Brenda Ross interview by Deviance (February 2001)
From Sonic Retro
This is an interview conducted by Deviance, with Brenda Ross. Originally this was posted on ICEknight's sometimes off-line website, Sonic Database. It has been reformatted for better readability. Several unanswered questions were ommited.
Deviance: There is what appears to a crocodile’s head on the Desert Zone screenshot, could you tell us what the rest of crocodile looked like?
Brenda Ross: I don’t remember anything like that. You’ll have to send me the image so I can see it.
Deviance: What other badniks were on the desert zone, and what did they do?
Brenda Ross: I had nothing to do with creating enemies or characters, so I don’t remember, I’m sorry. I would only grab images to use as placeholders when showing my art in various stages.
Deviance: If you could would you recreate the Desert and Wood Zone?
Brenda Ross: I think they would look great in 3D. But no, I’m happy with what I do now for a living, which is running a few websites and writing.
Deviance: Could you explain the type of equipment used to program the games?
Brenda Ross: Nope. You’ll have to ask a programmer.
Deviance: What kind of computers were you using? How were graphics for the game generated and what programs did you use to generate them?
Brenda Ross: We used a Japanese proprietary system called a digitizer. All the employees at Sega Japan used them. Basically you did the work on a grid like system, and you saw the results on a second screen, then you’d have a TV screen set up for color correction.
Deviance: Explain the process of how a level was designed: from concept to final product.
Brenda Ross: That’s a question for Yasuhara, The game designer for Sonic.
Deviance: How far into the design did desert zone see? Was a boss for that level ever created?
Brenda Ross: I think that Dust Hill was completed entirely, and woods zone was mostly done. Once you have the initial key pieces, you can go fairly far with building a level.
Deviance: Could you make a rough sketch of how the level layout was?
Brenda Ross: God, no. Sorry.
Deviance: Why were these two zones ditched?
Brenda Ross: The last artists added to the team were myself, and a guy named Craig Stitt. Craig did the Hidden palace zone, which made it in. I came along later to create the desert/winter dust hill zone and the woods zone. There was a massive amount of pressure to finish this game, and my zones, and perhaps one others of Craig’s, if I remember correctly, had to be scrapped. We were all upset, naturally, but that’s the nature of the game industry. 50% of your stuff is likely not to be used.
Deviance: Why would there be a crocodile in a desert?
Brenda Ross: I don’t think there was one. It’s been 9 years, so I might not remember.
Deviance: Well, some people suspect that the screen shot was not an actual screenshot. Rather, it was an image created using a computer and some paint program. What do you have to say about this?
Brenda Ross: It was a real level.
Deviance: Was Dust Hill Zone ever completed? If not, at least how far was it?
Brenda Ross: I think it was completed. I couldn’t have gone on to create the woods zone if it hadn’t been. They just didn’t have time to add it to the game.
Deviance: Was Wood Zone ever completed? If not, at least how far was it?
Brenda Ross: About half way done, I’d guess. Or a bit more.
Deviance: What other objects were in the desert and woods zone? There are plenty of empty object slots in the binary, so we figure that plenty of it once had data there.
Brenda Ross: The desert zone was as you see in that image, with cactus and assorted plants. It was designed to have a palette change, which turned the sand into snow, and you’d have a winter scene. We had to be fairly ingenious with such a limited palette. In the winter zone, (that’s what I call it), instead of cactus, I had created Christmas trees, which I thought looked kinda cool. I remember the woods zone having pink flowers somewhere. Hey, I am a girl… heh.
Deviance: What was Dust Hill like was it huge, what was the landscape like in general, etc.?
Brenda Ross: I think half above ground, and half below. It would depend on the level. Sonic would travel through the sand or snow tunnel, depending on which palette was being used.
Deviance: Was Dust Hill related to Oil Ocean in any way with the hot sun and all?
Brenda Ross: Nope.
Deviance: There is another zone, referred to as the fifth lost zone, the 01 zone, some think its Emerald Hill zone act 3, do you know anything about this?
Brenda Ross: I have no idea.
Deviance: Do you still have any materials in used in development, like layouts, graphics, etc. in the “digitizers” formats or any other formats. Do you have any paper materials like a design spec for the levels or any level sketches you can show us.
Brenda Ross: No, It was all left at Sega years ago.
Deviance: If you can, can you explain why sonic is off center in that desert zone screenshot.
Brenda Ross: He was just dropped in for placement for the marketing folks. It was totally random and has nothing to do with any real gameplay.
Deviance: Did the desert, winter, and woods zones have specific names?
Brenda Ross: Desert was dust hill. I don’t remember the rest.
Deviance: Was there ever a Genocide City Zone even in development?
Brenda Ross: That sounds familiar, but I can’t be sure.
Deviance: Is there the possibility of you finishing the levels in a ROM and anonymously releasing it to the sonic community?
Brenda Ross: No. I could get sued.
Deviance: There is speculation that the boss to the desert zone was a flying pyramid, any truth in this.
Brenda Ross: There was no boss designed for that level, if I remember correctly. If so, I never saw it.
Deviance: What is the deal with the unusual ring positions in that desert zone shot?
Brenda Ross: They’re unusual because I put them there. Lol. I’m not a game designer. They were there for temporary placement only.
Deviance: If you were asked to complete these missing zones for a Sonic compilation on DC, would you do it?
Brenda Ross: No. I’m way too busy now. Also, as I said, there are legal issues. Sonic is very well protected. I think for a while there, that particular character kept Sega of America from going under. He did generate a massive amount of money, didn’t he?