Sonic Hacking Contest 2020

Discussion in 'Engineering & Reverse Engineering' started by Spanner, Mar 5, 2020.

  1. Spanner

    Spanner

    The Tool Member
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    Sonic Hacking Contest

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    It's that time of the year again...

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    Contest Date

    Last year, we ran the Contest Week around the start of December.
    We found that this has noticeably this resulted in a lower stream turnout.
    Therefore we are returning to hosting the contest at an earlier time this year..

    Historically, the reason the contest dates kept on being moved every year
    was usually a result of site delays, however some other circumstances also
    occurred. In 2018, we moved it due to the release of Sonic Forces.
    In 2019, we delayed it due to Thanksgiving. This year we are returning the contest week to late October.


    Deadlines & Judging

    In 2019 we found a number of Expo entries slipped the net
    and nearly ended up in Contest Week despite failing the
    Quality Control criteria. This was mainly due to negligence of
    some Judges to monitor Expo entries as they were being submitted.


    To compensate, we added an additional week between the Expo
    deadline and the Contest Week, to ensure entries could be filtered out.
    We do not wish to give bad quality entries exposure, particularly
    those we do not feel would bring anything positive to the end user.

    Regarding game compatibility. As an improvement to previous years,
    a spreadsheet has been made to track which games individual Judges
    can play. This will allow us to ensure that we can better tackle niche
    games (should any be submitted), better than in prior contests.


    The Trophy System

    We found that the new trophy system introduced in 2019 has worked pretty well.
    Some categories did not simply have a good turnout to take full advantage of them.

    Overall we were happy with the outcome. We should continue using this format,
    but tighten up some minor loose ends that were discovered.

    Entries will be graded top 3 overall in the respective common submission formats/categories:
    “Retro”, “3D” and “2D PC”. Various “general” categories, subject to different interpretation based
    on submission format such as “best visually appealing” or “best sounding”
    will also be split in the following manner.

    Last of all, “special” trophies such as “most improved since last year” or “most WTF” (Polygon Jim)
    will also be split this year. Also, we have reinstated a few trophies that were removed last year.

    We understand that there is a possibility that some of the trophies under the format may end up
    “unnecessary” in the long run with no real “winners”, due to what may or may not be submitted.
    For such trophies, the “Null Vote Rule” will be applied, with “Null Vote” being a voting option if no
    entry either satisfies the trophy description or does not meet a given quality standard in the given
    trophy’s department. If “Null Vote” becomes the top vote for a category, no trophy is awarded.

    Uploads and Patches


    A recurring issue every contest year is that we very often receive requests from
    users to make available an archive of all of the entries for a given contest.

    While at the time of a contest, it is possible, with the passage of time this becomes
    very difficult, as many entries are often hosted off-site.

    Well, in good news. According to SeanieB, (who hosts the SHC server), the bandwidth
    on the current server is now more than enough to allow all entries to be directly uploaded.
    As such, there is no need for an extra server to be configured for uploads,
    which had been the plan for previous contests but time constraints did not permit this to be set up.

    As a direct result, we expect SHC2020 to have no off-site links for entries.
    Although it wouldn’t stop mod loaders, this will also address a potential exploitable issue with off-site links being updated after the contest deadlines.


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    The Judges

    This year's judge set consists of AURORA☆FIELDS, Cinossu, CodenameGamma, Dario FF, Melpontro,
    OrdosAlpha, Sewer56, SSF1991 (Donnie), Spanner and Twilightzoney.

    Judges & Contest Submissions

    Judges will be allowed to submit their own hacks, however they will not be allowed to judge
    their own entries
    (conflict of interest). This includes submissions that they have been involved
    with, such as team submissions.

    After the main contest finishes, the Judges will provide more detailed evaluations of the entries to
    give their opinion, thoughts, and advice they feel is deserved.

    Disclaimers

    This judge list is not final and additional judges may be recruited to replace former judges who have
    left the contest due to retiring or other reasons. Do not ask to be a judge as that just rules you out.
    If we think you're up to the job, we'll talk to you.

    Not all judges can judge all games as they may not have have the capability to do so.
    For example: 360/PS3 based Sonic hacks requiring either powerful PC for emulation or hacked console.
    If you submit a non 8/16-bit entry please have this in mind. The majority of judges however are capable
    of playing PC-based game entries.

    Please note that the final decisions are subject to the Judging Team and may not reflect your own opinion.
    If one hack wins a whole load of trophies that is what the judges thought should win. Judges may change
    at any time due to unavailability or other reasons.

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    Like last year, we have three main categories that entries can fall under:

    Retro
    For any and all retro console hack entries

    3D
    For all entries based on the 3D Sonic games outright

    2D PC
    For those entries based on the 2D ports, rereleases, and remasters on PC, as well as Mania.

    All three of these categories will have a Top 3 result and individual trophies of
    the following:


    Best Visual
    Best Audio
    Best Technical
    Best Level Design
    Best Voted by Media Panel
    Most Entertaining
    Most WTF (Polygon Jim)
    Best Team Entry
    Best Multiplayer Entry
    Best Character Implementation
    Best Boss Design
    Best Fresh Concept Using Existing Concepts As A Backbone
    Most Potential
    Most Improved Since Last Year


    Of course we also have the overall Top 3 that can again be attributed to any
    entry from any category.

    And what of community trophies, you ask? Apart
    from the obvious exception of "Best Voted by Media Panel", the community get to
    vote on each and all of these categories and trophies as well.

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    Please note that these rules can be changed, added to, or removed from at any time. In such event,
    the contest staff will notify you through this thread and send a global announcement using any form
    of Social Media we have at our disposal. We recommend checking back often to ensure nothing has changed.

    Everything described in this section applies to both the Contest and the Expo unless otherwise specified.

    Entry Eligibility

    1. Your entry must be based on an existing ROM or game tied to the
    Sonic The Hedgehog franchise.
    Homebrew submissions are not accepted.

    ❌ Hack of Super Mario 64 converting it into a Sonic game.
    ❌ Custom game engine with imported Sonic game assets.
    ✅ Hack of a Sonic game turning it into a non-Sonic game.
    ✅ Hack of a Sonic game introducing new features/content to the game.

    Tech demos of console to PC/console conversions are acceptable if based on an existing
    ROM and/or disassembly.

    2. Joke/Meme entries are not allowed in the Contest. Public evaluations clearly shown people
    did not like the abundance of them in previous contests. Once again we will not be allowing them.
    They will however be allowed in the Expo provided Quality Control Criteria are met.

    3. All entries must be playable and cannot prevent judges from playing them if they have been
    uploaded. Judges have the right to look at your incomplete work if you have submitted it. However,
    judges will not allocate trophies based on any incomplete builds, only the last build submitted
    for the completed entry.


    Submission Rules/Guidelines

    1. Each entry by a participant may only be submitted to either the Contest or Expo - you
    cannot have the same entry in both categories. That said, nothing stops you from submitting <x>
    entries to the contest and <y> entries to the expo.


    ❌ “Sonic Hack R” in Contest AND Expo.
    ✅ “Sonic Hack R” in Contest.
    ✅ “Sonic Hack R” in Expo.
    ✅ “Sonic Hack R” in Contest, “Sonic Hack Z” in Expo.

    2. You must include media such as screenshots, videos (YouTube links are fine) and/or music
    (MP3, OGG, and VGM preferred). The staff will not waste time making these for you.


    3. All submissions must be completed through the online site.
    E-mailed or direct-messaged entries will not be accepted.


    4. You must inform what has been changed or explicitly what has not. This can be zone and act
    breakdowns to a full change log, if need be. We need to ensure stock vanilla levels and completely
    untouched gameplay is not being judged and/or played by the general public. Submissions can
    inform of other information such as cheat codes, easter eggs, and other worthwhile information
    that would benefit your entry when being looked at and judged.


    Copyright & Intellectual Property

    1. All work used from external sources/contributors (sprites, VGM conversions, etc)
    must be credited.
    Hacks found with stolen and / or uncredited content will not be tolerated.
    If anyone suspects an entry to have stolen and / or uncredited content either flag the entry or
    contact staff immediately.

    2. If you have used asset collections such as music packs from the Internet, please be wary that
    they are known to contain content illegitimately ripped from other hacks. Please always double
    check your original sources.


    The general course of action for stolen content is that the participant will have all of their entries
    removed from the Sonic Hacking Contest.

    What Not To Do

    1. Save the drama. The contest is not an appropriate place to air your
    grievances with individuals or communities.

    2. Obscure jokes/memes that most people will not understand. If the entry focuses
    on inside jokes with no appeal to anyone other than those in the know, the Contest or Expo
    is not a valid place for it to be shown.

    3. NSFW content accessed through normal means. Easter eggs are okay, provided
    accessible without prior knowledge of existence. Adding the method of access through
    your entry description, will be considered as “accessed through normal means”.

    4. Submit joke entries with sole purpose of just gaming the rules/exploit any loopholes.

    Action may or may not be taken depending on the severity if you infringe on any of the above.
    In the worst possible case the participant may have their entry removed, possibly along with
    any other entries they have submitted.

    Other Considerations

    1. No private entries. If you want to submit to the Contest your entry must be made
    available completely to the Public.

    2. Offensive content without good context is frowned upon and should be
    avoided to prevent issues.

    3. Give a thought about your target audience. Make sure your entry is not
    over-complicated to run or unnecessarily bloated. If a mod can be 200MB and easily
    installed with a mod loader, we don't want to see a 2GB submission that achieves
    the same thing requiring total file replacement.

    4. All entries should be enjoyable for all to play, and not just for masochists
    Please refrain from submitting monotonous, off-putting or insanely difficult entries (such as “Kaizo” hacks) which do nothing but frustrate those who play the entry and cannot enjoy it,
    regardless if it is a judge, streamer or an ordinary Contest Week attendee. Save yourself from embarrassment, as we won't hold back from criticising your entry.

    5. All entries are viewed equal regardless of who submits them.
    Do not be put off with people well known in the community potentially submitting
    that could win trophies - people do not win trophies because of who they are in this
    community, people win because their entry deserved to win.

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    In the Sonic Hacking Contest we take quality control very seriously,
    but try to be inclusive enough to potential contest participants by not setting the
    bar too high.

    For Contest entries, the quality control is very strict, while for the Expo
    entries we are a bit more lenient. As a general rule of thumb, we use the
    following measurements to decide whether an entry is of sufficient quality
    for the Contest.

    Retro & 2D PC Entries

    Pick at least 3 of the following
    A. Palette changes, physics changes and other various minor modifications.
    B. Art changes, layout changes and/or mapping changes.
    C. Engine, sound driver and/or special stage functionality changes.
    D. Music and sound effect modifications.

    3D Entries

    Modification(s) that change features in the playable game itself.

    ❌ Simple texture only hacks.
    ❌ Simple object layout modifications.
    ❌ Model swaps of existing game models. (UNLESS process is technical - there will be no repeat of 2019 this year)
    ✅ Collection of custom models, assets, objects.
    ✅ Custom levels and/or playable stages of acceptable quality.
    ✅ Custom game logic/code written in assembly or existing game logic hooked
    using arbitrary programming language (C/C++/C#/D etc.)

    All Entries

    Alternatively if your entry meets any of the following criteria
    (regardless of entry type), it is sufficient to enter the Contest.


    Pick at least 1 of the following
    A. Complete change to the rules of a Sonic game.
    Example(s): Sonic Bash v2, Boss Rush Hacks, Knuckles Emerald Hunt.

    B. Overhaul into a whole new game.
    Example(s): Sonic Scorched Quest, Sonic Virtual Adventure.

    C. Technical feat.
    Example(s): MarkeyJester's Mode 7 Mega Drive experiments,
    Lantern Engine, Sonic 4 in 1, etc.


    Can’t meet the criteria? Take some time, look at what you are
    missing or need to work on and come back in next year with an even
    better hack than your current one.

    Unsure if your entry meets the standards? Ask a judge or a
    member of the Hacking Contest staff. If it happens to be the case
    you already have submitted your entry, do not be concerned - we
    will tell you if we believe the entry does meet the given standards.

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    CONTEST DEADLINE - End of Sunday 20th September
    UPDATES DEADLINE - End of Sunday 27th September
    EXPO DEADLINE - End of Sunday 4th October
    CONTEST WEEK - Monday 26th October to Sunday 1st November

    Please stay tuned to this thread for information on the usual trailer and when the website opens for submissions. It will be up when it's up.™

    Ready, Set, Procrastinate!!

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    Forum Thread also available at SSRG.

     
    Last edited: Jun 10, 2020
  2. Spanner

    Spanner

    The Tool Member
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    Sonic Hacking Contest
    When most of the world has been shut down, locked down, in quarantine, etc over this coronavirus what can you do to entertain yourselves whilst stuck in your homes?

    Download and play all the public SHC entries from 2013 to 2019 today!

    A commonly asked question is how people can play all those old contest entries from previous years. With these packs, you can do so, at least the public entries - any marked Private or Partial Private won't be in these.

    A few notes from Cinossu:
    There's so much to play from here, in fact there's over 20GB of it! If people are going to be locked down for weeks or months to come, we have something to tide people over with.

    We only have a few missing entries now, other than 2012:
    • 2013 - Sonic Adventure 2 Battle Network by Morph
    • 2014 - SADX Ghost Mod by MainMemory
    • 2014 - Sonic Generations - World Adventure Packs by N69 and TiManXD (not the Spagonia Adventure Pack)

    Let us know if you have them!
     
    Last edited: Mar 29, 2020
  3. Cinossu

    Cinossu

    Administrator
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    Sonic the Hedgehog Extended Edition
    So The Vault got an update today, we have SHC2012's entries now available too.

    Click here, go enjoy!
     
  4. Spanner

    Spanner

    The Tool Member
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    Sonic Hacking Contest
    A message from StephenUK:
     
  5. RetroKoH

    RetroKoH

    Member
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    Project Sonic 8x16
    Gutted to hear about StephenUK. I'll keep him in my thoughts. Never had a lot of interaction with the guy but we had a couple of exchanges in RHS' live streams a while back. Hope his condition improves.
     
  6. Spanner

    Spanner

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    Sonic Hacking Contest
    The Contest Week dates have been revised. And by revised I mean fixing the end date as the Sunday is not October 31st.
     
  7. RadioTails

    RadioTails

    Member
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    Sorry to hear about the serious health conditions StephenUK has been going through. I wish him the best of luck in recovering, and hopefully he is able to be around during the Sonic Hacking Contest 2020.

    Congratulations to Aurora Fields becoming a judge! I'm sure she will make a fine edition to the team. I would recommend she (and maybe the judges as well) take some time to practice reviewing some old entries. I myself did that with the 2018 Entries (see attachment), and I will say it has given me more respect towards the judges. It took quite a few hours to put them together.

    Speaking of evaluations, I need to finish the 2019 entries. I put them on hold as I was sorting my computer setup / getting the Mean Bean Machine DX hack updated. Since I'm still on furlough, I might try and aim to get them done this month.

    On the talk of 2019 Judge Evaluations, there was talk about them being graded, but that never happened. From what I read of the 2019 evaluations, they were done in the 2018 format. I'm just curious if the Grade System is going to be used?
     

    Attached Files:

  8. E-122-Psi

    E-122-Psi

    Member
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    Sad to hear about StephenUK.

    I hope he does okay, and Aurora Fields gets on well as new judge.