Written by Eric Quakenbush in response to some questions about what happened with Shadow of Atlantis.
I worked at Sega of America as a game designer and later as an associate producer from April 1993 to June 1994. Sega spun-off
SegaSoft in 1994 and I worked there as an associate producer until 1996. When Sega picked up the tab for something like lunch we would say “put your wallet away- it’s on the hedgehog.” Sonic was on absolutely everything at Sega, including our paychecks. It was kind of like the jack in the box Ad campaign where Jack runs the company, only it was not intentionally funny in our case – which, of course, made it more funny to us. Later, at SegaSoft, we had to say “it’s on the orange ball” since that was somebody’s great idea for the ‘catchy/edgy’ part of the SegaSoft logo. Not quite as much fun to say, it probably contributed in some small way to my leaving. But I digress.
I was originally hired away from a 5 year gig at Apple Computer to be a game designer in Sega of America’s new multimedia group and work on the Sega CD, Jurassic Park. After the multimedia group completed JP (which was a gas to work on), new Sega CD game ideas were pitched to management. They passed on Shadow (which had a working title of ‘Nautilus‘) and 2 or 3 other ideas in favor of a game titled Wild Woody. While woody was in the early stages of pre-production, several animators, illustrators, an engineer and a musician from the multimedia group quietly worked with me in a skunk work project that generated an functioning Sega CD demo of Shadow.
I took the demo to management and pitched the idea again and it was decided that the game had enough merit to get the green light for development by the multimedia group. It was also decided that I should go over to the producer group and be the producer for Shadow. (side note :SOA Producers usually worked up from within product development- game tester, lead tester, assistant producer, associate producer, producer, exec producer.)
In the producer group I was placed under a fantastic Executive Producer and worked on several games along-side more seasoned producers while I generated a pretty complete game design for Shadow as well as helped with marketing material for the game.
Life was good.
At that time there was a CD-ROM reference product for the PC or Mac titled Nautilus and it was going to cause retail confusion if I didn’t come up with a new name for my game. Some marketing deadline came up and I had to come up with a new name in about 10 minutes. I wrote down a bunch of nouns and verbs that seemed to relate to the game and Shadow of Atlantis really jumped out at me (this was before Star Wars’ Shadow of the Empire and several other ‘Shadow’ titles appeared in the world.) The game’s rough cover art and description got into a few press catalogues before it was killed for what seemed to me to be internal political reasons. I was almost to the point of casting the live action roles, I got access to the Screen Actors Guild catalogs and was having fun playing hollywood producer for a while. I think I narrowed it down to Oliver Reed, Omar Sharif, Star Trek favorite, Malachi Throne, or Charlton Heston as Nemo (Moses! The Omega Man! the guy who said ‘GetyourstinkingpawsoffmeyoudamndirtyAPE!’ – in my game! Hey, a guy can dream can’t he?)
I found out recently that Omar Sharif actually played Nemo in a big Spanish/German mini-series of Mysterious Island so I was on the right track.
Over the next year or so it got resurrected, killed, and resurrected again and managed to get onto the Sega CD/32x, PC, and Saturn schedules before finally croaking for good. The game was truly loved by the individual contributors at Sega of America and SegaSoft but never really won management over totally. It ripped my guts out every time it got killed. I am glad to say that I still get nice emails about it every so often from folks who stumble across my portfolio site.
I collected a fair number of images of Jules Verne’s Nautlius during pre-production and I ended up putting them into my toy collecting web site as sort of a ‘virtual’ collection. You can find that here.
One of the game treatments is preserved on my site also, these documents were done for management and for other departments (like marketing) to justify the game’s existence and give them an overview of the game. I haven’t really read the description of the intro to the game in quite a while, I really had a blast writing that. I have no training as a writer, my background is in graphic design and what has become known as information architecture. I went back to user interface design after leaving SegaSoft and have been a free-lance UI consultant ever since. I plan to start teaching game design seminars sometime in the near future, right now I am getting a summer school class titled ‘THWACK! Creating your own SuperHeroes’ ready for some local 5th-9th graders.