During this week’s SEGA Nerdcast, we interviewed Realtime Associate’s founder David Warhol and Bug! artist Jeff Cook. While the interview itself focused mostly on the SEGA Saturn title Bug! the company developed, Warhol revealed his company nearly created a Sonic the Hedgehog game for the launch of the Saturn instead of Bug!
“We got all the way to sign a contract to do a Sonic game on the Saturn as a launch SKU,” he said, “and then SEGA of Japan saw what SEGA of America was doing and said, “No, no, no. You can’t do Sonic. We’re gonna do Sonic over here.” So here we were already to go to do a Sonic-like game, but we couldn’t use the Sonic characters.”
Later in the interview, I asked Warhol to provide some more information on this Sonic launch title that ultimately never came to be.
“We had been given a short video, probably 15 or 20 seconds, of what Sonic would look like in the first person,” Warhol said. “Imagine him doing one of his 360 degree vertical loops! We had been given this, someone in Japan had rendered out, in a tool, not in a Saturn, demo of what this might look like, and it was super high poly and looked great.
“I don’t think the Saturn could have done that per se,” he added. “I also think given the budget and time frame we had doing something at the level and quality of the Genesis Sonic would have been a real stretch. I think we would have had to decrease in scope the number of mechanics we wanted to do and just do fewer things with more finesse rather than a larger game.”
It was at that point when the Warhol and his team went back to some early work they had done on a Genesis concept, which eventually became Bug!
“So, at that moment, we decided to pull the concept we were developing for the Genesis over to the Saturn and become this lead character,” he said.
While this became fortuitous for the studio because it was able to create an original game, because of the way the contract was written, SEGA retained the ownership of the Bug! intellectual property and still owns it to this day.
“I went back and said, ‘Well, ya know, it was just this accident in the contract,’ but they were like ‘No, no. This is ours,'” Warhol said. “So if we wanted to do another (Bug!), we would have to go back to SEGA and reacquire it.”
And actually, Warhol is interested in developing a third title in the series.
“At one time, maybe five years ago, I got the option and ability to exploit Bug!, but we were still playing with what vehicle we wanted to do,” he said. “It’s always high on my list of fun things to do, but we’d need to get SEGA’s permission. ”
To listen to the full interview, make sure you check out this week’s Nerdcast!