Jon Burton, founder of UK development studio Traveller's Tales, and one of the original developers on the Mega Drive and Sega Saturn classic Sonic 3D, is attempting to create an unofficial Director's Cut of the game, 21 years after its release.
You might remember Burton as the man who recently revealed his devious methods for slipping through Sega's notoriously opaque certification process back in the Mega Drive days. Since then, he's continued to release a fascinating series of videos on his YouTube channel, full of all sorts of developer tricks and insights, gleaned throughout his career.
In his latest video, however, Burton has foregone the usual historical revelations in favour of something a bit different. He's announced his intention to revisit Sonic 3D - which released on the Mega Drive and Sega Saturn back in 1996, and on which he was responsible for "program design and implementation" - and tweak the original code into something resembling a Director's Cut, more in line with modern day game design sensibilities.
Burton's initial roadmap for his updated Sonic 3D includes a number of ambitious features. First on the list is improved handling for Sonic. "There've been a lot of comments about how Sonic moves with too much momentum," he says, "so I'm going to be looking at that". Next, he'd like to address several areas which make the game frustrating to play, "Some of which are bugs, and some of which are decisions that I'd make differently today."
There are also plans to add a level editor to the game. One apparently did exist during development, which Burton has shown off in another recent video, but "it was never in the final version [because] it took up too much memory". Despite this, Burton thinks he may have a solution to get it up and running again. He also hopes to free up enough memory to add the prototype crab that was once planned for Sonic 3D. "It may only make it into the editor", he says, "but if I can redesign the levels to actually include it, I will".
Elsewhere, Burton hopes to add Super Sonic, a password-based save game system, and an in-game option to toggle the new Director's Cut mode on or off while playing. "If there are any other features or changes that you think would be good to consider," he adds, "please let me know." There's one important caveat here, however: "Remember that I can't add any new screens or graphics, and can only really re-code what currently exists".
Burton hopes to release the project, which he stresses is not connected to Sega in any way, as a downloadable patch for anyone who owns the game, although no timeframe has been given. Until then, it's well worth taking a few moments to explore Burton's fascinating, and rapidly expanding YouTube channel if you haven't already.
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