What approach should 3D Sonic take next?

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by TheOneAndOnlyJoebro64, Mar 23, 2020.

  1. Blue Blood

    Blue Blood

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    I appreciate the sensation of stringing actions together successfully and getting a good sense of rhythm in Sonic games, but I dislike how the boost games approach that. Taking your Generations GHZ sequence as an example, the player is basically just going through a QTE. The movements are binary; you either succeed or you don't. Your goal is always "press button as fast as possible". Sonic's speed from boosting is constant too, which whilst thrilling in the correct circumstance has been reduced to just the standard movement option over the course of 4 boost games (plus the Rush series). No matter what approach you try to take, the end result is always the same. Compare this instead to something like City Escape from SA2:


    In the opening boarding section, the player has to keep constant control on Sonic's direction, particularly in taking corners well and veering away from cars so that they don't slow down. They have the option to go for rings, or ramps or both. Ramps introduce a risk-reward system, which is totally absent in your GHZ example (and also in Generations' equivalent City Escape boarding section). You have to jump off ramps to successfully pull off a trick. But it's not that simple - both the speed you're travelling at when you approach the ramp and the timing of your jump influence how far and how fast you'll go when you do the trick. A successful trick rewards you three-fold with points, items and speed. The better your trick, the better the prize. But if you fail to trick correctly, Sonic loses a bunch of speed and doesn't get any bonuses. There's no instant recovery button, which is what the boost is if you fail short hop or one of the slides in Generations' Green Hill. You've got to use the terrain and the rest of Sonic's moveset to regain lost speed in SA2; it could be the spindash, the homing attack, a rail or just getting up and running. It's circumstantial based on location and player.

    And that's just the opening section. The gameplay continues in this fashion after Sonic ditches the board. At 0:29, the player is presented with a choice; take the safe route on the stairs, but it's relatively slow; take the rail, which is potentially faster if you manage to build up momentum and will get you points, but could backfire by being even slower than the stairs; jump on the boxes to the right and climb up. Constantly throughout the very linear Sonic and Shadow levels in SA2, the player is challenged with making decisions that provide flow and rhythm but that aren't binary options. SA2 really gives you the option to string together actions with autonomy and recognises your successes and your failures. The boost games give you a set of instructions to follow with less rigid moments being few and far between. It especially bothers me that due to the range in speed being walking, running and boosting, the boost is your default movement option except where you basically just can't boost at all. When you're boosting, there's nothing else to do. A few QTE-eqsue moments where you slide or hop, but basically that's it.

    For an example of stringing together actions, look at the sections starting at 0:37 to 0:44. The player hops on to a rail, quickly jumps on to the next rail (scoring points for the chain), runs up an incline and then performs a jump and a homing attack to score an item box and cross a gap. Improper timing will mess up the sequence, and you can either try again or follow a slightly different path. Now following that section after 0:44, they're on a downhill road again tackling the issue of ramps again. Success here nets you a lot of speed, but it doesn't end there. At 0:57 that player makes a clever chain of 3 homing attacks. He hits the enemy on the right, turns mid-air, hits the enemy on the left, performs a three bounce attacks to hit give Sonic some momentum and height and then proceeds to hit the third enemy that's a bit further back than the first two. He could have stopped after the second enemy, but he found a way to keep moving and chain in another homing attack with the addition of extra actions. SA2 is the game that really introduced the idea of enemies being lined up for sequential homing attacks (SA1 was incredibly lax with it), but thought must often be given to timing, Sonic carries some momentum between targets and the game recognises when you go out of your way to carry these moments on longer. The buzzbombers in Green Hill, with or without stomping the bridge, are so bland and rigid. Whilst SA2 has it's moments of boring homing attack chains (see 1:57), Sonic's movement, control and momentum and lack of an instant boost afterwards keeps a natural flow going and makes the sequence a bit more involved than "mash A four times then hold X to keep winning".

    This coming from someone who finds SA2 to be pretty cheap and janky far more often than not. I just think it's going for something much better than what the boost games attempt.
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
  2. RDNexus

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    I'm not sure if anyone here has seen this, dated 2016:


    @BlazeHedgehog, what's your current take on this?
    From before Mania greatness and Forces disaster...
     
    Last edited: May 24, 2020
  3. SuperSnoopy

    SuperSnoopy

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    I remember watching this video a while back. While I don't actually like the game concept he proposes in the video (It included a super strict time limit iirc), I remember it being a pretty entertaining watch.
     
  4. Dek Rollins

    Dek Rollins

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    This really highlights part of why I dislike the boost gameplay so much and want it left out of whatever the next Sonic game becomes. Not only is boosting the default movement option, but any time you stop boosting for a 'platforming segment' (2D or 3D) the controls immediately get even more clunky than they already were when going fast. I was revisiting Generations a little while ago and it was just horrendous to play.
     
  5. Xiao Hayes

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    Boost gameplay could be valid in the appropiate context. For example, the first Ecco the Dolphin game had "Open Ocean", a level repeated twice as Ecco traveled btween distant locations; boost gameplay could be something like that, a way to represent how Sonic travels from locations far away from each other, with something to while running from here to there where the amount of enemies or level of risk would be the same that he could find on a single zone infested with badniks because it's the location where the action is really taking place.

    By the way, the discussion about padding was fun, I was thinking "Yeah, three acts where padding on Sonic 1! Hell, the whole game is padding save for the final level, and I mean final zone!" Ok, and the special stages, six special stages and final zone are what we really needed. :V
     
  6. TheOneAndOnlyJoebro64

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    If I recall what he says in that video correctly, isn’t what he proposes essentially what Lost World was like?
     
  7. Blue Blood

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    Not at all. He proposes making Sonic control more like a car with an acceleration pedal, a run button specifically, to free up the analogue stick for total control. Lost World doesn't do that; it instead has a Mario Bros-like control scheme with a binary walk/run system. Lost World has a time counting downwards too which is something proposed in this video (and again it's styled like Mario in Lost World), but that's something I vehemently do not want.
     
  8. Multi Battler

    Multi Battler

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    Ok, here's a fun little story about how I got into Boost Sonic. Way back back when Sega announced Sonic Unleashed I was still having my Wii. Needless to say, I got jealous of all the Xbox 360 and PS3 owners. Later I had to sell my Wii to buy some things for school (those were truly dark times), but it wasn't that big of a deal. I was about leaving home and had my mind on other things. But, totally unexpectedly, my younger siblings got an Xbox 360 for their birthday (don't ask) and I somehow ended up talking my parents into buying Sonic Unleashed for me them (because that's what older brothers do lol) and for some reason, whether because of its pixar style or its humorous dialogues, they all seemed to enjoy it. Lucky me. But still, I couldn't help but feel a little bit disappointed. It wasn't my Sonic anymore...

    Two things:
    - I didn't have HDTV yet
    - Learning by watching, not doing

    I remember thinking, how am I supposed to play this game? The game looks so good, but my way of playing it didn't do it justice. I also couldn't figure out how to drift. At that time I was feeling a strong urge to improve myself, and I started memorizing levels and watching speedrun stuff - that helped a lot, but hasn't made it more fun or less complicated. Why is it like this? Why did they do this instead of that? In the end, the only things that I really liked about Sonic Unleashed were the graphics and the soundtrack.

    A few years later, the Sonic Generations demo came out and I instantly fell in love with it. Me and a friend rented it and finished the game in one sitting on the initial playthrough. However, something kept boggling my mind: Why do the slow sections have to be so goddamn janky all of the sudden? I almost always use the boost to hit max speed, so why the floaty controls?

    Anyway, Sonic Generations is and will probably always be my favourite out of the boost games. If they want to try something new and different, I'm fine with that.

    A while back I recorded myself playing through some modern stages. Not exactly a speedrun, but it took me all day and I'm kinda proud of it lol. My take on the boost formula:
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    **
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    * upside-down Sonic after hitting a cloud and a crazy boost near the end
    ** wall kick swag near the start xD
    *** nothing too fancy, but at one point the music lines up with the Trick Jump sound effect, which is kinda neat
     
  9. Vanishing Vision

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    While I agree that SA2 does a lot of good things the boost games don't, I don't agree with simplifying the boost gameplay to be "like QTEs".



    There's a lot of free motion and real platforming in Generations stages like Sky Sanctuary, Seaside Hill, Crisis City, and Rooftop Run, and these stages remind me of the highlights of the Adventure gameplay. Now, if the argument is that this kind of level design isn't frequent enough, I could see that, but I think there's a lot of substance here.
     
  10. Blue Blood

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    See, I really disagree with that. First off when I refer to the boost gameplay as playing like QTEs, I'm specifically talking about the times when you're boosting (which is the majority of the time). You've got your split-second decisions to make about sliding or hopping or quick-stepping, but that's about it. They're binary decisions with one thing you;re supposed to do and everything halts if you don't do that one thing. Boosting leaves you with so little to do except boost. You can't control much when you're going so fast.

    And secondly whilst it's true that certain levels in Generations add in varying amounts of open areas and platforming, it feels artificial and awkward. In all of the boost games, Sonic basically has two types of control based on his speed. When running, he's got a very wide turning circle. In fact, he hardly turns whatever, opting just to veer from side-to-side instead because most of the time he's running down straight lanes. The drift was introduced to allow turns to be executed at speed. You cannot execute any precise control when Sonic is running. To compensate for this loose control, Sonic is equipped with the stomp to allow him to land instantly from jumps instead of the momentum-retaining bounce he had in the past, with the homing attack and dash similarly bringing him to a dead stop* (see note at the end of this post). Before Sonic starts to run however, he was his "walking controls". At this point, Sonic actually turns instead of simply veering, and the tightness of this control increases between Unleashed to Colours to Generations (and Forces is bad). It's still far from tight though, because the physics and momentum specifically are still designed for boosting. You can't make Sonic control entirely differently based on whether you've been holding the analogue stick for one second or two. And if you accidentally go slightly too fast when you want to have "tight" control, Sonic will revert to his standard running controls and is basically helpless.

    All this results in the platforming sections being brief, blocky and slow.
    Take a look at the video of Crisis City from Generations that @Multi Battler posted just above. I'm going to focus on 3D design exclusively because that's what I've been doing this entire time and want the 2D sections removed outright in future 3D Sonic games.


    0:12 to 0:18: Floating platforms and homing attack chains.
    0:20 to 0:32: The platforms line up a bit better to use slopes and tiered paths, and you can go fast without it being a death sentence. Really small section of optional wall running. Ends with a fairly standard automated 3D loop.
    0:32 to 1:00: It's platforming on paper, but in practice it actually just homing attack chains and rudimentary block platforming. Mildly engaging, but running or boosting will get you killed. The boost can be used an extension to aerial movement, but it's an advanced technique that will result in death for a slight slip up.
    1:00 to 2:16: Uh... it's all really dull 2D and then ends with a samey but quick-step boost section that plays something like a QTE. Christ the levels in Generations are short and lacking substance...

    It's artificial because Sonic's moveset and controls need to be throttled in these areas to make them actually possible. Normally the option is there to just boost over everything anyway. Or the platforming more or less plays itself because all the player does is hit a hoop or spring to clear most of the challenge (but technically isn't boosting at these times so it gets mistakes for platforming). Again there is no natural fluidity to Sonic's control. A majority of the so-called "platforming" is just strings of homing attacks above terrain where you couldn't boost anyway but that also is a slog to navigate if you choose to take the ground.

    What I have an issue with isn't the infrequency in the platforming; I have an issue with the sheer banality of it. Sonic plays so differently between boosting and "platforming", and his controls are really only conducive to one of those. You rarely move Sonic in any direction other than dead-ahead because the levels aren't and controls aren't designed to accommodate that kind of incredibly basic movement. Unleashed plays to the strengths of the boost formula by keeping you moving at top speed almost all of the time. Not my idea gameplay by a long shot, but it knows what it's doing. Generations says "let's add in more platforming because that's what the fans want" and does little to accommodate that. It puts in several situations where you have to move really slowly and the boost will basically kill you. It doesn't mesh. You don't see roundabouts and traffic lights in the middle of a motorway, which is how I feel about Generations' level design much of the time. Again, ignoring Forces and Colours here for their terribly simplified level design and excessive 2D. The platforming is shallow. Hardly any fun or interesting platforming challenges, just some square platforms to jump on. Sky Sanctuary's spinning discs might have been alright if not for the aforementioned issues with Sonic's control limitations of the reliance on the homing attack to guide you.

    My posts make it sound as though I think the boost gameplay is awful and that I hate that use it. That would be inaccurate though. I actually like Generations for the most part, I dislike Unleashed as a package but like its boost levels, Colours is the worst good Sonic game I could ever ask for and Forces... yeah I have such obsessive disdain for Forces that I should probably go see a doctor. Ultimately I don't think that the boost is the way to go. But if they do continue to go with it, Unleashed is a better example to follow than Generations. Generations tries too hard to be a jack of all trade and suffers for it. If the game is designed around going at insane speeds constantly, they should double down on that philosophy and not contradict it with the blandest platforming and shallow attempts to slow it down.

    The Adventure-style gameplay is a better foundation for Sonic in 3D. SA1 is still the best 3D gameplay. Whether I look at it as an evolution of the Mega Drive Classics or its own thing, it's fast, it controls well and gives me tons of things to do with Sonic in a 3D environment. Adventure-gameplay is a pretty nebulous term in and of itself. I'd personally say that three games follow that formula; SA1, SA2 and '06, and to clarify I'm only talking about Sonic's gameplay in these games (and Shadow's by extension for SA2). They all vary wildly in their approach though. Sonic controls the same on paper between the three games. In all of the games with this style though he's too twitchy and sensitive at high speeds, and in the case of '06 the same applies at low speeds as well as having botched up physics all-round. SA1 is very platform-based and uses 3D movement in all directions, whereas SA2 is all about speed and fluidity with narrow and linear levels.

    I don't really know what to say much about the "do's" for the next 3D Sonic game except I hope that the bulk of the gameplay is styled more like these games and the Classics with functional physics system. The "do nots" is a much easier list...
    • Do not add the boost
    • Do not include 2D gameplay as a major design element
    • Do not add a Mario-esque run button ala Lost World
    • Do not make include huge genre shifts that contrast with the main gameplay (e.g. the Werehog, mechs or fishing)
    • Do not rely on scripting to make Sonic move
    • Do not limit the gameplay to rudimentary platforming
    • Do not include a fucking CYO Sonic character mode (this is a total aside from the rest of the issues I'm covering)
    • Do not include Classic Sonic in a Modern Sonic game
    • Do not include any more returning levels from past games or blatant nostalgia pandering unless it's done very sparingly and creatively (again an aside but one that I hope is relatively self-explanatory after Sonic 4, Generations, Lost World, Mania and Forces)
    Sonic Team have increasingly been doing almost all of the "do nots" for years now. Forces at least has three distinct playstyles that work off the same foundations. None of them are very good though and I'd rather an SA1/'06 approach where different playstyles explore the same areas in unique ways, but credit where it's due for that one. I find it so hard to suggest what to do because Sonic Team just keep failing at every hurdle. Sometimes it feels like they build hurdles that weren't there before just so that they can run face-first into them. Whenever something is suggested for the next Sonic game my gut response is to consider the likely ways that Sonic Team will balls it up.
    _______________________________
    *As an aside and in the interest of not wanting to misrepresent any of my arguments... SA1 has a jump cancel that doesn't prevent further horizontal movement like the stomp does, whilst '06 and Lost World have pretty garbage bounce attacks that only serve to be spammed to get a little extra vertical height as they also kill momentum. '06's homing attack also brings him to a dead stop and he drops like a rock from the air dash too, but importantly Sonic has a much greater degree of air control.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2020
  11. So I recently replayed all the boost games to get a refresher on things to see how I feel about them, and... I'm just going to come out and say it: I've come to realize that I don't like the boost gameplay at all. I hate that these games are trying to be essentially a racing game and yet force you to stop to do some really awkward, and really bad platforming sections. Many of which kill your flow for some awkward puzzle sections or constantly have you be over bottomless pits. Sonic is also really awkward to control at slower speeds, too. I also hate the QTEs in Unleashed, and I hate the wisps in the modern games (they only serve to nerf Sonic's moveset and make Sonic's friends irrelevant). Forces is just bad all around, and Colors is just plain dull. Generations and Unleashed are the best of the bunch, but I still don't like the boost in those games very much.

    I also replayed Lost World too, and it's... okay, at best, but I still don't find it all that fun. The lack of momentum and the awkward controls really hamper the experience of that game, and again, I don't like the wisps. That game tries waaaaaaaay too hard to copy Mario, and I think it pretty much is the antithesis of what a Sonic game is overall.

    Replaying these games only reinforced my belief that the Sonic levels in the Adventure games are still 3D Sonic at its best (which I also recently replayed), and probably should be the foundation of which 3D Sonic games are based on going forward.

    That's my 2 cents on this, even if it may be an unpopular opinion, but I don't want the Boost nor Lost World's style back.
     
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  12. TheOneAndOnlyJoebro64

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    I could live without the boost, if you ask me. I like the boost games (especially Colors and Generations) and think there’s still a lot more that could be done with the formula, but if it’s time to move on from them I won’t be disappointed.

    But, just to let you all know... My faith in Sonic Team will be totally restored if they release the Ogawa cut of Sonic ‘06. #ReleaseTheOgawaCut
     
  13. RDNexus

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    Wait, what? What's that? Please elaborate. You got me curious.
     
  14. TheOneAndOnlyJoebro64

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    Ogawa was the director of Sonic ‘06 in 2005, when, you know, it actually looked good. He left with a ton of staff to make Secret Rings and Shun Nakamura took over. From what I’ve read, it was then that development got shitty and we got the monstrosity that was ‘06. I was mostly joking when I said that though, just a jab at people like myself who think a specific product will be 110% better if a certain director is at the helm.
     
    Last edited: May 26, 2020
  15. I don't think Ogawa got very far in his version of the game, sadly. Is Ogawa even still at Sonic Team? So many people have left since then, that it's hard for me to keep track.
     
  16. Blue Blood

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    I know the '06 team was split up to work on SatSR, but I wasn't aware that the director was part of that. Naka was also the producer originally, and he left the company mid-development.

    But as long as we're talking about directors... holy fuck can somebody please get rid of Morio Kishimoto? This is his production history with the series:
    • Sonic and the Secret Rings (2007) — Lead Game Designer
    • Sonic and the Black Knight (2009) — Lead Game Designer
    • Sonic Colors (Wii Version) (2010) — Director & Lead Game Designer
    • Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 2 (2012) — Special Thanks
    • Sonic Lost World (Wii U Version) (2013) — Director
    • Sonic Forces (2017) — Director & Lead Game Designer
    Games made under his direction and design have been almost exclusively bad, with Colours being the lone exception at "well it's okay" (and Colours was also a decade ago at this point). The guy isn't right for the job of leading Sonic game development. I'll level with SatSR being highly experimental and ultimately being a solid idea that was in need of much refinement, but Black Knight makes it look like it was just a fluke. Lost World and Forces are full of some of the most backwards and broken design out there.

    I can only imagine he's still in the directors seat because Colours was the first 3D Sonic game in a long time not get a critical beating, even though it wasn't really that good and was over-praised because of what it had to be compared to (imo, at least). At least bring back Hiroshi Miyamoto, the director of Generations and a designer for '06. Although if I'm honest, I'd like to see Shun Nakamura or Takashi Iizuka himself take on directorial and design duties for the first time in forever. Knowing full well about each of their spotty histories with the series, I generally like where they took things.
    According to the wiki, he's now at LIONSHIP STUDIO. I've no idea what they put out.
     
    Last edited: May 25, 2020
  17. TheOneAndOnlyJoebro64

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    I think Ogawa left to form his own studio a few years ago. I forget how long ago or what it’s called, though
     
  18. Ah, okay. And yeah, I've been saying that for a while now too; Kishimoto needs to go. If he's directing the next game, I'm skipping it.
     
  19. kyasarintsu

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    Sonic Adventure had a remarkable amount of variety in its stage structures and architecture (for Sonic). Even within a stage things felt pretty varied, with all sorts of cool setpieces, gimmicks, and visual elements that really make individual sections stand out. I really miss places like the spiraling castle section of Twinkle Park, the chaotic nature of sky deck, the unique downwards progression of Final Egg. Things didn't always play very well because of the numerous rough edges the game had, but damn was there a lot of inventiveness in the game's level design. I don't even mind that levels were ultimately linear with tiny detours for powerups at best. They were nice breezy platformer levels with lots of places to go with lots of details to see. No two Sonic levels felt alike, and I feel that it's for the better more often than it wasn't.
    Stuff become more and more copypasted and corridor-based afterwards, with 06 of all things being an exception in a few spots. I want a gameplay style that can let us go back to the level design SA1 gave us, which was shockingly good and varied (and still unmatched) despite being such an early 3D attempt for the series. SA2 refined a lot of the game but I feel that it watered down and simplified level design way too much, where I can often just feel like I'm going through the motions over and over (sometimes literally, with the reused level chunks) until the stage ends. The lack of act breakups from SA1, with their accompanying music and visual changes is another factor that can make levels feel like they really aren't progressing much.
     
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  20. RDNexus

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    Can I ask if there's any mention of how '06 looked like while Ogawa was at the project's helm?
    How better it seemed to be before derailing into its (unfortunate) release (not final) version?