What was the first Sonic Rom Hack?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by sametdze, Sep 27, 2021.

  1. sametdze

    sametdze

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    Possibly a stupid question, but i'll take my shot at it.

    I always kind of wondered to myself, what was the first sonic rom hack? There are billions and millions, but who started it all?

    I did a quick google search and it only came up with Sonic 1 BOOMED, which was clearly not the first sonic rom hack (Sonic Boom was released in 2014, and animemaster222 has a tutorial series from 2012)

    I then thought that Sonic 2 was the first rom hack (because Cybershell once said "You see, this is just proof that Sonic 2 was built of off Sonic 1" (extra note, he says it in his Sonic 2 bonus video)) but I'm not too sure if Sonic 2 would count. If anyone knows, please tell me, I am very interested in the history of Sonic Rom hacks. :)
     
  2. Blue Spikeball

    Blue Spikeball

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  3. Overlord

    Overlord

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    I was going to make the Sonic 2 joke but someone else beat me to it =P

    S1 Beta Hoax is likely the "official" choice, but you could make arguments for the pirate versions of Sonic games that removed Sega copyright text etc for the games in the early 90s.
     
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  4. This is one of those things that are hard to pinpoint, since anyone can grab an hex editor and change a few bytes to affect something minor in a game (such as the already mentioned copyright text). Different people will have different opinions on how substantial the changes need to be in order to constitute a proper hack.
     
  5. saxman

    saxman

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    It depends on what qualifies. I would say Cyan's S1 beta hoax is the first sort of "big" hack of sorts. That was released sometime in 1999... sorry, I'm not sure exactly when.

    My Sonic 2 Hacking Guide existed prior (late 1998), and I had many example hacks I put out early in it's life. However, I don't know when they were released either! Here's a snapshot from 2000 showing the example hacks I'm talking about: Sonic 2 Binary Downloads (archive.org)

    If we're talking first full-on level hack (objects and floor layout both changed entirely for a single act), that would go to SSNTails who did a Hidden Palace Zone hack against the S2 beta ROM. I did my own level hack against Emerald Hill Zone in the final ROM some time after that.
     
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  6. JoseTB

    JoseTB

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    I seem to recall that savestate hacking predated the first few "big" ROM hacks, though I'm not 100% positive it predated Cyan's S1 beta hoax. IIRC mostly palette hacks, some object layouts. They weren't "big", but I'd count those as well if you are looking for where it all started.
     
  7. saxman

    saxman

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    You got me curious, so I did some digging and found some information...

    TomSonic created the Hidden Palace Zone savestates in mid 1998. I wasn't able to get the exact day. In fact, I couldn't locate a working version of his website. If anyone can find a URL, that'd be helpful. I think it was called "Tom's Sonic Hacking Station". Maybe. But anyway, those were the first savestate hacks, and the ones that inspired me to try my hand at hacking.

    Me and SSNTails used to send letters via snail-mail back in the day. It was either November or December of 1998 that I sent him a floppy disk containing some very basic hacks I did of Sonic 2, along with a piece of paper where I jotted down four things that could be changed -- basically the *very* first version of the Sonic 2 Hacking Guide, before the text document version was uploaded. I recall one of those hacks messing up the Sega logo somehow. Another messed up either tile mappings, or collision in EHZ. I don't remember exactly what the others were. I suppose under the loosest of definitions, those could be considered the first Sonic ROM hacks, even though they were only sent to him (as far as I can remember).

    Cyan's hoax hack was released in May of 1999. I tried to narrow it down to the exact day, but I haven't been successful so far. He apparently released it to Simon Wai's page initially, though I couldn't find an early-enough version to get a date. I think TomSonic's page might have had this date... but like I said above...

    Most of those savestate hacks you mention were silly mid-loading level swaps that resulted in incorrect palettes being used for the levels being swapped in. Nothing technically impressive about them, though they were quite popular. I can't say for certain if those showed up before or after Cyan's hoax ROM.

    I was trying to find copies of SSNTails' Hidden Palace hack, as well as my Emerald Hill hack (which I named "Coastal Valley"). I am certain they both exist somewhere, but I don't currently have them on hand that I can find. Anyway, if I had to guess, I'd say they were done in 2000? Maybe?
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2021
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  8. Blue Spikeball

    Blue Spikeball

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    Here's the SSRG incarnation of his site:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20000902065510/http://ssrg.emulationzone.org/tomhack/

    It even has a page with history of Sonic hacking:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20001022042606/http://ssrg.emulationzone.org/tomhack/HISTORY.HTM

    I remember following that site back then, it was one of my introductions to savestate hacking and Sonic 2 Beta.
     
  9. saxman

    saxman

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    Found Coastal Valley, along with some other levels I worked on:
    http://web.archive.org/web/20010602045616/http://www.sonichacking.org/prjevnts/levels.htm

    Nov 11, 2000 was the date for the *finished* version. I know I took a while to complete it, so the first version of it was probably earlier that year. Though looking through some of these others, it appears "Technical Tactics" (Sonic 1 special stage) was released on Dec 4, 1999. Though since this one was done with Cyan's tool, I imagine there was probably a Sonic 1 special stage created before mine. So special stage hacks really pre-date any normal level hacks.
     
  10. LocalH

    LocalH

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    Your guide inspired me to make a similar one for Wai S2, which I later merged with Ayla's guide.

    I also remember using KGen and somehow getting Wai S2 debug via button mashing, before we knew enough to extract the actual code. I'd made a savestate and put up a small page about it. Seems like the Wayback Machine does have some archives of it, including the aforementioned guide. Here it is in all it's late 90's-early 2000's splendor. Some images seem to be broken here and there, it may look better in future snapshots? Haven't really explored it much before posting this.
     
  11. saxman

    saxman

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    I remember this site! I think I remember that savestate too. At some point, Stealth figured out the actual flag in RAM to enable for debug... but wouldn't tell anyone how he did it >_< But I'll chalk it up to him being a teenager.

    Following your trail, I see this in your Sonic 2 Beta ROM Hacking Guide:

    So by October 12, 1999, less than a year after the Simon Wai ROM was discovered, we knew the level select button sequence without necessarily knowing what it was for. Not too far removed from the debug cheat of course.

    Reminds me of a time when I was younger (and probably not ROM hacking yet) that I button mashed on the Sonic 2 title screen in search for some hidden code that might be there. I actually did get the ring chime one time. Couldn't figure out how I did it or what the effect was. I began to believe it was just me hearing things, until years later when I learned of the Tails/Miles switch code (U, D, D, D, U). But I digress...

    One reason I've taken some interest in this topic is I've actually been itching to start a series of videos on the history of our scene for a while now. I still need a decent camera of some kind. But I still have so much of the old stuff in the back of my mind, and I think it's been such a long time now (hard to believe... over two decades) that I feel there may actually be a great deal of interest in learning about it all, particularly for those who came along years later. Who was who, who did what, what happened when, etc. I think it'd be fun. And it amazes me to read about what information has sort of gotten lost with time. Some of it is either poorly documented, or not collected in any kind of logical fashion. For instance, the original poster asked about the first ROM hack... that's somewhat of a loaded question, and I think by tying a few events together in a logical way on a timeline of sorts, it can serve as a basis to the answer. But I don't know... does anyone else like the idea?
     
  12. I would love to watch a comprehensive history of the Sonic hacking scene.
     
  13. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    Jack shit.
    I'd love to relive some moments.
     
  14. Metalwario64

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    Yeah, I missed out on a ton of it, so it would be really cool to see what was going on before I joined this site.
     
  15. LocalH

    LocalH

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    I'm down to contribute with what I can remember. Preservation of community history is to me as important as preservation of media. We have a similar issue in the Guitar Hero community where a lot of the early history is gone for whatever reason.

    If you would want to either start or have someone else start a small Discord server for discussion of the topic, I'm down. I do have some experience with running a Discord (I have two in the Guitar Hero scene, one has about 500 members and one is a little more close-knit), not to mention having the experience of modding/adminning S2B/SClassic/SWS2B.
     
  16. Man back in the day I used to know a lot of the scene history and I would happily fill in gaps in peoples' memories on IRC and such. That's in the distant past now, and with me drifting in and out of the community a ton in the past decade I've both developed large gaps in knowledge myself and started losing some of the old information I used to immediately know. Getting David The Lurker involved in some capacity would be great if you do go forward with the idea, he knows the community history dating back to before I came along and he's just a treasure trove of information about the community.