Kickin’ it with Read-Only Memory – SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works
Welcome! For today’s installment, we got in touch with Darren Wall over at Read-Only Memory to learn more about his ambitious project for a hard cover book that details the history of the SEGA Genesis/Mega Drive.
4cr: Lets start this Kickin’ It With! Could you tell us a bit about who you are and what you do?
Sure. My background is in graphic design. I started out working as a book cover designer – I worked in-house for both Simon & Schuster and Faber & Faber. About six years ago I took the plunge and went freelance in order to pursue other design work like record covers, branding, and illustration.
About three years ago I had the idea of publishing high-end books on gaming history and tried to find a publisher who might be willing to take the idea on. Although many were interested in the idea, they all decided it was too much of a risk. Around that time, I noticed the (now-legendary) Double Fine Kickstarter campaign and I thought that perhaps I could try to set up my own company – Read-Only Memory – and crowdfund our first book: a history of the British development team Sensible Software. The campaign was successful and led to us being asked to pitch on a documentary book for SEGA, which we are currently funding right now!
4cr: Going to Kickstarter to secure funds for a book on the Sega Genesis/Megadrive is an interesting idea considering the vast amount of information and topics to cover. What topics will be included in this book?
The idea was to create a Mega Drive/Genesis ‘exhibition’ in printed form. The book opens with a 10,000 word piece on the history of the console written by Keith Stuart (Guardian Games Editor). He’ll be speaking to SEGA heavyweights like Tom Kalinske, Hayao Nakayama, Shinobu Toyoda and Michael Katz, who will all speak candidly on how the Mega Drive/Genesis became such a phenomenon. Then we dive into the visual material – readers will be able to pour over hundreds of pages of hardware design documents, game production artwork and in-game graphics. A lot of the visual material has never been seen before – we’re discovering new stuff all the time as the project progresses.
Finally, the book closes with over 20 long-form interviews with SEGA developer heroes such as Yuji Naka, Naoto Oshimo, Greg Johnson and Yuzo Koshiro. Quite a few candidates have never given interviews before. And I’m particularly excited that we are speaking to the designers of the console itself.
4cr: Since the book is already funded, how will extra funds be used to improve the book?
At the time of writing we are over 260% funded which means great things for the book itself. The huge response means that we can afford to soup up the book for everybody. We’ll be adding more pages over the 300 we previously planned, and we’re also boosting the overall production values with more luxurious cover finishes and perhaps even multiple paper stocks. We’ve also been able to take on Greg Sewart (ex-EGM editor) and Damien McFerran (Nintendo Life editor) who are helping Keith interview as many people as possible for our written history. The overfunding has allowed us to push everything that little bit more, ensuring the book is as big, beautiful and incisive as possible. It’s incredibly satisfying to be publishing a book in this way as every backer gets to benefit from the projects’ success.
4cr: How did working on Sensible Software 1986–1999 help in making SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works project a reality?
During the Sensible Kickstarter campaign, SEGA asked us to pitch on a book for them. I think somebody internally saw what we were doing and thought we might be a good fit. I’m a huge Mega Drive fan, so I decided to put together a proposal for a documentary book on the console and its related first party games. I remember being a bit nervous about it, thinking that I should have gone broader with the proposal, but in the end it worked out and we were offered a license deal. We learned an awful lot doing Sensible Software 1986–1999 – it was a real beast of a book and took about a year to bring together – having now gone through that process and come out the other end (relatively) unscathed, I’m really excited about what we can produce for the SEGA title.
4cr: There is a tier with a reward for a Special Edition for the book. How special will SEGA Mega Drive/Genesis: Collected Works be for those that can get one of the 100 copies?
The Special Edition is something I’m far, far too excited about. It’s not often a designer gets to do something like this, especially with such exciting subject matter! The book will be bound in cloth, with a foil design and housed in a handmade, cloth-bound slipcase. Along with the book will come a matching folio containing a numbered, fine art print of Sonic the Hedgehog and Dr. Eggman, drawn specially by Naoto Oshima exclusively for the project. I can’t reveal the design of this edition just yet, but you can rest assured, it will be sleek, black and slightly mean-looking – just like the Mega Drive itself.
4cr: Will this book have color images to showcase all content, will it have only black and white images, or is it going to be a mix of both?
All the imagery will be full colour, printed on matt and uncoated art stock.
4cr: Anything else you might want to say before we sign off?
Please do follow the project on Twitter at @romalerts to keep up to date with our SEGA archive discoveries as they happen. For example, the other day we discovered that the internal development title for Streets of Rage was ‘Dragon SWAT’ and we got a bit over-excited. If that gets you all of a lather too, we’re worth a follow.
Once again, we want to thank Darren Wall for his time, and for providing us with a lot of information on this book project. Be sure to get a copy of the book by backing it on Kickstarter!