Archive entry by Ste Pickford on Wed, 6 Oct 2010
Subject: Solstice 2
I received a mention on twitter the other day alerting me to a post on the Jul forum about a hidden graphic in our old SNES game Equinox.
"How much more of this are we going to find?" I was asked.
The newly revealed graphic posted there said "Ste & John were ere OK". It was recognisably my rubbish mouse-controlled pixel writing, but I had no recollection of drawing the graphic. It turns out it was hidden in the SNES game ROM, but never appeared on screen anywhere. This jogged my memory - hiding little graphics that would never be seen by anyone was definitely the sort of thing I used to do, usually when I was bored on a Friday afternoon.
I had a root around in my backups, and sure enough this little bit of digital graffiti was right there in my source files, and I think I've figured out why I drew it.
Unusually for the time, we were making the game for the US market and the Japanese market at the same time. In fact, the Japanese version was the lead (our client was Sony Imageworks in Japan - the was before Playstation), so adding Japanese characters and text wasn't an afterthought or a retro-fit as it often was in other western games developed at that time.
The image shows two of my work screens containing the front-end character sets for both the Japanese and EU / US versions of the game. As you can see characters 00 to FF are packed with data in the Japanese version. It was probably a bit of a tight squeeze to get all the essential characters for fonts and screen furniture into this allocated space, mainly because of the number of Japanese font characters required. The same space is mostly blank in the EU / US version of the same work screen. (The area from 100 to 1FF in those images was just my workspace, not included in the ROM)
Our data management system at the time would grab a specified area from a Deluxe Paint screen (an LBM file), and convert it into SNES character data to be dumped into the game ROM. I obviously had one version of the front-end character screen for the Japanese version of the game, and one for the EU / US version, and the same area of data was grabbed from both screens then dumped into the equivalent space in the ROM of the matching version. This meant that the space required for Japanese font characters would be stored as a blank area of ROM in the EU / US version.
I must have been offended by the thought of all those uninterrupted, useless zeros being burned onto hundreds of thousands of Equinox cartridges, and decided to 'tag' the space, never imagining anybody but John and I would ever know or care.
As to how much more of these there are to be found... I can only remember doing one more (in Feud Amiga), but there are probably dozens that I've forgotten about. There have been a lot of Friday afternoons...
» Jul forum post