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Sonic Spinball prototype origins?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Black Squirrel, Sep 4, 2023.

  1. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Ran into this on ebay:

    [​IMG]
    https://picclick.com/1993-SEGA-Contest-Vintage-Print-Ad-Poster-Sonic-the-175354409461.html
    Fun! Prizes! Contests! Giveaways!

    This is EGM and Hero Illustrated Super Tour '93. Sendai Publishing did a few of these in the mid-90s, but only the 1993 one has Sega stuff in it. It occurred during August, September and October of that year.

    [​IMG]

    Obviously only EGM covered this event, and according to them, everything was awesome, because obviously. Also look, it's Plok.


    Sega brought along Sonic Spinball, Eternal Champions and Jurassic Park - there are two Sega kiosks as the back of this photo, and presumably all three games were playable. But "be the first" is an interesting line - Jurassic Park shipped at the beginning of August, and both it and Eternal Champions were playabable at Summer CES in June. Sonic Spinball though? That was only a video at SCES. So August 1993 might genuinely be the first time the general public could play the game.

    You know what else has an August date?
    [​IMG]
    Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (Mega Drive prototype; 1993-08)

    That prototype of ours - the one that's been sitting around for decades, but whose origins are unknown. The build's too late for Summer CES, but the final iterations are dated mid-September. If this build was compiled before the 13th August, it could have gone on tour, being paraded around US shopping malls for a few months. It's very easy for a cartridge to go missing when you're moving to a new public venue every week, and as the ROM was supposedly dumped in 1993 (before the final game made it to shelves?) the dates line up.

    However, as this is something only EGM cared about, there isn't a massive amount of coverage out there - they're certainly not going to mention cartridges going missing. Can we confirm or deny our Sonic Spinball proto was from here?
     
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  2. Overlord

    Overlord

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    Super intriguing theory, I'd say there's a better chance of that being true than any other explanation. The dates line up and it'd be much easier to get a cart dump from a travelling show like this rather than a magazine - especially as we know Sega were a lot more strict about that after Sonic 2.
     
  3. saxman

    saxman

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    Sega had sued some website or BBS back in the day for hosting and/or sharing ROMs to several games. I distinctly remember Spinball and Jurassic Park being mentioned. So that may further your theory.
     
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  4. GoldS

    GoldS

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    That would be Sega Enterprises Ltd. v. Maphia, which can be read about here (1994 order) and here (1996 order). The 1996 one directly mentions Sonic Spinball and Jurassic Park.
     
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  5. cartridgeculture

    cartridgeculture

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    Spinball's development has been murky for so long, great observation.
     
  6. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Another maybe notable thing: our prototype wasn't covered by the gaming press (or at least, it hasn't been seen in any of the scans we have). There's SCES coverage, and a few official screenshots that Sega presumably distributed around the same time, but the larger previews came after mid-September, and seem to show final (or at least, near-as-makes-no-difference final) builds.

    There is one place you can see it though: Sega Video Magazine (1993-12). At least I think it's the same build - I don't know this prototype as well as I thought I did and our wiki coverage is... incomplete.
     
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  7. Ted909

    Ted909

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    Might be worth checking back over the television features it got in light of this too - I know Bad Influence! used a version with the infamously removed Dreams Come True tune intact at one point in their coverage, though I can't confidently say which it would be from memory.
     
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  8. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    or "Sonic's Pinball" as Andy Crane calls it - sadly this looks like the final game, unless there was a preview at some point.


    Sonic rowing across to get the final emerald in Toxic Caves is almost notable... because it's the only way to get it in the prototype. It's also something I didn't know about until today.
     
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  9. Overlord

    Overlord

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    You didn't know about that? Hah, I thought that was the ONLY way to get it until very recently when someone got it AFTER the other two emeralds in the stage (with the minecart being gone).
     
  10. Rosiero

    Rosiero

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    There's another way to do that?
     
  11. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Hidden Palace is claiming this prototype was released on 6 October 1993 by the group PREMIERE. It would be nice if someone could find an old BBS log or something.

    [​IMG]
    "WINSTON"

    Did you know

    there's an intro buried in the ROM. I don't know if that means it was modified since its original leak, or if it was turned off by default. Either way, if for whatever reason this build is seen in the wild again, it could do with a redump.


    By the way, if you needed more proof for some reason that this game was written in C, all of the messages are in stored in plain text (and yes that does mean there are bonus level messages which you can't see)

    Code (Text):
    1. SORRY, YOU NEED %d MORE EMERALD%s...
    C-style string formatting. %d is an integer, %s is a string (in this case, whether to add "S" for plurals).
     
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  12. saxman

    saxman

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    Funny you should mention that. I literally went over this very thing at the Retro World Expo two weeks ago during my "live hack". That footage will eventually be released once edited and such.

    But anyway, the signs that it's a C program is all over it. In fact, looking at the game's sprite data, it's not formatted the way you would expect for a Genesis game. The sprites are actually full sized bitmaps. So I assume the game reads this data and programmatically breaks it up into the smaller 8x8 tiles used by the VDP. Really makes you wonder what the development environment looked like for this game.


    On topic: I thought we had an August prototype of Spinball, but maybe I'm mistaken. I know Elliottro found the first prototype for us, and that was on August 1st of whatever year (2000? It's on the wiki, I'm just too lazy to look right now).
     
  13. Chimes

    Chimes

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  14. evilhamwizard

    evilhamwizard

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    The original archive file name was located along with the posting descriptor.

    https://datomatic.no-intro.org/index.php?page=show_record&s=32&n=1228

    The archive file was PR-SPINB and was posted at least as far back as 1993-10-06, but the original archive is still lost so we don't know the file timestamp of the ROM itself. It seems this only survived because it was located later on some Chinese rom sites back in 2000.

    This is the same situation that happened with the CENSOR prototype of Sonic 2. Prototypes were released to try and beat the game's release but since they weren't the full, final versions they were quickly discarded as soon as the full games came out. It doesn't help that just a few days later, the mislabeled (a1) 'final' was released as well (with the Sonic 1/2 theme on the title). I posted about it before, but it's a prototype and not a revision to the final. At the time when I found it the file timestamp was 1993-10-13 suggesting that was when it was posted. However, it seems it might've been posted on 1993-10-12, but it could be a margin of error due to time zone differences when the original file was posted. The ROM serial was modified to "GN SK", which is what the SNEAKERs scene group used to do to their games. However, it seems "Crap" and "Independent" are the only known confirmed sources of the ROM, as there's currently no archive from SNEAKERS that has been discovered. But I'm willing to bet there probably was, but again has been lost to time.
     
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  15. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    How confident are we saying the "alt music" version of Spinball was a prototype? Just because I'll sort out the wikis if it genuinely is one - I don't feel qualified to say either way.

    Nobody's come forward with a real cartridge (and it's not an uncommon game - there's like, 800 (US) copies on ebay right now), and it's more than just the music that differs - the level select code doesn't work, for example. "Unfinished" might not be the correct word, but the other US ROM is clearly "more finished", yet isn't marked as a revision like other games usually were.

    (though there are legitimate commercial games in the Mega Drive library that don't append -01 or -02 or whatever to software revisions, so it not being marked as one doesn't necessarily mean it isn't one, especially if the fix was super quick and skipped quality control)

    Though I'll debunk my 2019 self - I think it's very unlikely this was a rental version.



    Anyway another EGM thing regarding the "August" version. They had a build eerily similar to ours:

    [​IMG]
    https://retrocdn.net/index.php?title=File:EGM_US_051.pdf&page=104
    Rexxon has the same palette error as our ROM, but also... they made a map. How do you make a map in 1993? Lots of screenshots. How do you get the off-screen bits? The free movement mode, which our prototype has turned on by default (p.s. has anyone found it in the final game - it would be really handy).

    You can tell EGM were cheating because Sonic can be seen standing in mid-air, but he's also in areas that are impossible to get to in normal play without collecting some of the rings.
     
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  16. evilhamwizard

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    According to an interview with Howard Drossin, the new theme that was the replacement for the DCT title theme was done around an hour. According to Craig Stitt back in 2001, on the last day of production on Spinball at a wrap party, it was discovered that Sega didn't own the rights to the original theme. Howard Drossin made the new theme that same day and by midnight a new gold master ROM was made. The same story told by two people. From the sounds of it, that would've been literally the only change done to the ROM. However, in the (a1) ROM there's more than just the title screen that's different. For instance:

    upload_2023-9-9_19-56-25.png

    LOSER was changed to YOU LOSE for the final ROM. LOSER appears in all builds made previous to the known final builds. There's also plenty of other non code related changes but what that is I'm not sure, but these changes are definitely not something that would've been done at in a few hours.

    According to the final ROM archive, which for 1993 the ROMs have accurate dates, Sonic Spinball's final US ROM was completed on around 1993-09-22 at 06:50:04 UTC +00:00, which converted to PDT/PST I think this is 11:50 PM. Although this could've been the date the ROM was acquired for the archive rather than compiled.
     
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  17. saxman

    saxman

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    I have the answer to this. So in this version of Spinball, the two cheats are *slightly* different.

    Level select: D A D B D C U A B U A C U B C
    Ending credits: U C U B U A D C B D C A D B A

    Basically, you lead with the D-Pad buttons instead of the trigger buttons.
     
  18. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    Ding - Sonic the Hedgehog Spinball (alternate music prototype). Make it better.

    Or indeed any Sonic Spinball page, since apparently lots of stuff was known, but none of it was written down.
     
    Last edited: Sep 10, 2023
  19. Blue Spikeball

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    That directs to the proto's nonexistent Sega Retro article
     
  20. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    You'd be amazed how often I make that mistake.