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True Fan Hack Stories: Sonic: Time Twisted

On this edition of TFHS: I got to speak with the creator of the time-traveling fangame and learn much about its development. I also got to talk its soundtrack with the fangame's music director!

Hallo everyone, it's me Twinny back again FINALLY with another installment of my True Fan Hack Stories feature! So sorry with the long wait getting this one up; the first one happened way back in August 2014. Personal happenings with on top of other reasonis set aside TFHS for quite a while.

But it's back and hopefully more installment should be arriving, whenever I can get them out! Anywho, this time TFHS highlights Sonic: Time Twisted. This fangame first came about almost a decade ago, in 2006! Since then, many revisions with development arose to its current form, the S.A.G.E. 2014 Act 2 demo. I spoke with its creator Bryce "OverbounD" Stock recently and he discussed in length how Time Twisted came about and much more.



Alright firstly, thank you for letting me set up this interview for RadioSEGA!

OverbounD: Glad to do it.


Before we get started, tell us a little about yourself?

OverbounD: Well I'm 26 years old, and have been working on Time Twisted on and off for about ten years now. Professionally, I am a graphic designer, but I am trying to get away from that. I'm currently in school for Computer Information Systems and have a second job as a programmer.


Wow, ten years? Sounds like it's been your whole life's work!

OverbounD: I suppose so; in that decade there were several times that I stopped working on the games for 6 months maybe longer. As I got older I got better at art and new fan game engines came around.

I have read that the project did have some changes.

OverbounD: On two occasions I've scrapped the entire project and started over on a new engine with new art. The entire game was scrapped in 2008 and 2010. Both times the engine and all of the art were replaced. But the concept of a Sonic CD sequel stayed. It was just taken to a more professional level.


Tell us more the game's development process during these times until the most recent demo?

OverbounD: Last semester at school was very busy for me. So not a lot of progress was made for about 4-5 months after the previous demo build. But in the past two months my life has gotten easier and I am working on Time Twisted every day. In fact I was working on it right now, heh. Basically since the demo I cleaned up the source code a lot and added 3 new level maps. The engine itself was built by AeroGP who is a guy I've probably known for 10 years. He helps me with coding, especially when I get stuck. Mercury of “Sonic Fan Remix” fame also helps out. He coded the joystick support and a few gimmicks for stages.


How much time have you gotten back to working on the fangame in recent months?

OverbounD: I work on it daily, for at least 4 hours I'd say.


Day by day development now, awesome!

OverbounD: Yeah, that's why since Christmas I have been able to build said three level maps: a second act for Frigid Fortress Zone, the first act being in the previous demos. That accounts for two of the level maps I've made recently, since each level has a future and past version. The third level map I've been working on is for Drifting Dynamo Future, which is sort of a mix of Flying Battery and a desert-themed zone. The player starts in the desert but towards the middle of the level, the player gets to hop aboard the Tornado and fly onto the "Drifting Dynamo," the name of the flying ship as well as the level as a whole.

Three new maps in the past couple months, that's dedication right there. Will there be more gimmick levels like that one? And will they be more streamlined into the levels apart from cutscenes come full release?

OverbounD: There are lots of gimmicks in every level, but probably not many that change the gameplay style as much as flying a plane. Also, there are actually two cutscenes for the start and end of the game.


The one with Metal Sonic was the first one right?

OverbounD: Right. They are meant to look like something that actually could be replicated on the Genesis. But beyond that, there will also be level transitions and in-game cutscenes.

They're [the cutscenes] very well done too I might add! Who created them?

OverbounD: Marc AKA DerZocker and I did them together. He did the majority of the backgrounds, and a lot of the colors to the character art. I did some the line art and character coloring. I was also the one that programmed the cutscene. Have to give major props to DerZocker for that cutscene though. it was his idea to do them and he created so much amazing art for them as well.

Really like how well you two captured the Sonic CD style in that cutscene too. Got a plus from me! As it been said, Time Twisted is very much influenced by Sonic CD, moreso the "time traveling" gimmick. Did you wanted to give your own twist to that formula in any way?

OverbounD: I choose to streamline the time travel a lot from Sonic CD. I felt that having two vastly different time periods was better than having four time periods with minimal changes and palette swaps.


Ah, that's why you stuck with just the Future and Past versions of every level.

OverbounD: Right, Sonic CD's time travel also seemed a little pointless. The only time period that matters [to me] is the past , so I took a page from Sonic 3 & Knuckles and have 14 Emeralds [in Time Twisted]: 7 Chaos Emeralds and 7 Time Stones. The catch being that you can only get the Time Stones in the past and Chaos Emeralds in the future.


Every levels starts out in the Future too, no wonder players could only get to its Past versions.

OverbounD: Right again, which is another thing I've changed about Time Twisted. Whatever timezone you end a level with is where the next level starts.


Clever method of play there, I find that an interesting take on SCD's gameplay formula.

OverbounD: Thanks!


Any other features that you wanted to or has put into the game to make it stand out from other Sonic fangames and the original Genesis/Mega Drive titles?

OverbounD: Well before when I was talking about Special Stages, like Sonic 3’s, they are hidden in the levels themselves. So the game really encourages exploration for those big rings. Other new features included two new elemental shields: an Ice shield which can momentarily freeze enemies and an Air shield which allows you to fly around like NiGHTS for about 10 seconds. The air shield is a lot of fun! I think that [the latter] encourages a lot of exploration too.


You're trying your best making an unique experience for those that have played the classics. Many other fangames try to evoke that same way too but there are similarities between those in some form.

OverbounD: Really what I am trying to do is take the best elements from the 4/5 classic Sonic games and put them all into a game.


Quite the endeavor my friend, haha!

OverbounD: Yeah, we'll see if I succeed haha. But what I mean by that is I took time travel from Sonic CD, exploring stages for the Giant Rings from Sonic 3, and with stage layouts I try to use the best characteristics from each game. Time Twisted’s setting takes place after Sonic 3 AND SCD, so as much inspiration that does come from the latter. It will hopefully act as a sequel to Sonic 3 as well, as much as any fan game is anyway.


Hence why players can also play as Knuckles, I take it?

OverbounD: That too yes.

Since I'm from RadioSEGA, I have to talk about the music to Time Twisted! Tell us who is the mastermind(s) behind said music and has this person(s) worked on past projects?

OverbounD: Zach Hinchy is the mastermind behind the music; I found him through Sonic Retro and asked him to make music for the game back in 2010. He was super excited and has made a bunch of killer tracks for it. Hinchy has not worked on any other Sonic fan games that I am aware of though. He too is a game designer working with his team at The Layabouts working on a game called "Legend of Doodle," a plaformer with a neat pencil and paper graphic style. Additionally, Hinchy has brought Falk and Andy Tunstall of Sonic: After the Sequel fame to do a few tracks. Previously LarkSS from Sonic Fan Games HQ worked on 3 different tracks for the game, but he has since moved on from the community.


Oh yes, their music from After the Sequel are great tunes! [We have played some of its music here on RadioSEGA in the past! - Editor's Note]

OverbounD: Yeah, I think the three of them working together is just awesome. There are a few others that have worked on a song or two as well. Tweaker did one a long time ago, and someone else Hinchy is friends with. Hinchy would know better; I pretty much leave the music aspect of the game to him. And he [Hinchy] does such a great job, anytime we're in a crunch and need a song for a demo or something. He always pulls through. Hinchy is awesome, haha.


Is the music same in style and/or a sort of love letter to Sonic CD's?

OverbounD: The music is really more of a mix of Hinchy's and other contributors’ styles. It's not really meant to imitate another style or anything. It sounds somewhat retro, but they aren't limiting themselves to instruments that could only be created on the Genesis.


Were there any trouble finding the best the piece of music to best match each of the current levels?

OverbounD: We've had a couple of disagreements regarding where music should be used in the game. A lot of that stems from the fact that I made the decision to replace Perplex Puzzle from previous demos with Tidal Tubes which is inspired by the level of the same name from Sonic Zero: Remastered.

The problem was the Perplex Puzzle music did not match Tidal Tubes’ new setting. Perplex Puzzle's theme was very sinister or in the case of Time Twisted, the “past” version kind of gloomy. It just didn't fix with the high speed style of water level we went with for Tidal Tubes. So we ended shuffling things around so that Tidal Tubes Future used a piece of music intended for Submerged Saucer Zone and the latter’s theme is the same music heard in Perplex Puzzle Future, from the 2010 demo. Unfortunately, that meant cutting the only track left from LarkSS. But sometimes those things happen.


Can see the music became a difficult decision during development. If it were to happen, would the cut tracks be included in the game's official soundtrack album?

OverbounD: That will be up to Hinchy. I MAY yet include Perplex Puzzle as an unlockable level. It kind of depends on how much work it is to port over to the new engine. However, that's not the only time music has been changed though. In my original builds of the game made between 2005-2008, I used instrumental versions of Smashing Pumpkins’ music, as I was a big fan in high school.


But then of course...them copyrights... xD

OverbounD: Yeah, hah! Lark then made 3 tracks which I used for the 2009 and 2010 demos.

Nice insight that I and surely many others never knew about your game! Any other things of note you want to say?

OverbounD: Well I finish college this coming December. My goal is to have Sonic: Time Twisted finished by then. The engine is more or less complete and I have 12 of the 23 level maps finished for the game. Considering the pace I've been working and the pace I think I can keep up for the rest of the year, I think I will be able to finish around then. It's not a firm deadline of course, but the game will be at least very close to being finished by then.


Those wanting to get more out of Time Twisted will appreciate what work you've put into it once the game is completely ironed out.

OverbounD: Yeah I'm super excited about finishing it, after so much work!


That said, thank you for taking the time to be a part of True Fan Hack Stories, despite yourself being under the weather and all! Nice getting to know more of Sonic: Time Twisted! And who knows, maybe the music will be played here and there on a RadioSEGA LiVE show in the future? ;D

OverbounD: I'm sure Hinchy would love that!


Thanks again man!

OverbounD: And no problem, thanks for doing it. :)


That was the first part of the interview. Was fortunate and able to speak to Zach Hinchy to talk more on Sonic: Time Twisted's music; here it is!

Before we get started, tell us a little about yourself?

Well, I'm Zach Hinchy. And I, uh, like video games a bunch. I'm really mainly a programmer, to be honest - I'm working on a game called The Legend Of Doodle right now with my team The Layabouts and it's almost done. But music production is my second domain of work (indeed I am also producing the Doodle soundtrack, though mostly based off compositions by another in that case). As a video game aficionado as well as a video game soundtrack aficionado, Sonic's always been one of my favorite series.

The "Dueling Ages: Sonic: Time Twisted Original Soundtrack" cover

Sonic fangames are actually directly responsible for me first dipping my toes into game design; all my horrible Sonic fangames from my early teens are lost to the ether now, but that's how I was first lured into the arena of game creation. Either way, I'd actually been paying attention to Time Twisted for a while, so when I got a private message out of the blue saying "Hey your music's cool wanna become the new soundtrack guy?" I jumped at the chance! That was quite a few years ago now, hard to believe; but I'd actually say it was a turning point in terms of my paying more attention to bettering my craft. The earliest Time Twisted stuff I've made are perhaps the earliest tracks that I've made that I still like.


Is the music same in style and/or a sort of love letter to Sonic CD's?

Hinchy: No, definitely not. I do LOVE Sonic CD's soundtrack, both of them, but I'm not going to pretend that my style can be a proper substitute. Time Twisted's OST is its own thing. There's certainly influence and inspiration sprinkled throughout the soundtrack though. Obviously there's that iconic sound effect from SCD's Japanese title screen I re-used in our own. Probably the most strongly SCD-influenced track in the game is Attraction Attack Future, the first song I made for the game, which was purposefully inspired by the American Collision Chaos tracks, but even then it was just that - inspiration; the songs don't sound that similar when you get down to it.

I've also had the pleasure of working [on the game’s soundtrack with Andy Tunstall of Sonic: Before/After the Sequel fame, which includes a couple of tracks he did entirely himself; they're the best on the soundtrack, IMO. If he (or most of the other musicians from that) wanted to make a soundtrack that is a love letter to Sonic CD in particular, they could if they tried, I think. I don't feel like I'm on their level, at least not yet.

Both you guys sharing that "it's influenced yet not totally imitated" mindset with its music. That's a good thing to think about. 

Hinchy: Ultimately that's the best way to go, I think? You don't just want to retread ground that's already been covered. Being authentic to yourself and your musical imagination will end up making better material most of the time. Unless of course you really know what you're doing. The more you learn about music theory and the way music is composed and become able to intelligently break it down, the better you can utilize different styles of music and composition and make them your own.


Indeed! Moving on, were there any trouble finding the best the piece of music to best match each of the current levels?

Hinchy: the biggest problem for a long time was Frigid Fortress. For both time zones, nothing was working out past the first 15 seconds, and I was having a hard time coming up with different things. Andy swooped down and provided entirely different tracks that were awesome, so he saved my bacon for sure!

Also, while not exactly trouble with composing the right kind of music itself, but there was a level called Perplex Puzzle (seen in the 2010 demo, way back when I'd barely joined the project) that eventually evolved into a level called Tidal Tubes, which was just too fast-paced to work at all with Perplex Puzzle's music. We ended up being able to make it work though with a little switcheroo - music planned for another level became the basis for Tidal Tubes' Future theme, whereas Perplex Puzzle's tracks found a new home in that same level.

This is a bit of a tangent, but it's worth noting that there's one level all the way at the other end of the music-fitting spectrum called Drifting Dynamo. That level was actually my idea - the concept and its intended style of music were married from the get-go, the song basically wrote itself, and I was able to pitch the level idea to Overbound with an early version of my music alongside it.


Perplex Puzzle was That One Level in terms of music selection difficulty among the team then?

Hinchy: Well, more like it was Tidal Tubes, haha! Perplex Puzzle's music fit its namesake level great! But it's just not Perplex Puzzle anymore. Just take one look at the names and you can kinda tell. A lot of people tend to just not like slow-paced water levels, so it was completely replaced with a fast-paced water level. Less Tidal Tempest, more Hydrocity, if you catch my drift.

Due to the decisions, were they any music cut out at all then? And if it were to happen, would the cut tracks be included in the game's official soundtrack album?

Hinchy: Technically some songs were replaced a long time ago as the game evolved, but not since I've been the music director, no.

One of the two relocated Perplex Puzzle themes was ALMOST cut, but I insisted on keeping it and figured out a really cool way to work it in. There was a composer working on Time Twisted before me, LarkSS. He's admitted himself that a lot of the songs he'd done before were just kind of thrown together, but what used to be Perplex Puzzle Past was the one song of his that was really great and worth saving. It's another one of my absolute favorite tracks in the game, and my variant of the composition (for the Future) is fine enough but really shines when you have the other song's context. I would have fought tooth-and-nail to keep it if I had to.

Nice way to remember his contributions by keep that theme in the game! Also nice to get further insight on Time Twisted's music from ya man. Really appreciate taking the time making this happen!

Hinchy: Thanks!



And there you have it! Another True Fan Hack Stories piece in the books! Must say, the wait was worth it; lots of good backstory on Sonic: Time Twisted on both fronts. It has potential to be an very enjoyable fangame once its final release happens with what talent has been put into it. The current demo from S.A.G.E. 2014 Act 2 is still available for demo play, if you have not yet tried the fangame yourself. Big, big thank you to both Overbound and Mr. Hinchy for their time!

If you have know of any fangames or fanhacks that you think should be highlighted, suggest them in the official forum thread as well as DMing me on Twitter @RadioSEGA. Thanks for reading this installment of True Fan Hack Stories, right here on RadioSEGA.net!

8th February, 2015 - 21:36 GMT Twinny Article viewed 7182 times 0 Comments


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