Roger Hector interview by hxc (August 2005)
From Sonic Retro
This is an interview conducted by hxc, with Roger Hector, former director of STI. It has been reformatted for better readability.
hxc: What games did you work on while at Sega Technical Institute?
Roger Hector: Sonic 2, Sonic 3, Sonic Spinball, Comix Zone, The Ooze, DieHard (coin op), and several corporate joint venture projects with various Hollywood and Silicon Valley companies.
hxc: Which of those was your favorite project?
Roger Hector: Sonic 3 (also called Sonic & Knuckles) was a lot of fun, but it was also very difficult. Michael Jackson was originally brought in to compose all the music for the game, but at the very end, his work was dropped after his scandals became public. This caused a lot of problems and required a lot of reworking. But the game turned out great in the end.
hxc: As director, what was your job and day normaly like?
Roger Hector: I was responsible for all the teams and all the projects. I oversaw every detail of production and kept the teams organized, creative, and productive. Sometimes I'd spend all day solving problems, and sometimes I'd play the games and work with the teams.
hxc: Did Sega of Japan keep a close eye on STI, and the sonic games inparticular, or were you working alone?
Roger Hector: We were separate from the rest of the company (which was great!). We had a lot of autonomy. Sega of Japan was always very interested in what was going on because Sega counted so much on Sonic. It was the most important game produced by the company at that time. But we were given the opportunity to do what we wanted, and were generally left alone.
hxc: Can you tell us anything about Sonic X-treme, as in, if it was originally planned for the Mega Drive, the 32x etc.?
Roger Hector: Sonic X-treme was started during a time when a lot of changes were going on at Sega. But I left Sega during its production, and it went through a lot of changes afterward.. along with the rest of the company.
hxc: From the few screen shots and movies we have of the game, we know there was a "fisheye" camera, what was the reason for this?
Roger Hector: Don't know. This must have been after I left.
hxc: How did it feel when it was finally canceled, also, was it Sega of Japan who pulled the plug in the end?
Roger Hector: It was canceled after I left. SOJ was going through a lot of executive changes there too, and the new people at SOJ pulled the plug on many projects and people in America. The situation was bad at SOJ, and they turned STI and SOA upside down. It was kind of a mess, and I had had enough. The old chemistry was gone, and it became very hard to be creative and do good work.
- At this point hxc submits the questions of someone else.
User Submitted Question: What is the process of SEGA creating a Sonic game? Like, from the initial ideas to the launch, and everything in between?
Roger Hector: The core Sonic team consisted of Yuji Naka, and Yasuhara. They were responsible for keeping Sonic at the cutting edge. I helped build a team around them that included many other level designers, artists, and programmers. Once Naka & Yasuhara agreed on a general design approach, they drew up a schedule and started working. It took a full year to create many of the Sonic games, and it took many people working together (a dozen or more). Once we were happy with the game, it went to SOA for bug testing. After it was debugged, I signed it off for production. Then everyone took a little vacation and waited to see it launched into the marketplace. This was a lot of fun as there was always a lot of promotion and publicity events that we attended, and it was fun to watch people react to the game. After this, we all started to think about the next Sonic game...
User Submitted Question: What are you recollections of working at STI?
Roger Hector: It was a lot of fun working there, as we had a very top notch creative and technical group. We also were left alone by the rest of the company, so we could be creative and not bothered too much by company politics etc. I enjoyed it a lot, except at the very end. At that time, the company became very political and practically everyone in the SOA management was fired or quit. I was outside of SOA, but I was asked to take over some development aspects of SOA..and this was a mess. Overall, Sega was a great place to work before this, and I am very fond of my memories there.
User Submitted Question: Did you know anything of Knuckles Chaotix?, or more importantly, the prototype called Sonic Crackers?
Roger Hector: I didn't have anything to do with these. I recall they were done somewhere else in Sega.
User Submitted Question: How many zones were there in Sonic X-treme? We only know of four.
Roger Hector: Sorry, I don't know as I left before it was done.
User Submitted Question: Have you got contacts for Howard Drossin? [Music Composer for Sonic & Knuckles, among other games]
Roger Hector: I haven't spoken with Howard for a while, but we are still good friends. He was last living in Los Angeles when we last talked (but I don't have his current contact information). He is an excellent composer and did some wonderful music while at STI.
User Submitted Question: How much work were you involved in, for say Sonic 3?
Roger Hector: I contributed in the initial creative brainstorm meetings, but Naka was in charge of selecting the ideas to develop. I was primarily involved with helping and supporting the team by getting them whatever they needed to get it done. I also worked with everyone outside of STI to get them the information they needed to market the game. Whenever a big problem came up (like the whole Michael Jackson thing), I had to help find a solution and keep things on track. I also helped with creating the marketing and promotion programs to launch the game, and oversee getting it through QA and into production.
User Submitted Question: Tell him Sonic Spinball has been one of my favorite games since I was a child, and the anticipation of Sonic X-Treme has shaped me not only as a gamer, but literally as a person as well. The work that STI did on the Sonic series in the mid-90's was, in my eyes, the utmost pinnacle of quality gaming that I've experienced in my 21 years.
Roger Hector: Thank you so much! I really appreciate hearing this. It was a lot of work, but as I've said before, it was also a lot of fun. I'm so glad you also enjoyed it.
Sonic Spinball was inspired by the "Las Vegas" level of Sonic 2, but was done by a different team at STI. It was pushed into the big "Christmas release" slot when Sonic & Knuckles got delayed, but we all had a good time with it. I'm glad you also did.
- hxc then steps in and asks the final question.
hxc: And finally.. What do you have left over from the time at STI? As in materials or even prototypes. And are you willing to donate or copy any of them to the Sega Community? We are always itching for new things!
Roger Hector: I have stashed away a small box of Sega memorabilia, but I'm not sure what's in it now. I'm also not sure where it is (I've recently moved and these things are still boxed up somewhere). When I get to find it, I'll be happy to send you something...but no promises on exactly when this will be. Feel free to check back with me sometime. Take care.
- Original Interview at Secrets of Sonic Team.