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Finding The SA2 Development Photo Streets

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by MrMechanic, Jun 19, 2022.

  1. MrMechanic


    Hey Sonic Retro.

    I'm currently working on a Retrospective video on SA2, similar in vain to this one I did on SA 1 (Cheap plug yes, but there's a reason).

    So what I like to do is look at the development of the game and try to find what influenced some of the design decisions, visual choices that we see etc. With SA1 that's easy, there's tons of video and photos from Sonic Team themselves... But with SA2 however, well... It's a lot less documented.

    The real night and day of the development openness comes from the number of videos and photos shared from their SA1 world tour... and their SA2 American roadtrip... In fact only 2 pictures exist (to my knowledge) this one...


    And it's very very low quality younger brother... This pic...


    No really! That's the best quality/size I can find!

    Now... when you look at just those two pics, you can see a lot that clearly influenced City Escape, the trees, the parked cars, the building designs... etc... So what I thought would be cool, is during the segment of the video where I'm talking about 'how the city influenced the game' to include some pics of actual San Francisco and try to match up details from the game to the real life city...

    And then I thought "Well... Could I actually find where these two pics were taken?" because it stands to reason what wherever these were taken, it's likely other research photos were also taken? Unfortunately, neither Retro or any other source names what streets these are.... Making this quite a difficult task for a bloke from Yorkshire to find... But wait... look at the 2nd pic... that's... quite a tower behind Yuji Naka? There's only so many places where that photo could be taken?

    And I think I found it!



    I'm about 90% sure this is the spot where the photo was taken, unfortunately street view doesn't match this perfectly... This particular image of the street is from 2019. But I'm pretty sure this is the location... Here's different pic from another year/angle.


    This is from 2009. I'm quite sure that in this pic, we are 'stood' where Sonic Team where in the photo. Let's compare all 3 images...

    To save you scrolling here it is again...

    The tower matches up.
    The tree on the right matches up (whilst blurry, even the branches match).
    Behind the tree and next to the tower, there's another large black building in the distance, matches in all pics.
    Look at the building on the left... it also matches.
    Just prior to the 'left' building, you can see some greenery. In every picture you can see there are flowers outside the building just before it
    Just after the 'left' building, you can make out a 'red' roof structure, it's there on the street view pic.
    On the right, behind the tree, there's a red building, again, red building on the street view.
    On the road, you can see the yellow road markings, whilst faded, they're the same 'double yellow' markings.

    But another big clue, is the pose. They're in the middle of the street, with their backs to the tower... not very safe right? Well... Look at what's beyond it....


    A short distance away, the road ends, as for that side street?


    It's barely larger than an alley way and this too is also a dead end. Whilst it's not impossible something could 'drive' up behind them, it's unlikely to be something quick and potentially dangerous. They're facing the main artery for vehicles into this area, meaning the disruption to the road users is low and they're also relatively safe in the middle of the road for that picture.

    So... Where is it? Well... you're gonna think I'm joking when I tell you the address...

    1234 Montgomery Street, San Francisco.

    I've not yet started seriously looking for the other (better) quality photo, but if anyone else wants to give it a bash feel free.
    Last edited: Jun 19, 2022
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  2. MrMechanic


    Sorry for the double post, but if anyone already read and checked the topic, figured you'd be interested

    I found the other street, it's right around the corner!



    311 Union Street. Everything matches.

    What I love is that if you check the most recent date, the trees on the left are now the size of those on the right!
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  3. arc


    Dang. Based and redpilled post, OP. Looking at these photos, it’s almost embarrassing how directly the team used San Fran as a base for City Escape’s aesthetic.
  4. MrMechanic


    lol well... They had just moved to the city, and from the research I've done, it was like moving to another world for the majority of them, it's not surprising it had a huge influence on them.

    But I'm now quite certain that this area of the city must have been the inspiration for City Escape. I've found a few other bits of evidence directly from the game and this location that strongly suggests this area is what they used for their research.
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  5. kitsunebi


    The "tower" is the Transamerica Pyramid and would have been the tallest building in San Francisco at the time. It's apparently a popular tourist site, but, having never been to California, let alone SF, I only recognized it from my fondness for the old Sierra adventure game, Manhunter: San Francisco, where it plays a prominent role.
  6. Shoemanbundy


    Chicago, Illinois
    selling shoes
    To be fair, I wouldn't say it's that very specific area that influenced City Escape. Uphill streets like that are a trademark of SF, you can find them all over the place, and they're a pain to traverse :) I definitely can see how it influenced Sonic Team since you don't have areas quite like that in Tokyo.

    Not at all? It's been a known fact for over 20 years they based the level on SF. if this is red pilled and embarrassing, then so is Sonic Adventure's direct references to Mount Picchu and Tical. Imitation is the greatest form of flattery, after all!
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  7. Blastfrog


    See ya starside. Member
    I can't help you with research, but I wish you the best in your efforts. More documentation is always a good thing.

    The unironic use of these terms makes me question you on multiple levels.
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  8. JansenM


    Devon, UK
    Generations mods
    This may be of some tangential interest (although I'm guessing anyone who knows San Fran has probably noticed this?) -

    The bridge in Radical Highway, usually identified as the Golden Gate, actually has its structure based on the Oakland Bay Bridge, only recoloured red for that recognisable look.

    They're both from the same city, so perhaps they combined multiple influences! Thought it might be a noteworthy tidbit. Loved the SA1 video, by the way!
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  9. Neat! I knew City Escape was very clearly based off of San Francisco ( did everyone, I assume?), but it's cool to see the locations where the photos were taken! Those are definitely the right spots on comparing the street view to the photos. It looks like that area's about 3 miles from Sega of America's HQ at 699 8th St, which Google tells me they have sold to Zynga who has since recently sold it to Beacon Capital Partners.
  10. SystemsReady


    I Have No Idea What I'm Doing At Any Given Moment Member
    The Twin Cities
    trying to not fall asleep while writing Selenium tests
    It's one thing to know that City Escape and environs are based on San Francisco...but IMO it is an entirely different beast for me to look at that development photo and street view photos and understand that's based on that. Because oh my god, it looks super close to the general vibe that level had, down to the lighting and how the street and buildings look at that time of day, and that is cool as hell.
  11. Snub-n0zeMunkey


    yo what up Member
    Don't really see how it would be embarrassing? Most fictional environments draw inspiration from some real world equivalent. Emerald Coast was based on Quintana Roo in Mexico and obviously there's a lot of South American influences in Adventure 1 like @Shoemanbundy mentioned earlier.

    There's Sunset Heights in Forces which is heavily based on Amsterdam. Also like, the entirety of Unleashed is based off of real world locations lol you could probably make a whole new thread about real world influences in these games

    And I think some environments in Breath of the Wild were based off of Kyoto since that's where Nintendo HQ is. More or less the same as SA2 development taking inspiration from the city where they were based.
    Last edited: Jun 21, 2022
  12. MrMechanic


    So it's been... Oh dear several months but... I kinda did it.

    So the fun version of this post begins at 19:30 in that video and... Please give it a watch, I put a lot of effort into my visuals.

    Anyway, after I made the OP. I wondered if there were any other lesser known locations that I could find from the game, since SA1 and 2 uses photographs as textures, it stood to reason that there were real life pictures in the games files that we could try and match up. This could then be further narrowed down by the locations Sonic Team visited that we already know about.

    So this image shows the locations of the two photos, and the street that they're on, Union Street.

    Since the two pictures were so close by, it stood to reason that Sonic Team likely stayed in the North East section of the city, or followed Union Street to the East, since that's where most of the larger city parks are, and as we all know, City Escape has a open park segment in it.

    So I went back to the game and looked for clues, and found a very big one.


    These two signs are all over the stage, and they're all the same sign. And this now narrows down the location, to just a few city blocks.

    The parking permit system for Zones A C and K can be seen in that original map. But for all 3 to be valid, we're looking for a location in the bottom left section of Zone A.... and I found it.


    So this was the first location, and this is where there some evidence that this was the specific location used. Because in previous years, there was another version of the sign there that was more in line with what you see in the game... However there is a 2nd possible location located here.

    I couldn't find any information about Street Cleaning in this area, but it's the only other street I could find on ground evidence for parking permits. The name of this Street? "Green Street" and it's on a hill... Yes the real life Green Hill Zone.

    A few other fun things, where these signs are is very close to route 101, which passes through all these streets, the significance of that? It's one of the streets used in the Karting Stages.

    I was also able to find a few possible candidates for the light fittings used in the park segment of City escape, and even the mini Tunnel in City Escape and Mission Street might actually be based on the Stockton Street Tunnel. Got members of the r/SanFrancisco to thank for that one. Whilst it's been long thought it was just based on the tunnel leading to the Golden Gate Bridge, the City Escape and Mission Street placement falls more in line with Stockton according to the residents there, at least it reminded them of it more than the ones on Route 101.

    Oh one more, a few hours ago, SpeepsHighway messaged me with this. I did actually look at this location but didn't spot it at the time, that's the view, of the background from city escape, aka, the skybox. Sonic Team seems to have edited it a little and with changes over time, it's why I didn't recognise it, but apparently it's the only location in the city where it's possible to get the view seen in the game.
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    I had a brother who worked in Silicon Valley and lived in the Hayward area back in 2001, and we spent 2 weeks in SF visiting him that same July.

    I actually brought my Dreamcast and SA2 with me while rushing to try and finish the 180 emblem challenge as fast as I could (back then, we didn't even know what the reward was. No one could data-mine it very easily, so everyone was rushing to do it first.)

    Because of this, I have distinctive memories of playing the game and then traveling around the city on tourist trips with my folks and looking out for all the signs and details that matched. It wasn't just a partial inspirations. Several elements like the designs of street signs, sandbags, and other details matched 2000s era SF perfectly, sonic and game level elements aside. It was a very impressive recreation for a game released at that point (realistic cityscapes based on real cities in games with that level of detail were NOT common back then. GTA 3 was not even out yet, for example).

    All the stuff you're pointing out was stuff I observed up close in person. Especially in City Escape and Radical Highway.

    And of course, driving by the SF SEGA HQ a few times was also pretty cool.
    Last edited: Mar 11, 2023