote in video game history, but for some collectors it became a fascinating piece of hardware, their games considered gold dust. One such collector is Anthony Bacon, from Chicago.

Bacon, who runs a YouTube channel called Video Game Esoterica, has spent the last 10 years amassing an impressive collection of 3DO M2-related hardware and software - to the point where he believes he's just two items away from a complete set. But three months ago he hit the payload when he obtained what is believed to be the last surviving file of planned 3DO M2 title D2 that runs on original 3DO M2 hardware.

D2 is a survival horror video game developed by Japanese studio Warp and written and directed by the late Kenji Eno that came out on the Sega Dreamcast in 1999, but it began life as a game for the 3DO M2. The 3DO M2 version of D2 was significantly different than the Dreamcast version. The original game would have started with the death of a pregnant Laura, her unborn son warped back in time. The player would then assume the role of Laura's son, now a teenager, trapped in a European castle.

When the 3DO M2 was cancelled, so was its version of D2, even though development was nearly complete. So the story goes, a furious Kenji Eno destroyed the development kits used to build the game and started from scratch on what would eventually become the Dreamcast D2. The 3DO M2 original, then, was thought lost to history, just a snippet of alpha demo footage captured via VHS available to view online. But Bacon obtained a D2 3DO M2 file, got it up and running on original 3DO M2 hardware, and was able to "play" it. The video, below, is the result of his work: captured footage of D2 running on a 3DO M2 in real-time.

Now, there is not much to this footage at all. All Bacon is able to do is get the player character to trigger a sword-slashing animation loop, and perform a backflip. But the point here is this is D2 running in real-time - the last known remaining file of the original D2 for the 3DO M2.

I had a chat with Bacon about the 10 years he's spent amassing his 3DO M2 collection to get the inside story on this most obscure of video game discoveries. He hopes that if there is an alpha demo of D2 for the 3DO M2 somewhere out there, perhaps sitting idly on a dusty hard drive in someone's attic, his new video will shake it into life

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Anthony Bacon.

How did you get into 3DO collecting?

Anthony Bacon: I had a 3DO growing up. My father loved technology and bought a 3DO the first day it came out. And then through articles in Edge and Next Generation magazine, I learned they were having a successor console, the M2. I was like, 13, 14 at that point in time. I went out to my local, I think it was Electronics Boutique, or maybe even Babbage's, and I pre-ordered the console. I put my $10 down, pre-ordered D2 and IMSA World Championship Racing and then of course, like anybody else, basically forgot I had done it until I read an article that the console had been canceled. But of course, my 14-year-old kid brain, it was a massive travesty to me. And then later on, maybe in like 2008, 2009, I found out Konami had actually used the the M2 platform to release five arcade games. So I found out in some way games did exist for it. And then I found out Panasonic had released interactive multimedia kiosks, which were basically ugly looking M2 consoles in a basic black box, but some software had leaked for that. So my odyssey to starting to collect was just remembering I wanted it and finding out I could have it some way. And the next 10 years, I've just been amassing as many prototypes, hardware variants and one-off pieces of hardware and software I could find.

What was the first thing you managed to get?

Anthony Bacon: The first thing I managed to get was actually a funny story. I was looking for a Tobe! Polystars first because that game visually, I saw it in magazines and it was appealing to me. But I had missed three options. All three times my wife and I were on vacation. And when I got back I had a message from somebody saying, hey, one's available, go buy it. And of course I missed it. So I finally found an auction on Yahoo Auctions Japan and used a proxy to bid on it. And then at the same time, I found a private collector in Japan that was selling one. I screwed up and ended up buying both by accident. So I actually own two different boards for Tobe! Polystars. So that was the first bit I got. And honestly, it took me eight years to find one. And then in the last two years I've added nine different arcade boards with about 15 variants of the software, different regional differences, and I have my M2 kiosk.

How about D2? How did you get hold of that?

Anthony Bacon: I was working with somebody who worked at The 3DO Company in the hardware coding department. I call them an unnamed co-conspirator because they asked me not to say who it was just because they get a lot of emails, but they sent me a hard drive filled with source code for Ironblood, the D&D fighting game that was meant to come out on M2. It came out on PlayStation One, but the M2 version was cancelled. So with his help, we actually got an SDK set up. I'm using an old PowerBook G3 and I got the SDK installed, and I was able to basically bring it back up. I was able to teach myself how to create disc images with the Opera file system so they would actually boot outside of a development environment because they're slightly different.

And inside of that hard drive with all the source code were a bunch of different 3D models that had full animation you could control in real-time in a model viewer, and there was one file called Tar. The person who gave it to me didn't know what it was. I didn't know what it was. But the story supposedly is that in the M2 version of D2, the main character, the one you see in that VHS footage that's online that I remastered and talked about, the character's name was Taren - and that's guessing at the spelling, we've no paperwork to back it up, so I don't know if that's how it's spelled. I looked up European names from Romania, since the story is supposed to take place apparently in Romania. I just kind of put two and two together and made an assumption there.

But when we loaded it up, it was the model that was from the D2 alpha demo that was shown at trade shows. I call it iconic - the sword slash with a backflip animation. To date it is the only file that remains from the M2 version of D2 that can be run on M2 hardware and controlled.

I was shocked to find it. I didn't really think anything existed anymore. I mean, I've chased a lot of rumours down and they always end up being just complete nonsense. You know, there's always somebody in Japan that has it or somebody in Europe that has it. But of course, all these leads are complete dead-ends. I would think that if something did exist by now somebody would have been compelled to show it off, even if they weren't going to share it, to just show what they had, I guess.

So you think you've got the only one?

Anthony Bacon: As far as my research and asking around over 10 years, I have not once encountered another provable example of any files from D2 remaining. Oh, of course, the Dreamcast version of D2 in Japan has some of the intro videos on it and that's been known for a long time. And then there have been some FMV videos that have been on YouTube for years that were on a 3DO demo disc out of Japan, out of 3DO Live magazine. But as far as files you can burn to a disc, put it an M2, pick up a controller and manipulate, this is the only thing I know that exists. And at this point, unless something appears after the article goes live, I would highly presume it's the last vestiges of that game.

The classic story I've heard is when the game was cancelled, Kenji Eno destroyed the development hardware because it was so far along in production. When Panasonic pulled the plug on M2, the game was supposedly 90 per cent done, so he apparently just destroyed the dev kits out of anger.

Apparently they were going to release it on Saturn for a while and development apparently started, per an interview he had given with a magazine. But then it obviously got revamped to be the game that we got on Dreamcast, which, while still one of my favourite games, is thematically completely different than what we were getting on M2. It went from Gothic Transylvanian Dracula mythos in a castle, to the Arctic with tentacle monsters that bleed green blood and a crazy environmental story. So definitely a Warp and Eno game in content and theme, but so far different than what existed on M2 that I've always wanted that version as well.

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A 3DO M2 prototype console. Image credit Stephen Flynn / http://fz-21s1.blogspot.com.

Why is the 3DO M2 obscure?

Anthony Bacon: The 3DO always seems to make those top 10 lists of worst consoles, somewhere between the CD-i and the Jaguar. But the console actually had done a lot of interesting things very early on in that generation of consoles. It was using full 3D. There are some great games on it. And a lot of the engineers that worked on the 3DO and finished the M2 ended up on the Microsoft Web TV team, who then built the foundation design for the original Xbox. So from a lineage point of view, it's an impressive team.

The reason M2 just gets a footnote is because the 3DO is kind of a joke among collectors. I have a large collection across all consoles, and 3DO has always been one of my favourites, but it's like, oh, isn't that the system that got the bad Zelda games? No, that's the CD-i. So it's that crappy console from the 90s was going to get a sequel and it never did. It's not as prevalent, even though I've talked to a lot of the developers on the hardware and software side, and a lot of these people went on to work in Microsoft and in part gave us the entire Xbox family of consoles. So historically, those people were extremely intelligent, successful, and made a great hardware design. It cost $700 new because it was licensed out to different manufacturers to make, so the price was too high to get market penetration. And it just always shows up on lists of worst consoles.

You're keeping the dream alive, almost single-handedly from I can tell.

Anthony Bacon: It's been a lot of fun to do this. More and more people are watching it and more and more people are commenting and a couple people that worked at 3DO have contacted me, saying, I hadn't seen this in years or, you know, filling in a piece of information I didn't have. So the more I show, the more interest is gathered, and that's why it's thought like maybe more people will want to see it because D2 was the quintessential game.

Can you put a figure on how much you've spent amassing your collection specifically regarding the M2?

Anthony Bacon: Shockingly, it's probably not as much as you would think. A lot of the arcade equipment was given to me because it wasn't functioning. And I've done a lot of tutorials online on how to repair and maintain these. $5000 tops, it really wasn't that expensive. Well, I mean $5000 is a lot of money but compared to something like the Super NES CD-ROM that's going to sell soon, we're talking bargain prices for my collection. A lot of it's been $10 here for a disc. A lot of it's been given to me and just some of the hardware I purchased, but really no more than $5000.

You're not tempted to sell your D2 stuff then?

Anthony Bacon: No, I'm not tempted to sell it. But what I do want to work on with the other party is, I would like to get these demos set up as a singular disc, because right now they're all across different ISO files. So you have to burn 15 discs to play 15 different diverse demos, when in reality, the totality of the file sizes is maybe 200MB.

I would like to get this to a point where it can be shared. Last Christmas, I shared a few different M2 files I had on a video on YouTube. I shared that really boring but it works demo disc for Oldsmobile because GM used these kiosks in America to do car advertisements and interactive demos of their cars. And then I got a copy of the 3.1 software development kit that hadn't been put online yet. But I also shared that.

But my goal is to never sell anything I've been given because they've been graciously provided to me by a third party. I don't plan on deriving any profit from the sale of the demos. My hope is once we can get some clearances and everything buttoned up and looking nice, these can be shared so that anybody who has the hardware can enjoy them. There's no financial benefit for me selling them. I like to say my collection is like the reverse Thunderdome - everything enters, nothing leaves. Much to my wife's annoyance. I'm starting to run out of room!

How much more do you need to find to complete your M2 collection?

Anthony Bacon: From what I know that exists, I am two items away from what I would call a full set. One collector has a demo that Panasonic did of a robot dolphin swimming in the ocean. I've been working to acquire that but just haven't come to financial terms on that yet.

And the other piece of software is a game in the loosest sense of the term. It was released in Japan for the elderly, and it's like an anime raccoon who helps you with your memory. If I don't get that one, no big deal but from the completion standpoint, of course I'd like to say everything you could possibly have is here preserved and able to be shared. But my hope is as more people see this and more people view the channel, they either A) may realise they have something they forgot about and bring it back to life, or B) realise people care and maybe... you know, there are two different types of collectors: there's the collectors who want to release everything and share, which is what I like to do, although I'm not judging the others. There's other collectors who get prototypes and betas and put them in a box somewhere and that's where they exist. That mentality to me doesn't make sense.

So my hope is just more exposure to the M2 and maybe that will shake something loose nobody realised existed. There were a lot of games supposedly in development. I don't know how many started. A lot of people I've talked to said, oh, we said it was in development, but we only got to pen and paper planning stages - we never wrote any code. But the list of games supposedly being made versus what exists... there could be something out there nobody knows about. And once they potentially see this, maybe they'll realise they have it and bring it back to life. Even if I don't actually get a physical copy to play with, if someone else uploaded a video of something they have, then people can watch it, it's preserved and you can experience it. That's really my hope.

Do you have any sort of leads for the program for the elderly?

Anthony Bacon: I search Yahoo Auctions Japan consistently. I know it's out there. I've missed it a few times. I don't know how many of these would have been kept around because as far as the commercial release of M2 goes, it's car demo software, it's driver training software, it's elderly care software. A lot of these things I would assume once they hit their end of life usefulness, they just get the bin because no-one's going to keep around software to help the elderly people with their memories. It does crop up from time to time. It's a timing issue with a lot of this stuff. My wife jokes I have the worst timing possible. I'm always a day late or a dollar short on something, so it's just me. It's a battle of attrition. If I wait around long enough and search long enough, I will find it. Maybe it'll be next week. Maybe it'll be five years from now. Eventually it'll pop up and I'll be able to acquire it. But with prototype collecting or unreleased hardware collecting, it's really just a battle of patience and letting everyone know I'm the person to come to if you have it. Please ask me. I will make something work out that will benefit everybody.

And it's been a 10-year journey for you so far.

Anthony Bacon: When I found out in the late 2000s, by 2008, 2009, that Konami had released these games on that platform, I instantaneously started looking for them. As I put more videos online, more broken, or really bad condition hardware all of a sudden started to show up and sell. So I think people are realising, hey, I have one of these in a closet somewhere, or I'm an old arcade collector, or a warehouse that just has this stuff sitting around, and suddenly, what took me a year to find one of, you could buy two of last week. Two Total Vice Konami arcade boards sold in the last 14 days. It took me three years, and I had to get my first one sent from Australia to be able to acquire it. When I put that Total Vice playthrough up on YouTube, there had only been four images, very small resolution like 320x240. There had never been any video of the game, let alone a full playthrough. And I was happy to be able to do that. But then suddenly it's like, oh, someone remembers they had one, and some people don't even know what they have, I guess.

When exactly did you obtain the D2 file?

Anthony Bacon: This year. Probably three months ago. Yes. It was in direct result of my YouTube videos, the person that provided these files to me from the 3DO hard drive saw what I was doing and sent me a message on a gaming forum. We had a great email correspondence. We've been working together to deal with some coding stuff. Some of these things that were on the drive, you couldn't just burn them and make them run on an M2. You had to get them back into the SDK, you needed to change some of the drivers and folios around, and basically recompile and then re-export them to run. So it took some definite coding work, and I had to teach myself a lot of things I never expected to learn in life. But luckily, the documentation for the software development kit was extremely comprehensive. So if you could read and you could type, generally you could teach yourself how to do it, which thankfully, those documents exist and I didn't have to guess a lot of stuff.

And this was just some person who worked at 3DO back in the day?

Anthony Bacon: Correct. He said he never wanted to delete it, but at the same time he didn't think anyone would care. Until he saw what I was doing and that people were responding positively to it, he didn't think anyone would really care to see any of this stuff! Some of the demos that are up right now are stuff they showed at trade shows in 1995 to advertise the hardware. And they've only been around in grainy FMV videos someone took from their camcorder at the trade show. And now they're running in real-time on M2 hardware, and you can control them with the controller.

D2 has been just completely lost to history. I've been looking for it for 10 years now, and I believe it exists. But with a lot of the stuff I put online, some more things I didn't think existed have actually come my way from ex-3DO employees who had files they thought nobody cared about. Only by putting this online for people to enjoy and consume have I actually got more in. So, my ultimate hope is this maybe shakes something extra loose that somebody might be sitting on and forgot they had.

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Wesley Yin-Poole

Wesley Yin-Poole

Deputy Editor

Wesley is Eurogamer's deputy editor. He likes news, interviews, and more news. He also likes Street Fighter more than anyone can get him to shut up about it.

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