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Across The Aisle: Reconciling Different Fans' Desires and Expectations

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A common sight of frustration towards the current state and foggy future of Sonic concerns the problem of “franchise fracturing-” the idea that many different large ideas introduced into a series in a short period of time creates unique factions of fans that are at odds with one another. Examples include Classic Fans, Adventure Fans, and Boost/Modern fans, although with the games having varied so much in the latter two categories one could create more. This all seems to be taken as just general truth, with the implication being that a fan in one group will stubbornly stick to their preferred game style as being the only one worth merit, thus making it impossible to have a Sonic game that most of the fanbase would like just on sheer principle, even if it were technically good.

 

I simply don't think this is true.

 

I feel this viewpoint relies on nothing more than stereotypes who can't possibly express a range of interests in different game styles or new ideas altogether. At this point in my fandom, I'd probably classify myself as an “Adventure fan.” This doesn't mean I'm blind to their faults or the strengths of other games, it doesn't mean I dislike playing other Sonic games entirely, especially on a basis of other Sonic games simply not conforming to an Adventure archetype, nor does it mean I don't like playing other video games outside of Sonic that don't conform to the Adventure archetype either. And I like to imagine the same is true for nearly everyone else willing to take on a specific moniker. Sonic fans aren't categories; they're people with an impressionable amount of ideas, theories, preferences, and most importantly in this discussion, tolerances.

 

As such, I feel like it's very possible to think positively about a hypothetical Sonic game that would please most people in some major way. Or, at the very least, it's possible we can think about some ideas that once seemed mutually-exclusive from one another as being able to be combined in a way that would satisfy both sides of the aisle simply through the act of thinking about optional content and framing solutions around positive assertions versus neutral or negative ones ("I like doing this" versus "I don't care about/hate doing this.")

Ergo, the main questions of this topic are thus: What are some gameplay, aesthetic, and narrative ideas from your least liked or least cared about games that you feel are actually worth returning or updating? Also, what are your potential ideas for reconciling multiple sometimes opposing ideals in the fanbase into single solutions to address multiple sects of fans? What are some personal ideals you'd actually be willing to relent on?

 

My go-to example for this general subject is always playable characters. Certain sections of the fanbase are dying to see them return; others do not care, and others have actively hated as playing as anyone else but Sonic. The solution then would be to implement completely optional characters. That way everyone is being catered to: the two latter groups are not having to be forced to play as anyone they don't want to, and the group that likes alternate characters actually has the ability to use them again. No one is actually losing out, both sides are as maximally happy as possible, and it was achieved through a single broad design choice.

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I always considered myself being very open to many gameplay styles of Sonic. I loved the classic games, admired the Adventures and enjoyed the heck out of most of the Modern games. So I never found myself being displayed as a fan of an actual Sonic gameplay style since I enjoyed most of them anyway.

 

As for elements from my least favorite games that I feel deserves a second chance, might as well bring in the list. Since I can't really like 06, it's probably my default least favorite so there we go.

 

One thing I'll start that I liked about 06's story is that angle between Shadow and the people's fear of him.

 

I would definitely love to see this kind of aspect to be expanded a bit more and explore more of the "grey areas" of the series lore. It can provide some nice drama and conflict, which is great for an action series like Sonic! Also it just proves that Shadow IS the most complex character in the series so there's that! Silver's personal conflict about killing Sonic is also another area I wished that could've been improved on, so basically give me some thought-provoking conflicts in my Sonic.

 

Silver's gameplay style is something I would also love to see being much expanded.

 

It pains to see how painfully dull Silver is to play in 06 when he really shouldn't, I mean if Psychonauts can provide a very diverse moveset for a telekinetic character, what's 06's excuse?

 

As for making compromises....that's a bit more trickier due to the fact, the fanbase is incredibly split on a lot of things. But for starters, hub worlds.

 

Adventure 1's use gave some nice level transistions to the stages so I would keep that element. But in Unleashed, it also had some very memorable NPCs which made a lot of people admire the effort put into such characters, so adding that would be great as well. Also keeping the hubs open yet still quick enough to get to the next level is another step I would do. Not sure what to do with the people who just hates hub worlds in general but to just ignore them, if there is a way without making the hubs feel pointless. I'm all ears.

 

Though since I don't feel any strong hatred for any Sonic elements that could either have been improved or could've gone into a better direction, so nothing from me when it comes to abandoning any elements though maybe drop the combat sections since they are massive flow-killers when it comes to a series that always had a general sense of flow in its level design.

 

Also thanks for making this topic Neps, this is a topic that should've been made a long time ago and should help find a compromise somehow! :)

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Silver as a concept would be very easy to fit in later games considering a lot of his PK abilities could be used as flight and directional forces, things we've already had in the series in the form of Tails' flight/Knuckles' glide, Hover Wisp, ground pounds, and things like that. It'd also be interesting to use his stuff again for environment manipulation to find alternate paths, or to even change the gravity of spaces willingly to navigate them at slower moments. He has a lot of potential, but I think it would be an uphill climb to include him again, even if only on the basis of canon since by all rights he probably shouldn't actually exist anymore.

 

I also like hub worlds a bunch too, but I recognize that most people don't like spending a whole bunch of time in them. Gotta go fast and all that. What might be the easiest compromise is if there was perhaps only a single focused hub that was used as a playground for practicing abilities old and new, and using these skills to reach levels. Basically like Generations' hub but one more informed by in-game events and the introduction of new abilities versus a simple white space and warp pads?

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Yeah, it's probably the better idea for people to actually give SIlver a reason to be playable or atleast have a major appearance in the story though maybe having Silver face enemies in his time period would be a safe way of making a Silver game without having him time travel to Sonic's time period for the sake of it.

 

So if I'm visualizing this right, you basically proposing a fleshed-out version of Sonic World from Sonic Jam, as the best solution right?

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That first point would actually be a pretty cool way of introducing new moves in the game, so having that would be pretty cool.

 

But I guess that latter point could be the make-or-break point for most people since it seems rather challenging to provide oodles of stuff to look around the hub yet keep simplistic enough so you won't be lost but if you're considering Galaxy 1 as a good example, I don't see any reason to completely reject it.

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I'd rather talk about compromise than the usual negativity that gets thrown around here(Yes, I know I tend to contribute to that too, doesn't mean I like it :V) 

 

 

As a fan, I'd easily say I lean more towards the Classic and Adventure era's, because they feature concepts and ideas for the series I feel never really had a chance to take off before being axed. I understand people really don't care for pinball physics, genre roulette, or any other thing that those games held. I'd say the compromise here is simply having the ability to play the game you want; Add a boost skill for those who don't care about pinball physics and just wanna plow through a stage as quick as possible, while keeping a spin dash skill for those who want to experiment and explore. Don't care about Genre roulette? Make them additional, yet optional missions used to unlock further goodies within the game.

 

On a narrative front, I think all of us need to accept the fact that Pontac and Graff are staying for the foreseeable future. So instead of being bitter and cynical about it, how about we try to reconcile their strengths(they do have those, no matter how hard is it for anyone to accept) and refer to other examples within the series they can take cues from. Personally speaking, as much as the execution left a lot to be desired, I did appreciate how they had more free reign over Lost World and feel they should have that reign more often as well as working with the ST devs. Probably work with some of the series` other writers as well.

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Im gonna discuss hubworlds since I think good points were made and I dont have anything else to add currently in my mind. Either way, to make the hubworlds more engaging they would need something that could only be aquired there. my thought is to have character interactions here and special character missions who reward you by getting more detailed views on the characters in the sonic universe. Ofcourse the missions must be fun and they should reflect the character giving you the mission ( that way the mission in itself has character ).

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Now that it's been brought out, one thing I do think will be harder or at least more interesting to hash out is that the preference for difference physics systems depends in part on what you find most rewarding as a player. I think there's a valid conversation to be had about being more partial to continuity versus speed as a reward. To me, the boost games aren't thrilling because of the speed necessarily; rather, speed is-or at least should be- just another tool at your disposal. They're thrilling because it's the closest we've gotten (aside from Rush?) to being able to traverse locations without being forced either by physics or level design to stop often, which I think is a very appropriate thing to accomplish for a character that is as fast, impatient, and impulsive as Sonic is. I say that speed isn't the only component of this because it's practically the same thrill I get from a good Rayman Origins/Legends, Donkey Kong, or Crash level, or something like Dustforce. Despite them all being slower than the Boost games, achieving a continuous streak of motion, actions, and reactions regardless of the speed you're going is badass, and doing badass things is almost always inevitably rewarding even if the mechanics for achieving them are simple or "lack depth," such as with indie titles like One Finger Death Punch.

 

So I do think there's a place for these kinds of continuous level design elements in the series, even if they're seemingly at odds with the more popular classical theory that speed in and of itself should be the reward of gameplay, and thus continuity doesn't so much matter so much as differences in flow do. They don't have to be as prominent as they are during the Boost gameplay, but I see no reason why we have to ignore them outright. Frankly I still like to imagine it would indeed be possible to combine both as some sort of hybrid, as frankly I don't see much of a reason why a game that's Boost-y either mechanically or in spirit actually cannot have pinball physics at all. The source of satisfaction in each style is coming from different places, if I'm on the right track, so I see no reason why they need get in the way.

 

For example, let me bring up the dock segment in Jungle Joyride. A lot of the paths here are really hilly or angled up in such a way as to influence the player to boost. There's also higher paths that can only be reached by going at certain speeds. You can go straight, but by timing your Boost appropriately you can reach some shortcuts. There's no reason why proper pinball physics couldn't have come into play in this section or rather throughout the whole game as a general device to deal with design elements like these. Reaching the highest path in Jungle Joyride's docks by using the boost to launch yourself up a ramp, and reaching that point under a hypothetical scenario where one must or can instead roll or Spin Dash up a ramp through the use of maintained momentum, ultimately results in the same exact end goal.

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The end result is that we want to go fast; whether its continuously boosting or manipulating the environment to our advantage. A good base point is the primary moves that exemplify each philosophy, the boost and spin dash. 

 

 

The former gives you an instant and continuous burst of speed, so as long as you keep the gauge full with energy. The reward is well....going fast, and as long as the level design and your skill level permits it, you can keep going fast until you either hit a hazard or run out of energy.

 

The latter also gives you an instant burst of speed, but continuous only at the mercy of the level design itself and enemy placement. 

 

 

 

In a way, the two are a lot more similar than people give credit for; they both rely on the level design to really get anything out of them(The boost is kinda useless unless you have a long stretch of road to cut loose on, and the Spin Dash doesn't really add much without a sloped terrain.)  But the strength of both is that you get that coveted speed that everyone wants. So maybe the issue isn't the moves themselves, but the levels designed around them?

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I knew Neps was going to mention One Finger Death Punch, can't blame her though.

 

I will not deny the Boost games were quite a rush to play through but what I felt was a problem with the gameplay style is that it felt a bit unbalanced, if that makes any sense. It was way too easy to get Boost Energy and the levels themselves, while having some amazing setpieces, do feel a lot like obstacles courses rather than actual levels.

 

I think it's why I didn't mind the Boost in the Rush series, they balance Boost so that you can gain Boost Energy by either doing Tricks, hitting enemies or getting items boxes to gain said energy. Also, you also gain a short unlimited Boost phase so you can be a bit more reckless when you reach that phase. Dimps managed to keep the Boost fairly challenging to maintain but still having that nice feeling of empowerment. Also it helps that the Rush games were handheld titles since most people won't expect a whole lot of content compared to console games, so Dimps can keep the levels fairly short but still made them extremely replayable.

 

Granted, it is possible to make the Boost work in console games but it might take a while to make it work, which is why I would prefer the Boost being a handheld thing rather than a console thing, it's just not expansive enough to make it work well IMO atleast.

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Yeah, I've generally been about compromise for years. Its less frustrating than it is sad that others are more self-centered and unwilling to do so in return, basically wanting one to bend over backwards for them but refusing to do so in return. So I can't fully say what personal ideals I'd be willing to relent on, because I've generally been one to be flexible to incorporate many opposing ideals that have worth so long as that flexibility is equally returned - you know, my epithet of "don't demand sympathy and refuse to give it in return?" 

 

I'm generally an all-around fan, tho my preferences are strong in the Classic and Adventure takes given the growth that has been done from them that we've yet to see on their level (Unleashed was perhaps the closest one to do so).

 

I think a another question would be: if you could salvage your least favorite game in spirit and intent - key moments you can't change such as Metal Sonic usurping Eggman, Shadow's survival, Flames of Disaster, the Black Arms invasion, and so forth -  how would you do it better?

 

Over time, I've looked at some of my disliked titles, mainly ShTH and Sonic 06, and saw that maybe they could be salvaged, remade, and retooled much better in aesthetics, narrative, and gameplay. Which is telling, because if you asked me this a few years back I would have been deadset on deleting these two from canon. But over time I felt that they could connect much better with some serious readjusting.

 

Generally speaking, I don't see how much there is to compromise on Aesthetics when they've nailed it during the boost era. Narrative needs more consistency and connection in the previous elements and settings in world, along with the characters being a part of it. And Gameplay not only needs consistency but flexibility. Because almost anything can work in theory.

 

For example, I'm not entirely fond of the Boost due to how overpowering it is. However, I'm willing to relent on that it can prove useful and is what many other people like, and at the same time I think it's possible for it to be flexible enough to incorporate other things instead of being as overpowering as it is. And for all of my problems, I can still enjoy a title with the Boost formula at its core.

 

In addition to that, I'm somewhat willing to relent on having other playable characters. As much as I strongly desire to play as favorites like Shadow, Knuckles, or Blaze, I don't entirely mind sticking with Sonic. That being said, I don't want them being forgotten and being cheerleaders doing very little in the plot. We have a colorful cast of superpowered characters, they should be doing something at the very least.

 

One thing I'm not relenting on, under any circumstances, is the world-building, because the background of such things like the Master Emerald, Little Planet and the Time Stones, and Space Colony Ark are too useful to just move on and forget about for the characters and its setting, as well as giving the franchise an identity. These things can easily be used to build new narratives. However, that doesn't mean I'm against letting brand new material, such as the Gaia Temples, Planet Wisp, or even Lost Hex come to fruition and take a position - I just want the old to be able to connect to the new.

 

But really, my core desires and expectations are generally to be flexible, and when doing something you should do it well. A lot of my problems tend to come from the hiccups and rigidity than anything.

On a narrative front, I think all of us need to accept the fact that Pontac and Graff are staying for the foreseeable future. So instead of being bitter and cynical about it, how about we try to reconcile their strengths(they do have those, no matter how hard is it for anyone to accept) and refer to other examples within the series they can take cues from. Personally speaking, as much as the execution left a lot to be desired, I did appreciate how they had more free reign over Lost World and feel they should have that reign more often as well as working with the ST devs. Probably work with some of the series` other writers as well.

Yeah, regarding Pontac and Graff, I still find it hard to fault them so long as it's their superiors really calling the shots. Something tells me that if they were given more freedom they could actually deliver a lot of what we'd like.

 

I mean, they have said they're interested in using other characters, have they not? And were it not for them, we'd have lost Orbot and Cubot. And weren't the told to add the Zeti in Lost Worlds? (I ask this because, while I don't hate the Zeti themselves, I've been growing tired of the New Characters Syndrome that seems to have yet to cease in the games)

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