What is it about SEGA...

Discussion in 'General Sonic Discussion' started by Lostgame, Sep 24, 2020.

  1. raphael_fc


    Overthinking Sonic timelines. Member
    I don't like Forces's art direction. While I think it fits the theme of the game, and that's a good thing, the levels look too sameish to me. I prefer Colors and Generations regarding this, but that's my taste.

    I didn't know that, the level looks very good.

    If I had to guess, I would say they decided to ease up the levels because they thought Forces would be bought by children, while Mania could be harder because it would be bought by old-school fans.
  2. Might be an unpopular opinion, but I'd love to see SEGA bought up by Nintendo (not likely) or Microsoft (more likely)

    That way they can do a much needed shake up at management, get some proper funding, and more creative talent.

    Imagine what the Mania team could accomplish with the backing of Microsoft.
  3. qwertysonic


    creating the biggest sonic collection
    The original idea of this thread was that there has to be some crazy amount of mismanagement from the higher ups at Sega. The design elements are important, but not as important as the management. It always seems like Sonic Team has a plan and Sega heads foils it with unrealistic deadlines, budget, or staff cuts.

    This (or some other mismanagement) has been the case for the last 30 years and it's a wonder that Sonic has even been as successful as it was. We've seen from the recent Sonic 3 prototype that it had like 4 months of dev time before being shipped off to production. It was (half a game, but) great, but honestly, good products need better management. Either management needs to have a better vision for what the product should be. Or they should take a more hands-off approach.

    We've seen both of these scenarios work. Better vision and more control is how Nintendo operates. They have strict rules for how Mario etc games looks and play and it shows. The other option is more hands off and let your employees do what they feel is best. And that's how we got Sonic Mania.

    Sega Corporate seems to eschew both of these for a more hands-on approach with poor vision of how the Sonic series should look and play. And that's been a problem for too long.

    The reason LostGame brought up recent fangames, I think, is to show that when you find the right kind of staff, a hands off approach works really well. These fangame programmers are unpaid and doing this for fun. And they're producing great content with either cool new ideas or at least faithful recreations of old ones. It's not that these games are necessarily the way Sonic should go or that "Sega should hire fans to make games". It's that there's an issue with how Sega makes games and it's not necessarily a technical one.

    What I'm trying to say is Sega is a AAA game studio and Sonic games have not be AAA games. Something is wrong here.
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  4. Zephyr


    Sorry for long, disjointed post, might say something that's already been covered, etc.


    I think it's most fundamentally a problem of judgment. People are being put in charge of making games, who aren't particularly attuned to crafting fun. Either the people who are placing others in Directorial or Lead Game Design roles don't know who has some creative spark to flex and who doesn't, or they don't care. This makes sense, because the people calling these shots are interested in profit; and with properties that rely on emotional attachment, the quality of the art (that is, the presence of Beauty in the work), or lack thereof, need not apply. Hence, people buy bad games, bad games make money, no incentive to make good games, etc.

    But let's say that we get someone in more of an executive or production role, someone who picks the "talent" so to speak, who can actually recognize it. And let's say that they put someone talented in the role of Director or Lead Game Designer. There are still the constraints of time, instructions from even higher up, technological limitations and hindrances, as well as not being paired with enough other appropriate talent. This last bit, I think, is one of the most important components that gets taken for granted.

    With computer games, you need not only a game designer (as you do with all other types of games), but also a programmer. Programming and game design are different beasts, and so require different sorts of talent. Not to say that people aren't often both, but this is important. A game designer cannot devise and test and refine a new version of "Chess" without something to physically represent the pieces; they cannot do so for such a version of "Tennis" without balls and rackets. Likewise, one cannot do so for computer games without having a proper game world programmed for the game designer to play around in. The programmer creates the confines in which the game designer is able to create. The programmer creates the canvas, while the game designer takes their brush to it. So, no canvas, no painting. Shitty canvas, and even the best talent will produce likely less than stellar results (although, limitations often breed interesting aesthetic flourishes and innovations!).

    So, who are these people? Well, here's a very incomplete (and possibly not fully accurate) chart I made in Excel a few years ago in an attempt to start visualizing this stuff for myself, based on credits listings. What I've gleaned over the years since I've started thinking about this stuff is that the "core" of the series really does break down into three major eras of designers having significant direct input. This, interestingly, indeed correlates to what are lauded as "The Three Gameplay Styles™":

    Yasuhara for the classics, Iizuka for the "Adventure" series (including Heroes and Shadow), and Kishimoto for the "Storybook-Boost-Wisp" series. There are exceptions, of course. CD was a classic game designed by Ohshima. Iizuka wasn't listed in the credits for 06 beyond "special thanks" (if memory serves). And, of course, Unleashed and Generations didn't involve Kishimoto at all. But it was Yasuhara, Iizuka, and Kishimoto, respectively, who have had the most consistent and direct contact with these three distinct playstyles over the course of their evolution. And of course, Naka is still around until 2006, and Iizuka remains to this day; however, these are in a producer role, and so are less directly involved in the actual creative process.


    Some personal opinions:
    - I think Iizuka is a solid game designer, so long as he has a good playground programmed. His work on NiGHTS, which was programmed by Naka, speaks for itself. With Sonic Adventure, he states that he wanted to make an "RPG", but it's clear that he meant more specifically an "Adventure" game, judging from the elements taken from Zelda and Metroid. Even as far back as NiGHTS, his games included a "God game" component, inspired by Lemmings and Populous. I think that all of this worked well together, especially with Katano managing to build a fairly close 3D approximation to Naka's 2D engine atop the NiGHTS base.
    - Katano was still programming for Heroes, but likely due to trying to develop for multiple platforms (this might actually be stated, I can't remember), shit got fucked somehow? That or changing the acceleration speed and all that was a deliberate decision. Either way, this is also where the "Populous" and "Metroid" elements evaporated (until a brief resurgence of the latter with 06 and Unleashed) and in their place came repetitive combat elements (which remained up until Unleashed!).

    - Kishimoto is effectively the closest to a personification of the fabled "B Team". Secret Rings began life as a Wii port of 06, which is an initial splitting of the team. The "B Team" is obviously working on the "last gen version" of the game. This makes sense. Secret Rings is clearly a much more polished version of 06's Mach Speed sections. Unleashed is the "next mainline game", and lacks Kishimoto, so Unleashed is "A Team". Black Knight and Colors both have Kishimoto, while Generations doesn't, etc.
    - The line of descent goes (B Team games in teal):
    Sonic 06 (Mach Speed) -> Secret Rings -> Unleashed -> Black Knight -> Colors -> Generations -> Lost World -> Forces
    This means that the A Team and the B Team seem to be building off of one another's work, cyclically. With the Mach Speed sections from 06 as their foundation, this is inherently racing gameplay that they've been tinkering with. And its latest entry as of 2017, as a racing game, has a trash movement engine, no multiplayer, and a ton of superfluous elements.
    - Forces is a "B Team" game. :specialed: (that doesn't mean there's an "A Team" game on the way, or that an "A Team" can even be said to exist at this point)
    - This shit has been stagnant since 2008. 2011 and 2017 saw the addition of different playable builds and characters to add a bit of diversity, but there's still no multiplayer to take advantage of that. Either Kishimoto doesn't know what he's doing with racing gameplay (or is actively not interested in it anymore, going by Black Knight, Colors, and Lost World), the programmers don't know what they're doing with programming a racing game foundation, or both. Sega's not a fucking stranger to programming and designing genre-defining racing games, so basic genre-competency should be the smallest thing to expect. Of course, if the suits wanted to give the Sonic Team staff access to actual racing game talent, they would. I can't even be sure the idea has crossed their minds.
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  5. Lostgame


    resident geek girl + record label manager Oldbie
    Toronto, ON
    The O.I.C.
    Wow, you said in a sentence what it took me an essay to write. This is my whole point.
  6. Dark Sonic

    Dark Sonic

    Working on my art!
    That really sums it up doesn't it?
  7. I think everyone has kind of figured that out by now; the problem is how do you fix it.

    Which is incredibly ironic when you think about it; Sega basically leaves all of their other IP's alone, and sure enough, they're mostly successful. Not AAA levels of success, but they're moderate successes. But probably because Sonic is their mascot, they feel the need to meddle in every little detail and end up inadvertently sabotaging the series for it.

    You would think after three decades of poor business decisions and mismanagement, SOMETHING would go off and tell them that their approach is wrong but no...they STILL cannot seem to grasp that MAYBE they should just leave the devs to their own devices, and still insist on meddling when it isn't needed. So I dunno, Sega just seems so excessively stubborn when it comes to this series. They're determined to enforce their will over it regardless of the actual outcome even though it's been show time and time again that it doesn't work .
  8. Laura


    Brightened Eyes Member
    I know you are being tongue in cheek, but this focus on directors is misleading. It isn't that games such as Lost World took influence from 'A' Team games, they had the same developers. The lead level designer of Gens was the system designer of Lost World, just to use one powerful example. If you look at the credits of Lost World, it had a lot of Gens staff working on it. I haven't compared the credits of Gens to Colors but I bet there is crossover.

    The idea of a strict 'A' Team and 'B' Team hasn't been true for the past ten years because the 'A' Team designers have worked on 'B' Team games. The only big marker has been Nakamura as director. But how far should we take this mentality? Are games composed by Jun Sunoue, such qs TSR, a 'C Team' game?Are the Sonic and Mario at the Olympics made by the true 'A Team' all along because it has the Gens director and some of the Gens staff?

    There hasn't been an 'A Team' or 'B Team' in the past ten years, there has just been a change of focus in director and composer.
  9. Zephyr


    Naturally. Lotta cooks in these kitchens. This is a collaborative piece, in multiple directions. Game Designers need Programmers to work with, and to work well with. Directors also need Producers to work with, and to work well with. If these parties aren't all on the same page, creatively, the end result can be something really ugly. While Yasuhara was the major Game Design force, the suits were in Producer roles (as far as I can tell). While Iizuka was the major Game Design force, Naka was the Producer. And with Kishimoto in the Design role, Iizuka is the Producer. So each era is flavored by a distinct major figure in a Directorial/Design position, as well as a major distinct figure in a Producer position. (speaking VERY broadly here)

    But the non-Lead Designers are just as important, as well. They all deserve attention. The finer details can, and ought to, be filled in next. Since Programming isn't my forte, my analysis isn't doing that side of things any justice here.

    Well, musical composition and game design are different mediums, even if they're both packaged and sold together. The picture of musical creative descent across the series is another (and equally interesting!) conversation entirely.

    I think a more genuine take on the "A Team vs. B Team" thing is that it probably only could really apply to Sonic 06 and Secret Rings. That's a clear case of the team being split in two, with one team making the lower fi version of it. And, if memory serves (it might not be), that was around the same time-ish that two teams were even mentioned like that in the first place?

    Regarding the Olympics games: interesting! I was only looking at the threads within the "core" games. As said, my chart is far from complete. Couple new things I gleaned:

    Director of Generations was previously involved with.....Riders 1 and 2, and Sonic 06.

    This guy was involved with.....Heroes Special Stages, and all three Riders games.

    More Racing gameplay connections!:specialed:
  10. Laura


    Brightened Eyes Member
    I'm going to make some comparisons so we actually have some real data to work with. All taken from Retro's credits pages. I haven't changed the font and links on some names because I'm not wasting even more time doing this than I already have:V

    I'm not naming the directors since that's common knowledge.

    Sonic Colors to Sonic Gens. Art director (Sachiko Kawamura), lead level designer (Takayuki Okada), level designers (Katsuyuki Shigihara, Kanano Yamaguchi), field artists (Yoshitaka Miura, Yuki Takahashi, Daizo Kinoshita, Hisae Jibiki, Naoko Irube, Yuko Furumoto, Yasunari Akiyama, Masatoshi Yasumura, Keiji Takeda), lead character artist (Yoshinari Amaike), character artist (Shinkichi Tanahashi, Hitomi Nagao, Ryohei Yanase), programmers (Takeshi Sakakibara, Masahiro Ukai,Naoko Shimura, Masahiro Ukai, Naoko Shimura) went on to Gens. None of the enemy programmers of Colors went onto Gens, so there's that. But yeah, pretty clearly one team.

    Sonic Gens to Lost World. Art director (Sachiko Kawamura), character artist (Yoshinari Amaike, Shinkichi Tanahashi, Hitomi Nagao, Ryohei Yanase), cutscene artist (Tamotsu Kushibe, Hiromasa Yoshida), field artists (Yoshitaka Miura, Yuki Takahashi, Daizo Kinoshita, Hisae Jibiki, Naoko Irube, Machiko Koizumi, Naohiro Tsuchiya, Yuko Furumoto, Masatoshi Yasumura, Kazunori Yomoda, Keiji Takeda), visual effects artists (Hideki Yano, Haruka Yoshida), technical artists (Yusuke Kashiwagi), programmers (Masahiro Ukai, Koji Ogino, Takateru Ohyama), level designers (Takayuki Okada, Kanano Yamaguchi), lead designer (Yoshinobu Uba).

    To be fair, there are a fair number of people who worked on Colors and Lost World who didn't work on Gens. But I'm not sure if it's enough to claim a 'Team B'. Either way it's not that strict, since people who worked on Colors and Gens worked on Lost World. Maybe they just put some people to do prelim work on project ideas? I'll be honest, I don't know how it works. Also, point of interest: Lost World had a huge development team. Much bigger than Gens. It was not a low budget game.

    Now for Sonic Forces, which is the game I imagine most of you actually care about in terms of development. The game had a pitifully small dev team compared to Lost World and it is even smaller than Gens'.

    Sonic Gens to Sonic Forces. Art director (Sachiko Kawamura), programmers (Hiroki Tokunaga), game designers (Takayuki Okada), field artists (Yuki Takahashi, Hisae Jibiki, Hisae Jibiki, Keiji Takeda, Yuko Furumoto, Masatoshi Yasumura, Takahiro Suzuki), character artists (Shinkichi Tanahashi. Yoshinari Amaike, Hitomi Nagao, Ryohei Yanase), cutscene artists (Tamotsu Kushibe, Masashi Fukumitsu), technical artist (Yusuke Kashiwagi) went on to Sonic Forces. In the scale of things, not many programmers went over to Forces. No level designers did but game designer did.

    Sonic Colors to Sonic Forces. Art director (Sachiko Kawamura), level designers (Takayuki Okada, Jyunpei Ootsu), field artists (Daizo Kinoshita, Hisae Jibiki, Keiji Takeda, Yuko Furumoto, Masatoshi Yasumura), character artists (Shinkichi Tanahashi, Yoshinari Amaike, Hitomi Nagao, Ryohei Yanase), cutscene artists (Tamotsu Kushibe, Masashi Fukumitsu), technical artist (Yusuke Kashiwagi) went on to Sonic Forces. I think slightly less people on Colors worked on Forces compared to Gens, which is a funny twist.

    I haven't done Lost World to Forces, since it's pretty much just staff from Colors and Gens.

    The next time anyone says that Forces was not "brought to you by the people who made Colors and Gens" please bring them to this post :V
    Last edited: Oct 5, 2020
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