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Hey, Iizuka King! Why'd you take our Hedgehog Engine?


Smoovies
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I'm fairly perturbed about the lack of lighting in Sonic: Lost World. Doesn't it seem as if we're taking a step back in terms of texturing and lighting? Unleashed demonstrated how lighting can make even the cartooniest of characters appear like they're in an actual environment using a little something called the Hedgehog Engine. Light bounced from one object to the next and even onto Sonic himself. While I was boosting to win, I could take a second to admire the jaw-dropping visuals around me. It irked me enough when Unleashed's predecesor, Sonic Generations, used an obviously watered down version of the Hedgehog Engine; they didn't even bother to credit it. But it's understandable to want to increase your game's frame rate by bringing your CPU-intensive lighting engine down a notch - I get that.
 
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But the Wii U is more than capable of handling acceptable lighting as we've seen demonstrated in Nintendo Land and in trailers for Mario Kart 8. So it couldn't be console limitations, right? Takashi Iizuka recently talked about the new visual style for Lost World and was quoted saying "...things such as rings and enemies are more easier to track and gives us 60 fps..." Clearly, he wanted more contrast in-game to improve the player's ability to discern any item from the scenery, but is sacrificing lighting and texturing really the correct approach to make targets easier to find? Take a look at Super 3D Mario World for the Wii U and you'll see that's most likely NOT the case. 3D World doesn't use global illumination like Unleashed and Gens do, but visually the game looks very nice AND retains the ability for players to find coins, enemies, and platforms with ease. (Damn, is that depth of field, Nintendo? Very sexy.)

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By now, I hope my point is evident. I'd like to hear what YOU guys think. Is lighting as integral as I make it out to be, or is it just another visual bonus?

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8980309128_34485337e7_c.jpg

 

It's pretty evident in this screenshot.

I'd say the only thing evident about global illumination in this pic is the light bouncing off of Sonic, which I'm glad the kept in. The environments, not so much.

Hedgehog_engine_sonic20.jpg

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I'd say the only thing evident about global illumination in this pic is the light bouncing off of Sonic, which I'm glad the kept in. The environments, not so much.

 

Watered-down again, because it's needed to keep things working well. The new art style is aiming to be more striking and pleasing, while past games were going for technically impressive. 

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I'd say the only thing evident about global illumination in this pic is the light bouncing off of Sonic, which I'm glad the kept in. The environments, not so much.

Hedgehog_engine_sonic20.jpg

 

 

Trust me man it's gonna pay off when this game is running at a crisp 60 fps 

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Tbh I think it's Wind Hill mainly, the rest, while lacking the detail of Unleashed-Generations, still look pretty similar in their own way.

 

I hope one day they can find a middle ground as I loved how Generations looked and how there was so much detail.

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Look at how lit up in green Sonic is here. There's global illumination at play, and I'm pretty sure it's the Hedgehog Engine.

Take a gander at this photo and tell me there's GI in it.

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Thanks for the educated responses, guys! I've got to head out. I'll leave you with this to ponder: Once the contract is up for Sonic/Nintendo, if we get some PS4 Sonic titles, do you think we'd finally get our top-notch visuals with blazing speeds?

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To be honest I think that "but the game will run at 60 fps!!!" is a poor excuse. SLW is a MUCH slower game than Unleashed so making it run at 60 should be possible without butchering the art direction of Unleashed-Generations because the SPEED is slower by a lot. That and the fact that a WiiU is a more powerful console than Xbox360/Ps3.

I still think the changes are because of Nintendo involvement. Most of their games are well known for having simplistic and very cartoony art styles.

Edited by ArtFenix
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To be honest I think that "but the game will run at 60 fps!!!" is a poor excuse. SLW is a MUCH slower game than Unleashed so making it run at 60 should be possible without butchering the art direction of Unleashed-Generations because the SPEED is slower by a lot.

Sooo... that means the game shouldn't run at 60 fps...?

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I'm not 100% crazy about the new art style and graphics as an entity in a vacuum (though I completely adore the little cartoon effects and I hope they stick around), but I think a better framerate and the near total removal of non-interactable clutter more than justifies the change. I'll take a huge upswing in function at the price of a mild downturn in form any day.

 

If/when we get a Sonic game on PS4 and Xbone, I'm sure it'll incorporate at least a little more detail than what we're seeing here. Maybe some less tubular levels, too; I'd love to see what the tiered running and parkour could achieve in stages that are a little more open.

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Sooo... that means the game shouldn't run at 60 fps...?

No, what I think he's trying to say, is that given the significantly lower speed LW is running at, they should be able to get 60fps, without sacrificing texture quality etc. Not sure that's how in-game rendering actually works though.

I'm kind of inclined to agree with Smoovies here. It all looks very nice, but there is something there that bothers me about the visuals. I've tried explaining what it is, but to be honest, I'm not really sure my explanations made much sense. Its hard to place.

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Have to agree with you in the fact that this game is a step down from previous titles. Look at it anyway you want, but the fact remains that if they are still using the HE then it has been toned down significantly. The games cartoony vibe might obscure this fact, but going by what they were doing in Unleashed and even Generations, there were clear steps back taken. Listening to the interviews that have been coming out over the last few days, it's clear that this approach was heavily due to technical issues. To be perfectly honest, I don't understand how you could have an engine in development for 3 years and then have it for another five years and not come up with a solution to use it properly. Add in the fact that the Wii U is significantly more powerful than the PS3/360 and the fault really comes down to Sonic Team on this. It's not impossible to run a game like Unleashed at a high setting (we saw this in the Generations Unleashed mod).

 

I honestly hope the next game starts off where Sonic Team left it five years ago (graphically speaking). As for this title, we honestly can't get a clear read on how much the HE is involved since the environments seen so far just don't lend themselves to it. It's slower speed and simpler textures also obscure any real facts. All we can say for sure is that it's definitely been dumb down. Whether the solution to this is a whole other engine remains to be seen. I fail to see how Sonic Team couldn't of made the necessary changes by now to improve things.

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No, what I think he's trying to say, is that given the significantly lower speed LW is running at, they should be able to get 60fps, without sacrificing texture quality etc. Not sure that's how in-game rendering actually works though.

I'm kind of inclined to agree with Smoovies here. It all looks very nice, but there is something there that bothers me about the visuals. I've tried explaining what it is, but to be honest, I'm not really sure my explanations made much sense. Its hard to place.

The speed at which the game moves isn't a major determining factor of how fast the game can move, but given the reduction in how much there is to render given that the background is a skybox as well as the lower level of detail on what terrain there is, they should have been able to hit 60 using Unleashed style lighting. 

 

What's wrong with the graphics?  What right with the graphics is a better question.  

 

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Aside from the edge lighting that doughnut looks like they've just taken a screenshot of a textured preview from a 3D package and pasted it into a screenshot of the game.  Let me ask you:  Where is the light source in this image?  The sprinkles seem to be light independent (and really need at least some backed in ambient occlusion ffs)  None of the shaders in use match up at all.  Sonic's edge lighting is as bright as he gets for some reason, but those badniks seem to have a viewport light on them.  The super peel out effect is volumetric to some degree (Look polygonal) but the dust he's leaving behind (while running on candy?) are just cotton ball style clouds.  

 

And this level seems to not really have anything to thematically separate it from sweet mountain, apart from maybe having even less sense of place.  

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Yeah....the candy level literally looks like its taking place in a dreamland or something. It doesn't look like its anywhere geographically. OK, this kind of visual craziness would work in something like a special stage, which is known to take place in a different dimension.
This though. Where is this on the Lost Hex? Where is this taking place? 

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My whole thoughts on that level were what the hell candy has to do with the desert.

 

Anywho I don't mind cutting graphics back if it will help the budget and if the game, you know, plays well. Which it sounds like it will - they sacrificed having jaw-gaping graphics in favor of more smooth play and animation.

 

This isn't even getting into how graphics are overrated these days and that's why I'm glad Nintendo pretty much always tells the other two consoles to stuff it in terms of graphics. That you have to be hyperrealistic to be fun is a modern fallacy that peeves me so much. Never mind the expectation KILLS smaller developers who can't fork out more money than a blockbuster movie on such superficial qualities.

 

More on topic, it's not as bright or detailed as Generations or Unleashed, and while that's sad in one way, in another it makes it less cluttered and runs more smoothly. In economics this is called an opportunity cost - to take advantage of one benefit you must yield another.

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to take advantage of one benefit you must yield another.

...except they really didn't have to butcher so many things from Unleashed-Generations in order for this one to run at 60 fps, 1080p.

Edited by ArtFenix
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...except they really didn't have to butcher so many things from Unleashed-Generations in orders for this one to run at 60 fps, 1080p.

 

Probably not but achieving 60fps with the Unleashed-Generations style would've required some  downgrading and people were already complaining about Generations not looking as pretty as Unleashed. If the choices are a new, still good looking artstyle and a watered down version of something we've already had I'd take the new artstyle any day. 

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My whole thoughts on that level were what the hell candy has to do with the desert.

Apparently its supposed to be related to dessert, but its not funny, nor is it clever.

 

Anywho I don't mind cutting graphics back if it will help the budget and if the game, you know, plays well. Which it sounds like it will - they sacrificed having jaw-gaping graphics in favor of more smooth play and animation.

Those two aren't mutually exclusive. And there was no need to sacrifice the lighting, as it wouldn't compromise the framerate on a more powerful system. Besides they have the benefit of being able to program to the metal of a single platform. They could optimise the crap out of the game to run as smooth as possible, without compromising texture quality and lighting.

 

This isn't even getting into how graphics are overrated these days and that's why I'm glad Nintendo pretty much always tells the other two consoles to stuff it in terms of graphics. That you have to be hyperrealistic to be fun is a modern fallacy that peeves me so much. Never mind the expectation KILLS smaller developers who can't fork out more money than a blockbuster movie on such superficial qualities.

This is completely tangential and largely irrelevant. Its not even about hyper-realism.

 

More on topic, it's not as bright or detailed as Generations or Unleashed, and while that's sad in one way, in another it makes it less cluttered and runs more smoothly. In economics this is called an opportunity cost - to take advantage of one benefit you must yield another.

Except not really. Here, they're sacrificing more than they need to, to achieve the performance they want. The Wii U is more powerful than the PS360, so they could quite easily have maintained texture quality and kept the better lighting from Unleashed. And to me, those aren't even the biggest problems.

Candy land here, is completely devoid of any sense of location. It takes place in a random void filled with giant sweets and other such confectionery. Where is it? Its just totally random; Sonic may as well have been transported there via a magical painting. I'm sorry, but that just doesn't scream Sonic to me. Sonic is supposedly on this mysterious world called "Lost Hex", but there doesn't appear to be anything connecting candy land to this lost world... Doesn't even make sense in the context of its own story. This bothers me.

 

If they had said this game takes place in some kind of dreamscape or something like that, maybe it could work. Then the disconnected feeling wouldn't matter so much, because in a dreamscape, there tends not to be any sense of connection or location. 

 

Like I've said so many times, this skybox style of visual and level design doesn't bother me, if its a spin-off or even just a one-off. However, I most definitely don't want them to continue with it forever. Nor do I want to see Sonic Team arbitrarily sacrificing visual quality, when doing so isn't needed to improve performance.

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Well, that's not a very nice thing to say. Just because I actually like the new artstyle they're going for with this game, doesn't mean I'm somehow incompetent for that.

That's not it.

What I mean is, the changes they made are not because otherwise the game would perform poorly with low fps count. People bringing that as an argument to defend the new art style are not choosing the right argument, because it's not even an argument. Just an excuse. I don't even believe what Iizuka says. He's well known to speak bullshit from time to time.

 

Why wouldn't they just say something like "Hey, we felt like doing a very different Mario-like art style" instead of trying to justify the changes by bringing up the performance issues?

 

 - the game is exclusive to WiiU meaning they have all time and manpower to work on the optimisation

 - the game is rather slow compared to previous games, so performance should not be such a problem

 - the levels are even much smaller than those GIANT levels in Unleashed. That and with these blocky objects and simple textures there is little to render compare to Unleashed

 - The WiiU itself is more powerful than Ps3/Xbox360.

Edited by ArtFenix
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