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Fundamental Flaws of Classic Sonic (Mania Spoilers)

#1 User is offline Laura 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 02:42 PM

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I've completed Sonic Mania five times now so I'm pretty familiar with the game. It's a good game, I'd give it an 8/10, but I also think it's a fairly irritating game. It carries over some fundamental flaws of Classic Sonic's design and I think it actually exemplifies them in a number of ways. I'd give it an 8/10, despite its many flaws, because what it does well it does really, really well. If the game just improved upon the flaws of Classic Sonic's design I think it would be the best Sonic game ever, which winds me up :v: .

I do have a number of problems with Mania specifically. I don't think the game should revert you to Act 1 when you die in Act 2. This is nothing more than a nostalgic throwback to Sonic 3 and doesn't contribute anything to the game other than frustration (replaying an Act 1 you have already completed won't help you to become better at Act 2). I can't think of a single defence for this decision that isn't based in nostalgia or blind fanboyism to Team Mania. Equally frustrating is the game's inclusion of Time Outs, which were pretty pointless in the Genesis games, but are even more pointless here where levels and much longer and the player is encouraged to explore for Chaos Emeralds. It's bad synergy with the experience the game is trying to promote.

However, I don't want to talk about Mania specifically in this thread but rather discuss fundamental flaws with the Classic Sonic concept and games. I'll list two examples here, which aren't an exhaustive list but are pretty major design problems in my opinion. I'll let this serve as a springboard for other members here to discuss similar gripes with Classic Sonic.

Crushing = Insta-Death

I don't think crushing has any place in Sonic games. The whole purpose of Sonic is fast platforming. And no, that doesn't mean that the player is expected to speed through levels at max pace with no thought and with no platforming in levels, but it does mean that the game is supposed to be fast paced. There are two types of crushing hazards in Sonic games:

The first are moving platforms which can crush the player if you aren't careful.

Posted Image

These encourage the player to stop to a complete halt and very slowly time their jumps so as to avoid insta-death crushing. It doesn't synergise well at all with Sonic's fast-paced gameplay and slows the game to a crawl. It's also extra infuriating due to the game's bizarre crushing physics, where you can be insantly killed by just brazing the edge of the platform.

While the moving platform hazards are bad enough, at least they show the player there is a crushing hazard they must deal with. It doesn't fit well at all with Sonic's gameplay philosophy, but it does show the player the challenge that awaits them. Sometimes Sonic games throw crushing hazards which are virtually impossible to predict.

Posted Image

These particular crushing hazards offer no challenge whatsoever, they are purely trial and error and you will either get lucky and run past them or be unlucky and get crushed by them. The above image is from Titanic Monarch which frequently throws crushing hazards at you while you are at top speed and cannot possibly react to them in time. The image shows spikes which retract and come above ground intermittently, without warning, and instantly kill the player. Unfortunately, Mania has lots and lots of crushing hazards, bringing over this flawed concept over in full.

It could be argued that crushing hazards should simply be better implemented, however, I believe that crushing hazards simply have no place in Sonic games and should be removed entirely. As in, Sonic should never be insta-killed through crushing and should only lose rings. Crushing hazards are not only cheap ways to offer challenge but, even at their best, they go against the fundamental principles of Sonic and encourage slow, plodding platforming.

Counter-Intuitive Ceiling/Wall-Running

In Sonic games you can run on walls or ceilings, which is an incredibly cool mechanic, but unfortunately the game's physics are very confusing and counter-intuitive. A classic example of this is when you run left up a ceiling and then turn and run right along the ceiling. The intuitive action is to start holding right once Sonic has made the turn. However this will stop Sonic in his tracks and he'll fall off all confused.

Posted Image

The reason for this is because, no matter which direction Sonic turns while wall/ceiling running, you must always keep the same direction held down when you started running up that ceiling or wall. So in the above screenshot, you have to keep holding left, despite Sonic having turned right. It's confusing for players and very counter-intuitive.

At its worst, like in Mania's Flying Battery Act 2, it can result in confusing and infuriating deaths as you fall down a bottomless pit. Even worse, it isn't clear what went wrong, so the player could die multiple times before figuring out the game's confusing physics. But even if the game doesn't kill you with bottomless pits it still doesn't explain its mechanics properly. This causes players to miss out on otherwise very fun mechanics.

These are just two examples of major issues I have with Classic Sonic. Please list your issues here also.

#2 User is offline XCubed 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 03:20 PM

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Going to make some Sonic Time Twisted comparisons here:

I honestly can't believe that it forces you into Act 1 after that. Since I'm still waiting on my PC version a few spoilers here and there have not killed my hype. STT allowed you to select acts and never sends you back to act one. Generally it's a bitch having to go back and fight a boss that was already defeated due to this "nostalgically administrative" element.

Time Overs should not exist either. Time counting is one thing in terms of score, but you should be able to bottom out if you take too long without getting penalized with death. Another STT element that does not take away from the game. I was pleasently surprised that after 10 minutes, the clock just stops, otherwise I would have never beaten the 2nd to Final Boss as it runs 10% slower on my PC while the time count is not affected. It wasn't until plugging my laptop into my living room TV HDMI port (4K LED) was I able to mimic the real time physics of the game. The TV I attempted to use in my office (non 4K LCD) rendered the game unplayable through HDMI for some reason. It was painfully slow so I just thought it was my laptop, not the TV.

Cheap AF crushing needs to go as well. I know part of it has to do with getting rid of the continuous "hold right to win" and actually bring punishment for blindly running.....but we shouldn't be expected to navigate as smoothly as (animated) Sonic himself can.

I appreciate and agree 100% with your in depth analysis. Frankly, I'm surprised this wasn't discussed before and during the development of Sonic Mania. I guess we just didn't know exactly what to expect.

#3 User is offline HP Zoner 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 03:26 PM

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I see where you're coming from. I haven't given these things much thought because of how used I am to the way classic Sonic works, but newcomers do have trouble running on ceilings. It's not too hard to figure out, but it can still be a problem if there's a bottomless pit below. One idea is to have a mandatory ceiling run that doesn't punish you for failing (meaning you have safe ground to land on and run back for another try). Kind of like a small tutorial that lets players experiment without holding their hands.

Another idea is to actually have some tolerance for when newcomers instinctively hold the opposite direction, so you could do that while running on ceilings and not get affected. I don't like this idea as much because if the ceiling curves back into the ground, then you'll once again be holding the opposite direction of where you're going, and you can't have the same tolerance for changing directions again because you might want to brake (I don't think you ever need to brake while on a ceiling, but it's obviously necessary on the ground sometimes).

Alternatively, just encourage players to roll often. This is what I do when things start getting too fast or loop-de-loop-y, and it usually keeps the momentum going without me having to worry about which direction I'm holding. Again, a mandatory segment could work: just place a breakable barrier on the ceiling and newcomers will get the picture.

As for insta-death crushing, I haven't suffered from it in Mania often, but I agree that it needs to go. This was one thing I thought Generations got right, since Sonic just gets squished and loses his rings there like with any other hazard. Then again, I generally dislike one-hit deaths.

My only major gripe with Mania (which is carried over from the classics) is that I can't use character-specific abilities without going Super once I have all the Emeralds. This could be easily fixed by mapping the transformation to a mid-air Down + Jump combo (or press the alternate jump button in mid-air if you don't care about keeping the gameplay restricted to a single button).

#4 User is offline Lapper 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 03:29 PM

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What do you suggest happen when Sonic is in a situation where he'll be crushed? He's in a spot he shouldn't be, the game cant just keep him there.
I think it'd be impossible for a Sonic game to have no crushing situations at all. I know you're more on about deliberate crushing hazards but still. The ones in TMZ, as I said, are avoidable with the right approach.

I get it though, insta death isn't fun.

Not a lot you can do about ceiling running either. Switching direction for ceiling running would make no sense, wanna switch direction at the top of a loop then switch back? Is has its annoyances in FB for sure but tbh it's the completely optimal way.


My point is pretty much that these things can't change.
This post has been edited by Lapper: 18 August 2017 - 03:31 PM

#5 User is offline DigitalDuck 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 03:37 PM

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View PostLaura, on 18 August 2017 - 02:42 PM, said:

Counter-Intuitive Ceiling/Wall-Running

In Sonic games you can run on walls or ceilings, which is an incredibly cool mechanic, but unfortunately the game's physics are very confusing and counter-intuitive. A classic example of this is when you run left up a ceiling and then turn and run right along the ceiling. The intuitive action is to start holding right once Sonic has made the turn. However this will stop Sonic in his tracks and he'll fall off all confused.

[screenshot]

The reason for this is because, no matter which direction Sonic turns while wall/ceiling running, you must always keep the same direction held down when you started running up that ceiling or wall. So in the above screenshot, you have to keep holding left, despite Sonic having turned right. It's confusing for players and very counter-intuitive.

At its worst, like in Mania's Flying Battery Act 2, it can result in confusing and infuriating deaths as you fall down a bottomless pit. Even worse, it isn't clear what went wrong, so the player could die multiple times before figuring out the game's confusing physics. But even if the game doesn't kill you with bottomless pits it still doesn't explain its mechanics properly. This causes players to miss out on otherwise very fun mechanics.


I agree with the crushing, but completely disagree with this. It's much more intuitive to continue holding the same direction to continue your running, than it is to switch directions. Should you also need to hold up to run up a wall? What about a slope at a 45 degree angle? What about a slope at a 135 degree angle? At which point do you switch direction? Do you switch directions temporarily when running around a loop? At which point do you switch back?

If anything, my problem is with gimmicks that swap the gravity, because they don't do this. Holding right moves you towards the right, despite the fact that you're running on the ceiling.
This post has been edited by DigitalDuck: 18 August 2017 - 03:52 PM

#6 User is online Dark Sonic 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 03:41 PM

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^That's a good point about the gravity change mechanic, especially because holding up or down on a ceiling are relative to Sonic's position, not yours (So he'll look down when holding up and up when holding down). Maybe they figured it'd just make more sense that way?

View PostLapper, on 18 August 2017 - 03:29 PM, said:

What do you suggest happen when Sonic is in a situation where he'll be crushed? He's in a spot he shouldn't be, the game cant just keep him there.
I think it'd be impossible for a Sonic game to have no crushing situations at all. I know you're more on about deliberate crushing hazards but still. The ones in TMZ, as I said, are avoidable with the right approach.

This can be circumstantial. If Sonic is supposed to die by being crushed because he's where he shouldn't be, then yes kill him. If Sonic is crushed by, say, squeezing under the gap of those Chemical Plant moving blocks, either push him below or squish him and take his rings. Those are the crush deaths that most bother me, because often times you're going so fast you can't see it coming and you die for whatever reason.

I agree with you on the ceiling running though. Changing what direction you hold wouldn't make any sense. Loops kind of explain this to you, as at one point Sonic is facing the other direction, but you still know to hold whatever button is making you go forward since it's still forward, just in an inverted direction.

My major flaw comes from Super sonic's implementation that was fixed in some of the Modern titles and even Sonic 4 oddly enough. Pressing the jump button twice means you can't use any special abilities after you collected 50 rings. You just have to be Super, so you have no chance to save up. This is worse in Sonic 2 where you couldn't even jump, but it's still bad in Sonic 3K when playing as Knuckles or Sonic without a shield, or in Sonic Mania's case now Tails as well. If you had to press another button to transform or even press jump 3 times that'd be one thing, but it shouldn't be forced on you.
This post has been edited by Dark Sonic: 18 August 2017 - 03:43 PM

#7 User is offline Neo 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 03:49 PM

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View PostDark Sonic, on 18 August 2017 - 03:41 PM, said:

^That's a good point about the gravity change mechanic, especially because holding up or down on a ceiling are relative to Sonic's position, not yours (So he'll look down when holding up and up when holding down). Maybe they figured it'd just make more sense that way?

Yep

Quote

We surveyed many people to determine if up and down should be reversed when the gravity flips. I guess that it is just easier to have pressing down to crouch feel natural!


#8 User is offline DigitalDuck 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 03:51 PM

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View PostNeo, on 18 August 2017 - 03:49 PM, said:

Quote

We surveyed many people to determine if up and down should be reversed when the gravity flips. I guess that it is just easier to have pressing down to crouch feel natural!


But they didn't survey people to determine if left and right should be reversed. :v:

#9 User is offline Laura 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 04:20 PM

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I think with ceiling running it's intuitive for some people but not others. When I run up a ceiling and it turns right then I instinctively hold right on the controller, since that's what I usually do when I'm running right :v: .

It wouldn't bother me so much if there weren't moments in the games that demand perfect usage of the skill or otherwise kill you. Flying Battery 2 in Mania is a perfect example of that.

I also agree that Generations handled crushing pretty well. Just keep Sonic where he is and take his rings away. It's far more forgiving and it encourages fast gameplay. It's true that you can avoid the crushing hazards in TM, for example, but only when you know they are coming, I think it's virtually impossible to forsee and react to them when you aren't expecting them. I understand that crushing hazards are designed to stop the mentality of 'hold right to win' but I think Mania effectively worked against that as you often go left and all over the place in Mania. So crushing hazards are even more redundant here.

And think of the best levels in Mania. In my opinion, all of Green Hill, Chemical Plant 2, all of Studiopolis, all of Press Garden, all of Stardust Speedway, all of Oil Ocean, and all of Metallic Madness are excellent levels because they (as a whole) don't rely on crushing as cheap difficulty challenges. The only problem with Stardust Speedway is they went over the top with the automated speed pipes, and it gets very confusing for new players were you are supposed to go and what the fuck to do. And Press Garden is sometimes too confusing on an inital playthrough. But those are other issues.

Also, another fundamental Sonic design flaw is placing enemies you can't see and placing them to hit you dead in your tracks. Mania actually does try to fix this with the widescreen which is great. Unfortunately it puts loads of enemies above your line of sight by putting them vertically above you, which is made worse by the vertical level design. Talk about fixing a problem and creating a new one :v: .
This post has been edited by Laura: 18 August 2017 - 04:23 PM

#10 User is offline Lapper 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 04:33 PM

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View PostDark Sonic, on 18 August 2017 - 03:41 PM, said:

This can be circumstantial. If Sonic is supposed to die by being crushed because he's where he shouldn't be, then yes kill him. If Sonic is crushed by, say, squeezing under the gap of those Chemical Plant moving blocks, either push him below or squish him and take his rings.


If he just got hurt, great, but if you think about it logically how would this work? Generations used a completely different engine so I'm sure it handles many things in ways that aren't acceptable in a true classic game (it was a 3D physics engine, and as you know, things are very precalculated in that game and not sandbox-y like in classic games, crushing was probably scripted?).
But in the context of mania, is Sonic meant to suddenly lose any collision with the crushing object to stay 'squished' in place? Being knocked back isn't an option in this case since you're trapped and cant move. Sonic's mask cant just dissapear or become infinitely small. Only possible solution may be losing the collision with the crushing object. Which of the 2 crushing surfaces should Sonic not collide with anymore? That would cause unforseen issues all over the place.

Getting slid out of the way just would be awful, What if below you is solid ground? And in any situaton you could be slid out into a wall into a softlock, anything, it depends what's crushing you.

Sonic literally cannot be in an area with no space, the engine doesn't work like that.
This post has been edited by Lapper: 18 August 2017 - 04:45 PM

#11 User is offline Sean Evans 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 04:43 PM

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Quote

Also, another fundamental Sonic design flaw is placing enemies you can't see and placing them to hit you dead in your tracks. Mania actually does try to fix this with the widescreen which is great. Unfortunately it puts loads of enemies above your line of sight by putting them vertically above you, which is made worse by the vertical level design. Talk about fixing a problem and creating a new one :v: .


Sonic games (the originals anyway) took things such as the limited screen space and such in mind, and use level material to create subtle cues and in some cases slow the player down giving them time to react accordingly. Very rarely do you come across scenarios where it is impossible to predict an enemies placement. True, there are cases, but they are pretty rare, and Mania has even less. As for the enemies verticality, there's not a lot you can do about that, but that also shouldn't be an issue since Sonic jumps into a ball and damages enemies upon contact. Now stuff like Caterkiller Jr. and the like, yeah that's pretty cheap, but again is very rare. The only point where this is an issue is upon descent, and to that end it is pretty bullshit. It's frustrating especially when it's out of your control a lot of the time. Hitting springs or launching off ramps without curling up first can lead to some pretty unwarranted damage. A simple solution is to just provide a "recurl" button for the player.

#12 User is offline Laura 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 04:47 PM

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I don't think the Classic Sonic games were careful to warn the player about badniks in their way. I ran into enemies I couldn't see all the time when I replayed the classics, especially in CD, as much as I love CD. But to be fair, I'm not an expert on their level design.

With Mania, not all badniks can be jumped into because they might be using an attack or have a shield. That's happened to me an irritating amount of times, but that's an irritation rather than something really annoying.
This post has been edited by Laura: 18 August 2017 - 04:50 PM

#13 User is offline DigitalDuck 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 04:57 PM

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View PostLapper, on 18 August 2017 - 04:33 PM, said:

If he just got hurt, great, but if you think about it logically how would this work? Generations used a completely different engine so I'm sure it handles many things in ways that aren't acceptable in a true classic game (it was a 3D physics engine, and as you know, things are very precalculated in that game and not sandbox-y like in classic games, crushing was probably scripted?).
But in the context of mania, is Sonic meant to suddenly lose any collision with the crushing object to stay 'squished' in place? Being knocked back isn't an option in this case since you're trapped and cant move. Sonic's mask cant just dissapear or become infinitely small. Only possible solution may be losing the collision with the crushing object. Which of the 2 crushing surfaces should Sonic not collide with anymore? That would cause unforseen issues all over the place.

Getting slid out of the way just would be awful, What if below you is solid ground? And in any situaton you could be slid out into a wall into a softlock, anything, it depends what's crushing you.

Sonic literally cannot be in an area with no space, the engine doesn't work like that.


However, the Classic games slide you out of the way more often than Mania and the Retro engine remakes; generally if you're on the edge of a platform moving up and there's a platform beside it (at the edge you're on) moving down, the classic games will clip you either back onto the platform, or off the platform, depending on where your centre is, crushing you only when your centre is aligned with both objects; the Retro engine, on the other hand, kills you there.

Personally, I would make the crushing objects lose collision when you get crushed, have you lose rings, and keep the object non-solid while invulnerable and still inside the object.

#14 User is offline Nicky Ali 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 05:41 PM

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View PostHP Zoner, on 18 August 2017 - 03:26 PM, said:

My only major gripe with Mania (which is carried over from the classics) is that I can't use character-specific abilities without going Super once I have all the Emeralds. This could be easily fixed by mapping the transformation to a mid-air Down + Jump combo (or press the alternate jump button in mid-air if you don't care about keeping the gameplay restricted to a single button).


Lost World had a pretty cool addition that you could cancel your Super transformation at any time at the press of a button. I think that'd be cool to see in classic Sonic as well.

#15 User is offline TheInvisibleSun 

Posted 18 August 2017 - 06:02 PM

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View PostDigitalDuck, on 18 August 2017 - 04:57 PM, said:

View PostLapper, on 18 August 2017 - 04:33 PM, said:

If he just got hurt, great, but if you think about it logically how would this work? Generations used a completely different engine so I'm sure it handles many things in ways that aren't acceptable in a true classic game (it was a 3D physics engine, and as you know, things are very precalculated in that game and not sandbox-y like in classic games, crushing was probably scripted?).
But in the context of mania, is Sonic meant to suddenly lose any collision with the crushing object to stay 'squished' in place? Being knocked back isn't an option in this case since you're trapped and cant move. Sonic's mask cant just dissapear or become infinitely small. Only possible solution may be losing the collision with the crushing object. Which of the 2 crushing surfaces should Sonic not collide with anymore? That would cause unforseen issues all over the place.

Getting slid out of the way just would be awful, What if below you is solid ground? And in any situaton you could be slid out into a wall into a softlock, anything, it depends what's crushing you.

Sonic literally cannot be in an area with no space, the engine doesn't work like that.


However, the Classic games slide you out of the way more often than Mania and the Retro engine remakes; generally if you're on the edge of a platform moving up and there's a platform beside it (at the edge you're on) moving down, the classic games will clip you either back onto the platform, or off the platform, depending on where your centre is, crushing you only when your centre is aligned with both objects; the Retro engine, on the other hand, kills you there.


This hits the nail on the head. I received pixel-wide crushes in CPZ's moving block section (while coming into the section at high speed), in OOZ from the rising 'vent platform' smashing me between a piece of stage chunk geometry, and finally and (most rage-inducing), between those terrible yellow rising cylinder platforms.

Dying when completely underneath an object should still kill you in my opinion, since many of these instances are generally avoidable by design. The unfair, and annoying pixel-wide crushes should just nudge Sonic away to the left/right. Causing damage could be a bit confusing to new players as there is no real visible problem; it would look like they have been invisibly hit.



I actually disagree with the need to start back at Act 2. Getting kicked back to Act 1 provides a more impactful consequence to losing all of your lives w/o continues, and better legitimizes having lives in the first place. I game over'd twice in TMZ, and I believe that knowing the stakes of losing that last life on act two made me play significantly better and more carefully (to the point where I not only gained two extra lives on Act 2, but also easily defeated the boss on that same life via electric shield).
This post has been edited by TheInvisibleSun: 18 August 2017 - 06:04 PM

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