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Sonic Utopia An experimental 3D Sonic fan game.

#31 User is offline Ritz 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 12:44 AM

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I have nothing to say about the mechanics, because the problem of controlling Sonic in 3D has effectively and unequivocally been solved here- like, holy shit. This is exactly how I would have done a 3D Sonic, from the handling of the homing attack right down to the animations you chose, like the Sonic CD intro baseball pitch curl when spinning after catching some air. The consistency of our visions doesn't even really come as a surprise to me, because the answer on how to handle Sonic in 3D has always been right there, in plain sight, for anyone with the taste and perspective to connect the dots. I never doubted for a second that classic Sonic controls could work in 3D, and I don't doubt that classic Sonic level design can work in 3D. Can we just rap about level design for a bit? It deserves its own thread somewhere, but I wanna do it here because between this and Green Hill Paradise Act 2, we've got a lot of fascinating data that needs digesting.

Front-loading this with some of my unwritten game design philosophy™: I believe the fundamental basis of fun is tension, which is essentially the threat of failure. The key to understanding any genre is to identify its primary action, the means by which it generates tension. The primary action of the platformer is jumping; the conflicting force is gravity. The more jumping the player has to do, and the more pervasive the threat of gravity, the more fun that game is going to be. I think the reason we generally still hold Super Mario 64 to be the best of the 3D platformers is due to how inherently vertical the level designs are. Verticality is exhilarating because the risk of falling becomes increasingly more costly- more tense- the higher you go. Most of SM64's maps are essentially a 3D bell curve- fairly open around the perimeter with a large elevation at the center. If you're shooting for open-concept level layouts, this structure is really the optimal way of going about it, since it leverages freedom and exploration with a sense of direction. The goal is compelling to the player and visible at all times.

The problem to be solved here is that Sonic's speed clearly prioritizes horizontal movement over vertical traversal. Horizontal tension is racing genre territory, and that works just fine for the Unleashed formula, but the point of bringing classic Sonic into 3D is to emphasize the platforming. As a baseline, when you're designing these maps, time out the spacing of your geometry so that the player never has to go more than 2-3 seconds without jumping- unless you're explicitly doing a run-for-fun segment (because pacing matters too). This will help you work out the density of design you should be shooting for, which is definitely something to focus on, because a lot of this map is just outrageously flat and boring. Bottom line: Jumping Is Fun. Speed only matters insofar as it enables bigger and better jumps.

Of the two games, I think Green Hill Paradise has the stronger level design- far from perfect, but it's doing a much better job of marrying Sonic's physics to the platforming. It's extremely vertical, there's a good density of iconic landmarks that each represent a puzzle to be solved my means of momentum-based platforming with a tangible reward at the top (Chaos Emeralds). Oldschool Cliff Bleszinski wisdom, one of the cornerstones of good level design is showing the player a visually distinctive landmark and making them think, "Awesome, now how the fuck do I get up there?"- something teased off in the distance, just out of reach. They may not even realize they were working their way up that structure until they get sidetracked and just happen to find themselves at the top, where they're rewarded with a moment of epiphany. GHZP does this wonderfully. The problem is that it controls like shit, and you become so singularly obsessed with scaling these landmarks that you wind up trying, failing and backtracking over and over, which is profoundly un-Sonic. Something we need to understand about the classics is that though they seldom explicitly prevent backtracking, they do discourage it- it's easier to go down a slope than up. Higher paths are more rewarding and require more intensive platforming, but when you fall, it's always more interesting to press forward. Save what you missed for the next playthrough.

To this end, I propose taking SM64's bell curve and inverting it. The Zone 1-1 of 3D Sonic should probably resemble a bowl in profile. You want to talk about easing the player into the classic Sonic state of mind? Make it a Downhill Jam. Punctuate with plenty (plenty) of flat ground and peaks to climb, but if they fail that climb, don't allow them a second chance. This ties into a critical element that most every 3D Sonic to date has largely been missing (even SRB2, while still having the best level design to date, doesn't push this far enough due to technical limitations)- floors over floors. At peak density, I demand your level have at least three layers of ground overlapping one another. Float your geometry. Player needs to play smart to leverage enough momentum to reach the highest levels, and the layout should feature multiple opportunities for them to filter up and down through the stack. Merge back down to the ground plane at the end of the map.

Going back to verticality, I think the route to making verticality work for Sonic, and to really set the game apart from every other 3D platformer out there, is to really make his surface clinging a primary focus of the game. You have the helix and at least two cosmetic wall runs going- I want to see that become a staple, and I want it to be a fixture of the most challenging routes through the map. Do this, all the time. Allow the player to run upside-down. That's a feature we seldom recognize about the classics, you don't lose momentum when running on the ceiling. Sonic GDK doesn't account for this, but I think you should. Bottom line, it's okay to be this, but if we're faithfully extrapolating classic Sonic into 3D space, it's going to look more like this.

Okay I'm out of juice. This is the game to solve 3D Sonic and your reason for existing right now is to get this right. The importance of this cannot be understated and your soul should be reeling under the sheer gravity of this responsibility, but I think you guys can do it (and maybe I want to help someday because I really like level design and painting textures)
This post has been edited by Ritz: 25 October 2016 - 01:08 AM

#32 User is offline Okamikurainya 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 02:19 AM

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Sonic Utopia looks really great, I haven't had a chance to play it yet since my PC is out of commission at the mo, but watching the videos put a smile on my face.

I want to weigh in on the level design conversation that's going on right now... I think that a good way to translate the classic style of level design to 3D while somewhat retaining the open field is to have the level built like a step-pyramid.

We have the low-route, a wide open field that serves as the base of the pyramid. The area would be more focused towards building up the players skill and control of the physics without much danger or fear of failure. This route would have various ramps back into the mid-route, though on the ramps would be a relatively challenging section, testing what you've had a chance to practice. (L)

We have the mid-routes which are the main routes. These require a gradually increasing mastery of the physics and level design to keep on, though being more open than the high-routes but less so than the low-routes. This is where the real "level-design" would be placed. (M)

And then we have the high-route. Like in the classics, this would be the hardest to reach as well as the hardest to stay on but would also have the greatest rewards and would push you forward faster. (H)

So like:


In my opinion it gives you the best of both worlds while retaining a lot of the essence of the classics.
This post has been edited by Okamikurainya: 25 October 2016 - 02:21 AM

#33 User is offline Yeow 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 08:15 AM

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Yuji Naka has shared Sonic Utopia on his Facebook feed.

On a different note, has he, Yasuhara, and/or Ohshima said anything about Sonic Mania in particular? Love to know if they have.

#34 User is offline roxahris 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 09:33 AM

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I love how this plays. The physics, too.

While this is probably an engine artefact, my framerate would die at high speeds. Mostly without an increase to CPU or GPU load, and regardless of resolution. I wonder what's going on there.

The following opinions may be wrong.

1) The camera should be more assertive - at least when playing on a gamepad. Sonic's movement should drag it around, and there should be some weight and friction to it. It doesn't always need to be behind Sonic, but it shouldn't let the player run into it with no consequence. That's not to say camera correction doesn't happen, but I found myself needing to keep control of it at all times.
2) There should be some bit of force sticking the player onto platform edges. Just a little bit. I kept flying off and sliding off pathways at the slightest provocation. Although, the framerate dips may have been the main culprit.
3) The music is annoying. The sound design is great, especially the way enemies behave, and the way rolling changes pitch based on speed.

I look forward to seeing this project proceed, especially if you can pull off a stage that isn't a big playground.
This post has been edited by roxahris: 25 October 2016 - 10:00 PM

#35 User is offline winterhell 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 09:58 AM

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View Postroxahris, on 25 October 2016 - 09:33 AM, said:

While this is probably an engine artefact, my framerate would die at high speeds. Mostly without an increase to CPU or GPU load, and regardless of resolution. I wonder what's going on there.

Random guesses would be there is geometry and assets streaming on the background and when you move fast you go through them faster.
That or there is a lighting and shadows calculations that are done on the fly once per area.

#36 User is offline Turbohog 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 11:11 AM

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View PostYeow, on 25 October 2016 - 08:15 AM, said:

Yuji Naka has shared Sonic Utopia on his Facebook feed.

On a different note, has he, Yasuhara, and/or Ohshima said anything about Sonic Mania in particular? Love to know if they have.

Wow. That's super cool and must be flattering for the guys behind this.

I haven't played the demo yet, but it looks good. Looking forward to having time to try it.
This post has been edited by Turbohog: 25 October 2016 - 11:11 AM

#37 User is offline GeneHF 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 12:55 PM

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We see you.

#38 User is offline MissingNoGuy 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 03:08 PM

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This is starting to hit mainstream territory now.

Hooooo boy, are we in for a ride. A good one, that is.

#39 User is offline Truner 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 03:30 PM

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You know, I get a kick out of 3D Sonic fan games because they always control worse than Sonic Free Riders with a broken Kinect.

But this, this is something else. Put some actual, non-sandbox stages in there and you could easily rival real 3D Sonic games with this. At least as far as pure gameplay goes.
EDIT: another thing I've appreciated is that while the stage is basically a sandbox test level, it has some really nice stuff in it. The first time you see the stage open up to you (after the opening segment) is quite an amazing sight to see.

Also the extra little zone bits, though I'm not sure what one of them is supposed to represent, but eh.I wonder if there's anything else to find. Tried breaking out of the stage, but no matter where I try to climb up, the invisible walls stop me.
This post has been edited by Truner: 26 October 2016 - 06:13 AM

#40 User is offline Dark Sonic 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 08:03 PM

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View PostGeneHF, on 25 October 2016 - 12:55 PM, said:

We see you.

Sonic Mania 2 - Electric Boogaloo in 3D Confirmed

But yea this is making the rounds. Even Vinny from Vinesauce played this and he actually enjoyed it, and this is coming from a person who usually dismisses anything Sonic (Those 90s US ads really rubbed him the wrong way). Great work guys, can't wait to see what lies ahead.

#41 User is offline Sparks 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 09:02 PM

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Gave this a playthrough as well recently. It's hard to give a review on it that isn't already echoing the majority opinion. So I'd say just add another vote to those sentiments. :v:

Personally, I would like to see the future level design be more obstacle course based, sprawling with gimmicks to play with in each stage to encourage exploration of many paths within said obstacle course.

If you guys are going to make a full fan game out of this, what is the projected scale of the project (aka amount of zones, acts, bosses, etc)?

#42 User is offline .Luke 

Posted 25 October 2016 - 09:32 PM

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The dropbox mirror is dead as expected. :v:

I plan on playing this on Windows tomorrow! Just watching the trailer got me smiling in all the same ways the Mania trailer did. I agree with everyone that this is so much more than a demo; it's the living blueprint of everything we've ever wanted in a 3D game, and it's real, it's here in our hands. Even Naka had to acknowledge this, if the demo's own qualities didn't already speak volumes for themselves.

Half of what captivated me was the music. I got a lump in my throat like I was halfway near tears; everything you touch is beautiful, Mr Lange. You breathed so much new life and color into such an old, worn tune as Green Hills Zone. This is going to be stuck in my head and my playlist for a long time.

#43 User is offline Neo 

Posted 26 October 2016 - 04:01 AM

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View PostGeneHF, on 25 October 2016 - 12:55 PM, said:

We see you.


will play this when I get home today

#44 User is offline Dark Sonic 

Posted 26 October 2016 - 05:35 AM

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I wonder how an adventure stage would play with this engine. Windy Valley might be a lot of fun with this.

#45 User is offline Kono Mike da! 

Posted 26 October 2016 - 06:44 AM

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View PostDark Sonic, on 26 October 2016 - 05:35 AM, said:

I wonder how an adventure stage would play with this engine. Windy Valley might be a lot of fun with this.

I think it would be glorious. Imagine going into the tornado! Wow.

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