Does the concept of Sonic work in the Third Dimension at all?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Dashtube, Dec 14, 2012.

  1. Dashtube

    Dashtube

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    This is a really important topic. Here's an interesting topic that I read recently. It's great, sparks is brilliant, and it's what inspired me to this discussion(?) thread. However, 2D Sonic level design have already been almost perfected by Sega themselves. And since Sega is not doing 3D right, as of yet, I've been wanting to talk about it for ages (Sorry for the terrifically terrible pun). A lot of fans seem to stick to the 2D game making since 3D sonic have never been fully established in the sense of a full solid experince. And since there's no clear answer to how a 3D Sonic stage should be designed around.
    I'm gonna go ahead and start write down some notes that I think are helpful when making 3D Sonic stages, to open up the disscussion. However, does it even work in 3D to begin with? The community decides!

    First and foremost – 3D IS NOT THE SAME AS 2D.

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    You have to keep that in mind. This is a huge mistake where a lot of fan game makers (and even official Sega games for that matter) treat the third dimension with the 2D sonic standards. Most of the time it's so pathetic that it's even more linear than your typical Second Dimension restricted Sonic games. You don't design a video game the same way you write and make a movie. It's just completely different.

    Second - Not too simple. Not too complex.

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    Unless your game is based on that, you shouldn't make the level a huge endless maze of loop-de-loops and springs. I think Sonic games should always have a sense of direction, I don't want to be wandering around endlessly not knowing if I'm progressing or even going the right way or as egoraptor puts it "WHERE-THE-FUCK-DO-I-GO Games".
    You also shouldn't make it too linear and simplistic so it comes out as a line curving here and there with a couple of ramps and speed boosters accompanied by gigantic bottomless pit.
    Always try to find a good balance between the two. Speed is important, Platforming is important, Exploration is important, A sense of direction is important. We all know that.. But the question is how do they complement each other in a 3D environment?
    By the way, a fellow of mine named nick made some incredible sketches for a 3D Sonic stage. Check it out.

    Third - Perspective.

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    Should the camera be free? Should the camera be dynamic? Should it be somewhat dynamic and slightly adjustable? There are a lot of problems with this. And there's still no clear answer what best suits the 3D Sonic.

    Fourth - Physics.

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    One of the most defining features of the classic sonic titles game mechanics is how they handled the physics and delivered them with the game's core aesthetic in mind of sonic begin a speedy blue hedgehog that can roll into a ball and gain a lot of momentum.
    But how does it work in 3D? Should it exactly be the way it was? Should it be slightly edited? Should it be completely watered down or even removed? Should it be what it is was in some parts and scripted in others?


    Anyways, this is what I have atm. For now, Let the discussion begin!
     
  2. Rosie

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    Yes, but figuring out a way to realise it properly would take time, money and talent that SEGA doesn't have.
     
  3. Mercury

    Mercury

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    I really love this topic. I think the question is very similar to "Does the concept of Chess work in 3D at all?" (I think this comparison is valid because the topic is considering Sonic as a game - it's trivially true that the Sonic IP can find success in cartoons, comics, or spin-off games with any sort of gameplay.)

    Video games are just as subject to the whims of what is fashionable as any other medium. In much the same way as superhero movies now enjoy the success that lavish musicals once did, 3D games became the "big thing" in the mid-nineties. There was no question that as soon as Mario "went 3D" Sonic would follow suit.

    However, perhaps uniquely amongst the media, the fashion of video games is deeply tied with technology. While technological advances affect literature, music, and film in subtler ways, video games are often marketed on how well they showcase these advances. (Although with the exploding indie market and retraux chic, this may be attenuating with time.)

    These "advances" - polygons, motion control, etc. - are accepted often uncritically as developers struggle to survive amidst the competition. No one wants to be seen as yesterday's news. But the effect this has on the games themselves is not always examined, and can sometimes do great damage. Making the move from a 2D to a 3D platformer is a drastic move, tantamount to making a 3D game such as Doom into a 2D maze-crawler, even if it is not seen as such because the developer is blinded by the necessity of keeping up with the times.

    For example, I can enumerate a handful of challenges that something like Sonic faces; I won't bother making any accompanying judgements, however, as each could be an in-depth discussion in itself.

    • How does seeing far into the distance affect the sense of speed? Unknown objects suddenly whipping onscreen is fundamentally different from watching objects draw near, starting almost stationary and seeming to accelerate as they approach.
    • How does being able to see your surroundings in 3D affect the desires of the player? Seeing screen-sized bites of the level at a time is fundamentally different from seeing open fields, vast distances, and interesting locations on the horizon. Does the latter generate a psychological need in the player to always want what's next rather than taking the time to enjoy what's nearby?
    • How does the addition of controlling a 3rd dimension affect the core logic of the game? In 2D, one has fine control over the horizontal axis, but can only has limited control of the vertical - for example the ability to generate events that start the character moving upward (jumping) or downward (Sonic 3's bubble shield or Ducktales' cane attack). This delicate mix of disparate methods of movement along axial divides is changed drastically by the addition of another dimension. (Notice how even the "3D" sections of classic Sonic games, such as the Special Stages, give you no (or very limited) control of a third axis, employing only the same skills you've honed during the normal gameplay. Even when it looks 3D, you are still only in control of 2 dimensions. Sonic 3 & K's Special Stages are highly interesting in that they give you control over rotation and jumping.)
    • How does seeing the back of the character - and therefore not their face - most of the time affect the player's emotional connection with the story and characters?
    • How does the way a 3D camera makes backtracking harder affect exploration?
    • How does the way scaling polygons don't privilege one size or position of the character relative to the screen affect the player's sense of mastery over the character's movement? If Sonic is sometimes a different size or not centred on the screen, does this make it harder to judge jumps and make the game into more of a reactive experience than proactive, because the player is less able to predict the player's movement through intuition?

    I would bet that most if not all of the above did not occupy any time in the minds of those who developed the first 3D Sonic games. They were concerned only with making the technology work, and being impressive enough that they could wow the audience and compete with concomitant games.

    To give a tentative answer the topic title's question, I would say that I feel that Sonic can work in 3D, but that it never has. Sonic, I feel, has never been about speed as much as it has been about circular motion (the source of the feeling of "flow" that will often be described), and 3D platforming as it has historically been implemented in the Sonic series has focused too much on punctuation - hit the button in time to slide under the door, switch to the other rail, trick to the get to the upper path, home attack into the floating enemy - and not the smooth, non-granular forms of movement that made the originals so compelling.

    A cursory look at the classic series will show that everything, from the sloped, looped terrain, to the movement of the gimmicks, was built on circular motion. Think about the zip-lines and elevators in Launch Base, the abseiling in Sandopolis, the zero-g tunnels in Death Egg, or the swinging carriages in Ice Cap, and how different they would be handled in any other game at the time (or indeed subsequent, less well constructed Sonic games such as the Advance/Rush series). But none of these gimmicks are staccato or abrupt - they are all designed to keep the player smoothly, gradually swinging and spinning through the zones.

    The exceptions to this rule, such as the slow moving vines and platforms in Mystic Cave Zone which move at fixed speeds, always feel out of place and frustrating. It's also why enemies in the Sonic series are hard to implement - swinging, sliding enemies that drift and move like Rhinobot, Buzzbomber, or Chopper are more successful than the maligned denizens of Metropolis who are primarily stationary obstacles that feel more like something that Megaman should shoot than something Sonic should be jumping around.

    Until someone makes a Sonic game in 3D that's more than a fancy video with the occasional QTE, the full potential of the core appeal of the gameplay will remain unrealised.

    (If the above is wordy or confusing, I apologise, my brain is fried from today. Words are starting to run together.)
     
  4. Dark Sonic

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    I think the Sonic gameplay they have right now works, however does it work for classic Sonic? No absolutely not. That gameplay has yet to have been realized yet, and since they already have a base they're comfortable with I doubt they'll try and figure that out, plus we've dealt with their tinkering for 10 years before they got something that people actually liked, I don't really want them to try to think of something new because honestly I don't trust them. Besides I like Modern Sonic's gameplay, even if it's not like the classics and part of it is in 2D, so honestly I want them to try and expand off of that.
     
  5. roxahris

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    They already made Sonic work in 3D. Sonic Unleashed/Generations (in Modern stages) strips out some of what you would argue are the key components of a 2D Sonic game and keeps the levels straight and narrow, but it does so for a number of good reasons.


    The classic games are locked to two dimensions. This works well for them, as you can clearly go "the goal is to the right so I need to move to the right" and "the higher you go the less obstacles there are". You have a clear sense of direction, and the screen is just big enough to slow you everything in your immediate vicinity - everything you need to see and know about.

    But in 3D... the core gameplay concept of Sonic games is running to a goal, and getting there in good time. Having the levels sprawl out into big, wide expanses with distractions littering otherwise empty space would end up rather wasteful - after all, who the hell's going to run around and collect all those rings when the clock is ticking? In the end, you just can't expand the levels to fill the same amount of space on the Z axis - not without adding a lot of fluff that the player will likely never have any need to visit. Of course, you can "fix" this by simply introducing obstacles that force the player to go around - but nobody likes to do extra tasks that do nothing but waste your time, especially in a game about going fast.

    Now, I'd like to pause for a moment to stop and consider something. In 2D, you always have a good idea of the direction you're meant to be going in. In a 3D game where you aren't boxed in by walls and don't have some sort of objective marker, you generally have little idea of where to do next. If you look at, say, Super Mario 64, you can see a fair amount of intentionally leading design - for instance, the way the game basically leads you onto higher ground and suggests that generally the best way to go is to climb higher and higher or dive lower and lower until you reach your goal. If you consider Marble Madness, which is a 2D game, you're never unsure of where the marble is going - due to the perspective, it's rolling downward. Right. No argument there. In Sonic, a series with far more focus on alternate or branching paths than either of those examples, the issue of "where do I go" becomes harder to answer once you introduce an extra dimension to the proceedings.

    Both Unleashed and Sonic Adventure get around this problem by simply limiting the number of directions Sonic can meaningfully progress in - giving him a number of seperate paths that all lead to one eventual destination to form one whole level. Unleashed, however, is far more direct about it, with the level design simply sticking to the core premise of forward movement. In comparison, Sonic Adventure often has levels where the gameplay is centred on getting past obstacles, which generally aren't as fun as the ones where the main goal is to reach the goal. Compare Speed Highway to Lost World; in Speed Highway, your goal is the end of the level, and you're just rushing towards it. In Lost World, you have a solve a number of arguably pointless puzzles that aren't as fun. Unleashed's gameplay generally doesn't have such puzzles (which in itself is kind of a shame) but doesn't suffer for it and instead focuses on straightforward reflex-based platforming - with perhaps less player interaction than, say, some of the classic games and Adventure, but fun to make it worthwhile.
    Also of note is the scale of levels. Unleashed's levels are long, but they're not very "wide". Sometimes, they can get pretty tall, but generally you have a lot of thin paths that cross each other often placed on the side or above/below each other. Adventure's levels aren't long in comparison, but they take far longer to traverse and are generally more "wide" by comparison. Whichever is better comes down to opinion - the straight nature of Unleashed's levels allows them to far better convey the proper sense of speed, but Adventure's slower gameplay lends itself far well to providing the sort of platforming present in a classic game. However, Adventure doesn't feel as fast as the classic games, and neither feel as speedy as would be suggested by the title "The Fastest Hedgehog in the World".

    Now, the topic you linked to is basically saying "Screw running to a goal, let's just have Sonic go around aimlessly!", which does not make for a good game, and arguably cuts out more of the whole "Sonic" concept than any of the games listed above do. What's a Sonic game without the speed and drive behind it? Plus, starting a game without a reason for you to do anything is more or less not giving people a reason to not go play something else. All games have goals, and starting one out with only a murky or ill-defined one is a recipe for failure.
     
  6. Black Squirrel

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    It has never worked in 3D and nor will it ever work in 3D... assuming the plan is to transfer the style of gameplay found in the Mega Drive games to the third dimension, as opposed to watering the gameplay down like every current 3D Sonic outing. There are too many variables in regards to scenery and cameras and all sorts of problems that you can't effectively address without creating an entirely new game.

    In the 90s claiming that a franchise could only work in two dimensions was blasphemous but in reality there's nothing wrong with that. You don't need 3D Sonic games. They had a go, it didn't work, time to put the idea to bed.
     
  7. theyogwog

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    Nahhh, that was a good read.

    I think what it comes down to is certain games just don't translate well into 3D, even if they make for a great 2D experience. There's really no reason to expect that all games originally conceived in one context will work well in another. That's just the way it goes, and there's not a lot that can be done about it. Naturally there are some that just happen to fit nicely into both dimensions like Mario. With Sonic, I think they've managed to recreate aspects of the classic games... but that's not the same as capturing the essence of the game. Pac-man might be another good example of a game that doesn't work well in 3D :v: . . . .

    Personally I think the value 3D games are overrated, and perhaps have been for some time now. I can understand people being excited about advancing technology and what not, but as was already mentioned I think the growing indie games market shows we're nearing the point when people are starting to get over all of that. But there's still a misconception in many peoples' minds, beyond reading about an exciting new game and looking forward to it, that they assume the best games must be associated with the latest technology. But why should the pace of technology have anything to do with how long 2D games can be enjoyed by people? We here all know there's old games that are good to this day, but most people overlook them because... well, they're biased I guess.
     
  8. theyogwog

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    Sorry for the double post but this is a interesting thread and I thought of more stuff to say.

    Sonic has always been about speed on the surface, but beneath that it's that sense of flow that really makes it shine. The modern games only achieved one of these qualities and I think that has a lot to do with why it's been so tricky for them to satisfy the fans. I would submit the idea that speed defined by soley moving quickly is somewhat of an illusion... I mean, there's a difference between having speed in a game and having a game where you feel like you're playing it fast. Because playing Sonic feels like I'm always doing something. I'm focusing on the controls, alternately planning my next route and going through my current one.
     
  9. Aesculapius Piranha

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    Sonic Generations was pretty good, actually... even the 3D.

    That said, I always thought of Sonic Robo Blast 2 as the very raw basics of what I would like to see in Sonic 3D.
     
  10. Rosie

    Rosie

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    Looking at videos of Skyscraper Scamper, with Sonic running across buildings, always make me think about how awesome a massive open world Sonic would be. If they took the focus away from get to the goal ASAP, and instead focused the game on using speed and momentum for exploration, combined with slower platforming segments and simple puzzles that might take a small amount of time on a first playthrough, but then can be completed very quickly afterwards, that would be my dream 3D Sonic.
     
  11. Endgame

    Endgame

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    It all the more makes me wonder why Temple Run is so popular - it seems to be kind've like Unleashed, but even more linear. Obviously it's just an 'arcade game' for phones, but I wonder what the reaction would be if there was an actual Sonic version of it, with him running through recognizable zones.

    What would people think of a sandboxed Sonic game?
    To be able to explore the entire world, but as long as you know what your next destination will be and how to get there. For that type of gameplay, you can find your own shortcuts, while the game makes sure you won't get lost - via less-than-obvious barriers, or something constructive.
     
  12. Aerosol

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    Whether Sonic works in 3D or not is dependent on what you think Sonic is.

    I've always thought Sonic was about getting from A to B as quickly as you can. Exploration was a nice diversion, something that you needed to do if you wanted to find stuff. The level design often hinted that goodies lied in tucked away areas for that purpose. But the core concept, to me, was getting from A to B asap. That's why the time ticked up instead of down! To these ends, I feel like the Unleashed formula is the closest they've gotten, and it just needs fine tuning.
     
  13. Tichmall

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    In my opinion, it would work better if there were several alternative paths to get to the end (in the same direction, to not confuse the player obviously), that you could run in during all the level. Currently, the "alternative paths" are pretty short and end up putting the player on the "main path" again because the programmers want him to experience one of their scripted (often useless) events in the middle of the level.

    What I'd like to try is a game were the three possible paths that we usually had in 2D (up, middle, and low paths) are changed to "center, up, down, left and right, and why not left-down, or right-up, whatever" paths that lead to the end in their own way, from shortly after the beginning to shortly before the end without forcing the player to get back on the "center path" at one moment or an other. Of course, all the paths would be crossing each other regularly, but you'd have the choice, either with the help of bumpers, or based on your skills (avoiding holes that send you to another path for exemple), to stay on one particular path for all the level or changing at some point. That and the physics should allow Sonic to get through the obstacles without the need of an army of dashpads.

    An Sonic open world ? That would mean they'd have to build a world nearly twice as big as other open worlds we can see in other games, or else you wouldn't enjoy the speed of Sonic in it. That lead me to notice how unfair it is to put effort in the level textures and details in the recent 3D Sonic games, since most of the time you see them for less than a second thanks to the boost skill.
     
  14. Aerosol

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    This is true of Unleashed-style stages with better alternate paths that don't just rely on twitch reactions. This style of gameplay isn't going to reach its potential until Sega throws as much of their attention at the series as they did the original Genesis games. Maybe more.
     
  15. Sparks

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    Just add Sonic characters and theme, faster speed and a 360 engine.

    I'll kind of go into detail later, elsewhere. :v:
     
  16. Dashtube

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    Well speaking of why temple run. It's really more of a rhythm type of game. If you take away all the visuals and fancy sounds of temple run and a game like guitar hero you're left with a very similar core. Same as Sonic Unleashed daytime stages. Looking at it now, I think it was trying to expand upon that genre in someway. But I think it doesn't work for Sonic.

    By the way, I like the Modern Sonic stages of Sonic Generations due to how much content they have throughout the levels. Though they can be better.
     
  17. theyogwog

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    An open world Sonic game sounds pretty cool.

    When I think of GTA:SA granted it's not as fast as say a full-on racing game or whatever, maybe, but still it did a fairly good job of making cars feel like they traveled fast compared to walking around on foot. Especially on the highways where there was plenty of room to accelerate and just drive around at top speed. The graphics would blur slightly and the camera would "lift" up a little bit so you could see things coming easier when that happened. It was fun, I spent a lot of time doing that, just weaving in and out of traffic.

    With Sonic, the obvious difference would be he could switch seamlessly from the two types of play (walking and driving, or in his case, platforming/exploring and running at high speed) with the press of a button maybe or just accelerating normally. Even if the speed had to suffer a little bit compared to other Sonic titles to achieve this I think it would be worth it, no question.

    Also I never really felt as though I missed out on things like level textures and other minor details in GTA:SA. I spent enough time playing it to develop a good general sense of its world, which was punctuated by interesting/unusual things to explore like landmarks or buildings with a hidden parachute on top, that kind of thing. If the size and scale of the map was a problem, maybe they could offset that by adopting a simpler, more artistic style for the game, kinda like with Windwaker or Okami?

    ...By the way cool signature, they should make an open world version of Rocket Knight Adventures too :thumbsup:
     
  18. Tichmall

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    Ha ! Thanks, but you see, Sparkster is like Konami's Ristar. Hard to tell if the licence will ever be used again ! The last game was more of a quick tribute, with a character design I didn't like much as the original.

    Anyway, an open world might work, but the level design must be top notch to work in several directions and to reach different goals/missions/whatever. Gimmicks that are there to be only used once aren't exactly what I would call a good open world design. A Sonic game in Mario 64/Banjo-Kazooie/DK 64 style would be welcomed (by me at least), but it would have to be well prepared, and it seems Sega can't manage to do that at the moment.
     
  19. Tiller

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    I don't quite think Sonic has had his Super Mario 64 yet. He's made steps into 3D, for better or worse, but hasn't hit that point where everything is solid enough to work. I don't think the Generations/Unleashed/Colors style is that direction either despite the fun I've had with them.

    I've always looked to other media in how Sonic's been portrayed in a 3D space, like the shows, CD intro, the comics, and a the OVA. I love the stylized parkour, the buzzsaw spinning, the wild plains and hills that flies by, the comical combat displayed while fighting badnicks, and more that I can't put to words. It's more like Mercury said with "flow." Sonic is fluid but fast but lately modern Sonic is either an stiff bullet or a painfully slow rock thanks to the boost direction. I feel like he should be alternating at any time in between, not be in one state or the other. Not sure what kind of system should handle it, but the closest approximation is the super momentum from Advance 2 but in 3D space. It lets Sonic have an initial cap speed, but when things get rolling he can take off as the longer you run the faster you go. Of course spindashing and rolling down ramps, slopes, and hills will help pick up the pace without all the oddities of the stop and go boost. Keep the rolling as a way to attack and build up momentum on slopes, but make it harder to control and on a toggle like the Adventures without the spammable spindash. Add some sort of skill index gimmicks getting launched farther if you uncurl off jumps in the air like Sonic CD's mountain jump and junk like that. Throw in some speedy parkour gimmicks and spinning ala Sonic CD Intro, badnicks interaction that's more than bop them on the head, and open up the acts more, you have my idea of an implausible Sonic game!

    On the subject of openness, I think direction is important but 3D Sonic could use some more open areas. If every modern stage in Generations was Seaside Hill Act 2 levels of open, with multiple paths blending into one another, I would say they would be getting closer. As of now everything is entirely too directed, with dashpads dictating what path to take for the sake of keeping pace and building around the limitations of the boost. See: the arid Sands drift shortcut before the stretch of town making the turn for you. It stops all forms of exploration when it yanks the control away from you like that.

    At the same time no direction is just as bad. Sonic is about the things that go on between point A and point B. It shouldn't be a straight line, but those points should still exist. I don't think a full sandbox at least in the traditional sense would work. The Green Hill Paradise demo made that clear to me, as cool as it was, it was unclear what you were supposed to be doing outside of fooling around. So open, but directed.
     
  20. Melody the Sylveon

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    People talk about Modern Sonic being mostly restricted, simplified corridors without exploration, but it only has to be that if the level design isn't up to snuff. Take a look at Seaside Hill in Generations -- that's easily the best designed Modern Sonic stage in the game IMO, and I think it handily proves that Modern Sonic gameplay is still capable of having the exploration and alternate routes that played a huge part of what makes the classic Sonic games so good. It just so happens that Sonic in 3D has traditionally been paired with level designers that don't know what the fuck they're doing.

    It's still not literally Classic Sonic, but I agree with Black Squirrel that Classic Sonic probably is not something that would ever truly work in 3D. The 3D Land comparison is bunk -- Mario is a slower, more deliberately paced, and much much more LINEAR game about precision and timing rather than exploration and flow.