Interview with Kris Johnson, Founder of Beyond Games, Developer of the Cancelled Redline Arena

The Dreamcast had a decent size library of online games released during its lifetime; around 78 games total across all regions. This may not sound all that impressive by today’s standards considering just about every game released these days has some sort of online functionality, but considering this was the first console to have online functionality out-of-the-box, it’s certainly not too shabby. Sega didn’t consider the system’s online capabilities to be some sort of gimmick; they really pushed developers to include online play in their games. The number of online games surely would have reached well over 100 had it not been for the console’s short lifespan and the resulting cancellation of many of the games headed to the system. One such cancelled game was Redline Arena; a unique mashing of two genres: car combat and first-person shooter. The game was to have a big focus on online multiplayer and surely would have been a fantastic addition to the Dreamcast’s online game selection. The studio behind Redline Arena was Beyond Games and its founder Kris Johnson was kind enough to answer a few questions about the game and shed some light on its development and cancellation.

Q: To start, can you tell us a bit about the history of Beyond Games and how it was formed?

“I grew up in the 80’s spending all of my free time -and money- in arcades. I loved to play games and really wanted to make my own, I played everything I could find and taught myself to code, started reaching out to game companies to publish my works, but had no success. When Atari released the Lynx handheld, I proposed game designs to them that focused heavily on the multi-player capabilities of the Lynx. I soon become an Atari Lynx licensed developer and Beyond Games was born.”

Q: Moving on to the subject of the interview, Redline (or Redline Arena as the Dreamcast version was known), how did you come up with the idea for the game? A combination FPS / car combat game is quite unique even by today’s standards.

“My company’s first release was BattleWheels for the Atari Lynx, a 6-player head-to-head car combat game, in-and-out of vehicles, a variety of weapons, maps and a lot of vehicle customization. Redline is the successor to BattleWheels.

The idea of mixing car combat and FPS always sounded exciting to me, battling in vehicles, jumping out before your car explodes, immediately vulnerable taking cover to avoid becoming roadkill, and at the time no game had tried it. With arena battles in BattleWheels and later in Redline, this mix worked well and was a blast to play.”

Q: I’ve heard it described as a combination of Quake III Arena and Twisted Metal. Would you say those games were an inspiration for Redline? Are there any other games you might have drawn inspiration from?

“Doom and Quake were definitely influential. Twisted Metal was released a few years after BattleWheels and I never really played it much. I’d say the earliest inspiration came from the adrenaline rush I felt playing the head-to-head Atari arcade game Steel Talons. Next would be multi-player combat in Warbirds for the Atari Lynx.”

Move over Quake! A new challenger has entered the arena!

Q: Were there any improvements or new features planned for Redline Arena?

“During the development of Redline for the PC, we had some insane company-wide arena battles, and with the Dreamcast’s network support, we felt multiplayer would be a great focus for Redline Arena. The goal was epic multiplayer arena battles, in vehicles, stationary turrets, on-foot, and flying with jetpacks. We planned exclusive Dreamcast weapons and arenas.”

Q: Could you tell us a bit about the online multiplayer? How many players were to be supported in the Dreamcast version and what game modes were there?

“Since multiplayer combat was the focus, we wanted as many players as we could support. I wanted 6 players minimum. Planned game modes included last-standing, team play and capture the flag, all modes were playable on the PC and were really fun. Especially CTF with arena designs that required leaving the safety of your vehicle to reach the flag. The jetpack also helped balance out the on foot play allowing players to escape to higher ground after losing their ride.”

Screenshot from the PC version of Redline.

Q: Was there Broadband Adapter support planned for the Dreamcast version?

“Definitely. I’ve always been huge advocate of connecting gamers, and am proud to have created the only commercial game for the Atari Jaguar that supported their voice modem. Even though Atari imploded before the modem ever went into production.”

Q: During our correspondence, you mentioned that Josh Adams, who would later found Secret Level, actually helped with porting the game to Dreamcast. How did you end up working with him?

“I met Josh and his team years earlier while we were both developing games for the Atari Jaguar. We shared a passion for working on cutting-edge hardware. Secret Level was just getting started and Josh was available to help port the game engine. He’s a super talented programmer and was great to work with.”

Q: Was the game easy to port from PC to Dreamcast? I’m guessing you probably used Windows CE?

“It was a breeze porting the PC engine to the Dreamcast, mostly because Redline was built with C++ and Windows DirectX. The basics were ported within a day. Levels loaded and a vehicle was driving around. Very basic, but I was amazed to see the graphics quality and strong performance in such a short amount of time.”

Screenshot from the PC version of Redline.

Q: Redline Arena was cancelled not long after you started work on it. The game was actually running on Dreamcast hardware despite only having worked on it for a few weeks. Why was it cancelled?

“At the time, Accolade (later Infogrames) was our publisher for Redline. As usual with a console launch, Sega was paying for exclusive launch titles, and Accolade’s internal projects took priority.”

Q: Is there a chance that anything of the Dreamcast version still exists or was that all scrapped after it was canned?

“Very doubtful. We returned all our dev-kits soon after the project was cancelled, and any source code is long gone.”

Q: After the cancellation, you moved on to a game called “Motor Mayhem” for the PS2. It looks completely different stylistically than Redline and doesn’t seem to have any FPS elements. Was this an entirely new game or was it based off of the Redline engine?

“After Redline, we took a few years to build an entirely new engine from the ground up called Brainstorm. It powered all our future games and ran on every system at the time, including PC, PS2, PSP, GameCube, Wii, Xbox 360 and PS3.

Motor Mayhem was the first game released on the new engine. The design was a fighting game in vehicles, each vehicle having special moves, all taking place in highly destructible levels. On foot was originally planned, but PS2 dev-kits were delayed reaching us and sadly it was cut. I feel FPS would have helped to differentiate Mayhem from other vehicle combat games released around the same time.”

Motor Mayhem for Playstation 2.

Q: To finish off, do you think Redline will ever receive a proper sequel? Theoretically if you were to make one, what features would you like to add?

“There are so many great post-apocalyptic multiplayer games, I’m not sure a Redline sequel could add anything new to the genre. But if I were to make one, I would focus on an open world sandbox with RPG elements. I’m a huge fan of emergent gameplay that evolves within a sandbox environment, which happens to be something I’m working on right now.. stay tuned!”

A huge thanks to Kris for taking the time to speak with me about Redline Arena. It’s certainly a game I would have loved to see on the Dreamcast and would have undoubtedly been a blast to play online. Despite not making it to the Dreamcast, you can still grab the PC version if you’d like to give it a shot; it’s currently only $1.74 in the Steam Summer Sale! Maybe one day the Dreamcast version will be found on a dev kit somewhere… we can dream!

Reader Questions

What control schemes were available in the Dreamcast version, considering the lack of a second analog stick? Was mouse and keyboard support planned?

“Good question. Controls would have been similar to other games at the time:

-In vehicle, analog to steer/aim, triggers for gas and brake, d-pad for switching weapons, button for exiting car. 

-In FPS mode, analog to aim, 4-buttons for directional movement, triggers shoot. 
As always, I’m sure controls would have evolved during production and play testing.  And yes, we absolutely wanted to support a mouse and keyboard.”

Is Redline Arena influenced by BattleWheels, which is a 1993 Atari Lynx release by your company?

“Definitely, Redline Arena would have been BattleWheels’ successor, and with the Dreamcast’s impressive hardware and networking, the game would have been a blast to play.”

Q: What’s it like seeing the passion of Dreamcast community and what was it like working with Sega back in the day? Did they make your life miserable like Nintendo?

“I’m thrilled to see such a passionate Dreamcast community. I’ve always been a huge Sega fan, from the early arcade days to each console release and Dreamcast was by far my favorite. In the little time we worked with them, the experience was great. Overnight, they set us up with dev-kits, and included us in a one-on-one developer conference to get up to speed. I recall a great online developer site. They also invited us to the Dreamcast launch party which was pretty crazy ;)”


  1. Loved reading this, I remember being super hyped for this game when it was in development. Was one of my favorites at the time!

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