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Why was Sonic 3D Blast released so late?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Zephyr, May 8, 2023.

  1. Zephyr

    Zephyr

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    Sonic 3D Blast was released in November of 1996.

    On page 22 of the July 1996 issue of UK gaming magazine Mean Machines, development is said to have been "initiated" in July of 1995.

    This 2017 VentureBeat interview with Jon Burton says that "the original project took eight months to complete", although there is a lack of quotation marks around that sentence in the article, suggesting that it's not verbatim what Burton said (though it seems safe to assume the information at least came from him?).

    Something doesn't quite add up here. An 8-month development window beginning in July of 1995 would end in March of 1996. That's another 8 months prior to the game's release. Why wasn't it released around then? Obviously there would need to be time for QA and the like, but would that really take the same length of time it took to create the game in the first place? Or would QA and bug testing be included in that 8 month window?

    The VentureBeat article does say "the original project", though, so maybe that's referring specifically to the Mega Drive/Genesis version specifically, but excluding the Saturn port.

    In this Lost Levels spotlight from 2004, Sonic X-Treme and 3D Blast producer Mike Wallis notes that by August of 1996 X-Treme lead programmer Chris Coffin had pneumonia, X-Treme had been cancelled, and Wallis began producing the Saturn port of 3D Blast. That would mean there was an entire 5 month window between the ostensible completion of the Mega Drive/Genesis version of 3D Blast, and the initiation of the creation of its Saturn port.

    In this (horrendously formatted) 2006 Game Developer interview, Burton states that 3D Blast was ported in 7 weeks, which is just shy of 2 months. 2 months from August of 1996 would be October of 1996, a month prior to the game's release. That doesn't seem like it was given more than a month or so for QA and the like.

    Is the Mean Machines date incorrect, or at least misleading? We know that Traveller's Tales was given design notes and such by Sonic Team. Maybe July of 1995 is when Sonic Team began working on the project, and Traveller's Tales began working on implementing Sonic Team's plans somewhere around the beginning of 1996? Or is the "eight months to complete" line from VentureBeat more dubious, since it doesn't seem to be directly attributed to Burton?

    Did Sega just have a completed 3D Blast being kept on hold until November, just in case X-Treme fell through? Did QA and bug testing just take a very long time? Is that actually not a very long time and I just don't know how long it takes to make games? Did I overlook something obvious in my research? Discuss!
     
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  2. The Joebro64

    The Joebro64

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    My guess would be that concept work began in 1995, ahead of actual development in 1996. Game development wasn’t nearly as long back in the 16-bit era as it is now; in fact, it was considered unusual if a game was in development for over two years (such as Sonic X-treme) if I’m not mistaken.

    Both Sonic 2 and Sonic 3 underwent actual development (e.g. programming and implementation) in less than a year, so 3D Blast also taking less than a year tracks.
     
  3. HEDGESMFG

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    The Saturn release was also something of an afterthought, so that may have taken up more dev time later in the cycle, but they delayed the Genesis version to better sync the release of both titles.
     
  4. Black Squirrel

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    I wouldn't put much faith in that "July 1995" date - that could easily be "a 3D Sonic game" as opposed to "Sonic 3D". Alternatively they sat on some rough concepts for a while before actually commissioning Traveller's Tales to do the work - that can happen too.

    8 months is reasonable. The ROM header (which you can never fully trust, but should at least give an indication of developer aims) claims September 1996, the wiki is going one step further and saying 1996-09-11 (citation needed? 9/11 is a very... interesting date. Did TT compile the game especially for my birthday??). Subtract 8 months and you get January 1996, what was shown at E3 could pass for something half-finished - it lines up well enough I guess.


    Would you make the final build two months before release date? Yes, absolutely. Someone (maybe Al Nilsen?) suggested you needed about a month to manufacture all the carts, but you're also timing it with Sonic Blast on the Game Gear (which also finished development around September) - if one needed a couple of weeks more development, that time can be factored in without delaying the planned release date.

    (Sonic 2 finished development in late(?) September 1992 and it had a November release date)

    The Saturn version of Sonic 3D also supposedly launched in November 1996 in the US, though given the PAL version was pushed back to February 1997, I'm not sure how sure we are of this (paging @Pirate Dragon). We think there was some overlap between Mega Drive and Saturn development - I can see all three projects being penciled in for November to be released at the same time.


    For the wider question, i.e. "why were they still releasing Mega Drive games in November 1996?", I'm sure I read Tom Kalinske suggest that Sega of America expected 16-bit sales to fall off a cliff when the Saturn and PlayStation launched in 1995, but they didn't. As a result, another round of Mega Drive games were commissioned for the following year.
     
  5. Deathscythe

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    Hmm, I was under the impression Mega Drive was running out of steam by then.
     
  6. JaxTH

    JaxTH

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    Jack shit.
    This topic seems slightly disingenuous since these things always happen?

    Like MegaMan VI came out on the NES in '93 and for North America in '94 for instance. PS4 and Xbox One games are still coming out to this day.

    Anyway, Frogger released on the Genesis in '98.
     
  7. Nik Pi

    Nik Pi

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    ...Cuz it wasn't started in 1995
    Screenshot_20230509_160428_YouTube.jpg
    (at 4:27)
     
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  8. I can't believe that he disliked the Dr Robotnik's Gay Circus song! Oh well, at least it was reused for Sonic 4.
     
  9. Palas

    Palas

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    I'm sure OP is questioning the supposed gaps in development time given the start date, the end date and the information they had, not the fact that it exists as it is for the Mega Drive.
     
  10. Pirate Dragon

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    UK Release dates;

    97.02.13: [SS] Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island
    96.11.28: [GG] Sonic Blast
    96.11.14: [MD] Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island

    I haven't looked deeply into the US Saturn release yet (got up to September 1996 for US Saturn releases), but Pandamonium and some others have done some research into US Saturn release dates for his Youtube channel, from his spreadsheet;

    So November 1996 for US Saturn release looks pretty solid. Genesis version was listed as due out November 8 (but this is possibly the ship date, may not have necessarily hit stores the same day). Review on November 10 confirms it was out by then. So it looks like the Saturn version was just 2 weeks behind the Genesis version in the US.
     
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  11. Zephyr

    Zephyr

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    No, I was genuinely confused, because the information that was cited on Wikipedia and Retro's wiki together made it sound like they had a completed game sitting around for half a year before releasing it. I never asked why Genesis games in general were being still released in 1996.

    Oh, interesting! An 8 month development time beginning in February would end in August, which makes much more sense. Definitely means the 1995 date, if accurate, is indeed indicative of when Sonic Team began their design work, rather than when Traveller's Tales began actually building the game. Thank you for clearing this up!
     
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  12. Pirate Dragon

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    It's likely to be a British date format (D/M/Y), so probably January 2nd rather than February 1st.
     
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  13. Pirate Dragon

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    Fun fact: Whilst researching incorrect unsourced game release dates (Wikipedia, Gamefaqs etc) I found that many are simply the result of reformatting from ISO date format to US date format or vice versa. Thus (for example) we get games which released December 1st now listed as January 12th, this is probably the number one reason for incorrect release dates. That's why I now stick with the unambiguous YYYY-MM-DD format.
     
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  14. Zephyr

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    Thank you for pointing this out. Makes sense that it would cause a lot of release date errors.

    I have to wonder why YYYY-MM-DD isn't the universal way of dating things.
     
  15. Black Squirrel

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    It is! (and it's better for sorting)
     
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