Interview with Craig Stitt, the mind behind Sonic 2's Hidden Palac

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Laura, May 14, 2014.

  1. Mercury

    Mercury

    His Name Is Sonic Tech Member
    This is pretty cool. Much thanks to Mr Stitt for his time and the use of his memory, and also to Laura for conducting the interview.

    If he's still reading the thread and doesn't mind another brief question, I've always wondered: What significance does the number sequence 4, 1, 2, 6 have to Sonic or STI? Every other cheat code in Sonic 2 was meaningful (Naka's birthday, the game's release date, etc), so it stands to reason that this one does too. (I'm purposefully not bringing up the fan speculation here, because I don't want to prime or prompt a false memory.)

    Thanks again for sharing with us!
     
  2. Uberham

    Uberham

    King Of Oblivion Member
    If you're still reading, Thanks for Oil Ocean and for however little you did on Comix Zone, which is an underrated classic IMO.

    I loved how explorable Oil Ocean was, and how hard it was to get to some secrets, although how much was you, and how much was SEGA I have no idea.

    Thanks for Spyro too, you kept my brother busy for AGES (pun half intended) with that game :)
     
  3. Rika Chou

    Rika Chou

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    Very interesting to read. :)

    So, if I am reading it right, it sounds like he was given a basic level map and was supposed to make a level out of it, and that it was finished, and he didn't even know it didn't make the cut till a few days before release? Sound like there was more done for the level than what we have in the betas (which was pretty much unchanged after the very early NA beta).

    That and (basically finished?) Dust Hill art are two S2 things I would love to see surface at some point. I can always dream.

    Also neat reading about making the background for the level, it's definitely the best looking BG in S2.
     
  4. Cooljerk

    Cooljerk

    NotEqual Tech, Inc - VR & Game Dev Oldbie
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    [​IMG]

    I've had all these since they were new. they've been in my possession most of my life. I still like them a lot and play the regularly, believe it or not.

    just some adulation.

    IIRC the HPZ in the final Sonic 2 is the same HPZ in the Simon Wai Beta, just with the graphics and objects removed. I'm pretty sure there have been hacks to re-add the data back to Sonic 2, and when you reach HPZ, it appears exactly like it does in the SW Beta.

    The assumption we've had in the Sonic community for years now, unless I'm mistaken, is that HPZ remained in the same haf-finished state we see in the SW Beta until it was cut late in Sonic 2's life due to time constraints.
     
  5. Covarr

    Covarr

    Sentient Cash Register Member
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    Two stageplays, a screenplay, and an album
    Well sure, but that doesn't mean additional work wasn't done--just not implemented.
     
  6. TheKazeblade

    TheKazeblade

    "Our Life is More than a Side-Effect" Member
    Really awesome responses! It's really enlightening.

    Again, we have conflicting reports about the details surrounding MJ leaving Sonic 3. At this point can we go with common sense that it was the allegations that made the deal fall through? The timing just seems too close to be unrelated.
     
  7. Cooljerk

    Cooljerk

    NotEqual Tech, Inc - VR & Game Dev Oldbie
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    the details given seem to correlate with everything we've heard about MJ's involvement, which to me makes it sound like it was a mutual parting of ways. MJ's team wasn't happy with the sound coming out of the Genesis, Sega felt like they dodged a bullet because of the scandal. I wouldn't doubt both stories are true, we're just seeing different vantage points from different places in the timeline.
     
  8. Rika Chou

    Rika Chou

    Tech Member
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    Yeah, that's also what I was thinking. The zone could have a had a lot more done to it that was never added to the game. (Could be the same with Dust Hill, other than level select text there is no trace of it in any of the betas. Maybe the data for the zone never was added to the game)
     
  9. Master Emerald

    Master Emerald

    A green crystal Member
    I think he got lucky HPz was cut.

    I mean. Who was the person who drew Green Hill? :p

    He got a lot more attention to his and his zone this way. It'll always be the Hidden-for-good Palace haha.

    Hell, I'm using his emerald as an avatar.
     
  10. OKei

    OKei

    OKeijiDragon Member
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    Wonderful responses; great interview Laura. This interview was a near-complete contrast to the "Get a Life"-like responses IceKnight got on his original interview. He seems like a swell man, and I'm happy his work on Hidden Palace Zoon finally surfaced after 21 years sitting in the cutting room floor. The MJ / S3 meeting comments were an unexpected surprised too; his recollection also supports Roger Hector's of how the two parties got together in 1993. It also connects to Mike Latham's recollection of MJ in crutches in one Sega meeting.

    Perhaps the most substantial proof that there was nothing contractual between the two parties comes directly from those working at Sega itself. When contacted about the subject, former Sega senior producer and then-head of testing Mike Latham explained that Jackson arrived at SOA with junk bond king Michael Miken for a meeting to pitch a partnership for a children's charity. Latham, who was present at that meeting, said that some ideas – none relating to Sonic – were tossed around but nothing more. “Nothing ever became of it,” Latham told Sega-16. “I remember the meeting for two big reasons. One was Michael Jackson was on crutches, having just had an injury. The other was there was a contest to get a signed CD from him for his favorite game presentation, which was Joe Miller's idea. Having Eternal Champions to present, I was the long shot, but I happened to mention that as part of our character creation we used many different ages of kids, who were in to test other products for feedback on which archetypes they liked. We used that to create the EC characters."

    Also, Spyro The Dragon was a great game.
     
  11. Billy

    Billy

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    The admiration of some Sonic fans online is nothing compared to millions of people playing a level you created. Not to mention spending all that time creating art assets pixel by pixel only for them to not end up in the game probably felt like a big waste of time.
     
  12. E-122-Psi

    E-122-Psi

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    Craig was lucky however since the former ended up leading to the latter, so he got the best of both worlds, creating a huge anomaly surrounded by myth to the fanbase that became so popular they let it become a playable level at last.
     
  13. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    staying alert on the beach Wiki Sysop
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    I forgot he was behind Oil Ocean Zone.

    Did we ever solve the mystery as to what these were for?
    [​IMG]
     
  14. Endri

    Endri

    Officer I don't have my drivers license with me. C Tech Member
    The amount of source materials and interviews we have at info.sonicretro.org suggest little bits of development history about Hidden Palace: it begun as a 2 acts zone; they noticed that they wouldn't have time to finish it and downgraded the zone to just one act; they noticed once again that there would be no time to finish the level and downgraded it to just a section/scene/cutscene that the player would be warped to after the end of the 7th Special Stage.

    None of these were ever implemented. Well, except for that section of a level that we had since the earliest prototype. And that section of a level is so, so early, that it still uses the Sonic 1 monitor's IDs—which were changed for Sonic 2 at some point early in the development—and they never bothered to corrected them; which shows how much they neglect this zone from the get go/never touched this zone ever since.

    At this point, I thought it was estabilished that it was a mix of the two? MJ thought his compositions sounded awful on the Genesis hardware + he was busy with all his court cases and decided to stop working in the project but kept Brad Buxer working on it / SEGA said that they decided to not work with MJ because of the repercussions of the allegations against him, in order to not look bad because MJ said that the Genesis' sound chip is awful.

    Tom Kalinske said the former, and Brad Buxer said the latter. What these two unrelated reports have in common is the fact that MJ left the Sonic 3 project because the Yamaha YM2612 sounds like shit.

    And I completely agree.
     
  15. Master Emerald

    Master Emerald

    A green crystal Member
    Which fans? If HPz really ended up on the game on the first time his name wouldn't really matter much now, that's why I used Green Hill as an example.
     
  16. Laura

    Laura

    Brightened Eyes Member
    Craig has sent me another email! He told me it was his birthday a few days ago but he was still more than happy to chat to me about Sonic. What a great man!

    Here's the email:


    [​IMG]


    Hello again Laura!

    The doctors say I'm 'ahead of the curve' as far as recovery goes, but I'm still glad there is such a thing as pain meds! (was also glad to find out that the meds I'm on don't have any real side effects and are not typically addictive... which is good since, just to see how things really felt, I went about 12 hours without taking anything. NOT doing that again for a while!!

    But back to the making of games...

    Other then what was said while I was in the room with MJ is just what I was told or heard via the grape vine. And I already know that a lot of what I was told and did not see first hand was in fact not true (I.e. the reason HPZ was cut at the last minute was because it did not fit on the cartridge. Why they lied about that to me, I will never know. ... (actually, by that point, everyone was use to at least 30% of finished art never making it into a game for one reason or another. I was luckier then most. At least I managed to work on some games that were completed and shipped. There were also several that I spent over a year on that were never finished for various reasons, although it was rare that the reason the game was canceled was because it wasn't good. Most of the time it was canceled because SEGA/STI, after Mark Cerny left had a REALLY hard time getting a game to completion and out the door. I have friends/coworkers that went 5+ YEARS and never had a game make it to market. So I was very very lucky!


    ... back to Michael (and I'm not making any statement by just using MJ instead of typing his name out... it's just that it literally hurts to type... although you would never know that by how much I type and type and type.

    [Laura Note: I can understand how some may feel I'm pushing Craig to answer questions but he has let me know that he is happy to email me. He's recently had a motorcycle accident which is the reason for why he is having pain, poor Craig].

    I was 'told' the MJ was at SEGA to talk over the possibility of doing music for Sonic 3. With the possibility that he might actually be there to sign a deal. I don't personally know for a fact.

    I do know that he was a big Sonic fan, and personally asked to meet the team who had made Sonic 2, which is why I got to meet him.

    As I have said before, I really did not follow Sonic after Sonic Spinball. The whole mess with Sonic 3, me losing the position as Art Director, everyone but the Sonic 3 team being locked out of the Sonic 3 area, and other things, just left a bad taste in my mouth, and I really didn't have any desire to play the new games. As you have pointed out, I really enjoyed working with Yasuhara. He is very shy, but very very nice and very humble. Naka... I never really got to know him very well because he didn't talk that much. I think partly was because he is also shy (which may be his reason for not liking to speak English. But I did work enough with him, and have enough interaction with him to know he was difficult to work with and had quite a ego. As I said previously, he had quit SEGA while in Japan, and only came back to do Sonic 2 because he was friends with Mark Cerny, and Mark told him he would not really be working for SEGA, as much as he would be working for Mark. That, and a $2,000,000 bonus BEFORE he even started, convinced him to come do Sonic 2. I was not part of the actual negotiations... but I was friends with Mark (he's the one who first hired me) and Mark told me this... so it's from a pretty reliable source. I don't know as many details, but I understand that Naka was given even more to stay and do Sonic 3... but that is more along the lines of 'second hand' information.

    I don't really know why the SEGA/MJ partnership did not happen, or who pulled the plug or who did what. It was all just 'water cooler talk' at the time. But MJ's visit to SEGA was shortly after his interview with Oprah Winfrey, and the deal was broken up shortly after he was accused and went to Court. Although enough time passed before it all went bad, that MJ invited Yasuhara (and several others) to visit him at his home. Unfortunately, I did not get to go to that party!

    I have no idea how much influence MJ may or may not have had on the music for Sonic 3.

    [At this point Craig talks about an individual in STI who was difficult to work with and shifted blame on to others. I'm going to keep this heavily edited, as to his request]

    A funny story along those lines.... The day finally came that - could not dodge the bullets any more. When STI failed to make a Sonic Game for the Saturn, not even - charm could save -, and - 'resigned' from SEGA. (rumor has it that - was 'asked' to resign)

    A short time passed... enough for Insomniac to release Disruptor, and more importantly the first Spyro. Back then E3 was brand new (the big game convention use to be part of CES in Vegas). But the year Spyro was released, E3 was in Atlanta GA. I was at the big Sony party (held outside on top of this huge parking structure) and was standing by the food table. I saw - walking up to me. I knew that - had lost - job at SEGA and was still looking for work (and had been for some time). - walks up and says hello. I ask what -been up to, and - says - taking a break from making games. - then asks me what I have been up to (the artist - thought was lazy and talentless). Well, it just so happens that directly over the food tables was a 40+ foot banner of Spyro. I just pointed up and told - that I had been working on Spyro, and that it had started with one of my game concepts. Maybe I was/am being petty, but it sure felt good.

    Now, let me listen to those music links... [Laura Note: these are the Hidden Palace music vids and Craig let me know he was excited to hear them]

    Sorry to say I can't help out much here. I even went through several other YouTube vids and I can't remember what was originally used in the level. Fact is, what was used back when I first made the level doesn't really mean much as far as what was intended as the FINAL music for the level. It was very common to just put what was available in just as a space holder and to help learn what kind of music works... how much memory is going to be needed etc.

    [Laura Note: Not trying to twist his words, but Craig did say this in a previous email: I'm pretty sure the music used in the actual release of HPZ is not the original music, I'm just hoping that if I hear what was the original music, I'll recognize it (after 20 years!!) ]

    Wish I could help more with the music. I can tell you I listened to a lot of Ozzy Osborn and Metallica while creating the art for Sonic 2! (although I usually listened to movie soundtracks... no lyrics, so it was less distracting and I'd pick out a soundtrack that 'fit' the level, to help find 'the groove' I need to be in when creating art.)

    Once again I have said a LOT of stuff about many different people here. At this point, it's not like they can 'black ball' me or do much. To the best of my knowledge, I'm just telling things that I know are fact, or things the way I perceived them to be (and tried to let you know what was fact, and what was perception).

    I'll leave it up to you to decide what if any of this you would like to use.

    Well... even talkative me seems to have hit the limit of what my hand/arm can deal with.

    Don't hesitate asking if you have any more questions.

    -Craig


    If we want any more questions asked I think this should be the last email for courtesy sake. So if you have any personal questions let me know. I've read one about the Sound Test, I'll send that one in the email.
     
  17. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    staying alert on the beach Wiki Sysop
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    (he could always register an account here at Retro)

    ...

    p.s. might not be the best idea to ask an artist questions about music.
     
  18. E-122-Psi

    E-122-Psi

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    The two questions I can think are largely reliant on intricate memory so I understand if you can't answer them after two decades:

    1. You seem to remember enough about the original layout of HPZ to make some amount of comparison to the new revision used in Taxman's port. I wonder if you know if any of the gimmicks added in that rendition (eg. the hammer obstacles, tubes turned into water chutes, jellyfish badniks) were taken from or inspired by plans for the original or are they all completely new additions.

    2. You mentioned the desert and forest levels were nearly complete. I'm guessing you were referring to these two:

    [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    By any chance do you remember any elements planned for these two, eg. obstacles or gimmicks and what not? Wood Zone would be of particular interest, since so many have tried to replicate it, but have only a small area with a vertical chute and broken conveyor belt to go by.

    As said it's a passive query since I know it's been twenty years and these weren't your creations like HPZ and OOZ, but if you can divulge on any new facts about these lost levels I'm sure it would be of great interest to many fans.
     
  19. I just wanted to say that I wasn't aware of the fact that he worked on Spyro prior to this. I LOVED that game! I still haven't gotten around to playing any of the sequels, did he do any work on them?
     
  20. Ashura96

    Ashura96

    HEROIC VERSE Oldbie

    I believe he is actually referring to the idea of having seven Chaos Emeralds and the ability to transform into Super Sonic.