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What the hell is Speed?


Kuzu
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formula1.png

 

 

The formula in question. :V

 

 

 

Real talk though, this has been bugging me ever since Boom was announced. A common criticism for the game is that it is not fast enough, which is understandable, it's a Sonic game and speed is an essential component...to the point where almost everyone that knows Sonic will beat you over the head with this fact until you remember it.

 

This goes into the point of this topic; what the hell is speed? No, I'm not talking about the formula like I posted before, but I mean in the context of Sonic the Hedgehog, what is speed? I see everyone praise this as the god given thing that makes Sonic the franchise that it is, and yet I don't recall ever getting a concrete example of a surefire definition. Is it the Classic games that rely on physics and slopes to attain speed? Is it the set pieces and automation from the Dreamcast Era? Is it the press of a button that grants you it instantly like in the Unleashed-Generations era? What is it?

 

I for the life of me cannot figure it out, and I think its why I've lost so much interest in Sonic in recent years, I can barely identify the one true concept that people claim is the series` main identity and I haven't see much people do any better. This is why I feel the Sonic series has such an identity crisis, because its so caught up with trying to appeal to the vast majority of people who want "GOTTA GO FAST, ALL THE TIME", but have no idea of any concept of speed to begin with.

 

So SSMB, I ask you this one question; what is speed to you in the Sonic series and what makes it so goddamn important that it seemingly can't even function without it and why? Is it possible for Sonic to still be Sonic without speed? Is Speed fun for you?

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Faster than normal is fine for me. But I don't think boosting is the best option. I mean, you get all this beautiful stuff around you and you just zip by it and never can partially take the beauty of it into account. Plus, you feel like a car, straight-forward, Sonic feels heavy.

The Adventures did fine in giving you a decent amount of speed and didn't feel so carish. You felt like a creature than a machine. Of course, they were also fairly buggy.

I think fast enough to know it's fast, but not so fast it's a hassle.

 

Plus, the faster Sonic goes, the longer the levels have to be, and more of them, if you want to not feel like the game is so short. The devs have to spend more money and time on this game to make the experience feel complete.

I think that's why a lot of games tend to fluff it with alternate play styles or repetition. To make the game feel longer than it really is.

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I actually don't think there's any confusion about what "speed" is, thus I feel you're unnecessarily overstating the problem of Sonic's identity crisis. Speed is just a noticeably high velocity, and yes, I'd argue that you don't really have a Sonic platformer if a speedy moment is impossible to activate within the game. Things have to be whizzing by at some point. It's as imperative to the identity of the franchise as Sonic being a hedgehog is.

 

The problem instead concerns how people believe these moments should be attained instead. I'm in the camp of squarely waiting for a game design where speed is an active tool in your repertoire and instead the maintaining of your speed, flow, and general cool factor is inherently its own reward. The Boost games, particularly Unleashed, are simply where I've had some of the most fun in that department.

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I always thought Sonic's speed wasn't really about his actual speed, but his speed in comparison to other characters.

 

For example, Sonic the Hedgehog (Genesis) actually isn't that fast if you think about it. However, if you compare it to Mario it is a lot faster. This is the same idea with the original Sonic Advance. It's not nearly as fast as something like Sonic Rush but it's still a lot faster than Mario Advance. Mechanics such as boost and scripted sequences aren't really necessary.

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I think the reason you have a hard time understanding the idea of speed in Sonic games is because "speed" isn't the correct term.

 

It's "flow".

 

What seperates a good Sonic experience from bad ones is how the levels flow. Roger described it best; "A Sonic level plays like a ballet, with rhythm, movement". What makes the classic games and the Adventures so enjoyable is not because they were the fastest Sonic games (although your speed was a significant aspect) but because they kept a consistent pace; there was always movement, a rhythm that the game used to allow platforming elements to be introduced without forcing the player to awkwardly come to a dead stop.

 

It isn't just about traveling a large distance over a short amount of time, it's about pacing, rhythm, being able to complete a level in one smooth movement. The physics of the classic and Adventure games are aids to this flow, allowing the character to control and react naturally to the environment; when you run up hill you slow down, when you run downhill you pick up speed and start really going fast. These games have used this as a way to naturally introduce the speed element into the games, and it's what feels the most satisfying, not because it's something you achieve, but because it's a result of your character reacting naturally to the enviroment, rather than artificially being propelled by some unnatural force.

 

This is why Boom feels so slow to people; there's very little forward momentum; the game opperates on a 'stop-go' mentality. Defeat a bunch of enemies -> solve a puzzle -> minor platforming -> defeat another bunch of enemies, etc. For a Sonic game it's a horrible design philosophy that prevents the character from playing to his strengths.

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The most important part is that momentum needs to be conserved outside of techniques that generate it - something not a lot of games to my memory have gotten right. All too often I find that there are ways to build up speed, but not many ways to retain it. Hell, somehow even jumping has become something of an air brake in many games, which doesn't even make sense - ideally when most people take a running start to a jump it's because they want a friggin' long jump and expect to retain all their momentum until they touch the ground, so it kind of seems like a horribly arbitary gameplay trait to me to just waste it all as soon as you press A.

 

I guess the fuckups kind of depend on the game, don't they? Like Lost World completely locking your airspeed depending on whether you were running or not before you jumped. Or the Dimps engines stopping you completely if you release the control stick, even if you were in midair. Or the topology simply failing to matter in the Boost games because boost energy was cheap and it could overcome almost literally everything. Or just the insistence on a physics scheme with slow acceleration and quick deceleration in general, which is just awkward and frustrating on top of being fucking discordant. There's all that stuff about flow in level design too, but as far as I'm concerned it doesn't feel like Sonic has moved naturally in a very long time - the fact that I have to think about this at all is kind of an indication that many things just aren't gelling right, but apparently Sonic Team would rather wrap themselves in gimmicks and reinventions than simply focusing on a game in which merely moving is fun.

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I'm on my phone at the moment, so bare with me.

The general point Im getting from these last few posts is that Sonic needs better flow in his levels, and the lack of it is why his games as of late feel really clunky.

So then I ask, how can this be done without compromising the series too much? In both a mainline title or a spin off like Boom.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

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I Think a sonic game is based in speed, and speed is what it should have, at least in some parts, so, in my opinion, the speed parts in sonic boom are valid. The only problem is that out the speed sections the characters are moving a bit slow, but i´m suspect, since Unleashed is one of my prefered games. I Liked the new gameplay style, i just would prefer if it was a bit faster.

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I Think a sonic game is based in speed, and speed is what it should have, at least in some parts, so, in my opinion, the speed parts in sonic boom are valid. The only problem is that out the speed sections the characters are moving a bit slow, but i´m suspect, since Unleashed is one of my prefered games. I Liked the new gameplay style, i just would prefer if it was a bit faster.

Maybe if the game had the momentum based physics akin to the Adventure titles (like Sonic and co. building up ground speed while running), then it could diminish the issue about having no speed a bit.

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What I get from some of the replies in this thread is that speed is more a factor of "perceptible differences in speed."  In a Boost game, then most of the time you will be going at exactly one speed, which is Boosting - and if you aren't, you will have stopped, which isn't speed at all.  But if you take into account momentum and the way the environment slows or hastens your motion (without actively stopping you), then you effectively have an infinite number of speeds.

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I'm going to go ahead and assume that this is reference to Boom.

 

First things first, I will say that you're over-thinking this. Speed in a Sonic game really is as simple as being the velocity at which Sonic moves. In Boom, it is just too low, at least in the combat/mission parts of the game. Sonic looked like he had the movement from a Ratchet and Clank game. Not to say that's bad, but its not how Sonic should move. There is no perceptible acceleration. Sonic doesn't look like he's accelerating.

Gameplay being slow in parts is fine, but it should at least look like Sonic will get progressively faster the longer he runs. In the mission parts of Boom, its like he's permanently jogging, as if no matter how long an empty stretch he's given, he will only go at this jogging pace, and will not accelerate.

 

In the context of Sonic games at large, Sonic is usually given space to accelerate, and the moveset to maintain the speed he has gained, by jumping/rolling/sliding through obstacles. Even in the Boost games, you get speed and you're challenged to maintain it.

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I'm on my phone at the moment, so bare with me.

The general point Im getting from these last few posts is that Sonic needs better flow in his levels, and the lack of it is why his games as of late feel really clunky.

So then I ask, how can this be done without compromising the series too much? In both a mainline title or a spin off like Boom.

Sent from my iPhone using Tapatalk

Well, I obviously can't speak for everyone, but to name just one example:

 

71340_2014-01-20_00002.png

 

Bullshit like this needs to fucking stop. I'm not sure how many other platforming games can get away with platforming consisting of blocky, microsocopic platforms that practically scream "HEY KIDS, LOOK, PLATFORMING! NOW YOU CAN'T SHOUT AT US FOR NOT TRYING", but Sonic is not one of them. Now, I'm not saying Sonic level design has always been perfect in this regard, but ideally want you want in a Sonic game is to be able to tackle what you'd call a platforming segment in one smooth motion, with minimal or no loss of speed - that's essentially how you sum up "flow" to an experienced player. Here, not only do you have to come to an almost complete stop just to land on these kinds of platforms without immediately slipping off them, there's almost no lateral component to this kind of jumping, and any momentum you do build can't be used towards progressing further upwards (like you would with, say, a quarter or sideways half pipe, for example).

 

Worse still, there's segments in Planet Wisp where these exact kinds of platforms move, which means either fighting against a metaphorical current just to get anywhere, or worse still, standing completely still and having to put up with a few seconds of utter non-gameplay while they carry you somewhere. That is complete and utter crap as far as flow is concerned.

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The adventure game's flow wasn't that great, or at least not that genuine. It was heavily based on copious speed boosters that send you from bit to bit. In the classics, the springs, for example, only altered your speed in the direction they were facing. Subtle but important difference.

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The adventure game's flow wasn't that great, or at least not that genuine. It was heavily based on copious speed boosters that send you from bit to bit. In the classics, the springs, for example, only altered your speed in the direction they were facing. Subtle but important difference.
 

To be fair, the Adventures (specifically SA1) seemed to have moments like those because they were trying to make a fast character with complex physics work in an early 3D era game, which meant using some crutches to get by. Moments like placing the dashpad directly in front of loops with scripted paths in Emerald Coast / Ice Cap and automating the corkscrew spiral in Speed Highway make it a little more obvious.

 

It's too bad that Sonic Team later started to treat it more as a staple of 3D Sonic level design instead of trying to be clever and controllable at the same time.

 

Besides those moments in the Adventures however, most of the game did rely on a good sense of flow. All it really required was a good understanding of your surroundings and your controls / physics, and things worked out amazingly if it didn't bug out on you.

 

..It's weird that in a game like Unleashed and Generations, however, if you want to feel the satisfaction of going great speeds you either have to memorize the stage or learn how to break the game and exploit it, turning the focus from gameplay to metagame. I'd say something like that is mostly to blame for how binary Sonic's movements are in those games.

 

They're satisfying, yes, but only for one result instead of many. It just doesn't give you much room to move freely and make your own form of excitement because they made the levels give only one kind of excitement.

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Man, I feel like a damn fanboy gushing over this game, but perhaps I can provide a visual idea of the kind of flow people are asking for.

 

Let's take for example, the Modern act of Generations Sky Sanctuary:

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P_uQH6Mqua0

 

Now the playthrough is pretty smooth, but this is the boost gameplay we're talking about. Sky Sanctuary has a number of wide open areas that you can move around much more than you could anywhere else before it narrows into a single straight path. But then comes the way Sonic navigates through the stage, which is the so called "flow" that's being discussed.

 

Now I find it absolutely hilarious how Sonic is capable of running up and around walls or even upside down in certain games, but in the Boost Era that kind of attribute is generally scripted to certain segments of the level design. In the Adventures, the physics allowed you to run directly on the side of the walls or even on the ceiling if the level design allowed for it, and I mean in a 3D environment, provided you had enough momentum.

 

So levels like Sky Sanctuary can look a bit constrictive as you move through segments of the level. It's like the game is telling you, "you will run where we damn well want you to run" as they give you a choice of path A or B to stick to. And even then, you can't do the same things you could do in the Adventures when running through the level.

 

But then we have games like Lost World that introduce Parkour, allowing you to run on walls and such that we couldn't do in the Boost era unless it was scripted. Picture that mechanic being used in stages like Sky Sanctuary. Better yet, let me give you an idea of how this might actually work out. 

 

Here's a game Cloudbuilt (the game I'm gushing over):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qO0Pk1fy3Xo

 

That's as close to a Boost Era game with elements of Lost World's Parkour while giving you freedom to run anywhere you want so long as you can actually reach the part of the game's environment, with multiple paths of getting there. Imagine if this was Sky Sanctuary and you were running up and on these walls like that.

 

You guys notice the part at the :15 second mark where instead of continuing straight on what looks like the intended path, the player instead jumps off to the left and goes up the wall and goes somewhere else? Or the other parts where the player could have wall-ran on the sides of walls like they did on other parts, but then goes up the wall in front of them? Something like that would be awesome for a Sonic game.

 

Now, others may differ, but I think that's the kind of flow some would want for Sonic.

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