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Sonic's character design and aesthetic

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by High Fidelity, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. Following on from Vector's ideas, something I always thought would be cool:


    Crystal Zone (would be changed for a better name)

    Translucent and crazy shaped crystals in the foreground, with some kind of mechanized pathway cut through it all. in the background: clear blue skies, lots of greenery & extremely tall shimmering skyscrapers (organically shaped)

    The cool thing about this level would be that the reflections on the crystals are rendered in real time, so lazer sights of a badnik and other reflections/lights would ping around like crazy, making a seemingly peaceful place, actually fucking mental :v:

    Can't find any images that fit the bill exactly but:

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  2. Azookara

    Azookara

    yup Member
    So we're still doing the hyperbolic statement / mudslinging thing. That's cool. You know, the whole "use the literal worst example of modern Sonic to exaggerate your point" thing going on. Seriously, half the anti-modern design posts here read like political cartoons.

    And I can get behind the 'art deco' and 'dieselpunk' things a little bit, but a lot of this not only seems really pretentious and artsy, but also doesn't remind me much of Sonic at all. The only games to apply even half of these design philosophies was Sonic CD and Chaotix, and even those were touted by the people who played them as bizarre in comparison to the mainline classic games (not bad, just weird). The classics made liberal usage of geometric shapes, wide variety in color and intricate patterns and details, but none of it (besides maybe some of Sonic 1) made it seem too far from reality. In fact, I'd put Sonic 3 & Knuckles' art style much closer to Adventure's than CD's.

    Also, fascism vs resistance? Environmentalism? Is this SatAM now? The Sonic games were far from any sort of deep philosophical epic about the corruption of mankind and society; because even while there were undertones about nature vs technology it was never some big Aesop fable like some people make it out to be. Those games at their core were about Eggman attempting world conquest with reckless abandon one island at a time and Sonic (with the help of Chaos / Time McGuffins) would take him down in want to protect the world and the people/animals on it, and it's as simple as that. I feel like it's the lore you build for Sonic's world, the characters in it, and how far the stakes are pushed that really make Sonic interesting, not some kind of abstract theming.

    Also the Archie comics beat you to the idea of the lady robot person, and I feel it was just as unfitting and uncomfortable there as it could be here. ¯\_(ツ)_/¯
     
  3. Yup, I was going to say myself that that's a gross comparison you got there VectorCNC, especially since not only is that not even modern sonic, that wasn't even his main design back then. That's pretty much like making comparisons with Boom Sonic. And I'm sure you could've picked better renders than that from google :v: Lots of cherry picking going on around here, haha.

    And I'll have to agree with Azookara. I never really saw the classics as this overly deep "the downfall of wildlife and the rise of man" ordeal. Sure, we had Sonic CD, but really... that's only how much of it as it went. That subject was lightly pressed upon if you were really looking for it.
     
  4. Blast Brothers

    Blast Brothers

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    Let's see if I can break down how I feel about this matter, in my opinion...
    In the beginning of Sonic's character design process, he looked considerably meaner. His pupils were thinner, he was spikier, he was lankier, his eyes were pointier... He looked constantly angry, ready to let you know that he was cool and rad and fast! However, alterations were made, for many reasons, most important to this discussion: "I don't care about the environment or this crummy island! I'm too rad to care!" His goals in the game didn't match his edgy design. So he was toned down, became rounder and less aggressive-looking in numerous areas. The artwork developed in this revised style displayed the more naive and softer, but still irresponsible and "teenish", personality he now had. He still smirked, laughed and made fun of people, and frowned angrily at you, but also jumped and ran and explored with looks of innocence and amazement. He was made, literally and figuratively, more well-rounded. All this was communicated through his design, which was a necessity because of the lack of in-game story. There was just one problem with his design: he didn't look fast. However, this worked because of the lack of information about the world and its overall apparent strangeness the classics showed you- the environments were outlandish enough for his pudgy design to work within the surreal, colorful universe.

    Then we get to the Dreamcast. Sega wanted to take the series into a more realistic world, which I'm honestly completely okay with. As long as it looks good, it's not a big deal what direction the art style takes. Anyway, Sonic no longer fit into this new direction the art was going; he had to be made more realistic, or at least plausible, in order to fit in. He was made taller, with longer limbs, and his spikes grew, not only to be readable in 3d, but also to make him look more aerodynamic. These changes, while not ideal or too pleasant, were necessary with the new art direction. However, there was a problem brewing at this early stage that would only grow over time: the intense focus on story and trying to "update" the franchise to please the "next generation". Sonic, it was decided, would exchange character for marketability. He had to be hip and cool and current and popular, the things he was trying not to shove in your face since his creation. He became portrayed as annoying and snarky in an attempt to boost popularity. This dictated his poses in artwork; smirking and really, really lanky.

    Luckily, like before, changes and revisions were made over time, around Unleashed. Among other things, his proportions were altered to be more cartoony, to go along with the shift towards fantasy in the art direction. He didn't have to sacrifice as much character design in exchange for realism, and turned out the better for it. However, the story and focus on marketability reared its ugly head and demanded that Sonic be portrayed as cool and et cetera, and this coupled with the revised fantasy style made him seem, and look, stiff and unfeeling. It didn't help that the writing was poor at times- with nothing interesting in the actual lines and there being no character development or interesting twists. Sonic became emotionless and more of a snarky shell for a brand to hide in. I might be exaggerating a little here, but the hints of utter failure are very noticeable. Boom is just the same "make it popular!" direction applied to Unleashed Sonic with extra fail.

    Personally I feel the same general argument holds true for the overall aesthetic, so I'll leave that aside. I'd love to see a revised style with these points in mind, with inspiration from VectorCNC's pitch, which is actually pretty close to what I had in mind.
     
  5. RE: nature vs industry/machines

    I thought that theme was pretty obvious actually? What with all the environmental stuff going on at the time in the early 90s, it would make sense. The rise of solar energy, and the general theme of allot of electronic music (and bands like Jamiroquai) of the time (Orbital used the environmental theme to a great extent in the early 90s), also the placing of animals into robots, the egg capsules at the end of levels, the good ending where nature is rejoicing etc. I'd say the theme was stronger in Sonic 1 & 3 rather than 2. Peaked with CD.

    Just want to add, I don't think the lack of mainstream impact for CD & chaotix was down to their art styles, more so the time travel & rubber band elements being quite difficult to get into for the casual gamer.
     
  6. Azookara

    Azookara

    yup Member
    It definitely may have the nature vs tech undertone due to being a product of that time, but I never felt like that was the primary focus of Sonic. The characters themselves and the mysteries of the worlds they explored (which contrasted with how much destruction was done and what perils said characters went through) are what I thought was always put first, which is why I'd put that as under those in regards of priority.

    Keeping the theme of a game as malleable is probably the best path to take anyways, as it gives room for more interesting and varied storytelling.

    CD and Chaotix failed to make mainstream impact due to console add-ons that failed, tbh. I don't believe the art style really had anything to do with their lack of success, but ask most of anyone who liked or disliked CD and Chaotix's art style and they'll both tell you it's definitely different from the other games.
     
  7. VectorCNC

    VectorCNC

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    Azooka, my examples of the two different Sonics were meant as a joke. I totally took the worst example of Modern Sonic. But the example of classic Sonic used was also really bad. I'm pretty sure that too was also posted as a joke, but I don't see you calling them out incidentally... I'm also pretty sure I've actually seen an interview where the original creators specifically mention Environmentalism as a main theme. It's extremely obvious anyway. Also, if you don't see the fascism v. resistance theme, that's fine with me. I wasn't trying to quote gospel, I was just putting out what themes I had in mind for my vision of the series, which I clearly stated at the beginning. You keep applying "pretentious" and "artsy" to everything... am I supposed to apologize for using specific terminology? You are on a computer, so just Google these terms if you don't understand them. It's a thread about design for heavens sake. Next, grander themes know as dialectics or archetypes are used in almost all stories so that people find them relatable, or at least can understand them. More fancy words for you, I guess. Lastly, I know I didn't invent that plot. The one image depicts robotcization from the 1928 movie Metropolis(and Sonic stole it from them :ssh: ). This AI idea is a common idea portrayed in movies, Terminator, Ex-Machina, etc. It's a concept known as the Singularity made famous by inventor Ray Kurzweil. Sorry that I actually know what I'm talking about. From here on out Azooka (sorry for calling you out like this), just know that nothing I say is directed toward your attention. I don't care about your opinion. I won't respond to your statements either.

    By all means, present your own vision.
     
  8. Funny how the new 'Sonic Mega Drive' comic art just posted on Retro front page is along the same lines (but a little more throwback/retrospective) to the stuff we have been discussing! Looks great :)

    Also, Sonic: Next Level would be a wicked name for a new game.
     
  9. TheKazeblade

    TheKazeblade

    "Our Life is More than a Side-Effect" Member
    This is so absolutely in-depth and thought out, I'm tempted to call it all-out definitive. That is an outstanding example of extrapolating a unique, consistent art style from multiple existing art styles in juxtaposition. They're all very different, but in a complimentary way, and all of them have such a depth of possibility, you could see dozens of representations implementing those styles and all of them would be unique and different from all others. THIS is how you create worlds.
     
  10. Amnimator

    Amnimator

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    I really have to disagree with a lot of what VectorCNC had to say. I mean, not to offend him but the points given out were really vague and just kind of thrown out there. Which is what I think he was going for anyway, but I certainly wouldn't call it definitive. Also, random girl in a latex suit who basically turns out to be Shodan? What?
     
  11. Deffo, he managed to nail what I was thinking too!! @Amnimator - we are throwing ideas out, feel free to add your own into the mix. I'd like throw some more design in (postmodernism is what I'm exploring, seems like it could be fitting for further exploring the JP cover artstyle)

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    Tons of inspiring stuff out there
     
  12. VectorCNC

    VectorCNC

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    Ya I was just throwing out examples of my vision. Of course it's all pretty vague and it's all just meant to be a launching pad of sorts. Nothing was meant to be taken as exactly what I want, just as general influences. It would all need to be pulled together into a cohesive package. I'm not a professional graphic artist or anything like that. I'm not a big fan of those images above To be honest. Sure they are an example of Memphis Milano design, but I'm sort of afraid people will look at those images and get the wrong idea, then be turned off entirely, as reactions tend to be generally superficial. All I want to say in defence of my vision is that it should not be taken too literally. It's like abstract art, for example, sometimes an art piece will appeal to people and not others, but to just decide you dislike all abstract art because you didn't like a few examples would be premature... So if any of you care to give my vision a second thought, I just suggest you try and be flexible with it.
     
  13. Not sure what you mean?? Those last 2 where The Designers Republic (the PS1 wipeout 1-3 guys) who really influenced dance music culture in the UK and also brought Japanese design sensibilities over here. Their early stuff did have a anti-consumerism vibe though, so not really compatible with Sonic. Check em out!
     
  14. amphobius

    amphobius

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    Also going to chip in that I found those examples pretty pretentious and very unSonic.

    Sonic's been wacky but not that wacky. Like, what the fuck is with all these humanoid robot things? How far removed from Sonic can you get? The overly emphasised environmentalism message--what is this, SaTAM? Abstract art--you meant that thing that only made up two games that aren't really part of Sonic's identity?

    From Sonic 3, as mentioned by Azookara, it's clear what kind of world Sonic's world is. It's surreal but it is rooted in realism. South, Westside and Angel Island are all pretty far removed from human interaction, but if Dr. Eggman is part of the world, surely other humans would be part of it?

    Sonic Adventure was a radical shift, primarily to showcase the power of the new Dreamcast system and what it could do for Sonic. It still had the crazy hallmarks of Sonic's roots, with loops, wacky level geometry and interesting level themes. It brought new, interesting ideas, too, such as introducing humans and that it can take place in a modern, city setting too.

    If you want a launching pad? Go look at Sonic Adventure, since I think it nailed pretty much everything you could want from world building.
     
  15. Also, just wanted to add that I don't want to take away from your vision, VectorCNC. The art you posted is nice and your story is a neat little concept, but I think the whole tone should be cranked down to a minimum. Sonic himself is very simple, so I'd feel everything else around him should come as very subtle in conjunction.

    Also, I think Sega kinda already did executing your female T-1000-esque minion concept with Neo Metal Sonic from Sonic Heroes. You know, when it was sick of Eggman's shit, losing to Sonic and took things into it's own matters to become the "ultimate life form"?
     
  16. VectorCNC

    VectorCNC

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    @ High Fidelity, my bad, I didn't understand what you were saying when I said I didn't like those examples. I thought you were using those as examples of art for promotional materials, but you were talking about the music material. Sorry I'm not familiar with that and it went over my head.


    What is all this talk of being pretentious? If I'm not specific enough in what I'm referring to, people respond with the most wild interpretation. If I use specific and proper terminology for idea I'm trying to convey, then I'm pretentious. I'm not sure if I've hit a vein of anti-intellectualism, or if the people throwing around this word don't actually realize it's a personal insult they are throwing around. I never claimed to be some professional artist, I explicitly stated otherwise. These are just the proper terms I learned in high school and reinforced in university. I'm not trying to exclude people from my ideas by using precise wording, I'm trying to assist.

    The humanoid idea was a potential storyline, it should be viewed as apart from my aesthetic concept entirely. The two are not connected in any way. But even if a similar idea was used before, that does not disqualify if from being reimagined in a future story. There are multiple examples of Sonic games retelling basically the exact same story anyway. I don't even need to list examples because it's so obvious.

    "Over-emphasized environmentalism message" - how in the world did I over emphasize that? I listed possible themes and wrote like 3 or 4 words to that affect?? It's my vision anyway, so it can't technically be wrong anyway. Again, environmentalism has clearly been a theme of Sonic games. People just want to disagree because...

    "Abstract art--you meant that thing that only made up two games that aren't really part of Sonic's identity?", again, this is just my vision for where the series could go. I'm not making pronouncements about what this is or has been. But seeing as how you bring it up. You are just plain wrong. You don't understand what surrealism is or you wouldn't say it's only in two games. It's in every classic Sonic game, it's in Sonic Adventure (think Speed Highway), and so on. It's in all the games, you just don't understand surrealism can be more than melting clocks is all. Additionally, surrealism can and does have elements of "realism", that is how the juxtaposition it's defined by works. This doesn't make me elitist to point this out, it makes me qualified to comment on a thread about aesthetics. This isn't even subjective, it's objective fact. Basic art theory.

    I swear to fucking god that no one actually takes the time to actually understand what I wrote before they respond to it and throw insults. I am completely willing to accept discussion and critique of my vision, but people seem more interested misinterpreting what I say. The hell with this, as usual the fun has been completely sucked out.
     
  17. Yeah, I think there's a general misunderstanding here, when I'm posting stuff it doesn't literally mean 'copy that but with Sonic' - I'm just exploring colors/shapes/themes used in design I like, and how that could influence Sonic art in some way. Treating this as brainstorming really, some are taking it a bit too literally :)

    Little realistic for my tastes but the pyramid architecture & diner signage is pretty rad, could be a starting point for some kind of Neo Chemical Plant Zone.

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    Not seen blues/whites in a industrial zone before have we?

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  18. DigitalDuck

    DigitalDuck

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    That is pretty rad and I would play the shit out of a zone that looked like that.
     
  19. RyogaMasaki

    RyogaMasaki

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    Totally, it has a sort of late 80's retro-futurism that looks awesome. Especially with the spotlights, it kind of reminds me of Stardust Speedway.
     
  20. TheKazeblade

    TheKazeblade

    "Our Life is More than a Side-Effect" Member
    Speaking of Stardust Speedway, an aesthetic point I have that I want to see if others share is: Does anyone else prefer the look of Bad Futures compared to Good Futures? It's always been a little disappointing to me when I get a good future but the aesthetic doesn't do much to excite me.

    It's not even that I think Good Futures are bad-looking, far from it. I oftentimes just think it's a little too cheery comparitive to the present and bad futures. Anyone else have this feeling ever, or am I just alone and crazy?