Jon Burton

From Sega Retro

Jonathan Philip Burton
Place of birth: Winchester, Hampshire, England, United Kingdom
Date of birth: 1969-08-27 (age 54)
Employment history:
TT Games[1] (2005[1] – current)
Role(s): Programmer, Executive[2], Designer[2], Producer[2]
Education: Liverpool Polytechnic (1987-1990; Bachelor of Computer Science)[2]
Twitter: @JonTt

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Jonathan "Jon" Philip Burton is a British video game programmer and designer, most notable for co-founding and currently serving as Director of developer Traveller's Tales. Having accumulated a considerable amount of programming talent through his technically-impressive Sega Mega Drive games, Burton designed and programmed a number of first-party Sonic the Hedgehog games, and currently runs the YouTube channels GameHut[3] and Coding Secrets.[4]


Upon a visit to his uncle, a young Burton experienced his first personal computer - the VIC-20. After typing in one of the BASIC programs printed on the back page of the computer's manual, and seeing a small UFO move across the screen with accompanying sound effects, Burton was instantly hooked. He soon acquired a computer of his own, a ZX Spectrum, and with this decided to follow his calling and become a video game developer. Dedicating a significant amount of his free time to self-coding a number of computer games, Burton sent a few assembly language ZX Spectrum games to publisher Firebird for consideration, but all were turned down.

Burton acquired a 16-bit Amiga personal computer in the mid 1980s and was soon exposed to the demoscene and its advanced graphical effects. Becoming enamored with this display of programming ability, particularly that on display in cracked intros to pirated computer programs, Burton immersed himself in the scene, and only three months later came into contact with freelance artist Andy Ingram. Becoming good friends, the two set about developing a high-profile Amiga computer game (what would eventually become Leander); early in the development process, they showed a rudimentary build of the game to Psygnosis for development assistance, and to their surprise, the company acquired the game for publishing. Working over the next 18 months to complete the game and polish it into shape (with Burton coding much of the game while still attending college at Liverpool Polytechnic), the pair founded a video game development company to represent their work: Traveller's Tales.

Traveller's Tales

A 2005 photograph of Burton, taken at his development company Traveller's Tales.
Main article: Traveller's Tales.

Burton founded British video game developer Traveller's Tales alongside friend and artist Andy Ingram in 1989, and personally designed, directed and programmed the majority of the company's games. As the studio's only programmer for much of its early existence, he was able to have a more direct influence in things like gameplay and design; something he relished much more than his executive duties. Working alongside Psygnosis for their earlier titles, Traveller's Tales soon saw their parent company acquired by Sony Imagesoft - something that allowed the studio to begin developing for larger properties; notably, 1994's Mickey Mania started a long and fruitful relationship with Disney. The later success of Toy Story (which boasted critically-acclaimed graphic effects largely created by Burton) saw Traveller's Tales gain the attention of other big players in the entertainment industry, like Sega.

Traveller's Tales was soon contracted by Sega to develop two first-party Sonic the Hedgehog titles - Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island and Sonic R - with Burton playing a significant role in both the design and programming of each. Burton takes pride in how closely the finished version of Sonic 3D: Flickies' Island resembled what Sega had requested the game to look like (from both a technical and design standpoint), and how its programming had been built entirely "from scratch."

Burton recalls a story in which he, sometime following the completion of Sonic 3D Blast, was driving Katsuhisa Sato back to his hotel in an expensive Lotus Esprit sportscar. Wanting to show off the car's power, he floored the accelerator at full power and took off, only to realize the vehicle directly behind him was a police car. Soon, multiple police vehicles began to follow him with their lights activated, chasing him into the hotel's car park. While he was eventually able to explain that he was indeed the owner of the sportscar (and that it was not stolen), he soon realized that he was in plain sight of Sega of Japan's management, who had been looking through the hotel windows in bewilderment. Despite being let go with just a warning, Burton humorously categorized the event as "a fairly fitting incident considering the selling point of Sonic games is speed."

GameHut and Coding Secrets

Aside from his development work, Burton is best known today for his YouTube channel GameHut. Launched on August 30, 2017[3], the channel is a means for him to share interesting development history and explanations of his games' advanced graphical effects (such as the transparent fading of geometry in Sonic R.) Moreover, his calm demeanor and humble personality has seen the channel experience a significant amount of recent success, and the newfound popularity eventually gave rise to a second channel on June 16, 2020[4], Coding Secrets.

Sonic 3D Blast: Director's Cut

Main article: Sonic 3D Blast: Director's Cut.

On December 23, 2017, Burton released Sonic 3D Blast: Director's Cut, an enhanced romhack of the original game. Unhappy with some of his previous gameplay decisions, Burton decided to revisit his original code (then over two decades old) and make a number of changes; most notably bugfixes, control improvements, and various replayability features. The hack has received widespread critical acclaim for its improvements to the original game, and is considered the definitive version of the 1996 isometric Sonic the Hedgehog game.

Later career

Alongside his video game work with various licensed Lego properties, Burton has also been personally involved with many of the toy manufacturer's feature films. He wrote, produced, and directed the 2013 animated film Lego Batman: The Movie – DC Super Heroes Unite, and served as an executive producer on the 2014 film The Lego Movie.

In 2013, Jon Burton founded video game streaming service Antstream Arcade, an online platform which allows classic games (particularly those released for the ZX Spectrum, Amiga, and Mega Drive) to be streamed to a number of compatible modern devices.

Burton has been nominated for five BAFTA awards, and won the 2013 Best Family Game award for Lego Batman 2: DC Super Heroes.[5]

Production history



Main article: Photos of Jon Burton

External links