INTERVIEW: Peter Thierolf

NEON studios. It may not ring a bell, but the name of one of their biggest past titles Tunnel B1 probably will. After contacting Peter Thierolf, the techinical director and Saturn programmer of Tunnel B1, I got a very quick response to my questions (if only things were always that easy..) I bring you this interview. Thanks to Peter & NEON.


S.F: Please tell the readers about NEON's past projects for SEGA platforms. 

P.T: Neon has created a Sega Genesis Version of Mr. Nutz Hoppin' Mad - this one unfortunately was never released. In the beginning of 1997, we released Tunnel B1 for Sega Saturn. That's it. We have not had opportunity to work for Dreamcast - so that faboulus platform had to live without our support.  Of course we have dreamcasts at home...

S.F: How well did Tunnel B1 do?

P.T: We have never get sales statements on Tunnel B1 for Saturn. It did receive very good reviews indeed, but Ocean went broke before they reported sales figures.

S.F: NEON had several other projects in development such as Viper and Tunnel B2 can you tell what happened to these games and how far into development they were? 

P.T: Viper has been finished by a split-off company from Neon. In 1997, 2 of the original founders left Neon together with some employees. They finished the Viper product for Playstation, but a Saturn version was never done as far as I know. The product codenamed 'M1' that was to be a followup of Tunnel B1 was canned after Ocean went broke. We had to close down most of our operations and ran the company with just 5 guys until we were able to expand business again.

S.F: You personally programmed the Saturn back in the day, can you tell how much the difference was compared to Playstation programming? Which development equipment was used?

P.T: We had the SN Systems development system for Sega Saturn. That consisted of a modified Saturn (a SCSI connector was added), a custom SCSI adaptor board and gcc compiler moulded for the SH2 processor of the Saturn. The Saturns hardware is very much different from Playstations - Saturn is a high end 2d system whilst Playstation was the first sophisticated 3d system around. The main difference however was, that Sony restricted the direct hardware access at those times whilst the Saturn was completely open.

Playstation consist more or less of a main processor (with 3d calculation enabled coprocessor on the same chip) and a polygon drawing device. Saturn on the other hand holds a dual main processor, an independent DSP, a sprite drawing device (that was used as polygon renderer although it produced bad rendering artefacts and wasted a lot of texture space) plus a high end 2d playfield hardware. The difference could not be bigger.

S.F: Tunnel B1 was released in Japan as 'Finalist' do you know anything about this release? Why the name change and were there any notable differences from the PAL/US releases? 

P.T: The japanese publisher, GAGA inc., made a 'name the game' contest in a japanese magazine in order to ramp up public support for the game. The winning name christened the japanese version. There are indeed more differences, the Japanese version is a lot brighter than the PAL/US one and it is also easier to play.

S.F: The games business these days is an incredibly tough market. A lot of smaller game developing studios died because of this. NEON seems to have mainly shifted it's development to the portable market, was this the only option? Wouldn't you rather develop most games for high-end systems such as XBOX or PC? 

P.T: We have done a lot of portable products because we had to get a contract quick after Ocean went out of business - that didn't leave the option to sign a playstation deal whatsoever. Still, you have missed some of Neon's history - we have been sold to the austrian publisher JoWooD back in 2000 and have worked on a Playstation 2 product since 2001. That product, named 'Legend of Kay' is going public on the 4th of February this year and already received good reviews from the German press.

S.F: What do you think is the best game NEON done so far? 

P.T: Well, off course our latest product, Legend of Kay. Still, I personally like all of the products we did quite much. The one I probably like most is Mr. Nutz for Sega Genesis, or the Amiga version as the Genesis one was never released.

S.F: What can we expect from NEON in the future?

P.T: We are continuing to create games for high end platforms. We are currently working to prepare the next Playstation 2 title - sorry, no names yet ;)

S.F: Thanks for taking time for this interview, all the best to NEON in the future.


For more information on NEON Studios and their games visit 

Segafreak update 2007: Neon Studios partly morphed into KEEN games
who've been succesful lately with their DS title Anno 1701. It's good to
see they're still around.


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