The story of this website started back in early 1999, when Cyan was invited to join an unusual start-up group of coders and hackers, known as the "Sonic Stuff Research Group" (SSRG). Although it was this which eventually led to the website, and tools such as the Maze Editor, this was by no means the whole story.
Cyan's ROM hacking adventures can be traced back to 1997, when Megadrive emulators were just beginning to surface for the IBM-PC microcomputer. Being a computer programmer and long-time user of 68000-based machines, Cyan experimented with hacking and adjusting the ROMs in various ways, although typically without results.
It wasn't until Cyan found a magazine with an action replay code to access the leftovers of Hidden Palace Zone in Sonic 2 that things really started to progress. By carefully hacking savestate files, Cyan was able to access Hidden Palace Zone under emulation.
Sadly, almost all of the data relating to Hidden Palace Zone had been removed from the ROM prior to release, so the corrupted zone remained little more than a curiosity.
Sonic 2 Beta
It wasn't until early 1999 that the real breakthrough came. Someone had managed to dump a genuine Sonic 2 beta cartridge, and Simon Wai published the ROM file to the internet at large via his Sonic 2 Beta page.
The release of the Sonic 2 beta ROM on Simon Wai's "Sonic 2 Beta" page was probably one of the most groundbreaking things ever to happen in the Sonic community, and its effects are felt to this day.
The growing interest in Sonic 2 beta created much discussion, and around this time, Damian Grove released the first revision of the Sonic 2 Hacking guide, which would eventually prove to be very useful to the hacking and secrets community.
However, all this interest in Sonic 2 did not extend to Sonic 1; a shame, since Sonic 1 and any possible beta versions would have provided a great deal more insight into the game's development than Sonic 2 beta ever could.
Sonic 1 Beta Hoax
To try and stir up a bit more interest in Sonic 1, Cyan decided to do something which had never been done at that time -- create a ROM hack.
Cyan set to work on the Sonic 1 ROM, researching its internal workings primarily by a trial-and-error process (since there was absolutely no documentation on Sonic 1 available at the time), with the goal of creating a hoax beta -- a ROM that mimicked the behaviour of a "genuine" Sonic 1 beta.
Finally, in May 1999, the ROM hack was released to Simon Wai's Sonic 2 beta page. The ROM was deliberately not listed as a hoax, but rather released under the title "Sonic 1 beta?".
The release of the hoax beta stirred up more interest in Sonic 1, and when it was identified as a hoax, Andy Wolan invited Cyan to the SSRG for his work in creating the ROM hack.
Of course, it didn't end there. Being a member of the SSRG created a demand for a website -- hosting the Sonic 1 beta hoax and the Debug-O-Matic on Simon Wai's page wasn't an ideal situation.
Initially it was not clear whether the site should be a simple page to hold the files, or a more elaborate site with several sections. There was very little to write about, and very little to publish.
However, not long after the release of the Sonic 1 beta hoax, something happened which would provide a suitable subject for the new website -- Sonic Underground was first aired in the UK.
Previously only shown in France, dubbed in French, Sonic Underground was a new Sonic cartoon, and hadn't been shown in any other country. Since the UK had the first English dubbed version of Sonic Underground, the webpage was to be one of the first to focus on this new, interesting and surprisingly high-quality cartoon.
Thus, on July the 12th 1999, "The Underground Zone" was born. This site contained the world's first information on the English version of Sonic Underground, including weekly episode descriptions and MP3 files of the songs as each episode was aired.
Over the coming months, The Underground Zone expanded to include Cyan's new Sonic hacking projects such as the Maze Editor, until the site's anniversary, when it was redesigned.
Unfortunately, the new redesign never was completed, and up until The Underground Zone's last day online, some of the sections were still broken. Due to the problems encountered with the site, it became famous for very slow updates -- so infrequent, in fact, that the "latest news" section spanned over a year!
What few projects Cyan did release during this period were typically published on Sonic Server -- a home-foam server used for storing random fandom and other fun files -- or on other websites. Worse still, Sonic Underground had stopped showing in the UK, and due to the increasing number of other Sonic Underground fanpages on the Internet, the Sonic Underground sections were pretty much abandoned.
On The Underground Zone's 3-and-a-half anniversary (and its all-important 1280th day online), with over 50,000 hits accumulated over the years, it was finally taken down to make way for a new site, which is what you see here today! It is Cyan's hope that this new site won't suffer a similar fate, and will be easier to maintain; not to mention offering more unique and wide-ranging content than the previous site ever did.
For more information, you may wish to read the Whose nose section, and the Sonic Underground section.
Viewers wishing to access the original site -- The Underground Zone -- may still do so via the following link, at least for the time being:
The Underground Zone (discontinued)
Cyan has NOT left the Sonic Scene!
As a final note, despite most peoples' erroneous beliefs, Cyan has _NOT_ left the Sonic scene! Far from it, in fact, as Cyan is working on several Sonic-related projects at the moment, which may or may not be released, depending on what happens.
You can still view the infamous parody of the SSRG leaving message here.
The End of the SSRG
On the 29th of January, 2003, the SSRG finally met its fate, when all content was removed from the site, and most of the sub-sites. This is thought to be due to internal disputes relating to the controversial yet popular "Sonic CulT" site (which many people have migrated to due to the demise of the SSRG) and its webmaster. However, this does not affect this site in any way, although without the SSRG community, you can expect updates to be slower due to reduced motivation. However, things shouldn't stop completely.