Before Sonic Mania, There Was Sonic Project Mettrix: A Short Biography of Simon Thomley

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2016

Sonic CD was not Thomley’s last chance to work with Sega. In 2011, he officially began his own game development studio: Headcannon. A year and some later, it was revealed that Thomley, under the Headcannon name, had been brought on board alongside Whitehead to create a new, updated port of the original Sonic the Hedgehog for iPhones and Android devices.

Sonic the Hedgehog for Smartphone (Sega, 2013)

In 2013, Whitehead and Thomley would release mobile ports of both Sonic the Hedgehog 1 and 2, both running on versions of Whitehead’s own Retro Engine. These both contained an updated aspect ratio, bug fixes from the original games, the inclusion of Sonic’s signature “spin dash” ability in Sonic the Hedgehog 1 (where it had not been previously present), along with the inclusion of  playable characters that were not present in the original releases. In addition to this, the smartphone version of Sonic 2 included a fully playable version of the Hidden Palace Zone, which had been cut from the original game.

In between his contract work with Sega, Thomley did work on his own personal projects. Included among these were both Mettrix and Megamix. These increasingly began to fall into development lulls, with Thomley recalling this being an issue in particular with Megamix. He would have to find ways to kickstart the team, though due to their own outside obligations, this became less and less effective over time.

Many in online communities such as Sonic Retro began to speculate that the project was dead. While the first of these rumours can be traced back to 2009, by 2014 they had become more and more rampant. Thomley tried to remain optimistic. In response to long running fan speculation that the Megamix project had been cancelled, he would release a trailer in 2014 titled “Never Cancelled.”

By 2015, Team Megamix consisted of only Thomley himself, with some members coming and going. Progress continued, though work had slowed nearly to a stop. Despite this, Mettrix and the Headcannon Game Engine continued to receive updates, but that soon changed.

Sonic Megamix Leaked v5.0 Title Screen (Team Megamix, 2014)

Thomley, on 30 April 2016, made a post on the official Team Megamix blog titled “State of the Mix Address.” In this post, he formally declared Sonic Megamix cancelled. However, he also stated some plans for the project. Mainly, he wanted to clean up the project in its current state for a final, playable release. He also noted a desire to take the engine that the game was built upon and release its source code publicly. Shortly afterwards, the Headcannon Game Engine, which itself was required to run Mettrix, received one last, albeit small update.

On 22 July 2016, at the Sonic the Hedgehog 25th Anniversary Party in San Diego, California, Sega officially unveiled Sonic Mania. This new title would feature both old and new Sonic zones and would return to the style of the classic games on the Sega Genesis. It would contain references to pieces of Sonic history such as the prototype versions of Sonic the Hedgehog 2. Most importantly, it was created by a team of long time Sonic fans. Prominently featured on this team: Thomley.

Upon its release in August of 2017, Sonic Mania would become the most critically acclaimed Sonic game in over two decades.

Thomley’s story is one of perseverance and love for a series. Most importantly, it’s the story of a man who followed his dreams until they finally paid off. To quote Thomley himself, “I ended up accomplishing what I had wanted since I first saw Sonic the Hedgehog on display in 1991. I wanted to be able to make that sort of game, but more than that, I wanted to be a part of Sonic itself. To work on Sonic. To work with the people who made this series possible. I guess the lesson here is, if you’re passionate about something, stay with it. Work hard. If you truly love a certain type of work, stick with it and see where you can go with it.”

This piece is a companion to a video created for the YouTube channel Stuff We Play, which can be viewed here. Thomley still currently runs Headcannon, where he is working on his own game projects. He also has his own YouTube channel, which can be found here. He also has a Patreon page, which can be found here. Thomley’s most recent project with Sega was Sonic Mania Plus, which was released for Steam, Xbox One, Playstation 4, and Nintendo Switch on 17 July 2018.

About James Christensen 8 Articles
James Christensen is a writer, content creator, and social media marketing nerd currently residing in Victoria, British Columbia. He’s written about people, technology, and the environment, along with creating the online documentary series “The Art of Failure”. Feel free to check him out on Twitter and on YouTube!