Drx is pretty much a legend within this Sonic community. Remember that time he released 1,000 prototypes in a day? That ruled. He’s always on the hunt for new information and prototypes and his most recent find uncovered what could have been Knuckles original name: “Dreds.” The lead, uncredited tester of Sonic 2, Ben Szymkowiak, spoke with drx on the subject.
Ben: Actually, it was Jason Kuo, myself, and Vy Nong, along with a marketing person who brainstormed and came up with the idea for the dreadlock look of the Dreds character in Sonic.
drx: So Dreds was the original name for Knuckles?
Ben: I think Dreds was original name for Knuckles – but this was 15+ years ago. I do remember brainstorming on the look of Knuckles with Jason Kuo, Vy Nong, and a Marketing person.
Hit the jump for some interesting information on Sonic 2′s testing.
I’m sure most of you all are familiar with the “spike bug,” a behavior within the original Sonic the Hedgehog that would kill you despite being temporarily invincible. This issue was removed in Sonic 2 and later, unofficial releases of Sonic 1. Ben classified it as a “Class B bug,” which means it “affects game play somewhat significantly, but doesn’t hang game or prevent you from continuing.” In comparison, “Class A” bugs crash the system or inhibit player progress and “Class C” bugs are minor graphical glitches that have no affect on gameplay.
Drx also asked about an annoying aspect in earlier builds of Sonic 2 where if you ran straight into a wall, you’d recoil from it and fall down. It was obviously removed in the final release, but Ben couldn’t remember the bug. He assumes that, like the spike bug, that it was a “less significant” Class B bug and therefore removed.
Ben also talked at length about the stressful life of a video game tester, especially for an important sequel like Sonic 2.
I remember that testing Sonic 2 was quite intense. We literally tested around the clock and logged many hours of overtime. As you probably know most software releases get delayed and so software testing is often pressured to make up for lost time. We generally ran 2 shifts, (7am-3pm, and 3pm to 11pm) but during that time period we worked 24/7 with almost everyone getting lots of overtime.
The testing was very intense – I remember falling asleep for a few minutes inadvertently while burning EPROMs. I think I was living in San Jose at the time and SEGA was in San Carlos (which was 30mins away). I was working about 17-20 hours a day and I am lucky I didn’t die on the highway from sleep exhaustion. Generally things can change right up to the end. We would want to get 40 man hours of testing on anything that might be a final build (less on earlier versions) and the Test Department was about 30 people. But sometimes that meant that we would be getting new revisions every day or two.
As an idea of how intense testing was …when I was the lead tester on “Eternal Champions” (and the producer was quite intense)…I literally had 210.25 clocked/paid hours in a two week period. (I remember because this is the most I have ever worked in a 2 week period – EVER!) My paychecks had 70-80 hours normally and we worked 7 days a week. Saturdays and Sundays were mostly voluntary and generally lighter with only one shift from 9am-5pm (unless it was a high-pressure release like Sonic 2 or Eternal Champions) — (the producer was trying to make the next Street Fighter 2 but didn’t quite pull it off.) The one good thing was that with all that overtime you could make decent money as a 20-something doing something you loved (of course you had very little life outside of work). There was virtually limitless overtime (there was always Saturday and Sunday shifts).
Thank you to drx for sharing this information with Sonic Retro and thank you to Ben Szymkowiak for speaking with drx. Discuss this information in the thread on the forums.