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New ‘Ecco the Dolphin’ project heads to Kickstarter without Sega on board

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Ed Annunziata was one of the game designers that defined the Sega Genesis. His games like Vectorman, X-Men, and Jurassic Park pushed Sega’s most successful hardware in exciting ways. His most enduring creation by far, though, is Ecco the Dolphin. Players in Ecco took control of the titular mammal and swam around solving puzzles, fighting octopuses, and trying to save the ocean from pollutants. The designer announced in September that he was reuniting with some of the team behind the original, and on Monday he opened a Kickstarter campaign to fund the game, now called The Big Blue. It appears, though, that while he tried to get Sega interested in the project, the publisher won’t be participating.

The Big Blue shares much in common with the old Ecco games, with a focus on exploring the ocean, solving puzzles, and going on quests for other aquatic critters. Unlike Ecco, though, players won’t be restricted to just playing as a dolphin – they’ll have a whole ecosystem available. Players can even raise their own creatures. It all sounds a bit like Tokyo Jungle, but with the open sea instead of a post-apocalyptic city.

The Big Blue

Joining Annunziata is much of the old staff, including composer Spencer Nilsen who will collaborate with Bear McReary (The Walking Dead, Battlestar Galactica) on the score; creature design is handled by Jon Berg, who designed the AT-AT in The Empire Strikes Back; and programming will be handled by Laszio Szenttornyal who worked with Annunziata on the Genesis.

Annunziata said in September that he was meeting with Sega to drum up interest in a new Ecco the Dolphin game, but the publisher isn’t mentioned once on the Kickstarter page, which is very surprising considering Sega’s current priorities.

Sega has spent much of the past two years investing in its own past. After incurring an “extraordinary loss” across 2011 and 2012, the publisher significantly downsized its operation, cancelling games and refocusing on just a few key franchises like Sonic. It also bulked up its release schedule with HD re-releases of classic games like Jet Set Radio and Nights Into Dreams. Resurrecting the Ecco franchise when a team is already prepared to make the game seems like a low-risk, high-reward venture for the company.

The Big Blue, if it raises enough money, is targeted for an April 2014 release on PC, Mac, iOS, and Android. The team wants to bring the game to Nintendo, Sony, and Microsoft consoles after it completes the first version.