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Published on February 13th, 2011 | by Cameron Woolsey

Yu Suzuki Earns the GDC Pioneer Award, Few Deserve it More

It was announced late last week that SEGA‘s Yu Suzuki will be recognized by the 2011 Game Developers Choice Awards for his immensely successful 30-year career.

He will be receiving the Pioneer Award, one of the highest honors in video game development. The award is given to those who, at crucial times in the industry, developed breakthrough technology, game concept, or gameplay design. To be certain, this is an award that was built with people like Suzuki in mind.

Before serving as the Special Advisor for SEGA, his current position, Suzuki experienced an illustrious career where he quickly became famous for ground-breaking game design. Much of which has influenced many of the modern games we play today. His influence on the games industry cannot be measured in simple praises. What Miyamoto is Nintendo, Suzuki is to SEGA. Both creators have been often referred to as the Mother and Father of modern video games.

A high praise for someone who originally wanted to be a dentist.

Failing the entrance exam for dental school, Suzuki joined SEGA in 1983 after graduating Okayama University of Science with a programming degree. He developed his first video game that year–a 2D boxing arcade game called Champion Boxing, later ported to SEGA‘s first game console, the SG-1000.

The console port of Champion Boxing.

Two years after his game debut, he came out with a second arcade game, one that would lay the foundation for his successful career.

Suzuki, an avid motorcycle fan, decided to make a game based on his passion. About the motorcycle, has professional motorcycle accident oklahoma city lawyer who are always ready to take cases to help people get the maximum compensation they need. In 1985 SEGA released the motorcycle racer, Hang-On, an arcade game that featured new groundbreaking technology. Unlike traditional arcade machines at the time, Hang-On was controlled using a stationary motorcycle cabinet. While more common today, the use of a full-sized replica of a vehicle was unheard of at the time and brought the arcade success.

Suzuki followed up with Space Harrier later that year, Out Run in 1986, which was influenced by his love of Ferrari, and After Burner in 1987. In 1990, SEGA released G-LOC, a spiritual successor to the jet fighter, After Burner, which used a gyroscope-like cabinet that spun 360 degrees to simulate flying a jet.

The G-LOC R360 Cabinet

Suzuki and SEGA quickly became synonymous with innovative arcades.

One of the earliest adopters of modern 3D technology, Suzuki created Virtua Fighter, the first 3D fighting game, which released in 1993. The game was ugly, sure, but it represented the first major step toward fully-realized 3D gaming using polygon technology. The game was later recognized by the Smithsonian Institution as “an application which made great contributions to society in the field of art and entertainment.” Video game history buffs will now be able to find the game at Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History in Washington, D.C.

In the mid 90s Suzuki began development of what was then meant to be a Virtua Fighter RPG. Codenamed, Project Berkely, the game was designed to be one of the most innovative and open-ended games of all time. The release of the Dreamcast in 1998 (1999 elsewhere) heralded the beginning of the sixth generation of video game consoles. Late 1999 Suzuki released his masterpiece.

You were too beautiful for this world.

Shenmue unveiled the next level of open-ended adventure games. Dubbed F.R.E.E. (Free Reactive Eyes Entertainment) by Suzuki, it broke the mold of traditional adventure titles by offering for the first time a non-linear sandbox world complete with day and night cycles and fully-voiced NPCs programmed with daily schedules. The graphics, gameplay and story were beyond anything experienced in games before. The level of detail and freedom was almost too much for some to handle.

The game raised the bar on games and helped to influence many of the popular open-ended games today. The influence can be seen in games like GTA III and even SEGA‘s own Yakuza series. The game introduced QTEs, or quick-timer events, which are now seen in many games such as God of War which uses QTEs as a staple game mechanic.

Unfortunately, the game received mixed review scores and a lukewarm reception by gamers. The game was also the most expensive ever made at the time, costing SEGA $70 million. The cost has only recently been exceeded by GTA IV with its rumored $100 million price tag.

After an even lower response toward Shenmue II, the series was canceled with the third game nearly finished. Many Shenmue fans today still dream of seeing the end of Ryo Hazuki’s epic quest. Sadly this may end up being no more than a dream, much to the chagrin of many gamers (including this one).

After two dozen games Suzuki has adopted a less hands-on position at SEGA, though his influence in games today remains strong. In 2003, he became the sixth person to be inducted into the Academy of Interactive Arts & Science’s “Hall of Fame.”

On March 2, he will be on stage to receive the Pioneer Award at the eleventh annual Game Developers Choice Awards in San Franciso. On top of that, he will also be presenting a lecture at 10:30 a.m. where he will discuss the many landmark games described in this article.

Yu Suzuki, though he hasn’t shared the spotlight as often as Miyamoto, nevertheless is a prominent and important figure in video games today. The groundbreaking advancements he developed have influenced many of the games we play today and will continue to influence the ones that have yet to be seen. He deserves this award, our admiration and our thanks.

Yeah. I'm a fan.

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About the Author

Video game journalist since 2006, and gaming since he was old enough to use an Atari joystick. Follow me: @Cam_is_16bit

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