The Essence of Sonic the Hedgehog

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Palas, May 23, 2012.

  1. Palas

    Palas

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    This is an article of sorts that approaches a rather different question: Sonic as a brand, not as a game. While we've seen is terrible management of Sonic as an icon, and even though we've seen pretty clearly that bad games ruin a reputation, it's also important to note that good games don't necessarily build one. In this OP, I shall discuss why Sonic games are criticized the way they are, why they have sold less and less even though they are supposedly better and what's the relation between commercial success and general prestige.

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    Do you recognize this painting?

    Actually, I hope you don't. And I hope you didn't look at the url either, because this way it'll be easier for me to explain - because, now I'll ask: do you kno who made it?

    And you'll probably say "well, it's Pablo Picasso. The style is unmistakable." and so it is. Even if you've never seen this painting before, you can infer the author because of some data you've acquired before. It matches such data. Also, have you ever heard a song and immediately thought "this sounds like Beatles" even if you were listening to, say, that Lemon Tree song?

    Every work of art leaves a mark, a legacy to culture in general that allows it to be recognized even when it's not present at all. It becomes "spiritual", so to speak. This, naturally, also happens to games and Sonic does have a mark. You can eat a donut and associate it to rings. We can recognize minimalist posters of Sonic, too. That's the essence of Sonic the Hedgehog.

    I'm saying this because such essence is what's more valuable to a franchise in order to help it sell well (which is what's important in the end) and be recognized as an icon. That's what Sonic was made for. But what is, objectively, Sonic's essence?

    I wouldn't say it's all about the elements without which the games can't be recognized as Sonic, though. Especially gameplay-wise. Some might say it's not a Sonic game if he doesn't run fast or doesn't jump high, but that's not it. The essence we're discussing here is like the following: Pietá is a sculpture made of marble. What's essential is not the element that made it be the ay it is (the marble), but the image it passes. If we make an origami that passes just the same image and people recognize it, then we can say that the essence has been preserved.

    Running and jumping, you can say, are the marble. The material with which you build the game (and there IS a reason why one would want to choose marble over wood, for example). There are spin-offs that look more like Sonic than canon games (Sonic R compared Sonic '06, for example). Analogically, what's essential about Mona Lisa is not the frame, nor the paint used, not even the "mysterious smile". This is just as Mona Lisa as the original one, despite not having anything to do with it other than... well... Mona Lisa. You know, the very idea of Mona Lisa.

    Essence is a creator of possibilities, not of restrictions. Because, in truth, essence is not the elements that e would like to make an ideal Sonic game: it's what makes us perceive Sonic in wherever he might be. We create Sonic, too, in a way, when he's not there.

    And that's why the essence isn't the Word of God, either. There is a space of creation between the developer and the general audience. It is more or less conceived, but never completely preexistent to the first game. The audience can aggregate value to a game - let's take Pokémon as an example. Today, it's a part of pop culture, a very important one I'd say. You can use Pokémon for lots of analogies, lots of ideas etc. There's Missingno., which I point as a result of the interaction between the developer and the player and which is very much integrated to Pokémon culture even if it's not what GameFreak would define as "canon" at all.

    I want to say that there is an abstract Sonic in people's mind even if no one says it. When the developer starts to mess up ith this very abstract Sonic, things start to get confusing. When you take Sonic from an universe to another without warning and without caution, the Sonic in popular imaginary is excluded and, therefore, no one knows what to expect from Sonic and opinions start to escape the earlier closed paradigm. That's how Sonic went downhill.

    What has affected Sonic the most in the last years is an absolute lack of conceptual sequence. No, Sonic Generations wasn't able to repair this just because it tried to establish a timeline, a weak and contradictory canon. The problem is not necessarily internal (which means the games are not necessarily bad in themselves) - it's how the game is presented in face of the whole franchise's imaginary.

    Sonic Adventure reseted the whole universe of the series, completely ignoring what had happened until S3&K. Not (only) in terms of storyline, but - most importantly - in the way one could deal with how he would make progress in the game and create emotional attachment to it.

    Here's a fun fact: if Sonic CD was the first Sonic game ever, we'd automatically attach the time travel to the essence of Sonic, and, then, if they released Sonic 1 after it, everyone would complain because where the hell have the fun time travels gone? Time travel is so Sonic-y!

    That's why there's no such thing as "evaluating a game for what it is". That's a fallacy. No one ever does that because there are expectations as of what has to do as what has not to do with the abstract, social Sonic. And, as we see the games more inside a context, our opinions change. That's how people have grown fond of Sonic 3 whereas it was criticized at the time, and that's how Sonic Adventure has grown older and older and the flaws have become more and more evident. Whether Sonic Adventure is more flawed than Sonic 3 doesn't matter: Sonic 3 has a whole essence, a whole base to support it. Sonic Adventure doesn't.

    You know, there is a funny phenomenon in the fanbase. We hype up the most recent game and completely forget the last ones.

    Remember 2007?

    "The franchise has gone downhill, oh, woe is me, no one likes Sonic because of that pesky '06 game. But wait! Here we have Sonic and the Secret Rings, which is a light at the end of the tunnel! I SO wanted to play with Sonic only once again! Sonic is back, guys!"

    Remember 2008?

    "Yeah, Sonic and the Secret Rings surely made some progress, but it had a completely un-Sonic story and a stupid new transformation. It's not what we wanted after all. But wait! Here we have Sonic Unleashed, with whole new mechanics and 2D and WHOOOO! Sonic is back, guys!"

    Remember 2010?

    "Yeah, Sonic Unleahed surely made some progress, but it had a completely un-Sonic story and a stupid ne transformation. It wasn't enough after all. But wait! Here we have Sonic Colors, which is a simple, fast-paced game, yet full with platforming! Sonic is back, guys!"

    Remember 2011?

    "Yeah, Sonic Colors surely made some progress, but it had a completely un-Sonic Sonic and didn't get that much attention. It wsan't enough after all. But wait! Here we have Sonic Generations, which even has Classic Sonic and all! Sonic is back, guys!"

    We've seen it all a lot of times. And even though the games haven't been so smashed by the critics recently, they've sold less and less. Sonic and the Secret Rings sold 2,42 millions of units, whereas Sonic Colors has sold about half of this amount. What's wrong, then?

    It's simple. No one cares about Sonic anymore outside of the fanbase. Because the "abstract Sonic" has simply vanished - not because the games were exactly bad, but because they were horribly, horribly WRONG. Sonic is today a pensive franchise, trying to find its way into 3D. And it has been like this for more than 10 years. What Sonic needs is not a good game. It needs to be able to bear an unique, recognizable UNIVERSE once again. Sonic Adventure even had some interesting elements, like the Chao and the Echidnas, but nowadays the general audience can't build ANYTHING on Sonic's universe, because there isn't one. Actually, there are about a lot of them, but no one is consistent ith one another. That's symptomatic in Sonic Generations - the difference between Chemical Plant and Crisis City, visually, is abysmal. What's important now is to gather elements that everyone can recognize, establish a coherent style for the games (in terms of visuals and even music) and understand hat's the right time to release the right game. For now, it would be for the best if they weren't releasing anything at all.

    What needs to return is not necessarily the black eyes or the 2D gameplay. I, for one, do think the earlier design is far better than the new one and I do think the level design we have had sucks. But focusing on creating a distinctive "Sonic feeling" once again is far more important than these scattered details that do build a franchise's essence, but not if the developer doesn't try to. There needs to be a masterplan, and this is lacking HEAVILY in Sonic Team.

    Each game we have had was a mechanical response to the last one instead of the next gear in a machine. Everyone hated Sonic '06, they acknowledged the critique and made Sonic and the Secret Rings and then Sonic Unleashed, which have in common the fact that you play with Sonic alone in them. Everyone hated Werehog, so they removed it. The games are NOT consistent with the rest of them. There is not a train of thought in them, only cause and effect. The games didn't have a sense of where they were going, they all had a sense of here they were not.

    On addition, I have seen people claim that Sonic no gets poked fun at because it's cool appeal couldn't stand the test of time and that some characters, like Mario and Pac Man, were born timeless. However, it's not like characters have an intrinsical value that decreases over time. Mario's "timeless everyman appeal" wasn't found stuck in a rock like a diamond - it was constructed by lots of elements that make Mario recognizable even when he's not there. The flower, the Goomba, the shells etc. Sonic lacks these many elements, even more because the ones that ere established get tossed in the next game. Where are the Chao? Where have the echidnas' gone? The flickies, all the metal paradigm, the floor with trippy patterns, the mysticism about the chaos emeralds, the sense of Robotnik's grandeur while progressing through the game (except for Eggmanland), the badniks, the importance of the rings (gameplay-wise, not only to feed your Boost), the item boxes, the speed shoes, invincibility? It all gets reinvented all the time. This makes it impossible for Sonic to have a racing game, an RPG game, even a platform game that stands on its own.

    I have to agree on one point, though: it's difficult to mantain Sonic's cool attitude actually cool. But we've seen characters close themselves inside of an universe over time just so that the appeal would be preserved - becoming more and more "cartoonish" in their own account, in a way. It's happened to The Simpsons, Kiss (the band) and perhaps Harry Potter, for instance. The problem with this is that the other extreme of loss of essence is self-caricaturisation. However, Sonic didn't do this - its lack of "Sonic-y" sorroundings made its cool appeal have to face other cool appeals with bare hands, and so it was undermined.

    Indeed, Sonic Unleashed and Colors share similitarities and Sonic Generations was a message from Sonic Team about how they do have a more concise plan now. I support this plan, even if I'm not really into it. Also, I can't deny that Sonic Generations got *some* nice media attention and SEGA will be really smart if they start investing in marketing. However, that's not all.

    Some might say Sonic Colors and Sonic Generations were targeted at different bases - that's not how it should be. This Sonic for you, this Sonic for them. It doesn't work quite like this, even if franchises tend to do that sometimes. The thing is... indeed, SEGA can't take any risky steps. But targetting different audiences when the to games are supposed to be deeply connected and "canon" is a risky step. Instead of searching for a market, SEGA should create it for Sonic, because he has this much potential.

    It's like Angry Birds or Temple Run etc. It doesn't have target audience; it has a target media. It creates, around itself, some kind of pop culture fuss that attracts people, their preferences aside. Sonic did that perfectly with Mega Drive/Genesis. It's about having some kind of image attached to it - and you can build this with a very, very unique universe and very, very unique elements. Triforce, Portal Gun, GlaDOS' voice, the mushrooms, Goombas, colored ghosts, an eyepatch, pixeled art etc.
     
  2. XCubed

    XCubed

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    If there is such a thing called "character theory" this would definitely serve as a basis for an entire section of chapters within a textbook!
     
  3. Machenstein

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    So, in summary, the Sonic universe needs more defining characteristics in terms of presentation? That I totally agree with, although I think Sonic Colors did an adequate job of capturing the essence of Sonic. It had badniks, electronic music, bright colors (it was a game about colors after all), psychedelic locations, as well as trippy patterns on the floor.

    What I personally miss though is the Japanese wackiness the franchise used to have with things such as Sonic OVA as well as various manga from that time period. I also miss the abundance of house music the series had back in the late 90's in addition to the minimalist charm of the classic character designs. The modern designs, Crush 40's butt rock, Station Square, G.U.N. robots and uncanny valley humans do not say "Sonic" to me. And while I kinda like this Pixar/Dreamworks thing the series has had going on since Unleashed, it still doesn't particularly strike me as Sonic.
     
  4. Covarr

    Covarr

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    I don't think Sonic as a brand was ever about the games, or anything in them. It wasn't about running fast, it wasn't about being blue, and it wasn't about breaking robots. It was about something completely external: marketing. In the '90s, Sonic was one of the most marketed brands out there. You couldn't go anywhere without seeing his face on SOMETHING. Games, TV shows, a movie, cereal boxes... Heck, just look at XCubed's avatar. It may be from a 2008 episode, but it largely took place in the '90s. And Sonic didn't just exist, he was ON A BILLBOARD. It was always about the ads, about SEGA putting him anywhere and everywhere they possibly could, giving him as much exposure as possible.

    I've waited years for a true return to form. It occurs to me that I was looking in the wrong place. We got our return to form in January, in the form of a car insurance ad. When I watched that commercial, I remember feeling like a kid again, in all the ways that even great games like Generations couldn't pull off (but that Modern Sky Sanctuary remix came damn close). Good games go a long way, and having something like Generations (even if just modern) but with predominantly original content would help even more, but what it'll really take to bring Sonic back to his former state is just to be plastered absolutely everywhere.

    It's a strange thing, the last Sonic game that really felt like Sonic to me was Sonic Adventure 2. They deviated like hell from the gameplay of past games, and focused on the parts nobody cared about like treasure hunting. The story was excessively serious, darker and edgier than any Sonic game yet. It's odd, then, that their attempted "return to form" with Sonic Heroes managed to feel less Sonic than the previous two games, in spite of following the "Sonic checklist" far better. It had the GHZ-style checkered grounds, it had the bizarre and fantastical environments, it had a renewed emphasis on fast-paced platforming without al those extraneous fishing and emerald hunting missions, they took out all the big city stuff... yet they somehow completely missed the core. One of its biggest failings, one of the most "un-Sonic" things about it, was something that was mostly out of SEGA's control: it wasn't for a SEGA console. This was the point where he stopped being a mascot and started being just a franchise, and this was around the same time he started getting significantly less placement in other media. SEGA just couldn't afford it, and there's not really much they could've done.

    Short of making a new console, there's not much they can do to bring him back to mascot status, but they're in much better financial condition than they were in 2002 and it's far more feasible to just get Sonic out there like they used to. They need to put him in happy meals, on television, and everywhere else they can if they want him to be relevant again. He's not unmarketable, they just haven't put in the effort.
     
  5. Palas

    Palas

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    Thank you, sir. Maybe we as fans should indeed develop a Sonic textbook. There's much to be said about what made Sonic great back then.

    Indeed - Sonic Colors did a good job. However, it doesn't present itself so - it doesn't really try to start something new, to be developed further. The problem is that the elements in themselves are only one part of the issue. How such elements face the other ones, however, is just as important. That said, Sonic Colors was presented more as spin-off-ish than reboot-ish. Maybe this is why Sonic needs to stop for a while.

    Me, too. Man, do I miss the jump SFX! Anyway, that's why I think there aren't bad ideas - only inadequate ones. Context pretty much defines what comes across as terrible or great to me. Even the boost and - if you want to be radical about it - the werehog could work if placed in another context instead of trying to *be* the context. But I completely agree with you - some things don't say "Sonic". Congratulations, you've worded it in a stylish fashion.

    That's for sure. Advertising is how you spread it and how you create it - but what do you show? Sonic alone? Not every Pokémon t-shirt has a pokémon on it: that's the story about pretending you're Sonic with your friends and using donuts as rings. There are subtle, very subtle things that remind you of Sonic or of other franchises - quirky sounds, hidden references. To put Sonic deep inside the people's imaginarium demands these kinds of things - that seem small firsthand.

    It's not. It's perfectly comprehensible like this, because Sonic Adventure 2 established another Sonic - even if a different one, the important part is the word "established". You would know what to expect from a next Sonic Adventure game and there was enough material to be used in subsequent games, including art style. Sonic Battle feels very Adventure-ish and it isn't even an action game. You could point some elements, but in the end the conclusion would be "it's there".

    Sonic Heroes, however, didn't know here to go. It stood in a middle ground, which, by the way, didn't exist before. Sonic Adventure felt like a Megaman X series to Sonic, at most. When Sonic Heroes tried to unite them or something like that, it was really weird.

    Now, I must agree that Sonic's position as a mascot is very important to form his image. He was created to be a mascot. But~! There are possibilities for him. As I said, the essence doesn't generate restrictions, but possibilities. He's not just a mascot, he's also a 16-bit icon and there are infinite ways to make him huge and distinctive again. The ad you mentioned is a positive light, but all that it shows is Sonic - it's Sonic in the ad's context, but it would be ideal if it were an ad in Sonic's context. And this is a step (actually many steps) ahead.
     
  6. MastaSys

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    Sonic had so many continuities and so many diffrent people working on it, that is no "essence" of Sonic so to speak.
    For some people Sonic is the dark Satam, others the silly Aosth, others the games with Satam influencing their mind mind (Like they imagine how Eggman, in this case "Robotnik", would say or act) , others the games with the japanese backstory in mind.
    If there is a true essence it's probabbly Sonic 1 without any plot and expectations attached, just the pure gameplay itself.
     
  7. Black Squirrel

    Black Squirrel

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    This is pretty much impossible. The internet can't seem to agree what made Sonic great - I have my own ideas, but a lot of people insist it's all about speedy gameplay and others love things like Adventure 2 or Colours or the DS games or whatever. The fanbase is divided because Sonic Team and Sega have been confused for twenty years. Some want to innovate, others want to stick to the same formulae, people like me think they should stop making Sonic games entirely because the whole situation is embarrassing.

    At the time of release Sonic was a cultural phenomenon that anyone could get behind, not just "core Sonic fans" or "gamers" or "young males", and these sorts of things only come around once in a while. Nobody is capable of replicating it, particularly when the original team aren't there, so it's best to move on and do something different.


    Another example I can think of is Pokémon. Every single person I came across (that was around my age) in 1998/1999 had a copy of Pokémon Red or Blue, regardless of gender, interests, home life, whatever. Pokémon fans will argue that the series has technically got better with each passing game, yet no sequels have had the same impact. Nobody obsesses over the DS titles - not in the same way as they did on the Game Boy - people move on with their lives. A more recent example is Angry Birds. You want something fresh and exciting - that's what makes you the money.
     
  8. Indigo Rush

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    I would say that if a textbook were to be made, don't focus (initially) on the opinions of the game features (speed was more important, platforming was just as important, music, aesthetics, etc) and instead detail them from an objective standpoint. Describe what they were, and then proceed to explain the differing views on what was "good" about each of them.

    An example would be that "the music was composed by a Japanese pop star guitarist and focused primarily on 'these' kinds of melodies and beats," or "the visual design was colorful and utilized a lot of simple shapes such as checkerboard patterns, stripes and stars." Stuff like that.

    Of course, it'd be more like a history book for the biggest Sonic and SEGA geeks out there, but I'd certainly get behind it. Maybe SEGA and Sonic Team would give it a read.
     
  9. Metal Man88

    Metal Man88

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    I think this thread's OP is more a character study and less of an actual solution.

    The issue is simple; do anything well enough and people will supply their belief in it being good. Hence why Sonic Generations has an actual ability to deflect hatred while Unleashed doesn't. Thus it has nothing to do with the "Essence" and more to do with the quality.

    Quality is subjective, usually, but there's the thing. Quality can also be objective, if it is restricted to the amount of hard work and intelligence thrown into a game. The bad games have work thrown into them with no intelligence. Some games just have no work put into them either. A game is a product, which has to be properly packaged and made. Otherwise it sinks in ignominy.

    Sonic games still sell a ton, for the video game world. It's a recession, you can't blame all the lowered sales on it not working with your theory of Sonic. You'd have to do statistics and even then, you could only imply correlation, not causation.

    It is laudable to attempt to find the latest problem that causes everything, but in the end this character theory is just the latest in a series of attempts to find a "problem" which turn out to be tangential to what actually causes the problem: a game which is poorly made always sucks, whether or not it follows all the tenets of Sonic and whether or not it properly follows every single bit of physics and story down to the millionth decimal point.

    See Sonic 3D Blast, a game which was, for all intents and purposes, mostly Sonic but hated and forgotten. It had the essence of Sonic in it, yet it utterly failed. Another game could have all the quirky bits in it, and still fail. Generations is not a failure, but it has shown that mere essence is not the solution, for Generations had the story-character essence down pat and still did not fix the "problem", the "problem" being it did not hit the stellar quality threshold expected from any true "classic" Sonic game.

    Still, I do not mean to put the author down for this work, it is an insightful perspective on the problem. But in the end, you can look at the problem many ways, but the problem itself is usually solved by a pragmatic, practical approach. The thinkers toil in vain while the doer goes in and just fixes it.

    Sonic needs games which are treated on par with the other mega-releases these days. Huge amounts of effort, DLC, investment, etc. It must have the power invested to actually wow people and break new ground, both for Sonic and gaming as a whole. Sonic did not reach his peak by playing catch-up to Mario or wallowing in nostalgia, but by pioneering new things with the sheer quality work put into it. Even if the Sonic community doesn't like it, a well made, fun, pioneering game would revitalize the franchise and sweep away the dead weight of constant thoughts of "If we just tweak THIS minute aspect, it will fix everything" into the ocean.
     
  10. Palas

    Palas

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    Not quite. Quality is one thing, but there is no absolute standpoint to compare. Therefore, what's important is not how good a game really is - if we try to discuss it, we'll never reach a consensus based on a parameter of "quality" - but how people perceive quality. Why is rehash better accepted on some franchises than on others? And, even then, I don't think Sonic Unleashed/Colors/Generations are an actual improvement, in the end of the day. Even if they are technically better, they've sold less, not more. Not even comparatively.

    As for Sonic 3D Blast, there were many more problems about it: its release was not properly handled, so much so that it was released in 2 SEGA consoles. It was not good enough for the time. It's also important to look how the game is doing in face of its time, naturally.

    Technical excellence is obviously important - but, then again, it's the least a game must do. This and providing fun. A game being fun is like a book being readable. The essence, or, if you will, the magic is the "something else" that makes an icon out of a game. I do take the point of Sonic SatAM and AoStH making it more difficult to identify why people like Sonic, but some points can also be raised about different mediums etc. - more importantly, it makes me wonder that so many people liked Sonic from different starting points and all, supposedly without the fissure in the fanbase. You see, it bugs me that people think the fanbase has to be "fixed", as if, for example, Sonic Retro was an endogenous phenomenon that could happen within any fanbase if people were crazy enough.

    I didn't mean to imply that simply making games coherent with one another would raise sales (even though I believe it would help a lot), because releasing the right game at the right time is just as crucial. This, too, constitutes essence. Which games are automatically relevant and which ones are not - even though I can't really say what's the cause and what's the consequence in this process. Metal Man's statement about correlation could be applied here, I suppose.

    And I do agree with Black Squirrel in that it's difficult to keep the rush of a cultural phenomenon. But it's possible to keep it iconic, without messing up with what people regard as important to them.

    EDIT: It's difficult to present a tangible solution having this in mind. The possibilities are unlimited; one can do basically anything with Sonic, as long as it's done well. What I intend is to specify as much as I can what is it to do it "well".
     
  11. Gaaaaah. What a roundabout way of saying that. First off, yes, actual technical quality is objective and measurable. It's easy to come up with certain qualities and measure how well a game meets those. For example, if you wanted to say that the graphics of a game are of sufficient quality, you could point out that it uses DX 11, and PhysX and so on. No one can argue those.

    In the very next sentence you are equivocating by introducing a new definition of the word - quality is something about a game that makes it enjoyable for a player. This is objective as well. Just ask the player if he liked X or Y or not. I'm not necessarily disagreeing with you there, just let me explain.

    Good games are those that provide interactive entertainment to a player. That is all. Things that are of great quality can often make a game good, but not always. It always boils down to how much the player enjoys playing. If the game "sucks" by quality standards, but still entertains and is worth the player's time and money, then it doesn't really suck at all. It's a good game.

    Because those particular rehash games are fun.

    Point being? If the players didn't find it enjoyable (or worth their time/money), they won't buy.

    Correct me if I'm wrong, but what I'm getting from this whole thing is "Sonic isn't doing well, and I know why. [insert problem here]". I appreciate the extensive research and thought, but how is this any different from the very "subjective quality" argument that you say is unmeasurable? Aren't you contradicting yourself?

    To reiterate:
    1st argument: Things that make a game good are undefinable
    2nd argument: Something definable ("essence" of Sonic) makes a good game
     
  12. Palas

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    Ah~! About that. No, I can fully agree with you, but this becomes problematic in another framework of analysis - a more macro one. It becomes problematic that a) if you ask whether two or three people liked X, they may even agree with each other, but if you look further you will always find someone who disagrees. Then we must wonder why would this happen, specially because b) people don't always like X for the same reasons, and this can be confusing if you're trying to emulate a particular feeling or feature. That's basically why you'll find people saying they didn't like Sonic 4 because it was too much like the classics and people saying they didn't like Sonic 4 because it was nothing like the classics.

    That's where a designer should think about what is being done and for what purposes. In the end, the elements that succeed in comprising the most possible "ways" to like it are the ones that separate simple solidity from cultural phenomenons.

    Take Matrix, for example. Some like it because of the action scenes, some like it because of the philosophy behind it. That bullet-dodging scene is iconic - and I feel compelled to ask what would we remember from the movie if this scene didn't exist. I'm not saying it would be a catastrophe and it would fall into oblivion, but e certainly would have a lot less parodies and the first thing to come to many people's minds at the sound of the word "Matrix" would be different.

    But we see some games categorised as rehash and some games that aren't, even if it can be argued that they actually are. For example, we never question whether Pitfall's mechanics are actually good or not - they are just... there. Had they released another game with different paradigms and comparison would be inevitable. This would lead to the question of which mechanics is better and, then, emulating the old mechanics would strike as something different of just having kept the same paradigms all along. In gamers' minds, you know.

    True, and I'm an example. I just don't care about these games. Still, their reception was better than, say, Sonic and the Secret Rings and people still didn't buy it. That's the whole point: quality alone doesn't sell.

    No, no~! Even though I see why you would think that. The point is, in fact, "they may improve everything and make really great games. But, if attention to the very brand presentation and elements of easy access to people's imaginarium, nobody will care". I see many other problems with the franchise - it's just that fixing them and not having it look as something more than just a fix wouldn't have the desired effect (even if it is always positive, of course).

    What makes people perceive something as good or, more importantly, desirable is, exactly for not being objective, subject to manipulation and centralization in what you want to show, exactly because what you do will be acknowledged in different ways. The less you open spaces for negative acknowledgement, the more successful is the product.

    tl;dr: you can even sell garbage and make people worship it if you make them think it's an icon of something.
     
  13. Metal Man88

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    The issue is that for Sonic, the iconic nature is missing, and cannot be returned. What Sonic is has been irreversibly shattered by the many versions of Sonic thrown at us. Therefore, a new, iconic game would have its fans, who would when continue to be a splintered piece due to the technical issues bogging it down and causing non-Sonic people to ignore it like they always do.

    Furthermore, the economy-recession angle remains unaddressed. Recent games sold less, but it is a recession. Plot the games based upon the economy they released to and it would become clear that sales are influenced by far more factors than just being iconic. It's wishful thinking to say that the iconic nature (or lack thereof) is the main factor without something more than just "...Because I believe this is the answer." Now, I don't pretend to be 100% correct, but the more popular games tend to score higher AND sell better than any Sonic game.

    If technical quality is the 'legibility' of video games, then I can argue with Palas' own logic that Palas is wrong to assume the "icon" factor is the most important. An awesome book is nothing if it is illegible, and even in the recent games there have been numerous problems with the technical quality. Sonic Colors brings nothing new or innovative enough to compare to its peers (much like, say, Gex 2 vs. SM64) and so is forgotten. Generations leans insanely heavily on past games and even then has numerous flaws in its physics and level selection, leading non-Sonic fans to shy away from it as it lacks the universal appeal the original games had.

    So in the end, iconic nature helps (otherwise people wouldn't have followed Mass Effect's world all the way off the cliff that is ME3) but that requires a unified world, feel, and relatively undamaged fanbase. When the technical nature of the game fails to inspire, the iconic nature is lost because as Palas would say, it has become "illegible." Even then, the "iconic" Mass Effect struggles to sell compared to some Sonic games.

    Being iconic just isn't what it's cracked up to be. You can have a shiny hood ornament, but you won't go anywhere without wheels or other propulsion.
     
  14. Palas

    Palas

    Don't lose your temper so quickly. Member
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    I wonder if this isn't a question of management. Completely ignoring the current fanbase alone would open Sonic's achievable market (in the devs minds, at least). Just as you said in your post, Sonic Generations failed to develop an universal appeal - or maybe it never tried to. I'm inclined to think that some good 5 years without Sonic would help, but that's just a very personal opinion.

    The recession angle is... really hard to deal with, I must admit. Because there is so much more to it - Japan market's decadence may not be related to economic recession but may be an isolated crisis instead that happens for its own reasons. I lack the means to analyze this - however, my base is comparison. Sonic wasn't even the best selling platform franchise in any of the consoles he was in. Even if you discount Mario. This makes the issue of economic recession secondary IMO, because if Sonic can't even compete with its peers... and indeed, popular games tend to score higher and sell better. Did I ever imply anything agains this? Because I fully agree. It's all entwined to me.

    We may be having a communication issue here. Are you saying these factors belong to the technical quality area? Because I believe they constitute essence. Still, we agree in that these factors helped much in the subpar sales and overall excitement about the game.

    Are we even disagreeing at all? Haha. Unified world and feel are all I'm talking about. If anything, I think the undamaged fanbase is a consequence of those.

    Still... I may have made it look like the "iconic nature", as you would say, is an isolated feature of the game. No, and I must retract whatever I said that made it look like it. Essence is a plan behind the game, but also a consequence of all the rest, and this much you can see here:

    If it was a visual issue only, games wouldn't be art. Distinctive gameplay, innovations - it's all a part of what makes a game stand out. From Space Invaders to Pac Man to Tetris to Mario to Zelda OoT to GTA - the changes and the innovations are indeed paradigmatic and bring a whole new pack of ideas each time. Each has a legacy, and "legacy" is pretty much one end of the essence. And the technical nature is a part of it, but I ill assume I misused the word "technical". When I talk about technical problems, I'm talking about bugs, disfunctions, endless loading screens etc. Even though these can, if extreme, actually become iconic (Superman 64, Big Rigs), this is yet another topic.

    As for Mass Effect, it indeed bugs me that it didn't sell that well and its iconic nature just asn't enough. However, the sales are very stable in X360 and this is also important.

    Point taken. You will have to carry the ornament around anyway, so it's better to give it some movement.
     
  15. HeartAttack

    HeartAttack

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    Palas,

    I think your "article", if I may, is full of wonderful insight with regards to keeping already-existing brands relevant, even if they're beyond their prime. It seems to me that you do have some wisdom to share that companies of all sorts could use to help keep their brands relevant in many ways. In the spirit of keeping this relatively short, I'll spare specifics - but I do agree with a number of things you outlined. However, it's already evident that some people don't agree with some of your critiques or proposed potential fixes to the "problems". I quote "problems" because many of these "problems" are not problems at all to some people. When you say that YOU don't think X game was an improvement over Y game for reason Z, that's simply your opinion in a sea of infinite other opinions, each one just as valid and relevant as the other. I see a whole lot of "well, no, this is why you're wrong" coming from you in your responses to those who don't agree with you on certain things here. You can't really throw out opinions and treat them as fact, it just doesn't work out that way.

    I think this very thread and the way it has progressed is quite symbolic of the real "problem": the fact that the Sonic fan base is so divided. Some of us love what they've given us in the 3D games, and others hate it. Some of us like Sonic 4, and others hate it. Some of us like WereSonic, and others hate it. There's this situation where we all think we are "right" in what a "good" Sonic game is. The interesting part is that none of us are actually wrong. If you think game X is vastly superior to game Y then there is no one that can change that. Your opinion cannot be wrong. We have all these separate camps of people who prefer specific styles of Sonic gameplay, and the fact of the matter is that it's IMPOSSIBLE to please everyone all at once. It's this sort of unique situation where, no matter which camp Sega caters to in any given game, there will ALWAYS be that separate camp who opposes that style...and the cycle goes on and on and on and...

    The only way to cater to everyone is to attempt to mix the styles together in one package and you get stuff like Sonic Generations. Same story, one package. It "fixes" nothing. Maybe it's all just Sega's fault because they happened to create so many different game styles that people would like and just as many would loathe. I'm really not sure. What I do know, though, is that it's hard to point to who's at fault for a "problem" which is more of an illusion than anything. Ah - but there I go with my opinion again. Silly me - I really should try harder to remember that this debacle is just as much of a real problem to others as it is an illusion to me ;)

    Main point: we all have a different view of what a good Sonic game is. Sega, as a business, has made a model that does more good for it than bad. They reached out and grabbed different gameplay markets. Most would consider that to be a smart model. It's either die by loss of interest due to repetition or take a gamble on variety and manage the resulting opinion wars.
     
  16. Shade Vortex

    Shade Vortex

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    I just wanted to point out that Sonic Generations, is ironically proof enough that, when you start mixing things together in order to please people of different groups, it tends to alienate at least some (sometimes even most of the) people from all of those groups. So that is also not a solution to please everyone- and there is none, for you can never please absolutely everyone. What Sega needs to do though is figure out a way to reach out to the widest possible target audience without deviating from the origins of Sonic (being a platforming game that has speed involved in it, that is).

    ...Unless that is exactly what Sonic needs to do to branch out and become more relevant. Oh god, what if Jim Sterling isn't the only one who wants Sonic to basically be just a racing game with inconsequential amounts of obstacles and platforming? THAT would be a horrific thing to see Sega do to the series, from my standpoint.
     
  17. Dark Sonic

    Dark Sonic

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    Honestly I think Sega should split the franchise into what they offered in Generations. One team would work on a game staring classic Sonic and the gameplay he became famous for, and the other would work on the next modern Sonic game. That way everyone is satisfied every 2 or 3 years or so.

    While I may be one of the few that thinks this, I loved Sonic Generations because it has both styles of gameplay in it. It's both of what I love in one complete package. It's almost the perfect Sonic game (Sonic 3 & Knuckles will be now and forever my favorite, but Generations is definitely number 2)

    To me, Generations was sega's way of saying "Here's what Sonic is. He does his boost boost boost and he also does platforming goodness. Everything else can go fuck off as we pretend it never happened." Although while it attempted to establish a canon, it doesn't quite work since some environments clash. List of environments that work together

    Classic - Green Hill, Chemical Plant, Sky Sanctuary, Seaside Hill, Planet Wisp
    "Realistic" - Speed Highway, City Escape, Crisis City, Rooftop Run

    Honestly city levels really don't work for Sonic very well. They try to make them based off IRL locations and it just doesn't work. Also, firepocolypse doesn't quite fit the technology vs nature battle that Sonic is based on. Planet Wisp on the other hand does.
     
  18. Hukos

    Hukos

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    See, this is exactly the path I don't want Sonic to go down. Generations was a damn fine game, but it was also an anniversary game so it was allowed to play the nostalgia card and did it as well as it could. But I don't want nostalgia playing a factor in future releases (Which is my main issue with Sonic 4) I want to see the franchise move on and see what direction is chosen next. I honestly feel like there is a bit of positive momentum with the franchise right now and want that put to good use, hopefully in a modern 3D game. That "essence" at least for me seems to be coming back. It's a different one than the classic 2D games had to them, but that's not a bad thing as far as I'm concerned.

    I love the hell out of those games, but goddamn I'm not ashamed to say that I've moved on and it wouldn't bother me if we never saw a game like that ever again. That magic is long gone, and I don't expect it to ever come back. What I do want, is for Sega to capture a "new" magic with Sonic. Call me crazy but for the first time in a long time I think Sega is possibly headed in that direction. Unleashed was rough around the edges but had some solid ideas and a foundation for Colors and Generations to build off of and improve (Because that's what sequels do) and subsequently, make their own "essence". It's not the same as the classic Sonic one, but I'm perfectly fine with that. I want to see what Sega does with it and if they can build that momentum forward and make more great games (Which I hope they can)

    If at any point in time Sega announces a 2D game and a 3D one at the same time, I'll be frank I'm more interested in how the 3D one develops. I want Sonic to progress forward and make his own mark, not to take steps backward. Of course, that involves taking chances but I think that's worth the risk when the rewards are potentially unlimited.
     
  19. Palas

    Palas

    Don't lose your temper so quickly. Member
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    I see, and I'm sorry for being this aggressive.

    However, can we agree that we only have such a large number of styles to compliment because they were created in the first place? Not only gameplay-wise. That's why, imo, it is SEGA's fault indeed, and for the reason you've mentioned. The route SEGA chose, it seems, was the third option - dying by loss of interest due to repetition of gambling on variety. The opinion wars are inevitable, but they could at least have put everything under the same universe.

    I understand that some might say it's everything due to the fact that Sonic is no longer the mascot of a notorious company, but this doesn't exclude the possibility of Sonic not having been managed properly since then.

    Thing is: a stance of middle ground doesn't work just so well as a stance of a single ground imo - and there's not much room for different views of what a good Sonic game is if you create many Sonics.

    That's not to say that Sonic should never change, that's not it. I don't like Sonic Rush (I REALLY don't) but it sold well, was praised by the critics and had the potential to create a new Sonic without mixing everything together. The boost, Blaze, the cohesive art style, this could all have been used as a landmark, a starting point. There's a distinctive Sonic Rush feel, that's what I mean. The problem would be if, for example, Sonic 4 had the name of "Sonic Rush 2" or something. Or if Sonic Unleashed had the name of "Sonic Adventure 3".

    I do think moving on is important. Forget the classics if you want. But do it with a long-term project in mind and don't try to please specific groups - focus on making Sonic pleasing, this much I find important - it's essential. I doubt Tetris had a specific target audience (having been developed in USSR, even moreso) like "children" or "Americans" (having been developed in USSR, even moreso), let alone both with different sequels.
     
  20. To me, I cannot get into the newer games. While I have Colors, Generations, Unleashed and 06' on my shelf, I have not played through them obsessively. I haven't even finished severa; of them, I just forced myself halfway through the game, and ended up watching the cut scenes on somebody else's play through.

    I can remember some of the hype leading up to the games, and vaguely remember purchasing them, only to regret spending the precious money later. It's not that they were bad, it's just that I didn't get satisfaction out of them.

    When I purchased Sonic Adventure, and Sonic Adventure 2 with my first memory card, the memories are so vivid I can remember the shirt I was wearing and what my shoes looked like. I was pretty young at the time, and bought the games when both of them came out. But I was so excited, I couldn't bear the ride home to play it. (It ended up being a scratched disk because it was used...) Regardless, I felt that sonic feel.

    When I bought the Dreamcast, the deciding factor was seeing the Dreamcast Era signature round sonic, sticking his thumb up for me. When I saw him, I had decided, even without knowing how good of a system the DC was, or looking into any reviews.

    It's all about the essence, and I really don't feel like that will ever come back. The chances are pretty slim he can grab a hold that strong again for newcomers into the franchise. But he might, time will tell.