UKR: So is this just VT3 with some new textures on it?
STEVE: Everybody's asked us that. It's a game in its own right. That's an awful question. I refuse to answer it.
UKR: But VT3 was great. It's a complement.
STEVE: It's VT3, but for everybody. We've tried to make it fun. We've added loads of characters that play differently, unlike Virtua Tennis...
TRAVIS (STEPPING IN TO AVERT TROUBLE): VT3 is a fun arcade game, but a lot of people are put off by the way it looks like a sim. It's easy to pick up, but it looks like a simulation, so we tried to make a game that's bright and colourful with loads of SEGA characters in to attract new people.
STEVE: And kids love Sonic. Actually, kids love Shadow. All the focus groups tell us kids love Shadow. It's bizarre.
TRAVIS: And they don't know what OutRun is.
UKR: You asked some kids? And they like Shadow but don't know what OutRun is?
STEVE: We had a focus test. You sit in a room. They bring out loads of character portraits and ask kids which one they prefer, and nine times out of ten it's either Shadow or Dr. Eggman. He's a bad character, he's evil, but it means they can cheat. Like they're Dick Dastardly.
UKR: So where did the idea for SST come from? Did you go to SEGA with it, or did they come to you?
STEVE: It was a mix. When we finished VT3 we were kind of playing around, because we were thinking of maybe doing a Wii version, and while we were testing the Wii controls out we gave everyone a massive big head.
TRAVIS: Everyone loves Big Head Modes! We took Maria Sharapova and bulked her up, but obviously the agents would be like 'Oh, no, no, you can't do that!' - so we started messing about and making it look like crazy tennis.
STEVE: We showed SEGA a prototype, and they said 'Hang on, instead of making stupid characters with big heads, why don't you put Sonic in it?' and we went away and thought 'Well, if we're going to put Sonic in let's do the job properly and get a load of characters together and push it as an all-SEGA game.
UKR: When you recreate a SEGA character, like, say, the Morolians out of Space Channel 5, how does it work? Do you get specs off SEGA, or do you just look at some old games and guess?
TRAVIS: SEGA has been really helpful. When we need stuff, we send them a shopping list and they send most of the stuff straight back.
STEVE: The problem we had with Space Channel 5 is there's not been a recent game, so we had to take most of it from the Dreamcast and update it. So we had to rebuild it, up the number of polygons, made it all shiny and sent it back to SEGA Japan to review. And one of Space Channel 5's original creators was very exacting about it. She looked at it in incredible detail and sent us a list of things we needed to change.
For example, the Morolians are exactly 140 centimetres tall. Exactly! Everywhere in the game. Other things like the design, the way people move and stand, it all gets reviewed. It's quite a difficult process, not only have you got to have the game working and looking right - as it's very animation driven - but you have to make the game play and get it approved as well. Each one of those individually is not so bad, but when you're doing it all together... it's nails.
TRAVIS: We had loads of help from the SEGA Japan teams. They said 'Use the original music, use the original assets', but in some cases they didn't have the originals any more so they will send us design stuff and photos.
STEVE: In some cases, like with the Virtua Cop stuff, what we got was the original arcade code. It was really hard to reference, as it was the actual arcade code only at assembly level.
UKR: The press release says the game has "over 15" characters. Is this a clue that there's more than the 16 spots on the character select screen?
STEVE: Apparently that's marketing speak for 16 characters. You know like when they say you can now get a PS3 for under 300 pounds, and you know you'll get exactly one pence change.
UKR: There's a perfect Mecha Sonic character model beside the court in the Scrap Brain Zone. Can you "be" Mecha Sonic?
STEVE: Being Mecha Sonic is all about state of mind.
UKR: Why isn't Cream The Rabbit in here?
STEVE: She is. She's behind the totem pole on the right of the Green Hill stage. Why do you think there's so many rings over there? Of course due to camera restrictions - and the age rating, we can't have her in view.
UKR: Is there any "secret stuff" to unlock?
STEVE: Of course. I can't tell you about it though - as it then wouldn't be secret.
UKR: Please just tell us. We don't want to spend hours getting all Triple-As in the bloody Puyo Pop Fever zone only for nothing to happen.
STEVE: All the triples As count towards something. If not just the pleasing satisfaction that you've managed to do an in-human achievement.
UKR: And who chose Puyo Pop Fever, anyway?
STEVE: Travis did. We wanted to do Blockbuster from VT:WT on PSP again, but how do you make it more Sega-y? Tada, up pops Puyo!
UKR: Is it to raise "awareness" of the Puyo Pop "brand" before an online re-release? We know all about how marketing works, see.
STEVE: That implies us knowing about it. But we really don't - honest.
UKR: We hear you have Richard Jacques doing some of the music...
STEVE: Oh yes. Richard Jacques has produced the definitive Space Harrier remix. Every other Space Harrier remix - rubbish. Richard Jacques version - absolutely brilliant. Richard's been great. He's done all the original music, the title screen music, all the in-game jingles, quite a lot of spot effects - and he said the start music has been designed in such a way that you can sing to it!
UKR: Is it original stuff or mostly remixes?
STEVE: All the specific stuff for SST is original. Virtua Cop and Space Harrier are remixes. Some of the music was impossible to get, so we got Richard to make something in the right style.
TRAVIS: We used some of the original MD samples. Most kids will listen to it going 'What the hell is this?' but we're going 'Ahh, YES!'.
UKR: Is Richard Jacques in as a secret character? He's quite famous on the SEGA scene!
STEVE: We'd love to. Who did we say we would put in? Can I say?
TRAVIS: No, you can't say!
STEVE: Well, if we did another one, we were thinking about some personalities... maybe Yu Suzuki, Richard Jacques. It'd be awesome. We'd get into trouble, but it'd be awesome. But why do you want to play with Richard Jacques?
UKR: It'd be fun. He'd probably be an amazingly powerful character.
STEVE: Strong right arm!
UKR: Have you had to change anything to get a "family" rating certificate?
STEVE: Yeah, we had to be very, very careful with the cameras - sometimes the cameras were... too low... we had to go through the game looking for that kind of stuff and making sure there wasn't any of it. The beach girls on the OutRun court - we had to make sure they were sufficiently covered. The artists basically came up with about 15 different bikini designs! I'm not sure why they spent so much time on them...
There are obvious things too, like the zombies don't bite you, they kiss you in House of the Dead, and the blood's never red. You have to be really careful. Oh, and in Jet Set Radio, there was a billboard at the side of the court and it had the outline of a woman, and because it was an outline she could've been naked! We were worried it could be like a 'hot coffee' scandal, so we put some clothes on her - even though it was in the original game.
UKR: Why is there no lob button? Surely just pressing "Y" is easier than pressing X then A?
STEVE: There's no lob button on the VT3 arcade machine and people seem to manage!
We figured that unless you were seriously into Tennis, you'd have no clue what a slice or topspin shot were. So we decided to go with a simple two button system and make it clear that one gives you a fast shot, and one a slow shot. If you shift from one to the other you can do a lob, or a drop shot. Drop shots are much easier to do in SST than VT3 for sure.
UKR: Is that something that came from a "focus group" to make it simple for Wii owners?
STEVE: Nope, we just looked at all the stories at how people force their gran to injure themselves playing Wii Sports Bowling and wanted a bit of that pie.
So we've got control options in there that range from 'Crap at games' to 'Show off' to 'Hates motion controls and bought the wrong console'.
UKR: What else did "the kids" in the focus group say about SEGA?
STEVE: They all recognise all the Sonic characters, but not one of them knew who Alex Kidd was. The government should stop with all this nonsense about panicking games brainwash kids into being mindless killing machines, and add Sega history as part of the national curriculum.
UKR: Did any of them recognise Ulala?
STEVE: One did. Apparently her dad was obsessed with Space Channel 5. We never knew you had kids. Oddly enough we got asked if we'd look after the 3 UK:R illegitimate children by a Belgian journalist. I suspect he wants them off his hands?
UKR: The OutRun games are now working on Xbox 360 with backwards compatibility. But not very well.
STEVE: No they're not, are they? It would be great if somebody asked us to do an Xbox Live Arcade version. Wouldn't that be great? If only someone would ask us...
UKR: Why isn't Rez in here?
STEVE: If you leave the game running on 360 for long enough - it eventually will start to look like Rez. It helps if you wrap a towel around the machine and stand it on top of a radiator too.
UKR: Why isn't Crazy Taxi in here?
STEVE: Obviously the whole theme is crazy. We were worried that having 'Crazy Crazy Taxi' on the back of the box might be pushing it a little too much though.
UKR: The DS version seems to have a much more faithful Space Harrier stage, whereas the 360 and PS3 Space Harrier bit looks like a tweaked Sonic stage. This is more of an observation than a question. You don't have to say anything.
STEVE: We didn't feel the hardware of the 360 and PS3 could manage the detail on the checkerboard ground at a smooth enough framerate.
The DS though has a dedicated Space Harrier co-processor built into the cartridge. It took many of the finest scientific minds for us to reach the point where you could make the Harrier rendering technology portable.
UKR: We're about to send Richard Jacques some questions for an interview. Any suggestions about what to ask him?
STEVE: I think you should ask him to make a UK:Resistance corporate song. An anthem to draw all Sega fans together under one glorious blue sky flag. Once you've got that, and an army of fans to command at will, it'll likely be much easier to rabble rouse.
UKR: What's he like?
STEVE: Exceptionally cheerful.
UKR: No, what's he REALLY like?
STEVE: Giddy as a school kid on a sugar rush, charming as a debonair gentleman cad and truly creative genius.
UKR: Did he make any diva-like demands?
STEVE: We weren't to mention Sonic R in any interview with UK:R. So we're definitely not mentioning it, or the fact he did all the music for it. I don't want to fall out with Rich.
UKR: Finally, can you say something controversial about PS3 being hard to develop for, so we can get loads of traffic off Digg?
STEVE: We weren't quite prepared for all the blood sacrifices required - not to mention the liberal use of snake oil - to get the PS3 dev kits booted up. I'm sure the demand to use druidic runes rather than plain old C++ was something of an oversight on Sony's part too.
STEVE: No problem. The title screen's blue sky, by the way. That's the only UKR reference we could sneak in.
And Can you please tell Adam Doree to stop spreading OutRun3 rumours too? It's getting me into all kinds of trouble.
UKR: That's him told. Hear that, Adam? Sumo hates you.
This thing about never going to Indonesia. This thing about Facebook which also includes some basic relationship advice. This thing about PS3 still sucking. This thing about "space plane" developments, which we are keeping a close eye on just in case lots of people die and we end up with a spare £100k in the bank. This thing about the Canon Ixus 960, because you can't not use pictures like this when they come along:
UKR: Hey Rich. How are you?
Richard Jacques: I'm fairly well thanks, considering. Thank you for asking.
Where are you?
I am currently in Magical Sound Towers, a division of the Magical Sound Factory, where I currently reside with my many composing monkeys.
What were you doing an hour ago?
Reading this email with horror / glee.
What will you be doing tomorrow, say, at about 2.00pm?
Reading this interview once you publish it, no doubt. Actually I shall be having a slide guitar lesson.
Which supermarket is your local supermarket? Just in case we happen to be in the area and standing outside it?
That is a really tough question. Because, you see, I am almost equidistant between Somerfield and the Co-Operative, which admittedly are both a bit sort of pikey supermarkets, but the Co-Op does a good line in biscuits, whereas Somerfield always has Chicken Kievs on special. What is one to do? (actually Rich shops at a really posh online supermarket so it's more like Fortnum and Mason for him, bowler hats optional of course).
What sort of items are in an average Richard Jacques shopping basket?
Hmmmm. Now that is personal. Well, obviously cheese. I like cheese. In fact I love cheese. Cheese as in the food, cheesy music, cheesy people, cheesy peas, cheesy feet, no wait, I made up that last one. Lots of red meat, fish, poultry. Some tinned sweet corn. A stamp. Sarah Lee chocolate gateaux. And a copy of Official Sega Saturn Magazine as well as a copy of Official Dreamcast Magazine. Am I still dreaming?
What sort of normal music do you like? Bet you're into really edgy bands we've never heard of!
Because I spend so much time in my Magical Sound Factory, I usually just listen to Morris dancing music, Dexy's Midnight Runners, and Enka, which is Japanese old people's folk music. It relaxes me, you see.
You're credited as providing "composition, remixing and surround mixing" for SST - how much music have you actually contributed to SEGA Superstars Tennis?
All of the above. I did all the front-end tracks and jingles and the like. Then working with my team in the Magical Sound Factory, my assistants Marc and Rik helped out on the surround mixes of all the tracks in the game, and the remixes of Space Harrier and Virtua Cop. So basically we did all of the above.
The original tracks, like the Green Hill and Scrap Brain tunes - are they just recorded or have you recreated them?
Sadly, we weren't allowed to touch these tracks due to copyright reasons. But pretty much everything else has been 'touched' by me.
Do you get original sound files from SEGA? What format do they come in? Do they come on dusty old tapes with SEGA logos on the boxes?
They actually arrive via horse and cart, and the format is 78rpm long playing records. A bit like the format your granddad once had. Or you grandma / great aunt / uncle. Except with better music on it - the Grime Thorpe Colliery Brass Band don't know Splash Wave. Yet.
So once I open up a box of dusty old 78s, (complete with black and white coal drawn SEGA logos), we go through a thorough mastering process, to ensure no one has embedded "kill Cliff Richard" within a satanic message, and really bring that 8 and 16-Bit goodness up to date. Occasionally we eat walnuts during this particular part of the process. Or sometimes dried apricots, but only on leap years, like this one.
The SST theme tune is very enjoyable. Sumo Digital said you can sing along to it, like "SEGA! Super-stars, la la lah!" - did you have any particular lyrics in mind?
Yes, and the first lyric that springs to mind is "HOW DARE THE GUY WRITE ON THAT THERE FORUM A FEW WEEKS AGO SAYING THAT YOU CAN'T SING ALONG TO THE MELODY IN THE MAIN THEME."
So yeah, basically, if you sing "SE-GA" along to the first 2 notes of the main melody, then "su-per-stars" to the next three notes, then you are rocking. How dare people suggest I don’t take my job VERY seriously!!!
Which SST track is your favourite?
Hmm, tough question. Space Channel 5 tracks and Passing Breeze from Outrun.
You should release them on iTunes. We could get all our readers to buy it and you might get in the charts!
Yes, I should! Hang on, how many readers do you have?
Enough to scrape a top 40 position in the jazz/classic charts. Did SEGA have to approve your stuff?
Was anything rejected?
YOUR DESERT ISLAND SEGA TUNE: Magical Sound Shower? Or something else?
PASSING BREEZE. Far superior composition to Magical Sound Shower in my opinion. I haven't played this particular track half-way around the world for no good reason, don't you know.
Is it possible to get bored of Magical Sound Shower? If anyone would be bored of it by now, it'd probably be you.
No one can ever get bored of anything to do with Outrun. Not even Yu Suzuki.
SST's House of the Dead/Curien Mansion music is emerging as an early favourite. There's something awesome about the organ. Do you like organs?
I love organs. Be it a Hammond organ, a cathedral organ, or a human organ. Organs rule.
Is that the original HotD music or a Jacques mega-mix? It's great, whatever it is.
It's the original that we mixed into 5.1 surround, so no remixing, just surround mixing. Great tracks though, very nostalgic. I've been playing lots of the HotD mini games and they are my favourites so far. Beat hitting tennis balls at fat zombies is what games should be about.
Space Harrier also rocks. Well done!
Thanks! And yes it does!
Are there any Sonic R tunes in SST?
Did you ever raise the possibility of the inclusion of Sonic R tunes?
No. But Supersonic Racing does feature in Super Smash Bros Brawl on the Wii. So at least they like it.
How often do people come up to you and quote you the lyrics of their favourite Sonic R track? I bet it's every day!
To be fair, it's every other day.
There's an unlockable track in SST's Golden Axe zone called "Paternal Horn." Where did that name come from?
Well, I'm not too sure but I know that track is from NiGHTS. So I guess that if you look into the Latin (Pater meaning father) it could be father's horn, or father plays the French horn, or father goes out a-hunting with a massive hunting horn. You decide.
Do you ever listen to game music just for fun?
All the time. NiGHTS, OutRun, Panzer and Shenmue never leave my CD player.
Are you friends with fellow game musician Jesper Kyd or DEADLY RIVALS?
Jesper and I are very good friends. Your readers just have to cast their minds back to Scorcher and Amok on the Saturn. Plus he is Danish and therefore of Viking descent so you don't mess with that kind.
Do you want us to start a hate campaign about him on the internet? We could ruin him and you'd get more work!
Actually, yes, that would be fine, thank you. Assassins Creed 2, please. Jade? Hello?
What are you working on at the moment that you can talk about?
Sonic Chronicles, plus three other game soundtracks and a feature film, none of which I can talk about. So don't ask. OK?
Several years ago now, you casually mentioned you might create a theme tune for UKR. Every day we check our email, hoping that it might have arrived. But it still hasn't. Has it got lost in the system?
It must have! But keep asking. You never know what may turn up...
So, now you're done with SST you must have a lot of spare time. Do you want to meet up and hang out? We could go swimming.
I do like swimming but my local pool has been opened then closed then opened then closed. I blame the government. For everything. When it is open properly again and the boiler is fixed, I will go. You can go too if you like.
To the cinema?
What kind of films do you like?
All films but mainly Carry On. Hattie Jacques is a legend.
Do you like The Terminator?
I've got the Region 1 special edition. You can come round and watch it. I'll tidy up and get some beers in. What do you like?
I like Dysons with some Mr Sheen and Febreeze. Oh are you talking about beers? Well wasn't Miles Dyson a character in Terminator 2? I'm just trying to link your random questions here. Is he the same guy that made the hoover and that new hand dryer? OK so drinks then. Just any man beer is good.
Is UKR a liability as far as you're concerned?
Absolutely, just stop rifling through my bins. The council have enough trouble. And please make some Blue Skies in Games campaign t-shirts, maybe some people would buy them then! (none of that teal nonsense though, do you hear?)
1. The conversion of Shinobi. Better than the Master System version even if it is REALLY HARD. Might be Japan-only, though. Yeah, it is.
2. This really weird hybrid puzzle/shooter game called Somer Assault (GET IT? "SOMERSAULT"!). It's quite the peach and we're trying it beat it. You play as a purple slinky dropped down from heaven BY GOD HIMSELF and must battle monsters based on the 12 signs of the zodiac. More on this as the story develops.
"An afternoon on Gametrailers would have been a far better way to spend the time."
"We had press passes and we couldn't get an answer out of anybody as to whether there was a press room or not"
"I really do think I've been ripped off"
"Lucas Arts didn't bother turning up - they just sent a poster!"
"We were in there for an hour and a half before we wanted to kill ourselves. £1.90 for a freaking bottle of water!"
"Shit, did you see they had Halo 3!!! I almost died."
"Gemma Atkinson could get her tits out next year and I still wouldn't go"
"I'm not changing this sig until Metal Gear Solid 4, Tekken 6 and Final Fantasy XIII are announced for the Xbox 360."
This thing about cross-promoting brands and intellectual properties vis-a-vis capturing the critical youth demographic. This thing about maybe having to play games with poor people. This thing about developments in x-ray technology. This thing about making it easier for people to carry their MacBook Airs safely from A (art school) to B (dad's chalet in Switzerland). This thing about CeBIT 2008, because you can't not use pictures like this when they come along:
Labels: SEGA SUPERSTARS TENNIS MONTH
Labels: SEGA SUPERSTARS TENNIS MONTH
This thing about no one being bothered to bend down and turn the plug off. This thing about cross-promotional marketing, MySpace still being "going" and episodes of Columbo. This thing about Brain Training, because we are contractually obliged to pretend we think Wii is a proper games machine once in a while. This thing about the informal Stupidest People of the Year competition the entire world seems to be running at the moment. This thing about something called "Pootie Tang." This thing about the Canon EF1200mm zoom lens, because you can't not use pictures like this when they come along:
A site about games and game paraphernalia and how nothing's as good as we remember it, probably because we used to inhabit a FANTASY WORLD.
What are we half-heartedly skimming RIGHT NOW?
Each post .02% worse than the last.
THE HTML ERAS
When men used to till the pages by hand.
12 years of wheat and chaff in one vast and impenetrable mass.
Some updates weren't universally hated by the entire world within seconds of being uploaded.
Links to that blog of yours you started up and were excited about for a whole weekend.
Some people we might've MET. Or at least seen in a room and been near.
Other sites we are happy to officially endorse without requiring Adwords spend.
Having one is compulsory, apparently. Ours is here. It is not meant to be funny.
People off the internet. Quality and commitment levels may vary.
It came with the template. Maybe in 2014 we'll jump on board the Twitter train and put that in here. Or a radio. That'd be nice.