Sonic the Hedgehog 2 and the Birth of Co-operative Multiplayer Platforming?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Swifthom, Oct 11, 2020.

  1. big smile

    big smile

    Oldbie
    752
    21
    18
    Chaotix tried with its rubber band, but that just added needless complexity. It didn’t help that the level design in that game was bland.
    Sonic Advance 3 tried, but the level design was bad.
    Sonic 06 had a co-op mode too which just used split-screen, but it wasn't very fun, especially because it adds lots of sections that require both players to touch switches at the same time.

    I am surprised Mania didn’t attempt something, but I guess they were short for time.
     
  2. Swifthom

    Swifthom

    A Friend Remembers... Member
    60
    9
    8
    The scenario i'm thinking of is attached.
    If Sonic runs right here, Tails will be trapped between the edge of the screen and the wall. Either he has to go out of bounds or he has to clip through. If the screen boundary pushes him it would cause all sorts of problems.

    I can see how this approach would work for a lot of games less about forwards momentum - many of them would make you go back to make the camera move left so Player 2 can come up - but I can see it ruining the Sonic experience


    EDIT: And yes, I can see that them trying to work out how to fix it would lead to the rubber band in Chaotix appearing and fundamentally upsetting the whole formula in the process...


    EDIT: This is kind of what I'm saying about the Sonic Franchise being a free roaming experience and why i'm not counting the beat em ups in my category.
    A lot of the 2 player games I'm seeing listed are much less 'open' in terms of where you can go. This has its upsides and its downsides, and yes I can see how Sonic is not unique or original, but with Mickey Mouse, Talespin and Sonic all coming out in the same quarter hammering this point home SEGA were clearly on a drive at the time to promote this style of cooperative play.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  3. tokumaru

    tokumaru

    Member
    851
    12
    18
    Rio de Janeiro
    Platformer for the NES
    If Tails was pushed by the screen boundaries he'd be crushed all the time... And the bottom edge would need some sort of special handling to prevent him from walking on air or getting killed all the time.
     
  4. big smile

    big smile

    Oldbie
    752
    21
    18
    Perhaps they could have made it that when Tails reaches the screen boundary he ricochets back to Sonic (similar to the action you get when you touch a bumper).

    At the moment, once Tails disappears, it can take a good couple of seconds before he flies back on screen, and if Sonic is at full speed Tails will normally fall off the screen again.

    With a ricochet action, Tails will always be on the screen, but he won't get caught in things, because he'll be where Sonic currently is. They could make it that when he snaps back to Sonic, he matches Sonic's speed, so if Sonic is running at full speed, then Tails will match it and so will have a much better chance of staying on screen, rather than falling off again.

    EDIT: Or maybe just have a call button. The Tails player presses start and respawns next to Sonic matching his speed.
     
    Last edited: Oct 13, 2020
  5. Beltway

    Beltway

    Temptive Bongwater, Sealed in Can Member
    1,439
    43
    28
    Sega of Darkest Peru
    college courses / anime trash crusader
    There was also Sonic 4: Episode II, but that was arguably the worst attempt of them all because it was a very hamfisted, pigeonholed manner.
    The actual co-op mechanics amounted to just additional special moves (flying/swimming/rolling combo) mapped to a "co-op" button that could be activated by P1 at any time, rather than any additional abilities or special platforming experiences that required actual cooperative interaction between the two players.
    Level design where you not only could not progress at all without using certain co-op moves, but the game also blatantly telling you what to do throughout the game in with giant floating tutorial signs. This made the abilities extremely situational in their implementation, where rather than being toys the player could use on their own accord, they were instead tools to do exactly what the designers wanted you to do, down to the letter.
    The above also had the big glaring side-effects that a. you couldn't play levels with only one character, in direct contrast to the classic games; and b. P1 always had to be Sonic and P2 always had to be Tails.
    And special shoutout to the Rolling Combo --a overpowered stealth boost mechanic that in the right circumstances, you could use to make the game play itself-- and the dishonest, arrogant way the Sonic 4 PR team handled Tails' implementation from reveal to post-release. "TAILS! TAILS! THIS GAME FEATURES TAILS! TAILS RETURNS AS A PLAYABLE CHARACTER AFTER ALL THESE YEARS!* *But only available as mandatory co-op and not in single player." "The cost of implementing Tails in single player would be astronomical, we're talking millions of dollars here."

    ---

    Anyway. Yeah, as a big fan of both co-op and competitive multiplayer in games, I really can't say Sonic has really excelled in the co-op department. The main issue is that across the board, the gameplay --in particular, the camera, the character speed/mechanics, and level design-- is always focused on a single player experience. The camera doesn't take into account two players interacting with the level, so it's easy for the second player to be left behind. The characters being naturally fast only exacerbates this, since you can easily leave a co-op character behind with enough momentum or with a spin-dash. The final blow is the level design; where at the points where you can pick up speed or it's given to you; via springs, dash panels, slopes, or special setpieces/speed-oriented gimmicks; you can quickly leave that immediate area of the level design --as well as your co-op partner-- behind. As others have mentioned, this even extends to character behavior--Tails in the classic games/Mania doesn't get to destroy monitors/use shields; just collect rings and hit badniks/bosses. The presumed trade-off is that he has no lives system --so if he dies, he can come back-- but even that is rather situational at times.

    For me, the main solution would be to re-contextualize co-op as its own gameplay mode, where the framework is changed to focus on co-op gameplay with two players (or even three/four players if you have enough characters); rather than co-op being an extra layer on top of the single-payer experience. Another option I think could work would be giving the co-op character the ability to be tethered to the movement of player one, so they can't be left behind during more speed-centric parts, something akin to how Diddy/Dixie/Cranky can ride on Donkey Kong's back in Retro's Donkey Kong Country games. But personally, I think I would prefer the former approach more.
    - I'd say the big thing that would have to be changed first would be the character speeds/mechanics. Sonic and co. shouldn't be able to run off, they'd have to be given some significant speedcaps to keep their speed in check; and maybe dial back their speed values as well in addition to that. I think at best, the character movement would have to be no faster than the original Sonic 1, if not even slower/closer to other platformers.
    - From there, you could start figuring out the level design. I think the main thing here is that you would have to put some at least two major limitations in place.
    -- The big thing right off the bat would be that the level design would have to be more limited compared to a single player experience. All level objects, level gimmicks, and terrain that gave you either significant speed or dramatic changes in height/distance would have to be very rare; and would only be feasible in (scripted) scenarios where they would be affecting all playable characters at the same time. So it would have to be something like the dash panels in Sonic 3D that took players through loops and steep slopes, while transporting them to another segment of the level. Even Mario 3D World has instances of this, with how you have clear pipes and mystery boxes that take you through from one section of the stage to another.
    -- On a similar note, most levels would also have to be built in a way that keeps all of the characters consistently together. The easiest way to accomplish this would be to have largely linear routes, where there's minimal chance of the levels breaking off in a way that characters can split away from each other by taking different routes--either clearly segmented, S3&K/Mania style, or layered on top of each other, S1/2/CD style. That's not to say having co-op levels with multiple paths is impossible, but it would require some work in making sure that regardless which path is taken or how it's taken (basic alternative route, secret route, character ability-specific route), everybody stays together.
    - From there; I'd say once you have the speed/mechanics and the level design figured out, you could then decide how the camera would function. For a Sonic game with more contemporary graphics and design, I don't believe this should be too huge of a problem, since you can have the camera easily pan in/out to highlight all characters on-screen. I am more curious on how this would effect a game that had a fixed camera like in the classics. I would like to guess that with the re-adjusted level design and character speed/mechanics, this wouldn't be too much of an issue, but I still presume you would have to make sure the camera tries to accommodate for both players.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
  6. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    Back on track Member
    709
    52
    28
    Bilbao, Spain
    Upgrading my own life to pro edition
    Pardon my ignorance, but, wouldn't be it a lot simpler if split screen was used also for co-op multiplayer?

    I've used 2p versus of Sonic 2 to help people get the hang of it when they were newbies by accompanying them and, if we got a bit away, the screen mode allowed for an easy rendezvous. I get everyone going on their way in split screen mode isn't the same as playing as Tails in "assist mode", but that would be a matter of making new levels that acommodate this playstyle, plus there could be some sort of puzzles or other level advance requirements that could be completed by a single player but, by having each player doing a part of it instead of the same player taking turns for each part, you'd get a reward for cooperating in the form of a shorter completion time. There was some hack or fan game that did this, but it was for single player, so you'd have to keep switching characters and play each one at a time using their specific skills, which goes against the usual flow of Sonic gameplay; having that for multiplayer would be something neater.

    Oh, and that's for local multiplayer, online multiplayer doesn't even need screen splitting.
     
  7. Beltway

    Beltway

    Temptive Bongwater, Sealed in Can Member
    1,439
    43
    28
    Sega of Darkest Peru
    college courses / anime trash crusader
    Doing split-screen multiplayer in general requires the game rendering multiple screens at the same time for each player, compared to just rendering one screen and having all players share that screen; the former of which requires more power that the hardware may not be able to handle. Games sometimes have to make significant sacrifices in performance in order to have split-screen multiplayer function seamlessly; such as reducing the framerate, dialing down the details in the game's graphics, or rendering screens at smaller, sometimes less-optimal resolutions. Racing games, for example, usually halve the framerate from 60FPS to 30FPS for 3P/4P split-screen races, older racing games would also nix CPU racing opponents and only feature the human players.

    That of which is fine for versus multiplayer, since all players involved are competing against each other and will engage in different playthroughs/playstyles in order to win. But in co-operative multiplayer, where players are intended to work together as partners in order to progress through one shared playthrough, it comes off as a waste of resources compared to just having everyone sharing one screen.

    Moreover, I'd say that the co-operative experience also doesn't translate as well when you give each player their own screen where they can progress through the level on their own terms, and/or are given individual objectives to tackle by themselves. With Nintendo's co-op games, you can see how with everyone sharing one screen, the experience is structured so that when certain actions are performed or certain events are triggered, they affect everybody in the immediate area. Like how in the co-op Mario games, multiple powerups for everyone are spawned as opposed to just one, so everybody can get a powerup in some form; or when warp pipes or mystery boxes are triggered, everybody is brought along for the resulting experience.
     
    Last edited: Oct 21, 2020
  8. Xiao Hayes

    Xiao Hayes

    Back on track Member
    709
    52
    28
    Bilbao, Spain
    Upgrading my own life to pro edition
    Well, I meant on newer hardware (Mania's case, for this topic). I don't think split screen for a classic 2D game would have been an issue for dreamcast, for example. And of course split screening breaks the multiplayer sensation, but, Sonic is not Mario or an MMORPG, players move quick in those games.

    Then you have micromachiness where there was a mode on single screen for competitive multiplayer and the winner was the one who managed to go ahead enough to leave behind his opponents. :V
     
  9. tokumaru

    tokumaru

    Member
    851
    12
    18
    Rio de Janeiro
    Platformer for the NES
    That's true of 3D games which must process all polygons for all players every frame, but in 2D games, which only update small portions of the tilemap as the screen scrolls, the difference is almost negligible. The number of "living" entities also shouldn't affect the performance much, since both players exist in the same level and interact with the same entities, so they're still only processed once (but may have to be drawn twice).
     
  10. For years, I was convinced Sonic 2 for Genesis/Mega Drive had a two-player split-screen mode that took both players through all the levels, bosses included. I actually had a visual memory of watching people play Chemical Plant Zone in split-screen mode, and struggling to get through it, back in 1992 or 1993. In my mind, it was "cooperative" in the sense that, if just one of the players beat the level, both players advanced to the next level. I asked around and one or two people told me it was either a secret code or a rare version.

    After researching it to death, I finally realized it never existed, and I was just imagining it all this time. But it looks like some people are already working on making that as a hack. (And yeah, I pretty much get why it's easier said than done.)
     
  11. big smile

    big smile

    Oldbie
    752
    21
    18
    If you had an action replay, you could actually play more stages in split-screen, although only Hill Top looked decent. Chemical Plant Zone is playable but it's a struggle to get through because all the graphics are garbled.

    On the remastered Sonic 2 for mobile, you can play most stages in competition mode, but it's online as opposed to split screen.
     
  12. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

    staying alert on the beach Wiki Sysop
    5,732
    279
    63
    Northumberland, England
    quipu two metres apart
    [​IMG]

    It could be this - this widely circulated promotional shot of Sonic 2 has Sonic and Tails on different tubes in Chemical Plant Zone, and if you're just glancing, you migth think it was two player. It's something that doesn't happen in the final game unless the second player forces it, but it's more common in the prototypes (and is seen in early demo sequences).

    For years I had it in my mind that it's common for Sonic and Tails to take different routes at this stage, but they don't - Tails will jump and lose momentum if he's not on the same path. And yet this is the only bit in Sonic 2 that looks specifically designed for two players.
     
    • Like Like x 1
    • Agree Agree x 1
    • List
  13. Interesting! That might have contributed to it, but honestly, my mind somehow mixed up scenes of people struggling with the moving blocks in Mega Muck (purple water), with scenes of people playing the actual two-player split screen mode (maybe Casino Night Zone?). I had managed to visualize Chemical Plant in split-screen (with non-garbled graphics, and my friends who had the Sega Genesis at the time didn't have an Action Replay), as some sort of Mandela Effect that few other people experienced.