|Arcade system(s)||PC Based|
Ubisoft began development of an arcade version of POD in 1996 and supposedly showed a prototype POD arcade cabinet at the Ubisoft booth at E3 1997. While the game's unique content ("Arcade" track) have since been leaked/released and playable through various means, the original HDD/BIOS/firmware have not been dumped.
Name: The name of the arcade cabinet, if there was any seen on the title screen/marquee at that point of development, was surely "POD". However, "POD Arcade" is how most people remember this prototype. (The name "POD" itself is an abbreviation for "Planet Of Death".)
History: Supposedly, in 1996 a representative from Intel saw the 3Dfx Voodoo version of POD (PC) and said that there could be a real market for an arcade version using a fast CPU and a 3Dfx Voodoo graphics card. So, someone from Ubisoft's marketing department went to POD's lead programmer and asked what he could do if given a top-of-the-line CPU and graphics card. POD's developers took the POD engine, added tons of polygons and textures (twice as much as the biggest track on POD retail), and made more complicated animations with more keyframes. The track was made easier (more arcade-like) and longer.
(Perhaps this was a first attempt by Intel at the ArcadePC specification.)
Ubisoft received two prototype 3Dfx cards during development (with a special version of the 3Dfx Glide SDK). These cards were each effectively two 4 MB Voodoo Graphics ("Voodoo 1") cards on one PCI card, giving a total of 8 MB of VRAM and two GPUs. We believe this might be a prototype of the Quantum3D Obsidian prior to their spinoff on March 31, 1997. Reportedly these cards were "made by Rendition" but that does not make sense because as far as we know Rendition only ever designed/made Vérité chips before eventually being acquired by Micron Technology. Regardless, in theory, only two prototype 3Dfx cards means that only two prototypes were ever made.
It has been theorized that POD Arcade was not released due to Ubisoft's inexperience at the time with marketing a game to the arcade game market and the challenge of making a Windows game stable enough for the arcade (not exactly easily patchable later). Also, the cost of the hardware when development of POD Arcade was almost finished would have been too expensive.
Leak: In the late 90's, game content ("Arcade" track) was leaked and hacked to work with POD retail binaries - or binaries were hacked to work with content. Possibly both.
CPU: Intel Pentium Pro 200 MHz (dual)
RAM: 128 MB RAM
Motherboard: ??? (Dual Socket 8)
Video: 3D: prototype 3Dfx dual Voodoo Graphics-based "SLI-on-card" PCI card, 8 MB (possibly an early Quantum3D Obsidian, prior to the Quantum3D spinoff)
2D: 2D graphics card/chipset is unknown.
OS: Microsoft Windows NT 4.0 SP3
Last Known Whereabouts: inside Ubisoft (France).
Sources: Private interview with former Ubisoft employee, by Stiletto, May 10, 2002.