Wingin' it
Sunday, 18th May 2008, 8:00pm (BST), 20 Comments
Update: Wing Fortress Zone added to the Sonic 2 section
Finally, the zones of Sonic 2 are complete! Yes, there's still Death Egg, but that's a final boss arena and won't have a full level page, but will be covered in the stages and story section. I'd imagine tips for Wing Fortress would be quite useful, as I'd say it's one of the hardest 2D stages around. It'll be my last full-on map for a while too, as Sonic CD is next, and won't have fully detailed maps - there's just too many of them and it'd probably kill me. Speaking of which, if anyone reading this has ever been able to successfully extract the full sized maps from Sonic CD PC version into PCX images using SonEd, or anything else, and wouldn't mind doing me a HUGE favour.. please leave a comment indicating so. I might need you to get them for me, having had problems doing so myself. I'm well aware that smaller ones exist on the web, but ideally I'd like to have the original sizes. Thanks!

The general Sonic 2 pages are next, but they may be a little while away yet. The Sonic 1 ones were static HTML, but now I want to build a dynamic system for handling them, like the most recent level pages use. And I actually want to rebuild my admin section for making those anyway, so the next few changes will be very behind-the-scenes I'm afraid. Still, I'll try and limit the time taken with all that, but I start my new job tomorrow, so no guarantees.

That's all for now, as my eyes are dying on me. Enjoy the Fortress!
Comments   20 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Tuesday, 27th May 2008, 10:36am
Hey, I'm really digging the site! It does a great job of presenting all the detailed info on the games while still being very nice looking and user-friendly. It's not nearly as busy and hard to navigate as other Sonic sites. It looks very professional, so good job! I am wondering, though, how detailed do you plan on/want to make the oddities, beta, lost sprites type section? Because Sonic CD is up next, and I've found some hidden sprites, never used in the game. I've checked around the Sonic unused sprite community for quite a while and can't find them, I think I may be the first to discover them. I think it would be cool for Zone : 0 to be the first to show them off, if you're interested.
#2. Comment posted by mercury on Tuesday, 27th May 2008, 10:41am
Darn, I discovered your site too late for you! :( Nonetheless, you have my encouragement. Ganbatte!

sorry to double-post :)
#3. Comment posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, 27th May 2008, 10:43am
I meant too late TO VOTE for you!

Aargh... it's late as I type this. Sorry again. :)
#4. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Tuesday, 27th May 2008, 10:39pm
Hey, thanks a lot! Always really like hearing from people who enjoy what the site's doing, so thank you! Nevermind about the vote, maybe this year :)

I try to stick more to what actually made it in the games, rather than delve too deeply into what didn't, as there are so many other sites that do that, but it certainly has a place here and there, so you're more than welcome to send anything in to me. I can't guarantee it being posted, and as it's Sonic CD, I wouldn't expect the section it would be in to be ready for quite some time (even though Sonic CD is next, I just don't have a lot of time these days, unfortunately), but sure, go for it, by all means. Email me at liquidshade@soniczone0.com

Cheers!
#5. Comment posted by mercury on Wednesday, 28th May 2008, 8:44am
My e-mail is crazy at the moment, doesn't always work :(

I've put them up on rapidshare, if that'll be alright.

http://rapidshare.com/files/118231542/soniccdspr.zip.html

Also, what did you mean exactly by "full-sized maps"? Do you mean pixel to pixel level layouts of each of the zones, in all time periods? And does it have to be the PC version, or did you just think that it'd be easier to rip? Cos I might be able to help with that, too.
#6. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Wednesday, 28th May 2008, 2:08pm
Thanks, I appreciate the thought, it's great that you wish to contribute, but I don't really think Zone: 0 is the right place for these kind of unused sprites. As I say, this place is more focused on what actually made it into the games, rather than dissecting all the little things that didn't make it and I'd prefer to stick to that principle for the time being.

Basically, I'm in need of Sonic CD maps that are ideally larger and more detailed than these, but failing that, mainly maps that aren't watermarked, which these are, by Stealth. I could use those but I would rather have my own to use freely. They won't be full of objects like my Sonic 1 and 2 maps are, because that would kill me, but I want to have something that I can at least mark out where the machine is in the Past, where Metal Sonic is, where the best places are to time travel, etc. They don't have to be the PC version, as both use identical maps as far as I'm aware, but the bigger and less watermarked, the better, so the best bet is to rip them from somewhere.

Supposedly SonEd is capable of that, which I have used to get my Sonic 1 and 2 maps, and is where those ones linked above came from, but I've tried on several machines and just can't get the PC version's .exe to load up. So if you think you can find some way of extracting those maps I'd be extremely grateful!
#7. Comment posted by mercury on Wednesday, 28th May 2008, 11:37pm
Technically, they did make it into the game, they just aren't accessible through normal play :P

As for the Sonic CD level maps, I'm currently coding a program that can read the binary level data directly from Sonic roms, to extract them into bitmaps, pngs, or even convert them into Game Maker tiles for use in fangames. So if I kick into high gear and finish it soon (it's already working for Sonic 1), I could get those Sonic CD maps hopefully with no problems.
#8. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Thursday, 29th May 2008, 12:43am
Sounds like a very useful tool! I wouldn't want you to go to any extra trouble, of course, but if you do manage to get those Sonic CD maps extractable that would be really brilliant! Other than the actual level environment, will it be possible to extract anything else from the level layouts into bitmaps or PNGs, such as the precise placement of rings, item boxes, springs and other objects? As it is now I have to cut all objects out of screenshots and paste them in individually myself, so is there any chance your program might support extraction of those? That would be a big time saver for the future.
#9. Comment posted by mercury on Friday, 30th May 2008, 5:57am
It's no trouble at all - in fact, it's a break from a much larger and more difficult project I've got going, so it's bit of a fun excursion. I'm glad to be any help.

I've made significant progress. Sonic CD level maps are loading and exporting to PNG format with perfect accuracy. I've solved the binary offset problems I was having, and have all the acts (in each time zone) of both Palmtree Panic and Collision Chaos done already. I'll easily have the rest of the zones by the end of to-morrow.

As for object placement, I haven't yet implemented it, but I'm confident the process will be much the same. I plan on exporting secondary PNG files with a transparency, so that the objects can be easily overlayed onto the level map. I hate the thought of anyone having to meticulously screen capture each object and paste it in individually! So object data is definitely high on my priority for the program.

On an unrelated note, I was wondering what you thought of Ristar (and, with its marked similarities to the Sonic series and inclusion on Sonic Mega Collection, is it an eventual candidate for Zone: 0?)
#10. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Friday, 30th May 2008, 8:50am
That sounds brilliant! Wow, when I posted that plea for Sonic CD maps, I was doubtful I'd get a response at all, let alone so soon. Do let me know when the program is all ready, thanks very much.

I like Ristar, though haven't really played it extensively, beyond the first couple of levels. I haven't really considered featuring any non-Sonic games in Zone: 0, but I would be inclined to stick to Sonic only. If I were to write about any other games, I'd probably make a separate site. Certainly when I get to Mega Collection (many years from now most likely), it'll be briefly summarised, but probably nothing more than that. I'll have to give it another play sometime soon though, it's pretty fun.
#11. Comment posted by Anonymous on Friday, 30th May 2008, 10:21pm
Here is somthing soooooooooooooooo
oooooooooooooo cool.

I got to the Wing Fortress boss, and it
is sooooooooooooooooooooooooooo hard!
#12. Comment posted by mercury on Sunday, 1st June 2008, 3:48am
I actually ended up re-writing most of my program from scratch yesterday, trying to optimise it for Sonic CD specifically. It's still not ready for prime time, though, because it's a tad slow and also relies on other software DLLs to function. I'll eventually remedy all that, but until then it's virtually indistributable.

The good news is that it can now export full size Sonic CD Zone maps from a Gens savestate with a couple of clicks, so I did all 70 this morning in only about 2 hours, and here they are:

http://rapidshare.com/files/119210300/Sonic_CD_Zone_Maps.zip.html

They're already compressed into lossless PNGs, but all together they're still about 40 mb. Not bad for 2 to 3 days work, and I didn't even have to resort to the (decidely inferior) PC version of the game.

If you have any suggestions or feedback after looking at the maps, just say. I'm forging ahead with the object data now, so the object layers will be uploaded next. I'm not sure how long it will take - the trick is not just reading the placement and index values of each object, but their proper graphics as well. I may have to just screenshot every object type to get the graphics - but at least I won't have to place them manually.

You gain a whole new appreciation for the artists at Sonic Team when you see the levels in full - not only are they beautiful, but they must have been even harder to make than they are to rip!

Oh, and will you be needing Special Stage maps, because each one is unique?

Cheers.
#13. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Sunday, 1st June 2008, 11:00am
Wow, thank you so much Mercury! You really didn't have to go to the extra trouble, I would have been happy waiting for the program to be finished to use it myself, although I suppose you wanted to test that all maps extracted perfectly anyway. I really appreciate it though, and once you've made the program available to the public I'll be sure to advertise it like crazy for you, so you'll definitely be given credit. These are brilliant, thanks a lot!

I'll probably do Special Stage maps, but I reckon I could draw them out myself. Do they exist in a top-down form in the game? If not, and if they're too hard to extract, don't worry about it, I'll just draw replicas of them.

Don't feel you have to rush with anything for my sake, as it'll be a little while yet before I'm ready to start on Sonic CD, but I'm really looking forward to seeing what you can do with the object layers, as that'll be a massive time saver for me.

Thanks again!
#14. Comment posted by mercury on Monday, 2nd June 2008, 2:19am
You're welcome. But I'm not rushing, I'm just fast like Sonic ;P

The trouble with my program, Sonic Extractor, is the bitmap size limit of 2048x2048. The Zone maps are significantly larger than that, so I have to use a freeware program called Imagemagick to automatically stitch the chunks together at export time. If you don't have that program installed, you wouldn't be able to use Sonic Extractor. Until I find a way around this, it's kind of moot. Also, to avoid the headache of decompression, I extract the zone maps from Gens savestates instead of the Sonic CD binary itself - I was concerned that if you didn't have Gens, you might also not be able to use it (although, I guess I could always supply the savestates - but they're larger than the maps, about 1 mb each!)

I was worried about finding where the objects locations were stored, specially with the lack of documentation on Sonic CD hacking, but it was much easier than I expected. Object extraction is looking very doable now, which is a relief (I had all but promised it, after all).

And yes, the Special Stage map tiles are stored as 2D textures in the Sega CD's memory, so they can be extracted. The layouts must be stored somewhere as well. I just have to find them.

Now I must thank you for your fantastic maps for Sonic 1 and 2 (which must have been painstaking to make) and your detailed descriptions of each level. My main project right now is a sort of compilation/remake of the Genesis Sonic games. It's no Rom Hack, more like Metroid Zero Mission, with completely redone visuals, music, and engine. But my goal is that no matter how fancy it gets, it must recapture the spirit of the originals perfectly. Your Zone pages encapsulate that spirit, and are therefore a great resource for me.
#15. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Monday, 2nd June 2008, 9:17am
You're more than welcome, I'm really glad Zone: 0 has been so successful at helping different people do different things, be it just simply get through the level in one piece, find new areas, I've even had someone who uses the screenshots to create their own artworks based in the levels, and now to help you remake the games yourself. I'm glad you find that the pages encapsulate the original spirit of their respective zones, as that was always my intention, and your big project sounds like a great endeavour. Are you involved in the Sonic 2 HD project at all, or is this something entirely separate?

If there's no way of getting round the need to have Imagemagick and Gens installed, I don't think that would be such a bad thing really. If anyone really needs this tool, they'll be happy to download any extras or make their own savestates (which I've already done myself for SonEd, actually). I know I would be, if it's capable of exporting objects onto the maps as well. Would it be safe to assume you're planning on giving the same treatment to Sonic 3 and Sonic & Knuckles too? Compared to the ones I've done, those are absolutely huge, and I'm not much looking forward to placing each object individually on them. If they could be ready made using your tool, the whole Zone: 0 project will progress much quicker than I had envisioned, as the maps are the real time consuming bit at the moment.
#16. Comment posted by mercury on Tuesday, 3rd June 2008, 12:50am
That's funny, I was going to ask if you needed Sonic 3 and Knuckles maps. It's definitely functionality I want to include - at least there is a lot more documentation on them than Sonic CD.

Sonic CD actually has a quirk in it's object data - the objects for every possible time frame are stored in each act, with a bitmask that tells them in which ones to appear. It was confusing at first to see a whole bunch of disembodied objects floating in the air all over my maps until I figured it out! It's still going well.

No I am not involved in Sonic 2 HD, although it looks like a cool project. I'm actually working entirely alone, and keeping my project tightly under wraps (not even announcing the title) until closer to release time. It's been in preproduction for about 5 years now, but I've finally begun coding the engine. Though I do have reworked graphics, that's not my primary focus. My focus is on story, and making the Zones, which previously were only loosely associated, into a coherent world with geography and history. It's quite fun to try and imagine a scenario in which Sonic would need to travel from an ancient ruin to a casino and then waterworks! I'm trying to draw on the best of British literature - the meticulous detail of Tolkien, the high adventure of Brian Jaques, and the "you could step right into it" world and plot twists of Rowling.

I'm also not just picking one game, but combining all the Zones from each of the Genesis era games into one grand story. I'd say you wouldn't believe how ambitious I am, but then again you probably know the feeling :)
#17. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Tuesday, 3rd June 2008, 9:02am
That sounds like a great idea, I've often thought the application of a deeper story between and in the zones would always make for something really interesting. Good luck with it! The amount of people who are willing to invest hours, months and years of their time in creating something big and entirely dedicated to Sonic is, I think, something SEGA should be really proud of. :)
#18. Comment posted by mercury on Monday, 9th June 2008, 5:34am
Sonic CD doesn't use a single object list, like a Genesis ROM, but a distinct one for each of the 70 levels. Not even common objects like the Metal Sonic projector have the same object index. This was a bit of a setback, but that's what happens when forging unexplored territory. I have now figured out the object lists for the first four Zones, so I'm past the halfway mark, at least.
#19. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Monday, 9th June 2008, 7:43pm
Cool, thanks for the update! Just thought, earlier on you mentioned you might have to take screenshots of particular objects and cut them out so that your program can place them across the maps. Will this be the case, or are you able to just use them straight from the ROM? For Sonic 1 and 2, I've kept images of all the sprites I used for my maps, if they'll be of any use to you at all? Let me know.
#20. Comment posted by mercury on Tuesday, 10th June 2008, 6:53am
I appreciate the offer, but I already have captures of the handful of objects common between Sonic 1 and Sonic CD.
I'm not, however, having to take screenshots - I'm extracting the object sprites from the rom. The finished program won't have this ability, though, the sprites will be pre-compiled and built in. It's the faster way, and having images of everything in the game will probably come in handy in the future for some other project anyway.
I had free time today, so I went ahead, pitched in, and did the object lists for the final three zones. So it's just adding the sprites, polishing up the interface a little, and then showtime.
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