Apologies for being so late on this one. I promised midnight Saturday and it's now approaching midnight Monday. Oh well. Better late than never. I did promise to write up the story of the Chaomega saga so here goes. I will try my best to recall the details and all necessary information though please keep in mind this was ten years ago so my memories may not be all that accurate. I will however still give this my best shot.
The Chaomega Saga: Sonic Retro Exclusive
It all started in the months leading upto the release of Sonic Adventure 2. Given Sega still had hardware out this was when Sonic fangaming was in its prime. Thousands of people haunted the Sfghq forums. Hundreds of games were in development. Everyone was active. I was drawn to the forums as a means of getting into the development of Sonic fangames. I befriended almost the entire forum. I had around fifty or sixty people on my AIM list and more or less knew everyone. My best "Internet" friend of the time and still a good friend to this day was Tom Wolff aka TGF Team. We started chatting back and forth and would literally tell each other everything with regular emails every week. Tom even told his own mother and girlfriend that he had friend over in the UK he chats to on the Internet. Tom was probably the strongest bond I have ever had with anyone through a computer.
Both him and I were pretty regular posters on the Sfghq forums. We knew pretty much everything going on in the fangaming scene. At the time we had just finished the demo for our joint-project Sonic Bluestorm (which we thought was epic at the time, though sucked in retrospect) and Tom himself continued on his own personal projects and as far as I remember was finishing up work on Sonic 2099 (I believe someone here said that they have played it). I was a mod on Sfghq at the time (Blaze actually got me the post) and was aware of the most of the news that went around the community. Rumours started circulating that Aytac Aksu was working on the be all and end all Sonic fangame Chaomega with Andrew Chapman aka Hez. Everyone whom I spoke to was incredibly excited about it even though no-one at that point had either seen or played it.
Even Tom was pretty hyped given his favourite fangame of all time upto that point was Aytac's previous project Sonic Chaos Revolution. We both considered Aytac to be the most talented coder in the community so expected pretty big things from him. Word on the "street" was that Hez being involved would finally assist Aytac's amazing engine coding skills in his one area of weakness: graphics and design. I remember nights spent in IRC where people would regularly talk about Chaomega with everyone becoming more and more hyped about it even though no-one had even seen a screenshot. Fast forward to a few weeks later and I wake up with about five hundred offline messages on AIM with Tom screaming at me to download the Chaomega demo: it had finally been released.
I was blown away. Seriously. The engine was insane. The music was incredible. Aytac had somehow managed to evolve the Sonic format into a new game that at the time for a fanbase deprived of anything 2D felt like a next generation Sonic game. The game transcended the line between fangame and game in that it felt like it was made by Sega's own coders. In hindsight this reaction was probably a little over the top but put it this way: that one level of Chaomega (Mud Forest) destroyed about five years of anything anyone had ever created in the Sonic fangame community. I'm unsure what your reaction would be if you were to play the game today but for 2001 the game blew everyone away. Tom more or less felt exactly the same about the game even going so far as to say that it beat the Taxman's Retro Sonic (a game professionally made with an actual coded engine) so suffice to say Chaomega initially lived upto the hype.
At the same time both Tom and I added Aytac on AIM and after quizzing him on why he wasn't involved with Sfghq (he stated that his English wasn't that good) we both became pretty good friends with him. Tom and I felt completely outclassed by Chaomega so began work on another project entitled Sonic: Dark Horizon which was an attempt to recreate the Sonic 3 engine with all new levels. We became such good friends with Aytac he even did something he had never done before and worked on the project with us. Fast forward a few weeks later and I had basically become obsessed with the idea of designing levels for Chaomega (to the point I even abandoned my own projects). By the way here's some trivia. The name Chaomega was not a combination of the words "Chao" and "Mega" as everyone though but rather a combination of "Chaos" and "Omega" which to me just made the game even more awesome. Moving on I somehow struck a deal with Aytac that to speed along the development of Chaomega I would design a level of the game as a trial. The first thing that Aytac did was send me the latest build which at the time consisted of:
Mud Forest (designed by Aytac and featured in the demo)
City Rush (designed by Hez)
Jungle Peace "Unfinished" (designed by Aytac)
Techno Town "Unfinished" (designed by Aytac)
Untitled skateboarding level with Shadow (all Aytac and pretty awesome to play)
Aytac also stated that although only four levels were complete Hez was hard at work at an innovative idea for a snow level that slowly converted over to lava as you progressed much like Angel Island Zone in Sonic 3. The reason I posted the contents of the build is because of something important. Even after about twelve months of work Chaomega literally had two levels complete (Mud Forest and City Rush) and only ideas and concepts of the latter two levels (both of which only had about ten seconds of gameplay). Tom who also received the build from Aytac was a tad shocked to see that Aytac had worked so little on the game. Even so we were both still in love with the demo so didn't think too much of it. This is quite important for later. Regardless City Rush in particular showed promise. Hez had the idea of a nocturnal race through a run-down city against Shadow which actually played really well and impressed both me and Tom.
Without Tom knowing I continued my negotiations with Aytac and we basically agreed I would work on a new desert level with original graphics for the game entitled Desert Heat. Aytac stated he would only use the level in the game if the level met his standards. They did and he was impressed. I would probably say that Desert Heat was the best level I had ever produced at the time and I was pretty proud of it (keep in mind I was about fifteen at the time). Aytac quickly converted the level over into the Chaomega engine and the following day we had a build of the level running. Aytac was pretty excited about it so wanted to release a demo with Desert Heat included along with parallax scrolling added to Mud Forest. He did and a second demo was released. Tom goes on AIM and downloads the new demo and I spring the news on him that Desert Heat was in fact created by me. Tom was prety impressed at the time but again without me knowing Tom secretly felt a little left out of the whole 360-Aytac relationship and without telling me entered his own negotiations with Aytac to produce a level of his own.
Fast forward again to a few weeks later and Tom sends me his own build of a level called Raging Waterfront running on the Chaomega engine (newly implemented by Aytac). I liked Tom's level. It was pretty good. It had an amazing introduction. My only criticism at the time was that he essentially recycled the graphics from Sonic 2099 to create the level rather than slaving over Paint Shop Pro like I did to create something original for the game. Regardless Aytac was pretty happy with both of us since he basically now had two level designers plus Hez (who remained pretty quiet throughout the whole ordeal). The only thing that worried me was a conversation I had with Blaze that basically went like this:
Blaze: So Aytac has commissioned you and TGF Team to create two levels for him?
Blaze: And Hez is hard at work on two other levels?
360: As far as I know.
Blaze: Dude when is Aytac going to do some work on his own damn game.
Now this is important for how the situation evolved later. In fact it's important now (sorry guys my memory is a haze). Aytac went on AIM shortly after that conversation and stated that he now wanted me to create a whole new level for Chaomega based on the success of Desert Heat. Now I was thrilled and pretty glad at the second chance. Chaomega demo 2 had just hit Sfghq and though feedback was somewhat positive I was a tad disappointed to see that everyone much, much preferred Mud Forest over Desert Heat and blasted the fact that Aytac had dared asked someone else to design a level for the game. I believe the concensus was "If Aytac wanted the quality level to remain as high as Mud Forest he should not have asked someone else to work on levels". Determined to prove myself I accepted Aytac's offer to design a new level and he started me off on a level he had already designed the graphics for and a level that had alot of potential: Jungle Peace. So at this point Chaomega had:
Mud Forest (designed by Aytac and featured in the demo)
Desert Heat (designed by 360 and featured in the second demo)
City Rush (designed by Hez)
Raging Waterfront (designed by TGF Team)
Jungle Peace "In-development" (designed by 360 and Aytac)
Techno Town "Unfinished" (designed by Aytac)
Untitled skateboarding level with Shadow (designed by Aytac)
Untitled snow and fire level "In-development" (designed by Hez)
Now working on Jungle Peace was considerably more tough. I was building off some of Aytac's work which was substantially more complex than my own and I basically felt like I could not proceed without having the Chaomega engine. Now this where the story takes a darker and more heartbreaking tone. I didn't really think twice about it. Jumped onto AIM. Could not find Aytac. Found Hez. Had a conversation with Hez for around thirty minutes and basically argued the level would be a disaster without having the engine at hand and that we were all so close to completing the game with finally enough levels and content to push for a final release. I believe my final argument to Hez was that Chaomega relied alot on wall-kicking and because I did not have the engine for the development of Desert Heart there were some faults in the level (you literally could not explore the first part of the level because I had no engine to work with and Aytac had to fix it later). Hez without too much resistance basically said "Here you go man" and sent me the engine. I remember opening the engine in MMF and just being stunned. It was probably the most complex thing I had ever seen in the program. Aytac did crazy and insane shit like detach certain body parts of the Sonic and Shadow sprites for purposes of better collision detection. I sent a couple of screenshots of the engine open to Tom and he literally exclaimed "This thing is a monster".
Both of us had no idea how to work our way round the engine so I basically gave up using it for the development of Jungle Peace and pushed on regardless. I saved the draft of the level I had and went to see my mother for a couple of weeks. I came back. Opened AIM. Aytac messaged me immediately. He was pissed. He had found out Hez had sent me the engine and basically went ballistic. I remember being up all night arguing with him about it but basically one of Aytac's key things was to never ever give out his engines or leak his code. Keep in mind Aytac had basically dedicated that last several years and many endless nights to just working on Sonic games and engines and had made a quantum leap of progress with every game he had made. He was extremely proud of his work and just could not bear to see his engines in someone else's hands. I told Aytac that I had only opened the engine once and could not work with it which just seemed to piss him off even more. I tried to calm him down by sending him a finished version of Jungle Peace but he wouldn't have it. He signed off. And disappeared.
I messaged Hez immediately and Hez basically reiterated that Aytac somehow found out about him sending me the engine. Aytac was pissed. He didn't want to speak to anyone of us. I don't remember any of us hearing from Aytac for weeks after that until Aytac bizarrely messaged me out of nowhere sometime later. He basically said he wanted to work on a new project. My heart sank because I knew what was coming. I asked him why. He tried to cover it up with excuses but I could read between the lines: if the Chaomega engine is out there even in the hands of his own team member he could not work on Chaomega anymore. Blaze tried to repair some of the damage and basically argued that Aytac had stopped giving a damn about Chaomega right after the first demo: hence why he was recruiting like crazy to get the rest of the levels done. Either way it was a rather tragic set of circumstances. Tom basically said fuck him. Aytac continued to stay in contact with me and even let me name his next game (I was the one who named it Sonic Unity, based on a short story I wrote about unity or something) but to be honest I was pretty depressed about the whole thing. I had become involved with the best damn fangame I had ever played specifically to make sure that the best damn fangame ever would get released and blow everyone away and I had indirectly and unintentionally caused its cancellation.
I stand by this to this day: I never had any ulterior motive in securing the engine from Hez. I literally wanted the engine to make a damn better level than last time after I was hammered on the Sfghq forums for Desert Heart not being as good as Mud Forest and this even shows with the final layout of Jungle Peace which was substantially better and almost, almost on the level of Mud Forest. Even so only me and Tom stayed in contact after that. Everyone more or less moved on. Aytac continued to message me sending me build after build of Sonic Unity which was pretty good at the time, but to be honest the game had nothing on Chaomega. It was a far more conventional evolution of Sonic Chaos Revolution that was no way near as brave and daring as Chaomega was (for example giving Sonic a move where he could temporarily fly in Chaomega) that kind of showed that Aytac was losing his ambition and passion. I still respect the game since the engine as expected was incredible but I was pretty crushed for weeks about Chaomega. What was slightly absurd and ridiculous were the two final conversations I had with Aytac.
The first was one last ditch attempt at reviving Chaomega. I said to Aytac I would design the rest of the levels. Finish everything I could from a design standpoint and then send it all to him to implement into the engine and then we would have a game. The shameful thing was that Aytac initially agreed (I still remembering staying up till about four in the morning trying to finish off the trainwreck that was Techno Town) but when I finally submitted everything to Aytac, right after I believe he had just finished the demo of Sonic Unity he literally refused to work on Chaomega. His stance was "Well you have the engine man, you do it all". I remember Blaze saying on AIM that Aytac had gone insane and I think Tom wanted to scream at him but utlimately this penultimate conversation confirmed what Aytac had always denied: it was the engine issue that was the reason Aytac cancelled Chaomega and switched to Unity. This was basically one last underhanded way at getting back at me.
And hence Chaomega was no-more. I still blame myself, and only myself for the game's cancellation. Hez stated he feels he is partially to blame but it was my overeagerness to get the engine that pissed Aytac off so much he started a new project without any of us. I still think had Tom and I just stayed away from Chaomega then Hez and Aytac may have managed to release something. Ultimately it was never meant to be. And this my friends is the story of the best fangame the scene had ever produced that never made it out.
Epilogue: The last conversation I had with Aytac was actually years later around the time he shut down his website and the guy (as bizarre as ever) decided to pour his heart to me stating that he had wasted too much of his life on these "Damn Sonic fangames" and as a result was failing at school and had never had a girlfriend. He said his new mission was to get into university on some kind of phone programming course and find himself a nice girl. I basically wished him all the best and said it might be better to get out there in the real world (keep in mind this was 2004, both of us and even Tom had more or less left Sonic fangaming at this point) and just focus on living in the real world. And that was the last I ever heard of him.
And I'm done. Seriously guys I have typed way more than I intended to here but this is more or less everything my memory can retrieve. It would be extremely interesting to get Hez's side of the story on this (I really hope he doesn't flame me) to see if there's anything I had missed here, but I'll end this rather epic post with something you guys might like:
Chaomega second demo release: Desert Heat and Mud Forest
Credit goes to WAC for the link. PS. Before you say "this game is shit" persevere through the (in retrospect) lame Desert Heart level to get to Aytac's true work of art: Mud Forest Zone (second level in the demo). Hope you enjoyed reading the story guys. I look forward to your responses and what Hez has to say.