By BlazeHedgehog 11 Comments
There may be grumpy old men who hate April Fools day for all of the attempted trickery that goes around. But honestly, as far as the internet is concerned recent April Fools Days have started to resemble something similar to Halloween - everybody figuratively dons their own silly masks to both entertain and occasionally frighten (but never for very long). The only truly mean part of April Fools Day anymore is when somebody goes the extra mile for their joke and creates something so awesome that you wish it was actually real (A Total War game with Dinosaurs? Yes please).
It may come as a surprise to you, but given how much I enjoy Halloween, I equally enjoy April Fools Day. Indeed, I actually have quite a lengthy history of being involved with hoaxes. I've never been entirely sure why; creating a hoax is almost like making a puzzle and watching to see how somebody solves it. Once solved, it's back to the drawing board to create a new and improved puzzle, all heading towards the ultimate goal of creating a puzzle so good that everybody wants to play it but nobody can solve it. April Fools Day has always been, to a certain extent, a day of reflection for me. I often go back and re-visit older hoaxes I've made. Given that this makes for a good blog subject, I'm inviting you all to join me as I take a trip down April Fools Memory Lane...
Probably the first real "hoax" I ever tried to pass off as the real deal, this was a mock-up of an old magazine scan to showcase the lost Sonic 2 Beta level named "Genocide City". Back when I made this hoax (sometime around 2000-2001, I wager), there was literally no information about Genocide City Zone save for some probably-also-hoaxed descriptions of what the level looked like. I used these descriptions as a basis for my hoax, most notably the smokestack in the background belching fire. In actuality, this screenshot is a combination of elements from VectorMan 2, Sonic 2's Metropolis Zone, and Sonic 3's Launch Base Zone. I would've gotten away with it, too - at least initially, if not for the fact somebody pointed out that E3 didn't actually start until 1993 or 1994 - after Sonic 2 had come out. If a beta version of Sonic 2 was to be shown anywhere, it would have been at the Consumer Electronics Show. D'oh!
Sonic Advance 2 - Underground Zone
I had to take things to the next level. Sonic Advance 1 had dropped in Japan in 2001, and hit the United States in early 2002. Knowing that they were probably working on a sequel, I sprung in to action. Rather than create a single screenshot, I went so far as to program a (very basic) game consisting of a single level, which I proceeded to then record myself playing. Then, I turned out all the lights in the room, played the video back, and took pictures of the screen with my digital camera. Once I had enough images of the game, I registered for an Angelfire account (under a different name, of course) and threw the pictures up there, claiming I had an "insider source" that had gotten an exclusive first-peek at Sonic Advance 2. I even deliberately tried to write in a different "style", as to not blow my cover. To make sure the page was noticed, I dropped the link in a few well-known chat rooms and let it spread from there. It was a ridiculously complicated setup, but ended up being tons of fun to do. I ended up grabbing a few people, until somebody noted that the sprite for Metal Sonic was ripped from one of the Game Gear games.
Halo for the Gameboy Advance
Probably my most well-known hoax, for reasons we'll get to in a moment. It was sort of a crazy time - apparently Microsoft and Nintendo had entered in to an agreement to bring select Xbox titles to the Gameboy Advance, starting with a horrifically poor port of Oddworld: Munch's Oddysee. Rumors began to fly that we may see Halo on a Gameboy Advance, to which Bungie repeatedly refuted. Following in the footsteps of my 2002 Sonic Advance hoax, I took it upon myself to create a simplistic "Halo" game running at Gameboy Advance resolution and proceeded to record a video of myself playing it. Where I changed things up was how I portrayed it - with the advent of Gameboy Advance emulation, the "game" I created was patterned after a popular GBA emulator. The video showcased me opening the emulator and loading a "Halo Advance.GBA" ROM. After playing the game for a minute or two, it would then "crash" and the video would end there. Creating the Halo game was fun - I went a little overboard and gave the enemies special A.I. routines that would allow them to run away from Master Chief if they were wounded, and implemented little touches like sticky grenades actually sticking to enemies. I also searched for some Halo MIDIs - running them through FruityLoops with chiptune instruments and Super Nintendo sound fonts to really capture that Gameboy Advance "sound". Rather than alert everybody to the videos existence, however, I decided to instead "lay a trap" by quietly posting it to Google Video and telling nobody I had done so. Eventually, somebody searching for Halo related videos would stumble upon my creation and the trap would be sprung.
The wait was excruciating. Every few months, I would check and see how many views the video had gotten. Surely, if somebody had happened upon it and posted it to a major gaming outlet, it would be getting hundreds, if not thousands of views per day. Instead, the video sat. And I waited. And it sat, and I waited. A year passed. Then two. Then, out of the blue, IGN's Matt Cassamassina dropped a bombshell: he had played Halo on a Nintendo DS. Interest in a portable version of Halo was renewed, and not long after, I found a fish tugging on my hook. And not just any fish, but a fish named Kotaku. Somebody had ripped my video from Google and posted it on Gametrailers, which is where it was picked up. Unable to contain myself, I admitted to the hoax in their comments section. Though other Kotaku posters patted me on the back for my accomplishment, I think I upset the notoriously high-strung Brian Ashcraft, because a month later, I found myself permanently banned from the site for life after making a catty comment regarding a story he posted. Harsh!
Super Mario 128
A lot of rumors flew after Nintendo's Gamecube tech demo called Mario 128. Even though Super Mario Sunshine was technically the successor to Super Mario 64, Nintendo maintained that no, that was not Mario 128. Thus, it became customary around E3 time to try and hoax together something for Mario 128. This is one of the many attempts I actually saved. Obviously Mario himself is from Super Smash Bros. Melee, but the environment he's in marks my first foray in to trying to create a hoax in 3D. If you can believe it, the bricks and the pipe are actually a Doom map - I never bothered to learn how to do 3D geometry, but I knew how to do a Doom map, so I used that to create some basic shapes using textures from Super Mario World. A "direct feed" version of that screenshot is here, before I made the HUD smaller. I forget what was originally on that screen, too.
Sonic Advance 3
I felt I had to follow up my Sonic Advance 2 hoax with one for Sonic Advance 3. This time, I tried to play off the " Sonic & Knuckles" idea for "Sonic & Shadow". This time I decided to try and mimick the style of a Japanese magazine like Famitsu or something. Which... basically meant I ran english text through Google Translate and hoped for the best. Honestly, this is probably the most lazy hoax I ever made. I mean, just look at those screenshots - it's amateur hour. And that logo? It looks like I made it in Flash (I didn't). Nobody believed it for a second. I do kind of wish the real Sonic Advance 3 would've incorporated Sonic-CD-esque time travel, though. It's kind of mysterious that they've never tried to revisit that specific concept, despite Sonic CD's popularity.
Sonic Rush 2
There was a period of time where nobody was sure if a sequel to Sonic Rush would ever get made. Sega (the publisher) and Dimps (the developer) apparently had a falling out at some point over Dimps' King-of-Fighters-esque fighting game, The Rumble Fish. They eventually patched things up, but there was a good two or three years between the first and second Sonic Rush games, leaving an opening for somebody like me to swoop in and do something stupid. As if you hadn't already guessed by the horrible level art in my other Sonic hoaxes, making tiles for this stuff is a lot harder than it looks. Still, anything's better than that abysmal Sonic Advance 3 hoax. Not that anybody believed this one, either, though. I still like the cloud graphic I made in the far background, though. Outside of the Egg Pawn and the rings, I made all of the stuff in this screenshot. Well, I guess I didn't make Sonic - I think his model was from the PC version of Sonic Adventure DX.
New Super Mario Bros. 2
After so many limp-wristed hoaxes, I was starting to lose interest in creating something for April Fools. I couldn't get any ideas together, nor could I successfully execute on them properly. 3D hoaxes were becoming increasingly hard for me to pull off, and I was beginning to doubt my ability to replicate 2D artwork. I practically forced myself to do this one, and in all honesty it turned out better than I expected. The main idea I was going for was to echo Super Mario Bros. 2 (USA), what with the doors, shy guy, and the plants rooted in the floor.
I actually had a whole series of screenshots planned, too; the Mario model used in this screenshot was actually from Mario Kart Double Dash, and I had models for Princess Peach, Luigi, and Toad posed and ready, in addition to sprites for Ninji and a few other level locales half-finished. If it wasn't for the dopey shy guy sprite in this screenshot, this might've actually been pretty nice to look at. At this point I was done trying to fool people, however, and was just doing this sort of stuff for fun.
Shadow the Hedgehog 2: Redemption
Shadow the Hedgehog was such a bad game. There aren't too many things that could be worse, save for a sequel. I actually patterned this layout after an issue of EGM I saw. I think it came out really, really nicely; it looks like it really was clipped from a magazine scan. There was even the unintentional side-effect of me trying to do an "E3" background behind the text that ended up looking like the other side of the page fading through - something that frequently happens when you scan the cheap, incredibly thin paper that magazines are printed on. I wish I still had the source file for this - I had originally written an entire paragraph and a half on this game, about planned features and whatever, but it seems I've lost them to the sands of time. When I posted this, I was actually shocked how quickly people recognized where all the individual parts were from: the city street you see there is from Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas (despite me trying my hardest to pick a non-descript area). The Shadow the Hedgehog model is from Sonic Heroes, and the solders are from The Specialists (a Half-Life 1 mod patterned after The Matrix). Just goes to show you, no matter how good you think you are, you're still not good enough!
Telltale's "The Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog"
And that brings us to this year, the first real hoax I've sat down and finished in years. I was going for a similar style like the old Lucasarts SCUMM Adventure Games ( Day of the Tentacle, Sam & Max Hit the Road, etc.). The idea was that Sega and Telltale would partner, and Telltale would "cash in" on the psuedo-retro fad started by Mega Man 9 and Mega Man 10 by doing an Adventure Game about Sonic in SCUMM, complete with low-fidelity graphics. I had a lot of fun doing this; it was kind of awesome working in so few colors. I think I'm actually starting to figure out how to do sprite art. Sonic's a little weird looking, but part of me blames that on my scanner, which seems to scan my artwork at crooked angles (either that or I draw crookedly). And before you ask, yes - I drew Sonic's sprite by hand. The Swatbot I cheesed a little bit and just pulled off of Google Image Search. The backdrop is more traditional sprite work. Special thanks to a friend of mine for giving me the idea about the character interaction menu, there.
And that's it! There's a couple of hoaxes I did that I didn't put on this list, generally because they were too lame or weren't ever actually finished. Stay tuned to see if I actually end up doing another hoax next year. ;)