You were expecting another SADX interview, but it was me, Cheese!

Jokes aside, today’s interview was with Exant, another X-Hax and Chao Island’s Chao Research Team member, that while contributed with assistance on some tools, had more to do with Chao modding than the main games themselves! For a easier context, both Adventure games have Chao Gardens, in which you can raise and take care of these little things called Chao (think a virtual pet game of sorts); but as this is SADX that are we talking about (though SA2 as well), there would be no shortage of research done on how these work, as well as how to improve the experience.

Exant: A talented reverse engineer and has uncovered many previously unknown features of the Chao System.

Excerpt from Chao Island’s team page

This neat concept garnered the love of many players around the world, and a whole community (Chao Island) came up dedicated to this section, which is still active to this day. Exant’s role in this is about how he helped in the internal research for Chao systems, as well as assisting on the popular Chao World Extended mod for Sonic Adventure 2 (which added many new features and fixes to the Chao section), and creating his own feature-enhancing Chao mod for SADX, CWESADX. This last one interestingly will feature restoring Dreamcast models for Chao in SADX in a future update, something that had not been done so far.

Considering the scope of the Chao community, as well as his contribution on these two great mods, I found it necessary to reach out to him to know more. Now, without any further ado, please enjoy!

Hello there! First of all, thank you for this chance; I remember seeing you on the X-Hax IRC back when I joined; and I found pretty interesting all the work you did on Chao mods, as well as how you are part of the Chao Island community (as part of the Chao Research Team) and your amount of research done in the Chao system.

Hey, thanks for the opportunity! I had joined a server called Chao Livechat back in 2017 to ask about a mod called CRI, and that’s was when I found out about Sonic Adventure 2’s PC port. Then I found out about the “Bright Chao” glitch in it, and that nobody had fixed it yet, so that’s how my “career” as a researcher started.

I messaged MainMemory on Twitter and he helped me get started making mods, which is how I made my first mod, Chao World Extended SADX (CWESADX).

Nice! Do you remember how it was the first time you saw either of the Sonic Adventure games?

Honestly, not really. I first saw Sonic X on the TV, then I searched up Sonic on the internet and played some Flash games (I distinctly remember Ultimate Flash Sonic), and then I probably found out about SADX on Youtube then got it.

Afterwards, I found out about Sonic Adventure 2 Battle through the really old Chao Island page, because I was looking up for help on some Chao stuff in SADX.

Since how long you remember being in Chao Island?

I knew about the site since 9 or 10 years ago, but I only joined (and then became a team member) around 2018.

And you’d say that you joined X-Hax around that same time?

Yup, I joined on day 1 of the Discord launch. I joined the IRC for a bit back when the SA Autodemo came out, but I didn’t understand back then that people dont respond right away, so I did quit afterwards lol

What would you say about the Chao Gardens and your experience with them?

It was very fun in the beginning, but after you learn about all the evolutions and such, it kinda takes away from the fun. Back as a kid, I played it a lot even if most of my Chao were unevolved because I felt a bond with them, but nowadays I just do mods, and can’t say I played in the gardens properly since like 2017.

I am looking forward to SEGA hopefully making a new Chao Garden with some new content so that its exposed to a bigger audience and for a whole new modding community to thrive from it.

What can you comment about that “Bright Chao” glitch from before?

Well, it happens because the 2012 SA2 ports dont support layering textures, so they just hacked out the leftover code for that, causing the bright look.

At first, SonicFreak94 and MainMemory suggested it could just be a global index error, but it was much morre than that. It was fun working on it, and an user called LimitCrown in the Chao Island Discord helped me a lot testing it. Now the Bright Fix is included in CWE v8, and you can make a Chao toggle between bright and fixed using a fruit.

What can you talk about your Chao World Extended mods?

Chao World Extended was made by darkybenji and CGBuster. I joined the team for the v8 update, adding new fruits and revamping the unused piano/organ remake and other stuff.

I also made my own “port” of CWE in SADX called CWESADX (very creative) that was my first mod. It lacked a lot of features but slowly it became its own thing, not really resembling the features from CWE but bringing back features from SA2, like the TV and other toys.

Are you working in any other mods?

Actively no, I don’t work on any other mods. I do help shaddatic and mindacos sometimes with their mods though.

What can you comment about the CWE mod for SA2?

It is probably the best Chao mod out there, and it also kickstarted a “reboot” of the Chao community, so yeah, we owe a lot to that mod.

What did you think about the Sonic Adventure games? (Chao-related stuff aside)

I enjoy both of them a lot.

I think SA1/SADX is definitely flawed a bit, but it was my first game so i enjoy it a lot (maybe more than SA2). SA2 has much better level design, but it doesn’t have a hub world, and that took away a lot of the magic SADX had for me as a child.

What do you think of the SADX mods for restoring Dreamcast assets? (Dreamcast Conversion, Characters, Lantern Engine)

I honestly never really noticed the differences between the Dreamcast version and SADX until PkR made the blog and the mod. After that, it was crystal clear; PkR did a great job.

The Lantern Engine mod is really cool too, and I actually sometimes used its code as reference to learn some 3D graphics programming stuff.

What do you think about all these efforts (mods and tools) that have been worked on in X-Hax and all these years?

Its very inspiring! Its weird to imagine an SA1 or SA2 that has no tools, no SAMDL, no SALVL or anything like that. Without all the efforts through all these years, I wouldn’t be here making mods and stuff.

I remember playing Sonic RDX, and its weird imagining that it was made through a lot of hex editing, instead of just a couple lines of code in a .dll file like its done nowadays.

How much did you enjoy your stay in Chao Island?

I enjoy it a lot, the community is very nice, and the whole research team is fun to work with when I’m doing mods. Mooncow and the rest of the staff are very cool people too.

What can you comment about the Chao Research Team?

They’re all very cool people. I knew a lot of people from there already, either from working with them before, or knowing them from the old Discord server. Its also cool seeing new faces too like krzys2, who joined not too long ago and made his new Chao editor program.

Do you have any Chao in either of your gardens right now? :p

I actually dont really have any of my own Chao in my savefile right now. I have test save files that I got from other people, but I still have my old 2017 SA2 save somewhere.

What are your favorite Sonic games?

My favorite Sonic games are Sonic Advenutre 1/2 (duh), Sonic Generations, and Sonic 3 & Knuckles.

Can you comment about any mods or projects unrelated to SADX? (Be they about other games, personal projects, or content creation)

Well, I work on CWE which is an SA2 mod, but I also plan to make some kinda Chao Adventure minigame thing that’s separate from any of the SA games; but that’s in very early phases, as right now I only got far enough that it can display any Chao you import from SA2.

I don’t really work on anything else right now though, but maybe I’ll dabble in some VR stuff if I ever get some headset; but that’s kinda it.

What did you think when I reached out to you for this interview?

I was surprised at first because I wasn’t really a prominent figure on X-Hax, but I’m happy I can talk about Chao stuff!

Do you have any favorite mods for either game?

Dreamcast Conversion for SADX.

What are you working on currently?

I’m working on the next CWE update and a revamp of CWESADX.

CWESADX will mostly be fixes and things being redone like the 3D emotion balls. CWE however, not sure how much I can talk about, but all I’m gonna say is look forward to being able to “decorate” your Chao more than before.

Sounds promising! On a side note, I remember PkR posting (quite happily) about Dreamcast Chao models being worked on for SADX at one point. What can you comment about that (and is it part of CWESADX or something else)?

Ohhh yeah, I plan to also put a restoration of SA1 Dreamcast Chao models into CWESADX, but this will only come after the current patch since I gotta iron out the code and such.

Makes sense. Does it involve getting to replace textures, models and some of the chunk code; or is it MUCH more complicated than it looks like?

It involves replacing the models over the SADX Chao skeleton structure so that the existing SADX animations work (I did that through a program I wrote), replacing the code that dynamically allocates them and the code that makes them morph, and fixing up the animation code a bit.

Most of this has been done but not too much testing yet. I also have to replace the eye and mouth setting stuff; so yeah there’s a lot more than you would think that goes into it.

What other modding communities have got your interest before?

I messed around with Toad’s Tool 64 (a Mario 64 editor thing from back in the day), and I also modded Terraria, which is how I started learning C#.

What can you say that you learned from working with SADX/SA2 and Chao mods?

3D graphics programming, a lot of lowlevel stuff, reverse engineering, C, a little bit of modelling; and a bit more of experience in tool development because I contributed a bit to SA Tools.

Do you have any greetings or special thanks for someone?

Special thanks to most of X-Hax for teaching me modding so that I can make my stuff, to mindacos for listening to my rambling, and to Justin113D for making the Blender plugin because it’s hella useful.

Have a message for the Sonic community? (And for the Chao Island/Chao community as well?)

Did y’all know Chao were meant to react to other Chao’s farts? Also check out CWE!

Thank you for this opportunity! X-Hax days were really fun, and SADX mods always intrigued me since a long time (which is why I’m working in documenting the History of SADX Modding); but I remember messing around so much as well with Fusion’s Chao Editor, and the efforts on both research and modding Chao stuff is admirable as well. So I was glad to have got to talk with you.

No problem man, anytime!

If you enjoyed this, you can check out all the other interviews I have done with several other X-Hax members (as well as some few emudevs; more of these soon), and I also work on articles (one of which is the History of SADX Modding; which would connect these interviews too).

If you liked my content, sharing this with others helps me out; and you can lend me a hand through my Ko-fi page as well! Any feedback and ideas are appreciated, so don’t be afraid to drop a message either here or on my Twitter.

See you next time!