The currently earliest published pre-release version bears some interesting things about the development of Ecco DotF!

E3 Demo (1999) of Ecco: Defender of the Future

The E3 Demo of Ecco the Dolphin: Defender of the Future is an early pre-release build of the game, showing off several stages in an unfinished stage. It predates the final release by a bit more than one year, the exact date is 8th May 1999, while the final game was released in Europe on 16th June 2000. Thereby, the E3 demo also predates the up to now only known beta version from April 2000.

The disc can be run in a standard Dreamcast console. It plays automatically five different stages in a row, each up to 4 minutes long, and serves as a sort of attract mode. There is currently no way known to make this demo playable. Nonetheless, it bears some interesting information about the state of the game until this point.

Credits go to Bananabreak for ripping and releasing this image. You can find the original forum thread here! Download the E3 Demo from our Downloads page!


Overview

The demo starts by showing the "SEGA" and "Dreamcast" logos, followed by a temporary title screen with an "Ecco the Dolphin" logo accompanied by the "Appaloosa Interactive" logo below. The final game title "Defender of the Future" is not present in this build.

Technically, the demo plays solid, with only a few drops in the framerate. Cuts between levels are hard and interrupted by a splash screen with the "Ecco the Dolphin" title and a "E3 Demo" note below. After all levels have been played, the demo will start from the beginning. Music is only played during the levels.

The shown off stages are so advanced that they can be easiely allocated even without any stage names present. Most of the level structures, textures and models hardly differ from the final version, while in some places several features are still missing and/or changed. Main objects such as glyphs or power ups are not present in this version. Also, many sound effects are missing or different.

While the stages seem to be very far in development, also Ecco's movement is strikingly advanced. The recording shows the player constantly switching between the already present camera modes. Whenever possible, they enter Remote camera mode to make Ecco turn around, showing off the dolphin model from all angles. This was most likely done on purpose to catch interest of show attendants.

The most notable difference is the unused ingame soundtrack by Attila Heger. Three stages play canned tracks, while the other two use Tim Follin's final ingame score, but used in different places than the final. This marks also the currently earliest known time Tim Follin's soundtrack being used, which is said to having been added to the game late in development.

Video Recording of the demo

We've recorded the demo straight from the Dreamcast:

Level 1: Aquamarine Bay

This is a really short and sparse presentation of the very first DotF level "Aquamarine Bay". The music played in this level is the final title screen music by Tim Follin. The level features the whale mother and her young one floating in the blue water, them constantly making whale noises. In the final version they are far less talkative than here. The whale mother is floating statically while the baby whale swims around her.

There are no visible stage structures such as the ocean floor or nearby rock columns. Besides the endless blue water only the water surface is visible. Ecco swims around in front of the whales in remote camera mode during the whole scene until it quickly gets cut off. As the game glitches out at the end you can make out a shark swimming in the far distance near the water surface.


Level 2: Trial Without Error

Two areas are being shown in this demo: the big shark pool with the trapped dolphin and the octopus cave. The music played in this level is one of Attila Heger's canned ingame tracks. Ecco enters the shark pool through the dark cave exit. The pool extends match the final version, and the small gap to the cave with the trapped dolphin is also present, but the whole area is completely lacking all other details. There are no plants, no fish and also the rock structure with the power up glyph is missing. The sandy floor also appears a lot rougher. The sharks don't make any sound, neither when they attack you, nor when they hit you. Only a lonely turtle swims in the far behind area of the pool, seemingly not worried about the pack of hungry sharks that are on to Ecco himself.


The octopus cave is very similar to the final version, including the rock wall structures, purple light rays coming from the opening above, and the light reflections that cover the walls and floor. Also the octopus model shows apparently no differences, the same goes for his movement and his attack when he grabs Ecco. Only his ink attack is not present in this build. The green dolphin that is supposed to help you escape is nowhere to be seen, either.


Level 3: Atlantis Lost

Atlantis could almost not be distinguished from its final version if it weren't for the many important features that are missing in this version. However, the base structure of the stage, including the stage entrance gate, the village and the deep ridge where the speed up rings appear are all present. Heavy graphic glitches obstruct this stage, taking place mainly at the water surface and the skybox. The music being played is of Tim Follin's final tracks, in the final version being used for Aquamarine Bay.


Ecco starts in the beginning area, dashing through some poisonous jellyfish. After passing some turtles he takes a detour back to the start of the stage, where the gate to the metamorphosis room of "Roaring Forces" can be seen. The demo then cuts to the center of the village. Biggest difference here is the lack of the big Guardian crystal. Instead we only see the bottom floral area with the star shape rock signature. Ecco enters the cathedral through the big door, which slowly opens as in the final version of the game. The interior also shows no differences. Ecco moves to the top of the cathedral and does a short tailwalk. The animation seems final, but there are no sounds to be heard.


Outside again, Ecco examines one of the exhibition buildings with a bird inside. As he activates the cage, the bird makes a heavy mechanical noise, like a clockwork toy. This sound effect was removed during the development of the game. After another skip, Ecco jumps over one of the buildings. Heavy graphical glitches appear on the sky, which overall differs a lot from the final version. He then swims around the village, exiting towards the ridge where the speed up rings normally appear - apparently missing in this version. It appears that whole puzzle elements for the crystals / hoops / speed rings are missing in this version, yet the exhibitions, being also part of the puzzle, are working.


Level 4: Shrine of Controversy

Also this level appears to be very far in the development. We see both the main temple and the Circle temple, with the Circle dolphin nearby. The Crymson red dye cave is also being shown, with a fully working blood-red pool. The music being played is one of Attila Heger's canned ingame tracks.

The stage starts near the Circle temple. Apart from a small glitch at the top light of the temple, the structure appears like in the final version. Ecco approaches the Circle dolphin. Both the ingame text and the font are completely different.


Ecco then enters the cave with the red Crymson dye. Everything, starting from the cave entrance with its piranhas, to the whole cave layout appears like in the final version. Only the sound effects seem unfinished.


Back outside, Ecco approaches the main temple. The three cast dolphins sing the hymn and open the door while Ecco examines the totally final looking outer walls and their murals. No difference inside either, the four golden dolphins wrap the harness. However, on a closer look, the harness looks different from the final version.


Level 5: Master of Forgotten Skills

The final level in the demo seems to be the most complete, when compared to the final game. Everything looks and works the same as you'd expect it. Starting from a fully operational crane, over the mine cart being controlled by Ecco in exactly the same way, to small details like the air bubble machine, the stage entrance, wall decorations or cracks in the container.


The only exception is a different model used for the mine cart mover. This one is still present in the April 2000 version of the game and appears to having been replaced last minute. Also, Ecco doesn't wear the harness here which he should have since the previous stage. He's also not accompanied by Pilot.


When the demo for this stage finishes, the game will restart from the beginning, looping endlessly.