A quarter century ago in the ocean of gaming masterpieces swam a brisk, handsome fellow with fins. ECCO — heard of it? Many people, whose childhood and adolescence is associated with a 16-bit console Mega Drive, you probably remember the adventures of the cetaceans. But few know that the original Ecco the Dolphin 1992, which spawned the cult series of platformers, inspired by the scandalous events. Secret experiments NASA, Dolphin feeding drug psychosis famous scientist. Is all of this related to the development, it would seem that children’s game? Well, the time has come amazing stories.
Closer 8-year-old boy peered into the turquoise water of the pool, the more unhappy he felt. Fear, desperate fear suddenly overpowered the young ed Annunziata. Not even the fear — chilling horror! Shark! There subluxate in the shadows, waiting for his sure shark. A huge creature with sawtooth subimage — just like in the terrible movie “Jaws”, which he recently watched with his parents at the cinema. Mind, ed knew that predatory fish could not get to the pool, but swimming in that ill-fated evening in 1975, he did not dare. Such stories usually end up with a broken psyche, phobias, and visits to a shrink. But the future Creator of Ecco the Dolphin fear of the realm of Neptune as a source of inspiration.
“I have an idea for a great video game. It’s about dolphins” — said the now game designer ed Annunziata at the beginning of 1990, giving presentation to his superiors. But the bosses in business suits sitting in the American branch of SEGA, didn’t want to hear about some fish. Give them blood, cyber cops, badabum and broads — it’s easy to sell a younger audience console Mega Drive. Toothless game about sea creatures? Kindergarten, pants with straps is to Nintendo. Having been refused, Annunziata stalked out of the room. Two weeks later it happened again. Has passed month, another, the third, and the silent blazers contemptuously frowned, hearing the words: “Imagine that you are naked Dolphin”. Who is he anyway, this eccentric ed Ettore Annunziata?
The future author of Ecco the Dolphin since childhood dreamed of becoming a veterinarian, but in high school became interested in programming and started writing video games. A hobby turned into a job: in 1989, ed moved from new York to California, to try their luck at SEGA of America — shtatovskih division of a famous Corporation. 22-year-old programmer for a year went from being a coder and game designer to producer. However, the joy of increase was short-lived: production potential blockbuster Spider-Man vs. the Kingpin turned to ed nightmare.
Superhero action several times altered, varied team, and one problem caused another, like falling dominoes. In such circumstances, to bring the project to the final stage is a miracle. Annunziata has created a double miracle: the cartridge not only went on the shelves on time, but also deservedly became a bestseller in 1991. However, 16-bit walking spider-Man of sorrows so exhausted producer that he decided to resign. The leadership is not going to lose valuable employees, and because of the Annunziata has received an offer difficult to refuse.
During a business lunch at the grill Clyde Grossman, Director of project development, SEGA of America, laid the cards on the table: “ed, if you change your mind about leaving, we are willing to trust you developing a new game. Recruit your team. There are interesting ideas?” The idea, of course, was.
“Down with Mario and Sonic! Down with saving Princess and supersonic race through the levels! My creation is not about good or evil — and about life itself. About life in the deep ocean, where the beauty of the underwater Kingdom coexists with deadly dangers. We allow people to take up gamepads and be reincarnated as a Dolphin.” — ed Annunziata, Creator of Ecco the Dolphin.
The next half hour Annunziata, flushed a bottle of red, depict in colors the story of Delphine, who landed in a mysterious tornado and lost contact with the pack. To find relatives, the hero will travel to ocean Odyssey, will be transported to prehistoric times and visit the space. And still win the evil aliens with the help of echolocation. This adventure the world has ever seen! Was not prepared for such revelations and Clyde Grossman: he few seconds to comprehend what he heard. And then asked: “Who wants to play a fucking fish?”
However, ed insisted, again and again explaining the intricacies of the project of your dreams. And Grossman is affected by the pressure of colleagues, surrendered, giving the nod to the creation of the prototype. To whom to entrust the development? Annunziata decided to bring the Hungarian Studio Novotrade, SEGA which started to operate in 1991. Under his patronage six and a half months collected demo version. But is it possible to make a revolution in the genre of 2D platformers, limiting the freedom of movement jumping, running and climbing the stairs? Yes — put Annunziata. If the transfer of the action under the water and make a hero of a mammal that is freely and gracefully float across the screen.
So there was a prototype codenamed Dolphin: cute bottlenose Dolphin along with other dogs splashing in the blue lagoon. By the standards of dawn of the 16-bit era it was not just beautiful and almost photorealistic. The spectacle penetrated even the gloomy bosses SEGA, without question endorsing the establishment of a full-sized side-scroller. And the questions, meanwhile, would not hurt. After all, the Annunziata drew inspiration not only from books on Oceanography, but also from the controversial memoirs of Dr. John Lilly.
In the 1950s, American neuroscientist John Lilly studied the mental state of the fighter pilots, explored the brain activity of animals, and invented medical devices like electrocorticography. In the 60s, when the States came the “acid revolution” the interests of the famous doctor, was transferred to the psychoactive substances and marine biology. The scientist who carried out experiments in the company of albert Hofmann and Timothy Leary, was interested in that big brain of bottlenose dolphins (comparable in construction with the human) and their fairly developed “language” of clicks and whistles with which individuals are exchanged between them. What if people will be able to communicate with these masters of the oceans? What secrets will tell us mammals, whose mind has evolved over millions of years under water?
Bold reflections of John described in the book “Man and Dolphin”, has excited the scientific world. Interested in them and the management of NASA decided to Fund the work of Dr. Lilly for learning animals in English. The staff of the National aerospace Agency crazy? No, logic was traced: learn to talk to whales will be able to come to an agreement with the aliens if they ever come to visit.
Lilly, gathering a team of like-minded people, settled with bottlenose dolphins in a mansion in the virgin Islands. So around the clock contact with Pets, doctor partially flooded building (researchers even slept on floating beds). But no matter how hard oceanographers 10 weeks in a row to teach the “sea of intellectuals” language Hemingway, nothing worked.
Only managed to achieve the imitation of the sounds of human speech. Did effect and the feeding of the dolphins favorite drug, Timothy Leary. (Any whim for money of the US taxpayers!) Of course, NASA soon turned to funding of the controversial and useless experiment. John finally turned away from traditional science hit pseudomosaicism, experiments with hallucinogens and writing.
Among other things, a tireless Explorer of inner space designed the sensory deprivation chamber, insulating the body from any external sensations. Putting a pinch of certain medicines, Lilly climbed in a closed container with warm salt water and seemed to be in weightlessness, flew in other spaces.
In one of his visions Lilly, as it seemed, came in contact with a friendly group of strangers. They referred to themselves as “Earth control coincidence” (Earth Coincidence Control Office, abbreviated ECCO) and the alleged millions of years protected organic life on our planet. However, noble mission did not interfere with alien guests sometimes play pranks, what Lilly once have verified:
“Suddenly deleted my ECCO men’s essence and put it in my hand. I screamed in horror. From the next room came my wife and said that no one cut off, everything is in place” — John Lilly, an American neuroscientist and the doctor-psychoanalyst.
The deeper the doctor in the ‘ 70s immersed in artificial dreams, the more paranoid they became his books and sermons (free retelling of events in the Hollywood Thriller, “altered States”). For example, Lilly believed that the good ECCO battle with the evil galactic force called SSE (Solid State Entity, Being solid state). And if the first group protects organic life in the universe, their opponents, intelligent machines, dream to destroy all creatures of the flesh.
“I never took substances, but I read a lot of John Lilly”, ed Annunziata, Creator of Ecco the Dolphin.
Needless to say that ed Annunziata, pretty prostodyrovo books Lillie, decided to do a similar conflict a Central theme for the upcoming games? Reasonable Dolphin biomechanoid race against the Vortex, which is once every 500 years, comes to Earth to eat the inhabitants of the seas and oceans. And call hero with fins, the designer decided Hey — ECCO.
The development of Ecco the Dolphin has taken nine months. Trusting Hungarian Studio Novotrade, Annunziata was amazed at the talents and resourcefulness of colleagues. For example, a programmer Laszlo Chantonnay have written a tool to draw on the TV screen in real time. This, in turn, helped the 18-year-old artist Zsolt Balog to create pixels of bright and lively underwater world. By his efforts, the big blue was filled with authentic flora and fauna, from anemones to corals and horseshoe crabs and orcas.
“There is a strange charm in the underwater depths. It is a realm of unimaginable colors, shades and shapes. But at the same time, everything here wants to eat you, everything seems strange and frightening. And the deeper you are, the more thickened the darkness around you. What the hell lives here?” — Ed Annunziata, Creator of Ecco the Dolphin.
Kids shock SS by the first viewing of “Jaws” and panic in the pool formed a special perception of the ocean: the water element he was frightened and fascinated at the same time. This atmosphere of otherness and threats the designer has decided to implement in your project. But how to maximize the effect of immersion in an alien to people the universe? First, reasoned Annunziata, we must abandon the human characters. The plot of Ecco the Dolphin unfold in the distant future where Homo sapiens annihilated the aliens race Vorteks.
Second, the gamer must feel the same loneliness and helplessness that the main character, searching for the missing pack. And it’s not just minimum hints and ingenious puzzles, but in the constant struggle for life. Let EKKO stinging jellyfish, sharks bite, scratch sea urchins. Let him wander in the labyrinth of underwater caves and often dies, without adding in time the supply of oxygen.
“I was paranoid afraid that the children will get a game rental and will be held over the weekend. So I made Ecco the Dolphin is very complicated,” — ed Annunziata, Creator of Ecco the Dolphin.
Third, can not do without the fancy music. And succeeded composer Spencer Nilsen, who composed the psychedelic soundtrack with quotes from the album “Wish you Were Here” by Pink Floyd. Finally, it required a really spooky appearance of aliens, which ECCO will clash in the final story.
Dark, Horse, Hans Rudi Giger? Of course, Yes! After all, the slimy creature from kynoselen “Foreign” and in the 90s they were the scary monsters of popular culture. That’s why Ecco the Dolphin landed the spaceship, reminiscent of a Space ship Jockeys. In his biomechanical womb of the marine fauna, is kidnapped on Earth, processed into food for the aliens. And ran the catering Queen of the galactic Vortices, with the appearance of a floating head alien gargantuanly sizes. A nightmare that is hard to unsee? Not the right word.
But SEGA somehow decided to promote furious platformer, full gierowski horror and mind-bending fantasies Lilly, family blockbuster. From the cover box art of a cute smiling Dolphin painted by famous artist Boris Vallejo. In television commercials Jacques-Yves Cousteau himself praised documentary Ecco the Dolphin. Even the structure of the game strove to deceive: the jumps in time, and fierce psychedelia, the aliens appeared closer to the finale, but the prologue seemed harmless ecological tale.
31 Jul 1992 parents naively bought children of the creation of the SS, hoping to distract them from the bloody massacre, Streets of Rage and hooligan escapades of Sonic. Cartridge so quickly swept off the shelves that ECCO in the early 90s, became the unofficial mascot of the Mega Drive. Therefore, the portion of the deep fears got many of the owners of the 16-bit console. Did ed Annunziata to injure the psyche of young gamers? Unlikely. But the fact remains: today, the forums are full of eloquent titles “And you also adventure EKKO scared shitless?” A whole generation, for which Ecco the Dolphin is one of the most bizarre and terrifying, yet thrilling experiences of childhood.
Can’t forget about ECCO and 50-year-old Annunziata. Sometimes in the evenings, anyone living near the Bay of San Francisco, comes to the beach and watches the ocean. But overcome fear, and longing: a trilogy, Ecco the Dolphin is still not completed. Indeed, in the late 90s ed, releasing a successful sequel to The Tides of Time and the mediocre prequel Ecco Jr., went from SEGA. And without its author’s vision of the series did not survive the dive into three dimensions: Defender of the Future for Dreamcast resounding failure. And for 15 years, Annunziata unsuccessfully tries to resurrect the franchise. Whether the story of EKKO? Silent ocean, is not the answer.
The author of the text: Vladimir Saldan
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