Luigi was just spotted doing grunt work outside of kart racing 21 years after the fact. Swiss video game archivist Comby Laurent found the chicken-livered Mario brother manning the starting line in a prototype build of Sega GT, a Dreamcast game released in 2000 by Wow Entertainment (now Sega AM Research & Development No. 1) and TOSE. Check out the phenomenal find on Twitter below:
User @CombyLaurent1 was in the middle of processing obscure Dreamcast prototypes when he came across a secret race in Sega GT with Luigi getting ready to raise a checkered flag to signal the start (or end) of the track. Since the retail version of the game featured no Mario brother in sight, the odd inclusion of the character was most probably an inside joke between developers, something to relieve the pressure and lighten the load during particularly pressing deadlines. Laurent spoke to Kotaku’s Zack Zwiezen yesterday about the unexpected Easter egg. “I was laughing out loud,” he writes. “I knew that this kind of thing existed from old dev’s anecdotes. I never thought I would come across it on one of my prototypes.” The race was labeled “sonygt2” as a nod to Sega GT’s contemporary, PlayStation’s Gran Turismo series. Laurent streamed the reveal on Twitch.
Comby Laurent has been preserving and assessing old prototypes, unreleased games, early builds, tech demos, localization prototypes, and debugging builds with a select group of independent devs, coders, and beta testers long before discovering Luigi in Sega GT — just one of many projects he has tirelessly worked on. The Swiss collector recently got in touch with Project Deluge, a massive preservation effort led by the Hidden Palace and its anonymous network of donors, sponsors, researchers, analysts, pro-bono developers, and patrons. He lent his Dreamcast expertise to a database already housing 700 PlayStation content, 349 Xbox builds, and only 135 Dreamcast prototypes as opposed to Laurent’s constantly growing stock.
Laurent and the Hidden Palace are just two of the world’s most dedicated historians committed to documenting unseen gaming content for generations of video game stalwarts to replay to their heart’s desire. Data archival is a type of research methodology as old as time itself, and yet video game inventory is a fairly new field even for established academics. It’s been growing in secret since more advanced computers brought on the Information Age, manifesting largely as arcade museums, black market emulation, and online archives containing only the most apocryphal, mythological items. Since data can be corrupted at any time, video game archivists consider it crucial to make as many functional backups as possible. Easter eggs like Luigi working overtime in Sega GT may seem inconsequential compared to actual releases, but they are still part of created history and deserve their own place in the swell of time.
Unlike empirical historiography, data archival is hardly cut-and-dried. Digitization has only taken off in the last decade and a half, with many primary sources rotting away in underfunded collections, and so is video game history. The field is pretty much as old as Mario and Luigi, and continues to evolve with every new console released, engines developed, and techniques and state-of-the-art strategies devised. Unlike traditional archival work, preserving complex permutations of ones and zeros demands the assistance of a whole team of experienced programmers, coders, and developers willing to extract old data and reinterpret it into modern-day externalizations. These would have to be 100% playable on emulators and working consoles. The dumps are then organized and cataloged in online databases and made easily accessible to both fans and collectors, and active historians specializing in various strides in video game development.
Comby Laurent and the Hidden Palace routinely update their archives with new content with “absolutely no end in sight.” Discs and cartridges are currently sitting in several locations, just waiting to be processed and restored. Hit them up if video game preservation is something you’d like to do. Any and all contributions matter, with or without a Luigi fortuitously popping up in random builds. And yet, who knows?