In anticipation of the first release of Sonic 2 HD, we decided to put up a journal of our development leading up to and throughout our releases. Before we get into our more recent development, we thought a project history should come first. S2HD has built up quite a story by now, and these are only the highlights.
The idea of creating a high definition version of Sega's classic Sonic the Hedgehog 2 first appeared on a website called "Alchemist Defined". An artist calling himself Billy had drawn detailed piece of artwork depicting Sonic about to fight the final boss of the game in the Death Egg Zone. The low-resolution sprites were brought to life in this recreation: both the background and the characters had been completely remastered. A number of video gaming websites quickly discovered the image and were soon showing it off on their homepages. The question had been posed; "What would Sonic 2 look like in high definition?"
The Sonic Retro community had always taken a keen interest in all things related to Sonic's classical era. On December 6th 2007, a member of this community called "Athelstone" found Billy's image and excitedly posted it in the General discussion forums, while asking the very same question - what would it be like? The thread was soon moved to the "Creative Works" section of the forum.
Three months later, on March 8th 2008, a member of Sonic Retro called Vangar created a discussion thread asking for a game engine he could use to start work on such a project; soon after, interest in the thread exploded. Many members of the community quickly began to post concept images of what the game ought to look like. In the beginning, fans would merely apply graphical filters to the original low-resolution graphics. A member called "Yarharhar" then posted an image of a completely remastered Sonic, along with a method describing how he had created it. It was not long until a member of the community called "Vincent" was so inspired by Yarharhar's effort, that he took it upon himself to begin remastering a whole set of Sonic's character frames. Sonic 2 HD had officially begun.
However, the most difficult tasks still lay ahead of the project. How would the project be organized to achieve this goal? What game engine would be used to make it a reality? One possibility was to use a modified Genesis emulator, which would display the graphics from the original game ROM in high definition. After some debate, it was decided that any emulator, no matter how tweaked, would be far too limiting for the project. Reasons for the decision included the bugs and slow downs from the original game, problems that would be replicated rather than fixed and improved upon. The project also required room to expand beyond the original title.
One of the more appealing possibilities was to use a custom-made engine that had already been created. A member of the community called "Taxman" had already created a popular Sonic engine called Retro Sonic. Unfortunately, the physics in his engine were not yet close enough to the original Genesis series for it to be used (despite the fact that Taxman's engine boasted an incredibly impressive level development kit for designing original Sonic levels). It was likely that Taxman would eventually perfect the physics in his engine - but rather than wait for him to accomplish this, the community was anxious for the Sonic 2 HD project to move forward.
Soon after the staff's initiation, a staff team had been formed. Since Vincent had already remastered many of Sonic's frames, he became the project leader and the lead artist. A member called "SANiK" had even created an online database, which allowed contributors to upload all of their artwork, while members Athelstone and "Blue Streak" coordinated some of the community's contributions while giving suggestions and guidance to other project staff. Eventually, the administrators of Sonic Retro granted us our own community forum for the Sonic 2 HD project - but the project still lacked an engine.
Members of the community were starting to cast doubt upon the project: without a platform to run on, would it ever become a reality? In answer to this, a long-running member of the community called "LOst" privately informed the project staff that he had already been developing his own engine for a number of years and would like to be a part of the project. The staff were astounded at the accuracy of his physics, since they were based upon Sonic 3 (the game responsible for fixing many of the bugs present in Sonic 2's physics). Sonic 2 HD finally had an engine, but it's growing pains were far from over. During the summer of 2008, both Blue Streak and Athelstone ran into a series of life events that prevented them from being as active with the project as they had been earlier on. Contributors "Woot", "Exodus", and "Flare", who had all created appropriate artwork for the project over the course of the previous weeks, were then asked to join the staff as official artists. At roughly the same time, a new member called "Canned Karma" had come across the forums, and began to suggest ways to coordinate the many contributions the project was seeing. This could not have come at a better time, as the Vincent and the core staff had been planning all summer long to have the first functional technical demo of S2HD ready by early fall. On September 15th, 2008 the first tech demo of Sonic 2 HD was released.
The Tech Demo was a milestone for the project in more than one way. Not only did it demonstrate the commitment the newly gathered staff had to the project, but it exploded across the internet, garnering massive page hits for the Sonic Retro servers as well as being prominently featured on popular gaming blogs like Kotaku. While the Tech Demo was a success for the S2HD staff, there was a vast amount of work to be done behind the scenes. Staff artist DeathofRats, had almost completely dropped off the scene, leaving behind many tile breaks that had only been cobbled into working fashion at the last minute. Similarly, the main artists responsible for the game's badnik assets up to that point, "Trunks" and "Drex" had also begun to move away from the project. Until the following year, artists came and went, gradually contributing both level assets and badnik artwork, but none had shown the dedication and passion toward the project sought after by the staff for a member to hold a position on it.
In January of 2009, another wave of changes for S2HD began. A new member called "scanline99" contributed a concept poster for S2HD before any promotional material for the project had even been considered. With his background in illustration and animation, a few months later he would accept a position as the staff visuals & animation director. In the same spirit, a new level artist was found in a member named "Sciz" who had also shown a high level of interest in the project and had begun to work exclusively on the project's level art, ranging from tilework to level sprites. When the well-debated ring was once again brought to the foreground in the spring, two new members of Sonic Retro, "TyrantWave" and "Gambit" arrived almost simultaneously and began creating the best 3D renders of the ring yet seen. After a week of fierce competition and a controversial poll, Gambit's ring was chosen for a vector-based remaster. When life events removed Sciz from the project, Gambit replaced him as the lead level artist, and with his work the level art was yet again brought to new heights. The team's final members would not arrive for nearly a year. A talented illustrator called "CornetTheory" also joined the staff as a background artist that spring, and it would be his painted landscapes that would provide the game's environmental scenery.
From late spring of 2009 to early winter of 2010, the project's went almost completely dark in the public eye. During this time, the game engine was underwent heavy change and the character art completely re-evaluated, effectively rendering the entire Tech Demo obsolete. While these changes were favorable for the project in the long run, many posters in the project's subforum wondered if the project was still active, or if the game would ever see another release beyond the original demonstration. Members of the staff who had joined just before the Tech Demo's release had drifted away from the project; the staff had been reduced to Vincent, LOst, Canned Karma, Gambit, scanline99, CornetTheory, and the staff musician, "scubasteve".
A new year brought another set of change to S2HD, and a new talent base. The team's future Sprite Artist, "Cerulean Nights" appeared in February with two rapidly produced badiks, and soon became a regular community coordinator along with Canned Karma. The perceived lack of progress came to a head on March 15th, 2010, when the staff revealed teaser images of some of the work that had been done, and announced that the project would be shifting to a "closed community project". This news was met with widely varying remarks, but ultimately ushered in a total overhaul of the project's forum organization, and clear cut guidelines and goals for those wishing to contribute from that point on. Immediately after the new goals were set down, a member called "Synergy" posted up an image of a prototype for a Special Stage design, the one core area of the project that had not been worked on yet. Over the next few months, he would continue to refine the engine he built for this purpose, and would eventually craft the best candidate the project had seen. Midsummer of 2010, a musician named Tee Lopes was invited by the staff to remaster pieces for the project after staff members had reviewed his previous remix work for various Sonic level themes. Much of his work would be featured in the audio of the alpha release.
At the present time, Sonic 2 HD is ramping up for the project's alpha release in early 2011.