(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.
Even then, problems with the project began to arise. In September 2008, LOst released a second tech demo of the game’s engine for users to download, experiment with, and give feedback on. Even at that stage, users complained about poor performance. From the first tech demo to the second, tech member SANiK noticed a drop of thirty frames per second. Others complained about high levels of RAM usage. LOst quickly addressed these issues, saying that such slowdown was to be expected as the resolution of the graphics increased, and not to expect any improvement in later builds. Downloaded the new alpha release? Compare the system requirements in the Readme to the system requirements for Crysis.
The symptoms of the project’s disease did not end there. In March 2010, there had been tremendous amounts of contribution and discussion around the project, but little progress had actually been made. On March 15th, the original Sonic 2 HD forum was locked, and a new forum was opened up complete with new submission threads. With this new forum, however, came a newly revised set of guidelines regarding what could be submitted to the project, and staff members that had been appointed to manage the original forum declared that Sonic 2 HD was now a “closed community project”. In other words, a core team of people would now work on the final product, but submissions would be allowed and considered for inclusion.
This alone was not cause for concern. While ideally a community project should be fully open to the entire community, on a more pragmatic level, completely crowd-sourcing the project would be entirely unfeasible. Many posts in the original project forums consisted of ridiculous overanalysis regarding which shade of green the grass should be or whether a piece of art was a pixel-perfect representation of the original game. One could easily attribute the project’s lack of progress to the sheer volume of feedback, a volume that could never reach consensus or provide coherence. Having a core group of staff members only made sense – they could bring order to the chaos. The alternative is, well, Project: Sonic Retro.
Project: Sonic Retro ended on a less-than-happy note.
However, declaring Sonic 2 HD a “community project” at all at this point seemed somewhat misleading. A large number of the staff members were not Sonic Retro community members in any meaningful sense outside of their contributions to the Sonic 2 HD project. This includes project manager Canned Karma, many members of the art staff (Cerulean Nights, Scanline99, CornetTheory, SnickerSnack), and musician Tee Lopes. All either have few posts, if any (CornetTheory, for example, has a whopping 25 posts on the forums – 0.02 a day since joining!), or the vast majority of their posts are in the Sonic 2 HD subforum. Yet still, this was – in a loose sense of the phrase – a community project; members could still make submissions, after all. And surely, now that the majority of the power in the project was being taken away from the masses and filtered through a small group of competent individuals, we’ll see more progress, right?
On March 21, 2010 – a scant few days after the declaration of a “closed community project” – Gambit announced that “Sonic 2 HD’s EHZ (Emerald Hill Zone) is now locked up to final adjustments and polishing”. Given such a statement, an alpha release seemed imminent. Instead, a few months passed with almost no news. In the meantime, submissions were still being allowed, but some questioned how much involvement the community really had with the project any more. In January 2011, the project’s previously flat-lined pulse rose with a single heartbeat: a trailer posted to YouTube showcasing in-game footage of a revamped Emerald Hill Zone, with a teaser at the end proclaiming that an alpha release is coming soon. How soon would soon be?
Well, Tuesday. March 27, 2012. The day the Sonic 2 HD team released their first publicly playable demo of actual game content. The culmination of four years of development was a two-act demo of Emerald Hill Zone. That’s about two and a half minutes of gameplay, if you’re rather average at the game. Keep in mind: this is more than two full years after Gambit claimed that Emerald Hill was “locked up to final adjustments and polishing”, and over a year after the staff released a trailer showcasing the level. The implications here are almost too outrageous for me to type. So what is the problem?
Some chalk it up to a simple lack of time. Seems reasonable enough; this is a hobbyist project, done by a few fans in their free time. Black Mesa – a recreation of the original Half-Life title on its sequel’s Source Engine – cites the same reason for its considerable delays. Of course, Black Mesa is not a project to look to for inspiration. Over the past seven years, many of the fans anticipating its release have simply moved on. With four years of development required to produce even a single playable level for Sonic 2 HD, how long might it take for them to release the rest of the game?
But what if the root of the problem goes far deeper? Look again at the system requirements of the game. I noted that they are comparable to Crysis, a game renowned as a visual benchmark by which all other games are measured, a game so distinguished for its demanding requirements that a common in-joke among gamers when discussing a new piece of hardware is to ask “can it run Crysis?”. Sonic 2 HD, on the other hand, is a two-dimensional remake of a twenty year old game. The bare gameplay code – the physics, the collision, the enemy and boss intelligence, all of it – is derived from code meant to run on a 7.67 megahertz processor, but the minimum CPU requirement is a dual-core Intel Core i3 at 2.13 gigahertz. Even factoring in modern niceties that need to run on the CPU such as a more modern audio engine, that’s inexcusable.
At the same time, the recommended system requirement for the GPU is identical to the requirement for Sonic Generations, a brand-new game running on a modern engine complete with high-poly 3D models, pixel-shader effects like depth of field, motion blur, and bloom, and massive levels far beyond the scale of anything Sega Technical Institute could have imagined in 1992. It runs on the recommended card at a resolution of 1920×1080 with every graphical knob turned to 11 – and Sonic 2 HD asks for the same GPU power. I can’t think of a single other game with comparable graphical output to Sonic 2 HD that does this. Rayman Origins, for instance, supports even a humble Nvidia GeForce 6800 GT – a graphics card from 2004. Is there any excuse for this outside of programmer incompetency? Maybe the listed requirements are higher than you’ll need in actual use. In that case, maybe the development team should list different requirements!
It’s not like they’re working on a totally new game, either. All the level layouts, gameplay mechanics, and character and enemy designs were laid out for them two decades ago. If this YouTube video is anything to go by, Tee Lopes has the soundtrack essentially finished. The bulk of the project’s work load must be redrawing the art, with the remaining effort focused on the engine. I must make it clear that I don’t want to discredit the work of everybody involved with the project. The alpha release shows an incredible level of effort. The animations are stunning, the soundtrack is beautiful, and minus a few small physics niggles the game plays quite well (of course, I meet the lofty recommended requirements). So the artists have proven themselves to be talented; maybe, as I suggested earlier, they simply don’t have the free time to devote to the project. Well, this is a community project. Why not enlist some help from their submission threads?
Oh, right. They shuttered the submission threads.
As of the release of Tuesday’s demo, Sonic 2 HD is no longer considered a community project. Submissions are no longer being accepted to the project, and the development team’s involvement with the Sonic Retro community will go no further than any other fan game developer’s involvement, which is to say they will maintain a single thread for news and updates. Oh well. As I said before, and as Canned Karma admits, it hadn’t really been a community project in anything other than name for a long time. Besides, closed-development projects aren’t inherently evil, either. Sonic the Hedgehog Megamix stands as one of the Sonic Retro community’s greatest achievements: many of the finest minds of the community coming together to work on the most ambitious hack of a classic Sonic game ever imagined, with fantastic results – and it’s not a community project. But then again, it never claimed to be.
But still, despite understanding that there are appreciable benefits to this approach, I couldn’t help but be disturbed by their trend towards a purely closed development process. Sonic 2 HD had started life as a testament to the benefits of the collaborative environment at Sonic Retro, but in the end it became yet another closed fan game project. Still, the project began as a product of the Sonic Retro community. The lead programmer, LOst, has been a member of the community for well over a decade. Surely there must be a taste of the old Retro hacker ethic left in the project?
Instead, many people downloaded the demo yesterday and went to extract it from its ZIP archive only to be stopped by a warning from their anti-virus software. No, the game does not contain a trojan. Instead, antivirus software reacted to the way the game’s code is obfuscated to prevent reverse-engineering. Wait a second. The code is obfuscated to prevent reverse-engineering? The entire game engine would not exist were it not for the efforts of Sonic community members past and present reverse-engineering the original Sonic games and documenting their functions. The hypocrisy here is staggering. But that’s not even the most insulting part. Any attempt to modify any of the game’s files presents you with the following screen:
The license mentioned in the screen doesn’t even exist. It’s nowhere in any of the game’s documentation and is not presented upon starting the game. And, again, the engine this game runs on is based on reverse-engineered code. The entire project owes its existence to a community built around collaboration, the freedom of information, the idea of building on previous work, and yet the game actively takes a stand against that. The entire project has become at odds with the philosophical foundations of the community that birthed it.
In the development team’s defense, the inclusion of obfuscation and digital rights management code in Tuesday’s alpha release of Sonic 2 HD was done against the wishes of the team. After project manager Canned Karma heavily implied that the obfuscation was the deliberate work of a single member of the team, S2HD artist Scanline99 revealed that the artwork for the demo was done over a year ago (when the promotional trailer linked above was posted to YouTube), and that all the work since has been programming. Earlier, I emphasized heavily how bloated the engine seemed to be, and that it could only be the result of programmer incompetency (the art team, on the other hand, seems talented enough); it would appear that my theory was spot-on. Another artist on the team, Cerulean Nights, blew the whistle:
… we’d give a certain programmer a little bit of freedom to add a necessary feature, and then he’d come back 6 months later with something completely unrelated in the game (such as stupid security, shader effects which aren’t even in the game, etc) and then not even complete the initial task given to him. Imagine this happening time and time again. I worked close to 8 hours a day for a year, on top of a full time job, in preparation for the January 15th launch of last year, and any assets you see in the game were done at that time. No, they weren’t perfect, but we basically had one chance to add assets into the game until that un-named programmer would lock them down “because it’s too hard to swap out assets” ie “I don’t feel like it, you had your one chance. We were promised a release by January 15th, and when that time came and went with no word it was pretty demoralizing to the whole art staff, and most didn’t want to continue work on a project which may never come to fruition.
Said programmer basically held the Alpha release for ransom, I’m not going to say much more on that particular subject but be rest assured that the whole story will be coming out soon enough. Frankly I’m just happy to finally see my hard work out there to the public, it’s just a shame it had to be sullied by certain people’s egos.
Cerulean Nights elaborated even further on Reddit in response to concerns about the code obfuscation being flagged as a virus:
The DRM technique employed is unfortunately the lesser of two evils that our programmer would settle for. Simply put, he is extremely paranoid and initially wanted to try to remove any capability to take screenshots or capture video as well. Insane I know.
Basically, he comes from Sonic Retro and is so set on showing the programmers there that he can outsmart any attempt at breaking his game like he did with the original games in, he’s lost site on what really matters in the grand scheme of things. He thinks he answers to no one, so it’s been a constant uphill battle to do things the proper way without his ego interfering.
While it’s a relief to hear that the most obnoxious flaws of the alpha release are the result of a single team member’s meddling rather than a deliberate effort on the part of the development team, it’s saddening that all of the incredible effort being put into this game by its talented art and music team are being hindered by the paranoid lunacy of a single programmer. Further posts by the development team have revealed that the programmer in question is indeed the lead programmer on the project, LOst; those who know of his history in the community are not likely to be surprised by this (for instance, he once attempted to charge members of the community for premium features in his art mappings editor, LOst Library). Considering the poor state of the game’s engine and the detrimental effects he has had on the game’s development, I would strongly advise the team to seek out a new lead programmer. I’m sure there’s a number of members of the community with the requisite technical knowledge and programming talent that would be eager to help move the project along.
In the meantime, maybe the Sonic 2 HD team’s abandonment of the Sonic Retro community – and the pretense of being a project of it – is only appropriate. It’s not representative of the Retro community in any way, and it shows. Some people are distraught by the news; Retro administrator David The Lurker claims that the independent future of Sonic 2 HD as told by Canned Karma contradicts what the development team has told the Sonic Retro staff for months.
Personally? I think it’s long overdue.
Personally, I feel that the team’s at a position where they should just switch to another engine entirely. If The Taxman thinks this remake has enough potential, possibly he’d let the team use his Retro Engine, and another programmer could go in and make some graphical adjustments for unsupported-as-of-yet features (such as particle effects maybe?). This may seem like a generic comment, but it’s the truth. Taxman’s engine is solid and is better than ever, and if the S2HD team manages to get a programmer who isn’t overly proud/paranoid and also manages to get Taxman’s engine, the game could potentially be a lot better than it already is! They already have the magnificent art and music, now all they need is an engine written by someone with common sense, and someone to mess with the engine to do what they want…
As far as system requirements go, I was able to run the 64-bit version with no trouble or lag, while I can barely play Sonic Generations by setting it to 640×480, 30 fps, no special graphical effects.
I fully endorse this.
Oh Sonic fanbase, why you so Sonic fanbase?
This was an interesting read, though not surprising at all. There have been countless Sonic hacking and fan-game projects that have been canceled completely (I’m looking at you, countless renditions of Blitz Sonic) though I’ve never seen a reason as crazy as Mr. Un-named programmer’s.
Finally, somebody perfectly summarized the whole fiasco that’s been building up all day, and it’s all thanks to Guess Who! (No pun intended.)
It’s a real shame to see all this great effort, from S2HD’s artists’ to its musician’s talents, put to shame inside the most half-baked turd of an engine I’ve ever seen used in a Sonic fan game. Clearly LOst spent more of his time trying to protect that broken engine than actually fixing it.
While DRM might be totally pointless to me, it’s not 100% negative in commercial games if it isn’t terribly obstructive. (Securom needs to burn in a really hot corner in hell, while Valve’s DRM is at least non-invasive.) But a fan game you can’t even sell, what code or assets is there that’s worth concealing from fellow fans?
The writing quality and talent at Sonic Retro amazes me. Thanks for the awesome read.
While the minimum requirements DO look pretty tough – and comparable to Crysis – let’s be realistic here; I can FINALLY get Crysis to run at maximum settings with good framerates with a new system built this year (2012). Sonic 2 HD Alpha, however, runs at a perfect 60fps in 1920×1080 on my essentially ancient dual core Athlon64 XP system with an AGP grade 6800GT. It’s obvious the team was just covering their bases. You can run the game just fine on old systems. Crysis is a MUCH different story.
I’ve heard mixed reports about performance on lower-end systems; some say it works fine, others complain of long loadtimes, aliased graphics, and poor framerates. I don’t have a low-spec machine to test on (woe is me), so I can only go by the requirements provided.
Let me make sure I understand this…
Sonic 2 HD was ready for this alpha release about a year ago, and one of the main reasons for the MASSIVE delay was that one of the main programmers wanted to and put in a DRM method so elaborate and restrictive that it’s commonly mistaken as a virus. All this, even though it’s a fan remake of an old commercial game that nobody on the HD team actually has the rights to, and are 100% reliant on Sega’s goodwill to not be shut down and given a C&D order. Not only that, but the entire game’s main reason for having such staggering system requirements is pretty much poor programming methods, possibly by said programmer.
Now, I’m not a programmer myself, and I don’t have any real experience to back this up, but I’d like to ask something. The main draw people have towards the completion of Sonic 2 HD is the beautiful graphics and completely redone music, correct? Other than that, all we really want is a straight port of a Genesis game that seemingly every electronic device in use today can run flawlessly in an emulator.
I use a crappy laptop that was low-end back when it was new, back in 2009. I’ve played many indie games made by small teams of people, often even a single person, that used MP3 files or WAV files for game music. Even OGG files work perfectly on my computer, and I can’t even play them by themselves on my computer. I understand that if anybody wants to play an OGG file, they just need to download the appropriate player off the internet and use that, but I’m pretty sure that most computers in their out-of-the-box state can’t play them.
I’m getting off-topic here, but keep that in mind for a moment. Anyways, can’t a program like Game Maker utilize graphics such as those used in Sonic 2 HD? I mean, in the end, aren’t they all the same PNG or BMP files like nearly any other game out there? I understand a bit of pride in having the entire engine designed all by yourselves, but in the end, it seems like as long as the art resources and music resources are completed, as long as the engine is designed accurately, the difficult work is all completed. All that’s left is porting over levels that, by now, most people could probably do by memory.
Stealing resources from something like this is a joke, really. With how famous Sonic 2 HD has become, anybody stealing artwork wouldn’t really be able to. I mean, everybody would be able to take one look at it and know where it came from. With music files, why not just use OGG files? They’re very high quality and fairly small file size, and don’t play in most default music players.
Honestly, if it were me who wrote the music, and I found that somebody went through all the trouble to find and download a specialized player to listen to the music, I would feel proud of myself. The music was so good, that people wanted to listen to it on its own merits.
Now, about the DRM, does anybody on the Sonic 2 HD team really own any of the work they’re using? Don’t get me wrong, I applaud their dedication, devotion, and hard work. What I mean is, everything they’ve made in some way or another is a copy of something owned by Sega. The artwork, while greatly improved upon, is a copy of artwork owned by Sega. The music, while greatly improved upon, is a remix of music legally owned by Sega. The engine itself, in the absolute best-case scenario of it being a perfect 1-1 recreation of the engine used in the original Sonic 2, is still just a port (albeit very well done) of an engine legally owned by Sega. Do you get my drift? I understand this entire game is a labor of love by the people making it, and it makes sense that they would take this much pride in their work, but in the end, everything comes back to it being a remake of a property fully legally owned by Sega.
I know it’s probably not quite the same thing, but I’m doing a Zelda fangame using the Zelda Classic engine. The artwork, while improved upon, is still based off artwork fully legally owned by Nintendo. Therefore, while I have put months of work behind it, it would not bother me a bit if another person chooses to rip it and use it in their own fangame. I do not hold legal rights over it, they can do with it what they want. If they want to go through all the work to get everything working properly, then I would feel a bit of pride that my work was held in such high regard that somebody else wanted to use it themselves.
To the Sonic 2 HD team, even though most of them seem to already understand, I would like to say this. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Even with how popular this project has become, even Sega themselves understand this. Obviously, somebody in that company has to have heard of you by this point, and they’re allowing you to continue this. You do not legally own any of the assets to your game, even if you have put an honorable amount of work to them. If I were in charge of Sega, seeing the DRM implemented in Sonic 2 HD would probably be what would cause me to want to send a C&D order. It feels as though you’re trying to take credit for something that is not legally yours.
I’m not trying to upset anybody on the S2HD team, or anybody here at SonicRetro. Honestly, I’m rather indifferent about the entire project. Right now, if I want to play Sonic 2, I’ll play the original version. If I want to play it with the removed levels still in it, I’ll play one of the hacks that re-inserted them or re-interpreted them. I can’t play S2HD on my computer as it is, and I don’t really mind. Just think of this as an unbiased opinion.
And now, it’s been discovered that the DRM goes even further. Found within the S2HD executable is the following text:
THE ONLINE SERVER COULDN’T VALIDATE YOU GAMEPLAY. ITS RESULT DIFFERED FROM YOURS.
UPGRADE YOUR SONIC 2 HD GAME TO FIX THE PROBLEM!
That’s right: LOst is going to force users to upgrade their copy of S2HD for no reason. There’s no online play capabilities right now, and I don’t think that was one of the original goals, so why would this be here other than to force people to get the “latest” version (which can be expected to have even more DRM and restrictions)?
My suggestion is that the art and music teams gather up the assets and release them under a Creative Commons license. Then if some talented programmers want to take up the task of reimplementing they engine at least they have the resources to work with. It would also mean that the assets are free for the entire community to use, improve, adapt and share and could spawn a series of new projects. It would also render LOst’s antihacking lunacy even more pointless.
FWIW as a senior developer at my company. When looking to employ a dev, the first thing I look for is the ability to accept criticsm of their code. I would not employ LOst. Not a chance.
Not to be Debbie Downer, but they realistically could not release them under any flavor of CC, given that the assets are just redrawn intellectual property–it’d be kind of hairy legally. It’s why efforts of this scope really shouldn’t be made towards recreating an existing game. I’m all for people being ambitious and making cool things, but I think the creators of such things deserve to at least get some sort of greater reward out of it all.
I find it hilarious that LOst is also the only member of the S2HD team that was unwilling to release his real name for the credits. He just used an older nickname.
His paranoia seems to have no bounds.
I’m so glad this got put on the front page. This nonsense deserves to be known.
Please don’t compare this to Crysis. That’s a stupid, stupid plan.
Moan about the DRM all you want but it’s not fair to expect one man to match the efforts of an entire team of industry professionals. People are hired specifically to get the most out of graphics cards… they won’t be doing the game engine and sounds and input and whatever too.
The irony is perhaps some “industry professionals” were shut out when the project stopped being open-source, but nevertheless there should be no surprises here.
I know something along the line that would happen sooner or later. I reckon putting all those are DRM are a waste of time and it effectness. That would also trigger the number of fans that actually want the game (adding drm, causing attention to both fans and anti-virus programs).
The way that Lost is handling things at the moment isn’t that great either. Why would a 4 years of working on Sonic 2 HD and turns out that 1 level has been made (un-completing tasks at the given time).
Stop putting fake things that don’t even exist. Well, all the stuff are made by fans that doesn’t mean is totally owned by fans themselves, look at the original art designer for the graphics, they still own the original work they’ve done.
To the Sonic 2 HD team, even though most of them seem to already understand, I would like to say this. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Even with how popular this project has become, even Sega themselves understand this. Obviously, somebody in that company has to have heard of you by this point, and they’re allowing you to continue this. So keep up with it while you can, and I think this game could be a better state.
To a certain extent I can see some of the good in these decisions; as the article brings up, when the community was heavily involved in asset creation, it was nothing but crazy nitpicking. Closing that off a little more afforded Sonic 2 HD a bit more creative freedom. If some of the decisions to close the game off were not made, we wouldn’t have even gotten this far along.
But yeah. The notion of DRM in this game is sort of crazy. Why was L0st named the programmer again? What was it about his talent that made him a better candidate?
Does the game engine still work by rendering the game at like 4x the playable resolution and then downscaling?
It was funny how the previous release ran like absolute crap on my old laptop because it was rendering a scene that was at a resolution too high for it to display in the first place. Even funnier was that the slow speed was specifically due to the downscaling.
Wow, with all these pitchforks and torches coming for him, I sure hope LOst doesn’t use the DRM he’s riddled the game with to hold it ransom…
I don’t think this argument have to be on the front page of Sonic Retro. There have been enough drama over this “fan project” over the years, we don’t need more.
Also, if I recall correctly L0st had a good engine already and the project needed a coder to get started.
I don’t think there’s much more that can be said about the state of Sonic 2 HD. Guess Who, amazing article.
That was the longest article I have ever read.
And I skipped a paragraph.
Just wanted to note that it isn’t fair to assume that because I have 20 posts that I’m not a part of the community, I have been a lurker for a really long time, and I joined SR to actually contribute to some project and Sonic 2 HD just happened to ask me to join first.
And insert my standard “Black Mesa isn’t dead” comment.
well…. i hope this game is finished someday. that’s all i can think to say.
It’s sad to see what became of this once-promising project. It began as an exciting, flashy update to a classic game and slowly devolved into a bloated clusterf*ck for little to no reason.
Seriously guys, 75% of the work was done before you even started, and four years later you have little to nothing to show for it. I genuinely feel sorry for all the folks on the development team that poured their hearts into this and got nothing in return because of the fiasco that it has become.
Great work on the article, Retro. This was an informative and heartbreaking read.
Lots of people are saying to switch to Taxman’s engine. Personally I have issues with the feel of the engine. It’s fully playable and definitely feels like Sonic, but I wouldn’t want it in Sonic 2.
Correct me if I’m wrong (and I probably am) but if Taxman loaned his engine to Sega, doesn’t that mean he can’t give it to anyone else now? Unless their agreement was without licencing contract; that would mean it was a one time deal and he can do what he wants. I remember talk of him and Sega having a dispute over the agreement.
DRM on a fangame that mimics the engine, art, levels, and music of another game and uses the copyrighted mascot of a game company without any permission?… cool.
I’ve been following the project as a lurker since its inception. I’m surprised another less paranoid programmer hasn’t come forward to save the project. Even as far back as the days following the “Special announcement” last year it was pretty clear who was to blame for delays.
Considering the IP for “Sonic 2” belongs to Sega, it’s lunacy for the project to operate in such a closed manner… unless they’re actually hoping Sega will buy it off of them.
The reasons why I love the Sonic Retro is because of…
1. Previewing and playing games that was re-programmed and developed by very dedicated Sonic fans.
2. The excellent articles. (Seriously, this is 1st-class journalism)
When I heard that the Alpha Release of Sonic 2 HD came out, I dropped whatever game I was playing (Skyrim) and immediately went to download the game. First, I greeted with a BS virus detection message from my Anti-Virus program. After that, I had to run and close the program 3 times before the game started to run properly. Third, after completing the demo, I tried change the music, then i get greeted with some weird hack detection sceeen. So the reason why I went through all that hassle is because of a programmer’s overblown pride?
Look, I’m not going to sit here and bash said programmer. I think that rest of the S2HD staff should take care of that. However, what I will say is that I may not know all there is to programming, (Still trying to understand the Sega Genesis’ Motorola 68000) but I do know a ton about hard work and effort. I can clearly see the amount of work that had to be put into this project. For that, I heavily applaud you all. but it would be a damn shame if this game had to be halted or at worst-case scenario be cancelled over some meaningless issues. I understand that it is a hobbyist project and it all depends on time availability, but hard work is hard work, and the people who worked on this project deserves to have their efforts manifest.
With that being said, I really like the game so far even though it is just 2 1/2 minutes of gameplay, but it’s 2 1/2 minutes of excellence that I thoroughly enjoyed. I hope that the continuing development goes very well and that all the issues gets worked out in the end so everyone can enjoy Sonic.
They really need to drop LOst and find a new programmer to make a new, DRM-less (and less crappy) engine from scratch.
And to those crying about how they should include Hidden Palace: cut it out. This is a HD remake of Sonic 2, not a beta restoration project.
With such large problems in the programming area of the mod, I would suggest that they experiment with something like the Source Engine. I don’t know if it would work for what the S2HD team are going for, but I’m sure it can be edited to their needs because of its flexibility. A possible solution like that could fix the requirement issues and resolve the need for a crazy lead programmer.
That is terrible, what is LOst is going to be, an Sonic terrorist due to security?
What about Sonic Fan Remix? That was a GREAT Sonic mod, this is not even worth the community time.
Why dont all the team abandon that shabby S2HD project and move along to better projects?
I’ve been collaborating in the Open Sonic Project for a time and the main programmer provides the source, the binaries and the api to code your own objects.
And here you have the main programmer of this so-called “greatest Sonic Retro achievment” imposing DRM protection? I think this whole “project” is nothing more than a troll-game.
There are projects way more interesting than this “closed-community” thing. Move along in life.
It’s really amazing to see the things that really go down behind the scenes. From the outside looking in, you would never guess this kind of stuff is taking place but it happens. It’s like some kind Sonic Retro conspiracy. I could slightly understand “you know who’s” actions if they were working on an original project but this is a recreation of a game from two decades ago, one which he doesn’t even legally own the rights to. I just hope some sense is made of this and the project can continue smoothly. There’s no reason to let the rest of the teams hard work go down the drain. I have played the alpha release and it holds up very nicely. Everyone on the team is doing a Sega(1992) worthy job. Keep up the good work guys! Nice read by the way. Excellent article.
Personally? The rest of the team needs to tell LOst to take a hike. If it were me, I’d see if Taxman would be willing to help out. If not, the resources are there and I’m sure they could find a programmer talented enough to make the game use the original physics. Just my two cents.
Personally, I expected something like this to come about. There’s been delay after delay. The trailer that put everyone in suspense had very little gameplay, and we heard nothing over a year. The forum went extremely quiet. Offers of help were gently denied. And all this time, the lead programmer was working in the background to prevent people from editing the code of a 20 year old game that he doesn’t own. Fucking brilliant.
Oh, and they didn’t even finish Hill Top, which (SPOILER) can be unlocked through achieving perfects on both acts. I feel that LOst needs to use his time more wisely, and on a different project.
Surely I’m not the only angry fan?
I agree with Chimera, although I think that changing the engine right now is a big loss of time. The engine’s already there. There were problems in this Alpha Release, yes, but at least Emerald Hill and the very base engine are finished.
But I must admit that I got a little surprised… I didn’t even read the Readme. I have a Windows x64 with 6GB of RAM, a Core i7 Processor running @2.20GHz and a NVIDIA GeForce GT 525M 1GB Graphics Card. Those specifications really freaked me out. Maybe the engine needs polishment on how it handles the graphics. Just because it has a big “HD” in the name, it doesn’t mean it can’t save hardware requirements.
About the team, I’m not saying anything about it. It’s the S2HD staff’s problem, I don’t have the right to interfere.
Thank you for saying this. When I first heard that the false-positives were triggered by the programmer trying to prevent hacking of the game itself, I thought it absolute lunacy.
Aside from actually stopping being from wanting to play the game under the threat of a virus, as you said it absolutely stands against the origin of the code being used, reverse-engineered and disassembled from the original game!
There is something seriously wrong with this “engine”. Yes, it provides a playable game, with seemingly decent physics, but this whole business of rendering to a huge size then downscaling is nonsense. The artwork looks like crap when downscaled, because the process introduces aliasing. Also, what’s this nonsense about fullscreen mode only being “qualified” for “Full HD or higher” resolutions? You’re seriously telling me that because my monitor is only 1050 pixels high, rather than 1080, I’m stick running the game in a window, which won’t even maximise?
It would be so much easier to just render the game directly at the user’s chosen resolution, either letting the graphics card handle downscaling of individual sprites/textures on the fly, or – if the team really care all that much – by providing hand-tweaked graphics at several different sizes (or even auto-generated, but using a proper resampling scaler, not the crap the engine currently does), then picking the one most suitable for the current resolution at run-time.
Rendering to a huge window then shrinking it is stupid. This “programmer” needs to learn how to write code for the real world.
This whole situation with Sonic 2HD is very sad. There only 1 way to change it:
First – open the project (so more people can help you to finish it, send feedback, etc.). Second – change the f’n programmer. 1 level in 4 years with some stupid DRM attempt is not the way to ever finish this game.
You affraid of stealing? Ok, i can understand it, but people who want to do this should find the way and you can do nothing about it. DRM is breakable, just like any other protection – just look at torrent sites.
I always thought it was “to fans by fans” free type of project, not some half commercial shit. Want to do money from it? Go to SEGA and try to get a job here.
Day 6. I’m starting to run out of food and water, and I still haven’t found a way to open the .MGS files… I’m scared. Somebody help me… I don’t like this.
This is a really great article; quality content like this is probably the only reason I keep coming back here. However, there are two things that keep me away; crazy stuff like this (keep reading, I’ll explain) is one of them. This whole thing with the DRM and the restrictive system requirements is . Though I’m not a lawyer, I do know a bit more about copyright law than most people (e.g. you can’t legally clone software if you’ve seen the source code or a disassembly). I think that DRMing content you don’t have much right to is not a very wise choice; it’s almost like asking for cease and desist orders (only selling it is riskier). As for the system requirements, the original ran at 240p/60fps on a 7.67MHz processor, and can be emulated on even a GameCube, while this want Crysis-on-low-settings hardware; it doesn’t seem necessary. Poor design choices were made, and better results could be achieved; you could use vector graphics to render at any resolution with the same quality, for instance. As a Linux user, Windows only game does not sound very appealing to me. In my opinion, this project’s going nowhere fast.
People should really lighten up and stop raving about how bad the protection is. Just because someone doesn’t like to have their work taken apart doesn’t make the game “half commercial shit”.
It’s free. It comes with a protection. Deal with it. You’re not supposed to take it apart. You’re supposed to play it the way it was meant to be played. But who cares, right? You can’t change Sonic’s color to green and that spoils all the fun.
I can’t say I like the protection myself, but at least I can look past it. If that’s how it has to be, then that’s how it will be. After all, when you played your games on the Genesis, you weren’t able to mess with the code, and games were still enjoyable.
but this was suppose to be a community-driven project that had input and support from the fanbase, it would only make sense to have protection if this wasn’t a fan game that used copyrighted properties, just be lucky that Sega doesn’t shut it down for that
and fyi, if we had never mess with the code in the Genesis games we would have never been able to reverse-engineer the engine to create this game
The John Romero of the Sonic Community.
No offense to the artists, but I never understood why people shuned Sega for re-re-re-releasing Sonic 4 ep 2 being just the same 20 year old game but a project like this is treated like it’s the second coming of Christ.
Or like how most people hated New Super Mario Bros Wii or Mario 3D Land for being boring and uninspired but a horribly glitched unplayable Mario 64 romhack is treated like it’s a top quality product.
Is it just because it’s free? You could play roms on HQ4x if you’re willing to go that far to save a couple bucks.
Or does everyone secretly have a communist fetish and want to see the little guys stick it up to the man, stand against the evil big corporations who have the nerve of asking money for their products, etc.
Well too bad the proletariat is actually worse than the very companies they’re against.
I have been highly anticipating this release for a long time. I played the alpha for the first time last night and really enjoyed it.
Reading this article has me kinda worried though, and I was curious about the fact that it flagged something in most AV engines.
I decided to probe a little deeper as I work for an AV company in my day job.
I ran the program in a sandbox utility and to my surprise not only does it try to install hooks in the registry it also monitors all key strokes whilst the program is running from any window that has focus at the time.
It’s not surprising then that it gets flagged as malicious in most AV engines due to this behaviour.
I for one will be highly suspicious of any future release and I have already nuked this from my system.
If anybody wants proof of this said proof can be provided on request.
I think we’d all like to see what you’ve found.
It’s bad enough this coder is so paranoid, without him being incompetent on top of it. Rendering to ‘true’ HD and downscaling is just a comically poor solution. You end up with something that looks and performs much worse than it should for a significant portion of your audience, for no good reason. Mangobrain pretty much nailed it there, I can only really second what they said.
Also, “too hard to swap out assets”? Absolute bullshit. I may not be a professional, but I’ve done enough development to know that in most cases it’s a trivial matter unless you’ve decided to radically switch things around. It’d only be difficult if you were, say, using some absolutely draconian drm system or something, and even then it shouldn’t be that big a deal if you know what you’re doing and have a decent framework in place for handling it.
Never mind that the whole drm business is like actually begging Sega to come down on you hard. And if what MrVestek said is true, then fucking hell. That’s like directly telling everyone else to stay as far away from this as possible too. Just insane logic at work here.
I know I’m just some random passer-by spouting this stuff, but it’s just so frustrating to see so much obvious talent being hobbled by this nonsense.
To end on a more positive note, I’d like to applaud the rest of the team for such top-notch work and thank Guess Who for an excellently-written article.
MrVestek: I would be interested in knowing what it’s doing to log keystrokes and what registry hooks it tries installing. Can you send me the info to my username at verizon dot net?
(I tried replying to your comment but the WordPress skin seems to be broken with regards to reply – it appears beneath the previous comment.)
I don’t care what the programmer thinks, if he’s going to let his ego get in the way, I would have shitcanned him right then and there.
Did their programmer come from Ubisoft or something?
I’m surprised that the Project Leader actually didn’t just find another person, especially after the news that someone put a keyloader in the code…
In any case, I don’t have any interest in playing this, despite meeting their “reccomended” requirements, and with the latest news, I’m definitely not letting this thing on my system.
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you regarding this.
I will provide further info in due course, sorry I wasn’t subscribed to this thread via email so I wasn’t aware of the replies.
Also thanks for the following article:
I will email you later today with the exact activity of the program as it executes.
Funny, I was just talking today about how Western communities often can’t seem to work together on a project because they tend to be a bunch of selfish egomaniacs (as a result of their upbringing, education and culture).
I think I’d rather see a port to PC hardware of Genesis level. Think more like Golden Axe DOS.
For the leanest possible code base. Then we can worry about filters or vector graphics to make HD looks right.
I’m so glad that LOst has been kicked off the project.
What a f**king a**hole. I hope the b**ch burns.
Way to bring Black Mesa in to this just to randomly insult the guys. I think it’s funny that you took a dig at CornetTheory without making the connection.
Oh come on, I know being civil is nice and dandy and beating a dead horse after it’s down should be frowned upon, but…
“Fuck you LOst.”
“Go away, and stay lost.”
That’s all there is to say.
That’s all that everyone thought first when they realized they could have played this alpha one year ago.
(not too sure about the idea of taxman’s engine getting used…)
Yay, the longstanding tradition of drama in the Sonic community continues! 😀