The 2D Sonic Problem - by Chaomix

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Snub-n0zeMunkey, Jul 21, 2022.

  1. Snub-n0zeMunkey

    Snub-n0zeMunkey

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    I watched this video by the youtuber Chaomix and thought it was interesting enough to start a thread about.

    It's essentially the age old question of "are 2D Sonics unfair since you don't have enough time to react to oncoming threats?"

    there are three main points in the video:
    1. 2D Sonic can sometimes be unfair due to threats that don't allow enough reaction time
    2. 3D Sonic kind of fixes the problem by laying everything out in front of you. "[3D Sonic] is less reaction and memorization based and more decision and execution based".
    3. A way to solve the 2D problem could be by making Sonic's sprite smaller and/or zooming the screen out to allow more to be seen.
    Not sure if I agree with everything in the video but I definitely recommend watching it. It's not very long, there's a sponsor at the start and the video starts properly around 3 minutes in.

    I'm always interested in exploring the ways that 2D Sonic gameplay can advance and improve. I think a perfect 2D Sonic game that appeals to new and old doesn't exist because it simply just hasn't been made yet, but definitely can be done.

    Would love to know what everyone's thoughts are.
     
    Last edited: Jul 21, 2022
  2. pkderbar

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    My response to this was a recent video by ShayMay that talked about this perspective from the other side.



    I feel like even as a lifelong Sonic player I forget that the answer most times is to not worry about what's ahead, but to let go and just let the momentum take you. I brute-forced my way through Sonic games as a kid but now massively enjoy just the pinball physics.
     
  3. Palas

    Palas

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    Oh. This discourse. Again.

    Sonic is very simple to maneuver.There's no problem with 2D Sonic whatsoever, but the whole theory of "good game design" moved away from Sonic. My argument will always remain the same:

     
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  4. I haven't watched the video yet, but just going by the general thoughts laid out by OP. No, 2D Sonic is not unfair.

    2D Sonic just requires the player to pay attention to what's ahead of you. It is not going to hold your hand and it is not going to assist you.

    Sadly, this type of gameplay has kind of fallen out of style in modern times, only really kept alive by the likes of Dark Souls. Crash 4 is similarly to how I love my Sonic games and that game was completely under the radar.


    Hard games aren't appreciated anymore. In other words "F**k them kids"
     
  5. BlueSkiesAM2

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    Crash is great. I finally played 1 after having the trilogy for years and am now juggling 2 and 4. I cannot believe I slept on it so long.

    I was surprised to see grinding incorporated into 4. I had no idea it had that. Are there any platformers besides Sonic and Crash that use it? Obviously disregarding skating type games.
     
  6. raphael_fc

    raphael_fc

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    Unleashed is far worst than any 2D game in that regard.
     
  7. Ratchet and Clank comes to mind
     
  8. HEDGESMFG

    HEDGESMFG

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    There's a world of difference between how unfair classic games were about this compared to the Dimps era games, and widescreen alone largely solves this issue on the classics.

    That's one of the reasons why I've picked up and played the classic series so much again in the past 2-3 years. Mania made widescreen classic sonic mainstream again, while also boosting the accessibility of the existing 2013 remakes 'and' leading to the creation of projects like AIR and a thriving mod scene. The 21st century classic sonic experience is now miles ahead of the 1994 one in almost every way save some physics problems in all the updated retro ports (and Mania largely doesn't have those issues).

    With a few exceptions, 2D Sonic is simply easier to play now, while simultaneously being more rewarding. I can't pick up the advanced/rush games and get quite the same experience due to the way their stages are designed despite me being equally familiar with their physics.
     
  9. Wraith

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    This is true on paper but it's never really been how the games played in practice. Games like Sonic 3K and Sonic Mania are less punishing and have way more meaningful decisions to make than the 3D Sonics do, and Sonic's overtuned top speed and poor camera work contribute to cheap shots still existing in droves in the 3D stuff.

    I wouldn't mind 2D Sonic experimenting with more QoL improvements like a better camera, but I also think the games have gotten into a good rhythm of slowing the pacing of the level down when there's a threat nearby. I honestly think some players just have trouble ignoring the instinct to barrel forward at every opportunity, even when there's obvious tells for danger. There's not a qol improvement that can fix that and designing around it just makes the games boring.
     
  10. Palas

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    I don't even think it's instinct. It's marketing gone bad.

    This is yet another case of "well the game tells me to go fast but I'm punished if I go fast wtf terrible game design", but really -- in their own terms, Sonic games never indicate you should be going as fast as possible or anything like that. There are very few acknowledgements or rewards for simply maintaining a high speed, in a micro or a macro scale. In fact, the only one I can think of is the time bonus at the end of a stage.

    The character can go fast, but it's very explicitly a game where you're supposed to make it out alive while going from A to B. There are threats as well as rings everywhere and, while you do get to go fast, that's only meaningful to the game insofar as it gives you power relative to those threats, even if it's fun on its own.
     
  11. Zephyr

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    Honestly, even if the games did indicate that you should be going as fast as possible at all times, at worst that would render these games "trial and error" by design, which I think is often what the complaint boils down to.

    Which, insofar as that is indeed the case, is silly to me. The 2D Mario games that these were built on are "trial and error" by design. The 3D Sonic games that build on these are "trial and error" by design. That's just the kind of games these are, and anyone with an interest in the predecessors or the successors of the 2D Sonic games (those to which these games warrant the most direct comparison) shouldn't be so lost on this.

    But also, yeah, you're not exactly meant to barrel forward recklessly. You certainly can get away with doing just that, because of how forgiving the ring system is (and also because of that nifty rolling ability that protects you), but if doing so is causing you to have a bad time, then maybe don't do that? I remember as a kid, I thought "if I get the speed up shoes I'm basically invincible", but my older sister said something to the effect of "not really, they can be dangerous". That's always stuck with me.

    I know Yuji Naka has said that speedrunning Super Mario Bros. on the NES is what inspired Sonic's ability to go so fast, but he was still speedrunning a platformer, and made a platformer. He didn't make a racing game. And speedrunning takes.....practice! "Trial and error" is essential to get efficient routes, reflexes, and the like down. Going fast without getting clapped is a reward for practice, and the game knowledge and reflexes that come with that practice.
     
  12. Swifthom

    Swifthom

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    I commented on the video but i'll put it here to

    'Gotta GO FAST' wasnt a thing until Sonic X. Thats 2003 - so approx around the time of Sonic Heroes leading into 06 and then ultimately the boost gameplay style. I completely understand why some people would go into the classic games with that mentality BUT its not how they were designed or meant to be played.

    The Shaymay (not a response - video is older) video sums it up perfectly. Speed is a reward for good control of momentum - but it's not the goal. In the end classic Sonic is just a platformer - like any other platformer series - just with very special physics governing your movement.
     
  13. Azookara

    Azookara

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    People really just gotta learn that when you see a slope or enemy, you press down on the d-pad.

    After that it's only learning how to hone your twitch reactions to oncoming hazards and defying slopes. Once you've done that, that's it. 2D Sonic is completely fine.
     
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  14. Palas

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    I spent a good minute wondering what streaming, or making a face to the camera every time you saw an enemy or a slope, had to do with it. I'm officially broken.
     
  15. Doafhat

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    Looking at point #3, I'll just add that shrinking sprites or zooming out the camera is a solution that introduces what I feel are more serious problems.

    Reaction times will vary from player to player, but in most cases can be improved with skill or at least better familiarity with the game. Shrinking a character theoretically adds more margin for error for the player, but now there's a risk of losing track of where Sonic is on the screen.

    For example, there are moments in Sonic Colors where the camera zooms way out for certain 2D sections. This is intended to give you a better idea of what enemies/hazards need to be overcome, but there are times it turned into sensory overload for me. There are a couple of sections of Planet Wisp in particular where it became totally overwhelming with everything going on in the foreground and all the vibrant colors of the background.

    Unlike limited reaction time that is a temporary issue that can be mitigated by the player's improving skill, that visual clutter problem is more of a permanent issue. And it's an issue that can only really be addressed by making the play area less distracting -- fewer things on screen, more muted colors in the background -- or by making the level design much more forgiving, two things that I feel are in conflict with the philosophy of classic Sonic games.
     
  16. Wraith

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    There aren't many obvious extrinsic rewards but intrinsic rewards are often more motivating in the context of game design. Blazing past the scenery at top speed is really satisfying, and the developers are aware of it enough to stick speedy sections at the end of trickier platforming segments as a reward. Once you establish that it's fun to go fast, people are going to want to do the fun thing as often as possible.

    Now, I don't think this is an excuse for players who mindlessly barrel forward without thinking, but if you're trying to figure out where the impulse comes from...well, there's a reward there. It looks cool and it feels cool. It's a misunderstanding for sure, but one I could easily see people making.

    Like I was saying earlier, I don't think there's an obvious fix for it besides 'make good 3D Sonic games', but we're quite a long way off from that still.
     
  17. _Sidle

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    Did some measurements for the fun of it.

    Supposedly, human reaction time is around a quarter of a second for visual stimuli. Under classic Sonic's normal speed thresholds (reaching bare minimum circle-feet speeds from a stand-still), you have plenty of time to react to goodies and obstacles. Take these rings for example. They're off-screen initially, and after .25 seconds, they're at a reasonable distance for you to decide what to do about them. (Run right through? Jump over?)

    upload_2022-7-22_17-23-48.png
    ezgif-4-50173096f7.gif

    At ultra-high speeds (using common springs or downward slopes to go beyond the normal thresholds), pure reaction eventually becomes impossible, at which point you are relying on instinct/prediction/trusting the level, or otherwise have the path purely memorized. Quick example being this shorter background beam. It's off-screen to start, and after .25 seconds he's already past it.

    upload_2022-7-22_19-46-34.png
    ezgif-4-921fced9a7.gif

    To give a sense of scale, here's a clip at both normal framerate, and an altered framerate (holding one frame for around .25 seconds).

    I don't think I have a real point to make, just thought this was neat enough to share~ :words:
     
  18. LockOnTommy11

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    As someone who is a huge fan of the 2D games and can play all of the Mega Drive games to 100% with little effort, I do think that the classic games can be “unfair” to players, but… it’s not as straight-forward as it sounds.

    There are numerous occasions of levels putting hazards in places which leave little to no reasonable reaction time to players unfamiliar with the level layout when going at full speed. I remember this being the case as a kid, and then playing Sonic Mania I had exactly the same problem as an adult, though I can now blitz that game too. There are multiple reasons why Sonic proceeds with this type of design, and numerous ways in which the games compensate for this.

    Firstly, Sonic isn’t necessarily about playing the game brilliantly first time. Sonic, alongside most Mega Drive games, was designed as an arcade-style challenge with no save functions that required you play multiple times to finish and / or “get good”. Sure, there might be some people who have reaction times fast enough, with enough luck to blaze through them first time, but these people are in the minority.

    We can see from the development of the first game that Sonic Team spent a lot of time balancing the difficulty by changing how many rings awarded an extra life, how many obstacles appeared ahead and, when they did, what position they appeared in. Hazards are usually in patterns that can be either rolled into, jumped on or jumped over to avoid, and the resulting achievement is that you continue at speed and progress without harm and loss of time. There are obstacles, however, that require slowing down or even stopping to consider before acting - players don’t like to do this.

    As Sonic’s early level design is built around his speed and rolling ability, players get into the rhythm and habit of going fast, and it feels great. Players are lulled into a false sense of security and provided with endorphins in a roller-coaster type experience early on, so many players continue to try and play every level in this fashion. Players that do find that just running or spin-dashing forward is not usually the answer.

    For later levels, players should consider playing more carefully than before, and using knowledge of the enemies, level theme and design, and developed skills to overcome the obstacles ahead. Later levels usually make you slow down in any event (just look at any level beyond GHZ in Sonic 1) but many players refuse to adapt their play style.
    Sonic games are rarely about going fast beyond the first few levels, and it’s intentional. With that said, once a player is skilled enough and can memorise the levels, they can use the layouts coupled with momentum and Sonic’s moves to tackle the levels in different ways.

    Even if one hasn’t memorised the levels, tackling a Sonic game has more than one approach. The games have a integral mechanic; rings. If Sonic hits a hazard, he loses rings which can usually be picked back up. Getting hit sucks, as there’s nothing worse than feeling good and then suddenly not, which in this scenario, is making progress at speed and then coming to a halt and losing your collection. In this way, Sonic deliberately evokes a negative emotion from players, but simultaneously softens the blow when other games would restart from the beginning or a checkpoint; the rings can be picked back up. Dry your eyes and dust off your knees, chuck. Where Mario would often kill you, Sonic recognises that its design philosophy differs and gives you an extra chance without restarting from an earlier point. Fail to pick up the rings and it still gives you checkpoints.

    It’s because of this that Sonic can be played in one of two ways as a new player:
    • A careful and considered approach to levels - recommended but slower.
    • Brute forcing through levels and picking up spilt rings - not recommended but often faster.
    There is usually a middle ground to this, and once the games have been mastered, players can play at speed without the need to slow down and achieve the best outcome possible.

    TL;DR Sonic is played multiple ways. A good Sonic game allows you approach enemies slowly and fairly, and to fail and proceed without negatively impacting your emotions to the point you don’t want to play. Mastering a Sonic game “unlocks” your ability to play them flawlessly.
     
    Last edited: Jul 23, 2022
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  19. Palas

    Palas

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    That could be the whole story, but the way you described makes it seem like mastering the game is a conscious choice. You'll either try to brute force the game or work towards being able to read levels and threats. But it's much more natural than that.

    Understanding how to go slower so that you can go faster is a process: people tend to change their priorities as they see themselves in danger. If you have 0 rings, no shield and no knowledge of what's ahead, you can either try to brute force or you can look for more rings or go back to look for another way. By doing so, you'll naturally have to take a considered approach and carefully navigate the level in order to get extra resources and then brute force the path you were in before or access other, less dangerous areas (which usually require more skill to reach).

    Your skill is acquired naturally as you face setbacks. You'll have to do as many cool things with Sonic's speed while being careful (like hopping very quickly on falling platforms to reach a shield monitor) as when you're running forward at ultra high speeds. Setbacks paired to the diffuse life system are important to Sonic: it's what drives you to look for other options instead of trying the same stunt again. The middle ground you mentioned is necessarily always there, otherwise you'll just get a game over.
     
  20. LockOnTommy11

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    Perhaps it wasn’t as clear in my post, but I was alluding to this, particularly where I mentioned mastering the game.

    There are of course players who do continue to brute force their way through, and I feel that it’s those players are the ones who post things like “Sonic was never good”, without understanding the concept or… just not being very good at the game.

    Mastering Sonic is about finding the middle ground through experience.