Creator Killer: A mild example, as while he still worked for Sega, Yu Suzuki's career took a serious hit and he was unable to make another game as good as Shenmue and it's heavily implied he was Kicked Upstairs.
Doing It for the Art: The first game is rumored to be one of the most expensive games ever produced (roughly $70,000,000 in 1999 currency). But there's no way anyone could say it was wasted. Pushing the limits of the Dreamcast's technology to create unbelievable levels (at the time) of facial mapping and reactive AI that adhered to personal schedules for every NPC you see. Loads of tiny details like being able to open desk drawers each with their own unique texture maps and a very accurate (at the time) recreation of Yokosuka, Japan. They even went so far as to gather accurate weather pattern data for the region in the late-1986/early-1987 period over which the game takes place and integrate it (the game has its own weather pattern that it generates but upon beating the game once, you can use the period-accurate meteorological data for Yokosuka on a repeat playthrough).
Shout-Out: German punk band "Schrottgrenze" wrote the song "Nozomis Lieder" (from the lyrics it's clear Nozomi Harasaki is meant).