It’s that time of year where we interview Sumo Digital! You know the score. We ask stupid questions, they give stupid answers, and the whole thing’s just one giant waste of everyone’s time. It’s an enjoyable tradition we hope to continue.

This interview was conducted before the Jam Master Jacques one, just so you know. Interviewing developers requires approval processes even we are not above/below.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: So is this just VT3 with some new textures on it?

STEVE: Everybody’s asked us that. It’s a game in its own right. That’s an awful question. I refuse to answer it.

UKR: But VT3 was great. It’s a complement.

STEVE: It’s VT3, but for everybody. We’ve tried to make it fun. We’ve added loads of characters that play differently, unlike Virtua Tennis…

TRAVIS (STEPPING IN TO AVERT TROUBLE): VT3 is a fun arcade game, but a lot of people are put off by the way it looks like a sim. It’s easy to pick up, but it looks like a simulation, so we tried to make a game that’s bright and colourful with loads of SEGA characters in to attract new people.

STEVE: And kids love Sonic. Actually, kids love Shadow. All the focus groups tell us kids love Shadow. It’s bizarre.

TRAVIS: And they don’t know what OutRun is.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: You asked some kids? And they like Shadow but don’t know what OutRun is?

STEVE: We had a focus test. You sit in a room. They bring out loads of character portraits and ask kids which one they prefer, and nine times out of ten it’s either Shadow or Dr. Eggman. He’s a bad character, he’s evil, but it means they can cheat. Like they’re Dick Dastardly.

UKR: So where did the idea for SST come from? Did you go to SEGA with it, or did they come to you?

STEVE: It was a mix. When we finished VT3 we were kind of playing around, because we were thinking of maybe doing a Wii version, and while we were testing the Wii controls out we gave everyone a massive big head.

TRAVIS: Everyone loves Big Head Modes! We took Maria Sharapova and bulked her up, but obviously the agents would be like ‘Oh, no, no, you can’t do that!’ – so we started messing about and making it look like crazy tennis.

STEVE: We showed SEGA a prototype, and they said ‘Hang on, instead of making stupid characters with big heads, why don’t you put Sonic in it?’ and we went away and thought ‘Well, if we’re going to put Sonic in let’s do the job properly and get a load of characters together and push it as an all-SEGA game.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: When you recreate a SEGA character, like, say, the Morolians out of Space Channel 5, how does it work? Do you get specs off SEGA, or do you just look at some old games and guess?

TRAVIS: SEGA has been really helpful. When we need stuff, we send them a shopping list and they send most of the stuff straight back.

STEVE: The problem we had with Space Channel 5 is there’s not been a recent game, so we had to take most of it from the Dreamcast and update it. So we had to rebuild it, up the number of polygons, made it all shiny and sent it back to SEGA Japan to review. And one of Space Channel 5’s original creators was very exacting about it. She looked at it in incredible detail and sent us a list of things we needed to change.

For example, the Morolians are exactly 140 centimetres tall. Exactly! Everywhere in the game. Other things like the design, the way people move and stand, it all gets reviewed. It’s quite a difficult process, not only have you got to have the game working and looking right – as it’s very animation driven – but you have to make the game play and get it approved as well. Each one of those individually is not so bad, but when you’re doing it all together… it’s nails.

TRAVIS: We had loads of help from the SEGA Japan teams. They said ‘Use the original music, use the original assets’, but in some cases they didn’t have the originals any more so they will send us design stuff and photos.

STEVE: In some cases, like with the Virtua Cop stuff, what we got was the original arcade code. It was really hard to reference, as it was the actual arcade code only at assembly level.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: The press release says the game has “over 15” characters. Is this a clue that there’s more than the 16 spots on the character select screen?

STEVE: Apparently that’s marketing speak for 16 characters. You know like when they say you can now get a PS3 for under 300 pounds, and you know you’ll get exactly one pence change.

UKR: There’s a perfect Mecha Sonic character model beside the court in the Scrap Brain Zone. Can you “be” Mecha Sonic?

STEVE: Being Mecha Sonic is all about state of mind.

UKR: Why isn’t Cream The Rabbit in here?

STEVE: She is. She’s behind the totem pole on the right of the Green Hill stage. Why do you think there’s so many rings over there? Of course due to camera restrictions – and the age rating, we can’t have her in view.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: Is there any “secret stuff” to unlock?

STEVE: Of course. I can’t tell you about it though – as it then wouldn’t be secret.

UKR: Please just tell us. We don’t want to spend hours getting all Triple-As in the bloody Puyo Pop Fever zone only for nothing to happen.

STEVE: All the triples As count towards something. If not just the pleasing satisfaction that you’ve managed to do an in-human achievement.

UKR: And who chose Puyo Pop Fever, anyway?

STEVE: Travis did. We wanted to do Blockbuster from VT:WT on PSP again, but how do you make it more Sega-y? Tada, up pops Puyo!

UKR: Is it to raise “awareness” of the Puyo Pop “brand” before an online re-release? We know all about how marketing works, see.

STEVE: That implies us knowing about it. But we really don’t – honest.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: We hear you have Richard Jacques doing some of the music…

STEVE: Oh yes. Richard Jacques has produced the definitive Space Harrier remix. Every other Space Harrier remix – rubbish. Richard Jacques version – absolutely brilliant. Richard’s been great. He’s done all the original music, the title screen music, all the in-game jingles, quite a lot of spot effects – and he said the start music has been designed in such a way that you can sing to it!

UKR: Is it original stuff or mostly remixes?

STEVE: All the specific stuff for SST is original. Virtua Cop and Space Harrier are remixes. Some of the music was impossible to get, so we got Richard to make something in the right style.

TRAVIS: We used some of the original MD samples. Most kids will listen to it going ‘What the hell is this?’ but we’re going ‘Ahh, YES!’.

UKR: Is Richard Jacques in as a secret character? He’s quite famous on the SEGA scene!

STEVE: We’d love to. Who did we say we would put in? Can I say?

TRAVIS: No, you can’t say!

STEVE: Well, if we did another one, we were thinking about some personalities… maybe Yu Suzuki, Richard Jacques. It’d be awesome. We’d get into trouble, but it’d be awesome. But why do you want to play with Richard Jacques?

UKR: It’d be fun. He’d probably be an amazingly powerful character.

STEVE: Strong right arm!

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: Have you had to change anything to get a “family” rating certificate?

STEVE: Yeah, we had to be very, very careful with the cameras – sometimes the cameras were… too low… we had to go through the game looking for that kind of stuff and making sure there wasn’t any of it. The beach girls on the OutRun court – we had to make sure they were sufficiently covered. The artists basically came up with about 15 different bikini designs! I’m not sure why they spent so much time on them…

There are obvious things too, like the zombies don’t bite you, they kiss you in House of the Dead, and the blood’s never red. You have to be really careful. Oh, and in Jet Set Radio, there was a billboard at the side of the court and it had the outline of a woman, and because it was an outline she could’ve been naked! We were worried it could be like a ‘hot coffee’ scandal, so we put some clothes on her – even though it was in the original game.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: Why is there no lob button? Surely just pressing “Y” is easier than pressing X then A?

STEVE: There’s no lob button on the VT3 arcade machine and people seem to manage!

We figured that unless you were seriously into Tennis, you’d have no clue what a slice or topspin shot were. So we decided to go with a simple two button system and make it clear that one gives you a fast shot, and one a slow shot. If you shift from one to the other you can do a lob, or a drop shot. Drop shots are much easier to do in SST than VT3 for sure.

UKR: Is that something that came from a “focus group” to make it simple for Wii owners?

STEVE: Nope, we just looked at all the stories at how people force their gran to injure themselves playing Wii Sports Bowling and wanted a bit of that pie.

So we’ve got control options in there that range from ‘Crap at games’ to ‘Show off’ to ‘Hates motion controls and bought the wrong console’.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: What else did “the kids” in the focus group say about SEGA?

STEVE: They all recognise all the Sonic characters, but not one of them knew who Alex Kidd was. The government should stop with all this nonsense about panicking games brainwash kids into being mindless killing machines, and add Sega history as part of the national curriculum.

UKR: Did any of them recognise Ulala?

STEVE: One did. Apparently her dad was obsessed with Space Channel 5. We never knew you had kids. Oddly enough we got asked if we’d look after the 3 UK:R illegitimate children by a Belgian journalist. I suspect he wants them off his hands?

UKR: The OutRun games are now working on Xbox 360 with backwards compatibility. But not very well.

STEVE: No they’re not, are they? It would be great if somebody asked us to do an Xbox Live Arcade version. Wouldn’t that be great? If only someone would ask us…

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: Why isn’t Rez in here?

STEVE: If you leave the game running on 360 for long enough – it eventually will start to look like Rez. It helps if you wrap a towel around the machine and stand it on top of a radiator too.

UKR: Why isn’t Crazy Taxi in here?

STEVE: Obviously the whole theme is crazy. We were worried that having ‘Crazy Crazy Taxi’ on the back of the box might be pushing it a little too much though.

UKR: The DS version seems to have a much more faithful Space Harrier stage, whereas the 360 and PS3 Space Harrier bit looks like a tweaked Sonic stage. This is more of an observation than a question. You don’t have to say anything.

STEVE: We didn’t feel the hardware of the 360 and PS3 could manage the detail on the checkerboard ground at a smooth enough framerate.

The DS though has a dedicated Space Harrier co-processor built into
the cartridge. It took many of the finest scientific minds for us to reach the point where you could make the Harrier rendering technology portable.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: We’re about to send Richard Jacques some questions for an interview. Any suggestions about what to ask him?

STEVE: I think you should ask him to make a UK:Resistance corporate song. An anthem to draw all Sega fans together under one glorious blue sky flag. Once you’ve got that, and an army of fans to command at will, it’ll likely be much easier to rabble rouse.

UKR: What’s he like?

STEVE: Exceptionally cheerful.

UKR: No, what’s he REALLY like?

STEVE: Giddy as a school kid on a sugar rush, charming as a debonair gentleman cad and truly creative genius.

UKR: Did he make any diva-like demands?

STEVE: We weren’t to mention Sonic R in any interview with UK:R. So we’re definitely not mentioning it, or the fact he did all the music for it. I don’t want to fall out with Rich.

SEGA Superstars Tennis - REVIEW

UKR: Finally, can you say something controversial about PS3 being hard to develop for, so we can get loads of traffic off Digg?

STEVE: We weren’t quite prepared for all the blood sacrifices required – not to mention the liberal use of snake oil – to get the PS3 dev kits booted up. I’m sure the demand to use druidic runes rather than plain old C++ was something of an oversight on Sony’s part too.

UKR: Thanks!

STEVE: No problem. The title screen’s blue sky, by the way. That’s the only UKR reference we could sneak in.

And Can you please tell Adam Doree to stop spreading OutRun3 rumours too? It’s getting me into all kinds of trouble.

UKR: That’s him told. Hear that, Adam? Sumo hates you.


  • One about OutRun2006 C2C
  • One about Virtua Tennis 3