August 19, 2022
Enlarge / Artist’s interpretation of Sonic fans’ impatience over a recent game’s lack of updates and patches.

Sega / Sam Machkovech

Three weeks after its launch on modern consoles and PCs, the retro gaming collection Sonic Origins has continued coming under fire from various fans and critics, each uncovering issues that range from nitpicky to noticeable. Without any formal response from Sega on if or when the collection may receive a patch, one group of fans took it upon themselves to deliver their own mod on PC—only to then confirm that they were immediately halting and deleting their efforts.

The mod in question, dubbed BetterOrigins, was poised to correct apparently unfaithful elements found in the Sonic Origins versions of classic Sonic the Hedgehog games. In particular, the mod had already swapped art and sprites due to fact that some of them had been lifted from different games. (As an example, the “skidding” animation in Sonic Origins‘ version of Sonic 1 was actually lifted from Sonic CD, which the mod corrected.)

But as the group of apparently three modders made progress on various art swaps and patches, the team ran at Sonic speeds into a brick wall: The game’s “script” access was closed off. “After really digging into the files for this game, its [sic] become way clearer that this game is absolute shit,” a modder by the name of XanmanP wrote in a post that has since been deleted. Until Sega opens up fan access to the game’s scripts, he wrote, “there’s not a whole lot we can ‘fix’ without just redoing sprites.”

The mod page originally suggested that the project might return someday, then added, “for now, screw this game.” This update, posted on Tuesday, was followed hours later by a total shutdown and deletion of the acrimonious update text. XanmanP clarified why: “This mod is never coming back now. All these news sites posting about what I said is way too much for me. I’m done.”

(Update, 7 pm ET: In an email to Ars Technica, XanmanP clarifies that curse words in the mod’s patch notes were “hyperbole and borne out of frustration with limited modding options”—and that their frustration stemmed in part from Sega’s choice to remove older versions of the included games from digital storefronts. “Sonic Origins is serviceable for newcomers, but for longtime fans like myself, it leaves a lot to be desired,” they point out. In public tweets, XanmanP clarifies that the project “became more of a chore to fix than something fun,” at which point the three-person modding team bounced to different modding projects “with much greater goals that were more fun to work on.”)

Stealth comes out of hiding

Examples of significant Sonic Origins bugs, which were not addressed by the BetterOrigins mod before its GameBanana page was edited, include massive computational spikes on PC when the game is left in its “main menu” interface, full of 3D models of classic characters; a bug in Sonic 2 that leaves the series’ popular sidekick Tails endlessly jumping (and making repeated jumping noises that cannot be stopped) and wholly stuck outside the screen’s field of view; a video playback issue in the Switch version of Sonic CD; and a bug that can erase progress in the collecting of “Chaos Emeralds” in select games.

These issues come on top of the general price-to-content ratio that I called out in my review of the Origins collection, which were exacerbated by a puzzling decision to lock certain aesthetic and “museum” content behind DLC paywalls.

Tuesday’s mod project shutdown follows a troubling launch-day statement in June made by Stealth, a longtime Sonic game modder and programmer. Stealth is credited as a member of the Headcannon development team that is beloved in the Sonic community for its work on the series’ widescreen ports to smartphones, along with its contributions to the critically acclaimed Sonic Mania. On Origins‘ launch day, Stealth warned that “wild bugs” could be found in the collection, for which he took some responsibility.

“Every one of us is very unhappy about the state of Origins and even the Sonic 3 component,” Stealth wrote in a lengthy Twitter thread. “We weren’t too thrilled about its pre-submission state, either, but a lot was beyond our control.” The thread claims that requests to delay the game or submit major last-minute fixes were denied by Sega, though while Stealth clarifies that certain Sega staffers were great to work with, the thread doesn’t single out the biggest sources of these grudges.

Stealth has not posted on Twitter since the late-June thread went live. As of this article’s publication, Sega has not responded to Ars’ questions about if or when fans might expect patches to Sonic Origins on any of its platforms.

Some examples of Sonic Origins issues found by the community in the game’s first three days on digital store shelves.

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