In the previous article, we ran through the earliest days of Sonic: The Fated Hour's over-extended 10 year development cycle. I make no effort to sugar coat it: Those were embarrassing times. The storyline was goofy, melodramatic, and poorly-written. The artwork was rough and simplistic. And the game itself - the bits you actually could play - were so riddled with bugs and problems that the game was almost totally unplayable.
But times change. People grow up, they learn from their mistakes, and they press on.
It had been nearly four years since TFH was originally announced. I worked to try and fix the mile-long list of problems people had with the July 2001 demo, but eventually, one of the biggest and most dreaded problems reared its ugly head: Data corruption. Data corruption is a fairly massive problem when working in Multimedia Fusion; the longer you work in a particular level, the more likely your data will become corrupted. Back then, the only solution to fixing data corruption in Multimedia Fusion was to revert to a previous save, or, in a worst-case-scenario, start over from scratch (nowadays, thankfully, data corruption does not happen anywhere near as often and there are much better ways to deal with it). For the third time since I started the project, I chose to start over. By now, working on a third re-write of the TFH engine, I was beginning to feel project fatigue. Whereas once TFH was one of the more cutting-edge projects at SFGHQ, other fangames were quickly catching up.
This new re-write of TFH contained numerous improvements. The RPG-style level-up system from the July 2001 demo was removed, as it slowed the pace of the game down to a crawl - having to stop and bounce on top of an enemy multiple times was boring, and ultimately, one of the leading sources of frustration.
The Project aims for a new, remade demo for September - just in time for the Sonic Amateur Games Expo #5. It is a major improvement over the demo for the previous year, and features some original music by Jarel Jones and Malcolm Brown. In the demo, Sonic reaches Eggman's base and discovers that he, too, has been murdered, just like Tails. Before Sonic can collect his thoughts, power to the base is cut and a mysterious voice requests that he travel to Marble Garden Zone on Angel Island for answers. As emergency power is restored to the base, Sonic encounters a gigantic mutated Venus Fly-trap. It is here the demo ends with "TO BE CONTINUED". The demo introduces a new mechanic: collecting Chaos Emeralds to enable new abilities. In the demo, the player can collect the red chaos emerald to store an extra "Revive" - a fancy name for an extra life.
Around this time, I officially give up work on Sonic Infinity, having not touched the project in at least a year, if not more. For Halloween that year, I create a small minigame in only a few hours called Halloweenies, about trick-or-treating.
Experiencing some amount of burnout on the project, work really begins to slow down. When the March Sonic Amateur Games Expo (SAGE #6) rolls around, an updated version of the September 2002 demo is released. This release addressed numerous issues, polished up the game a lot more, and added the giant Venus Fly-trap monster as a boss.
Engine template finally complete, I try and move forward with the real game, only to discover that, while complete, the underlying code is really messy and, in general, the game just doesn't meet my expectations of what I wanted TFH to play like. Foolishly, I decide to once again scrap everything I've done on TFH and start over for the fourth time. Already burnt out from the third incarnation of TFH, the fourth revision goes even slower. While I'm goofing around with TFH version 4, Malcolm Brown, one of the musicians for the project, ribs the 2003 demo with his own minigame called The Fated Biscuit:
As a side project, I begin messing around with sprites from Super Mario Brothers 2. I fool around with it from time-to-time, it is polished up and used for my yearly Halloween Project, "Super Mario: Blue Twilight" (MarioWeen for short), a four-level Halloween-themed Mario fangame. Having ideas left over that I did not use, I already begin planning an extended (MarioWeen DX) release with more levels later on in 2004. This year also sees release of a small Christmas Minigame called Last Minute Shopping, a parody of Metal Gear Solid wherein you must rob a department store before midnight on Christmas Eve (while still paying for everything you steal, of course). It was created in only a week.
New technology in fangames brings Sega Genesis-style physics to Sonic fangames. In this new version of the engine, I try and implement my own way of doing loops; special invisible markers placed around levels would enable (and disable) a "loop physics" mode, allowing Sonic to run up curved surfaces. The RPG-style level-up system returns once again, this time adopting more of a Sonic Heroes approach: Enemies are ranked by levels, with "Level 3" enemies taking 3 hits to kill at Level 1. Sonic himself can level up to a maximum of Level 3 (which allows him to defeat any enemy in one hit), and leveling up occurs by collecting rings and defeating enemies. If Sonic takes damage, he is bumped down a level. Also featured is a Sonic-Advance-2-style dash, where maintaining a high-rate of speed makes Sonic break the sound barrier and become nearly invincible.
When trying to build the first level using this engine, my "loop physics" mode proves really difficult to use properly and does not provide the results I had wanted to get out of it, especially compared to other, third-party solutions. Intensely frusterated, my work on this version of the engine stops.
MarioWeen grows to have over double the content of its predecessor, but does not see release.
Jealous of the coding attempts of two SFGHQ forum users named Damizean (known here on Moddb as ElGiganteDeYeso) and PaRaDoX, who have created a near-perfect, open-source replica of the Sega Genesis Sonic physics written for Multimedia Fusion and GameMaker (eventually named "Sonic Worlds"), I secretly restart work on a fifth iteration of TFH's engine in early 2005 with the hopes of creating Sega Genesis physics on par with what they have written. I quickly get frustrated and TFH continues to sit on the back-burner for the next two years.
August 2005 finally sees the release of Super Mario: Blue Twilight DX, featuring 8 main levels for Halloween, 2 additional Christmas levels, 1 April Fools level, 4 bosses, Deleted Scenes, Concept Art, and more. It is the largest game I had ever released. In early 2006, I start another fangame called Shadow of Chaos, a parody of Shadow the Hedgehog and more recent Sonic games. To speed the process of making the game, a considerable amount of the levels for the game were collected through a level design contest. Despite this, the game never sees release. Mid-2006, another small side-project is started and completed: a remake of Sonic 2006 level Kingdom Valley, redone in 2D using the Sonic Worlds physics system for Multimedia Fusion 1.5.
By the end of 2006, I consider the possibility of swallowing my pride and restarting TFH using Sonic Worlds.
I begin importing TFH assets in to a very basic and very early version of Sonic Worlds that has been ported to the newly released Multimedia Fusion 2. This alpha version of Sonic Worlds is so primitive that, outside of the Sonic physics system, the majority of the Sonic game mechanics have to be written by me, by hand. To celebrate TFH finally moving forward after years of absence, all of the old concepts and content are taken back to the drawing board. First and foremost, the storyline recieves a major facelift in an attempt to break away from the more "mature" themes featured in games like Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. Though the core concepts of the plot remain, the overall tone of the game is much lighter and not so reliant on melodrama. In addition, Sonic's sprite is re-made. Despite all of this, however, work on TFH remains extremely sluggish for most of the year as work continues on various side projects, including a final release of Sonic 2006 2D, featuring White Acropolis from Sonic 2006, a boss fight against Silver the Hedgehog, and Sand Oasis from Sonic and the Secret Rings.
I suffer a major harddrive crash in September of 2007, taking with it all of the year's work on Sonic 2006 2D before it can be released. Back on a fresh install of Windows, I re-download a recent back up of the Sonic-Worlds-enabled TFH I had uploaded to a private webserver and begin exclusively working on the game again. This leads to the Christmas 2007 demo, the first public demo of Sonic: The Fated Hour in four years.
For an entire year now, Sonic: The Fated Hour has seen constant updates. Another new demo was posted for SAGE in August, and that August demo was further updated in October. For the first time in a long time, it seems like TFH is once again moving forward.
...And no - there isn't going to be any Werehog.