A "half-interview" with Tom Payne

In April 2004, when Genocide City was still an unsolved mystery and before any Sonic 2 maps in grid paper were scanned, there was a small piece of interview with "level artist" Tom Payne that got lost after an actual meet-up was arranged.

Without further ado, here's those small tidbits of info that may or may not have been made public since then.


From : Tom Payne
Sent : Monday, April 26, 2004 8:16 PM
To : ICEknight
Subject : Sonic stuff

What was that Asahi drink, anyway? I remember it was shown in the videogame magazines at the time when Sonic 2 was in development, but nobody seemed to agree on what it really was!

I believe it was one of those energy drinks-- like Red Bull-- that are getting to be so popular over here now. I don't think I ever actually drank one. Yamaguchi had them, I think (no wonder he never slept). I just saved the can.

Somewhere I've got a box of maps and things for the levels I did in Sonic 2.

Wow, really? Were those maps made with those "digitizers" the artists used? It would be so interesting to take a look at all that stuff! (does that include your contribution for the character contest that was held for Sonic 2?) And by the way, do you remember the names for the levels you helped with, or any of those that didn't make it to the final version, besides Craig Stitt's "Hidden Palace" and Brenda Ross' "Wood" zones? Any info about these would be greatly appreciated by the fans that populate many message boards across the internet.

The maps are ones that Yasuhara drew out for me on graph paper. I did the art for Metropolis and Robotics I believe. I also did several enemies, but I think the wasp is the only one that stayed in the game. I drew up a bunch of them which I have around here somewhere-- an alligator & a snail & a dinosaur or two.... Wait, here's the "back up disk" I have of my enemies. Of course it's formatted for the Digitizer, so I can't actually look at them, though there used to be a program I think Sugano made to convert these files to .lbm's? Anyway, here's what I have-- 1. Gator (made on April 2, 1992 it says) 2.Wasp 3.Dinosaur 4.Ball 5.Mother Bubbler 6.Bubbler 7.Snail 8.Sandcrab. I have a disk entitled "Yamaguchi's Enemies" and from my first day at work (March 9, 1992) Apparently I tried to make a Pig enemy... and a disk labled in either Yamaguchi's or Yasuhara's script that says something in Japanese, then "Metropolis Zone w/B-scroll" But I can't read any of these disks.

Wait! I found a disk with LBM files with some of my enemies on it. I'll try & attach them-- the Wasp, Dinosaur, Snail and Alligator. Did the snail stay in the game? I think Yamaguchi touched up the Wasp at some point. But he touched up everything-- quite an amazing artist.

Now that I think of it, there's very few info on the internet about your contributions to the videogame industry (and just too vague to know exactly what did you do in each of the games). Were you hired just for Sonic 2 and Sonic Spinball, or did you help with other games that were never finished or just weren't given credit for? I've been recently speaking with Craig Stitt about some canned games called Astropede and Jester (and Dark Forces?), and I thought it was pretty interesting to read about those games that "could have been".

I got hired by answering an ad in the San Jose Mercury News. I went to art school in San Francisco & was going to be a famous illustrator. Instead I was hanging around Santa Cruz filling sketchbooks with strange drawings. Which is what I think got me the job. I thought I was getting a job working on those stand-up video games. I hadn't played any home-type games since Pong and Tank. I had never heard of Sonic or the Genesis. Maybe they liked my innocence. And then I was immediately working on Sonic 2. I came up with a bunch of enemy ideas, most of which I don't think they liked too much. I'm pretty sure I did a couple that Yasuhara gave me little drawings of-- I have those somewhere too. Anyway, Metropolis Zone-- I did the foreground anyway-- I don't think I did the background, or I did but it got changed? And I thought I did something called Robotics? That's still in there, right? It's all metallic with little blinky lights? I gave my Genesis to my little brother & haven't played any of those games in a long time. Maybe I should get it back from him...

We all got to go to New York City for Sonic 2sday (Tuesday, get it?) the official release of the game at a Toys-R-Us in Manhatten. I can scan you some photos of that, pretty exciting.

And then I worked for awhile on B-Bomb, which was being done by Justin Chin, who's still around in the biz. That got canned for some reason. I think it was practically done. I have some of my art from that here, too.

Then Spinball. Yes. I think I did a couple levels in that-- or tables or whatever they were called, and I did some animation (I'm not an animator)-- I remember doing an animation of Sonic rowing a barrel? It's all very vague. I'm sure I have some drawings or something of some of that...

And then there was a game called Spinny and Spike, which was just me & two programmers. It was going to be cool, but was apparently too simple for the management. That was with Steve Woita and Jason um, can't remember his name.

I think that's all I worked on there. Then I quit and went to Lucasarts because things were getting too persnickity at the old STI.

If by any chance you find any "test cartdrige" and you want to dump its contents before they get corrupted by the bit-rot, I think [some guy I know] would be able to help you out since he's already going to help Craig with one of his. If you have a SEGA-CD and want to give it a go yourself, here's the instructions on how to dump Genesis cartdriges through a custom cable connected to the PC: http://www.retrodev.com/transfer.html

I don't have any cartridges, I'm afraid. I believe there are cartridges of some of them around. I can ask some of these folks if they'd want to share them with the world.

If you sent an email before I think I must have deleted it without reading it, so anything important you said didn't get to me.

Oops, I guess part of my previous message didn't make much sense then! I basically wanted to ask you if you'd like to participate in some kind of e-mail interview for my site [http://www.sonicdatabase.com/] about your works at the STI. I've already interviewed other people who worked in Sonic 2 and Spinball such as Peter Morawiec and Craig Stitt, and even though some of the questions were perhaps way too specific (and geeky) to remember the details, I believe that everybody was very happy with the results.

I think it would be very interesting to read from you about things like how did the projects get started, the relations between the Sonic Team and STI people, the reasons why some things were finally changed or just completely scrapped (such as some enemies and the desert level that appeared in one of the early mockups), or anything you can still remember (as obscure as it might be) about the development process of these games. Sort of like in those "the making of" featurettes in the DVDs, but about the old games we grew up playing.

I could probably do something like that. I'd like to look through the stuff I saved first-- it will probably job my memories. Maybe I'll have to drive down & get that box.
OK, enough for now-- let me attempt to attach these files.

Thanks for your time,