|Successor||Sega of America Product Development|
|Founder|| Mark Cerny |
Palo Alto and Redwood City, California,
|Parent||Sega of America|
Sega Technical Institute (STI) was an American development division of Sega. Founded by Atari veteran Mark Cerny in 1991, the studio sought to combine elite Japanese developers, including Sonic Team programmer Yuji Naka and his team, with new American talent. STI developed games for Sega Genesis, including several Sonic the Hedgehog games, before it was closed at the end of 1996.
After working in Japan for Sega on games for the Master System, Cerny proposed the creation of a development studio in America, which was approved. When Naka quit Sega after the release of Sonic the Hedgehog , Cerny convinced him and Sonic level designer Hirokazu Yasuhara to join him at STI. After completing Sonic the Hedgehog 2 in 1992, STI was divided in two due to friction between the Japanese and American developers: the Japanese developers developed Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Sonic & Knuckles before leaving in 1994, while the American team developed games including Sonic Spinball . The failed development of Sonic X-treme for the Sega Saturn became representative of a culture shift at Sega, and STI closed at the end of 1996.
Games developed by STI are considered significant in the history of the Genesis, and many were well-received or sold well. Developers have described STI as a unique workplace that did not fit into Sega's corporate structure, and have fond memories of the environment.
Mark Cerny, a fan of computer programming and arcade games, joined Atari in 1982 aged 17.At 18, he designed and co-programmed Marble Madness , his first major success. After his time with Atari, he joined Sega in Japan, where he worked on various Master System products, including launch games and the 3D glasses accessory.
In 1990, Cerny returned to the United States with a desire to create a small development team. At the same time, Sega of America CEO Michael Katz and executive vice president Shinobu Toyoda had prioritized increasing game development in the United States due to a lack of games catering to American tastes.By 1991, Sega allowed Cerny to start STI as a game development studio. The studio's first project was Dick Tracy , and two additional projects began early in 1991: Kid Chameleon and Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude!
Shortly after the release of Sonic the Hedgehog in 1991, Sonic Team developers Yuji Naka and Hirokazu Yasuhara, and several other Japanese developers relocated to California to join STI.Naka had quit Sega following disagreements over salary and backlash from the company over the time and effort it had taken to finish Sonic. Cerny, who had been in Japan while he was setting up STI, visited Naka's apartment, listened to the reasons why he left, and convinced Naka to join him in America as a way to fix the problems he had had with Sega in Japan. Yasuhara, who had designed most of the Sonic stages and gameplay, chose to come with Naka. Cerny's aim was to establish an elite development studio that would combine the design philosophies of American and Japanese developers.
Later in 1991, STI began development on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 , with a team composed of both nationalities. According to Cerny, Sega of Japan was slow to approve the project, costing two months of development of a normal 11-month schedule.Sega's plan to develop Sonic 2 involved sending members of the development teams from Japan over to STI, but Sega failed to acquire visas, resulting in STI being staffed with American developers before beginning work. While Sonic the Hedgehog 2 was a success, its development suffered some setbacks; the language barrier and cultural differences created a rift between the Japanese and American developers. According to STI artist Craig Stitt, he did not believe the junior American members of the team were learning from the more senior Japanese members. Stitt also stated that while Yasuhara and lead artist Yasushi Yamaguchi were easy to work with, Naka was not interested in working with the Americans. Cerny said, "Sonic 2 did ship but after that we said 'no more!'"
Once development on Sonic 2 concluded, Cerny departed STI and was replaced by Atari veteran Roger Hector. Under Hector, STI was divided into two teams: the Japanese developers led by Naka, and the American developers. STI became unusual in Sega's organizational structure. According to Hector, STI reported both to Sega of Japan and Sega of America, but was independent and did not fit into corporate structure. Hector credited this unusual arrangement for fostering creativity and making STI " very special". Developers Peter Morawiec and Adrian Stephens, who worked for STI, expressed fond memories of working there for its uniqueness.Hector's roles with the Japanese team included keeping them on track while ensuring they had necessary resources and preventing outside interference on the team. To facilitate better communication, Hector brought in a language teacher to instruct a Berlitz class in Japanese.
In 1993, STI's Japanese team worked on Sonic the Hedgehog 3 , but it would not be complete for Christmas season;it was split into two games, with Sonic 3 released in February 1994 and Sonic & Knuckles in October. STI's American team worked on a spinoff, Sonic Spinball , proposed by Morawiec following the marketing department's request for a game based on the casino levels of previous Sonic games. The team was tasked with completing the game in nine months, without help from the Japanese team. Though it received poor reviews, Sonic Spinball sold well and helped to build the reputation of its developers.
Following the release of Sonic & Knuckles, Yasuhara quit, citing differences with Naka, and went on to develop games for Sega of America. Naka returned to Japan with developer Takashi Iizuka to continue work with Sonic Team, reuniting with Sonic the Hedgehog character creator Naoto Ohshima.In 1995, the mostly American staff completed Comix Zone and The Ooze , the only games to bear the STI logo. STI completed one game in partnership with Sega AM1, Die Hard Arcade .
As Sonic Team was working on Nights into Dreams ,Sega tasked STI with developing what would have been the first fully 3D Sonic game, Sonic X-treme. It was moved to the Saturn after several prototypes for other hardware (including the 32X) were discarded. It featured a fisheye lens camera system that rotated levels with Sonic's movement. Corporate politics both within the team at STI and between Sega's Japanese and American divisions pervaded the game's development. After Sega president Hayao Nakayama ordered the game be reworked around the engine created for its boss battles, the developers worked between 16 and 20 hours a day to meet their December 1996 deadline. This proved fruitless after Sega of America executive vice president Bernie Stolar rescinded STI's access to Sonic Team's Nights into Dreams engine following an ultimatum by Naka, who was now producing Nights. After programmer Ofer Alon quit and designers Chris Senn and Chris Coffin became ill, X-Treme was cancelled in early 1997.
According to Hector, the success of the PlayStation led to corporate turmoil within Sega. STI was disbanded in 1996 as a result of changes in management at Sega of America. Hector himself had left STI and new management had taken over shortly before the studio closed.Producer Mike Wallis stated that STI was not actually disbanded, but rather became Sega of America's product development department, while the previous department branched to form SegaSoft. After STI's closure, developers Peter Morawiec and Adrian Stephens left Sega and formed Luxoflux.
Games developed by STI include four Sonic the Hedgehog games.Sonic the Hedgehog 2 received critical acclaim and was a bestseller in the UK charts for 2 months. As of 2006, the game had sold over 6 million copies. Sonic Spinball received mixed reviews, with an average score of 61% at GameRankings, based on an aggregate score of six reviews, but sold well. Sonic the Hedgehog 3 holds an average score of 89% at GameRankings, indicating positive reviews based on its aggregate score of five reviews, while Sonic & Knuckles also received positive reviews. All four games have been rereleased multiple times in various Sonic compilations.
Kid Chameleon is recognized for its original character designs and abilities that made it play like "several different platform games rolled into one.Mega placed the game at #35 in their Top Mega Drive Games of All Time. Comix Zone, a beat 'em up, faced mixed reviews from GamePro and Electronic Gaming Monthly at the time of its release, but has been retrospectively praised for its originality, including the concept of moving through the pages of a comic book and defeating enemies drawn in front of the player. The Ooze, originally planned as a Genesis Nomad launch title, received negative reviews at its launch, but was recognized for its originality, and has been retrospectively called "one of those little-known 16-bit gems that are well worth taking the effort to play through." Die Hard Arcade has also been recognized for its depth as one of the last beat 'em ups. Of Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude!, Retro Gamer writer Ashley Day criticized the title retrospectively for its poor character design and inadequate clone of Pitfall! in 16-bit form. While it was never released, journalists have considered what impact Sonic X-treme, as a Sonic game for the Sega Saturn, may have had on the market.
In addition to Sonic X-treme, several titles were considered by development but ultimately were never completed. One title, called Jester, featured a nearly-invulnerable clay character. Another, called Spinny & Spike, was proposed and greenlit by Sega of America CEO Tom Kalinske, but never made it out of development after resources shifted to Sonic Spinball, followed by a change in producer causing the original developers to leave Sega. A sequel to Comix Zone was also proposed, but was dropped. Morawiec and Stephens had also set up an office to begin work on an original Sonic game, but that project was killed by Naka.
Retrospectively, STI is given more credit for its game development than it had while it was active. More Sonic compilations have featured games developed by STI, and Sega has since opened more external studios outside of Japan. Ashley Day of Retro Gamer stated, "only time will tell if such companies can harness the same kind of magic the Sega Technical Institute did so long ago."Ken Horowitz of Sega-16 stressed the importance of STI's games on the Genesis, and also framed STI's history as a cautionary tale of corporate politics. Of this, Horowitz said, "Be it the continued growth and success of the core Sonic games, the innovative original titles, or the unique development atmosphere that was unrivaled anywhere else at Sega, the Institute gave us some great games and produced some amazing talent. Today’s industry would do well to take a page from Sega’s book about how to make a development team feel at home, and the story of the Sega Technical Institute is living proof of how too much corporate interference can kill a good thing."
|Game||Year released||STI development team|
|Greendog: The Beached Surfer Dude!||1992||American|
|Sonic the Hedgehog 2||1992||Both|
|Sonic the Hedgehog 3||1994||Japanese|
|Sonic & Knuckles||1994||Japanese|
|Die Hard Arcade (with Sega-AM1)||1996||American|
Nights into Dreams is a 1996 action game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Saturn. The story follows teenagers Elliot Edwards and Claris Sinclair, who enter Nightopia, a dream world where all dreams take place. With the help of Nights, an exiled "Nightmaren", they begin a journey to stop the evil ruler Wizeman from destroying Nightopia and consequently the real world. Players control Nights flying through Elliot and Claris's dreams to gather enough energy to defeat Wizeman and save Nightopia. The game is presented in 3D and imposes time limits on every level, in which the player must accumulate points to proceed.
Sonic Team is a video game developer owned by the Japanese video game company Sega as part of its Sega CS Research and Development No. 2 division. Sonic Team is best known for the long-running Sonic the Hedgehog series and games such as Nights into Dreams and Phantasy Star Online.
Sonic the Hedgehog 3 is a 1994 platform game developed and published by Sega. It is part of the Sonic the Hedgehog series and follows Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992). After Doctor Robotnik's spaceship, the Death Egg, crash-lands on a mysterious floating island, Sonic and Tails attempt to retrieve the Chaos Emeralds to stop it from relaunching. Sonic 3 introduces Knuckles the Echidna, the island guardian, who lays traps for Sonic and Tails. Gameplay is similar to previous entries, with players traversing side-scrolling levels at high speeds while collecting rings and defeating enemies.
Sonic Adventure is a 1998 platform game for Sega's Dreamcast and the first main Sonic the Hedgehog game to feature 3D gameplay. The story follows Sonic the Hedgehog, Miles "Tails" Prower, Knuckles the Echidna, Amy Rose, Big the Cat, and E-102 Gamma, in their quests to collect the seven Chaos Emeralds and stop series antagonist Doctor Robotnik from unleashing Chaos, an ancient evil. Controlling one of the six characters—each with their own special abilities—players explore a series of themed levels to progress through the story. Sonic Adventure retains many elements from prior Sonic games, such as power-ups and the ring-based health system. Outside the main game, players can play minigames like racing and interact with Chao, a virtual pet.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a platform game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis home video game console. It was released in North America in June 1991 and in PAL regions and Japan the following month. The game features an anthropomorphic hedgehog named Sonic in a quest to defeat Dr. Robotnik, a scientist who has imprisoned animals in robots and stolen the powerful Chaos Emeralds. The gameplay involves collecting rings as a form of health, and a simple control scheme, with jumping and attacking controlled by a single button.
Sonic the Hedgehog CD is a 1993 platform game for the Sega CD. The story follows Sonic the Hedgehog as he attempts to save an extraterrestrial body, Little Planet, from Doctor Robotnik. As a Sonic the Hedgehog series platformer, Sonic runs and jumps through several themed levels while collecting rings and defeating robots. Sonic CD is distinguished from other Sonic games by its time travel feature, a key aspect to the story and gameplay. By traveling through time, players can access different versions of stages, featuring alternative layouts, music, and graphics.
Yuji Naka is a Japanese video game programmer, designer, and producer who was the former head of Sonic Team, where he was the lead programmer of the original Sonic the Hedgehog series of games on the Sega Genesis. With Sonic Team, Naka also led development on games including Nights into Dreams (1996), Burning Rangers (1998), Sonic Adventure (1998), and Phantasy Star Online (2000). In 2006, he left Sega to found Prope, an independent game company. In January 2018, he joined Square Enix, where he is directing Balan Wonderworld.
Sonic 3D Blast, known in Europe as Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island, is a 1996 platform game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series for the Sega Genesis and Sega Saturn. As Sonic the Hedgehog, the player embarks on a journey to save the Flickies, birds enslaved by Doctor Robotnik. The player must guide Sonic through a series of themed levels to collect Flickies and defeat Robotnik. Though it retains game mechanics from prior Sonic games, Sonic 3D Blast is differentiated by its isometric perspective, with pre-rendered 3D models converted into sprites.
Sonic & Knuckles is a 1994 platform game developed and published by Sega. It is part of the Sonic the Hedgehog series and the sequel to Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994). Players control Sonic the Hedgehog and Knuckles the Echidna in their quests to save Angel Island; Sonic tries to prevent Doctor Robotnik from relaunching his orbital weapon, the Death Egg, while Knuckles scuffles with Robotnik's minion, EggRobo. The game takes place across six levels in which the player collects rings and fights bosses.
Knuckles' Chaotix is a 1995 side-scrolling platform game developed by Sega for the 32X. A spin-off from the Sonic the Hedgehog series, it features Knuckles the Echidna and four other characters known as the Chaotix, who must prevent Doctor Robotnik and Metal Sonic from obtaining six magic rings and conquering a mysterious island. Gameplay is similar to previous Sonic games: players complete levels while collecting rings and defeating enemies. Knuckles' Chaotix introduces a partner system whereby the player is connected to another character via a tether; the tether behaves like a rubber band and must be used to maneuver the characters.
Sonic Jam is a video game compilation developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega for the Sega Saturn. It was released in Japan in June 1997, and in North America and Europe two months later. It contains the four main Sonic the Hedgehog games released on the Sega Genesis: Sonic the Hedgehog (1991), Sonic the Hedgehog 2 (1992), Sonic the Hedgehog 3 (1994), and Sonic & Knuckles (1994). It also features a 3D environment, "Sonic World", which doubles as an interactive museum of Sonic the Hedgehog content.
Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball is a 1993 pinball video game developed by Sega Technical Institute and published by Sega. It is a spinoff of the Sonic the Hedgehog series set in the continuity of the Sonic the Hedgehog animated series. Players control Sonic the Hedgehog, who must stop Doctor Robotnik from enslaving the population in a giant pinball-like mechanism. The game is set in a series of pinball machine-like environments, and Sonic acts as a pinball for the majority of the game.
Sonic X-treme was a platform game developed by Sega Technical Institute from 1994 until its cancellation in 1997. It was intended to be the first fully 3D Sonic the Hedgehog game and the first original Sonic game for the Sega Saturn. It built on past Sonic games while introducing elements to take Sonic into the 3D era of video games. The storyline followed Sonic on his journey to stop Dr. Robotnik from stealing six magic rings from Tiara Boobowski and her father.
Hirokazu Yasuhara is a Japanese video game designer. He is best known for designing the gameplay and stages of the initial Sonic the Hedgehog video games for Sega Genesis in the 1990s, based on technical demos and engines programmed by Yuji Naka. Yasuhara stayed with Sega until the late 1990s. He then joined Naughty Dog, working on the Jak and Daxter series and Uncharted: Drake's Fortune, collaborating again with former Sega employee Mark Cerny. He was the senior design director at Namco Bandai Games America. In April 2012, Yasuhara joined Nintendo where he accepted a position at the Nintendo Software Technology division. In 2016 he joined Unity Technologies.
Sonic Gems Collection is a 2005 compilation of Sega video games, primarily those in the Sonic the Hedgehog series. The emulated games span multiple genres and consoles—from the Sega Genesis to the Sega Saturn—and retain the features and errors of their initial releases with minimal edits. Player progress is rewarded with demos of other Sonic games, videos, and promotional artwork spanning the history of the Sonic franchise. While its 2002 predecessor, Sonic Mega Collection, comprised the more popular Sonic games, Gems Collection focuses on more obscure games, such as Sonic CD and Sonic the Fighters. Other non-Sonic games are included, but some, such as the Streets of Rage trilogy, are omitted in the Western localization.
SegaSonic the Hedgehog is a 1993 arcade game in the Sonic the Hedgehog series by Sega. Controlling Sonic the Hedgehog and his friends Mighty the Armadillo and Ray the Flying Squirrel, the player must escape an island as quickly as possible after they are kidnapped by series antagonist Doctor Eggman. The game is presented from an isometric perspective and players use a trackball to move the characters while dodging obstacles and collecting rings. The game was developed by Sega's arcade division, Sega AM3; it is one of four Sonic games to bear the SegaSonic name and was inspired by the 1984 game Marble Madness.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a 2006 platform game developed by Sonic Team and published by Sega. It was produced in commemoration of the Sonic series' 15th anniversary, and intended as a reboot for the seventh generation video game consoles. Players control Sonic, Shadow, and new character Silver, who battle Solaris, an ancient evil pursued by Doctor Eggman. Each playable character has his own campaign and abilities, and must complete levels, explore hub worlds and fight bosses to advance the story. In multiplayer modes, players can work cooperatively to collect Chaos Emeralds or race to the end of a level.
Sonic the Hedgehog is a video game series and media franchise created and owned by Sega. The franchise follows Sonic, an anthropomorphic blue hedgehog who battles the evil Doctor Eggman, a mad scientist. The main Sonic the Hedgehog games are platformers mostly developed by Sonic Team; other games, developed by various studios, include spin-offs in the racing, fighting, party and sports genres. The franchise also incorporates printed media, animations, a 2020 feature film, and merchandise.
Sonic the Hedgehog 2 is a 1992 platform game developed and published by Sega for the Sega Genesis. It is the second main entry in the Sonic the Hedgehog series, and introduced Sonic's sidekick, Miles "Tails" Prower, controllable by a second player. In the story, Sonic and Tails must stop series antagonist Dr. Ivo Robotnik from stealing the Chaos Emeralds to power his space station, the Death Egg.