I figured I would rehash my post from the newbie introduction thread. I am currently developing the next Saturn game, which I hope to release next year. It is a scrolling shooter game similar to Radiant Silvergun. I am coding it in C using Jo Engine with the Map Editor, which is done on Windows 7 Pro. I do the rest of the work on macOS, including graphics in Pixelmator, sound/music in GarageBand, and cutscene videos in Unreal Engine 4. I test using Yabause in Windows and Pseudo Saturn Kai with burned CDs on Saturn. I am also considering creating a follow-up console to the Saturn and a game. However, I have not done much on that end. I am still considering all of the details. When I have major updates, I will let you know. I appreciate everyone's enthusiasm for the Saturn. We have a great worldwide community.
A follow-up console to the Saturn? Would this happen to be the same platform I remember being proposed in a thread over at the ASSEMblergames message board a few years back? I seem to recall that being designed around a dual-SH4 setup with a Kyro II SE graphics processor and more than enough RAM to handle the most demanding CPS3, Hikaru or NAOMI 2 titles, making it a true "best of both worlds" powerhouse for 2D and 3D software (which is a direction I'd have liked Sega to adopt beyond the Dreamcast)! Of course, any system is only as good as the code being produced for it, and I don't remember what the plans were for its operating system, media storage format and development libraries. Would something with those levels of specification be up to the task of supporting later iterations of the Unreal Engine, for example?
Well, that concept was someone else's. But I did mention my idea on that forum. Unfortunately, I got locked out from posting after trying to change my email. I think a system that would do well for 2D and 3D would be good. I know there are varying views on the use of discs. Personally, I like them. I don't think the VMU idea went over too well. I would want it to have Unreal Engine graphics capabilities, but not be an intentional competitor of the major systems. It would be a system that is kind of like the Dreamcast (but better graphics), and would be for Sega fans.
While I can see the convenience of developers using pre-existing engines, I really have a problem with more recent versions of Unreal Engine in particular - you'd think it would be easier for artists to get away from that look, but so many games are limited by the overall aesthetic of this underlying platform. Unity is a little more flexible visually, but there's no denying that support for such engines would be appealing for those who choose to go with an external solution, whether it's because they lack the necessary time, budget or resources to do everything bespoke.
On a hardware level, I'd definitely go with something that is faithful to Sega's approach. Every new generation saw massive improvements over the last, yet kept some tried-and-tested components. For example, just look at how often the Motorola 68000 popped up, along with the Hitachi SuperH series of processors. Any console in the mid 2000s would probably not have included a 68k, but as an evolution of the Naomi, Dreamcast and Hikaru, perhaps there might have been a SH4, even as a sub-controller if not the main CPU. Also, a dedicated GPU seems likely, especially as the Dreamcast took this approach already.
In terms of potential storage formats, I suspect that Sega would have eventually switched from the proprietary GD-ROM to the more standard DVD-ROM, since they'd already demonstrated a prototype standalone unit. DVD seems a good idea when you consider how readily available and affordable PC drives are, though I'm also curious to see where Sega's loyalties might have gone in the generation following Dreamcast, as Microsoft made the mistake of putting its proverbial eggs in HD DVD rather than Blu-ray, which it's believed came out on top partly because of Sony adopting this in the PS3, just as DVD was helped by PS2 sales.
On the other hand, the Dreamcast was quite a radical move away from the approach that had worked for the Mega Drive and Saturn, so maybe the company would have pulled a similar trick yet again had it remained in the hardware business long enough to bring a seventh generation contender to market? Although the overall quality was similar enough to the untrained eye, I always felt that NAOMI was a step back from the Model 3 range, though I can appreciate development was both easier and cheaper with the Dreamcast-derived board.
This may seem like a drastic curve ball to throw programmers, but what if Sega followed Microsoft in embracing PowerPC technology for a period? A true numbered successor to Model 3 with a console equivalent might have been absolutely brilliant for those of us who saw NAOMI as somewhat regressive, but once again, I totally understand why Sega decided to go with the most accessible option it could. Saying that, maybe something based on the NAOMI 2 or Hikaru would provide enough of an upgrade without alienating coders now familiar with the Dreamcast?
Whatever ends up being used for this new project, there's more than enough logic in Sega's past decisions to create a loose roadmap for its components that would honour the company's spirit. Alternatively, the authenticity could come from choices made in creating the actual software, as many of Sega's later internal development studios had very distinctive approaches. For example, United Game Artists had a tendency to push the audio side of its presentation as something more than just background music, and much of Smilebit's output had a very "dry" look, if that makes any sense.
Finally, just as the VMU concept was carried over to some of Sega's arcade machines during the initial Dreamcast period, this also saw a planned evolution in the form of the MP3 player. Rather than maintaining support for the original VMU, perhaps you could look into similarly expanding its capabilities, or at least the storage? This next option might require more work, but can you imagine something between the Neo Geo Pocket Color and the even more obscure Sega Vision? Stereo audio output and a full colour screen would be great, as would support for MP4 or some equivalent. I can dream...
Although it may seem like Sega's hardware decisions - especially in the console market - were all over the place, there's a clear path that can be traced through its 8-bit technology all the way up to the Saturn's design, but the Dreamcast/NAOMI was evidently a clear break from tradition. Even then, the main CPU remained an evolution of Hitachi's SuperH chipset, not to mention Yamaha was still involved with the audio side of things.