Traveller’s Tales director unveils secrets, turns to mods

Sonic 3D Blast

Jon Burton – founder of prolific studio Traveller’s Tales and executive producer on the LEGO movie – has been working in the games industry for nearly three decades now. You pick up some interesting insights after that long, and now he’s sharing some of that knowledge with us.

Over the past 6 weeks, he’s been detailing coding secrets, unveiling abandoned concepts and demoing unreleased builds of older games on his YouTube channel, GameHut. Today he announced a project to polish up one of his most-maligned games through an unofficial ‘Director’s Cut’ mod.

He’s going to fix 1996’s Sonic 3D Blast.

If you’ve never played it, you’re probably not missing much (yet). Effectively an isometric remake of Sega’s old arcade game Flicky, wherein you try to rescue lost birds from around a 2D level and return them to the level exit point. Unfortunately, adding Sonic and an extra half-dimension didn’t quite work. It was slippery, awkward, and far too easy to get lost. Still not the blue hedgehog’s worst by any means, though.

The Director’s Cut sounds like an ambitious set of upgrades, making fixes across the board. Tweaks to physics, quality of life improvements and the addition of the fan-pleasing Super Sonic. More impressive are his plans to re-implement an integrated level editor/debug mode, give the game a proper save system and have all of the above available via a toggle in the game’s options menu.

His latest passion-project aside, the rest of his channel is essential viewing if you’re interested in the process of game development. Some of the technical videos are genuinely impressive, like how they managed to cram a (short) FMV intro into a Mega Drive cartridge and still leave room for a game, or how the LEGO company were considering a series of edgier movie tie-ins that the little plastic figures would be inappropriate for. The end result (sadly never taken beyond concept art) was Looney Tunes starring in The Matrix.

Sonic 3D Blast is available on Steam for £4/$5, and allows for official romhack support via Steam Workshop. After the recent kerfuffle over a Super Mario 64 multiplayer mod, it would seem that Sega do what Nintendon’t after all.

9 Comments

  1. Hyperion says:

    when I was a kid I was impressed on how the Mega Drive could pull off something like Sonic 3D Blast, especially the intro. I never did beat the game, but to me it’s not as bad as most would say.

    In fact I finally bothered to buy the Saturn port of it last year and it was a lot better than the Genesis/MD version. Music and the pre-rendered background has more details and such.

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      The Almighty Moo says:

      I had the MD version and really liked it as a Sonic obsessed pre teen. That last boss is pretty brutal.

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    The Almighty Moo says:

    Those videos are great. Really very impressive. The one on how they got the intro running was amazing. And Toy Story’s 3D section.

  3. Rao Dao Zao says:

    I will say that the soundtrack of the megadrive version is amazing, and it was always an extremely attractive looking game. Shame about the gameplay, though — maybe one of those times where full-on analogue stick control might actually bring it to life?

    • cpt_freakout says:

      The soundtrack for the Saturn version is pretty great as well! The MegaDrive OST was made by a Japanese duo while the Saturn one was made by, IIRC, a French guy. I’d love for more games to have more than one musical interpretation of their material, but 3D Blast is a good example of how different soundtracks make the experience of the game different as well. They’re very distinct and do reflect not only musical contexts but also ideas about what kind of stuff the composers would want you to feel in each moment. It’s all very interesting.

      I mean, imagine an Austin Wintory interpretation of the Elder Scrolls games, or a synthwave compilation for nu-Deus Ex.

      • VariousThings says:

        @cpt_freakout – The Sonic 3D Saturn soundtrack was done by frequent Sega composer Richard Jacques (of Sonic R, Metropolis Street Racer, Headhunter and Jet Set Radio fame), who has a French name but is not French.

  4. SuperTim says:

    I subscribed the channel a while ago. It has some very interesting stuff on it. Even though most stuff is sega related, it’s still interesting to see how some of these things were done.

  5. Spacewalk says:

    To be uncharitable one could say that all of Traveller’s Tales games require fixing.

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