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.