The Death of Originality

Discussion in 'Engineering & Reverse Engineering' started by Selbi, Jan 16, 2021.

  1. MainMemory


    Kate the Wolf Tech Member
    No. Certain character model mods may work because the format is the same, but generally modding the GC versions requires way too much work and would be extremely limited compared to PC.

    I don't know if this qualifies for what you're looking for, but I've been sharing many updates as I add things to my newest hack on Twitter and other places, and I've even put the source code on GitHub. In fact both of these are fairly common practice in the SA modding scene.
  2. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

    Joe Mama Member
    I really don't think that originality is dying when it comes to Sonic hacking. Sure, Sonic hacking's peak was a while ago. But who cares? People are still hacking and creating really cool things. Sonic Forces Overclocked immediately comes to mind - just look at this! And then look at what our friend Esrael's got cooking with Sonic Delta 40MB. Sonic hacking is still very strong, even if the scene isn't as exciting as it used to be.
    This... isn't true. Super Mario World has long been the quintessential game for ROM hackers, and its scene continues to twist its mechanics in all sorts of different directions. Not to mention that Mario 64 and the NSMB games have extremely active hacking scenes.
  3. JaxTH


    Pudding Deity Oldbie
    Los Angeles
    Jack shit.
    Yes, I've heard of it, but all that means to me is that a disassembly was made for it, which the Sonic community has been doing for more than 10 years.

    I mean, we now have full disassembles of the Sonic CD, Sonic 1, and Sonic 2 remakes as well that have been ported all over the place, located here and here.
  4. MainMemory


    Kate the Wolf Tech Member
    No, a decompilation, which is a completely different level of work compared to a disassembly. Disassembly gives you assembly code, which can be edited and reassembled to run on the same platform as the original. Decompilation gets you C (or other high level languages, depending on the source) code, which can be compiled for any system with the necessary tweaks. We've had SADX PC since 2004, we've had the means to decompile its code since 2010 or so, and yet, nobody's produced a fully working decompilation of Sonic's first major 3D outing yet. What Rubberduckycooly has done is incredible, but it seems to me to be somewhat less complex than an average 3D game.
  5. The Game Collector

    The Game Collector

    Washington State, USA
    Being Ted Narcotic's bass player; working on Kelly Kristjanson's tape archive; collecting video games
    As more of a hack player than a hack maker, there are certain things I would find helpful at least in my personal collecting folders:

    Separating hacks into categories.

    Hacks that keep the levels the same but change a main feature of the game, such as the playable character, the way the game behaves or just color palettes and music. There is plenty of untapped potential for character in Sonic 1, Sonic 2 etc. Maybe someday Antoine and Rotor can be given weapons to allow them to join Sally and Bunnie in the series. Maybe someday Fang will appear with his pop gun to attack. New moves are some of the most creative ways anyone has implemented for character in Sonic hacks. Most recently, I was very impressed with how smooth Rouge the Bat in Sonic 1 was.

    Expansion packs: games like Sonic 2 Long Version (from the Goodset) that keep all the original levels and add more. I think SoniNeko would go here. It has the complete Sonic 1 but breaks the speed cap, changes music and adds 1 level.

    Hacks that have changed the layout of every level. These may or may not include any of the above criteria. These are among the best, most creative hacks. Good level design means not constantly getting hit every time you try to run fast. Sonic 1 Megamix is one that would go here. Both 3.0 and 4.0 definitely meet this criteria.

    Unfinished hacks/demos. These are the hacks that changed a level or two, or a couple zones but left the rest of the game either inaccessible or just continued on with the original level layouts. A lot of these have been abandoned while others may resurface someday.

    After those three categories, breaking them down further into hacks that will work on real hardware is a good idea. Everdrives and Mega SD are awesome and it feels more like a classic Sonic game on an old school TV with the real system.

    Maybe a good idea would be to go through the code of good finished hacks that crash on real hardware and see if there's a way to patch out the bugs.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2021
  6. ProjectFM


    Orono, Maine
    Sonic Next Genesis
    @The Game Collector
    1. I've got you covered.
    2. That last point is easier said than done. Doing so would involve tracking down creators for their source code, which can be an issue if the creator left the community or lost the source. You can try fixing bugs from an assembled ROM with hex editor, but to that I say good luck. While it's nice to be able to play a hack on hardware, that doesn't really impact a hack's quality. That effort would be better spent tracking down lost hacks.
    3. How does your post relate to the topic?

    I strongly agree with this. What attracted me to these games was the excellent gameplay. They're easy to pick up and play, but Sonic's physics-based platforming and the wide open diverging levels allow for a ton of possibilities in how these games are played. The levels and the gameplay compliment each other in a way that creates a fun experience. A lot of hacks will either just introduce new gameplay elements or just introduce new levels. It's pretty rare to find a hack which implements new gameplay elements and designs levels around them, and I think that area has a lot of potential for exploration. Think how differently Knuckles' areas are designed in Sonic 3K when compared to Sonic's. Most character hacks could benefit from new level design in my opinion. I just might consider writing a guide for how you can get your levels to better compliment your gameplay sometime.
    Last edited: Jan 18, 2021
  7. I feel it necessary to chip in on this one. I've been around since around 2004/2005.

    Cast you mind back to those days:
    Sonic 1 Extended Edition
    Sonic 2 SMTP
    Sonic 1 Megamix
    Sonic 1 Pixel Perfect
    Sonic 2 Advanced Edit.

    Those were the days!

    I will say though, how many hacks actually ever got fully completed?

    New, Art, Bosses, Music, Special Stages?

    I can think of perhaps only a small handful of hacks that I would call "complete" in that regard.

    The S Factor: Sonia and Silver, Sonic 2 Advanced Edit 2019?

    All others have fallen by the way side, or gone in another direction to build new game play within the engine, for example Big's Fishing Derby and Sonic Classic Heroes etc.

    For me, it would be great to see all of the talent and skills built over the years to bring a completely new Sonic Hack to the table, with all of tools we have today. The problem we always seem to bump into is time/amount of work needed.

    Many hands make light work, but also conflict on which direction a game should go.

    The alternative is a small dedicated team, but a long and drawn out development.

    At the end of the day, this is a hobby! Nobody is getting paid to make something new.

    I still hope that a fully new Sonic game can come from Taxman and Stealth etc in the near future, it is Sonic's 30th this year after all!
  8. TheInvisibleSun


    It's weird how much Metal Sonic Hyperdrive gets forgotten about/overlooked. (And it won multiple awards!) Regardless of how one might feel about the game, it (and its spiritual sequel, arguably) fulfills most (if not all, save of the lack of special stages) of the criteria some hold for a 'complete' hack, yet it somehow flies under the radar a lot for some reason.

    Either way, I can't say that I'm a huge fan of holding the criteria of 'completeness' of a project to the amount of zones, art, music, etc. that are added/modified; a project is 'complete' based on what it set out to do. There seems to be an underlying thought that the ultimate goal, or gold standard of hacking always amounts to making a 'brand new' classic Sonic game, and anything other than that is an aberration, or 'incomplete' (not saying that you are directly saying this, but I've noticed similar thoughts). I believe that there is something a bit problematic about this perception, and it might be what keeps some people from thinking outside of the box when it comes to Sonic romhacking. While I very much respect (and can enjoy) the large 'overhaul/brand new classic sonic game' projects, I quite like the projects that offer short, but sweet, alternative experiences (Sonic VR comes to mind, but there are a plethora of others). People seem to lean towards wanting to do the former, rather than something different, and I'm not sure why this still is, in the year 2021.

    Personally, I've intentionally strived to create the atypical, despite the lack of technical proficiency and time often holding me back; I find it much more satisfying to work toward something unique, or odd. As mentioned before by others, eventually some hit a point in life where this stuff takes even more of a back seat, and one moves on to focus on the more primary life necessities and goals (especially if said occupation is mentally strenuous). Romhacking has always been a hobby for me, but being beyond the aforementioned '15-25' range in life really does hit different. I have a much better time enjoying this as a hobby, working on things here and there, trying out the odd experiment or two that comes to mind on a free weekend, etc.
  9. Jayextee


    Monochrome Cat Game Guy™ Member
    Atro City
    I think, for a large part of it, chasing originality is a fool's errand. Being cynical for a moment, everything's been done; and if it hasn't, then it's not likely you are going to be the one to do it first. I speak very generally here, not just limited to Sonic hacking. But it's a healthy mindset to be in IMO, because when it's accepted that you're not going to do anything original; from where do you go with that knowledge?

    Answer is, anywhere you damn want; providing it's within your means and capability, of course. Personally a frustration I have with Sonic hacks has always been that chasing of the nebulous concept that is 'originality' in lieu of providing something solid and well-made.

    "Look at me! I have ported every move Sonic has ever performed in a Sonic game to the Sonic 1 engine, now enjoy playing those same fucking six zone of three acts apiece again, only this time with muh originality"

    I tune out. This is possibly a hot take/unpopular opinion (go back ten years on this forum, I used to be infamous for those) but I'd rather take Sonic 1 with an unchanged moveset and physics but with a full complement of new zones with original art and music to match over my straw-example there.

    The thing is, that's a lot of work for little glory to some. Why bother slaving away drawing tiles or writing music to convert to SMPS when you can hack together a moveset with a borrowed-from-The-Spriters'-Resource set of animations, and call it a day? I realise how reductive that is, and my intention isn't to downplay the frankly amazing achievements of some of the programmers and hackers in this community, but merely to provide myself as an example that you always don't have to reinvent the wheel, in fact some of us will be happier with a new coat of paint on the car's chassis.

    tl;dr - innovation is a pipe dream, just make good shit
  10. MainMemory


    Kate the Wolf Tech Member
    Yeah but programming is all I can do.
  11. Jayextee


    Monochrome Cat Game Guy™ Member
    Atro City
    The irony here being that you're one of the few people who can make this shine. I guess I was addressing just the topic in general. Exceptions always exist; I'm a believer that there are no absolute-gospel rules in any field of creatitvity; and I did say I wasn't downplaying the achievements of hackers/programmers who don't really do the 'art' thing. You're good. ;)
  12. Selbi


    The Euphonic Mess Member
    Northern Germany
    Sonic ERaZor
    I must say, with everything mentioned so far in this thread, the one thing that seems to be the most apparent explanation has to be the change of demographic. It didn't really strike me before, but describing the prime age range as 15-25 puts me right in there. The stereotype goes like "ever since I got older and started a job I don't have time for my old hobbies anymore," and I always thought that was kinda wack as an excuse. But now that I've stepped into those shoes myself, I can say that picking what to do to wind down after working a 9/5 job (in software engineering, to make matters worse) is an easy choice.

    This is a really great analogy and I think it describes the situation well. All that wind that made this ship move at 50 knots has kinda disappeared and nobody really knows what to do about it. Which is a great shame, but perhaps an inevietable fate we have to face.

    We are getting older after all.
  13. Thanks! I'm not the best writer, but I love analogies and allegories, and this one just kinda came to me...
    OMG you're right; Metal Sonic Hyperdrive is my favorite (even after megamix, shame on me for forgetting).
    Exactly. My sonic 1 hack I was using to test the waters was a simple level mod. No new art, no new moves, just using SonLVL to move chunks and objects around. And it was the most fun I had in years.

    But then I learned that simple level hacks are apparently looked down upon, so I came up with a 4th act gimmick that would be a transitional stage between the two zones after you beat robotnik (start in green hill, end in marble) but after quickly winding up out of my depth, I ended up corrupting acts 2 and 3 of green hill, losing all my work and being stuck with a rom on my everdrive with only green hill 1 on it. That annihilated my motivation, and after getting a job, I moved on. I may try again someday (or put the stage on youtube), but I'm working on other things now, so only time will tell.

    But yes, I fully understand what you mean when you say some fans are just happy to have new levels to romp through. That was literally the concept of my hack, and I was happy with it. :)
  14. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    this is what KLF is about Wiki Sysop
    In a former life when I was running a Mario fan game forum, you'd occasionally see a "fangames are dead" topic.

    This was ten years ago. That community still exists. So I guess it wasn't.

    No the only difference I've observed in terms of Sonic hacks is that more people are targeting Sonic Mania. Too bad we peaked so soon.
  15. This topic isn't called "the death of sonic fangames" is it? It's called "the death of originality". The issue isn't that people aren't making fangames anymore (or mods, or hacks, or literally any fan project under the sun, but I digress), the real issue we brought up is that everything is so copy-paste now that the life of the scene at large is draining away Lost World style.

    Like what was mentioned above, it feels like any sonic fan project has to check off enough boxes on a sort of checklist for it to even be considered valid anymore. Like, no one here can tell me with a straight face that my level pack would've made it to Hacking Contest this year. 10 years ago maybe, but now the bar has been set so high and there are so many rules as to what a fan project has to be in the community's eyes now, that everything feels so incredibly stale now. Like Selbi said, gotta have a spin dash, gotta rework every stage, gotta have multiple characters...

    So I would say no- the modding scene isn't dead... but just like getting roboticized and becoming a monotonous drone, the scene has become completely soulless, which imo, is a fate worse than death.
  16. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    Back on track Member
    Bilbao, Spain
    Upgrading my own life to pro edition
    I'll repeat something I said before at least partially, something which is my case for the most part:

    It means nothing if you have tons of objectively great creative ideas if you don't have the time or skills to put them into action because people will say "boo, don't ask others to do your stuff", and tell me how much people outside of here or similar places will you find in your life that want to make Sonic fan projects with you. You could try by telling everyone your amazing ideas, but it would mean either you spoil the fun for everyone, or everyone can spoil the fun for you by using your ideas without you, probably the wrong way because you're not in the actual team.

    Your only option is then to be skilled enough in many departments, or do something that simply isn't enough. Even if skilled enough, not even the people with the most free time will excel at enough cathegories to put out a project fast enough, and being alone is discouraging itself, much more if you need to spend a lot of time and effort on a single project.

    Now add the fact that, if you're really that creative, ideas bubble in your head everytime. The people that could show you creativity with Sonic engine in a way still feels like Sonic will have tons of ideas in their minds, or a single idea that grows up in scope rapidly. Going non-creative makes everything easier, as you can aim for a tried and true formula since the beginning.

    This is valid for both ROM hacks and fangames, but fangames at least have modern tech on their side to expand the ideas. I don't think my most interesting concepts would fit inside a romhack, and I'll probably never know if I'm right since check-again-paragraph-one.

    -tl;dr- There's potential, but, is there a good enough chance to make it real?
  17. TheInvisibleSun


    Your level pack might've made it to Hacking Contest this year; D.A. Garden entered a hack that was literally a layout/palette project, and picked up a trophy. That is not to say that the project wasn't excellent, or worthy of said trophy, but rather that it did not need to have all of the unnecessary bells/whistles/flash to succeed. It just needed to be done well, and he did just that. I don't precisely know what your hack consisted of, but it is quite unfortunate that this perception kept you from entering at all. Good design and hard work is ageless (which is probably why so many of us consistently come back to modifying this nearly 30-year-old game!), regardless of what degree of simplicity or complexity with which it is executed.
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  18. Should I release the GHZ 1 I still have? It's still on my everdrive, I can put the demo out if anyone cares enough lol. I'm really considering making a YouTube video too, just for old time's sake
  19. MainMemory


    Kate the Wolf Tech Member
    I hate when people don't think they're good enough for the hacking contest. Every year, I make it a point to enter absolutely everything I've made since the last contest, no matter how big it is. I don't expect any of them to win anything, and I don't really care. The entire point of the Sonic Hacking Contest is to celebrate the community, to show off what we've done in the past year. And that includes you.

    And I'm sorry, but if you feel that you need to pass some kind of checklist in order to be valid, that's entirely on you. I've never made anything to try to meet anyone's standards but my own. Knuckles' Emerald hunt has no new levels (unless you count Hidden Palace Zone). Of course people complained about it, but I don't care. I know what I wanted the game to be, and a big part of it is exploring familiar levels through a new lens. Certainly, a hack which features entirely new levels designed for the gameplay might be interesting, and on some level might play better than what I made, but that's not what I wanted to make. I might make that other hack someday, if I can get the right people together for it, but that's a discussion for another time.
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  20. TheInvisibleSun


    Where there's a will there's a way. I'd have never thought that certain ideas I had were even possible, let alone that I'll be able to pull them off myself (even with admittedly often janky execution). I am not really a programmer by any stretch, nor do I ever seek to be one professionally (I'm an architectural designer by trade). The hacks I work(ed) on were/are driven by my own curiosity and determination, rather any real foundational skill (for better or worse). Yet, I push forward to gradually figure it out for the sake of realizing the idea, even if I end up having less and less time to do so as I get older. For a lot of ideas, I'll just write them down, copy over a disassembly for it and set them aside for later. Even nowadays working 40+ hrs per week, I never know when I'll suddenly wake up one Saturday morning inspired with the means to accomplish said ideas. It may not matter how long it takes to occur either; I thought of an idea like 6-7 years ago (that I wasn't sure was 'possible' for me to do), and it didn't see the light of day till last year. You never know what could work; not that there aren't limits to these things, but previously perceived limits have been broken or 'worked around' countless times before.

    Why not? Maybe it doesn't need its own thread, but it's good to get feedback from people, even if it's just a video. This community hasn't always been the greatest when it comes to non-abrasive, balanced criticism, but you can glean a lot from what you may hear back, especially when taking it all with a grain of salt.