Thursday, 5 December 2013

Exclusive SEGA Kickstarter Interview - Darren Wall - Read only Memory

SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: 

Collected Works

Hi Darren...great for you to spare a moment during your amazingly successful Kickstarter with just 4 days to go now, how are you feeling?

I feel a bit like I've had a baby! I'm up all hours, aware of the many months of hard work ahead of me - but at the same time I'm terrifically excited and satisfied. Running a Kickstarter campaign is a really consuming task, but I don't think I've ever done something as rewarding. I've been able to speak to so many Sega fans and legendary developers in the past few weeks... it's been great fun.

Tell us why you choose to work on a Sega Mega Drive book of all things?

We were asked by Sega to pitch on a documentary book after they saw our first title - Sensible Software 1986–1999. I picked the Mega Drive as it was the defining console for me and I felt like I was pretty well positioned to tackle it confidently. I tried to draw up a proposal for the Mega Drive book I wanted to own myself and not try to get too bogged down in what would be commercial or second guess what they might want to see. We were staggered to hear that they liked the proposal and we were offered a license.

Who is the book designed for?

The book is for anybody with a connection to the console. We cover so many aspects of the era - from production artwork to the hardware itself, right through to developer interviews - I'm hopeful every fan will flick through the book and immediately be confronted with brand new material related to games they have already have an intimate connection with.

What was is about the Mega Drive that makes it so special?

I was 10 when I first played the Mega Drive. Everything about it seemed incredibly stylish... almost cocky in fact. The design of the hardware, the packaging, the advertisements... it had a kind of 'swagger' that was completely absent in other machines. Going over it again now, it is apparent just how important Sega's marketing was to its success in the West.

How has Keith been working on the project - is playing the games part of it for him and you?!

Keith has been interviewing and writing for several months now - when he's not appearing in prime time TV shows - and yes! we've both been reminding ourselves of the games as we worked through the book. I was particularly struck by how well Comix Zone plays after all these years.

Have you / Keith had any interesting adventures tracking people and information down for researching the book?

There have been plenty of adventures, particularly in the last few weeks since the Kickstarter launched. Several backers have introduced us to legendary Sega figures we were previously unable to get hold of. Within a few days of the project going live I was being introduced to huge figures such as Hayao Nakayama and Tom Kalinske!

We've also had some great moments with some of the Japanese developers - in conducting the interviews it became apparent that some of them still had pencil and paper development artwork at home after all this time! Makoto Uchida  in particular still had line drawings of monster ideas for Alien Storm which we just recieved this morning.

How have SEGA contributed to the development of the book?

They have been incredibly helpful. They have rooted through their archive for us and found some great material. Possibly the most important find they made was a collection of hand drawn plans for the case of the Mega Drive itself, along with a selection of unused controller designs. The also helped us to get in touch with many of the original game developers.

Tell us a bit about the artwork to feature in the book?

There is a great mixture of slick, highly finished production artwork and really rough 'n' ready, sketchy stuff from the early stages of the design process. To give a flavour of what's in store, there are character paintings for The Revenge of Shinobi, boss sketches for Wonder Boy III, detailed battle scenes for Golden Axe and really early, sketchy ideas for ToeJam & Earl. We'll also be featuring in-game artwork in a similar way to the Sensible Software book - showing off the detailed level maps and sprite sheets of iconic characters.

Tell us about the quality of finish of the book - we know as a designer and the quality of the Sensible Software book the print and finishing is very important to you as a Designer?

Yes, it is really important to me that the book looks - and feels - great. The biggest difference to the Sensible book is that this will be a large format hardback rather than a mid-size softcover. The paper will be a heavyweight matt art stock so the images will look their best and given the success of the project, we're looking at adding more pages and additional cover finishes too.

Did you learn a lot about SEGA and its games / hardware whilst being involved developing this book?

I'm still learning as we go! The insight into the development of some of the early Japanese games is extremely interesting and I think that will be a real highlight for fans. For instance, in our long-form interviews we learn of discarded boss fights from Shinobi, alternative level plans for Sonic and some surprising cinematic influences on classic Mega Drive games. I'm obviously being a bit coy here... I don't want to ruin the surprise!

What is your favourite 5 mega drive games of all time?

I won't be so bold as to place them in order, but I would select: Bonanza Bros., Micro Machines, Comix Zone, The Revenge of Shinobi and Streets of Rage 2.

Do you have plans to write a book on Nintendo after this one - balance the whole thing out then?!

That would be amazing! I would love for Read-Only Memory to produce more console documentary books. There's a lot of consoles to get through! I'd love to do more with Sega too, perhaps looking at other consoles like the Saturn and Dreamcast

There's still time to back the Kickstarter here: 

For more information:
Read-Only Memory

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