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Do Sonic Team even know what makes Sonic good?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Laura, Dec 5, 2013.

  1. Azookara

    Azookara

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    Yes, but how? Are we talking as if it should be nerfed? Because the only way I can really see it being nerfed while still being a pretty purposeful move is if it drained a lot quicker, but that'd only make it more frustrating whenever the game design feels like it's punishing you if you're not going fast.

    But what is there to refine that doesn't interfere with how Sonic moves at high speeds? Otherwise Sonic is gonna have two different control schemes for different speed-tiers, and that kind of disjunction only really makes it less cohesive feeling. Granted, I know where you're coming from and I get it, but Sonic already accelerates so quickly on the ground without boost that tightening his movement at that speed would make it twitchy, and slowing his accel / top speed without boost would only make the difference between non-boost and boost movement all the more staggering.

    As for opening up the level design, that just kinda removes the focus a bit if the controls are centric towards blasting off straight forward. From what I've played, boosting away in some custom stage in Generations that has more open paths isn't very interesting, since the mechanics don't really do anything interesting with Sonic's movement. It's basically moving one speed straight forward, and if you widen out the play area, the easier it is for the player to realize there's not much more going on than that.

    Granted, you could always heavily alter the boost to be something more dynamic, not-so-instant and being more based around momentum building, but wouldn't that defeat the point of defending the boost?

    The Adventure formula really just required slightly tighter steering the faster you went instead of jerking you everywhere. Besides that, the Spin Dash not needing to be so instantaneous, and not needing a hundred moves on one button, I can't really complain about it's mechanics or what it offered since it was based on the classics and thus felt really solid (besides the occasional glitchy ass collision, which is a fault of the programming and not the style of gameplay).

    Snappy and smooth platformer controls based around natural speed-building and slope interaction just lends itself to moving as fast or as slow as it needs to be, giving it a depth that I feel holds it's ground much better. Meanwhile boost gameplay is built mechanically around rocketing off at one speed and one speed only, so I feel like it's much harder to refine it without it becoming something totally different in the process. And if you're okay with it becoming something completely different, then that's cool, but I feel like that might not be the point.
     
  2. JaredAFX

    JaredAFX

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    On the subject of boost gameplay, I agree with the side Aerosol and Josh seem to be on: yes, the boost gameplay does have some clear flaws and people such as Azukara do have legitimate criticisms. However, that doesn't mean that it's a dead end. It means that there's room to build upon and I think if Sonic Team had a couple more tries at the formula we could have had a be-all end-all boost game.



    On a different subject, concerning a new style of gameplay:
    This, in a sense. I think most of us here have watched the currently available part of ShayMay's Sonic retrospective, right? In this video he says "Sonic doesn't work in 3D Sonic hasn't worked in 3D." I don't necessarily agree with every other thing he says, but I think it's important to focus on this. Yes, since even Sonic Adventure, the first true 3D platforming Sonic game, the style of gameplay has not matched a "2D Sonic in 3D;" rather it and every subsequent style is its own kind of thing. What is that translation of 2D concepts into 3D? That's not really for me to dive into, but I think that's the cause of the problem. (It also doesn't help that the fanbase is so segmented because of all the different styles over the years, so realistically we will never get a true "2D Sonic in 3D" because at least one section of the fanbase will lash out at it.)
     
  3. Aerosol

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    I can't answer these questions because I don't have the answers. But the possibilities are there, and that's all I want to illustrate. Just because you can't think of a way for the boost gameplay to work better, doesn't mean there isn't a way for it to work better.
     
  4. DigitalDuck

    DigitalDuck

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    Since this is now about "How to improve Unleashed-style gameplay", let me throw in my two cents:


    Personally, I thought Unleashed was the best of the three when it came to Daytime gameplay. Yes, there were too many of the "oh look it's those three robot things time to quickstep for a full minute" sections, and while I like the QTEs, they don't particularly fit. However, what it didn't do that I felt harmed the others, was try to shoehorn traditional platforming in. The platforming doesn't complement the boost mechanic, it overrides it, and you're left with a game split into sections that require two entirely different skill sets, thus feeling like two entirely different games.

    While one solution would be to throw out the boost gameplay and focus on the platforming (essentially the "Let's go back to Adventure and try again!" solution), let's do the opposite. Let's throw out the platforming and focus on the boost gameplay.

    After all, Colourationleashed (that doesn't work; I'll call it Unleashed/Colours/Generations, or UCG) isn't a traditional platformer. It's a racing platformer. Instead of focussing on platforming, it's centred around a limited boost mechanic, jumping between paths, and navigating an environment to get to the end of a level as quickly as possible.


    With that in mind, which games should we look at for inspiration to improve/innovate Boost!Sonic gameplay?

    How about Nitronic Rush and Distance (Refract Studios)? Where UCG are racing platformers, NRD are platform racers. NRD is centred around a limited boost mechanic, jumping between paths, and navigating an environment to get to the end of a level as quickly as possible.

    Sound familiar? Good. All of these games are at the intersection of platforming and racing; and share many level mechanics too (NR has a section where a road fills with rolling spiked barrels that closely resembles the similar section in Rooftop Ruin, for example).

    So what can Boost!Sonic take from NRD? I'll posit a few things and try to solve problems with them as I go:


    • A1. Death. When your car is destroyed in NRD, it is immediately returned to the last checkpoint, with the timer still running. (When I play, it happens a lot.) There is no limit on how often you can die. The lives system is an incredibly outdated concept for a game with a save system that only puts you back at the start of the level when you game over anyway, and only serves to frustrate the player by making them repeat a large portion of the level whenever they fail one section a few times. Instead, reinforce the idea that death does not impede progress, it only affects your scores; death happens.

      To keep death relevant, see B1.


      A2. Boost availability. No, not less. NRD's boost system effectively gives you full boost at the start, as well as whenever you go through a checkpoint or die, and also refills slowly over time or when you do tricks. Since boosting is the main mechanic of the game, and progress is slow without boost, an expert player should be able to boost his way through the entire level without running out. While UCG has generally managed this, there are usually situations in which the boost dries up. I feel the boost should regenerate, allowing the player to get back in the game quickly, and perhaps have multiple attempts at reaching a high path or similar scenarios.


      A3. Game modes. NRD, like many racers, has time trials, multiplayer races, etc. If we're going to have a racing platformer, we should let people race. Consider catch up mechanics (e.g. the leading player burns through boost more quickly etc.), include a replay system... essentially, the multiplayer lobby should resemble that of a racing game. The goals could vary (see B1), but the basic scenario is the same.


      A4. Custom content. NRD comes with its own level editor, allowing users to create and share their own levels using the content available in the game. Most of the games played in Distance (although still in alpha) are played on custom tracks. Custom levels have extended the life of Generations PC significantly, and this is with user-created mod tools. Investing in making a proper editor with a hub that allows the levels to be shared and played would reduce the number/amount of original levels as well.


    But there's no need to stick to NRD. A few other suggestions:


    • B1. Scoring. Sonic Colours is probably my favourite game of the three despite enjoying the actual gameplay least. Part of this is through offering the Egg Shuttle, which means I can just play through the entire game in one go; part of this is the deliciously broken Super Sonic, which is how Super Sonic should be; but a good amount of it is the scoring system. It's flawed - it focusses on Wisp usage far too much - but it means that earning an S-rank isn't as simple as playing through the game as you normally would. It also keeps track of your best score, time, and rings...

      ... so let's separate them and make them three separate targets. Within every level, if you score 50000 points, finish within 2:30, or collect more than 250 rings (numbers used purely for illustrative purposes), you receive a bonus of some kind. Maybe hitting all three targets (not necessarily on the same playthrough) earns a Chaos emerald, with the obvious Super Sonic reward for collecting all seven.

      Multiplayer could be set up in order to do best in one of these three targets, or even all three (a la Sonic 2).


      B2. Traditional platforming. So, it doesn't fit in our "new" Sonic. But we don't have to throw it away - instead, make it a separate game. Could be a (2D) Sonic 5 or a (3D) Sonic Adventure 3 (or both) separate from the UCG games; could be a spinoff with Tails, Knuckles, or Amy (if Captain Toad can get his own game, so can Amy); could be an entirely different franchise altogether. It could be alternated with UCG, or given to a different team, or UCG could be given to a different team etc. - but there's no reason having one style of game needs to preclude others.


    None of these dramatically change the main gameplay; at most they are additional modes or tweaks. What needs to be accepted is that this is NOT Sonic the Hedgehog as known in 1991; so instead of holding it to the gameplay ideals of those games, focus on making it good in its own right.



    ... That post just kept going. More than a thousand words? I didn't even include the big bit about exploration...
     
  5. Azookara

    Azookara

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    A game like that could be a lot of fun and I'd probably love it even, but I really wouldn't want that to be the norm for the series from then on. And considering how tired I am of the gameplay switching up every game or two, yeaaaah I'm not really too interested in gameplay styles that won't be long lasting. (Unless this was fully intended to be spinoff material like some racer, then ayyyy.)

    Inconsistency is one of Sonic's biggest issues, and it's the same reason I'd rather not see different styles segregated into multiple simultaneously going chunks. I've always found that to be really dumb, even if it sort of worked for what Generations was.
     
  6. All this talk on what works and what doesn't work has once again reminded me on what I envision a perfected 3D Sonic game to work like.

    In involves taking the best of both styles that worked, the Adventure style where you could explore around using momentum and platforming, and Unleashed/Colors/Generations (UCG) style which gave you that sense of speed Sonic is known for.

    The gameplay works like this. We have a hub like in Adventure, but not just any kind of hub. This hub is HUGE, a gigantic plain sprawling with hills, lakes, badniks, trees, and rock formations abound. Think Hyrule Field from Zelda but on an even more massive scale. Sonic can run anywhere in this field, there are no boundaries except the rock formations that are too large to cross. The hub is shaped like a wheel, with various "Spokes" or paths on the sides of the central hub leading outward. At the hub, you can see various landmarks surrounding it. Perhaps a large mountain on one section catches your eye. You can run all the way to and UP that mountain. Leaving the hub towards the mountain does not have a cutscene or a loading screen at all. The Classic Heads Up Display (HUD) shows up on the corners and the Title Card flashes as you are running towards this mountain, "Crevice Canyon Zone".

    You now in a proper Sonic Zone. The level design starts to get more linear here, and follows Sonic conventions with Springs, loops, platforms, badniks, level gimmicks, you name it! There would be 2 Acts to reach the "destination" at the end of the spoke, where an Eggman battle or event would take place to continue the story. The way I would set it up would allow some areas to be accessible in any order, while others need certain abilities to reach (like the Wall Run for instance), thus keeping the difficulty curve in check.

    Like I said earlier, the gameplay is a mix of the Adventure and UCG styles. Sonic moves like Adventure to start with. Control for him is very good and you can get a good bit of speed should you run long enough. In this mode you still have true control, so lets call this Low Gear. Once Sonic reaches his top speed in Low Gear by running in a direction long enough you will see "Boost Lines" around Sonic, and a button prompt appears on the bottom corner of the screen letting you know you can now "switch gears". This is where the Boost gameplay returns. Now you can hit X as in the UCG games, and Sonic will blast forward at double the speed, lets call this mode High Gear. It functions more similarly to Boost gameplay, using drifts and quick steps to move with some differences. Sonic can still steer himself, but not nearly as well. You will not collect rings automatically and you cannot ram things in this mode any longer, you will take damage. You must roll to attack instead.

    Wait... that word. ROLL. The staple of Sonic gameplay! Yes, the rolling mechanic is in full effect here, and is used to damage enemies as is standard in Sonic games. Using it in Boost mode will cancel boost mode and slow Sonic down, but allow Sonic to not take damage and attack enemies in return. You can transition from roll to boost quickly if you are smart about it, meaning you don't have to lose too much speed to attack, but Boost is no longer an instant win button. There is a risk to going super fast, you can get hurt if you do not react soon enough to roll. The Spin Dash would be back and work as usual in Low Gear. You could even use the Spin Dash to reach the speed needed to trigger High Gear faster. Rolling would be momentum based and some hills could allow Sonic to reach new secret areas. Who knows? Maybe the Chaos Emeralds are hidden around somewhere...

    Just my thoughts anyway. I haven't even mentioned that once completing the game the first time, Tails and Knuckles would be unlocked and playable, with their own secrets to find in the levels...
     
  7. The first part sounds awesome!

    Although I reckon boost has had it's day. Scrap it. It's not a good enough gameplay mechanic. If it was we wouldn't be having this discussion.

    So I think, the first part of your idea (the sprawling landscape - even better if geometric & other worldly) and use the environment to gain momentum/speed instead of pressing a button. Beautifully simple.

    Imagine slowly climbing (platforming) up that mountain, defeating enemies & avoiding traps on the way, then the sense of wonder of speeding down it on the other side, gaining enough momentum to speed up a chain to the little planet :specialed:
     
  8. Aerosol

    Aerosol

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    Considering the fanbase we're a part of, I'm just going to go ahead and say your logic here is flawed.
     
  9. Fair enough, I am a classic Sonic fanboy after all. I just find the boost gameplay too far removed from what I enjoyed about Sonic in the first place, which was using rolling physics to explore a surreal and graphically inspiring landscape.
     
  10. Lobotomy

    Lobotomy

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    I'm going to spout a bit of an unpopular opinion: On a superficial level, there's usually not much wrong with bad Sonic games. It's those couple of things they get super fundamentally wrong that turns the whole thing to shit. Sonic Heroes had bad materials and ice skating physics, had it played more like a faster SA2, it would have been pretty good. Sonic '06 needed to stop trying so hard, and could have used another 6 months of dev time. Sonic Lost World is slow, and needed a bit more refinement. The storybook games needed other controller support. Sonic Colors needed slopes.
    "My friend Aaron said it best, we're all only two or three bad decisions away from becoming the ones who we fear and pity."



    In fairness, that's mostly because they didn't make Modern Sonic heavy enough, along with the fact that he's pretty fuckin' hardcoded between being in midair/on the ground. I've changed his gravity, jump power, drag rate, etc, removed the launch triggers, and while it wasn't the most playable thing in the world, it still felt a bit right.
     
  11. Dude

    Dude

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    I don't think the problem here is with Sonic Team, or any other developer for that matter. I don't think SEGA will allow anyone to make a good Sonic game.
     
  12. DigitalDuck

    DigitalDuck

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    The Sonic fanbase, ladies and gentlemen!
     
  13. Dude

    Dude

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    Of course you'd just mock instead of rebutting. Let's see you argue against it.

    I'm serious. Yearly releases? Pushing the release dates even earlier? Letting someone new try building a game and it still comes out completely awfully? Inability to retain skilled workers?

    The one thing these all have in common is damaging management decisions.
     
  14. DigitalDuck

    DigitalDuck

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    My simplest argument against it is that there have been good Sonic games.
     
  15. Cyberguy

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    Natch. But Sega seems dead set on sabotaging their own efforts and constantly creating flaws that bring current Sonic games to mediocrity instead of universal acclaim. Dude was also speaking hyperbolically, so your simple argument is flawed. Even Sonic Generations and Colors had issues with Sega's insane development practices, and they're the closest things to universally "good" Sonic games in years.
     
  16. TheKazeblade

    TheKazeblade

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    But even the good ones have significant indications of being rushed. Honestly, despite the Werehog being a stupid idea, it was also the last game to have two gameplay styles that felt it had significant time put into it. There were tons of side missions given by NPCs, additional acts for each zone, and the Werehog's combat was surprisingly (and probably unnecessarily) in-depth. After that, barring the Story Book games, Sonic Team had a solid framework to utilize for future entries, so they could pump them out in less time; plus the fact they had two teams working separately to keep the pace. But despite marginally improving aspects of Unleashed's daytime stages, both Colors and Generations showed a significant lack of refinement within its own mechanics. Colors I can understand because they had to either scale down elements of 360/PS3 Unleashed, or upscale aspects of UnWiished, neither of which would probably be easy. But Generations, despite being the most mechanically sound from a gameplay perspective, also feels significantly rushed because of the sparse story, small level selection and huge amount of recycled content taking up probably over half of the overall game. Plus, despite it being the one Sonic game begging for DLC was left significantly sparse, offering only pre-order Casino Night zone pinball. For some reason, though, Sonic Team left it and moved on. I think the Unleashed mod made by the Retro members here has far more passion and effort put into it than Sonic Team would, but nonetheless, it shouldn't have been up to fans to do. It just seems like a no-brainer for Sega to make extra money for a fairly straight-forward process with a bigger team as they have.

    Sega may not be swimming in resources, but they certainly have enough to offer Sonic Team to do more than they have. I can't see there being any other reason for it besides management choices.
     
  17. Beltway

    Beltway

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    I think the interesting thing about this bit is how it applies to outsourced Sonic games. Tasking Bioware --a developer known for their critically acclaimed RPG titles-- to make a Sonic RPG gave us Sonic Chronicles (which while critics considered good has a decidedly negative reception with the fanbase from what I've seen). Sanzaru Games, while not having as good as a quality track record as Bioware, had their recent work of decent titles under their belt, with their work on Sony remasters and Sly 4; so to get from them the likes of Shattered Crystal is surprising. While Hudson Soft's Mario Party games are by large notable for having the formula quickly stagnate after the first few titles or so, almost all of them were still better received than their tenure with Sonic through Sonic Shuffle. Even Dimps' Sonic games have been steadily declining in critical reception, notably when they stopped making original handheld titles. And this doesn't even get into STI's development hell of Sonic X-treme, regardless on whether the game would had been good enough it finished development and saw release is up for debate.

    I'm not saying that Sega is wholly responsible for how those games turned out, and indeed other factors (may) have played a hand on the development of said titles in all three cases; but its just some food for thought.
     
  18. And the simplest rebuttal is the old saying "A broken clock is correct twice a day."

    To see just how apt this phrase is, let's think back to the console Sonic games (Not counting non-action or other out-of-genre spinoff games like Riders, Olympic Games or All-Star Racing) released in the past 10 or so years.
    Shadow
    Sonic 2006
    Secret Rings
    Unleashed
    Black Knight
    Sonic 4 Episode 1
    Colors*
    Sonic 4 Episode 2
    Generations*
    Lost World
    Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric
    (2015 game incoming)

    Note of of these, only two of the games are generally considered to be in the "good" range, rather than the "interesting but flawed" range, the "mediocre" range, or the "just plain bad" range. The 2015 Sonic console release needs to be good in order for me to think that saying is not completely apt.

    So what would that saying mean in the context of this discussion? Basically, it's perfectly possible for Sega to have fluked out and made actual legit good Sonic games without understanding why it worked or how to capitalize on it. This is especially apparent seeing Lost World after Generations - the most critically acclaimed Sonic game in years is followed by one of the most "experimental" ones, instead of following up on a formula that was finally close to perfection. MANY notables over the history of the medium of video games were "good accidents" in some manner, and to go over a huge summary of them would take too long for this write-up. Point is, just because modern Sega made a few good Sonic games, doesn't mean they know HOW to make a few good Sonic games. For me to believe that Sega knows what works with Sonic, they need to make a pattern of good Sonic games.
     
  19. Beltway

    Beltway

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    Decided to try and bring this topic back to relevancy in light of what we know about Forces as of now. Specifically, in that if your thoughts about Sonic Team understanding Sonic / knowing what makes him good have changed; based off what you have seen in Forces as of late (or for you to give in your two cents if you haven't yet). I'm also doing this so we can try and redirect the "circlejerk" derailments from that thread about gameplay management into this topic, which I think would be a more appropriate thread.

    Personally speaking, I can't say my thoughts have really changed. I don't really think they have really understood anything between the downtime between Lost World and what they're planning to release with Forces. It's like the studio (still) has a really warped view on how to handle Sonic as a game series, or are (still) overall really lacking in confidence / passion for their IP, so they're just throwing stuff together and hoping it will stick. Which I think really shows through the drip-feed style marketing cycle the game is doing now.

    Stuff like Classic Sonic and --in the case of Green Hill-- old levels returning for this game feels like they're being added to this game for the wrong interpreted reasons--not because the studio wanted to make them better or give them a proper twist, but because they were selling points in previously-liked games and that people would thus like them here too. It doesn't help that from what we've seen from them in action, they (IMO) look uninspired at best (Green Hill) and really poor (Classic Sonic) at worst.

    Meanwhile, stuff people are asking for that is returning (Boost gameplay) doesn't look like they've actually done anything to improve on or refine on it--this wouldn't be a problem with other playstyles, but the Boost is frequently criticized as a very limited and restrictive in its approach, and Forces doesn't look like it will change that. Nor is Sonic Team actually interested in building a game solely about that playstyle either, still throwing other things into the mix than allow it to stand on its own.

    Moreover, they're still doing things people complained about in the past and/or weren't really demanding to be seen in the game, like adding Wisps into the game and the whole kettle of the new character and his dedicated playstyle (and the possibility of it being a create-a-character system).

    All of the above I think is really important because this is supposed to be the first game in years in which Sonic Team not only had a decent amount of time to work on a I think the new game (four years, following Lost World), but also wasn't dividing themselves into working on other projects at the same time. Outside Sonic Runners (which was only active for a year) and maybe Puyo Puyo Tetris (emphasis on maybe, I think some people outside the forum have said that a different group has been making the Puyo Puyo games for a while now). Yet from what I've seen so far, Forces just seems as if they haven't really learned anything and properly course-correct on feedback, despite actually having more time/resources on hand to do so. Forces just seems to continue validating my view that Sonic Team is still inept at franchise management as a whole. Iizuka on record of saying Forces "is not Generations 2", despite Forces clearly shaping up to be a spiritual successor to that title, I think really cements this.
     
  20. TimmiT

    TimmiT

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    About this: going by MobyGames quite a few people who worked on Puyo Puyo Tetris did do work on Sonic games as well. However, technically Puyo Puyo Tetris isn't credited as being made by Sonic Team. Really it appears that Sonic Team still works on non-Sonic games (primarily Puyo Puyo games), but they're usually not credited as Sonic Team if they do.