Questions for Tom Kalinske – president and CEO of Sega of America fr

Discussion in 'General Sega Discussion' started by Barry the Nomad, May 2, 2014.

  1. Barry the Nomad

    Barry the Nomad

    Site Staff
    96
    0
    0
    Philly
    SEGAbits
    Hi again, following our Al Nilsen interview which records this Sunday, we plan to have Mr. Tom Kalinske on an episode of our podcast! If you don't know who he is, what are you doing on these forums?? http://segaretro.org/Tom_Kalinske

    Please post any questions you have for Tom here!

    [​IMG]
     
  2. drx

    drx

    mfw Researcher
    2,230
    199
    43
    :rolleyes:
  3. Meat Miracle

    Meat Miracle

    Researcher
    1,654
    4
    18
    Some ideas, all hardware based:

    - Can he tell anything about prototype hardware that never made it out?

    - Were there any other hardware that used the Planet Project (or Roman God) codenames?
    The ones identified for 100% so far are Mars, Mercury, Venus, Saturn, Titan, Janus, Neptune and Pluto (32x, Game Gear, Nomad, Saturn, ST-V Arcade board (Saturn based), Picture Magic (32x based), Genesis+32x combo, and Saturn+Netlink combo).
    There are rumours about Jupiter (cart-based Saturn), and the Sega CD being earths moon (Luna?), which would make the earth the Megadrive.

    - Also, was it really based on planets, or actually roman gods? Or even just Sailor Moon characters (the order of appearance would, interestingly, mostly fit with release dates!)...

    - Were there any other codenames used internally we don't know about? The Virtua Helmet (unreleased) and the Activator (infrared ring-shaped mat controller) may have had some, perhaps fitting in with the above theme?

    - This is something that has been personally bugging me since forever: Can he confirm or deny any of the rumours about how the Saturn hardware was changed pre-production, and if so when and how? The rumours we have about that is
    1. it originally used a NEC V60 main cpu (this was stated in the 1993 September issue of Mean Machines Sega),
    2. they realized they had to make the machine more powerful and slapped on extra cpus / changed to the dual SH2 setup, and
    3. there was another project running in parallel called Jupiter, which used the same hardware but was entirely cartridge based, and it got axed.
    All of these changes would have to have happened in 1993, since we have documents dating from 93 December / early 1994 that conform to the final hardware of the Saturn.

    - Can he tell anything about the Sega Pluto? All we know is that it's a Saturn with a built-in Netlink, made in late 1995 / early 1996, before they changed to the Model 2 case for the Saturn. The Pluto seemed to have more expansion slots, maybe it expanded, or was planned to expand, the Saturn in other ways (graphically, or an extra cpu)? The Saturn was extremely well tailored for receiving upgrades, probably because of how problematic it was to do that for the Megadrive.

    - I've noticed that when designing hardware, the major theme was knee-jerk reactions. Either on market trends, their own hardware shortcomings, or what the others were doing. Any comment on this? The Saturn seems to have been entirely built upon those ideas...
     
  4. NiktheGreek

    NiktheGreek

    Grumpy old bastard Oldbie
    1,388
    0
    16
    Writing for the best video game magazine in the world
    It's also worth checking out Retro Gamer's interview with him from last year, in issue 117 - it was a pretty comprehensive six-pager.
     
  5. Meat Miracle

    Meat Miracle

    Researcher
    1,654
    4
    18
    Does anyone have scans of this? I'd like to read it.
     
  6. TimmiT

    TimmiT

    ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ Member
    You have some guts to ask for scans while quoting a writer for said magazine. :v:
     
  7. Meat Miracle

    Meat Miracle

    Researcher
    1,654
    4
    18
    That magazine is not published where I live, and I'm only interested in those six pages only.

    Not gonna buy the entire back issue for exorbitant prices on ebay for just that.

    no offense.
     
  8. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    Sometimes the real thing™ Wiki Sysop
    5,163
    58
    28
    Northumberland, England
    wiki wiki wiki
    for the record if anyone cares, the MC Hammer game mentioned (I assume it's "Hammer vs. Evil D. in Soulfire") was never released, though was alluded to at Summer CES 1992. I don't think much is really known about it, other than it was one of those early-ish Mega CD titles which barely qualifies as a game.

    You could say you can't touch it because... it wasn't released. But you wouldn't say that because it's a horrendus sentence.
     
  9. NiktheGreek

    NiktheGreek

    Grumpy old bastard Oldbie
    1,388
    0
    16
    Writing for the best video game magazine in the world
    I can't provide scans for obvious reasons, but you can acquire the content without resorting to eBay - we sell digital editions too, at about 40% off the physical price. Issue 117 is here.
     
  10. 360

    360

    Light Vision Overdrive Oldbie
    2,282
    0
    0
    United Kingdom
    Sonic Neon
    If we're allowed to ask him anything then the primary question that comes to mind is this:

    *Had Sega of Japan not interfered with hardware development in the Genesis' twilight years prior to development of the Saturn thereby allowing Sega of America to spearhead development on the Saturn as an independent entity free of external interference, would Sega as a traditional hardware-orientated games company still be around today?

    It's kind of a loaded question and one that he might not actually want to hear. I would however love to hear his response. It's related to those stories of Tom and Sega of America pushing their own ideas for the Saturn (3D focused, potentially using what would eventually become the N64's chipset) that were ultimately vetoed by the suits over in Japan. I personally believe that if Tom was just left alone and Sega of America was in charge of the Saturn, they probably would have released a PlayStation-like 3D powerhouse that would have become a much, much stronger competitor to the PlayStation and N64.

    Even the surprise Saturn launch, possibly one of the greatest marketing disasters in the history of the games industry was forced upon Tom. From what I remember he was vehemently against it (hence the Dreamcast doing the act opposite five years later). So yeah if it's possible then please ask him the above question. Feel free to edit the question if you need something condensed into a shorter sentence. I'd love to hear what he thinks. Sega of Japan's constant interference and torpedoing of all Tom's intentions and ideas was the reason why he ultimately left in the end.

    I believe they wouldn't have hemorrhaged all of that Saturn money and been able to continue supporting the Dreamcast. It would be interesting hear what Tom thinks.
     
  11. TheKazeblade

    TheKazeblade

    "Our Life is More than a Side-Effect" Member
    Were there any bold decisions he made at Sega that others may have thought risky but ended up paying off in the long run?

    Are there elements of his approach to business that were obtained during his time at Sega that have benefited his current endeavors at Global Education Learning and Leapfrog?

    What initially drew him to the entertainment software industry when he began at Sega?

    What Sega project was he proudest/most excited for at the time?

    How did Sega change over the course of his tenure there in the aspects of interactions between SoJ and SoA?

    At what point did he realize that they had hit gold with Sonic the Hedgehog?

    Ideally, what would have been his approach to the transition between the Genesis to the Saturn if obligations to the SoJ market were no object? Would Sega CD and 32X still have been implemented in the Western markets, and in what capacity?

    What was his favorite Sega game?
     
  12. ICEknight

    ICEknight

    Researcher Researcher
    I'd ask about anything he can remember about Sonic Crackers' evolution. He might not have been given much development info about it, but just in case, it would be nice to have any kind of information that could answer questions in the lines of these:

    -Initial concepts, characters and target system
    -Was it ever considered as a sequel to Sonic 3?
    -Was Sonic Team ever involved with it?
    -Was "Casablanca" the team's name? Or what was that?
    -Title changes (was Sonic Studium the initial name project?)
    -Why were Sonic and Tails removed from the game?
    -Character evolution and changes (the palettes inside Crackers suggest that Knuckles and Vector were the other two initial characters, but they're nowhere inside the ROM. Perhaps they were compiled into a separate ROM without Sonic & Tails?)
    -Why does the first 32X prototype of the game play such messy sounds (was it being programmed for a different hardware revision?)
    -Did it end up being rushed? The first selectable level in the Training mode is completely empty, and there's many hints to unimplemented stuff in the unused graphics (Super Sonic, water levels?)
    -What were those dizzy character animations and why were they removed? (did SEGA think that kids would say the characters were drunk or something?)


    ...And any details about the development hell that may have happened with this game, but nobody has ever dared to speak of.



    EDIT: Also, any development problems Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles had.
    Did development have to switch countries at one point?
    Initial concepts and evolution of the lock-on idea
    What was the idea with releasing S3&K in one cartridge, what was it really called, was it going to be a limited edition, original timing of the planned release, any exclusive differences compared to the two locked-on cartridges... anything about it.


    EDIT 2: Also, was the music in the Mega Drive version of Sonic 3D made originally for an unreleased Sonic 4 or something? Seems odd to have such music made for a Traveller's Tales game. (Also, that unused Boss track later used in the real Sonic 4, but that might have just been Jun trolling)
     
  13. 360

    360

    Light Vision Overdrive Oldbie
    2,282
    0
    0
    United Kingdom
    Sonic Neon
    Thinking about it now I still think I have a decent question but it might need to be shorter for the purposes of the interview so here's a newer edited version:

    *Had Sega of Japan not interfered with hardware development in the Genesis' twilight years prior to development of the Saturn and given Sega of America complete control of the Saturn's future would Sega still be in the hardware business?

    Please let me know whether this question will be included in the interview. Here's hoping.
     
  14. Double A

    Double A

    Member
    6
    0
    0
    Quebec
    My question for Mr Kalinske is related to his involvement with Sonic's ''coolness''. What I mean is we don't feel that coolness is an ''in-game'' pillar (for Sonic 1-2 mostly) but it was strongly implied with the American marketing. So basically I was wondering if Mr Kalinske created that trait, then influenced the Japanese later with this or it was always planned that Sonic would play with the cool vibe?
     
  15. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

    bona fide games journalist Wiki Sysop
    9,181
    9
    18
    ACT
    GreatMegaLD, GreatSC3k, Great SG1k
    It's probably been asked before, but was backwards compatability considered for the Saturn to allow it to play mega drive games (and potentially Mega CD and 32X games). I know much of the press at the time speculated that it would be possible through the cartridge slot on the Saturn, and Sega had provided backwards compatability is every previous intergenerational transition.

    It seems to me that this could have played a significant factor in the Saturn's success, providing a large software library from launch, rewarding loyalty by sticking with the same brand, and possibly even making the 32X seem less like a stop-gap solution by having cross compatability with the Saturn. I could imagine 32X/Saturn combo releases with a Cart and CD, where the Cart plays on the 32X for those opting for the cheap upgrade option, but the cart and CD in tandem on the saturn unlocks more advanced graphics (improvements in speed or unlocked texture mapping on the more powerful hardware). That's the kind of strategy I was imagining at the time when I first read about the 32X and the Saturn.
     
  16. Meat Miracle

    Meat Miracle

    Researcher
    1,654
    4
    18
    If backwards compatibility was ever considered, it was either before the hardware looked anything like the final version, or it was meant to be via add-on cards (which the Saturn WAS explicitly built for).
     
  17. drx

    drx

    mfw Researcher
    2,230
    199
    43
    :rolleyes:
    I have some answers to your questions.

    Cassablanca was a working title.

    Sonic was removed because SOJ didn't believe either 32x or the game would succeed, partly because of the bonding mechanism. They made Knuckles the main character instead of cancelling the game altogether.
     
  18. Cooljerk

    Cooljerk

    NotEqual Tech, Inc - VR & Game Dev Oldbie
    4,292
    3
    18
    They were entirely correct.
     
  19. Meat Miracle

    Meat Miracle

    Researcher
    1,654
    4
    18
    Funny how they were forcing the machine forward though.
    It's like they were actively trying to kill themselves for most of the 90s. By the time they got their shit together with the Dreamcast, it was too late.
     
  20. TheKazeblade

    TheKazeblade

    "Our Life is More than a Side-Effect" Member
    Yeah. People heap unfair blame at Bernie Stolar, but considering the shipwreck he was given to work with, the fact that the Dreamcast turned out the way it did was pretty impressive. The real problems pre-dated him by years.