News/Sega Technical Institute’s Cancelled Segapede

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Segapede (Prototype)
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Happy Thanksgiving everyone!

We’re back with another Sega-related goodie for you to enjoy today. Presenting, the original presentation demo pitch ROM for Sega Technical Institute’s (STI) Segapede (also known as Astropede later in development) for the Sega Mega Drive!

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Sega Technical Institute needs no introduction at this point. Founded in 1990 by Mark Cerny, the company was founded to train American and experienced Japanese staff to strengthen design philosophies and create better games. The company was located in Palo Alto, California in a deliberate attempt to further itself from Sega of America’s corporate office. Mark Cerny intended for the studio to be completely independent of Sega of America. He wanted to report directly to the corporate offices in Japan, bypassing the need to receive approval for projects and game ideas from the American branch.

The studio’s first project was a video game adaption of Dick Tracy which Sega was able to acquire the license based on the recent release of the movie. The game was developed by a combination of experienced Japanese developers from Sega of Japan and new hires from America. The team worked efficiently under the direction of Mark Cerny with both sides of the development team able to communicate with no issues. STI even sent some of the American staff to Sega’s headquarters in Japan to help understand the process of making games from their perspective.

However, Dick Tracy didn’t sell well. Despite the game being well developed, it was rumored to have suffered due to its late release, as the game was released many months after the theatrical release of the movie it was based on. Despite the low sales, STI would begin working on their next game - Kid Chameleon.


Character sheet for Zipp
Segapede concept art by Craig Stitt

Active development of Kid Chameleon began in 1991 around the time Dick Tracy was finishing development. The game was created to fill the gap in Sega’s portfolio that lacked platform-oriented games, a genre that Nintendo had many games to choose from on all of their available platforms. The game would become famous for its multitude of unique levels which gave many players a long, difficult challenge to conquer. The game was also rumored to have been in development intending to be one of Sega of America’s mascot characters, due to the similarities in gameplay in comparison to the likes of Mario.

The development of Kid Chameleon warranted the addition of new staff members to the team. Despite the primary purpose of STI being to join American and Japanese staff members together to create better games, Kid Chameleon had an almost all-American team consisting of 15 people. The Kid Chameleon team consisted of four designers, five programmers, five designers, and with audio being outsourced to Mark Miller outside of STI. One of the new hires who joined STI at the time was Craig Stitt.


“There was going to be a second player character named Sputnik. His abdomen could be swapped out with one of the little power-ups that trail behind Zipp”
Segapede concept art by Craig Stitt

Craig Stitt joined Sega Technical Institute sometime in 1990 or 1991 as one of the designers for Kid Chameleon. At STI, Craig was trained to use the technology that both the American and Japanese art teams at the company were using to create games. That meant switching between using software like Deluxe Paint on the Amiga/DOS and Sega’s Digitizer - a computer created with the sole purpose of designing the sprites and tiles used in all of their games. All artwork done on the Digitizer had to be done by hand, one pixel at a time. The Digitizer would be used primarily by Sega of Japan, with other companies outside of Japan using other commercially available software for computers such as the Commodore Amiga, Atari ST, and DOS-based desktops. STI was one of the few companies to have Sega’s Digitizers since they would’ve had to have all the resources necessary to accommodate both the American and Japanese staff.

Craig was responsible for designing five costumes for the game: Skycutter, Juggernaut, Berskerkey, Red Stealth, and Iron Knight. He was also responsible for designing a few enemies for the game itself. He would also do art on some levels as well, foreshadowing his level design contributions in later games in his portfolio. Like his Japanese coworkers, he would design everything on a Digitizer, following up with frequent meetings to make sure that everyone in the art design team’s work was cohesive.

During Kid Chameleon’s development, Yuji Naka (one of Sonic’s co-creators), left Sega of Japan and decided to transfer to STI with the promise of higher pay and eventually more control within the company. Kid Chameleon would be released sometime in March of 1992 in America to modest success, with journalists stating that the game had decent gameplay with great graphics and music, but with criticism over the fact that the game lacks a password system. Around the time when development wrapped up on Kid Chameleon, work on STI’s next big project commenced - Sonic the Hedgehog 2.


“I developed and pitched the idea to SEGA and after they said they wanted to see a 'proof of concept' they asked Ken Rose to do the programming for it.”
Segapede concept art by Craig Stitt

Sonic the Hedgehog 2 began development sometime around the end of 1991 and the beginning of 1992. Unlike Kid Chameleon, however, this game brought both the American and Japanese together working side by side on all aspects of the game’s development - from the programming, level design, and sprite design. With the original Sonic the Hedgehog game for the Sega Mega Drive becoming an unexpected success for Sega, with one of its co-creators leaving Sega, and Hirokazu Yasuhara working at STI, Sega had no choice but to create the sequel at STI. As it would turn out, the decision to create the next Sonic game in America would be one of the best decisions Sega would make in its console-making career.

For Sonic 2, the team comprised roughly an even amount of American and Japanese members working together on the project. The Japanese members of STI were used to high-stress environments that would lead to a crunch period or a time when developers are constantly working around the clock to meet a deadline. Tensions arose especially when communication was made difficult due to the language barrier between both sides of the team, with Mark Cerny being the mediator halfway into development. Cultural differences aside, the team reportedly got along well enough and was able to stay focused to create a finished product just in time for the Christmas season in 1992.

Craig Stitt would be responsible for the level art for two zones that made it into the game to a degree. Hirokazu Yasuhara would act as the lead-level designer, while Craig would create the art itself and offer ideas during meetings. Craig was responsible for the art for Oil Ocean zone, and more infamously, the cut Hidden Palace zone. Craig was originally responsible for both the background and foreground tile art for the zone, but the background ended up being redesigned late in development by Yasushi Yamaguchi (“Judy Totoya”).

Hidden Palace zone was one of the first levels implemented into the game, but development on the level halted almost as soon as it was featured in the earliest prototype we have of the game. The level itself was originally intended to be a “secret” level, originally given two acts that were reduced to one, and was meant to be a level where Sonic would gain his Superpowers after obtaining all of the chaos emeralds. According to Yuji Naka, the level was cut primarily due to time constraints, however, the ROM size budget might have also been a contributing factor, as many levels had to be scrapped toward the end of development for this reason. The level would become one of the most infamous scrapped levels in video game history, due to its history of being openly showcased in video game previews during the game’s original development and its resurgence from the well-known Simon Wai prototype of the game.


“The original concept pitch had the game taking place in the Sonic Universe. Zipp was one of Robotnik's badniks that had become friends with Sonic. There was a whole story of Sonic teaming up with Zipp to save Robotink from a disastrous lab accident. While SEGA liked the game, sadly they wanted it as a stand-alone game.”
Segapede concept art by Craig Stitt

After Sonic the Hedgehog 2 wrapped up development, STI became splintered due to the cultural differences left during production. During the development of Sonic 2, Mark Cerney left Sega leaving the staff within STI without a middleman to help with communication. With Sonic 3 on the horizon, Yuji Naka wanted to work only with the Japanese side of STI on the next game, leaving almost all of the American staff alone to work on other projects. During this time, the American side of STI began work on other project proposals, such as Comix Zone and other Sonic games. While Comix Zone was being pitched, Sonic Spinball ended up being the next game approved for development, making it the very first all-American-developed Sonic game.

Sonic Spinball comprised of new hires and some old team members who worked on Sonic 2. Most of the American-level artists came back to work on Sonic Spinball, including Brenda Ross, Tom Payne, and Craig Stitt. Toxic Caves, which used to be the second level of the game, had its art created by Craig with Brenda Ross being responsible for the first. Peter Morawiec was the game’s main designer and was responsible for creating the maps in the game. A decision was made to cut the first level from the game and make the second level, Toxic Caves, the starting level for the final. Aspects from the first level designed by Brenda, such as water, were used in Toxic Caves for the final version. Sonic 2’s Hidden Palace zone was used as a foundation for the art in Toxic Caves. Once again, all of the art for the game was created pixel-by-pixel by Sega’s own Digitizer.

Sonic Spinball was finished in time for the holiday season in 1993 when Sonic 3 couldn’t be released due to the multitude of delays caused by splitting the game in half and reducing its original project scope near the halfway point. The game was well received by critics, with them praising the great graphics and sound design.


“Some of the art I used when I pitched the idea to SEGA of America”
Segapede concept art by Craig Stitt

Sometime in early 1993, several project proposals for other Sonic games were drafted and presented to those in charge of the company. Roger Hector became Mark Cerny’s replacement and was the one in charge of STI during both Sonic 3 and Sonic Spinball’s development. At this time, project proposals such as Sonic-16 and Treasure Tails were presented to the rest of STI, with some having more success than others. Craig Stitt would work on the proposal for Treasure Tails, an isometrics action-style game focused on the character Tails from the Sonic series, as the only artist on staff creating mockup screenshots for Bill Dunn (the game’s designer) to use in his presentation. The game was canceled for unknown reasons and possibly never made it past the “first-playable” ROM phase, which would’ve taken place after the project proposal in early 1993.

As it would turn out, STI at this point would become the studio that would have more canceled games than released games. Out of all the proposed projects that would turn into finished products throughout STI’s lifetime, after Sonic 3, only Comix Zone, The Ooze, and Die Hard Arcade would see an actual release. This doesn’t mean that all games never went past the concept art or proposal stages. Some of these projects would be approved for development, but for one reason or another, the games would eventually die after a long fruitless development cycle. Besides well-known canceled projects such as Sonic X-treme and Sonic Mars, there’s one game that never saw the light of day because it never left the first-playable ROM phase during development.


Segapede concept art by Craig Stitt

On September 21, 1993, Craig Stitt would propose his first project as a game designer to Sega called “Segapede”, which would later be named “Astropede” during development. The original concept of the game was originally tied to the Sonic universe. Zipp (the game’s protagonist), originally one of Dr. Robotnik’s creations, fights to save the life of someone by cleaning up and collecting “Chaos Dust” that had infected a particular evil doctor. The game, in development for the Sega Mega Drive, was meant to have a similar momentum-based gameplay style to Sonic but with segment-like power-ups that would grant Zipp additional power, such as a Turbo Charger, Scorpion Tail, and Pulse Cannon.

After the initial proposal in September, the game went into development and a “first playable” version of the game was done. During the development of the first-playable version of the game, the game would drop its connection to the Sonic universe, but the core gameplay would remain the same. The first-playable ROM version of the game was repitched to Sega of America with the revised story on November 22, 1993. This version of the game was warmly received by Sega, and so the project was greenlit for further development.


Segapede concept art by Craig Stitt

And thus everything was a go for Astropede!

The art team comprised Craig Stitt and Alex Niño, a Filipino comics artist best known for his work with DC and Marvel Comics. Despite not knowing how to use a computer or Digitizer, Alex created many concept drawings for different kinds of enemies that would’ve been featured in the game. Ken Rose, who was behind the first playable version presented to Sega in November, became one of the programmers who worked on Astropede as well.

The music and sound effects in the demo were done by Howard Drossin, known for his work on Sonic Spinball and Die Hard Arcade. It’s not known if Howard was part of the actual sound team that would’ve been responsible for all the sound design in the game, but it’s very likely.

To hasten the development of the game, the Hidden Palace zone art was reused as the art for the game’s first level. The level art went through a few small adjustments, along with the addition of new tiles for ramps and cliffs.


Segapede concept art by Craig Stitt

Unfortunately, despite the talent behind the game’s development, the game would become yet another entry in STI’s list of canceled projects.

In total, the game was in development for roughly 14 months before production on the game halted. The main issue behind the game’s cancellation was the fact that STI was trying to do too many games at once, a fact that did not go unnoticed by Sega of America. At the time of Astropede’s cancellation, STI had roughly five different projects going on at the same time. So Astropede, along with a few other titles, were put on indefinite hold while the staff members who were assigned to work on those canceled projects were shuffled into other projects that were either more desirable or were much further along, like The Ooze or Comix Zone.

The indefinite hold on the project and the indecisiveness from Sega of America are what spurred Craig Stitt to contact Mark Cerny, who at the time was now involved with a few studios that would become major players in Sony’s attempts to enter the console gaming market. After getting reacquainted with Mark, Craig would eventually move on to work on developing the Spyro the Dragon projects with Insomniac Games. The rest is history.

During Astropede’s development, there were a few test ROMs that were produced to showcase gameplay mechanics and level design concepts. Craig was kind enough to offer one of the ones he has found recently to the community so that others might be able to enjoy what could have been a game with a lot of potentials. We hope you enjoy it the same way the development team behind the demo had fun making it!

We would like to once again thank Craig Stitt for allowing us to share the original ROM of Astropede with the community. We’d like to also thank MasteredRealm for connecting us with Craig. We hope that this is the start for more abandoned STI projects to finally see the light of day. Only time will tell!

Until then, see you next time! Happy Thanksgiving!


Test animations by Craig Stitt. One of the first ‘traditional’ animations Craig had ever done.