Adventures with Chaotix

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

  1. big smile

    big smile

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    I've always wondered why Sonic & Tails were cut from Chaotix. But if it was supposed to be a Saturn game, maybe Naka came in and said "no!" After all there's no way he'd want his baby leading a new platform if he didn’t have a say in it.

    So they were "like, let's put all the graphical effects on 32X and save the gameplay for Saturn"! :eng99:
     
  2. Mr. Ksoft

    Mr. Ksoft

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    An overly ambitious retro platformer
    I am fairly sure this is true, although I don't remember how I've listened to them (might have been a dump of the SMPS data). Though that reminds me, years and years ago there was talk of some weird vocal PCM samples in the Crackers ROM. Were those ever confirmed or was it part of the original overdump with the TMNT data?
     
  3. Apparently they exist within MarkeyJester's 2009 disassembly:

    upload_2021-2-4_17-40-42.png

    Even the littlest of things lie unused in Crackers, including these characters (and a complete set of lowercase letters) that get loaded into VRAM on the title screen:

    [​IMG]
     
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  4. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Presenting Marina Madness, the boring water level without water.

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    (morning: 1207, 0119, final)

    [​IMG] [​IMG] [​IMG]
    (day: 1207, 0119, final)

    Subtle palette changes you're less likely to see in old magazine scans. And yes I do get a kick out of stopping the clock at exactly the same point.


    When Chaotix is put under strain, the Mega Drive and 32X draw commands go out of sync, which creates jittery gameplay. In 1207 Marina Madness is an absolute mess both because of this and the broken boats. The collision got better with later builds, but it still didn't run very well.

    The solution? Take out the parallax backgrounds and make the whole thing static. Marina Madness is therefore probably the only level in Sonic history whose background was made measurably worse during development.

    [​IMG]
    Granted it had tiling issues and there weren't many layers, and if you need to make cuts, this was the most sensible option, but compared to Sonic 2 and 3 which went crazy with the effect, it's not the best of situations for "Super" 32X hardware. Not that anyone noticed, mind you.
     
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  5. It has always confused me as to why Sonic will sometimes lose collision with the level layout in the carnival level in Sonic Crackers, and I might have figured out why. Whenever player 1 presses Left while Sonic is standing still and facing right, he loses most of his collision and falls down, hanging by the Combi-ring tether. When Left is pressed while Sonic is moving to the right, or when he's facing left while standing still, he will move left as expected.

    upload_2021-2-4_19-23-28.png upload_2021-2-4_19-25-49.png

    Strangely, these shenanigans don't happen to Tails whenever player 2 presses Left under the same situations as player 1. He will turn left as he should.
     
    Last edited: Feb 4, 2021
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  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I think most of the surface-level prototype oddities are covered by the wiki now, but there's a few issues I'm probably not going to touch:

    - Choosing "exit" from the world entrance can cause unexpected results - usually corruption in some of the menus, but potentially other things. I think there could be a number of permutations depending on which levels and characters you've just played on/as (and if you've just finished a stage or died), and I can't guarantee similar results on real hardware.

    - Entering and exiting bonus stages can cause problems. The worst I've seen is in Amazing Arena, starting with the 1227 build:

    [​IMG]

    aka the animated tiles crap out. A number of these prototypes don't have light switches - I bet they could be hacked back in, and I bet weird things happen when they are.

    - I've posted how most of these prototypes can't cope with a fully cleared save. Earlier prototypes give you three finished save slots for free - the later ones require the user to actually bother to play the game... and I'm not legitimately playing Chaotix from start to finish four times just to see what happens.

    - I won't be checking every possible level and time of day combination. Maps would be better at revealing layout changes,

    - The "broken" levels, e.g. things like World Entrance 3-6. It's all garbage data because there was never a plan for these slots to be used, but the garbage is subtly different between builds.

    - The audio. This is important but in order to safely say a sound was "unused", I'd need to know more about what was actually used in the final version of Chaotix, and that's awkward. The wiki has also been saying for years there are slight differences in composition, but I can't tell when the sound driver is buggered.


    I would imagine any further discoveries are for specialists.
     
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  7. The more I see the screenshots on this thread the more I wish Knuckles' Chaotix was a regular Sonic game (something like Sonic 3 & Knuckles-esque), because God, the art is so damn good.
     
  8. Varion Icaria

    Varion Icaria

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    There might be something like this in the hidden depths of the underground, :P
     
  9. With full chunk rips of Sonic Crackers available, there's a whole lot of unused chunks to be found and then some, which gives some insight on what the developers wanted to do with the levels that were made for the game before it became Chaotix. Black Squirrel pointed out in an earlier post how the 1227 prototype of Chaotix originally had the idea of incorporating Sonic-style tubes to Speed Slider that ended up broken. Seems like the devs might have planned the same to be featured in "World 2" if these unused chunks (24 and 2D respectively) are of any indication:

    Crackers UnusedTubeChunks.png

    So what happens if you edit the ROM or a savestate to add these chunks to the level layout?

    upload_2021-2-6_15-42-32.png

    They can be run through at high speed, but if Sonic and Tails are taking it slow then you'll find that chunk 24 is janky in Crackers' engine. Sonic gets himself stuck halfway through it while Tails goes on ahead, only to get stuck himself as he's bound to Sonic. There's no spin rolling in this engine, either.
     
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  10. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    This is how time works in Chaotix:

    [​IMG]

    Start World Entrance 0 in the morning and it'll be 4½ o'clock (because pixels).

    [​IMG]

    Complete a level, and the clock will advance by three hours. Now it's 7½ o'clock.

    [​IMG]

    Another level finished, now it's 10½ o'clock and we're using the day palette. Next it'll be 1½ day, 4½ sunset, 7½ sunset, 10½ night, 1½ night and so on. Until I started posting about Chaotix last month, I didn't think the time of day made any material difference to how the game plays, but the theme I'm finding is that mornings are usually the easiest time of day. Not by enough for anyone to care (and with random levels I don't see how you could "plan"), but it's almost certainly a thing.

    The stage select only lets you choose between six-hourly intervals, though as pointed out before, the 1207 prototype has all eight times of day accessible. Although the World Entrance clock doesn't really work in 1207, and you can't finish that version legitimately anyway so bleh.


    However, Chaotix undermines its own timekeeping system because the World Entrance designers didn't talk to the Amazing Arena people. Amazing Arena has two types of clock: the ones you need to turn on in order to finish the stage (which just have one hand), and a second type... which allows for ~time travel~

    [​IMG]

    I particularly like this one in level 3, because the switch is on the floor, and when you stand on it it makes a horrible noise.

    Press the switch (after the lights are turned on) and the clock advances by two hours, causing the time of day to change. If it is morning when you enter, it will be day when you leave. If you don't press the switch, time will continue like any other stage on exit (which means it could also be day when you leave, just... earlier in the day). And unlike the clock in the World Entrance, this one is powered by the 32X for accurate rotation.

    Fun fact: 2 hours =/= 3 hours. This clock read 10:00 when I came in, and pressing the switch advanced it to 12:00. But the World Entrance clock read 4½ o'clock, and when I leave, it'll be 10½. That's 4½ -> 10 -> 12 -> 10½.

    In reality, though it suggests two hours have passed, the Amazing Arena clocks actually advance the time by six hours, and what is shown does not match the clocks in the World Entrance (which are also inaccurate, because pixels). And then we wonder why no official material has ever documented this game mechanic.

    And this isn't some crazy afterthought either. These Amazing Arena clocks are fully functional as early as 1207 and are usually accompanied by some special graphics. I think there's only one switch in each level, and you have to go looking for them, meaning five chances to advance the time. But the pros and cons of doing so are so insignificant that they can lie undocumented for 25 years. How many people even noticed these clocks, or registered that palette changes were occurring due to time of day, not just for artistic reasons?
     
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  11. muteKi

    muteKi

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    I figure most people knew the second clocks were there but this is the first time I'd even considered that they meaningfully affect the time and not just activate the lights. Does it work the other way? If you activate these first do the other clocks change the time instead?
     
  12. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    They have separate functions. These "time" clocks don't work until you turn on the "main" clock... except for in prototypes where the game doesn't care*. It's not immediately obvious though - the game doesn't stop you pressing the switches anyway.

    A lot is meant to be tied to that main switch, such as the conveyor belts, "sub-bosses" and whether you can even complete the level. However, in many of our prototypes the conveyors always work and you can finish the level regardless. In fact there aren't any main switches at all in the 1227, 1229, 0111 builds, which is why current coverage assumes there are no sub-bosses.


    Okay I say "conveyors" but Amazing Arena is actually doing Studiopolis before Studiopolis. You just probably wouldn't realise unless you saw the whole map:

    [​IMG]

    The difference is you can fly past most of it without even noticing, and that the "gallery" and cinema bits are on different paths separated by a wall. And it's not helped by Sega of America calling it a "sound room"... and nothing else in Amazing Arena giving any sort of hints about it being a cinema (except the actual boss I guess).
     
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  13. Beamer the Meep

    Beamer the Meep

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    Honestly, I'd love to see a full video of all the details of Chaotix that we overlooked all these years. Given the resurgence of interest in Chaotix recently (for whatever reason), I think a lot of people would be interested in hearing about all these tiny details.

    This thread has certainly made me appreciate the game a lot more. Despite being a horribly rushed mess with amazing music, you can see how a lot of passion went into it.
     
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  14. Blue Spikeball

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    The miniboss with also ties into the theme, coming out of the screen on the wall after the lights are turned off.
     
  15. Blastfrog

    Blastfrog

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    I sometimes wonder if the 32X level art was a simplification/adaptation of Saturn level art. Like, if they were shifting from Genesis to Saturn, they might've wanted to redo the level art in general. Then in going to 32X, they had to cut it all down to a more limited palette and resort to a lot of vertical bar dithering.

    Obviously, there's no way of knowing whether this may have been the case without seeing any Saturn version builds, but given the heavy emphasis on vertical bar dithering in the 32X game's art, it makes me curious.

    I suspect the 32X version was mostly based on the Genesis version's engine, even if more developed content from a Saturn version may have been recycled into it.
     
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  16. Robjoe

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    Aw damn, Black Squirrel, I was gonna do a post literally yesterday morning about the eight times of day and Amazing Arena's second clocks. Guess that's what I get for sleeping in! :eng101: But you did point out a couple cool things I'd never noticed before, such as the theme of the level. I'd always gotten a cinema vibe from the bosses, of course, but I never noticed it's supposed to be built into the design of the level! Now it all makes sense, and level seems slightly less like an abstract mess of colors and toys.

    However, there are still a couple small tidbits I can add to the discussion. First, and most interesting, while going through all the characters' sprites, I noticed something slightly peculiar about Knuckles' and Heavy's: They don't use their full 18-color MARS palettes. They both only seems to use 15 colors, which curiously lines up with Tails' leftover MARS palette in the earlier prototypes. Knuckles and Heavy do have 18 colors in their palettes however: Knuckles' unused shades include two metallic blues, and Heavy bizarrely has two shades of purple at the end of his. Seen below, along with Tails' shorter palette for comparison:

    TailsKnucklesHeavyMARS_3x.png - Tails on top, then Knuckles, then Heavy.

    Now, Knuckles gets a bit stranger still. You see, most characters in the game use five or six shades for their primary color, but I noticed Knuckles only uses four. This stood out to me because of proto-Vector also only using four (before being updated to six). In the beginning of this thread I tried adapting proto-Vector to the Crackers palette, and after learning what I have about Knuckles, I gave him a shot as well:

    KnuxVectorCrackers_2x.png - 32X on top, Megadrive on bottom. Enlarged to 2x for detail.

    I had to make a couple sacrifices if you look closely, mainly using a skin shade for the his brightest pink, as well as orange for one of his skin shades (which Crackers actually already does for Sonic's skin, so whatever). These might not be the exact sprites used in the MD phase of development, but they do match the palette fairly well, and I think they provide an interesting glimpse at what Crackers Knuckles and Vector might've looked like! This also illustrates that after the move to the 32X, the game likely went through a phase where characters only had 15-color palettes. At some point (likely after Sonic and Tails' removal, judging from Tails' leftover palette), the artists must've realized that they had extra palette space, added some new shades, and updated the older sprites one by one. Vector's were updated somewhere between builds 1229 and 0111, but Knuckles' never were! Which is ridiculous because he could really use an extra shade so his ring wouldn't have those obvious green pixels on it. Again, so much for the supposed star of the game....

    And also, speaking of Crackers, you may recall how I posted five Sonic frames (the "climb up a ledge" animation) that evidently didn't survive long enough to be adapted into Mighty. Well, going through the lists of sprite pointers in Chaotix, there are several dummied-out entries that read $FF FF FF FF instead of pointing to real addresses. It's impossible to tell what any of these were prior to being deleted, but I did notice Mighty has a gap of exactly five, between his dazed and throw animations:

    MightySprite Pointers.png

    If that is indeed what those entries were, I guess those sprites did survive the console transition, and were most likely deleted in the process of turning Sonic into Mighty. The move they were made for was probably never coded, but hey, who knows.

    And finally, speaking of sprites: Arm sprites. Anyone who's used Chaotix's "debug mode" free movement can tell you that arm sprites are separate, and while I have no intention of listing every single unused one, I did take a look, and found... a lot of unused arms. Like, for a few characters, there are almost as many unused as there are used (not unlike the joke that TCRF's article makes, haha). And a few are rather peculiar. A few highlights:

    UnusedArms_2x.png

    The top row is from Mighty. The first two show a darker glove holding the ring for some reason. Maybe it's in his other hand, so it's shadowed because it's behind him? The third and fourth are not ripped improperly: They really are missing pixels for some odd reason. Furthermore, the pink pixels you see on the fourth one are not even part of Mighty's palette. Examining the sprite in hex, their value is $19 for some bizarre reason (normally $12 is the maximum for characters, which is palette entry 18). In my curiosity, I compared them to Sonic's arms in Crackers, and they're actually all present. In fact, Sonic's versions are not missing pixels or using invalid palette entries, so perhaps they were shafted somehow in the transition. Then after all of the ones that make it into Chaotix, you can see even more unused arms! Notably, Sonic has some arm frames that don't have a ring in his hand (and are different from the frames used for carrying his partner).

    Meanwhile, Vector seems to have the most unused arms. The middle row looks like some kind of animation of him waving, or slapping (or perhaps giving a good firm butt-pat for all we know). The ones at the bottom have the ring shown in some odd angles, and I have no idea what these would've been for. Again, these are only some of the sprites. There are just too many to list....
     
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  17. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I thought there might be a bazillion unused arms, it's just difficult to work out which arms are used.

    It's something we do need to document but I don't blame you for avoiding it ;)
     
  18. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    For those who don't hang around the recent changes page of the wiki:

    Chaotix/Hidden content

    I added Robjoe's things. Fill in the blanks and we'll be ahead of TCRF again.
     
  19. During my experiments with Sonic Crackers, I had come to an understanding as to why Sonic loses his collision with the floors in the carnival level. As it turns out, pressing Left while Sonic is standing still and facing right causes Sonic to switch from the low plane to the high plane, and pressing Right while standing still and facing left switches him back to the low plane. The same actions won't change Tails' plane even if player 2 is controlling him. Perhaps it might have been used for testing plane switching in the engine?

    Crackers PlaneSwitch.gif

    While this doesn't affect the factory level in any way as its chunks are solid on both planes, this becomes a problem for the carnival level due to its reliance on plane-switching objects to make the tracks intertwine akin to Chemical Plant Zone, as a lot of its tracks are only solid on the low plane, thereby causing Sonic to fall through them when switching planes from a standstill.

    SIDE NOTE: An unused palette cycle for the World 2 field that can be enabled with Game Genie/PAR codes was just documented over on TCRF.
     
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  20. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    I've made a mistake.

    In the 1207 and 1227 builds of Chaotix, extra levels can be accessed through the stage select by holding A. Most of these slots lead to nowhere, and those which do looked familiar, so I spent a whole five seconds with my then-limited knowledge of Chaotix, labled them as uninteresting and moved on.

    Now that I've spent quite a bit of time in Amazing Arena 1, I thought I'd double check "Amazing Arena 0". The 0th level has object positions that don't match the layout, so I assumed they were being pulled from the wrong place. Thing is...

    [​IMG]

    This layout is unique. While the first section is indeed a match for Amazing Arena 1, it very quickly becomes its own thing. It's an entirely new level for Amazing Arena, it's just to the untrained eye, this isn't noticeable because so many levels in this game look the same.

    [​IMG]

    The object layout means I'm not sure you can beat the level without cheating, but it is technically possible to "get through "Amazing Arena Marina Madness". It's also a seemingly shorter level than any in the final - nothing indicating clocks at all.

    But what about the others? Well Botanic Base 0 looks like it might be unique too. Sadly the rest really do seem like copies (that's all the 0s AND all the 6s), but we'd need detailed map comparisons to be sure.


    My guess - Botanic Base 0 and Amazing Arena 0 are earlier versions of first levels. They're smaller and less interesting, and were probably redone both to incorporate new mechanics and to lengthen them a bit. I don't know where the objects are coming from. I don't know if they still exist in the final game somewhere.
     
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