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Trivia / Sonic X-treme

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  • Troubled Production: Sonic X-treme is perhaps the most notorious example of this. If the main page didn't give you a hint that many things went wrong with the development of what was supposed to be Sonic's Video Game 3D Leap on the Sega Saturn, here's a much deeper explanation.
    • For starters, what would eventually become Sonic X-treme for the Sega Saturn was actually the byproduct of a slew of several failed pitches for a Sonic game developed by Sega Technical Institute, which underwent many ideas for stories, game design, and even platforms (with the game planned for the Sega Genesis, and then its add-on the Sega 32X, before finally being settled for the Saturn).
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    • When development finally got underway, the development staff was comprised of two teams: one for the main levels, led by lead designer Chris Senn and lead programmer Ofer Alon; the other for the boss levels, led by programmer Christina Coffin. Despite the presence of a project overseer (Mike Wallis) to monitor both teams, the two groups ended up practically building two separate games with minimal similarities to each other. Not helping matters were the smaller teams that formed within the main teams and proceeded to work on different aspects of the game's development, who while in theory were supposed to ease the development process made it more cumbersome in practice. This ultimately contributed to an overall lack of communication across the development team, which led to high tensions between both groups, not at all helped by Ofer's seclusive tendencies from the rest of his team.
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    • The development team for the main levels frequently ran into problems porting the engine to the Saturn - the game was originally programmed on a Mac computer, then quickly ported to PC before finally being ported to Saturn. While the game ran smoothly on Mac and PC, the Saturn port had atrocious framerate issues, with the game playing at a consistently sluggish 3-4 FPS. This along with the aforementioned rocky relationship within the studio led to constant delays in the game's development cycle.
    • As a result of all this, Sega of America finally forced their hand in the development process by bringing in third-party developer Point-Of-View (POV for short) to smooth out the development process...unfortunately, this only deepened the cracks for development. Despite POV's intended role being to assist porting the main game's engine to the Saturn, they ultimately took over development duties from Alon — a decision which wouldn't had been so bad if POV didn't prove themselves largely inexperienced to the task. A very basic image of Sonic on a checkerboard background was what POV presented to demonstrate their programming skills (to say Senn and Alon were unimpressed would be an understatement), topped off by the developer also being unsuccessful at porting Alon's engine to the Saturn. Despite this change in the development process, a new group comprised of the main engine's original team was later established by Alon and Senn to continue their own work on the main engine.
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    • This all culminated into a horribly botched presentation of the game to a group of Sega of Japan's representatives — which included then-President Hayao Nakayama — who visited STI's headquarters in March of 1996 to check out the game's progress. While the original team was polishing up their engine for a presentation to the SoJ staff (which had undergone a lot of development and had also been successfully ported to the Saturn), unknowingly to them another presentation with POV's failed attempts to run an older version of Alon's engine on the Saturn had already been shown to the SoJ staff, with Nakayama being disgusted with the results. This was followed by a presentation of Coffin's boss engine in action, which led to Nakayama ordering for the entire game to be designed around that engine and be completed for that year's holiday season. Despite Senn's best efforts to persuade them to stay a while longer to see their newer version of Alon's engine, they ultimately failed to convince the representatives to view the new engine.
    • As a result, development from this point forward was largely restricted to Coffin's team to finish the game in time for the fast-approaching holiday season deadline, with POV, Ofer's team, and all work on the main engine effectively cancelled from the development process. In desperation, Coffin's team asked for and was granted use of the engine used in NiGHTS Into Dreams... to hasten development so the game would be finished on time. After getting accustomed to the engine's use after two weeks, the engine was taken away due to NiGHTS/Sonic creator Yuji Naka learning about the engine's use (the engine had been taken without his consent) and threatening to quit Sega if the team continued using his engine, sending the team back to square one.note  All of this resulted in Coffin doing most of the work himself, tirelessly working 20 hours a day and sleeping in the offices. When he contracted pneumonia and doctors told him he had only 6 months to live if he kept working as he did, he was forced to exit development, and thus Wallis was forced to tell his superiors that the game would not be completed in time for Christmas. By that point, there was no other choice but to pull the plug on the game, which ended up cancelled before they solidified their level editor, with a later attempt by Senn and Ofer to get their work on the game released on PC rejected.
    • Sonic X-treme's failure to show up on shelves has been largely pointed to as a reason as to why the Sega Saturn was a commercial failure, as the hole left in its wake meant that the Sonic series (whose 2D platforming entries sold millions on the Sega Genesis) would not see a proper platforming installment released on the system and left the Saturn without a guaranteed Killer App for its system (not helped by the fact that rivals Nintendo and Sony had brought to the table their own 3D platformer offerings for their respective consoles earlier that year). The Sonic series wouldn't receive a 3D installment until Sega got Sonic Team to revamp the series for the Sega Dreamcast. The game's cancellation has also been blamed for developer STI dissolving shortly afterwards.
  • What Could Have Been:
    • Most obviously, there's the game itself. But on a larger front, many fans to this day debate the larger impact this game's release might've had on the Sega Saturn, whose failure was partially attributed to the lack of a major flagship Sonic game to drive sales, and Sega's ultimate fate as a console manufacturer. See Troubled Production for more on that.
    • The game has a lot of planned content such as characters, plot (having several revisions and re-writes), levels and gameplay mechanics. Some of these ideas were later used in games such as Sonic Adventure, Sonic Colors and Sonic Lost World.
    • The game was also planned to be a tie into the Sonic the Hedgehog (SatAM) TV series early on in its 32X stage of development.
    • After the game was canceled, Chris Senn and Ofer Alon wanted to develop the game for PC as a last-ditch effort to keep the game alive but the idea was rejected by the Sega PC division, who only developed pre-existing titles for PC with some exceptions.
    • The special Sonic Christmas Blast was tied into this game as "An Extreamly Sonic Christmas" but was changed to tie into the game Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island.
    • At one point the game would have been featured prominently in a Sonic film "Sonic: Wonder of the World" that was planned to release sometime in 1996, which is the year the game was planned to be released. The film never saw the light of day, mainly for the same reason as this game, until 24 years later.
  • Working Title: There were many title names for the game, such as Sonic 32X, Sonic Mars, Sonic Saturn, Sonic Twisted, Sonic Boom (not to be confused with the Sonic subseries set in an alternate continuity made in The New '10s), Sonic Doom, and Sonic PC (possibly for the PC port).
  • Writing by the Seat of Your Pants: According to Sonic Retro, Chris Senn stated that the "Rings of Order" story was hastily thrown together for the specific purpose of the Red Shoe Diaries featured in Game Players Magazine, the "final" story having yet to be solidified.


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