Who are they?
The Hidden Palace is a group of video game preservationists who hunt down video game prototypes, cut features and other game development media. You could say they are out to find out how games change throughout their development cycle, what elements and mechanics actually make it to the final product.
The name comes from the Hidden Palace Zone from Sonic 2, an unused area in the original release.
What do they do?
For about 15 years, the Hidden Palace has amassed a collection of over 1000 development builds for various games on a multitude of systems. A good portion of these have been mirrored on the Internet Archive, where you can try them out for yourself via MAME.
More than that, the Hidden Palace is about analyzing differences between different game builds, that is to say different stages of development. The Hidden Palace also frequently cooperates with The Cutting Room Floor to document features which have been cut from the final release. Take a look at their recent joint-update on the elusive Sonic 1 Mega Drive Prototype!
How do they do it?
It’s one thing to hunt down an obscure product, but where do you find a game that was never really released? Good candidates are developers or testers who may have had access to earlier versions of the game. Next come hobbyists or other preservationists who may have acquired a prototype from the above options. At this stage it’s likely that a prototype will go up for auction.
In any case, contributors to the Hidden Palace ship prototypes they have come into possession of, so that they may be dumped and/or scanned. If you would be interested in contributing yourself, get in touch with [email protected] and also have a look at their contribution page (they really value your confidentiality).
How do I sign up?
Or if you would rather prefer talking and meeting with people, perhaps the Hidden Palace Discord Server is for you!
Then what are you waiting for? Go forth, and discover the next Hidden Palace Zone, today!