Peter Morawiec interview by ICEknight (December 2000)
From Sonic Retro
ICEknight: I've read that you were the designer of Sonic Spinball and Sonic X-treme, and you appear in the Sonic 2 staff, in 'SPECIAL STAGE ART AND CG'. Sonic fans have a lot of questions in their minds... maybe you can help us finding the answers.
What did you make exactly in the Sonic 2 Special Stages? Do you have any picture of the beta Special Stage, or scans about the development of the game? Was the Special Stage going to be different to the final one? We've tested one of the Sonic 2 betas and there was no Special Stage yet... Do you know something about a 'Genocide City Zone', a desert zone or the Hidden Palace in Sonic 2? Hidden Palace seems to be impossible to finish in the beta, because of an impossible to climb big slope, and the Master Emerald does nothing.
Peter Morawiec: I certainly have some fond memories of those days, so I'll be happy to address some of your questions...
Sega gave me a start in the games biz -- I was hired by Mark Cerny (of Marble Madness, Crash and Spyro fame) and Yutaka Sugano (of Shinobi fame) back in early 1992, to join their newly founded Sega Technical Institute (STI) in Palo Alto as a game designer. I was initially involved in designing new concepts for Sega's U.S. coin-op division with Sugano, but after about a year, we were shifted to Genesis group (due to the increasing demand for the console, fueled primarily by the exploding popularity of Sonic the Hedgehog).
Just a few months before, Sega had moved the entire Sonic Team from Tokyo to Palo Alto, CA, to work on Sonic II. The reasoning behind this move was to enable the team to create a more globally appealing game by directly exposing them to a Western culture. Along those lines, several American team members were added to the team, for instance, the bonus level programmer and a couple of level artists.
By the time I was brought on, the deadlines were looming. At that point, the Special Stage was a tube with Sonic running through it -- a cool feat on the Genesis -- but not much else. I was asked to help dress it up, so it looks more like a racetrack of sorts -- since it could not be built into the tube animation, it needed to be done with sprites only; I designed the appearance of the Start/Finish line, the checkpoints, and the HUD displays, including Sonic's thumbs up/down hand. Overall, not a huge contribution by any means, but I'm happy to being involved in this super-selling title.
Sorry, I'm not able to help you with the Zones -- it's been a while since I played those games.
ICEknight: About Sonic Spinball, why did you change the bonus stage? It looked very nice with the different background. Maybe it was too slow? And it had more of those intro scenes... Why delete them? Were the Spinball stages based in some of the not released zones of Sonic 2?
Peter Morawiec: With Spinball, I was asked to design a 'smaller' Sonic game, an offshoot of sorts, which could be completed in six months, in time for Christmas (since Sonic III would slip). Marketing concluded that the Casino stage in Sonic was one of the most popular levels, so I've created a more pinball-like design with Sonic elements, which everybody seemed to like. Ultimately, the short development cycle shows and the graphic quality is not quite on par with the work of the Sonic Team (we were primarily a non-Japanese team), but it's a fun little game that gathered quite a following, but it's definitely a love-it-or-hate-it kind of a thing.
The bonus screenshot you sent is using an early table design I believe, which was probably replaced due to VRAM limitations (it's been a while, so I'm just guessing here). John Duggan, the Art Director on the project did the Bonus Table graphics.
ICEknight: And... about Sonic X-treme. Do you know if Sonic Team have put some of the stages in Sonic Adventure? We've seen some pictures of the Saturn game that look very similar to some of the events in Sonic Adventure. Does anyone have a copy of the game? We really want to know more about that game! Playing it would be just incredible..
If you have anything related to the development of those games (scans of pictures or designs, beta versions or any other thing), PLEASE, tell us! Sonic fans really want to know about how those games were developed.
Peter Morawiec: As for Sonic X-treme, there were a couple of competing Saturn Sonic games in development, and I believe you are referring to the one in development by STI Redwood City, which involved semi-3D rotating playfields? I was not involved in that.
Following the completion of Comix Zone, our core team negotiated a situation where we were able to set up a separate Sega R&D office in Burbank, CA to focus on Saturn development. To compete with Mario, we were designing a full 3D Sonic game, based on a cool sphere-rendering technology (to overcome the polygon faceting resulting from the limited horsepower of the Saturn). This game was rather early and was never publicized. Ultimately, Naka (the chief Sonic programmer and guru) did not want Americans to mess with his baby and did not approve of what we were attempting to do. This led to uncomfortable political tensions between the company, which left our team in limbo for a few months.
In an attempt to save it, I've urged with Sugano to let us rework it into a Bonus Game to be included with the Traveller's Tales developed Sonic Blast (Saturn) he was producing at the time, but the deadline was impossible to hit. Ultimately, the Saturn tanked in the US and Sega went into a tailspin. We were asked to stay on to work on the upcoming Dreamcast, but with no hardware available for a year, we have bailed out in December of 1996 to form Luxoflux.
OK, gotta get back to work... hopefully this satisfies some of your curiosity. I don't mind this being posted on a site or wherever, but please let me know if you do so and do not edit it. Any other questions?