Tom Payne interview by SageXPO (July 30, 2009)
From Sonic Retro
- Thanks to BlazeHedgehog for the log.
This is a log of the live chat with Tom Payne that took place at the fourteenth Sonic Amateur Games Expo on July 30th, 2009 at 9:00pm Eastern-Standard Time. Tom Payne was a graphics artist for the Sega Technical Institute and worked on Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and much of what could not be used for Sonic 2 was later incorporated into Sonic Spinball. He later did work for LucasArts on games like Star Wars: Dark Forces and Indiana Jones and his Desktop Adventures.
Tom Payne: Tom
InstantSonic: Hello Mr. Payne! Glad to have you here with us. :)
Tom Payne: Hello?
InstantSonic: Hello again! PM me to get in line to start asking questions. Mr. Payne? Are you having trouble figuring out the client? You're voiced, you can talk :)
Tom Payne: Is my Mac not compatible?
InstantSonic: Yeah, you're talking for all to see
Tom Payne: Okay then
InstantSonic: Again to everyone, PM me to get in line to start asking questions.
Tom Payne: I didn't realize everyone was on east coast time
InstantSonic: Again, it's good to see you here with us, Mr. Payne!
Tom Payne: Likewise
InstantSonic: First up is SOTI
SOTI: Hi Tom, thanks for coming! I apologise if you've ever had to answer this question before, I did prepare this hours ago.
Tom Payne: Ok
SOTI: According to Yuji Naka in Sonic Jam's strategy guide the level layout of Genocide/Cyber City Zone was formed and it was later made into Metropolis Zone Act 3. In Metropolis Act 3 in a Sonic 2 beta an object existed which was a diagonal lift Image. This was later scrapped, however my question to you is if there was any other objects that was originally for that level. Sorry if this question confuses you. sorry for those lines, notepad copypasta :O Okay, I've been told that the link doesn't work sorry
Tom Payne: Um... there were lots of things for the level that got scrapped I remember the big moving blocks
SOTI: Do you remember that lift at all? oh right
Tom Payne: In fact, I thought they did get in
SOTI: Well in a Sonic 2 Beta, yes
Tom Payne: I have a map somewhere of the original Genocide City Zone I think
SOTI: however, in 2008 we recieved a lot of betas and in the earliest we got in 2008 (Beta 4, the layout was changed)
SonicTweaker: Tom: Would you be able to get that scanned at all?
SOTI: so sadly it was scrapped
SonicTweaker: I talked to ICEknight and he mentioned you have some level maps laying around that could be of some interest (or might have, rather)
Tom Payne: There wasn't enough time to do the Genocide City so Yasuhara combined some elements into Metropolis level 3 I think
SOTI: Well, thanks for my answering my question. It was a pleasure talking to you! I see Tom
Tom Payne: OK I was going to try & get some things scanned for tonight- maybe I still have time
InstantSonic: Next up is DMAshura
SonicTweaker: Fantastic! :)
(DM Ashura leaves)
Tom Payne: dmashura-- ok
InstantSonic: Well, that was short lived! Next is Sik
Tom Payne: next!
Sik: Hello Tom. I was wondering, what is the origin for the name of the zone? What was the idea behind it, basically.
Tom Payne: Metropolis?
Sik: No, Genocide City
Tom Payne: Ah-- I think it was the teams not quite complete grasp of the english language So it was changed to Cyber City?
SonicTweaker: Cyber City was a later name and not an earlier one, then?
Tom Payne: I believe so. we may have brought it up to them that genocide city has some rather bad connotations
Sik: So in short, Genocide City was basically a misunderstanding from their part?
Tom Payne: I think so.
Sik: Thanks for the reply :)
Tom Payne: They may have been looking for a name that sounded dangerous and got on the wrong track
InstantSonic: Next question is from JordanFreeman
SonicTweaker: That's actually pretty interesting. I had always thought that based on the prototypes that we had available that Genocide City was a name assigned to the level later on in the dev process. I guess it just goes to show that you can't trust in-progress level select screens as any kind of solid basis on which to make assumptions about the dev process of the game, heh
JordanFreeman: Hi Tom
Tom Payne: howdy
JordanFreeman: Did Genocide City have its own boss at one point or was that boss moved into Metropolis?
SonicTweaker: whoops, sorry
Tom Payne: Geez... um... I'm sure it had it's own boss, but after the whole zone got cut it probably got whittled down to whatever appeared at the end of Metropolis 3 I wasn't really privy to what Yasuhara & the gang had planned
JordanFreeman: Oh ok I see.
Tom Payne: And I didn't do any of the bosses, just the backgrounds
InstantSonic: Next up, we have DMAshura again!
DMAshura: Hello Tom! Thank you for taking the time to answer my question. As both a game designer and a musician, I've been asked before to make music to provide inspiration for a level's art.
Tom Payne: I'll give it a shot
DMAshura: My question is, have you ever worked on art for a level with the music for that level already created and available to listen to? How does this affect your inspiration?
Tom Payne: No actually. All the music was done either later or completely seperately All we had to work with was the music for Sonic 1
DMAshura: Did that play any part in your inspiration then?
Tom Payne: And I suppose that did influence how the art came out
DMAshura: Interesting. Again, thank you. :)
Tom Payne: But I think it was mostly the drawings that Yasuhara & Yamaguchi did that had a bearing on what it looked like
InstantSonic: Annnnd next, MFZB!
Tom Payne: ok
MFZB: Thanks =). Hi Tom, just wondering what the main influence was for the level artwork. The classic Sonic games had this sort of surreal other-worldly type vibe to them and I was wondering what maybe impacted that particular design choice =)
Tom Payne: Well for me-- Ithis was my first job so I only had Sonic 1 to go by & tried to make it match that style I'd say the it was Yamaguchi who laid out tthe look. He would stay all night & fix everything that we did wrong
MFZB: Cool to know, so there were no other influences other than his input that really defined the look?
Tom Payne: Quite an amazing fellow I'd really say that we had Sonic 1 to go by and how they came up with the look for that I do not know
MFZB: Awesome, thanks =D
InstantSonic: Next is m1ket
Tom Payne: Oh, and Yasuhara did these really cool little drawings that had an effect too
m1ket: oooh! hey tom!
Tom Payne: hey
m1ket: heard the IRC pop and came rushing ok my question is As an artist and team which level were you guys most proud of from Sonic 2? It can be any level. Production or just lost test levels.
Tom Payne: Well I always liked Casino Zone
m1ket: ah, nice choice
Tom Payne: And of course Metropolis but Casino Zone spawned our whole Sonic Spinball thing
m1ket: would you say that casino night was one of the most challenging?
Tom Payne: which didn't quite measure up, but we tried To play
Tom Payne: ?
m1ket: to create, art wise?
Tom Payne: That was all Yamaguchi, so ... I don't know if anything was challenging for him
m1ket: ah, ok. sorry for that question then! lol. Thanks for answering my original one though.
Tom Payne: ok
InstantSonic: BARTMAN, you're up!
Bartman: *Tatataaa* Er, hey Tom. Thanks for taking time to meet with us
Tom Payne: go!
Bartman: So what are you up to these days?
Tom Payne: I I'm doing paintings and making wine [www.eyeballpress.com Link to Tom Paynes website]
Bartman: Making wine? How does that work out?
Tom Payne: It's good & good for you I'm in Sonoma County, California I wish I knew more about the Sonic mythology for you all...
SonicTweaker: haha, don't worry about that
InstantSonic: Next is CyberKitsune!
CyberKitsune: Hi Tom ^^
Tom Payne: Hello!
CyberKitsune: Here is my Question:
Tom Payne: ready
CyberKitsune: Which lost level in S2 were you most disapointed to see get scrapped?
Tom Payne: Well of course it was Cyber City because I was going to do all the art for it
Tom Payne: and there was Brenda's snow level... That was pretty cool... what was the name?
SonicTweaker: We never got a name for it We just call it Winter Zone, haha
Tom Payne: I have it somewhere
CyberKitsune: Well, Thanks for answering my question, Tom. =)
Tom Payne: I think so... I' I've sent Betsy downstairs for the "box" with all of my ancient Sonic stuff in it Maybe I can look through it and talk to you tomorrow?
InstantSonic: Haha, sweet! Yes, that can be done.
SonicTweaker: That would be fantastic
Tom Payne: OK CyberKitsune
SonicTweaker: Also, if you still have those old digitizer disks, we might be able to hook you up with someone who can actually extract the contents from them (the ones you couldn't open before, I mean)
InstantSonic: Next is andlabs
Andlabs: oh, okay Hello
Tom Payne: Oh yeah? I rt I have them somewhere. Hello. You're on the air
andlabs: That art thing would interest a lot of people on Sonic Retro, the community with all that information. The questions: what was the time frame for working on Sonic 2?
Tom Payne: Oh geez... without my notebook I can't remember It was quick done by Christmas? that was the mantra
andlabs: Yes, and I see you succeeded
Tom Payne: ...and we ran out of time
andlabs: at least in getting the game out =P
Tom Payne: at least for some of the levels
andlabs: Also there is a Cyber City image ICEKnight released
Tom Payne: Oh yes
andlabs: Does that have anything to do with the maps you refer to?
Tom Payne: That was the drawing that Yamaguchi did for me to show the look of the level He did one for each level Brenda, Craig & I did. I think.
andlabs: That's cool
SonicTweaker: I always had the inkling that time constraints had a lot to do with hidden palace being axed. Would you agree with that? A lot of things seemed to be done for it--preliminary object layouts, a majority of the first act, title card, final music track, et al
andlabs: Finally, how was developing all the other games you worked on?
SonicTweaker: oh, sorry, two at once. heh.
andlabs: (for anyone else reading, Tom_Payne a list at
Tom Payne: Yes-- time constraints were paramount I got to recycle some of the art for Cyber City Zone into Spinball
andlabs: Of course. And what about your other projects? What are your opinions on those?
SonicTweaker: THat was... the machine level, right?
Tom Payne: Yes
Tom Payne: machine level Wait... other projects?
andlabs: Not the Sonic ones
InstantSonic: Andlabs, I have other people wanting to ask questions.
andlabs: Yes, this is my last one
Tom Payne: I worked at LucasArts for 3 years Did some cool stuff
andlabs: Cool. I'll have to see it sometime. Nice wine designs, by the way
Tom Payne: Thank you
InstantSonic: Next issss... zeldarocksd
Tom Payne: the box has arrived from downstairs-- you should start drooling now
zeldarocksd: Tom, what can you tell us about the elusive Hidden Palace Zone
Tom Payne: Ah...
SonicTweaker: Oh wow
Tom Payne: I may be wrong but that was Brenda's zone & she ran out of time. I think she had to do 3 levels or something was wrong with it?
SonicTweaker: Hidden Palace was Brenda's? I could have sworn it was Craig Stitt's or something
Tom Payne: Wait.. there was going to be one of her levels where they just changed the palette and made a whole new look? Tom Payne: ??? Maybe
SonicTweaker: I dunno about EOF. From what I gathered, it was supposed to be a hill top sort of deal. a separate level with minor art changes and a different palette
zeldarocksd: What was the end-level boss like?
SonicTweaker: but you'd know more than me, honestly :P. oh. sorry
Tom Payne: a Mistype of "one"
SonicTweaker: that was a typo
SonicTweaker: XD my bad
zeldarocksd: Again, what was the end-level boss like, if you could recall
SonicTweaker: But nevermind that, this box has my mouth watering! Haha
Tom Payne: I'm sorry-- I have no idea about the boss. Yes-- here are my original maps of Metropolis Zone
SonicTweaker: Do you have the means to scan them? That would be fantastic :)
InstantSonic: Now, give it up for... LightEffexor!
SonicTweaker: Anything you can share, really. I can assure you we're all very interested
LightEffexor: Hello, Tom.
Tom Payne: I will scan things... Hello LightEffexor
SonicTweaker: Yay! :D
LightEffexor: Here's my question: What was the reasoning behind Hill Top and Emerald Hill looking so similar?
InstantSonic: Also Tom, thank you very much for the information you've provided us with so far, as well as what you will provide. :)
Tom Payne: Either they were going to be different zones with more or less the same artwork.. or one was a primordial version of the other
SonicTweaker: Like a different time zone or something?
Tom Payne: Oh right... the time thing.... There was going to be some kind of time travel thing...? And it got cut
LightEffexor: so Hill Top and Emerald Hill's connection is what was left, then?
Tom Payne: Or was that a leter game
SonicTweaker: Yeah, we've heard stuff about that. I guess you don't know much about it, though. Sonic CD ended up being a game that played on the time travel element but to my knowledge a different team headed by Oshima produced that
Tom Payne: Yeah
LightEffexor: I see. Thanks for answering my question. Much appreciated.
Tom Payne: You'd really have to ask Brenda
InstantSonic: Now, we're on the RITZ
Tom Payne: There is another rumor
SonicTweaker: I don't think Brenda is too open to fan contact any more, to be honest... a lot of people drilled her a few years back on her personal AIM account
Tom Payne: about Hilltop etc
InstantSonic: What's that rumor?
Ritz: Hey, Tom. I was wondering, would you mind telling us about the work environment at STI? Apparently, there was some severe culture clash going down, and it led to a pretty hostile work environment, such that Naka wound up taking all of the Japanese devs and isolating themselves during the development of Sonic 3. It's been a pretty taboo subject in past interviews, but would you mind telling us more? Share some anecdotes, perhaps? Lovely paintings, by the way.
Tom Payne: Thanks... I got on very well with all the Sonic Team. But I don't think in general the americans measured up very well with the japanese team. I mean Yamaguchi would be there all the time working & we would go home & sleep! No.. really there was some weirdness later on, but for me it was pretty great to work with them all. It was like getting a chance to play guitar with the Beatles. I have some pictures of all of us in New York for Sonic Tuesday and we had a grand time
SonicTweaker: Haha, that's cool
Ritz: Great, thanks.
Tom Payne: I only wish I had learned Japanes to better communicate with them. Japanese I mean
InstantSonic: Bartman seems to have another question for you.
Tom Payne: Ok
Bartman: How was it possible to draw art for the levels in 8 by 8 pixels?
Tom Payne: Oh yes... the Mark III digitizer
Bartman: Was it on paper and then scanned? (Not the concept art) or just...all computer drawn?
Tom Payne: Just all computer drawn. 8x8 pixels was a cell then you had 2x2 c ells made a block and then you had bigger things,... 4x4 blocks? and there were limits on the number of each one
SonicTweaker: 16x16 and 128x128 pixels, respectively?
Tom Payne: I'd have to look at this stuff here, but I believe so
SonicTweaker: I know the 128x128 blocks were used to make up the levels
Bartman: How would it be possible to know that it would all match up? (I'm done at this point)
(And thanks again, Tom)
Tom Payne: Yasuhara made very specific maps
InstantSonic: And here's JEV3
Tom Payne: Yes, the 128x128 blocks were used thusly. ok
JEV3: hey, thanks for coming to answer our questions, I have a few so I'll try to ask the most important ones first Could you describe in detail the basic design process that went into designing the levels and the corresponding visuals? Additionally how did the multiple members of the team cooperate during this process?
Tom Payne: Yamaguchi oversaw all the art production he would give a drawing of the bvasic feel & look. Yasuhara would give the maps and a layout of the blocks needed and the individual artist would do the rest under Yamaguchi's keen eye
JEV3: How did you tackle the balance between gameplay vs visuals? Did you ever feel there were sections in the finished levels where one would get in the way of the other? (elaborate visuals inhibiting proper gameplay or vice versa). This is something I've seen become quite a prominent issue on the fangaming scene... with multiple designers it can crop up quite naturally I'd guess
Tom Payne: at STI we had dIt was really Yasuhara doing all the gameplay and Yamaguchi dealing with the visuals. I think the balance was worked out between them & worked perfectly
JEV3: did they have to keep working off each others' works or did someone oversee their cooperation?
Tom Payne: I think most everything was determined by how well the game played and I would think that Naka had much to say about that as well...
JEV3: You mentioned recycling level artwork for Sonic Spinball. Is this common practice in the developmnet process?
Tom Payne: I would think so... I used some things from the canceled game "B'Bomb" in Dark Forces-- though that was probably illeagal
JEV3: lol, well thanks for all your answers. Instant can bring in the next questioneer now if you're read y
SonicTweaker: Oh, speaking of 'B-bomb', I was requested to ask about that
InstantSonic: And that I will!
Tom Payne: That was going to be a good game
SonicTweaker: Would you be able to give anymore information about the game or any other unreleased STI games you worked on?
Tom Payne: Justin Chin was doing all the art & I think I helped him out. I used to have a ram of it.. Spinny & Spike?
InstantSonic: BlueEmerald, you're up
BlueEmerald: Thanks, Instant. Hi, Tom! So, since you said before that there might have been a boss made just for Cyber City, that piqued my further interest about this zone. Do you know if there might have been any zone-specific Badniks made for Cyber City that never made it into the final product?
Tom Payne: I personally, as my first job @ STI made lots of enemies that never got used-- the alligator... etc. I made the wasp & the fish. btw
SonicTweaker: The wasp from the first level?
Tom Payne: yep
BlueEmerald: And the two dino Badniks?
Tom Payne: Yes, I did the dinosaur
BlueEmerald: Was it supposed to do anything special?
Tom Payne: But they said you could only have living animals as badnicks
BlueEmerald: Besides walk around, I mean.
SonicTweaker: Do you know if the silver robotic fish enemy that got scrapped ever had an actual name? This is opposed to the red fish, chopper
Tom Payne: um... I don't think it ever got that far in development... but it just walked around yes...
SonicTweaker: (or was it jaws? either or) and yeah it just walked around
Tom Payne: ? I ?
BlueEmerald: But no enemies for Cyber City that you remember working on?
InstantSonic: If anyone else has any questions for Tom, PM me with your question.
Tom Payne: I'm sorry-- I don't remember
SonicTweaker: That's fine
BlueEmerald: That's all right. Still cool info. Thanks for answering. :)
Tom Payne: Is the "Bubbler" in the game?
SonicTweaker: the bubbler enemies themselves are, yes. the mother bubbler that spawned them is not, however. Or... i think that's how it went. let me check
InstantSonic: And LightEffexor once again
Tom Payne: I made those from Yasuhara's drawings
Tom Payne: My very first assignment at STI was to design enemies
LightEffexor: What was the original plan for Death Egg's layout?
InstantSonic: Hello Cinos, glad you made it here haha
SonicTweaker: this has all of the unused enemies we know about]
LightEffexor: was it supposed to be just the short hallway then two bosses? or more of a traditional zone?
Tom Payne: I don't know anything about the bosses. Though I was supposed to work on them but I think I wasn't quite good enough & Yamaguchi took over
SonicTweaker: Hm, here's another interesting one: We know that a BBS system was used to maintain contact and pass code and other materials between STI and SOJ. Did you ever use the system or have any knowledge on how it was used by developers on a day-to-day basis?
Tom Payne: I wasn't allowed near such things
SonicTweaker: Aaah, gotcha
SonicTweaker: Must have been for the programmers then
LightEffexor: so was Death Egg going to be a full-blown level?
Tom Payne: I really have no idea about Death Egg...
SonicTweaker: Probably a question for Yasuahara
LightEffexor: Ah. That's okay.
SonicTweaker: *Yasuhara, sorry
Tom Payne: If I scan some of these things & put them up, where should I put them?
SonicTweaker: I can provide you with some webspace to put them up on, but you could also use something like photobucket.com
InstantSonic: Or you could e-mail them as well
SonicTweaker: though they may resize the images. yeah, that works as well
InstantSonic: Give him your e-mail, Tweaker
SonicTweaker: right. [email protected] for me
InstantSonic: [email protected] for me as well. Ritz has another question for you!
Ritz: Hello, Tom!
Tom Payne: how about eyeball press.com Sonic and I'll put some things up for you to look at.. go ahead ritz hi
SonicTweaker: that works!
InstantSonic: Yeah, that'll be great
Ritz: I'm surprised nobody's asked you anything about Spinball yet. How much art did you do for the game? Which levels specifically, rather? And, of course, anything notable that got scrapped?
Tom Payne: Ah-- I was glad no one asked, cause I don't remember. No.. I did the mechanical zone? Or something
Ritz: Oh. Oh well!
Tom Payne: and I did the animation of Sonic paddling the barrel. or did I do two levels? Help anyone? It's been a long time
SonicTweaker: Well I know Craig Stitt did the first level. it uses some leftover tile patterns from Hidden Palace Zone. Not sure about the rest though..
Tom Payne: Ah... okay then he did the Hidden Palace. He did some slime level too?
Ritz: That was the first level, yeah.
Tom Payne: ok
InstantSonic: I gotta know... who did the boss design for the Robotnik Scorpion in the first level of Sonic Spinball? That boss creeped me out when I was a kid, but was cool at the same time.
Ritz: All of the bosses in that game were pretty creepy, it's always been part of the appeal to me.
Tom Payne: I think I did the art for that, but Peter did the design? Peter?
Ritz: But anyway thanks Tom I love you okay
Tom Payne: OK
InstantSonic: ..lmao. andlabs again!
andlabs: Tom____: related to the previous question Game Development of Sonic Spinball Page on Retro
Tom Payne: yes
andlabs: this page has some development information, including pictures and links. there's also a likewise page for Sonic
andlabs: *Sonic 2
Tom Payne: indeed
InstantSonic: That wasn't really a question, lol
SonicTweaker: yeah I was gonna say
Tom Payne: All right then...
Donnyku: ah right
Tom Payne: right
Donnyku: Not entirely if this was ever asked an any previous interviews, but how did you get involved with Sonic 2 and Zone Art
InstantSonic: three rights... make a left!
Donnyku: *entirely sure
Tom Payne: Ok... I went to art school & then spent time in Santa Cruz drawing weird things in cafes. then saw an ad in the paper STI hiring "game artists? so I went & applied. I had no idea that there were such things as Genesis's
InstantSonic: That's pretty cool. :) haha
Donnyku: fairly straight foward, wasn't sure if there was anything special you had to do beforehand. good to have that cleared up :D
Tom Payne: I think it was because I had no idea what a video game was that Mr. Marble Madness hired me
SonicTweaker: I've got something
InstantSonic: Let me voice you first Tweaker
Tom Payne: I must eat soon, but go ahead
SonicTweaker: As an artist, were you asked to make the mockup art sent to the press early in Sonic 2's development? If not you, do you know who?
Tom Payne: I think they put together something using whatever was done @! the time to make it look like wer were more done than we were. if you know what I mean
SonicTweaker: Yeah, I do
InstantSonic: I have one more question for you, Tom
SonicTweaker: Do you know who specifically made them or was it just the powers-that-be?
Tom Payne: It had to have been Yamaguchi & Yasuhara & Nake Tom Payne: Naka
InstantSonic: Ashes_Darkmare, you're up.
Ashes_Darkmare: Ok! Thanks
SonicTweaker: aha. thanks for that
Tom Payne: I always wished I couold have talked to them more
Ashes_Darkmare: I have a question for you Tom
Tom Payne: ok. question
Ashes_Darkmare: If Sega ever decided to do another 16 Bit Sonic game on like Xbox live Arcade or PlayStation Network. Like how Capcom worked on that recent 8 Bit Megaman game would you think you want to help design the zones if Sega ask for your help?
Tom Payne: Wow. No.
InstantSonic: lmao. That's blunt
Ashes_Darkmare: Ah well it was my thought xD
Ashes_Darkmare: Heheh very blunt by Liked it. thanks for answering though XD
Tom Payne: I never played games-- I just made them. Except Mario Kart on the SNES
InstantSonic: At this time, I have no more questions for you. Tweaker might a few more for you.
SonicTweaker: Hm, let me peek around here
Tom Payne: I should go & eat. But I will scan some things & put them up for y'all
SonicTweaker: Oh, sure thing
InstantSonic: Thank you for all the information you've provided us with, Mr. Payne! And remember, high fructose corn syrup is fine in moderation! ...Stay well. :)
Prime_2: Bye Tom.
Tom Payne: adios
SonicTweaker: Thanks for all the juicy info :D And make sure you let us know when you get that stuff up! :)
Tom Payne: I will email you
Prime_2: Be sure to let us know when he does, SonicTweaker :P
InstantSonic: Have a good evening, Tom!
Prime_2: And thanks again for putting up with all of us :P
InstantSonic: OMG BEAR IS DRIVING HOW CAN THIS BE
SOTI: That was awesome.
EnzoAquarius: Great interview! :DD
BlueEmerald: That was an incredibly informative interview. :)
DMAshura: KOREAN ANIME
CyberKitsune: Bye Tom.