Adventures with Chaotix

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Jan 23, 2021.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    Winter CES 1995 hunting brought up a result:

    https://retrocdn.net/index.php?title=File:SuperGamePower_BR_011.pdf&page=17

    The screenshots kinda suck so it's difficult to pinpoint an exact build but they all have the same watermark... which suggests they came from a video, which in turn could suggest Chaotix wasn't playable at Winter CES 1995. And if that's the case, unlike Sonic 1 and 2, none of these prototypes would qualify as the "WCES build" (as in "the build you could play at WCES").

    This matters because it reflects the development process. There seems to have been a conscious effort in Sonic 2 to always have something "presentable" when played normally, whereas in Chaotix, there's crappy placeholder menus and broken World Entrances. It suggests they weren't building up a hype machine by getting the kids to play demo versions, which again suggests a lack of faith compared to previous Sonic outings.

    The other thing is that the sound driver is broken in 1229 (the closest build we have to WCES 1995). With a video, you can cover that up, do there's no reference point for emulation (i.e. is Kega Fusion's audio correct) .


    Incidentally


    The February 1995 edition features (what looks like) the 1227 build, but again they talk all over the audio so it's not that helpful.
     
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  2. Dark Sonic

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    I wonder if they realized they had their hands on kind of a stinker early on so they just ended up making it a glorified tech demo. Like it's original conception had Sonic and Tails, they felt like it was garbage, so they removed Sonic and Tails and put in Knuckles and some new B characters, in a game that features Eggman and Metal Sonic no less.

    In a world where spinball and 3d blast exist I wonder why this was the game they didn't want Sonic in. I'm just wondering what their thought process was.
     
  3. SystemsReady

    SystemsReady

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    This would also explain Crackers using Sonic 2 sprites...
     
  4. Robjoe

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    I could see them not wanting to use the wall kick launch sprites, yeah. Since Chaotix declares any airborne character "spinning" with a hitbox and all, perhaps they didn't think the launching sprites made sense. You'd probably still kill enemies if you touched them in that state. Bit of a shame though, I personally think the wall kick would look a bit nicer like that. Though the "latch on" sprite does look kind of awkward in the earlier prototypes (thanks for the reminder z.man, almost forgot it's actually used there), and wouldn't quite be as easy to implement in the finalized wall kick behavior.

    Regarding publishing dates, how late in '95 did those magazines release? I'm no expert on magazine printing, but I'm sure they're written at least a month in advance to allow for production, and then being Spanish, there might even be more of a delay in receiving the game. That is, receiving and writing about a late November build near the end of December, then in early January the magazine starts printing, and isn't actually ready for sale until February. Something like that.

    I've definitely wondered about the game's start of development in relation to Sonic 3, as well. We know the first half of Sonic 3 was declared complete in late November or so, so in theory that's enough time to communicate what's in the game and all, but... the Crackers/Chaotix team seemingly had little to no communication with anyone else in the company with Sonic experience. I've not exactly researched who did what on this game, but was there anyone on the team who had worked on a Sonic game prior? And even if the developers were aware of Sonic 3's plans while working on this game, it still seems a bit early to jump on including a playable Knuckles. Though having a large roster of characters does seem planned from the beginning, and Charmy and Vector are far more obscure choices....

    The Crackers ROM we have definitely seems to have began life as a pitch. We all know the Sega executives were eager to demand the numbered Sonic sequels, but I find it difficult to imagine anyone at the top "asking for" Crackers, with what a departure it is from the games that came before it (even code-wise, it's basic movement logic and everything was clearly built from the ground up). Frankly I have the impression that it was random idea from one or a couple developers that they threw together between projects. It was most likely pitched to a lukewarm-at-best reception (was this confirmed at all?), perhaps with the executives saying something along the lines of "develop it some more and I guess we'll see". It feels like it spent the majority of its development as a testbed for random ideas and gameplay concepts without any over-arching idea of what the game was going to be, or what role it would play in the Sonic brand. Then much later on, the company's executives are racking their brains their brains trying to figure out what to do with the 32X and remember Clackers/Chaotix/whatever and decide, "sure, why not". The team could've been told to build it into a complete, releasable game in a very short timespan, which they clearly weren't prepared to do, hence why a lot of the levels feel half-baked in the gameplay sense. As we see in the earlier proto's, Speed Slider was the last level to be completed. They were submitting builds to QA since December, but even as late as January, with only one month left to go, they were still throwing concepts at the wall and seeing what stuck. It's like no one really took the game seriously until it suddenly had to be ready for the dead-on-arrival 32X.

    A question I personally can't get off my mind is what the hell actually happened with the supposed Saturn era of development?. There's a lot of time between April and December '94, so two separate console transitions would explain where all that time went. But how far along did the Saturn version get, and did any of that work carry over to the 32X, or did they start over from the last Genesis build? I feel like if the Saturn build ever happened at all, it was scrapped almost entirely. I say this because Chaotix is composed of like, 95% 68K code (the area dedicated to SH-2 code in the ROM is just $9000 bytes in length). The Genesis is the lead processor for every part of the game, with the one major exception being the Special Stages, probably owing to the 3D polygon rendering. Seems they kept all the work done on the Genesis version and did the bare minimum to enable 32X support, and only used it in very specific ways, such as drawing the sprites and scaling them. Meanwhile, to get the game running on the Saturn would require rewriting the main game logic for the SH-2 processors. The SH-2 uses totally different machine code, and is RISC in nature where-as the 68000 is CISC, so there is no cross-compatibility. If they had carried over code from the Saturn then I'd bet the 32X version would've actually used the SH-2's as the main processors, with the 68000 being the supplementary one. If anything, it might be that the Saturn build Kalinske mentioned was a very early proof-of-concept, maybe even more bare-bones than the Crackers pitch, and was quickly abandoned before much actual development happened.
     
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  5. Sid Starkiller

    Sid Starkiller

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    Actually, Sonic in Crackers uses his Sonic 1 sprites.

    Sorry for ACKSHALLY-ing, but I just wanted to point it out.
     
  6. Blastfrog

    Blastfrog

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    All of this is really making me think this game might deserve a second chance in the form of a carefully crafted remake. Maybe there's a better and more interesting game here than the rushed final product lets on. Imagine how cool it would be to restore and fully implement a lot of the cut features and content, restore Sonic and Tails, maybe even have some kind of net play.

    Oh, and on the note of Sonic's sprites, the palette uses his original blues. In Sonic CD, they used it everywhere except in-game (special stage had its own palette however). In fact, it seems to be used everywhere Sonic 1 sprites are used, including the Sega CD game boot screen, Sonic 2 8-bit's titlecards (and the autodemo), Eraser, and possibly a few others.

    I wonder if this has any implications for the level art, that it was designed to work with this palette, perhaps.

    I also wonder about how the greys were tinted blue just like Sonic 3's were. Was that an independently made decision or was it specifically to reflect Sonic 3?
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
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  7. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I'd file "Saturn Chaotix" away with "Daytona USA 32X". One of these "they're both 32-bit Sega consoles, so can they run each others' games??" queries. It's not impossible, but it doesn't seem likely to me.

    (Tails isn't in Sonic 1)

    Actually there is a point in here - there are tired sprites for flying Tails in Crackers, so I guess Sonic 3 must have been about in some form to know that was a thing. There are no tired sprites in our Sonic 3 prototype either.


    What a weird game.
     
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  8. Blue Spikeball

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    They might have based Tails' flight on the 8-bit games, those had it before Sonic 3. He also gets tired there, even if he doesn't have tired sprites.

    Come to think of it, Tails' flight in the Chaotix protos works closer to the 8-bit games than S3, being controlled with the d-pad rather than the jump button...

    And there is the fact that Sonic never had his insta-shield in Chaotix as far as we know. It's like they took very little influence from S3 (beyond Knuckles, the hidden mid-level giant rings and the storyline ties).
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
  9. Robjoe

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    Considering Kalinske is apparently the only source for there ever being a Saturn version of the game, that's probably it. I've always been suspicious of his claim, but it still shows up from time to time, like as a weird footnote on TCRF's page with links to the different proto builds. Almost sounds to me like it was, at best, an idea floated around during the confusion of what to do with the Crackers project. When he played the build in question, he might simply have not realized what it was, or been misinformed. The 32X's visual are technically about the same as the Saturn's as far as I'm aware. As in, same color palette and such. Could've been easily confused, especially for a businessman with very little interest in the actual products of the company.

    Small correction: You actually activate flight the same as in Sonic 3: Just press jump in mid-air. But yes, you do control it exclusively with the D-pad, like the 8-bit games, as well as the Marble Garden 2 boss. That fact has always been suspect to me, like it wasn't solidly established yet how Tails' flight should handle.

    I just had the thought that as of the November Sonic 3 proto, insta-shield wasn't yet a concept. The prototypical "drop dash" was present, but who knows how seriously they were considering it at that point, considering the magazines running previews of that build were likely not even told that it existed. Perhaps in the absence of a solid "double jump" ability for Sonic, the Crackers devs improvised and came up with their own. (For what it's worth, I frankly like the wall kick a lot more than either the drop dash or insta-shield, if it were limited to just diagonal-up movement. It actually opens up level design opportunities).
     
  10. Blue Spikeball

    Blue Spikeball

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    Ah, yes, thanks for the correction. I checked it to make sure shortly after posting that and realized my mistake, so I edited my post a bit later, but not before you read it.

    Yeah, that's what I figured. Without the insta-shield and shield attacks established, Sonic's double jump move was a blank slate for them, so they probably decided it would be a good idea to give him a move that doubled as a wall-jump and wall-climb to give him extra reach comparable to Tails' flight so that he wouldn't be so underpowered.
     
    Last edited: Feb 3, 2021
  11. z.man II

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    drx is adamant that Chaotix was ported from Genesis to Saturn before it became a 32X game, going as far as to say that he knew someone who had a playable build of the Saturn version at one point. He specified that the Saturn version initially had Sonic and Tails, but SEGA disallowed the developers to use those characters.
     
  12. Sid Starkiller

    Sid Starkiller

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    I know, I said "Sonic in Crackers", not "Sonic Crackers".
     
  13. The Joebro64

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    Was going to point out this as well. Saturn builds do (or, at least, did at one point) exist. (Whether one will ever pop up is another story.)
     
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  14. Robjoe

    Robjoe

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    I do remember the thread with drx's Kalinske interview, but it's been a while since I read it. Browsing it again....

    Kalinske mentions they were going to cut the game into parts, possibly like Sonic 3. Completely forgot about that detail. I wonder if that explains the time constraints to some extent. They knew they couldn't finish the whole game in time as planned, and after the decision to split it, they thought they only needed to get about half the game together at first, only for the impending death of the 32X to force them to just finish what they could and throw it out on the market mere months before the 32X flat-lined. Or something like that.

    He definitely confirms something was happening on the Saturn, but it's unclear when that was. I'd put my money on it being sometime during summer/autumn 1994, but who knows. I'll echo others' sentiment that an earlier prototype would be absolutely fascinating to see, regardless what era it's from. It's been my most-wanted for a long while. (Not that we haven't had plenty to be grateful for in the last year or so, but there's always more out there!)
     
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  15. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Then I stand corrected, although if this is an interview lost in the forums rather than archived on the wiki, well... this is what happens.
     
  16. McAleeCh

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    Fascinating - I don't remember hearing anything about Chaotix becoming a Saturn title at any point; must have missed that interview when it was originally posted. What a tumultuous development history this game seems to have had! Such a shame that the Saturn build drx had leads on never made its way into the right hands - fingers crossed that it may yet be found and preserved in future.

    I wonder if any other builds of Crackers on Mega Drive will ever surface? We got tantalisingly close when a tiny fragment of data from a later build showed up on a proto Yuu Yuu Hakusho cart, which if nothing else shows that the top-down field stages were developed a little further before being dropped.

    In fact... one of the Chaotix builds features an unused graphic reading "Sonic Crackers S32X", doesn't it? That suggests that title survived until development on the 32X had begun already - if that's the case, providing the development timeline outlined in the interview above is correct (Mega Drive > Saturn > 32X), wouldn't that make it very likely that any Saturn build would still be under the Sonic Crackers name?
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2021
  17. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    Morning, who wants some jumping spikes?

    [​IMG]
    1227, Speed Slider level 3, about (2323, 332)

    The graphics for these remain in the final ROM, but you never see them in-game. Here they "hide" underground and then spring up and at the player, a bit like the Burrowbots from Sonic 1. It's a completely harmless object whose position resets after every jump.

    Unlike other weird Speed Slider objects, these hung around for a while:

    [​IMG]

    The palette was even "corrected" in 0111, before being removed entirely by 0202.


    There could be other locations - I've since found two more instances of the mystery Badnik in 0119.
     
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  18. BlackFive

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    With all the talk about Sonic Crackers, I wanted to ask something that's been on my mind for a while. The prototype we have is generally accepted to be the 1994-04-01 build, but- aside from the title screen- do we have any solid evidence that our build is actually from that date? I only ask because the ROM header is dated July 1994, and whilst I understand that ROM headers aren't always accurate, I can't think of a good reason as to why it would be dated after the point where the ROM was compiled.

    Normally I'd say this is strong evidence to suggest that the ROM is definitely from July and not April... except the Yu Yu Hakusho: Makyou Toitsusen prototype with the Crackers leftovers is apparently from June, and the leftovers seem to suggest they're from a later build than the one we have (unless our build is from a point where the developers were in the process of scaling back the field stages, or had removed whatever they knew they weren't going to use)
     
  19. Asagoth

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  20. The Joebro64

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