Black Belt

The chip that 3dfx was working on which was slated to appear in the non-Japanese version of Sega's Dreamcast. Sources: Assembler, TheXev, the Beyond3D forums.

3dfx developed a good relationship with Sega back in the 32 bit arcade days when Sega primarily used 3dfx hardware. Sega's goal was to more consolidate home console and arcade hardware so that development costs would be lowered. 3dfx was working on the chip (code named "black belt") which was to be used in Sega's follow-up console to the Saturn. Sega was also in colaboration with NEC (PowerVR) for the Dreamcast RAM chips and during this time Sega of Japan was exploring options of having different chips for the Japanese version of the Dreamcast (PowerVR), and the American version (3dfx). 3dfx then filed a lawsuit against NEC claiming that NEC was working with their "friends" at Sega to fully switch to PowerVR for the Dreamcast chip so that NEC could gain ground in the PC market also. Of course, this was all speculation and Sega finally decided to go with PowerVR's Katana chip for all Dreamcast units. 3dfx then filed a lawsuit against Sega for breach of contract (where in the end Sega had to give all IP developed by 3dfx back to them).

Not much is known about Black Belt's technical specifications. One thing is certain, and that is that Black Belt would've been less powerful than a Voodoo3 (based on the timeframe of Black Belt). If it was based on a Banshee/Voodoo3 architecture, the PCB would've been pretty complex, as Brazos shows us. There is also the possibility (that most people do not look into) that Black Belt is based on an early Rampage design.

Positives and Negatives of going with Black Belt over Katana (PowerVR's Dreamcast chip):
Positives Negatives
Ease of programming (this is very subjective). Black Belt had GLIDE which developers were familiar with. Katana eventually got WindowsCE though, which made things much easier. Katana developers did not have to write code to filter out unrendered polygons. This was a huge advantage.
Dreamcast would've gotten a lot of PC developers on board with the use of GLIDE. Black Belt would've been ready a year after Katana, with similiar performance to Katana but less features.
Katana features that Black Belt didn't support (assuming a Voodoo3 design):
True 32 bit rendering
Accumulation buffer that enabled multi-pass effects at full bit resolution
VQ compression
Modifier volumes
4 plane geometric clipping
High precision z-buffer (FP)
Sort-indepedent transparency
Automatic translucency sorting
Very high overdraw fillrate
Internal secondary buffer for multipass effects
Normal map bump mapping
Modifier volumes
Better bandwidth utilisation -> lower cost memory
32bit color rendering
1024x1024 textures
Less expensive RAM

What If?
3dfx lost a lot of money, time, and resources into developing Black Belt. This was one of the major blows to 3dfx that later led to their demise. If Sega had gone with 3dfx for the Dreamcast, it would've helped 3dfx out financially and would've helped them to survive long enough to get Rampage out in early 2001. There was also a possibility that GLIDE would've survived longer in the PC market, as Black Belt would've most likely used a GLIDE implementation.

Black Belt
Here is a picture of one of the many prototypes for the Black Belt Dreamcast design. The expansion slot was probably for hardware upgrades and not for Genesis compatibility.

2002-2007 Rashly Productions - Home