Thank you for all of your questions fans of the dead. This is a present from me to you… Website of the Dead interviews Steve Lycett, producer of the upcoming Sega crossover game, Sonic & All-Stars Racing: Transformed!
1.What is your position within Sumo Digital and may I ask, how long have you’ve been working in the gaming industry?
Steve – Hello there! I’m Steve Lycett and I’m Executive Producer at SUMO. I’m one of the many people working on Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed. I’ve been at SUMO since 2003, pretty much since it started! Before that I worked at Gremlin Interactive since 1997, though it had a short stint of being Infogrames Sheffield House for a while! I guess that means I’m coming up for 15 years! Ouch!
2.How were you and Sumo Digital approached by Sega with making their famous titles?
Steve- Well, we’ve been working with SEGA since we did the Xbox conversion of OutRun2. Most people remember us for at least that! Over the years we’ve worked on many SEGA titles, so Virtua Tennis World Tour, OutRun2006, Virtua Tennis 3, SEGA SuperStars Tennis and Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing. Plus digital titles like OutRun Online Arcade and SEGA Rally Online Arcade. You can say we’ve been busy!
Each time we’ve worked on a new SEGA game they get bigger, bolder and more ambitious. This time is no exception! Land, air and sea and transforming vehicles? We must be mad!
3.I’ve heard that you’ve worked with producers of Sega’s well known franchises, how was the experience for you to meet people who made Sega, you know, SEGA?
Steve – One of the great things about the All-Star series is we get to work directly with the creators of the original games. Given I grew up playing many of those games it’s a bit strange when you’re in Japan sitting in an office with people who made those games which sit so strongly in your memory! So you have to pinch yourselves sometimes! We get great support and in more than a few cases we find out all manner of interesting background facts about those games, plus a vision of if they were to remake them today, what they’d be like. We try and take all this onboard and bring it into our games. Hopefully fans can recognise that passion and they get the feeling that when we reference a classic SEGA title the experiences feels authentic!
4.Seems like Dr. Curien’s legacy still lives on within the Sega Superstars/All-Stars series, may I ask what is your favorite House of the Dead title and your moments with that game?
Steve – Yep! We see House of the Dead as being one of SEGA’s iconic IP’s and so it’s always high on our must includes. Maybe this time too!
For me I played the original first in the arcade, then again when I got my SEGA Saturn. I’ve always loved how it blends elements of classic horror, with tight arcade game play. When I got my Xbox, House of the Dead 3 was one of the very first games I picked up too.
My favourite probably is House of the Dead 2 as it took what was there from the first game and really made it bigger and better. Plus it helped I could play it at home on my Dreamcast with a Dreamcast Gun! It also rounded the story out more. That’s not to say I don’t like the others, it’s like picking your favourite child though!
I have a very soft spot for House of the Dead EX. I just love the tongue in cheek nature of the game, it’s really really playful J
5.The House of the Dead is filled with not only mad experimental creatures, but a secret governmental agency called “AMS”. Fans of the series expected a certain AMS agent to represent HotD in the first ASR, but we’ve gotten a lovely zombie couple (Zobio & Zobiko) from the spinoff title, Loving Deads: The House of the Dead EX. What made you and the team pick the lovely duo than the dogs of the AMS?
Steve – Really, this was more to do with the age rating and cartoony nature of ASR! Especially since we really couldn’t do something as extreme as House of the Dead Overkill. We’d have an 18 rating!
We’d been across to Japan to talk to the House of the Dead team and whilst we were there we saw a work-in-progress version of the game, and it was immediate that we’d take Zobio and Zobiko as characters and then take the look and style to become the three House of the Dead tracks, it just fit into our hyper realistic cartoon ethos.
That’s not to say we didn’t try and include some series staples like Zombie Bob, Zombie Dave and other characters, just we had to keep the right side of the PEGI and ESRB ratings!
6. Who’s your favorite AMS agent from the entire series?
Steve – Well for me it has to be G. What does G stand for? Gary? Garth? Gwilym? It’s hard to say. But he keeps a cool head regardless of the situation – and if you were going into danger, you’d want G by your side!
7. Zobio has a mouth full of words, but Zobiko was awfully silent. Did she have any voice clips early in development of Sonic and Sega All-Stars Racing? (She has a lovely voice in EX)
Steve – Well, when we were making ASR, they were very much still making House of the Dead EX! So we only got Zobio’s English VO very late in the day, and whilst we had Zobiko’s Japanese voice, it didn’t really make sense to have one character speaking one language and the other speaking another. So rather than make it all weird, we kept to just Zobio speaking.
8. Were there any other characters that you would have liked to include in previous Superstars/All-Stars titles?
Steve – From House of the Dead? I’ve always wanted to get more of the boss creatures into a stage somehow, though this can be difficult as unless they’re mobile it’d be blink and you’ll miss them as you race by! There’s such a rich selection of cool enemy designs that’d be great for this. Again though we have to keep an eye on the age rating, some of them would properly terrify kids!
9. Now on to Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed, when did the production officially started?
Steve – We’ve been working on this game now since 2010. We had to do quite a lengthy pre-production though to get all the gameplay elements figured out so that the transforms feel natural and that each of the land, sea and air handling are all as equally good. That’s actually quite a difficult thing to do, as we’re basically making three games in one! Hopefully when it’s released though people will feel that the play is seamless and feels effortless, but it’s taken quite a while to figure that out!
10. Was the gameplay of Transformed influenced by Sega’s past arcade titles? (Daytona USA, Outrun, Afterburner, Wing War, Waverunner)
Steve – Yes, very much so. Our driving yardstick has always been OutRun, I think that shows in the long sweeping drifts and tight handling, we’re more akin to a racing game than being a Kart racer. Air has heavily been influenced by AfterBurner, though we’ve added a whole flavour of our own with stunts, rolls, flips and of course the weapon combat.
Water… Well here we’ve looked at games like Waverunner, but also games like Wave Race and Hydro Thunder. We want that arcade feel to it as if it is SEGA, but I think we’ve broke a bit of new ground there purely as the water we have is very dynamic. We really can go to town with big waves and huge drops, so I think players will really enjoy this.
11. It was stated that Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed was also made by the influence of the Dreamcast era, if so will we be able to see a brand new House of the Dead track? I heard that a businessman owns a 50 floor building near Point A0063. From up top you can see someone or something has taken over the city)
Steve – You know, we always get accused of paying special attention to the Dreamcast era! Really I don’t think that’s the case, and Transformed I think will prove we’ve got a special love for all era’s of SEGA.
We might have something in the new game based on House of the Dead – but you’ll have to wait and see!
12. Last question, did you suffer like G did while making this game?
Steve – I’m still not quite sure quite how G suffered, but we always pour our hearts and souls into the game, and well, sometimes that involves some late nights and weekends. Next time I see G I’ll ask how much he suffered and we’ll compare notes and get back to you!
Will we see Zobio & Zobiko again, will Goldman Building be represented as a track this time around, and who will protect the LOFY cycle with Goldman dead? Looks like we’ll have to wait and see when Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed releases this Fall.