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Sonic Frontiers Thread - PS4, PS5, Xbox, Switch, PC

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by MykonosFan, May 27, 2021.

  1. kazz

    kazz

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    It's just not the best analogy to use against skipping over stuff in 3D, especially since the zones after Chemical Plant have much more accessible upper paths.
     
  2. Palas

    Palas

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    Games are better for having moments of challenge convergence that normalize newcomer players' experiences a little bit in games in which emergence is incredibly powerful but procedural generation/personalized experience isn't the whole point.

    Or, in other words, if the underwater section wasn't, insert extreme quote unquoting, unfun and more or less mandatory, the fact that you skipped over it would be negligible. A very important part of the fun in skipping things is the satisfaction of knowing the kind of annoyance you're skipping.
     
  3. kazz

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    Other Sonic zones still effectively keep newbies on the lower path without requiring the upper path be a literal secret. Like maybe there could've been an easier version of the underwater stairs on a mid-level path, like how other zones do it. Either way it's still fine to be able to fly over stuff in 3D. I easily fly over most of Emerald Hill and Aquatic Ruin, without being particularly good at Sonic 2, and there's nothing wrong with that.

    Aquatic Ruin is actually a good counterexample. It lets you find and stay on the upper path much more easily and straight up punishes you for not skipping over the level with your jumps.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2024
  4. Zephyr

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    Nah, it was a really cool "aha!" moment when I figured that out. That it's a completely optional skip "hidden" behind a grasp of Sonic's inherent interaction with slopes embodies one of my favorite things about the series in general, and the classics in particular.

    Also, I find it particularly hard to begrudge a lot of the 3D fan-games for being proofs of concept rather than full games. The ones that are indeed proofs of concept (like Utopia's "Early Demo", the apparent poster child for these) should probably be treated and evaluated as proofs of concept. And within that framework, I'd say that while yeah, you can go pretty fast and get some big air relatively easily, with practice and knowledge you can go even faster and even higher. And that can also be fun to figure out, because go fast and jump high feel good
     
  5. Snub-n0zeMunkey

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    I'm not against the idea of gaining airtime so long as there's a challenge to it and pulling it off is no small feat. I've said before that they could experiment with fall damage that kills your speed or something like that to keep you thinking about your surroundings.

    Super Mario Odyssey feels like a good example of a game that's able to have a pretty sophisticated movement system while still being simple enough for newcomers and younger players to enjoy and sharpen their skill as they play. I'm not even totally against Sonic Team putting in an Assist Mode for less skilled players which adds a few more boosters and springs.

    Sonic Team aren't very good at accessibility though and it seems like their idea of accessibility is to have less skilled players straight up skip the hard parts of the game, which in turns leads to them struggling later since they never learned how to overcome the challenge in the first place. They did this in Lost World with the wing item that would warp you to the next checkpoint and again in Frontiers where you could just buy vault keys through the fishing minigame. This seems like a very weird way of accomodating to different skill levels imho.

    Ideally they should help the player get good at the game's systems through little nudges in the right direction. The PS1 Crash Bandicoot games were good at this, despite being labelled as "The Dark Souls of platforming" (which I think is totally wrong, those games were forgiving as hell lol)
     
  6. Palas

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    Treating Utopia as a proof of concept makes me begrudge it more, not less. Because if you want to tell me skipping over large swathes of terrain and run around not knowing where you're supposed to go with Sonic's movement is enough to make a game satisfying, you have to show me that. But if you don't want that, then you should acknowledge the objective structure, life system and orientation are actually core parts of the concept, and they should be there in their minimum viable form.

    Because it's not like you get Sonic running on generic blocks that extend to a generic skybox to say it's just a proof of concept for a movement system alone: no, the game goes out of its way to present Sonic in Green Hill, and takes long strides in making it work in 3D too. The aesthetics are present as a part of the concept -- as things the game could never do without. But if you think the game can, even theoretically, do without a gameplay loop that explains why you're supposed to enjoy Sonic's movement even without that leading you anywhere or being a loop unto itself (Tony Hawk-esque or what have you, we've been through this), then I find your concept even less interesting.

    Like I'm not against Broken Spindash in 3D or anything. I just think Sonic games aren't compelling because you go fast. The reason why you do it matters a lot.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2024
  7. jubbalub

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    I don't necessarily agree with this. I think movement should be its own reward for learning the game. The movement should feel satisfying enough without any external motivators that you can get enjoyment out of purely from just running around, speeding past hazards, making sick skips, etc.

    As far as Utopia goes, I find that enjoyment in simply running around. There's not much to do, sure, but i genuinely don't have a problem with that if the thing I'm doing constantly (moving) gets me enjoyment.

    This extends to a larger conversation about intrinsic vs. extrinsic motivation, but that's just my 2 cents.
     
  8. Palas

    Palas

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    There is a good conversation to be had about this, and at some point rolling around gets to be fun because it becomes a fun thing you do (like finger skating, I dunno who first drew this comparison, but I think it's a cool one). But an objective framework that invites movement to be fun by itself and make movement its own reward is not an absence of a framework. In fact, it might demand even more work and commitment to the bit. It's making you wonder just how high you can go; it's showing you places that seem unreachable (maybe they are actually unreachable, maybe not). It's hiding secrets on top of mountains, or even building mountains without any secret at all. It's nullifying fail states or revamping the progress system so that the player is given the tools to evaluate what is going on with their own priorities.

    Utopia would be better for not having a goalpost and making it clear. But it does have one, and it's a pain to find. The fail states are also all there -- drowning, running out of rings. Are they still necessary within this framework? Sonic R thought otherwise, and deals well with it. If they aren't necessary, why are they there? In a proof of concept? What is the concept, then?
     
  9. Chimpo

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    Naw, let me convert my falling speed into some insane grown speed brother. Then I'd have a reason to go up.
     
  10. Snub-n0zeMunkey

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    The way I imagine it is that if you hit the ground rolling at just the right moment, all your momentum is conserved and you go crazy fast. If you don't get it right you bail out like in a Tony Hawk game. Adds an element of risk vs. reward.

    Could work, could be hated idk. I feel like I'm one of the few people that likes fall damage in video games lmao
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2024
  11. kazz

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    I'm watching Utopia gameplay right now and the player is spending the most of their time on the ground. Really the biggest problem I see here is you're basically just running around in a giant circle the whole time. Whether or not you're grounded or flying through the air really doesn't make a difference as far as accomplishing your goal within the level, because there is none. I think the actual problem here is just this flat, overly open-ended level design. I don't think potentially flying over a challenge in a level is the main issue when I can even more easily just run around said challenge.
     
  12. Laura

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    Something which @Palas has said before which bears repeating is that the primary objective of Sonic is to complete the level. This has been true of all games with the exception of Frontiers. Sonic hasnt always been elegant in providing challenge, often relying on bottomless pits and crushing. But the best Sonic games like Sonic 1 and SA2 Sonic stages did understand that this is the fundamental design goal. Even Superstars understands it. The objective in Frontiers is to complete the map but more in a collectathon style than a find the goal style. Despite how much flak I give Frontiers, I do think that game commits to its goal here admirably, with the exception of Big completely breaking the game.

    One of the primary flaws of the Boost games is that reaching the goal is far too easy. The Boost games are good at providing secondary player goals like time attacks and exploration in the case of Generations but are pretty poor at the fundamental goal purpose. I'd say Utopia actually has more in common with the Boost games on a fundemtal design point than people like to admit. Traversing Utopia is confusing and disorienting but otherwise reaching the goal is very easy and the game is very unchallenging. You largely just run straight forward and jump over everything. Enemies and platforming challenges are largely irrelevant. Launching yourself high in the air and over the map is really part of that flaw and I think it's not surprising that Forces similarly lets you fly over much of the level design. So in this instance the closest analogy to Utopia is actually Forces.
     
  13. Starduster

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    I agree with your assessment, but I don’t think Frontiers *needs* to forego the ability to set such goals by dint of being an open-zone. The trouble is that the goals it does set are rarely tests of the player’s mastery of Sonic’s movement mechanics in combination with environmental awareness and instead focus on generally straight forward logic puzzles or tests of twitch reflexes and speedy fingers with things like the quick step and ball kicking challenges.

    Mario Odyssey in particular is really good at this, and I think an open-zone game with movement much closer to Sonic Adventure’s would be a great fit. Find and destroy these specific badniks across the map within a time limit, get through this obstacle course without using the spindash, race Metal Sonic to this spot, etc. (Utopia is about as capable as Frontiers of realising such trials but the ability to basically fly over maps with extreme ease would trivialise them). I think it’d also require a much more deliberate design of the open-zones; proper realisations of traditional zones in a sandbox format (again with inspiration from the likes of Mario 64 and Odyssey) rather than the attempt at more grounded locations with the Starfall Islands. Utopia’s GHZ is somewhat closer in this regard but is still too open and it’s just too easy to not really interact with most of the challenge.
     
  14. Laura

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    I largely agree with you. I'm never one to shirk from criticising Frontiers haha
     
  15. Zephyr

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    this post was not meant to be long i am sorry

    From what I understand listening to dev interviews back when it dropped, the concept is twofold:

    1: Mechanically, it's "Classic Sonic physics and terrain interaction, but in 3D, is doable, actually." (this is important because a common enough talking point had been that Sonic Team wasn't doing it because it wasn't doable)

    2: In terms of audio/visual aesthetic it's "this is the ideal translation of Sonic's classic aesthetic into 3D", with the art direction, badnik animations, item boxes as chunky 80's desktop monitors, etc.

    It's literally a test level, and on a macro-level it's not even meant to be indicative of the final game's approach to level design. The test level is more open than what was allegedly going to be in the final game. What it's meant to show, again, is how Sonic can interact with terrain on a moment-to-moment basis, and also somewhat throwing things at the wall to see what players did with them, before crafting more finely-tuned stages based on reception and player habits. Yeah, you can ignore all that and run straight to the end. You could avoid doing the stuff that the demo exists for you to do. If you wanted to avoid that, why boot it up at all?

    I do see your point about all of this extra stuff being misleading and frustrating as it then leaves you wanting for more, but it's ultimately extra fluff and window dressing for a test level. And, frankly, the existence of drowning and a sign post should hardly detract from anyone's ability to respond to the demo with thoughts like "yeah proper quarter-pipe functionality is possible" and "yeah, this is a good vibe", or "nah, I still hate these loops" and "#NotMySonicVibes".

    It's also worth distinguishing between what the intent behind the demo was, and what people ended up getting out of it. The open-endedness of the test level was not meant to be representative of the structure of stages in the final game, but that certainly didn't stop some of us for liking that open-endedness on its own merits and wishing that was the intent behind the demo, and that the final game would lean into it more. Any time I boot Utopia up, it's to run around, bomb down hills, and make big jumps. I'm never running to that goal post. It's an extraneous feature, but one that is profoundly and deeply trivial to just ignore. In Utopia, I may skip over some stuff, but bet I'll turn around go back to it. In Forces I'm skipping stuff so I can reach the end and play the next level sooner. Apples and oranges to anyone who actually plays Utopia and has a good time with it.

    I think getting hung up on stuff like the sign post is really missing the forest for the trees. Sure, it probably shouldn't be there. Oh well. Like the folks who rag on CD's level design, despite it being constructed around exploration and time travel, because "well I can just run to the end". Yeah, I guess you could engage with the play space in the least fun way imaginable, but really, truly, honestly: why would you want to? "But it's there!" Yeah, and you're a free and rational agent who is capable of making your own decisions. Nobody's forcing you to play something in the least fun way possible.

    Goals are an important part of any game, as, yes, they motivate us to traverse obstacles with the use of our abilities. Goals can be self-imposed, though!
     
  16. Palas

    Palas

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    If we can bring the creator's words into this, then we also know his concept about classic Sonic and indeed games in general is that "a game is as rich as the sum of its potential interactions" and that the full game would indeed have used the very same philosophy for level design, except levels would be narrower. My main point is this: if the intent doesn't take into account the problem of orientation and doesn't try to organize your attention in any way, then it's not mechanically complete because a game is not, in fact, as rich as the sum of its potential interactions. The idea that self-imposed goals are just like the game-given goals is what gives way to the (to me, completely false) assertion that "if you don't like X feature [around which the game was built] just don't use it and it's all cool!".

    If the reason to go forward is an extraneous feature, there is no game. There's a toy, sure, and there's merit in all aspects of appreciating a game other than its ruleset. But then I have to question the very definition of intrinsic vs extrinsic motivation. Which is the intrinsic and which is the extrinsic one? Sonic CD understands this very fundamentally: yes, you can ignore the exploration, but the game accounts for it and then works just like Sonic 1 -- and both time travel and exploration can serve other purposes. Your attention is still organized in the game, and the space for choice is still structured. If a proof of concept thinks this isn't important for a game, then I don't think it's a good concept at an extremely fundamental level.

    I imagine Naka and Yasuhara had debates like these at some point in 1990 or 1991. Archetypically, at least. And I'll always side with the Yas man.
     
  17. Zephyr

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    Sorry for the late reply, been busy.

    If levels are narrower, then the "philosophy for level design" would not be "the very same", right? You just described how it would be different. Sonic would interact with slopes and pipes in the same way, yes, but those slopes and pipes would presumably be arranged in such a way that navigating them to the goal post wouldn't be as trivial and unfulfilling as it is in the test level.

    And, again, it is a test level. "It's not a complete game" is not in dispute here! Yet, people who enjoy going back to the demo have made a game out of the test level. It really does not matter if the player is imposing their own goals onto an existing play space, because players are allowed to do this and in fact do it all the time. When a player does this, they are acting as a game designer themselves, because games are inscribed forms of agency that involve goals. If I am inscribing a goal into a play space, then I am acting as a game designer. Whenever anyone incorporates their own 'home rules' into something, they are acting as a game designer. It just so happens that "bomb down hills as fast as I can" and "get as big a jump as I can" is something that is a common goal for people in this community to pursue, so it's unsurprising that this test level facilitates it and that so many players have opted to engage with it in such a manner.

    And, again, I understand if such a goal is personally unfulfilling to you, and others. I get it. It's fine.
     
  18. Palas

    Palas

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    Different in the way Sonic Colors and Unleashed are different, but not in the way (say) Colors and 3D Blast are different, which is the point. Unless you make sequential corridors or sequential discrete and easy to read areas, you have to do something to solve the problem not of the goal post being trivial, but of it not being nearly trivial enough.

    I should walk back on what I said a little. House rules and emergent play are as important as official rulesets for amusement and analysis, and games are still games before rules apply. But they are not created equal because the rules from the game proper set up the language the game speaks, and I think as the first designer you have to own that, either sharing the responsibility to create and accommodate rules or at least proposing a hierarchy that can be broken. I don't think any amount of extra content would bring that to Utopia -- not the least because we know the ideas behind it. Yes, it can be a lot of fun to just cruise around, but as it is, I think it is a conscious proposal that neglects things I find just as important as the physics. I understand it appeals to some. I just don't think any further development would have made it appeal to me, because the concept is in fact there, even if it isn't a complete game.
     
    Last edited: Jun 1, 2024
  19. The Joebro64

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    This guy's working on a stage mod that introduces new Cyber Space stages remixed from levels in past Sonic games and it looks fucking awesome. Doing really cool designs that merge levels from SA1/2, Generations, Forces, and even the open-zone platforming challenges and I think it looks extremely fun.
     
  20. Starduster

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    The wallrun at the end of the final stage in the first video prompted me to say "oh that's cool as heck" out loud. You'd think it's such a small thing but I immediately felt the impact of transitioning into a wall run organically from terrain rather than being put into that state by a spring or something. And not to beat a dead horse, but these levels really have me wishing for something closer to the Adventure style of movement, which is honestly a complement. The geometry design is really appealing and the layouts themselves look like they'd be perfectly suited to movement that's more organic and free than the boost format's binaries and automation.