All About Sonic 1
In Part 2 of our interview with Simon “Stealth” Thomley, we discuss his contributions to the remastered port of Sonic 1. If you have not read Part 1, you can do so here.
TSSZ: Let me move to Sonic 1 for a while now. How did you get involved with the project? Did Taxman, Sega, or a combination of the two bring you on board?
Stealth: Taxman was largely responsible for getting me involved. Naturally, I wanted to get more involved with Sonic CD, but it wasn’t exactly appropriate for him to attempt to bring anyone else on board with that being his first involvement with SEGA. Following its successful release, though, his words had a little more weight, so when discussions regarding Sonic 1 began, he told his producer a bit about me and said that he’d like to have me along. I was brought in on a conference call to meet with the producer and get oriented, and ultimately Taxman and SEGA worked out a contract under which I was working for Taxman, and he was working for SEGA.
TSSZ: So once you were on board, the actual game obviously needed to be made. Can you describe the development process in more detail? For example, how long did the port take to complete, what tools did you use to create it, and how closely did you work with Sega to bring the project to completion?
Stealth: There are several factors that can determine the amount of time it takes to develop something like this, so I’d rather not specify so as to avoid contributing toward speculation on other projects
As for tools, though, most of the work was done within RSDK, although there were a few custom data converters made by each of us for assimilating graphic and level data from the original game. Personally, I used Graphics Gale for some of the graphics work, and I pulled out SonED2 and the original game a few times for reference. Taxman handled the remastered soundtrack himself, and I’m not sure what software he used.
As for our work with SEGA, there were several calls and emails throughout the process regarding progress, content, etc. Most of this was through our producer, who was in contact with Sonic Team through a translator. There was also the QA process, of course, where we received and responded to issues brought up by their in-house QA staff.
TSSZ: This one’s more subjective. What was the most different problem you encountered, and how did you go about finding a solution? Additionally, what was your favorite aspect of working on a project like this?
Stealth: I’m not sure that there was anything particularly noteworthy as far as difficulty goes. There were a few nagging bugs, but they probably don’t make for a very interesting story. The ones that you can’t reproduce reliably are the worst, particularly if they happen one out of a hundred times, or can only be produced on certain platforms. There were a few early on that I couldn’t produce because I didn’t own an Android device at the time (nor would Bluestacks run on the PC I was using), and others only presented on more specific hardware and OS versions.
There’s another issue I can recall that claimed that Sonic would “fall through the green wall” on one of the Special Stages. I tried forever to reproduce that while having to deal with other issues and the rest of the game at the same time, so it stayed on the list for quite a while. When I finally did, it only happened once, and it took a fair bit of thinking about it to work out how it could’ve happened, and what I could do about it. It involved a very specific set of circumstances that weren’t very likely to happen at any given time.
Tails carrying Sonic around was a bit trickier to handle in this version than I thought it would be, too. Some things have to be approached in different ways depending on the system you’re using to implement them. For example, both Retro Engine and E02 have their differences from the way certain core engine details were handled in the original Sonic games, and from each other, at that.
My favorite aspect of working on this was probably that I was in fact working on an official Sonic game. It’s an interesting thing that the original Sonic 1 was what first gave me the desire to work with the series and further motivated me toward this type of work, and I ultimately became a part of that very game.
Aside from that, I probably had the most fun with the additional content. Introducing Tails and Knuckles into the game was a fun concept to begin with, and we had the opportunity to somewhat expand the game with them in an official capacity. What I did with my own Knuckles in Sonic 1 back in 2005 was basically just to introduce Knuckles into the game as it was, but this time, any little bonuses areas or items would be run through SEGA and Sonic Team for their approval, so it’s not really some random person just screwing around with the level.
That’s not to mention all the other little goodies.
TSSZ: Did you and Taxman find yourself at odds with Sega concerning what you could and couldn’t do with the port in terms of content, release, etc?
Stealth: I think the discussion process went pretty smoothly, actually. This, in particular, is a re-release of an important game in an important franchise, so getting it right is a big deal. It has to remain faithful to the original where it counts, and it has to have solid presentation; all major aspects have to be as near to unshakable as possible. This is something everyone wanted, and I think we’ll all be coming out of this with something we can be satisfied with. That is, of course, given that we’re ironing out the few remaining bugs.
TSSZ: We already touched on what your first experience with a Sonic game was. To wrap up, do you currently have a favorite game in the franchise? Is so, why is it your favorite?
Stealth: Sonic 3 & Knuckles is probably my favorite, being the most evolved of the Genesis games. The graphics became more detailed, the levels are full of interesting gimmicks, and it probably has the most of my favorite music in the series.