Interview

Interview: Arvin Bautista, former Backbone artist – Sonic ExtReme (GBA)

Those of you with a good memory may remember that several months ago, Arvin Bautista, formerly of Backbone Entertainment, revealed on Twitter that at one point a pitch was being worked on for a GBA racing game that seemed, at the very least, heavily inspired by the Sonic Riders series. Providing a work-in-progress title screen, Arvin certainly set a few imaginations running wild and so we thought at the very least, we should ask a few questions regarding the project. Hit the jump to read the full interview!

Nova: Okay, well first off, thank you so much for agreeing to this interview. I don’t think anyone had any idea this existed until now so it’s great to be able to find out even a little about it! My first question and possibly one that makes the most sense to ask is, was this meant to co-exist with Riders or was it meant to be a standalone thing? An attempt to port Riders over to GBA?
Arvin: It was meant to co-exist with Riders. That’s why our schedule had been so stringent (something like only 3 months of production allocated to it). We didn’t attempt to do a direct port because that would’ve been too much to try. Instead we had access to a bunch of Riders assets (mostly characters and actual 3D Max files and some character info and I think concepts and descriptions of levels). We would then try to use that art direction to apply to our Outrun style game engine.

N: And how far along in the process did this pitch get to? Was it literally just concepts and art or were any actual demos produced, regardless of how early?
A: I think I worked on it for maybe a month? We had produced a quick and dirty demo with a controllable Sonic, 2 or 3 levels (with one more polished than the others), a title, start and option screen. We had power ups and a really cool flag wave anim by Keith Erickson and the ready set go text that flashed by. Then we used knuckles as the CPU player(s).

N: Any idea on what cast of characters was intended to be included? Just Sonic and friends, the Babylon Rogues from the Riders games or some totally new ideas?
A: We never really got far enough to figure out the roster. But Sonic, Knuckles, Tails and Amy were already being generated as sprites from the original assets.

N: Did the pitch actually reach Sega and if so, why do you think it was that they didn’t go ahead with it?
A: Yes, we sent a demo to Sega. The main reason I got from our producer (James Stanley) on why Sega didn’t move forward with it was because they wanted the game to truly be a real-time 3D game. I was told they understood the retro, Outrun style engine, but they felt it looked old and wanted something cutting edge. I can’t remember if it was axed by then, but I remember doing a pass on it where I got rid of the stripes, but tried to mimic it by using ground detail in place of the road stripes. Mind you, I really liked how the feeling of speed was conveyed in the old Outrun games by the striped banding on the road. Without the stripes, the game looked much slower in comparison.
I was a little sad to hear that the Sonic team wasn’t very pleased with our efforts, but it was pretty impossible for us to come up with a new engine (a real time 3D one to boot!) on the GBA that quickly and get the game done on time. I really wanted to get it to happen (I’m a long time Sega fan), so I had already clocked in a few long nights (and one all-nighter, I believe) to make it happen! I even had my sleeping bag at the office, because I knew it would take that much work to get it going in 3 months!
I was crushed we lost the game. But as I was going home that day, I was also relieved! I was already a little loopy from the late nights… and that was just for a quick demo! I would’ve had some serious health issues if we did land the project!

N: If there’s anything else you can think of that I forgot to ask, please just feel free to mention it!
A: I may not have gotten to work on a Sonic game, but I was glad to have come close! It was so fun to work on an IP that I loved as a kid and I even learned a few tricks on making backgrounds from it!

Unfortunately, this is probably all there is to discover on this short-lived project but it’s extremely interesting nonetheless and huge thanks are due to Arvin for not only making us aware of its existence but for taking the time to answer some questions about its development.

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1 Comment

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    They really want to drill that Sonic R tease everywhere, don’t they?

    Still, more Sonic on the GBA would’ve been great.

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