Rough Timeline of the Sonic Scene's Collaboration with Sega

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Zephyr, Mar 1, 2019.

  1. Zephyr

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    Background: I enjoy making lists and timelines when I'm bored, always have. Organizing information is fun. While watching The D-Pad's "A Brief History of Sonic Mania" video, I got the sudden itch to make a rough timeline for the major events in the "Sonic Scene" that lead to the creation of Sonic Mania. The video had its share of information, but, naturally, the Wiki here is where the real wealth of information lies (and likely where they got the information presented in said video in the first place).

    Unfortunately, the Wiki isn't perfect, nor does it contain every bit of information on everything (yet!). Moreover, there appear to be some discrepancies as to when certain events occurred, both within the Wiki proper, and when compared to other sources on the net (some of which are linked to on the Wiki).

    Here's the timeline as I've got things sorted right now. I tried to strike a balance between comprehensiveness and brevity:


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    Notable Discrepancies:
    1: "Chapter IV" of Ayla's timeline suggests that it was the existence of the Sonic 2 Beta ROM, as distributed by Simon Wai (in January of 1999, according to Andy Wolan's Emulation Zone timeline), and the incomplete Hidden Palace Zone found therein, that motivated the likes of Tom Sonic and Saxman to probe the ROM of the game's final build to see if the level was still around in some form, and in turn lead to the creation of the Sonic 2 Hacking Guide. Tom Sonic's and Saxman's own biographical pages, in contrast, suggest that Tom Sonic released information on how to access Hidden Palace Zone in the game's final build in 1998, prior to the Beta being made public. Either the Beta motivated the search for Hidden Palace, or Hidden Palace was found in the final game's code before the Beta entered the equation.

    2: The transcript of Saxman's Sonic 2 Hacking Guide, as seen in Ayla's timeline, is copyrighted in 1999. However, his own page, as well as that of the Guide in question, describe it as being written in 1998. Was it written in 1998 but copyrighted for 1999?

    3: As mentioned, Andy Wolan's Emulation Zone timeline place's Simon Wai's discovery of the Sonic 2 Beta in January 1999. The Cutting Room Floor, however, places his discovery of the Beta in 1998.

    So: Any Oldbies with a good enough memory (or Hell, the individuals it involves themselves, God willing) around and able to clear things up?

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    Notable Gaps in Information:

    1: More clear details surrounding the whens, whys, and hows of several former members of the Sonic 2 HD project (including Tee Lopes and Tom Fry) joined said project, left said project, and went on to form Pagoda West Games. Perhaps I just haven't sleuthed around enough. As with the discrepencies above, if anyone knows the finer details (or if the actual individuals in question) are able to fill in the blanks, that'd be wonderful.

    2: When the first iteration of the Sonic Worlds engine, which allowed for the creation of Before the Sequel and After the Sequel (in which Falk contributed to the music), was released. If I've read correctly, it was sponsored by the SFGHQ, and largely the work of LakeFeperd and Damizean?

    3: The formation of the "Discovery/Mania Super Team". I imagine it would have been formed in 2015 (if their pitch was in early 2016), but I'd like to avoid assumptions and speculation. Do we know if everyone other than Taxman and Stealth were brought into the fold relatively around the same time?

    ---

    If there are any other discrepancies or bits of misinformation present in the timeline (or important individuals, projects, or events absent, with the aforementioned balance in mind), please feel free to point them out!

    Lastly: is this something (or the start of something) that would be worth having on the Wiki? I feel like trying to balance comprehensiveness and brevity makes it more subjective, and thus close to (if not outright in) the realm of "editorializing", but I imagine this might be useful as a sort of skeleton if someone wanted to greatly expand it.
     
  2. Nexeno

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    A good idea. Good luck!
     
  3. Black Squirrel

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    Yes.
     
  4. HEDGESMFG

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    I can't confirm this, but I seem to recall we did indeed have access to the Hidden Palace empty slot by 1998 or early 99 (in s2 final) due to game genie codes being distributed among the early emulation scene of that era. This should have been before the beta was publicly released. I also could have sworn the name "Project Mettrix" existed in the late 90s as well.

    Best I can recall. I first gained access to the web in early 1998 and was a regular on SFGHQ, creating small projects of my own by the year's end, so I've been watching this all unfold with glee for quite some time.

    Feel free to correct me if I'm wrong though.
     
  5. Xilla

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    Taxman released some early engine tests of Retro Sonic on the SFGHQ forum in early 2001 not long after Yarharhar stopped work on Sonic 2: Robotnik's Revenge (no relation to the ROM hack of the same name).

    First build I believe was Multimedia Fusion based and featured an empty Egg Garden stage to run around in. He released several other small builds when he switched over to C++ before a proper demo release in September 2001, featuring more complete versions of Egg Garden and Dust Hill, which later got tweaked and updated in 2002.

    I **might** have some of those early builds on a hard drive i salvaged from an old PC but I haven't hooked it up to anything in 15 years so might be a no-can-do.

    The Hidden Palace Action Replay code was published in UK Sega magazines such as Sega Power and Mean Machines Sega sometime in 1993 I believe. So the knowledge of the remains being in the final game were at least known back then.
     
  6. Black Squirrel

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    I've got this on my radar of "grand schemes that need to happen at some point" - when cheat codes and the like were discovered/published for the first time. I was going to try and trace the first use of "debug mode" at one point, but I can't do everything.


    Hidden Palace was actively being looked for before the Simon Wai beta turned up. Lest we forget a certain fan game:

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=H5OGPyYK4Iw

    So yes I imagine the remnants of the level had been found at this point, as while I guess you could follow prototype videos (I bet that was fun in the late 90s), the layout is quite accurate (up until a point).



    There is a long tradition, particularly in the UK, of tearing games to pieces. Excluding hobby computers, you could say it started with all the POKE commands for 8-bit home micros (and I guess being able to view the source of commercial programs written in BASIC), and then the attempts to circumvent copy protection on disks. So there was considerable interest Action Replay devices at the time and you can bet people were playing around once Datel had released some clues.

    The difference is not a lot of this is archived online, because 1990s.
     
  7. Xilla

    Xilla

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    I actually just missed out on a job lot of vintage UK Sega mags from 92 and 93 which could have turned up with some interesting goodies like that.

    The Yarharhar Robotnik's Revenge game is something there's now very little trace of online. It was one of the first (if not the first) fangames to try and replicate the classic engine in a programming language rather than use the standard Games Factory platform engine, and was supposedly going to feature all the then-known cut zones from Sonic 2 plus some original ones.

    IIRC the final demo released was of Dust Hill Zone and apart from having no slope physics (indeed, there were no slopes in the zone at all) was miles ahead of everything else out at that time. Bear in mind this was just before Taxman released the first tests of the Retro Sonic engine and before those Clickteam "static engines" became a thing. IIRC Yarharhar stopped working on it because he felt that future career prospects would be affected if he was known as a Sonic fangame developer...
     
  8. doc eggfan

    doc eggfan

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    I might be remembering wrong, but I could have sworn Nemesis' hacking guide of Sonic 2 was the one I was referring to the most at the time, and I think it was Nemesis that cracked the compression routines in the ROM. Was it the case that it wasn't until these compression routines were cracked that the remnants of Hidden Palace in the final ROM were fully explored (previously only accessible by Game Genie / Action Replay codes, or the older betas)? I also think the level editor didn't work until the compression routines were cracked (Kozinski and the self-named 'Nemesis' format, if I recall).

    Not sure if relevant to the timeline.
     
  9. HEDGESMFG

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    I don't think we had any video footage available of Hidden Palace when that fangame was made (and wow, what a throwback. I DO remember playing that before the beta), just screencaps and a ring level layout based on what was inside the final ROM. Most of that demo was assembled based on ring layout, and screencaps, which is why it turned out relatively accurate. However, if we had actual video footage (it'd have to be from Nick Arcade or something, and I don't recall us having that available back then), some details like the glowing orbs and light bridges would have been made a bit different, I'd bet. We only had screencaps of HPZ until the actual beta recovery, and screencaps of wood zone only appeared when Simon Wai finally obtained the prototype but didn't yet release it.

    Hell, I remmeber something on his page saying he'd give you the ROM if you hit a certain number of views on his page (1000 or something). I might have even hit refresh just to try and make this happen (I know I did it on SRB2's page back when it had a similar contest).

    Ancient 90s internet was an interesting time.
     
  10. Oldbie here, registered just to reply to this post after years of lurking.

    From what I remember, Simon Wai made the Sonic 2 Beta ROM "public" on 1st January 1999, I remember it was literally New Year's Day. Not sure exactly how long before that he discovered it, was only days/weeks at most. Before that though, in late 1998, Andre Dirk's SoStH site had screenshots (or rather, photos of a TV screen) of the beta that his friend owned in cart form, so Wood Zone etc was known to the community before the ROM was discovered.

    The Hidden Palace Zone fangame may have been influenced by Andre's screenshots as well as the various magazine shots, I can't really remember...
     
  11. Fred

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    Yeah, IIRC "Level 2" of that game is literally dozens of emulator screenshots of the final HPZ stitched together, and what SSNTails did was match up all the magazine scans available at the time to the final ring positions, which is why the overall layout is so accurate. Nobody predicted the giant-ass emerald though
     
  12. Black Squirrel

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    I was going to say, when this is transferred to the wiki, it should go in the Sonic Mania/Development page.

    But I'm wondering - is much of this story more pertinent to the 2011 Sonic CD port, since that was the first "Sonic scene working for Sega" game project? The Stealth side wouldn't come in until the mobile ports of Sonic 1 and 2.



    I guess there's an argument that it should have its own... thing given that we cover the Sonic scene and this is an extension of that, but from a wiki perspective, it's maybe not fair to prioritise one game's overarching story over another.

    And by that I mean, Sonic 3D coverage for example would have to mention the history of Traveller's Tales. Which may be no bad thing, but it's something to consider.
     
  13. Xilla

    Xilla

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    Was wondering when Sonic Crackers first became known when I came across this. This article seems to document the origins of the proto cart in subsequent ROM release in 1996 (the release .txt file originally posted in a newsgroup is included).

    http://www.nintendoplayer.com/unreleased/sonic-crackers/
     
  14. Mentski

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    I was an avid Action Replay hacker back in the day (and had some of the codes I found published in mags of the time), The Pro Action Replay had a pretty comprehensive searching feature, and remember finding the remnants of Hidden Palace for myself when searching for the address that holds the current level and just poking it with different values in order to use it as a level select.

    I probably sent the code off to some magazine or other, too (as I'm sure many others did), but I know I wasn't namechecked when it was published. - Most of the ones I got credited for were for the Streets of Rage games, from what I remember.
     
  15. Hez

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    Not to critizise your work Zephyr, but is that timeline just a stealth and taxman circle jerk? There are TONS more notable events from 1995 onward. I REALLY like the timeline idea though, it'd be nice to fill out even more noteworthy events. Like when DRX released the shit ton of betas.
     
  16. Crappy Blue Luigi

    Crappy Blue Luigi

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    It should be fairly obvious from the specific things included in the timeline that this is only chronicling events related to people who ended up working on Sonic Mania. A more detailed timeline of general Sonic Scene Things would be also cool.
     
  17. Hez

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    It was super obvious, but the name "Sonic Scene Timeline" makes me think more of the scene in general. Maybe change the name if its going to just be a mania timeline.

    I'm still super interested in a timeline of the ACTUAL Sonic Scene from 1994 onward.
     
  18. ricdesi

    ricdesi

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    Hey y'all, just dropping in to say hey!

    Someone on my Discord stumbled onto this thread the other day and I just wanted to say I super appreciate that my video on the lead-up to Sonic Mania was able to get some creative juices flowing! Obviously there were some details left out (either for time or for the sake of keeping things on a more approachable level for people unfamiliar with the scene) or wrong (partly from misattributed credit while doing research, partly because I'm 31 and probably already senile and certain things were misremembered), but I hope the end result was something you guys enjoyed and felt was at least a reasonable and respectful exploration of how certain threads got through the decades of hacking to get to become Sonic Mania.

    There were actually some requests when the video first went up to take a similar look at the overall Sonic hacking scene rather than keep it focused on a single game, and I'm a huge nerd for preservation of gaming history so that jumped out at me as being something worth taking a look at down the road.

    Not sure that I have much to contribute in terms of pulling together wiki-able details from over the ~25 years of hacking (again, mostly just stopping by to say hey and thanks!), but if anyone finds themselves interested in collaborating on some video stuff to help flesh things out (and give folks from the outside a look at just how dense the field really is), feel free to hit me up! Obviously I'm not on here super often, but I've got contact info on the channel if anybody wants to reach out.

    Best of luck galvanizing a hacking timeline (be it Stealth/Tax-focused or otherwise), looking forward to Team Sonic Racing!
     
  19. Black Squirrel

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    Unless you were doing something like "History of Sonic hacking" or "History of Sonic fan games", my worry with that is it'll become full of tat that really doesn't matter.

    It's less of an issue now, but it's still symptomatic in some of the older pages on the wiki, where we have war and peace and who honestly cares and who are half these people.
     
  20. Zephyr

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    I appreciate all of the added clarification thus far! I'll incorporate it and post an updated timeline soon.

    Hey, thanks for popping in! Likewise, thanks for taking the time to make said video in the first place! Was by far the most comprehensive one regarding Mania's background that I'd seen. Also rather enjoyed the Let's Play you gave the game.

    Events related to the people who ended up working on Sonic Mania, yes, but I guess also important developments and watershed moments within the scene that contributed to their eventual work on it, such as the creation of the SFGHQ, SAGE, and the SHC, creating important platforms for the relevant parties to grow and collaborate.

    I suppose my line of thinking was that while a lot of this is indeed pertinent build-up to the 2011 Sonic CD port, that port's existence is itself pertinent to Sonic Mania's eventual existence. Same with the Sonic 1 and 2 ports. Which, on one hand, is arguably a "yeah, no shit" observation, which might raise questions like, "well, then, is it important that we look at everything that culminated in the creation of, say, Sonic Adventure 1 on Sonic Adventure 2's Development Page?", which seems to have "no" as an obvious answer. On the other hand, though, this game (and its direct antecedents) exist in a more distinct and special sort of crossroads compared to other games, so one could argue that they're worth the different treatment.

    For the sake of wiki-ness, I suppose the bits that are only relevant to the CD port could be added to its page, the bits that are only relevant to the 1 and 2 ports could be added to their pages, and only the stuff after the 1 and 2 ports be put on the Mania page?

    Now I'm somewhat second-guessing the stated purpose of the timeline. Perhaps the itch I'm trying to scratch is more of a "Rough Timeline of the Sonic Scene's Collaboration with Sega" kind of deal?

    Agreed. If a mod is able to change the title, perhaps "Rough Timeline of the Sonic Scene's Collaboration with Sega" would be more clear?