If the name of the sparkling Yuji Naka is usually associated with Sonic, Phantasy Star or Billy Hatcher, former developers working on the Dreamcast have quite another memory, much more bitter.
In 1998, SEGA could still sell dreams, and promise wonders for its future Dreamcast. Among the titles unveiled at E3 1998 was in particular a certain Geist Force, a 3D shoot’em up on rails of which there are now only a few trailers, and for good reason: the game was canceled before its release. . And we just learn that the famous Yuji Naka was just no stranger to this Trafalgar coup. Atmosphere.
“The other” Yuji Naka
Former Sega of America producer Mark Subtonick was guest on the podcast a few weeks ago The Retro Hour, and the opportunity was given to him to empty his bag, by recounting the behind the scenes of the Geist Force project, and its methodical killing for the benefit of a completely different cause. But let him situate the chronology of events:
I was offered to go work on a brand new game for a new console. Everything was new: the license, the team … it was a real challenge. Before the architecture of the Dreamcast was set in stone, we were already up and running, and we got the green light to develop a game called Geist Force… it was actually the shooter from E3, and it was even supposed to be a launch game. It was kind of like a Star Fox clone: I’m not going to say we had some amazing ideas, but the story was really cool.
And if we can easily imagine the strategic nature of Geist Force, intended to appear alongside Pen Pen TriIcelon, Power Stone, SoulCalibur or Hydro Thunder on the shelves of American stores. And yet, a visit from Yuji Naka, then in full development of a certain Sonic Adventure, would have been enough for the Geist Force project to change in nature:
It’s a sad story, and too bad if the truth takes on disproportionate proportions.
One day, Naka came to visit us with his team, to look at our tools and our engine. We were working on a lot of pretty crazy proprietary technology. Naka did not realize that some of the developers were fluent in Japanese. He spoke to his team, and explained to them that he was going to get some of our technology for Sonic Adventure on Dreamcast, and that we would have to fire everyone when we were done, except an engineer who would integrate the Sonic Team. Everyone heard it, and you can imagine how they felt. Naka was quite powerful at Sega at that time.
Once that visit is over, Mark Subtonick fails to hold back his best people, who rush to find a new studio working on a Dreamcast game, rather than get laid off in the months to come. The Geist Force site then fell behind, and the producer understood that he would never have time to recruit the necessary engineers before the launch of the console on September 9, 1999 in the United States.
According to the person concerned, this bitter experience led him to leave SEGA of America, to finally join the ranks of Microsoft, and work on a console with a still mysterious code name: the Xbox … No hard feelings? Nothing is less sure.