Ringman is a cancelled third person platform-shooter that was in development by Zono Inc in late 1996, initially planned for Sega Saturn and then for Sega Dreamcast. It would have been one of the first games ever published by Sega of America for their lost version of the Dreamcast. The team behind this project was part of the same one that worked along with Ed Annunziata on Mr. Bones for the Sega Saturn, with names such as William Novak, Simon Hallam and Dave Castelnuovo: thanks to the good relationship between Sega and Zono, they were able to pitch this project for the planned 128 bit console.
While the Dreamcast hardware was still not available in late 1996, Zono interfaced directly with Sega of America producers and the development team that was designing a 3Dfx version of the console, codenamed “Blackbelt”. Sega of America wanted to create something amazing and showed off the planned graphical power of the new 3Dfx chips. The game concept was inspired by the (at the time) newly released Quake by ID Software and Dave remembered how John Carmack was talking about implementing NURBS (“Non-uniform rational Basis spline” a model used in computer graphics for generating and representing curves) in his next rendering engine: Sega producers wanted Zono to take a look at using NURBS to create this Blackbelt game. The surfaces in each world of Ringman would be curved and even the main character would have had a body composed of different rings, like a colorful spring that would permit it to move around quickly and shoot down enemies.
The team did quite a bit of concepting for the game and got as far as having a very simple prototype world with the protagonist moving around, but unfortunately the project was canned in mid-1997 when Sega of Japan found out about Sega of America’s plan to create another console and shut down the project. As we can read in an article by Douglass C. Perry on Gamasutra:
“In 1996, 3Dfx began building wide acclaim for its powerful graphics chips, one of which ran in arcade machines, including Atari’s San Francisco Rush and Wayne Gretzky’s 3D Hockey. In 1997, 3Dfx went public, announcing its IPO. In the process it revealed the details of its contract with Sega, required by U.S. law. The announcement, however, had undesired effects. It publicly revealed Sega’s blueprint for a new, unannounced console, and angered executives at Sega Japan. Numerous reports indicate Yamamoto’s Blackbelt chipset using the 3Dfx chips was the more powerful of the two. Sega executives, however, still fuming at 3Dfx, severed their contract with the chip maker. (Soon thereafter, 3Dfx sued Sega and both companies settled out of court.) In the end, Sega of Japan selected Sato’s design, codenamed it “Katana,” and announced it publicly on September 7, 1997.”
If this internal issue between the “two Segas” was not enough, Sega of America was also split into the ill-fated SegaSoft and in early 1997, a few of their projects were canned. In late 1996, the CEO and CFO of SegaSoft asked the new company director, Peter Brown, to install a new financial system by April 1997. As told by Brown during an interview with InfoWorld magazine: “as a young company, we needed built-in maturity of process and scalability”: we can assume that games for a not-yet-confirmed new console were not a safe bet for the company stability.
After the cancellation of Ringman, along with their N64 legendary project “Freak Boy”, Zono had to wait until 2000 to release another game: Metal Fatigue, a PC RTS published by Psygnosis. In 1997, SegaSoft stil released a couple of Saturn games, Scud: The Disposable Assassin and Three Dirty Dwarves.
This article was originally published in 2016 in our book “Video Games You Will Never Play”
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