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What are the core fundamentals of a Modern Sonic game?

#1 User is offline Laughingcow 

Posted 05 September 2018 - 11:58 PM

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Been meditating over this the past couple of days but can't come to a conclusive answer on the matter and because of that, I believe it a subject worth discussing. Just what do we expect from a Modern Sonic game (aside from it being good)? Yes, Sonic Team will change their mind on a dime (which may mean there is no such thing as a modern Sonic formula) but I'd like to hear other opinions on the matter to see if there is any consensus.

#2 User is offline VectorCNC 

Posted 06 September 2018 - 12:20 AM

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Why not just put a grenade in a microwave instead?

But seriously... Ok, so mediocre-to-poor reviews. Another play-style or 2 to pad out the game. Good visuals. Lazy plot. Bad camera control, or at least a camera that only works if moving forward. Long corridor racetracks that hinder the ability for any exploration. A cheesy soundtrack. Simultaneous destruction of the IPs past and present. Oh, how could I forget, Green Hill Zone. Rabid fans who try to manipulate online review scores. And a swift kick into the discount bin. I know I'm missing some important stuff here, but that's all I got off the top of my head atm.
This post has been edited by VectorCNC: 06 September 2018 - 12:34 AM

#3 User is offline Blue Spikeball 

Posted 06 September 2018 - 12:53 AM

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By this point, the boost formula is the one consistent thing about modern Sonic games (Lost World aside). My only hope is for new games to refrain from mangling it too much or adding any poor alternate play styles. After Unleashed, it feels like Sonic Team has been trying to "casualize" the formula more with each new installment, which usually translates to shorter and more linear levels, lower difficulty, simpler layouts, and a more limited moveset. The trend started with Colors and culminated in the mediocre Sonic Forces. Even Generations, despite playing very similarly to Unleashed's daytime levels, had disappointingly short levels and a difficulty so low that you tend to get S rank without trying all the time.

Oh, and Wisps seem to have become the norm too, for better or worse.
This post has been edited by Blue Spikeball: 06 September 2018 - 01:10 AM

#4 User is offline XRick 

Posted 06 September 2018 - 01:53 AM

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As long as Iizuka is at the helm of the franchise, Wisps will remain. The man simply loves them, and tries to find creative ways to keep them implemented.

Too bad that creativity isn't used on stuff like gameplay styles other than Boost Sola Sonic, Level and Boss Designs, storyline, etc...

#5 User is offline dot.kh 

Posted 06 September 2018 - 04:38 AM

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Things that are supposed to make life easier: Educational value, economics, up-to-date appearance, identification & authentication, ...meh.

Things that are supposed to make you happy: Achievements, unlockables, Chili Dogs, ...ok, I'm becoming a bit too cynical. (pretty flowers?)

Oh, here's a good one: Self-sacrificing readiness OK, I'LL STOP.

The quintessence of modern Sonic lies somewhere between SA1 and 2. As we all know they're not without flaws, but besides that two very exciting platformers.

#6 User is offline BlazeHedgehog 

Posted 06 September 2018 - 06:24 AM

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  • A simple story. Most Modern Sonic games don't take themselves too seriously, even when they try. At worst, they might try to tell a complex story simply, leading to a story with big gaps in logic. Either way, it's never a story with real character development or any kind of motivating force beyond "good guy wants to stop the bad guy from being bad."
  • One new fundamental gameplay mechanic. Wisps, parkour, character creation, etc. Never more than that, just one.
  • Sonic is usually the only playable character, but they sometimes bend those rules by introducing multiple versions of Sonic with different gameplay. Sonic Forces was the first game in more than ten years to outright break this rule.
  • An overly simplistic hub for selecting levels. Often straddles the line of being more complex than a menu but not so complex that it feels enjoyable to use.
  • Some kind of half-assed player connectivity system that gestures towards multiplayer-like concepts but is not a real multiplayer mode. Share items with other players! Recruit other created characters! Compete in easily hacked leaderboards! You'll never get to race other players online!
  • Often missing basic functionality that was present in previous games. No sound test? No cutscene viewer? No ranking system? No problem!
  • Final boss is probably a sloppier, less creative version of the Nega Wisp from the end of Sonic Colors.


#7 User is offline Zephyr 

Posted 06 September 2018 - 11:25 AM

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Style over substance, but the style is bland.

View PostLaughingcow, on 05 September 2018 - 11:58 PM, said:

Just what do we expect from a Modern Sonic game (aside from it being good)?

That's the one thing we shouldn't expect. :v:

#8 User is offline Pengi 

Posted 06 September 2018 - 01:49 PM

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What do we expect, what do we want, or what are the common threads and trends of the series?

How are we defining a "Modern Sonic game"? Does Black Knight count? Does Advance? Does Rush? Does Sonic 4? Does Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric?

Comparing the first modern Sonic game (Sonic Adventure) to the most recent (Sonic Forces), the only commonalities are:

*Sonic is the main character.
*He runs fast.
*He can spin jump, a double jump input provides a homing attack.
*The Ring health system.
*Shield, invincibility and speed-up items.

This holds true for most of the games since Sonic Adventure. The rest is all up for grabs. And that's one of the big problems with the Sonic series in the 21st century, that Sega/Sonic Team keep trying to re-invent the wheel, to the point where the series no longer has much of an identity.

Gameplay aside, even the visuals of the series are wildly inconsistent. Sonic Adventure 2 has a very different visual identity to Sonic Adventure 1. Then they followed that with Sonic Heroes, Shadow the Hedgehog and Sonic the Hedgehog 2006. That's five (four if you exclude Shadow) core Sonic games in a row with completely different visual styles, back in the Yuji Naka era of Sonic Team. On the handheld side of things, Sonic Advance 1 stayed faithful to the visual stylings of Sonic Adventure 1, but Advance 2 went for a geometric surrealism approach.

We can never really know what to expect from a new Sonic game. Maybe that wouldn't be so bad, if there was a higher quality control threshold, but that's the other big problem with the series.

#9 User is offline Yeow 

Posted 07 September 2018 - 11:24 AM

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hey guys guess what my uncle's dog works at sega cs2 r&d and he sneaked to me a typed manuscript of sanic team's design documents for sanic games please give it a read

Quote

Sonic Team Gameplay Design Document; Page 1 (copyright 2000, 2004, 2007, 2011, 2016)

Salutations to both newcomer and veteran Sonic Team designers alike reading this document!

Before we begin, we would like to establish only two guidelines that is are critical towards designing Sonic games the Sonic TeamTM way:

1. Sonic is all about speed.

2. Speed is the only element that holds up Sonic gameplay.

We don't consider designing and programming controls and mechanics suited towards platforming design a priority, that's not really necessary for Sonic, a fast character, who is about moving fast all of the time. We don't think the character really needs that type of overly-designed clutter in this type of game. Besides, we already have a mechanic for players to use for anything other than running: it's called the homing attack. Any new mechanics that are to be developed should also be developed specifically for giving players faster ways to use Sonic's speed or simplifying the game inputs so the players can return to moving fast as quickly as possible, we refer you towards mechanics such as the light dash, the boost, the Rolling Combo, and the double boost/triple boost. We've decided to design the game to be as simple and enjoyable as possible; focusing more on the excitement of dashing through the stages, without having to think about, you know, complex game controls.

We aren't focused on incorporating momentum-based gameplay from the original games either. The idea of building, maintaining, and playing with your own speed is an interesting concept; but we are more comfortable in producing games that provide high-speed action as quickly and as easy as possible in fresh new ways.

The reason why we incorporate the occasional speed booster in the levels and implement high amounts of scripts is so we can keep the player on the right path and moving at the designed pace. Since speed is the most important factor in the game's design, we think levels should be highly streamlined so the player doesn't deviate too much from the way the game is supposed to be played. We believe players don't really want to slow down or stop for any reason in game about such a speedy character; and that instant execrations by gimmicks like the speed boosters are important elements to keep the better game pacing.

We aren't very concerned with designing level mechanics with different functions and different designs. This is because we build levels to serve Sonic's speed, we don't want to have the identity of the levels intrude too much on that purpose, so make sure to stick to a small amount and use them sparsely. Basic game objects like speed boosters, springs, spikes, and grinding rails are really the only materials you really need to design Sonic levels. These design principles also apply towards the basic game objects themselves; we don't want them to have different properties or manual inputs that can confuse players and negatively alter the pacing.

Level structures should be as simple as possible so nothing holds back the ability to go fast. Don't get uptight about trying to give variance or balance out levels in their overall structure or terrain; if we have to incorporate any platforming elements not about running, I refer you to our strategies of floating boxes over bottomless pits. Exploration should also very low at the bottom of your design priorities, if you need to, make sure they aren't too long and that they quickly reconnect to the main path so the speed isn't detracted too much. We also recommend having players access these routes though homing attack chains, rather than dealing with any complicated methods that take too much of the player's effort and take away from the speed.

Enemy designs, in regards to character designs, enemy placement in the levels, movement, weakness, and attack patterns, among other properties, aren't considered to require much development. They should be all but the slightest annoyances that can be effectively dealt with either the homing attack or the boost. Note how in our latest product in Forces, we've limited ourselves to only five or so highly similar characters designs, lining them up in long rows and circles, and not even programming them to be actively aware of the player's immediate presence.

We hope after reading this design document, you understand the true essence that comes with the massive responsibility of designing Sonic games. Although we are absolutely happy to listen to and incorporate on our terms any feedback our dedicated fans and the rest of the public want to provide us with; Sonic Team believes the speed and the tempo for the games is crucial and we are the professionals at doing it. Good luck!

~ Signed with sincerity, Sonic Team

Spoiler




P.S. I've incorporated four real Sonic Team development quotes into this design document, can you find them all? :D
This post has been edited by Yeow: 07 September 2018 - 11:44 AM

#10 User is offline Laughingcow 

Posted 08 September 2018 - 01:49 AM

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View PostVectorCNC, on 06 September 2018 - 12:20 AM, said:

Why not just put a grenade in a microwave instead?

Because I wouldn't get any answers that way. And I actually like my microwave, thank you very much.

I was hoping there'd be more discussion but I think this is about as much as I can expect. That said, I think it is time for me to share my opinion on the matter.

Modern Sonic at its core is an "On-rails Runner". Don't let the jumping 2d sections fool you, it isn't a platformer. If you look back at "Sonic and the Secret Rings" you'll find the exact same gameplay design sensibilities that are still seen today except without motion controls. Boost (known as speed break), Stomp, Sliding, Lock-on homing attack, wall jump, the only thing Sonic Unleashed added was a drift button but that was given the axe in Forces. It isn't surprising that there isn't any Momentum when the game's inherent design is for you to be automatically running while dodging obstacles. Even enemies are just fodder because they aren't necessary to the game's overall design. Levels are all flat because at no point are you expected to go backwards and explore. It's just a rollercoaster where you tilt left, right, down, or up to dodge traffic then the camera shifts and you are in a cheaper version of the minecart levels from Donkey Kong Country, and then some spectacle piece happens. It's about as divorced from Classic Sonic design as can be, the fact that Sonic has a slide instead of say ROLLING INTO A BALL speaks for itself.


Lastly, when I say "Modern Sonic" I consider him different from "Adventure Sonic" which was Sonic Team trying to adapt Classic Sonic into 3D. So the above speel does not apply to Adventure through 06.

#11 User is offline DigitalDuck 

Posted 08 September 2018 - 07:19 AM

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View PostLaughingcow, on 08 September 2018 - 01:49 AM, said:

It isn't surprising that there isn't any Momentum


But there is momentum.

#12 User is offline Yeow 

Posted 08 September 2018 - 12:31 PM

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Eh, Adventure 1 strikes me as the only pre-Unleashed 3D Sonic out of the bunch that has a legitimate attempt to translate the Genesis gameplay to 3D within its design. The notion that the other pre-Unleashed 3D games tried to do the same seriously escapes me; especially Adventure 2, which I'd say was the real starting point when the developers actively stopped trying.

On a similar note, when people say Adventure 2 through Sonic 2006 were less automated as the Boost games...I suppose it's technically correct, but I don't consider it something worth blowing trumpets over.

#13 User is offline Zephyr 

Posted 08 September 2018 - 03:40 PM

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View PostLaughingcow, on 08 September 2018 - 01:49 AM, said:

Lastly, when I say "Modern Sonic" I consider him different from "Adventure Sonic" which was Sonic Team trying to adapt Classic Sonic into 3D. So the above speel does not apply to Adventure through 06.

Alright, with that distinction made I can actually attempt to contribute some discussion. :v:

"Modern" Sonic, as distinct from the 3D platformers from Adventure 1 to 06, seem to be focused on making a game that authentically captures the spirit of Sonic as a character. While the classic games were pinball platformers, speed wasn't the entire package; there was platforming, there was exploration, etc. Their focus was on making a rock solid game, rather than making something that feels like you're playing as the character. In essence, they're trying to make a game that feels like a "Sonic Simulator", rather than "a really good game that has Sonic in it". Anyone familiar with big games in the Dragon Ball franchise might be familiar with the distinction. You have something like Dragon Ball FighterZ, which is mechanically solid, first and foremost; there's fanservice all over the place, obviously, but it's a solid game if nothing else; strip away the Dragon Ball window dressing, and it would still be fun, much like the classic Sonic games. FighterZ, however, doesn't really feel like you're playing the show, much in the same way tht the 2D Sonic games, in execution, look nothing like Sonic CD's animated intro cutscene. The Budokai Tenkaichi games, the Raging Blast games, and the XenoVerse games, in contrast, are hailed often as "DBZ sims", games that feel like you're playing the show; being able to fly around freely in 3D space, and the like. So, Unleashed, Generations, and Forces, seem to be trying to make it feel like you're playing Sonic, the character, the show, the comic, the movie, what have you. As a result, the modern games seem to go all in on the speed, and try to aim not at an inherently rock solid gameplay foundation, but working the other way, from something that is authentically "Sonic" first and foremost. In this way, they run on novelty, and style, over genuine substance. That isn't to say that substance is entirely absent, or even impossible, merely that it doesn't seem to be the primary aim.

Unleashed is the first game to really codify this approach as the main gameplay style going forward, though it really feels like a synthesis of several disparate gameplay components. Sonic 06 introduced the Mach Speed sections, where Sonic is constantly running forward at a fast pace. These were incredibly clunky. Sonic and the Secret Rings began life as a Wii port of Sonic 06; I believe that the gameplay we ultimately see in Secret Rings, where you are constantly running forward, is a much more polished form of 06's original clunky Mach Speed sections. There's a little bit of Sonic Rush thrown in, a little bit of Sonic Riders thrown in, and a little bit of the 2003 Sonic Speedway Happy Meal electronic toy. The way that Unleashed manages to combine all of these elements into something, as fun to play as it is, is quite impressive, I think. Similar to how Adventure 1 was an impressive feat at the time, managing to implement a lot of the physics fundamentals established in Sonic 1 into the engine that began life as NiGHTS into Dreams, and later took form as Sonic Jam.

Unfortunately, a consistent problem with this gameplay style is that it seems incapable of standing up on its own. Sonic Team seem to not know how to create enough content in this style to justify a full retail price. Unleashed paired it with a Fisher Price God of War knock off, and Generations paired it with Dollar Store Sonic 2 (which, while admittedly a step up from the Bootleg Sonic 2 that we got from Sonic the Portable, still leaves much to be desired). Sonic Forces largely followed in Generations' footsteps.

There are several things about this gameplay style that I really don't care for, and don't believe are inherent to the general approach that they seem to be going for with these games. For starters, I really don't think they should bother with platforming. I know that's probably a controversial take, given that Sonic began life as a platformer, but platforming in these Boost games has never felt natural or satisfying to me; it's always felt really clunky. I also don't think we need 2D sections. While the seamless switching between 2D and 3D gameplay is cool on paper, and neat to look at, it feels a bit schizophrenic. I'm not interested in switching between two mediocre games on a dime; I would much rather enjoy one good game in full. The Quick Time Events are also rather drab, as they tend to be in most games.

What are we left with if we remove all of the fluff and clutter? I'd argue that we have the seeds of a rock solid racing game. If Sonic Team wants to make an authentic feeling Sonic game, that's all about speed, then platforming is the wrong way to go about it. Racing, as a genre, seems to focus on exactly that, though. Naturally, any game can be played like a racing game, if you speedrun it. With the Boost formula, though, plenty of things are already in place. You can drift. You have NOS. You have Time Trials. What's missing? Add multiple playable characters, with different rates of acceleration, top speeds, and the like (Generations with its different equippable skills, and Forces both with its different races and with Shadow's slightly different abilities, all show that you can add plenty of mechanical variety to the Boost gameplay). Add multiplayer, both local, and online. Design each stage more like a race course than they already are, so that multiple laps can be taken around. I feel like by doing that, the amount of content that gets developed is multiplied, nullifying the need for half-baked crutches.

In short, I think core fundamentals of the Modern Sonic games, that are worth salvaging, are a near full focus on speed. If Sonic Team got off the fence and just fully made the racing game they've been half making for a decade now, I think you'd have something really special there. I know that'd feel kind of redundant with the Sumo All Stars Racing games, but I find the idea of Sonic actually running at those speeds to be more enthralling than him driving at those speeds. So if one had to go, in this hypothetical ideal scenario, I'd have Sumo do something less redundant, rather than give Sonic Team the added excuse to not make better use of what's on their plate.

EDIT: Added a comparison to Dragon Ball games in the first paragraph, to help illustrate the distinction I'm trying to explain.
This post has been edited by Zephyr: 08 September 2018 - 03:56 PM

#14 User is offline Laughingcow 

Posted 08 September 2018 - 03:53 PM

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View PostZephyr, on 08 September 2018 - 03:40 PM, said:

What are we left with if we remove all of the fluff and clutter? I'd argue that we have the seeds of a rock solid racing game. If Sonic Team wants to make an authentic feeling Sonic game, that's all about speed, then platforming is the wrong way to go about it. Racing, as a genre, seems to focus on exactly that, though. Naturally, any game can be played like a racing game, if you speedrun it. With the Boost formula, though, plenty of things are already in place. You can drift. You have NOS. You have Time Trials. What's missing? Add multiple playable characters, with different rates of acceleration, top speeds, and the like

On this point, I would like to add that Sonic Riders had multiple paths which worked to facilitate the different abilities of characters. Sonic could grind, Tails could fly through giant rings via ramps, and Knuckles could break through walls, all of which worked fine.

#15 User is offline ICEknight 

Posted 08 September 2018 - 05:27 PM

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View PostZephyr, on 08 September 2018 - 03:40 PM, said:

things

Now that's a wall of text that I'd recommend reading!

However, I'd argue that the platforming could be refined rather than just removed from Modern's racing-style gameplay.

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