The Death of Originality

Discussion in 'Discussion & Q&A' started by Selbi, Jan 16, 2021.

  1. Selbi

    Selbi The Euphonic Mess Retired Staff

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    This topic has been on the backside of my mind for years, but I wasn't able to find the balls to kick down that door and just talk about it. Lengthy read incoming. tl;dr is basically me being sad about the exhaustion of ideas for Sonic hacks. I'm not trying to piss into anyone's shoes here, but I'd be glad if this starts a discussion.

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    It shouldn’t be a surprise to anyone that I’m a huge fan of Sonic hacks. I’ve been involved in this community since 2008, so I think it’s fair to say I’ve had my fair share of seeing people come and go, discovering more and more about our beloved 90’s games and eventually turning them into products that could easily pass as official games SEGA created themselves.

    However, what tends to be forgotten is that we’re only talking about the tip of the iceberg here. For every masterpiece Sonic hack you come along, I can guarantee you, there will be dozens of projects that failed for a multitude of reasons. And this is something that gets overlooked a lot. We’ve reached a point where pretty much everything to be done in a standard Genesis-era Sonic game was conceived, implemented, and released at some point. We started with the bare minimum, but through community research and people in general becoming more proficient at understanding the underlying engine and the architecture of the console itself, we pushed the boundaries to the utmost limit.

    Which might seem like a good thing, and in a way it is. But it also comes with a problem. Suddenly concepts that seemed revolutionary a decade ago are so standard that the mere idea of including them in a new project is considered lame. Or worse, idea stealing. This picture is as relevant now as it was back then:

    [​IMG]

    Which is why I want to discuss this topic a bit today, since it’s something that doesn’t really get addressed very often. And to start, we need to go back in time, to see what made us arrive at this point.

    The year is 2005 when the now-legendary Hivebrain disassembly hit the scene. While not the first attempt to provide an accessible way to modify Sonic 1, its resonance can be felt to this day, with many people still calling it the best toolkit to make your own hacks. Debates about this continue to this day, but that’s a different topic. Also I’m talking about Sonic 1 to have a sample, but you could extend that argument to anything.

    What’s important to understand here is that without this breakthrough, we probably wouldn’t have arrived at this point we are right now. Suddenly, everyone who wanted to burn some time was able to create marvellous games. The only limitations were programming skills and, to an extent, artistic and musical skills as well.

    Now, don’t get me wrong, it wasn’t impossible to create novel hacks before 2005 and there are plenty of examples out there to prove that. But with such a huge barrier being shattered, hacks were rising in quality faster than ever. The nature of having everything ready at hand in dedicated files also resulted in a surge of really powerful tools to appear. With these, editing level layouts, or designing your own sprites was made so intuitive that suddenly you barely needed anything beyond MS Paint and some talent to create truly amazing things.


    Why do I bring all of this up? Isn’t this great?

    Well, yeah. It is. But due to this rise in accessibility, and the subsequent boundary-pushing I mentioned earlier, I want you to fast-forward to today. More than 15 years have passed since the release of the disassembly. Some of you were probably not even alive back then. And in the meantime we saw hacks that made you go, yeah, this is it. We’ve peaked, pack your bags, everyone. With the death of most of the technical limitations, it was only a matter of time since we explored every idea possible. And, well, I think we’ve reached that point now.

    While we still see a lot of people joining the community and creating beautiful things, there are just SO MANY HACKS out there that it becomes nearly impossible to create anything that stands out anymore.

    Long gone are the days in which doing a complete overhaul was a huge feat, like Sonic Megamix was. Entire Sonic games that feel like a spiritual sequel to the original titles are still impressive and require a lot of work and dedication, but at the end of the day, they register as barely anything more than another DLC to the huge pile of Sonic-inspired games.


    And I mean, how could you even blame these people? There’s only so much you can do in a Sonic game. At its core, it’s a speed-based 2D platformer. You can add levels ad-nauseum or extend the moveset, but it won’t change the fact that you’re still playing a Sonic game.

    On the other hand, trying to innovate the formula too much will actually be a fast way to alienate the player, since now you have something with Sonic on the title, but replaced most of the core gameplay with something very much completely unrelated. It’s only steps away from creating an original game and copy-pasting the sprites.


    Because I don’t want to point any fingers, I’m actually gonna use my own hacks as examples of where I think we’ve exhausted all possibilities.

    When I started working on Sonic ERaZor I was still new to not only hacking itself, but obviously game design as well. Needless to say, I learned a lot over those years and by the end I created something I can still be proud of. But if I’m honest, from a gameplay perspective it wasn’t original then and it most certainly isn’t now. It was your typical run-of-the-mill complete overhaul that just needed a checklist of changes to be ticked off, like a lot of hacks did. Gotta have that spindash, gotta have that peel-out, gotta have that homing attack, gotta overhaul every level of the original game, gotta replace every music track, gotta do wacky stuff with objects.

    And even now, a decade later, it feels like that checklist hasn’t gone anywhere. It’s so rare to see a concept that couldn’t be compared to something that’s already been done before. And when it is, it’s usually a hack with a single gimmick that gets old in less than five minutes.

    I was guilty of this myself when I thought I was very clever with Hedgehog Abuse Simulator, a Sonic 2 hack released in 2015 as a concept demo. And let me tell you, if there was any more apparent case of scraping the bottom of the barrel, feel free to tell me what it is. To give you a short summary, it’s an unfinished hack in which the main gameplay aspect was to use a modified debug mode to place various spikes to navigate through obstacle courses you couldn’t traverse through with your normal movement options.

    You see, I thought I was really clever at the time and tried to make an avant-garde hack, so to speak. But let’s be real here, what are we left with? Even if we disregard how unfinished the hack is, what it would have become is apparent to anyone who spends a couple minutes playing it. It would’ve been a puzzle platformer within the Sonic engine... that removes everything that makes a Sonic game, well, a Sonic game. All the speed is brought to a halt, all the tension and sense of adrenaline is gone out the window. Suddenly you’re forced to stand still and think about placing some silly object to cross a gap you only couldn’t cross because it’s slightly too wide?

    What I thought to be a cool concept that could get some laughs is actually an incredibly terrible idea from a gameplay perspective. It’s less of a game to be played, and more of a game to be reacted to.

    And that hit me recently. And it got me to think.


    There are multiple reasons why people pursue this hobby. Some do it to learn, others do it because they’re genuinely just having fun. And some do it because they want to get a reaction from people. Whether that’s to make them have a good time or to mess with them, we’re talking about games here, a medium which, at its core, has always been about entertainment. You can have your Call of Duty and FIFA being delivered to you every year like bags of potato chips, or you try to innovate. But when nothing’s left to innovate, do we even have any options?

    I don’t think the problem will go away, but perhaps there are aspects I’m missing. Maybe I’ve just played so many hacks over these years that I’m one of the few people to have seen it all, and perhaps that doesn’t apply to you. But as it stands, it feels like we reached a dead end.

    To wrap this up, I want to explain why I even wrote this essay. I love this scene, it shaped who I am, and as it stands I don’t see why I would ever leave. But it’s depressing to know that no matter what people come up with anymore, nothing lands. Either it’s been-there-done-that, or the concept is so specific that it doesn’t work as a Sonic game.

    What I’m really trying to entice you to do here is you proving the opposite. Showing that I’ve merely hit a brick wall and we still got so much more to explore. Bringing back that sense of adventure, the giddiness of discovery, and the joy of creation for something that makes people have a good time. Show me why I’m a moron with his nostalgia goggles strapped on too tight.
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
  2. Jdpense

    Jdpense Custom Title Member

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    Warning: This post of mine is going to probably come off as self-loathing, whiny, nitpicky, and potentially negative. If you are going to be easily offended by those things then I suggest you read past with what I'm about to say here.

    I believe the reason for the death of originality is due to the lack of interest people have for a newer ideas that developers conjure up, since it seems people are only interested in playing hacks that have concepts based on already existing popular concepts despite the hack's overall quality and effort (Good example would be the low effort "sprite replacement" hacks with a trending meme or popular character tacked on). If a hack with an original concept doesn't sell well to public with earning it's own recognition to community, the developer tends to drop the entire concept, because improving on it would be completely pointless since no one is going to care about seeing it grow since it doesn't have any relevance to trendy or popular concepts attached to it. Then eventually it becomes exhausting just to get a single hack recognized out there to the public, since no one will ever play it or be bother to give feedback to the developer after playing his or her work. I'm mostly saying this based off of my own experiences with struggling to getting ANY of my projects with their own original concepts recognized by this community. Any hack of mine that ever got recognition would be hacks that were direct "rips off" of concepts from other hacks that are already popularity. So I figured, "Why bother trying to develop something completely original that no one is ever going to care for, when I can make something that can easily earn recognition based off of a popular thing that already exists, by making the existing concept better or expanding upon the existing idea?"
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2021
  3. ProjectFM

    ProjectFM Optimistic and self-dependent Member

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    @Jdpense By virtue of being edits of a popular game, Sonic hacks and mods come with an audience and because they're modifications of a finished game, you can do little effort and create a result which people will give a shot. This means that you can appeal to people by doing simple sprite edits of memes or popular characters and it will get attention, but the disposability and trendiness of it can mean it gets lost and forgotten quickly. If you want to make something that will last, you need to either have an idea that works in just the right way or you need to keep working on it until it becomes something you would consider exciting and unique but may be flawed in a way that doesn't appeal to people and doesn't get you attention. What clout chasers will eventually learn is that creating something the community really cares about requires going against the urge to make something that will get attention, and it's hard to do that unless you have some passion for your work to keep you going. If I'm to be honest, while technically impressive, your hacks don't tend to stand out in my mind because their focus is to implement things that found in existing Sonic games and hacks and don't go far enough in terms of polish to allow the gameplay to make sense in the contest of the game. If you care about how much attention your hacks will get, I think making them feel more unique and putting more time into making them cohesive would work more than doing more of what people already like. If you don't, then continue what you're doing and accept that people aren't going to care as much for it. I believe you should let the attention from the community influence insomuch as to push you to go beyond what you think you're capable of, rather than to give them exactly what they want in exchange for praise.

    I have stuff to say about Selbi's post too, but I'm going to cut it here because it's way to late.

    Edit: One thing I'd like to see in the future for smaller projects is, rather than implementing a concept throughout the entire game, only do the first level or two, so that the hack only lasts as long as it can keep the player's attention. When focused on a small bit of the game, it's easier to add touches which improve the experience. Sonic MBV for example would be less attention-grabbing when stretched out to the entire game. Plus, with all the hacks available, you can't really expect people other than longplayers and streamers to play your hack all the way through when it's obvious what the experience later on in the game will be like.
     
    Last edited: Jan 17, 2021
  4. Angel X

    Angel X Well-Known Member Member

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    The problem is that it is difficult to be original today.
    Does this mean that using previously seen ideas is a bad choice?
    In my opinion no.
    The first example that comes to mind is Sonic Visual Maze.
    Of course, as an idea it is not original, but the fact remains that it is a well-made game and that it is enjoyable.
    People who say a rom hack sucks just because it's not unique make me angry.
    They don't understand how hard it is to create rom hacks.
     
    Nokia33010do and Jdpense like this.
  5. Mike B Berry

    Mike B Berry A grandiose return Member

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    Damn, this was a very small portion of the issue I had a while back. Frankly i wasn't too hurt over the lack of originality as much as other issues that rose up, for lack of a better word. Rather, I had more or less a bigger problem with others assuming certain contents were made explicitly for, or brought in from fan games regardless of any qualities. No doubt because of the art style and implications at the time. What I do know, in my circumstances at least, is the attitude associated with any responses influenced a rather vial rebuttal that was quite uncalled for.
    I don't necessarily believe the approach sullied how peoples rom hacks are more or less drowning with overused ideas. In fact, the argument that ran through my mind was poor execution at converting a whole engine to work around the ideology involving a new game outright, while still misunderstanding what the core features provide.
    Might seem even more redundant since this is one reply from a person who broke ties with many because gross incompetence... and vague narcissism. The hacking scene has certainly distilled in the excitment department. Still surprised to see how much care goes into the craft people make, regardless if it has been done before. Hoping that the motivation for many haven't been lost to the competitive scene, or belated criticism. Lately, it's been a slog wanting to check out the latest content. What with health issues and all, but this isn't the time or place to mention that.
    It's a real shame seeing talented individuals drop away from the whole scene over conflicting beliefs all the time. Things have really gotten a bit muddy over the years unfortunately among many forums.
     
  6. nineko

    nineko I am the Holy Cat Member

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    You know, the vice versa is also true, people might have original ideas but don't know how to implement them. I, for one, wanted to take a lot of different directions with my hack, but in the end I couldn't because of my own limits, not everyone is a talented genius, and even trying your best can only take you so far. And I won't even mention my "Sonic 8" hack idea which was dead even before it was born.

    There are plenty of things which haven't been done before. Sometimes even the simplest ideas can result into something which can be enjoyed for hours. The problem is that "hack ideas" and "I need help" posts are frowned upon and trashed on sight, so we have this situation where people who know how to do things don't know what to do, and people who know what do to don't know how to do it.

    Has anyone ever implemented a functional "Sunset Park Three" level in a Mega Drive / Genesis hack yet? Other than my idea in 2008, and Hayate's partial implementation, I don't think anyone has.

    Some people messed around with random levels, but that comes with a slew of problems, such as generation time and unbeatable layouts, so why don't you apply the randomisation concept to something simpler which literally can't fail, say, the Sonic 2 special stages? Hell, you can remove everything else from Sonic 2 and make a standalone "endless challenge" game à la Subway Surfers, I for one would play it. It's the kind of novelty hack which would probably fare well in the hacking contest, even.

    Fresh ideas are just out there, we should stop ostracising some good free brainstorming and start acting more like a community.
     
    Last edited: Jan 19, 2021
  7. AURORA☆FIELDS

    AURORA☆FIELDS so uh yes Retired Staff

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    In my view, some of the biggest issues are not a lack of originality, but rather a lack of organization and willingness to share information, that nobody can really agree on disassemblies for example. There are a lot of talented people here but the incentive to share information is rarely there, and it seems often there is also a lack of collaboration between members or the community as a whole. A lot of the more famous members have moved on to presumably greener pastures and the popularity of the classics is slowly falling. A lot of people get stuck because people in the community are so far ahead of what an average person might understand, yet there is this lack of communication down to the average person, and some even treat "n00bs" with disrespect or disgust.

    Although all that sounds rather damning, none of these by themselves are such a big issue, and the last one certainly is in many parts on its way out, but they all contribute to the lack of new blood that stick around the community and bring something new to the table. I think both the lack of information and collaboration, and the lack of new people, are contributing to more similar hacks or just less hacks in general being released. That isn't also necessarily bad in and of itself, but I can see how it seems to many people the community is just spinning on its place; Afterall we have a lot of people working on some awesome stuff, yet a lot of that stays wrapped up in secret and won't see the light of day, for now or for good. But in my view, I think there is a lot of potential to improve on things and have the community become more interesting, but that requires work from everyone, not just the staff or the so-called "leaders" of the community. We're certainly working on a lot of cool stuff to help on this but I think the community should do its best for it, too.

    I probably didn't even vaguely relate to the actual topic, but to me what I said and what Selbi said are at least somewhat related to each other, and is worth thinking about. I don't take this hobby too seriously, and I hope the idea that "hacking is srs biznezz" wasn't so prevalent as it seems to be sometimes. I think that's a good first step.
     
  8. Spanner

    Spanner The Tool Administrator

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    So I have looked at this thread for a few weeks, trying to come up with some sort of response. What say here is my own views, nothing to do with anyone else who posted in this thread (even if they have similar views to me), or any involvement with sites or events.

    I will mention however, this will be getting cross-posted on both SSRG and Sonic Retro, so it doesn't pertain to one site specifically, unless otherwise stated.

    Has the issue been most people have done most things? Take a look at stuff at the Hack Database or the SHC Vault and see what you really think. There's always stuff out there that either haven't been done, or were attempted but never progressed due to various issues.

    One thing that strikes me out as a serious issue, to the extent that for YEARS I have tried to bring this up to people on multiple occassions to try and get something going, are the disassemblies. They are well and truly a clusterfuck for the most part, some dissassemblies are fine, others went too radical in their changes and put people off. It really shows you something that in 2021, there are still many people using a 2005 disassembly for Sonic 1.

    People need to realise that if we want to encourage people to take up ROM hacking, we can't overcomplicate every single thing because guess what? It puts people off! For years, I have proposed what should be done to address the disassembly woes - to try and agree a common disassembly structure that could be put in place across all the games.

    Settle on how to format the disassembly, how to assemble it, what's done for labelling, equates, macros, etc. And I get that it is a difficult thing to approach, but if this was done, I bet you things would go a lot better for things, because the major roadblock is dealt with. Because this is really a major roadblock, for well over 10 years since the SVN/Hg/Git/etc disassembles were made available. Unblock this and you can move onto the rest.

    Then once you have the disassembly stuff sorted out, look at all the guides, look at the tools, look at what else can be improved upon, to improve the resources available. I don't think the door should be closed on a "Common Disassembly Rewrite Project", it needs to be looked at again, with a wider view of opinions, and then restarted from the beginning. If this had been sorted out years ago, just think of what we could have had for the S1 prototype disassembly, or any other recent disassembly release over the last year or two.

    There are people who want to talk about making things open source, of course that opens a whole load of worms there, whether it's the spoon feeding argument or encouraging people to have mostly the same things in their hacks which only increases staleness. But there will be people who disagree with what I say here, of course that's their opinion. We can still have a debate on this, because maybe things can change since how things were years ago.

    There is the other argument that people shut down a lot of new people from progressing with hacking, because what they show at the start is not so good, just look at recent SSRG threads for those examples. We shouldn't treat the place like a playground, but things could be improved, to show what the ideal hack should be like in 2021. A few years ago, SHC was going to show off an Example Hack to address the issues faced in 2016, but due to various reasons, was never able to be completed. Maybe it's something to revive, but for all sites.

    Yes, there has been a stagnation issue over the last few years. But ultimately, the issue is, has anything been done to address it? No, nothing was ever done. And that's a real shame as had things been sorted out years ago, hacking and modding would be thriving once again.

    But let's make something clear. A lot of people post about Mega Drive hacking, and the resources, tools, guides, research, etc are plenty for those (although rather disorganised at times, this could be improved in a number of ways, rather than having to trawl through the forums to find things).

    But when you look at what has been exploding in popularity the last few years, namely the 3D games, or the 2DPC (Mania, etc) stuff, where are the resources and discussions in these places? Barely around, so that's why all that kind of stuff ends up in various Discord services all of the place. Why should all that have to be obscured for the most part, instead of having public places be made here?

    And if Mega Drive stuff is at the point to where people feel "been there, done that" well why not look at the 8-bit stuff more? I get that it's a different environment, different programming language, still plenty to be done in terms of research, but why not start that?

    And I think that sites need to listen to their community regarding the issues that are being faced, and what can be done to address them. Listen to everyone, not a select few. Stuff like staff infighting or side choosing that goes on outright needs to stop before things suffer, and all staff need to work together to progress improvements that have been requested.

    Oh and one last thing, because we all know I was going to bring this up...

    To the select few who seem to put blame on the Sonic Hacking Contest, very much the only time the general community care about hacks and mods in the year, just like SAGE does for fangames, for the quality of stuff that gets made, let alone submitted, I just want to remind people that there is a quality control filter which last year, had to be used 25 times on Mega Drive entries - no other category (3D and 2DPC) had that much questionable material.

    The shredder was alive last year, people were lucky what they didn't see. When the stagnation issue is applying throughout the community, SHC can't be solely at blame for that. This year's contest will see a major change that should have been sorted out a few years ago, but now that it is going to be put into action, I think people will be confident in making submissions.

    If anyone has an issue with anything I've said, my PMs are open for discussion.
     
  9. Trinitronity

    Trinitronity Well-Known Member Member

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    Reposting what I said in the SHC Discord server:

    Regarding Sonic hacks and originality: while yes, I do think we kinda reached the point where what was once groundbreaking became standard, I feel like it's important to realize that not every hack needs to be a technical marvel either. There's no need for a hack to become the next Megamix or the next The Next Level. Because the most important thing about any game, including hacks, is that it just needs to be a fun game.

    Yeah, you play games in order to have fun. Sounds very "well, duh", huh? Well, sadly, even a lot of big game companies forget about that, and sadly, the hacking scene isn't quite immune to that curse either, as the problems mentioned demonstrate. So it's important for every person to remember the beauty of simplicity. In the vain of "less is more", the fun factor needs to be in the first place of priorities when making a hack, since originality or impressiveness doesn't get you very far if people don't enjoy the gameplay. Sadly, making good Level design, one of the biggest parts the fun factor, is not exactly easy with Sonic specifically because of how easy it is to screw things up even when you do get the important points of Sonic level design right, let alone actually get those points right in the first place.

    How do you make a level fun speedy romp without neglecting platform or make the platforming so prominent that there is little speed. How do you balance out enemy and hazard placement so it's neither too difficult and thus leading to frustration nor too easy and thus leading to boredom? And how exactly do you successfully scale the difficulty throughout the game to keep the player engaged without creating difficulty spikes? Iso Kilo actually made a good first step in terms of determining how to make a good Sonic level, but it desperately needs to be capitalized on, maybe with further examples of what's good and what's not good, maybe also coupled with some kinda guideline to help create level chunks (and thus, level design) that makes the level fun without looking like something made in Mario Maker or looking too much like past Sonic level design. I feel like tackling this part of the problem could help a great ton in helping hacks grow in the one place that matters the most: being fun to play

    My apologies for that wall of text, but I really really needed to get that thought out of my head
     
  10. MainMemory

    MainMemory Well-Known Member Member

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    I was told to crosspost the things I said on Retro over here, so here:
     
  11. Nokia33010do

    Nokia33010do Newcomer Trialist

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    These are my own opinions and perspectives on this. Most of my perspective is coming from enjoying the output of the Mario hacking scene (around 12 years of that) and my experience of making and remixing music outside of gaming. I've only recently got into playing Sonic hacks but there are similarities that apply here in the same way as they do within the Mario hacking community. Feel free to correct me if I've missed the point in anything here...

    1. Making a hack that stands out

    If you want your hack to be popular and respected, the best thing is to make a hack that falls into people's expectations of a great new Sonic game. Make decisions based around good level design and the way Sonic (the character) plays within those levels. The difficulty curve needs to be like a legit sequel. Everything on top of that (graphics, music, intro, different enemies etc) is the difference between your project being just another hack and qualifying as a legit new game by those who play it. Stay consistent with the world of Sonic and make sure any new original parts fall into that. Nobody is waiting for a hack that reinvents the wheel.

    2. Gimmicks that get old quickly

    It's easy to fall down the rabbit hole, thinking you hit gold and then creating an entire piece of work that relies heavily on a gimmick that doesn't carry its weight. I could make comparisons with music that I created in the past. It's still important to explore where the boundaries of your new ideas are though and develop your repertoire of abilities. You don't know whst things could be until you do.

    Nintendo have a good approach for such things. If they're intending to add an idea in a game and it's not working out in development, they just cut it out. The message to their developers is not to get too sentimental with concepts that fall into this category. If it's not working this time, it's not going in. Ideas are recycled later if they work with something else. Parts of Starfox 2 (unreleased SNES game) were recycled for Mario 64 on the next console. They scrapped an entire, completed Starfox sequel on the basis that it 'wasn't the right time'! Their competitors were releasing 3D games on better hardware and Nintendo didn't want to be embarrassed by the limitations of the SNES and FX chip.

    In short, the approach of cutting out big chunks of a project and not being sentimental about it is pretty easy. It's just about being honest, recognising when things aren't productive, aren't up to standard or don't fit with a Sonic game. Being your own boss needs this kind of discipline. The hard part is leaving an idea behind that you still want to explore. You have to ask yourself 'do I want to invest more time on something that's not working for this project or move on and get the project finished?' It all depends how you work and also whether you're honest enough to be able to say 'I've made something that works, it doesn't fit in a Sonic game, so it isn't going in my next masterpiece'.

    3. Idea stealing

    It's all idea stealing! Every Sonic/Mario hack is a video game equivalent of a music track remix and not an original game (or original tune) where you built it all from the ground up. Even if the end result is entirely unrecognisable from Sonic (looks, sounds and plays different to anything Sonic), it's STILL Sonic. Underneath is the game created by Sega.

    It's hypocritical to make edits to an existing, entire game and then be unhappy that someone else used your own ideas or code. There's only so much claim you can make to your input and you never truly own anything because it's all based on an existing Sonic game. Even if you created the greatest overhaul hack of all time, all the new elements you created (graphics, music and new code) are there for the taking by anyone with the ability to do so... just like the Sonic game you based your own creation on.

    The best approach is to give credit when you use someone's existing idea/code. The best way of reacting to someone using content that you created is by being supportive. Even if you don't like the way your content was used, you can advise the person who used it about how to do that better in future. Communicate with people in the respectful way that you want people to speak or write to you. Even if you don't feel like doing that, they're more likely to listen to you and you're less likely to look like an ego-tripping moron (I'm sure I've unintentionally looked that way before).

    New hackers will keep emerging and its important to make sure that the foundations exist to prevent the scene becoming a toxic, dismissive and disrespectful community. If it becomes that, the output of new hackers is more likely to be the kind of 'crap' that nobody wants to see or play. Whether you care about that or not, your projects fall into the same sea of Sonic hacks on the internet. If the general output of the community is poor, it will deter people (like me: guy with an Everdrive) from playing anything you're making too. You're not responsible for the quality of other people's work but it doesn't hurt to try and reduce the 'crap' output.

    Think of it as idea sharing, not idea stealing. You've already shared your ideas at the point when you hit the 'upload' button to make anything you made public. There's great satisfaction in being able to say 'I did that first' or 'I did that better' and know you're right. There's also the satisfaction in knowing you inspired someone to use what you've already created, even if you don't like what they did with it.

    Much love and godspeed
     
  12. DeltaWooloo

    DeltaWooloo *waving hello and goodbye* Member

    Joined:
    Aug 7, 2019
    Messages:
    329
    Whatever I'm about to say are from my perspectives, so if something said something above which I will mention again, I understand your opinions, but it's time I shared mine:

    I believe the leading cause is not encouraging people to make unique Sonic ROM hacks or hacks that have its taste in creativity or originality. What do I mean by that? Let's get a bit of backstory, shall we?

    The Backstory

    You see a time when there were a bunch of people dared to make any hack they would desire; thanks to split disassembles such as Sonic 1's Hivebrain disassembly from 2005 or Sonic 2's Xenowhirl disassembly from 2007. This impacted the way we can easily swap art and modify code. The only hack that tried to add features and art that turned out great pre-2005 was Sonic Gaiden from 2003-2004. We had useful hacks from then rather than art swaps of Sonic or awful palettes you would see in old Sonic 2 hacks. But what came in 2005, that also brought the community together alongside Hivebrain's disassembly? Sonic Megamix. The hack did blow people's minds by incorporating elements from different Mega Drive Sonic games such as Sonic 2 with the speed cap removed, including the options menu from the game and the ability to play as a new character or Sonic 3 and Knuckles with the elemental shields. It also brought a lot of when it came to the table such as ported music from a multitude of Sonic games which at the time, was challenging to do so due to the limitations of split disassemblies and tools.

    The Spread

    And what happened from that moment? Hacks blatantly copied the hack like how a particular virus is spreading globally. The first Megamix clone that came to the top of my mind was Sonic 1 Remastered as it had the features from Megamix such as ported music, elemental shields and new characters. And then it kept going until every hack we saw followed the Megamix train. Over time, people made blatant copies of the hacks such as Sonic AGX which adds the useless homing attack and music from Megamix but with unnecessary pitches. Hacks from there get repetitive and boring, like raise your hands if you do not give a shit with the jump dash or Sonic 3 music played again and again. We play Sonic 3 and Knuckles a bunch of time to listen to the music, why repeat it. To have a unique or awesome soundtrack? You want to have a hack with a distinctive soundtrack, look at what KCEXE and Mr Joker27 did with Sonic Revved Up; with many correctly ported music from different Mega Drive games. That determines that if you put you head down and do the work, you can make something memorable like with Revved Up's music rather than reviving Sonic Megamix with unpolished hacks and a useless Mania mod like reviving a dead horse.

    How do we see hacks today?

    To simplify, the word "originality." would only be popping in once every ten or so months. I will provide you with some examples of hacks I considered had originality somewhere. The latest I thought was original was two hacks that featured in the SHC 2020, one having a feature never seen before in Sonic hacks and one which feels like an indie game. What I'm talking about is Sonic 1: Point and Click and Pantufa the Cat. P&C, while feeling like Sonic 1, requires you to control the mouse similar to Mario Paint and Super Mario Maker (Wii U) and interact with (almost all) objects which is something original and never seen before in Sonic hacks. Pantufa the Cat, as I mentioned earlier, feels like an indie game, with the item blocks seen in Super Mario Bros and new gimmicks. Alongside that, it also has cute and wonderful art and original and remixed music and for the first time and FMV cutscenes at the end similar to Sonic 3D: Flickies Island's intro. In the past, some hacks attempted originality such as the Next Level with its distinct art and gimmicks and Big's Fishing Derby with you getting Big to find Froggy a la Sonic Adventure.


    What do I believe should be improved to boost original hacks?

    I believe there is a lack of resources to help newcomers understand the hardware to the Mega Drive, CD and 32X to know how everything works and test its limitations and features. So far, we do not have full documentation regarding the Sega CD yet, limiting the hacks' ability to use the Sega CD and its functionality. We also have MarkeyJester's 68k guide, which I use a lot, but it is not enough to understand how the 68k processor works in general. Also, there is a lack of tutorials provided, such as porting elements or making new objects (SCHG did not document how to create new objects in Sonic 2 or 3K). This is a shame since people can port objects improve it by adding more features.

    To conclude

    I believe Megamix was the cause of unoriginality as hacks spread like wildfire to be the next Megamix and guess what, they failed! It is also due to the lack of motivation and support we are providing them to go out and try to make something original, while it reuses assets from different Sonic games, it's OK as they try to expand upon the features but seeing how the community grew, not as much as I expected. Don't get me wrong, Sonic Megamix brought the community together and it did have its potential but we are luring into inspiration from one hack and not Sonic hacking in general. I get music have been used from time to time and what Inferno said below is true, but hacking wise, I've seen the same music and concept over again in a handful of hacks which really puts me off. When I created Sonic ReOne, I did not want to compete with anyone but be my own person and show the skills such as swappable controls, smooth camera and a multitude of songs unheard in any other game thanks to a few members within the community. To be honest, I regret making the hack because I realised that some features I made myself was really basic and can be done in 5 minutes. So for my final statement, please find a way to make the Sonic hacking community sparkle after so many years and let's prove to the Internet that we have the courage to do anything unique and original.

    Let's make originally shine once again~
    .
    EDIT: Added extra information to my conclusion.
     
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2021
    Scrap Sorra, Painto and Nokia33010do like this.
  13. Inferno

    Inferno Rom Hacker Member

    Joined:
    Oct 27, 2015
    Messages:
    98
    Location:
    Sky Base Zone, South Island
    I have one big stance on this:
    "Originality is the art of concealing your sources." - Benjamin Franklin.
    As an artform progresses, there will be no such thing as "originality", only taking an existing idea and doing something new with it.

    Expecting true originality in an artform which has been around for over 15 years is a fool's errand. It isn't Megamix's fault, nor is it any certain hack's fault.

    It's the fault of simply the progression of an artform.

    Look all around you and you'll notice this same thing applies to EVERYTHING. Art? Recycling ideas from previous artists. Music? Same thing. Video games? Same thing.