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Craig Stitt interview by ICEknight (January 2001)

From Sonic Retro

This is an interview conducted by ICEknight, with Craig Stitt. Originally this was posted on ICEknight's sometimes off-line website, Sonic Database.


Craig Stitt: I kind of feel like I am walking into a minefield if I answer these questions, but I guess I'll take the chance.

As far as people believing whether or not I am the 'real' Craig Stitt, that's their problem. If they want they can pull up my bio on the Insomniac site.

One of the biggest problems you are going to have, as I am sure you are already aware, is the fact that the vast majority of the team that did Sonic 2 was Japanese, and are most likely all back in Japan. And for Sonic 3, the entire team was Japanese. (Naka didn't want to have any Americans on the team, and Naka gets what Naka wants).

As to my role on Sonic 2; I was not a level designer, but a level artist. There is a big difference. I never drew any maps or designed any levels. (although I occasionally tossed some ideas in the pot which creating the level).

My primary job on Sonic 2 was simply to 'paint' art (one pixel at a time!) that would bring the maps to life. Yasahara (Spelling!?!?) was the primary designer on Sonic 1-3 (and he was the real magic behind the game and a really nice guy).

I had nothing to do with Sonic 3, and after that I don't know much of anything since I was working on other projects and shortly thereafter left to join Insomniac.

Our Sonic Questions

ICEknight: Before working at SEGA, did you help in the development of any other video game? Once in SEGA, were Sonic 2 and Sonic Spinball the first and last games you worked in?

Craig Stitt: My first job in the game industry was with Sega (Sega Technical Institute). I had been doing computer graphics for a couple of years when I literally answered an add in the newspaper that read, "Wanted: Videogame designers and artists, no experience necessary" (every guys dream). I still have that add. My first game was Kid Chameleon. I also worked on some other games, Dark Empires, Jester, Astropede, and others that never saw the light of day. There were a lot of projects at Sega that had unhappy endings. Some of these would have been great games if the had ever been completed. (Especially Jester and Astropede) I also did a little work on Comix Zone and The Ooze.


ICEknight: How did you get involved in the making of Sonic 2? Were you already in the team when they begun to make the game?

Craig Stitt: To be totally honest, I was in the right place at the right time. Naka (the head programmer) had quit in Japan, but he was friends with Mark Cerny (who started and ran STI). Mark talked Naka into coming to STI. At the same time, but before anyone knew how huge Sonic would be, Yasahara had signed-up to come work in the US. By the time Sonic went ballistic, STI had the two people most responsible for it's success, so STI got to do Sonic 2. Since I was already at STI I got the chance to work on the project from the start (of Sonic 2).


ICEknight: Can you explain us a what was your role as a 'Zone Artist'?

Craig Stitt: I would be given a paper map and some suggestions as to what the theme of the level was like. I would then rough out some ideas and show them around. When I had something that everyone liked I would start making all the little pieces of art that could then be put together to make the level.

Once this base art was done (a couple hundred tiles) I would then sit down and carefully place the art in the actual game. This part was sometimes fun, sometimes tedious. (as was drawing the art since most of it was done pixel by pixel).

Sega had it's own proprietary art-development stations that were used to paint and animate everything in the game. The were called "Digitizers" although you didn't really digitize anything with them, it was all by hand.


ICEknight: Were you asked to make a certain type of stages? If not, can you remember any idea you had for stages that were never made?

Craig Stitt: I can remember working up some ideas for a circus level, with big clown heads and a roller coaster. I know that there were other ideas, but that was a long time ago and a lot of levels have gone through this head in that time.


ICEknight: Did you work for any Sonic game that was never released? (maybe Sonic Mars/Sonic Crackers or Sonic X-treme?) What can you tell us about those games?

Craig Stitt: Sonic 2 and Sonic Spinball were the only Sonics I had anything to do with. I worked with the guys that were supposed to do Sonic Mars, but I was busy working on a project of my own at the point.


ICEknight: How was the treatment when you was working with the Sonic Team?

Craig Stitt: My only complaint was that if art had to get cut out it always seemed to be the American's on the team who's art got cut. Sometimes this was because the art wasn't working, but on other occasions, I don't believe this was the case. (such as with Hidden Palace, although I never was happy with the far background).

I said before that the reason that Hidden Palace got cut from the game, just before release (no one told me) was that they had run out of room. This is what I was told.

However, even if that was one of the reason, I also believe it got cut, as the individual in your chat room pointed out, because the gameplay was never completed. It was supposed to be a *secret* level, but I guess they kept putting it off till it was too late.


ICEknight: What was the reason of leaving SEGA?

Craig Stitt: My first major game after Sonic 2 was a game called Astropede. This was a game that I had designed from concept on. Unfortunately after about 14 months, and a LOT of frustration, the game was put "on hold". The game was a solid game and most likely would have done well, if it had been better managed.

Astropede was the only reason I stayed at Sega as long as I did. There were some issues with management that made it very difficult to work. Once Astropede bit it, I started looking around.


ICEknight: Now you're at Insomniac, what's your role in the making of the games? Is it very different than being at SEGA?

Craig Stitt: Insomniac is TOTALLY different from the way Sega was when I was there. The management here at Insomniac is the best that you can hope to find. Ted Price, the President, still works making art, and story, and game design, so he really knows what's going on and he knows how to treat his people.

I started at Insomniac back when there were just 4 of us. My job then was primarily modeling the 3D environments and painting the textures for the worlds. (Luckily by this point were were using Photoshop, no more pixel by pixel) I also designed most of the enemies for Disruptor.

At the end of Disruptor everyone went into their corners and started working on an idea for what we would be doing next. I had always wanted to make a game where you get to play AS a dragon, as opposed to fighting the dragon. After a lot of input from the rest of the team and our producers, my rough idea is what came to be Spyro.


ICEknight: Which games have you developed at Insomniac?

Craig Stitt: I have been with Insomniac since almost the start of the company (I think they were around about 6 months before I joined), so I have worked on everything that Insomniac has done. (Disruptor, Spyro 1,2,3).


ICEknight: What are your plans for the future? Are you going to release games for the Dreamcast? (there's a lot of people including me that can't buy a PlayStation 2 for obvious reasons).

Game Boy Advance seems to be a very powerful system for 2D games. Have you thought about making a Spyro game for the GBA? You could include your Hidden Palace if SEGA doesn't own the rights of that never released stage.

Craig Stitt: Unfortunately I can't talk at all about what Insomniac is or will be working on. I can say that for the foreseeable future we will be working solely with Sony.

However, Havas, who will be doing Spyro from this point forward, does have releases planned for several different systems.


THE MAKING OF SONIC 2

ICEknight: What did Mark Cerny do as the producer of the games?

Craig Stitt: Mark oversaw all the maps, and general game play. He also help keep the focus of the game on target as well as function as an art director.


ICEknight: Can you tell us what's exactly the SEGA Technical Institute and how was it related to the Sonic Team?

Craig Stitt: STI was the first internal development group Sega opened in the US. The whole concept was Marks idea. He wanted to have Japanese employees come over for extended periods and help teach how they make their games. This is why he placed the add that said, "no experience necessary". Mark wanted to train up people in his way and the Japanese way of making games.

As I said before, STI ended up with Naka because Mark anda Naka where friends and we got Yasahara because it was his turn to come to the US. That's how the Sonic Team ended up in the US for a couple of games.


ICEknight: Do you remember if Sonic Team wanted to add to Sonic 2 some situations they couldn't make in the final Sonic 1?

Craig Stitt: It's been too long ago. Plus most of the design meeting were held in Japanese! (Mark speaks fluent Japanese).


ICEknight: Was Tails designed when the game was already being programmed? What was his original role in the game?

Craig Stitt: One of the things that it was felt was needed in Sonic 2 was a new character and the possibility to play as a two player game. (okay a "player and half" game).

I submitted a little rocket powered turtle named Boomer, but a very talented artist named Yamaguchi (Spelling!?!?) did up this little two tailed fox that everyone loved.

Yamaguchi REALLY wanted the fox to be named Miles, but the battle was lost and he was named Tails. (although Yamaguchi managed to sneak the name 'Miles' into a LOT of the art in Sonic 2).


ICEknight: Was he going to be the guardian of the Master Emerald in the Hidden Palace?

Craig Stitt: I have no idea what the Master Emerald is. If you are referring to the large emerald in the screen shots, that was simply a 'block' that you had to break in order to gain access to the tubes beneath. There may have been other things planned for that emerald, but it's been too long).


ICEknight: When Tails is selected as the main character, he can't fly like he does to reach Sonic. Do you remember if his ability was removed because of some kind of bug, or it was never implemented?

Craig Stitt: I don't remember for sure, but I am pretty sure his abilities were changed for game play reasons.


ICEknight: Was Super Sonic supposed to appear since the game was originally planned? What kind of abilities was he going to have originally? Was he just another 'power up' in the monitors or was he going to appear when all the Chaos Emeralds were collected, like in the final version?

Craig Stitt: I don't remember. Like I said, I had little to do with the game design, and spoke almost no Japanese.


ICEknight: He looks like the 'Super Saiya' transformation of Son Goku in the Dragon Ball Z anime. Do you know if somebody in the Sonic Team was a big fan of Akira Toriyama?

Craig Stitt: Don't know.


ICEknight: Were Knuckles, Amy or any other Sonic character going to be in Sonic 2 originally? Was there any important character that was never included in the Sonic games?

Craig Stitt: Knuckles was designed specifically for Sonic 3. I don't remember any other characters, although I am sure there are many who either never made if off the drawing board, or who didn't make schedule.


ICEknight: What kind of computers and specific programs were used in the development of Sonic 2?

Craig Stitt: I already talked about the Digitizers. They were BIG white boxes with black fronts. They used 31/4 discs and had a tendency to eat artwork. (We finally discovered that you couldn't have the number '6' as the first character in your file name)


ICEknight: We know that the Sonic 2 levels are made of smaller parts (of 128x128 pixels). Were those parts designed before the whole level was completely drawn, or were the level maps designed first?

Craig Stitt: Actually, the most basic component in the art was a 16x16 pixel block. An artist had a certain amount of unique 16x16s to make a limited set of unique 128x128s. You got very good at making small elements that could be used upside-down and mirrored (flipped and flopped) since you got those for free.

There were also very strict palette restrictions. You could only have 64 colors on screen at any given instant. Of course the programmers and artists found lots of fun little tricks that gave you the illusion of far more colors.

Much of the basic concept art and rough ideas could be done before you had a finalized map. You could even create much of the 16x16s, but the final 128s were usually not done until you had a nearly final map (I have found that maps are NEVER final until the game is sitting on the store shelf).


ICEknight: Do you remember anything that couldn't be implemented because of bugs in the engine?

Craig Stitt: Too long ago.


ICEknight: Do you know which were the first stages in development? Can you give us some possible names for them?

Craig Stitt: I know that Hidden Palace was one of the first pieces of art I did for Sonic 2. (which is why it bothers me so much that it got cut).

I can remember a variation on the Atlantis theme that got as far as a map and some rough art, but that's all I can remember (Mark Cerny designed that one).


ICEknight: Did the game with the original stages have a storyline, like Sonic 3? I mean, maybe there would be a connection between some stages, like when (near the end of the game) Sonic finishes Wing Fortress and uses Robotnik's ship to help him reach the Death Egg. Were all of the final stages already planned before they started programming the game? Which stages were the last ones to be implemented? Which stage was originally going to be the first one in the game? And the last one? Was the original final boss different than that one in the official release? Were all the stages originally supposed to have 2 acts? Is there a special reason for making 3 acts in Metropolis Zone? In Sonic 2 (final release) there are two stages (Wing Fortress and Death Egg) that only have one act. Were the second acts cut because of the memory restrictions?

Craig Stitt: I am sorry to say I don't have any answers for these questions. (been too long and I don't speak Japanese).


ICEknight: Do you remember anything that couldn't be implemented in the game because of the arrival of the Sonic 2 release date?

Craig Stitt: Yeah, Hidden Palace! There were also two other levels done by America artists that got cut somewhere along the line. One was a desert level, (done by Brenda Ross) and there was another by Tom Paine, but I can't remember what it was. Tom ended up doing some levels in Spinball.


ICEknight: The Master System/Game Gear version was released after the Mega Drive one, but do you know if they were programmed at the same time? Were the 8 and 16 bit versions going to have the same stages when they were first planned? That could mean the 8 bit version has some of the zones of the Mega Drive Sonic 2 'Alpha build'. Do you know anything about that? Could the Underground Zone and other 8-bit stages be originally planned for the Mega Drive too?

Craig Stitt: The Mega Drive/Genesis versions and the Master System/Game Gear versions were done by totally different teams with very little interaction between the two. (at least as far as I could tell).


ICEknight: I know on the Game Gear version of Spinball, a different group all together did it and never even asked for art for the game. (I'm sure they could just pull it of the cart if they needed it).

Do you remember if any stage in the Mega Drive version was going to have minecarts? The Mystic Cave has some rails for them and, in the 8 bit game, the Underground Zone title card shows Sonic inside a minecart with a ground very similar to the walls of a lost desert zone.

Craig Stitt: I don't know.


ICEknight: We've noticed that when the SEGA logo appears in the final version, the game loads the 'Metal Sonic' graphics for a short time. Was he going to run over the SEGA letters instead of that big Sonic?

Craig Stitt: Don't know.

Magazines

ICEknight: In some of the early screens we saw in the magazines, Tails wasn't there, and the Sonic graphics looked more like those of Sonic 1. Those screenshots were the first place where we could see the Hidden Palace and a desert zone we never saw again.

Craig Stitt: Yamaguchi totally redrew Sonic for Sonic 2. Tails might not have been there because he wasn't 'born' yet. As for the screen shots (such as the ones you sent along) many of those were 'faked up' since the levels were not running yet. I can remember making the ones for Hidden Palace (and it's been a real mind trip to see them again after all this time).


ICEknight: The most strange thing about them is that Sonic was very off-centered in the screen, the counters weren't in italics and were a little moved. Also, the ring counter said '08', but in any Sonic game it should read just '8'. That made some of us think that it was only a screen made by a SEGA artist to show how the stages would look like when they were finished. Do you know if those screenshots were real? The place with the triceratops also looked a little different to the Hidden Palace we could see later. The background in that 'Alpha' screenshot of Hidden Palace seems to be hand made, and it looks more similar to the background of the Sonic 3 Hidden Palace.

Craig Stitt: You guys really need to get lives. You are correct, as I said most of these screen shots are faked up. Usually this is not a problem, except in cases like this where the levels get cut at the last minute.


ICEknight: Did they tell you that they were going to add a different version of your stage in the next Sonic game?

Craig Stitt: I never heard anything about it one way or the other.


ICEknight: About the desert zone, we've only seen that picture of it, and we think it looked nice. It's said they removed it because people wouldn't like it. Is it true? Please, can you tell us anything you remember about that level? How was it like? How were the crocodile bots like? (we've only seen their head) How was that zone's boss? Do you remember what could be the name of that zone? We really want to know that... In that desert picture we could see the same robot wasps of the final Emerald Hill. Was there any other enemy porting between levels in the early stages of development?

Craig Stitt: I really don't remember anything about the desert level except that Brenda was very upset about having the level cut from the game. (although, if I remember correctly, it was cut relatively early in the dev-cycle).

The re-use of enemies, in this case is simple a factor of these being early mock-ups. (You used what you had ready).


ICEknight: There's a rumor that says there was going to be time travel in Sonic 2, like in Sonic CD. Is this true? Some people think the Metropolis Zone was going to be Wood Zone's bad future, for example. The magazines told that there was going to be a special version of Sonic 2 for the Sega CD/Mega CD. Do you remember something about that?

Craig Stitt: I do remember something about there being a time-travel story line. I can remember trying to work out the details of what a forest would look like when it was green and healthy, then what it would look like after it had been ravaged by Robotnik. I can remember trying to come up with a good way of doing burning trees.


ICEknight: Some of us believe that the missing desert zone of Sonic 2 was ported to Sonic CD, as the stage 2 (which was finally removed from Sonic CD, too). Do you remember something about 'level porting' between Sonic 2 and Sonic CD?

Craig Stitt: I don't remember any 'porting'. There was actually very little communication between the Sonic Team and the guys doing Sonic CD. If there are any similarities in the art its only because almost every video game ever made has a desert level, a jungle level, a ice level, a lava level, etc. (we try hard, but it's hard to get away from the basics of Mother Nature).

Sonic 2 Beta ROM

ICEknight: Some time ago, a Beta version of Sonic 2 was found in a Chinese page. It's very interesting to us, because it allows us to know more things about the development of this great game. The stage select cheat is enabled by default, and we know how to make the 'Debug' cheat, so we could access any stage in the ROM, and reach any point in the zones. Tails appears in the game, but he still can't fly to reach Sonic, and his behaviour is a little different. Sonic's graphics and walking animation look VERY different to either Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 final graphics... It looks a little weird.

You can see some images of the things I'm going to talk about in this page: http://ssrg.emulationzone.org/area51/s2beta.html

Looking into the graphics in the ROM, we found some graphics of Sonic that never appeared in the game, like Sonic grabbing something (maybe pulling a lever) or Sonic looking tired. Can you explain us if those graphics had something to do with the Master Emerald or another special event in the game? Do you remember if Sonic was going to have another new ability that wasn't implemented in Sonic 2, but in a later Sonic game?

Craig Stitt: I don't have anything specific to say other than I know that Yamaguchi reworked Sonic a couple of times before everyone was happy with him. Plus I am sure that there are LOTS of moves and animations that never get used. I know of many Spyro animations/idles that were tried and rejected or we just didn't have room or time for.


ICEknight: There's no Special Stage yet, and the palettes of the Sonic 1 Special Stage are still in the ROM. Does it mean that they originally wanted to put the same 'rotating maze' Special Stage of Sonic 1? If not, do you remember how the Sonic 2 Special Stage looked in the first stages of development? What was the original way of entering those Special Stages? Were those giant rings of Sonic 1 going to appear also in Sonic 2?

Craig Stitt: I don't know.


ICEknight: Inside the ROM, we've also found some enemies which graphics were deleted, and they have a different behaviour to those enemies of the final game. Do you remember any enemy that was made in the alpha version, but was deleted some time later? Maybe some of the final enemies also moved in a different way than in the final version.

Craig Stitt: Don't know.


ICEknight: There are no 'title cards' in the beginning of the stages, yet, and the level order when starting a normal game is as follows: Aquatic Ruin (called Neo Green Hill), Chemical Plant, Hill Top and Emerald Hill (called Green Hill), where you fight the only boss in the game (if you defeat him you're returned to the SEGA logo).

There are some levels that look very close to the final versions, but with a few changes. Emerald Hill, for example, has snails instead of monkeys, and some other stages are very close to the definitive ones, but no enemies appear and there are some things that were removed or changed in the final release. Do you remember if Metropolis Zone looked very different in earlier versions? It had some screws/drills in the background, right?

Craig Stitt: I think it was Metropolis Zone that Yamaguchi must have completely reworked 3 or 4 times. (foreground and background) The first pass was very different from the final version. (Unfortunately that's all I can remember after almost 10 years).


ICEknight: Mystic Cave has a lot of dangerous obstacles at the beginning of the first act, but when you manage to pass through them, the rest of the stage has no enemies or any other moving objects. Was that stage going to be so dangerous, or maybe that was some kind of test to see how those objects worked? Mystic Cave is called 'Dust Hill' in that beta version. Some people suggested that it could be the desert zone's original name. Could it be? If it wasn't, do you know when and why did they rename it, as well as the other stages?. Do you remember any other zone that was renamed since the game was designed?

Craig Stitt: The desert level could have been named Dust Hill. The only thing I can really remember about it was that the 'hook' for that level was lots of quicksand. Sonic would slowly sink if he wasn't fast enough or jumped wrong.


ICEknight: One of the surprises the cartridge had was that Casino Night was... pink and blue! The golden structures of the final version were gone, and it looked almost like if it wasn't the same stage. It's a shame it lacks some floors and the stage itself is too incomplete to be played. The most strange fact is that acts 1 and 2 have different backgrounds, and they load a different palette for each one! Were those 2 acts going to be very different to each other? Do you remember any stage that was going to have 2 completely different acts? Did any other zone have some graphic or concept changes before the final release?

Craig Stitt: Like Metropolis, Casino Night was also Yamaguchi's and he basically lived at the office reworking his levels.


ICEknight: We know there was going to be a zone with torches in the background, because we found the graphics in the ROM. Do you know about any Sonic 2 stage that was originally going to have torches? Those torches seem to have some bricks behind them, which are similar to those of Aquatic Ruin or the ones of Mystic Cave. Can be these two stages related in any way? Maybe they were originally different parts of the same stage, and the Mystic cave wasn't green, and looked like a normal cave? There are the graphics of a rocky platform splashing into water.. or maybe sand. Any ideas of where could it be from? Maybe they fell from some waterfalls in any stage?

Craig Stitt: Sorry, can't be of help.

Missing Zones

ICEknight: The most intriguing things in that beta cartridge are those zones that were never released officially, or were deleted even before this beta was made.

There's a playable zone called Wood Zone, that has the Metropolis music (why could it be?). It shows only some woods and conveyor belts, and then there's no more stage. Was it designed as a normal stage, or was it an old version of Metropolis Zone? Or maybe it was only part of a scene between two stages?

Craig Stitt: I kind of remember that level. I think what you are seeing is a test level. If I remember right something in the game mechanics didn't work right (read: it wasn't fun) and it got scrapped before it got too far. I also think this is the level done by Tom Paine that got cut.


ICEknight: Death Egg appears in the stage select screen, and it has 2 acts! Unfortunately, the whole stage seems to be deleted or not implemented, so it makes Sonic fall and fall in a messed background until he dies. Did the Death Egg zone had originally two acts? Did it always have two bosses? It uses the same graphics as Chemical Plant, but with a different palette. Maybe the original Death Egg had its own graphics and had 2 whole acts, but they were removed because of the memory limitations?

Craig Stitt: No idea.


ICEknight: The most mysterious zone of them all is one called 'Genocide City Zone'. There are a lot of theories about it, but nobody has actually seen that stage, and we don't know a thing about it. We're very interested to know the truth about this totally unknown stage! Please, tell us everything you know about it! What was it about? Was it a scary zone? A destroyed futuristic city? What were the enemies like? And the boss? Was it related in any way with Chemical Plant, Death Egg or any other stage like Oil Ocean?

Craig Stitt: I can remember there being one, but that's about it. Sorry.


ICEknight: Please, tell us anything you can remember about these missing zones, as well as about all those zones we didn't ever heard about (there must be more deleted stages). We don't know anything about how were they supposed to be, or the enemies and bosses they had.

In the beta version's Sound Test, there are some repeated musics. Do you know if they deleted all the musics for the 'lost levels'? Or were they just placed in other stages like the 2 Player zones?

Craig Stitt: Quite often the music and sound effects on beta versions are just place holders for the real thing. If the real sound wasn't ready, then it's what ever was handy and sort of fit the level.

Oil Ocean

ICEknight: Oil Ocean is known as one of the most original stages in the Sonic games. Where did the idea of an Oil Ocean come from?

Craig Stitt: I should remember more about Oil Ocean, since this is one of the levels I worked on. All the forground art is mine, although the background is Yamaguchi's (no one liked my background, including me).

I don't remember what the original art direction given me was. It was pretty open though. Basically I think I was told that the level was going to have slippery oil flowing through it and under it, with lots of elevators and timed jumps (like most Sonic levels).

I decided to go for a cross between the Golden Gate Bridge and an oil refinery.


ICEknight: Do you remember if the enemies or any other thing was changed in the stage since it's original design?

Craig Stitt: There are always changes, but I can't remember any specific ones.


ICEknight: The balls & switches of Oil Ocean appear in the dumped beta. They were later removed from the stage, but we can still put them in the game when Debug mode is activated..! What was the reason of removing them? Their weirdness..? Did you know that bigger versions of those balls appeared in the beta versions of the Sonic 1's Green Hill Zone? They were removed in the final game, too. Have you seen the Sonic 1 beta?

Craig Stitt: I don't remember what the reason for the changes.


ICEknight: I do remember the first time I ever played Sonic.

Craig Stitt: I had been working at STI for just a few months when we got a beta version in to play. I remember it was interesting, but nothing to get excited about, (Sonic did not spill all his rings when you got hit). Then a short time latter we got a newer version. This version had the ring spill and NOW it was fun! Before everybody played a few minutes and got bored, but after the rings worked, it was hard to find a time when someone wasn't already playing it!


ICEknight: In the beta, Oil Ocean has a different music than the final version. It uses the 2 player Casino Night music instead. Was it always going to be the music for that zone? If so... which stage was going to have the final Oil Ocean music?

Craig Stitt: Like I said, in a beta, you just use what you have. You just need a space holder for sounds and art that isn't finished yet.

Hidden Palace

ICEknight: At last, thanks to the Genesis/MegaDrive emulators, we could play the great Hidden Palace zone, but it's incomplete, and there's no known way to finish it, even with the 'Debug mode' activated. Was the Hidden Palace connected in any way to the Death Egg, Mystic Cave, Hill Top or any other stage? Do you know which stages was it supposed to be between? Or was it only accessible when Sonic collected all the Chaos Emeralds, as a secret zone? Was it going to have 2 acts originally?

Craig Stitt: Once again, I am afraid that I can't remember what opened up the secret. It was early in the game though, not at the end like a traditional 'bonus level'. If I remember correctly the original design called for two acts, but that was quickly cut down to one when someone took a look at the schedule (then it was cut to zero acts).


ICEknight: In that beta version, the Hidden Palace has the music of the 2 player Mystic Cave, instead of that one of the final version (#10 music in the final Sound Test). Was it supposed to be the original Hidden Palace music or they were only testing the music engine, by changing the order of the musics? Maybe the final Hidden Palace music was initially assigned to other stage?

Craig Stitt: It's a beta. I don't know what music was originally written for Hidden Palace.


ICEknight: They had to remove it just before the final release, and in the final game there's even an icon for Hidden Palace in the level select screen, and the music is still in the sound test. But when we try to play in that stage (by altering the memory values), the stage graphics are not loaded, and we can only see the rings and the monitors between an amount of garbled graphics. You said it was removed because of memory limitations (they must have deleted the graphics, the level patterns and the code for the enemies and specific objects of the stage).. This means that in the previous beta version there was a stage missing, so Hidden Palace could be in the cartridge, which had the same memory size. Which was the last stage being added? Maybe it would have been better if they just didn't add that last stage, or if they deleted Hill Top Zone (the graphics were too similar to Emerald Hill's).

Craig Stitt: Sounds like a better plan to me. Personally I never liked Hill Top because it was just a very simple rework of Emerald Hill Zone, but I wasn't calling the shots back then.

Betas don't run on the same limitations as the real cart, so it is very possible to get things on a beta that won't make it once all the real restrictions are in place on the final version.

There is also the fact that Hidden Palace also needed some more design work to be finished (and fun).


ICEknight: The only improvement we really know that was made between this beta version and the final release was that Sonic would spin automatically when he entered the tube. Do you remember any other improvements that were never 'officially' released? Perhaps some changes in the background?

Craig Stitt: Things changed up to the last day. Too long ago to remember.


ICEknight: Did you design the whole level, as well as the enemies? In our beta version there are no triceratopbots, like those we've seen in the early screenshot. Do you know the reason of removing them? Their graphics were deleted, but the code is still in the beta ROM, so we have seen their behaviour was a little buggy when colliding with some walls. Maybe that was the reason? As the enemies in this beta's Hidden Palace, there are only the dinobots and the batbots. Maybe all these never released enemies had their own names. Do you remember any?

Craig Stitt: Many of the enemies you are talking about were done my Tom Paine. I don't know why they were cut. Possibly because his style wasn't close enough to the Japanese artists.


ICEknight: Almost every area in Hidden Palace has strange elements with an unknown meaning to us. I hope you can explain us this mysterious things.

Passed the cool green tube at the beginning, there's a strange place with a green ground and two waterfalls. Below that ground, there seems a small place where Sonic can walk. Was there supposed to be any way to break that ground or to reach that place down there? What was it for? Then, we find a '1-Up' monitor which shows Tails' face! Why is it there instead of Sonic's face? Was Tails the only one who could reach the Hidden Palace, or was that a bug in the zone, caused by the changes in the code when Tails was added? Was that monitor really intended to be a 1-Up monitor? It can be accessed so easily.

There's a very high place that Sonic can't reach (above the place of the screenshot we saw with two triceratopbots), and it seems to be a 'boss arena'. How could the player reach that place? Maybe Tails could fly to get there? Maybe Super Sonic was able to fly? Or it was Knuckles? Were you told about the future project of Lock-On technology, called Sonic & Knuckles? That place I mentioned can be reached by climbing with Knuckles, as we could see by hacking the ROMs.

Craig Stitt: Once again, the last time I saw or played this level was over 9 years ago. I do know that there was no plans for Knuckles at this point since he wasn't even a glint in Yasahara's eye yet.


ICEknight: At the middle of the stage, there's a place where a bridge seems to be missing and when you fall through the hole and go to the right, you find the Master Emerald, blocking a tube. Was Robotnik supposed to make an appearance there? What did he do? What was the Master Emerald for? Was there any way to break it? Where did the tube lead to? Or maybe the purpose of the tube was very different? Had the Master Emerald something to do with the other Chaos Emeralds and with transforming Sonic into Super Sonic? Was the idea of the Master Emerald yours? Was it going to be in the Hidden Palace since the zone was designed?

Craig Stitt: I'm sorry to burst the Master Emerald bubble, but it was just a plug to stop up the tube. Sonic broke it the same way he broke anything open in the game. That is unless my mind really has slipped away in the last 9 years, which if that's the case, and it could be, then the Master Emerald could in fact have held the meaning of the universe and I've just forgotten.

If the spot you are talking about where there seems to be a bridge missing is where I think it is, then there is a bridge missing there. There were these cool little green orbs that bobbed up and down and glowed bright as Sonic ran over them.


ICEknight: Then, there's a very big green slope, with some rings in horizontal rows of 3. There's no known way to climb it, and there's no elevator or transporter there. How was it possible to climb that ramp? With some kind of help of the Master Emerald?

Craig Stitt: Sorry to say that I can't remember how you were supposed to get those rings.


ICEknight: Anyway, when we climbed it with help of the 'Debug mode', we could see that we reached the top of the screen and the scroll didn't move automatically to the bottom of the map as it should do, so the character disappeared. The water didn't disappear, as well. Was that bug corrected in the stage that was going to be released in the final version, or maybe there was no time enough to fix that bug in the game engine?

Craig Stitt: Very strange thing happen when you cheat around a level in debug mode so there may or most likely may not have been a bug there. When you cheat around in debug mode it's very easy to skip over various 'switches' that load art, code, music etc, so when you get to where you are going things don't run right.


ICEknight: Once the ramp is climbed, there's some kind of slide with water, but it doesn't make the characters slide, maybe because it's still in early development stages. Was that supposed to be the end of the level? Was this part of the level ever finished? Beyond that slide, there's a small piece of ground. Maybe this one was the place where Robotnik appeared? Or there was just an 'end of level' panel or an Egg-trap with animals inside?

Craig Stitt: Been too long.

SONIC SPINBALL

ICEknight: Peter Morawiec told us that the game was made in a very short period of time. Can you tell us exactly what did you make in the game?

Craig Stitt: I created the art for the first level in the game. There was orginally supposed to be a water level, then a toxic waste level, but we ended up merging the two into one. Peter drew all the maps.


ICEknight: Was the Sonic Team involved in any way in this game?

Craig Stitt: No.


ICEknight: Did the original Toxic Caves have any difference with the final ones?

Craig Stitt: The original version had toxic waste at the very bottom, but it was changed to water. (see above)


ICEknight: Were the Toxic Caves based in the Hidden Palace?

Craig Stitt: Yes it was. I was very happy with the basic 'wallpaper' pattern and colors I had worked out for Hidden Palace so I used them as a basis for the Spinball level.


ICEknight: Do you know anything about the reason of removing some scenes between stages, and changing the original Bonus Table? It originally had some Robotnik animations in the background.

Craig Stitt: I don't remember for sure why the scenes between the stages were removed, possible for memory limits or time limits on the artists creating them.

The Robotnic animations were removed because of memory limitations.


ICEknight: Did you have to make any changes in the stages for the Japanese version?

Craig Stitt: I don't remember making any serious changes.

BETA SONIC SPINBALL ROM

ICEknight: A beta version of Sonic Spinball was found recently, too, but it's almost like the final version. The main differences are the existance of some bugs in the game, some different musics, the animals inside the enemies (there are birds, bees and butterflies), the only Bonus Table available (it's gray instead of green, and has scrambled counters in the background) and the fact that the final boss is unbeatable. The most strange thing about that ROM is that it's size is different than any other cartdrige size, and in the end of the file, there's a piece of a Sub-Terrania early version. Do you know what could be the reason for that? Did you help in some way in the making of SubTerrania?

Craig Stitt: The Sub Terrania level you are describing sounds like the early water level that was the original first level. The art for that level was done by Brenda Ross (who, once again, was not happy at all to have her art cut from a game).

I don't remember way the first two levels were cut. Peter would probably know the answer to that one.

One bit of trivia for Spinball. It was the last day. We were all sitting around eating at the 'wrap party' when the Japanese came in from working on Sonic 3. Yasahara, while watching the opening sequence of Spinball, made an off-hand remark asking how we talked Sega into paying for the rights to the original Sonic Theme. We all looked at him very strangely since we didn't have a clue what he was talking about. It turns out that the group that did the original Sonic theme still owned the rights to the music. In the interem between Sonic 1 and Sonic 2 this band had become quite famous in Japan. When Sega approached them to use the music again in Sonic 2, they asked for a lot of money.

Well, no one had told us about this and we had used the original music. Howard, our music guy, quickly ran to his little room and started writing a new piece of music. At about midnight that night we released a NEW gold master version of the game, this time with our own original theme song. (which was released in limited quantity on CD).

I hope I have been of some help.

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