A recent episode of The Retro Hour Podcast featured an interview with former SEGA of America producer Mark Subotnick. The interview revealed previously-unknown details about the cancellation of Geist Force, a Star Fox-esque shooter planned for the Dreamcast. Subnotick revealed that former Sonic Team head Yuji Naka was responsible for Geist Force getting the boot.
It had been assumed that the game was shelved due to a lack of confidence in its success in Japan. Developer infighting and missed deadlines were also reported to have contributed to its cancellation. Subotnick’s insights reveal that there was more behind the game getting canned.
You can hear the full interview below, courtesy of The Retro Hour on YouTube:
What happened with Yuji Naka and Geist Force?
Subotnick outlines what went down between Yuji Naka and the Geist Force team:
Naka came to visit with his team to tour our studio [and] look at our tools and engine; we had a lot of proprietary [and] really phenomenal tech – I would say still to this day, [we had] some stuff that I haven’t seen replicated quite at the level we had. [Naka] didn’t realize that the people on my team, a lot of them spoke fluent Japanese, including my lead engineer. [Naka] started speaking in Japanese assuming that no one would understand; [he] started talking about what parts of our tech they were going take for Sonic and then basically said as soon as they ship, fire everyone but one of the engineers who knows their system and roll him onto our team for Sonic – and my team heard all that, so you can imagine how they felt.Mark Subotnick, Former Producer at SEGA of America
After Naka’s visit, Subotnick got in contact with Visual Concepts (which SEGA was moving to acquire at the time) to ask for assistance in finishing the game. However, Visual Concepts wasn’t able to help, and thus, Geist Force was finally shelved after its turbulent development.
Some gameplay footage from a build of Geist Force exists online, including a surviving demonstration trailer used at the Tokyo Game Show 1998. See that footage below:
The aftermath and the pain
It’s a shame that the project collapsed as it did, though given Naka’s influence at the time, it does make sense. And it seems for Subotnick, the wounds still sting all these years later:
I’m not going to say we had any amazing ideas [but] we had a cool narrative that was very different and we actually had a very diverse cast; looking back, we were actually ahead of our time. […] This is a sad story, and I’m going to tell the truth, and if it comes back to bite me, so be it, because there’s no love lost in how this actually went down.Mark Subotnick, Former Producer at SEGA of America
Do you wish Geist Force had never been canceled? Let us know!
Via Nintendo Life.