Why? Ecco the Dolphin fan extraordinaire and admin and founder of Caverns of Hope.
SEGA Fan since… Around 1989 when he got his Master System II.
Favourite SEGA game: Ecco the Dolphin.
Favourite SEGA console: Mega Drive.
KC: Hi there, Hauke! Welcome to the SEGA Fans Chronicles! Would you like to start by introducing yourself?
H: Hey there! It is an honour for me to become part of this great interview series. Thank you for that!
So, my name is Hauke, I was born in 1982, I live in Hamburg, Germany, and I'm a big Ecco fan! I'm a gamer by heart, I love the indie gaming scene, and I love game music and chiptunes. I'm such a nerd! :)
KC: Let's talk about Caverns of Hope (CoH). When, how and why did it all start?
H: I opened CoH way back in September 2001! Before CoH there was a brilliant Ecco fan site called "The Undercaves", an immense Ecco resource site, with a great community. When the owner closed it down early in 2001, I decided to continue on its path and create the Caverns of Hope. I trained my HTML skills on a personal, now closed, Sonic fan-site that I created before CoH, so I was up for that part. I just needed someone to do some graphics for me, as I did not have the skills to that yet. So I teamed up with GTK, who I became friends with in the old Undercaves community, and we created the first site skin. GTK also decided that CoH would be the place to host his awesome fan fiction "The Tidesinger Trilogy", which has become a favourite by many fans! Unfortunately GTK has vanished from the net shortly after the opening of CoH!
We started the site on a 20MB ad-supported host, which was the best you could get for free back in the day. But to be able to grow we had to look for better options soon, obviously. I wanted to keep CoH free, so the options were short. Luckily GameSpy's (now closed) "PlanetDreamcast.com" offered ad-supported free web-hosting with unlimited space for websites that fit into their subject. With Defender of the Future being a main topic on CoH we decided to apply for an account. They gladly accepted us, and within a month after CoH's opening we moved to PlanetDreamcast. I think moving to PlanetDreamcast was a major step in our history. On one hand it allowed us to provide all the large files like soundtracks. On the other hand we were also able to install dynamic content like forums to build a large community. And let's not forget we got great publicity from PlanetDreamcast by linking to us from their main website!
When we moved to PlanetDreamcast, we also introduced Silverfin's awesome site skins on CoH. Working together with him was like a charm! We both had those great ideas for how the site would look and work best. So we moved back and forth between him providing the terrific graphics and me tying them in the HTML. The end result was fantastic!
About two years after our move to PlanetDreamcast, a fan offered us ad-free web-hosting on their private server for free, so we were glad to finally offer a pure and uncomplicated experience that lasts till now.
Though the community parts were taken down a couple years after CoH's opening, Ecco fans have spread out into modern social networks, creating art, music, fiction and all kinds of things. I'm happy to see Ecco still having this creative cult following!
KC: Being an Ecco fan, I love your website. There was some inactivity a few years ago, but lately you seem to be back in full force. Does this have anything to do with the recent rumours of an Ecco the Dolphin "rebirth"?
H: Thank you! Well, I decided already before those Ecco rumours that it's time to get back to working on the site. For Ecco's 20th Anniversary this year in July I prepared a special birthday post, and since then CoH has seen a constant flow of updates. There are still so many things that I want to create and publish, and I hope to be able to continue to work on it in my free time. Of course there's still life constantly getting in the way, you know how that works! But for now it's fun getting back into the games, creating content, and talking with other fans again! The news about the chance for an Ecco follow-up are of course an additional driving force. I want to push the awareness about Ecco, because it's a great series that deserves a second chance. Besides, the Genesis era ended with a cliffhanger in the Tides of Time that needs to get resolved!
KC: Who else collaborates with CoH these days?
H: Currently it's only me actively working on CoH. Sebastian seems to have been buried in studies, but I hope to bring him back sometime. He's the best programmer I know and has created so many awesome tools for the Ecco games. Thanks to his efforts, Ecco PC is still playable on current Windows machines! I'm also still in contact with SilverFin, who made most of the graphics for the site skins. I'm not sure if we'll make another theme anytime soon, but he has been a great friend to me since I joined the Ecco community back in the day!
KC: What sort of information are you looking for to post on CoH? Can people contact you with news, art, remixes or anything Ecco related for you to publish?
H: Of course, I'd love that! We still have the fan music section open, and get some entries once in a while! Unfortunately we don't have any dynamic elements for managing fan creations, as I don't have enough time to manage all of that. But hopefully in the future I can get someone to help me with that again. Nevertheless, people can always contact us via Twitter, Facebook and email about anything! I love talking to fans, and if they want to share their Ecco related creations with the world, I'd love to showcase them on CoH! :)
KC: Cool stuff! Can you please tell us when did you become a SEGA fan?
H: I've been playing SEGA games since my childhood. My first console was a SEGA Master System II which I got when I was 6 or 7 years old, so possibly in 1989. I became a huge Sonic fan, playing all the games and drawing pictures in my free time. Later I got a SEGA Mega Drive, which amazed me in so many ways! The games were so fast and pretty, and I spent a lot of my free time trying to master the ones I have. And besides my passion for Sonic games, the Mega Drive introduced me into Ecco the Dolphin. The rest is history! :)
KC: What's your favourite SEGA console?
H: The SEGA Mega Drive. My favourite SEGA games are on that console, so nothing beats it. The Dreamcast would get a close second place, but also the Master System has a special place in my heart (I love Alex Kidd in Miracle World) :)
KC: What about your favourite game? This is an obvious one!
H: Haha, yeah, Ecco the Dolphin is definitely my favourite game. It has everything you could wish for! The story and characters are exciting and full of mysteries. The gameplay is fluent, I couldn't imagine a better way to control a dolphin in a game! It involves time travelling, which I always love as a theme in any media. It partially takes place in the sunken city of Atlantis, it has dinosaurs and it has freaking Aliens! How could you not love this game?
KC: Ecco the Dolphin has a huge following. But many people also refer to the games as "very hard" or "scary". Did you get scared or stuck anywhere while playing the games all those years ago?
H: I wouldn't say I got scared when I played the games first. I was always curious about the ocean and its creatures, so I was rather enthralled, I'd say. The difficulty was definitely an obstacle, and death is always close in Ecco, even if you know how to play it. I know that information is very scarce in the games themselves, so you could easily get stuck because you have no clue what to do next. This becomes especially frustrating when you are constantly under pressure - be it looking for air or having to avoid literally everything that has teeth or spikes. So of course also I had to retry missions 10s of times before I could finally write down the password for the next stage. But that was never a problem for me. I'm very patient with games, as long as they are rewarding and playable. And I love games about exploration where you become familiar with the maps after a while, and know all the cool and unique places. Also, Ecco has a nice manual that gives great tips but doesn't spoil anything, so always try playing Ecco with that or someone who knows the game, it will change how you approach the game in a better way.
KC: If you were going to a desert island and could only take the soundtrack to one SEGA game with you, what would it be and why?
H: Hm, this is a tough question, since there are so many SEGA soundtracks that I love! To be honest, it would be "Ecco Songs of Time" by Spencer Nilsen (interesting how Ecco consumes my life). But the soundtrack is timeless, calming, and love listening to it while doing nothing! I guess it would fit perfectly the relaxing atmosphere on an island.
KC: Now, it's time to do some QUICK SHOTS (no alcohol involved though, sadly!).
H: How about we play a game? Everytime you or I say Ecco, people have to take a shot! :D
SONIC OR ECCO? Ecco, he's faster! ;)
ECCO OR JAWS? Ecco, he'd kick his butt!
ECCO JR. OR CHUCK ROCK 2: SON OF CHUCK? I liked the puzzle worlds of Chuck Rock 2, but I wanna keep my Ecco Jr. :)
IF YOU COULD HAVE SEGA REVIVE ANOTHER FRANCHISE APART FROM ECCO, WHAT WOULD IT BE? Ristar!
IF YOU WERE ABLE TO TRAVEL IN TIME, WHERE WOULD YOU GO? THE PAST OR THE FUTURE? The Future. I want to see fancy tech and where games will go!
FAVOURITE LEVEL IN ANY ECCO GAME? The Library in Ecco 1. Why? This is the level where everything is explained, the Atlanteans, the Aliens, and Ecco's true purpose! Such a mindbreaker!
LEAST FAVOURITE LEVEL IN ANY ECCO GAME? Obscure Ways to Terminus in Ecco Dotf. That level is pointless and a mess. It should've been canned.
KC: Getting back to this possible Ecco Revival, what would you like to see in a new Ecco game? Anything new you would like to see implemented in the series?
H: I'd like to find out more about the Atlanteans. Ed Annunziata, the creator of Ecco, already teased that in the new game Ecco travels to the past to meet with the Atlanteans. So I guess my wish will be fulfilled. I hope the Atlanteans will come up with some cool technology for Ecco, that gives him special powers.
I'd also like to revisit planet Vortex. The planet must contain more than its terrifying machine and Queen chamber we know from the first Ecco game. I'd like to find out more about the alien social structures, and different places, maybe a hatchery, or an area by the water surface with a great alien sky backdrop. Something totally sci-fi. I think it would be a very interesting place to explore.
And I'd like the Asterite, the huge creature made of spinning globes, get a more important or active role. In the past it would always give Ecco immense powers, once Ecco found all of his globes, but it always stayed back in his cave. I'd like to see it fight along his side, in some way.
KC: You've been writing about a fan game, Tidesinger Lyrics, and posting some images. Are there any other Ecco fan games you know of?
H: There were a lot of attempts by fans, but most got cancelled early on unfortunately. I think the only other Ecco fan game that got some actual gameplay going on is Arkonviox' Agartha. Recently I found another game that describes itself being heavily inspired by Ecco. It's called Jellyova and you control a jellyfish in a 2D environment, much in the likes of Ecco. I could only play a couple levels so far, but it feels a lot like Ecco in puzzle and level design, it has a very alien design, and it has an amazing soundtrack. You should give it a try!
KC: What about a possible cameo of Ecco in the upcoming Sonic & All-Stars Racing Transformed? Would you like to see that happen?
H: I'm very curious about the game, and I think the combination of all those characters is funny. I don't think Ecco as a playable character would be the best idea, though. It would seem quite absurd... Ecco in a car? That'd be too awkward, I guess. But how about an Ecco-themed race track? The good future in Ecco Tides of Time would be an amazing setting, with the flying islands, water tubes and flying dolphins! Imagine racing through that world!
KC: Caverns of Hope features a long list of glitches found in the various Ecco games. How did you come across them? Have you personally tried them out yet?
H: The first glitch was discovered by GTK around the time we planned CoH, or maybe even earlier. I think GTK looked around the junctions of polygons for open gaps, and that's how you find them. We loved exploring the world of Defender of the Future outside of the level boundaries. There were a lot of interesting things you could only see from there, like swimming close towards background scenery, cutscene areas or just watching the level structure from far away. When we started the forums, glitches became a very popular thing. Everyone who had the game wanted to find their own glitch, and so the glitch hunting began. Eventually the combined forces of the community found glitches for almost every stage in DotF, sometimes even multiple for one stage. I tried them all personally, and recorded how to perform them with a TV recording device. You can find all those in our YouTube account!
Thinking about this, it's funny how these glitches add to the game, while they are actually supposed to be flaws in game design. But in DotF they are cool because Ecco is not bound to the ground like in many other games, but can freely swim in every direction and look around from many perspectives. That makes these glitch worlds really fun to explore!
KC: One of the most interesting pieces of info I found on your website while researching was the Ecco stories in the Sonic the Comic magazine. How did you find these? Did you own any of the magazines?
H: Yes, these comics are really well done, I love the art style, especially of the latter half. The story is also greatly done and does not differ too much from the original storyline. I read these comics way back in the German version of Sonic the Comic. I liked the Ecco story much better than other SEGA game based stories. Unfortunately the comic got cancelled here before the second part was released. A friend of mine, who is a much bigger Sonic fan than me, kindly scanned the stories from the UK version in for me, and so I was also finally able to read the second part, and put it on CoH.
KC: Along with the news about a rebirth of the series, another Ecco fan started an online petition addressed to SEGA asking to bring back our favourite dolphin. So far, it's got more than 300 supporters. Are you confident on the success of this petition? Is this kind of initiatives important in your opinion?
H: 300 people might not seem much, but to be honest, I didn't expect more than 50 people in the first place. Still, I know this is by far not enough to convince SEGA to put funding into a risky project like Ecco, especially in the financial situation they seem to be in right now. But the petition shows that there are people who still - after 12 years of no new games - love Ecco the Dolphin. And SEGA should not only look at the numbers of the petition, but be aware of how much love Ecco gets on the internet. There is still a strong community creating art and music on all kinds of social networks!
KC: Do you have any other hobbies or interests worth mentioning, besides being a fan of Ecco and SEGA?
H: I have some amazing friends in real life that I love to hang around with and have a great time with. I like to travel, I've been to a couple places all over Europe so far, and I love nature. The one place I'd like to travel to most would be Iceland! Besides that I like drawing, but I hardly ever get to do it. Games are my passion, especially independent games. The more unique a game idea is, the more it catches my interest. Else I love music, especially chiptunes and soundtracks. I like having pictures in my mind that I can associate to when I listen to music, and that works best with music that I've heard while playing a game, or watching a film!
KC: Before we bring this interview to a close, and because we are a radio station after all, I'd like to ask you to choose one song or remix from any Ecco game to share with our readers/listeners.
H: I'd like everyone to listen to Tube of Medusa from the Ecco the Tides of Time Mega Drive/Genesis soundtrack! An amazing piece of Ecco music! :)
KC: I've been trying to put artists together for a Ristar remix album. Who knows if an Ecco remix album will be nextÖ Thanks for your time, Hauke. We'll be sure to keep an eye on CoH and your future endeavors!
H: I'm looking forward to that Ristar remix album! And I'd like that Ecco Remix, that sounds brilliant! Please make it happen! :)
Thanks again for the great interview, I had a great time full of great memories from the past! I'll keep an eye at Radio SEGA, too!
And this is it! Our first Ecco related interview on RadioSEGA with Hauke, the man behind the Caverns of Hope website. Go check it out now! Wait... FIRST interview? Indeed. Be sure to keep both your eyes on RadioSEGA this month for more Ecco goodness.
Next week, we'll be back with another SEGA fan. This time, we'll talk to a very talented artist. Who? Come back next week to find out as we write another chapter in the SEGA Fans Chronicles.