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Sonic Hacking Contest 2020

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

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  1. Spanner


    The Tool Member


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


    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.


    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.


    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.


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

    For any and all retro console hack entries

    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.


    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.


    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.


    CONTEST DEADLINE - End of Monday 21th September
    UPDATES DEADLINE - End of Monday 28th September
    EXPO DEADLINE - End of Monday 5th 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!!


    Forum Thread also available at SSRG.

    Last edited: Sep 23, 2020
  2. Spanner


    The Tool Member
    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


    London, UK
    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


    The Tool Member
    A message from StephenUK:
  5. RetroKoH


    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


    The Tool Member
    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


    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


    Sad to hear about StephenUK.

    I hope he does okay, and Aurora Fields gets on well as new judge.
  9. How do I submit my entry?
  10. Cinossu


    London, UK
    Sonic the Hedgehog Extended Edition
    Psst. Hey. Hey. Guess what.
    The 2020 Sonic Hacking Contest is now live. Go nuts with getting those entries in!
  11. Esrael


    Neto Tech Member
    Brazil, São Paulo, Guarulhos
    Neto Assembler Editor / Sonic 2 Delta / Neto MD-DOS
    I can't add a comment to my entry.
    When I try to add a comment, It just pop ups a window with an exclamation mark without any instruction which anything is incorrect.

    Best regards:
  12. Spanner


    The Tool Member
    Just a reminder to let us know if you have any issues with the site, so we can look into them. Alternatively, if you have Discord, join our server and report them in the dedicated channel.

    We are getting submissions coming in, just remember to follow the guidelines to ensure you meet the criteria for either the Contest or Expo.

    If they do not meet the Contest criteria, they will be moved to the Expo following the submissions deadline.

    Also check your spam folder for any emails as some providers like to put those in there.

    And a reminder if you are unsure about anything with the Contest or Expo and have any questions, please ask them in this thread.
  13. RadioTails


    I'm pretty sure that section is for other users to leave comments when the entries go live. You don't need to enter anything there. :)
  14. Esrael


    Neto Tech Member
    Brazil, São Paulo, Guarulhos
    Neto Assembler Editor / Sonic 2 Delta / Neto MD-DOS
    I am using Firefox and the errors on page was fixed. And messages is more clear now.
  15. Spanner


    The Tool Member
    Just to state the importance of this:

    Please ensure your entry fits the Quality Control Criteria, or your entry will either be moved to the Expo, or if not fit for the Expo, will be rejected following the exhaustion of all deadlines!

    We have seen a fair amount of decent entries so far. But on the other hand, we have seen a small amount of entries that so far, are very likely to end up in the shredder.

    A reminder of what we are NOT wanting this year:
    ❌ 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)

    The Expo is NOT a free-for-all to show off whatever you've made. If you cannot meet the criteria in time for the deadlines, we advise waiting for next year's Contest and Expo.

    Thank you for your understanding. If you have any questions, please put them in the thread, or contact us on the SHC Discord.
  16. Sewer56


    Tech Member
    United Kingdom
    [Reloaded] Mod Loader
    It's that time of year again!

    No, not for the contest but to tell Twitter that we are good boys and girls. has been blacklisted by the AI filter, as usual and we need to let @TwitterSupport know this needs fixed.

    This happened last year too.
    We are an annual contest showcasing ROM hacks & mods of Sonic the Hedgehog games.
    Please tell that to

  17. Spanner


    The Tool Member
    Okay, the good news is that the Twitter issue has been fixed, so hopefully this stays put for the duration of the contest.

    The bad news is that we are approaching the one week mark before the first Contest deadline, so if you are still planning on entering for judging, read the following:

    If you want to enter to the Contest, you MUST make an entry on the website, and ensure you have a playable build by the end of Sunday 20th September.

    Again, you have one week to refine your entry and fix any issues you find, and this has to be submitted by the end of Sunday 27th September.

    Please use this time well, as we will not accept any updates following this deadline. Test your entry thoroughly and fix any game breaking bugs before the deadlines, as Judges are NOT your beta testers.

    Obviously those not entering the Contest (or those whose entries get rejected for said Contest for not meeting the criteria) will have until the end of Sunday 4th October to submit to the Expo.

    I would like to remind everyone to follow the Quality Control Criteria and Submission Guidelines for entering to either section, this is not a free for all, and Judges ARE going through entries carefully to access their suitability.

    We have had a fair amount of entries so far but unfortunately there have been some submitted who did not read the rules and will end up being rejected. The SHC is all about QUALITY nowadays, not QUANTITY.
  18. Spanner


    The Tool Member
    This is a reminder that you have until the END of THIS SUNDAY (20th September) to submit to this year's Contest.

    We have announced this since March, and the website has been open for submissions since August.

    If you have anything good, that can meet the Quality Control Criteria, you can still submit.

    By the way the upload limit has been increased, so if you have a huge upload for your contest entry (think 1GB+) you can now do it.

    Remember, you do get an updates period which lasts until the end of Sunday 26th September.

    Just ensure you have a fully playable build by the end of this Sunday, to progress to the next stage.

    If you can't meet the Contest deadline, the Expo will still be available for your entries.
    Last edited: Sep 19, 2020
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  19. DeltaWooloo


    Be a boss-man and come to my big and tall man shop Member
    Slight mistake. It's Sunday the 27th September, not 26th. Since this Sunday is the 20th, next Sunday is the 27th as there are seven days in a week, not six.
  20. Cinossu


    London, UK
    Sonic the Hedgehog Extended Edition
    So we had some server issues over the last night and this morning, and due to it being the Contest deadline we're extending it for 24 hours.

    The end of Monday 21st September is the new deadline. (For those looking for an accurate time, due to time zones and such that'll most likely be something like 6-7am BST on Tuesday 22nd, ie. when I wake up.)
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