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March 29, 2012

Community, Fan Works

Guest Editorial: In Which I Rain on the Sonic 2 HD Parade

(The following is a guest editorial written by forums member Guess Who, because frankly, someone needed to say it.)

Starting in the late nineties, a sizable community formed around reverse-engineering Sonic games. Thanks to the work of this community and its extremely talented individuals, amazing feats have been achieved. The original Sonic titles have been disassembled into their raw Motorola 68000 assembly code and thoroughly documented, allowing for substantial modifications; Sonic Adventure DX has similarly been torn apart, allowing for the creation of useful tools such as level and model editors; even the brand-new Sonic Generations has already been hacked wide open for creating custom levels, porting levels from Sonic Unleashed, and importing music. One thing all of these accomplishments have in common is that all of them are the result of collaboration. Many people worked for days, weeks, months, and sometimes even years to acquire and share the knowledge necessary for all of these technical marvels to come to fruition. Sonic Retro has always fostered a collaborative environment thanks to its forums, wiki, and Mercurial repository, and consequently has become the de facto hub for all things Sonic hacking.

So in March 2008, when Sonic 2 HD was announced, it was hailed as a shining example of the collaborative community environment that’s been so crucial to the Retro community. Media outlets like Kotaku covered the game’s announcement with great anticipation. It was given its own forum where members could contribute their own assets to the game, whether it was art, music, programming talent, or just general feedback. The engine, coded primarily by long-established community member LOst, was built using the disassembled code of the original Sonic titles (you know, that code collaboratively reverse-engineered and documented by a number of community members?) as a basis for its physics. The original Sonic 2 HD board received a whopping 14275 replies, mostly from members offering their own work or feedback for the product.

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