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[Rant] Style Mechanics: Eye-Pleasing Spectacles or Stupid Gimmicks That Add Nothing To the Game?


Tara
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There should be obstacles, user choice, and a sense of difficulty to make pulling off that cool trick feel rewarding and satisfying.

I don't trust SEGA enough to find a viable solution to this. Knowing them they'll add something that will divide the fanbase even more than they're already doing with Sonic Forces.

I don't mind automation in a Sonic game, maybe it's because I got used to it. But sometimes I like to just gaze at the screen at Sonic jumping across a bridge while two whales decide to jump across all like "yo".

Or Terminal Velocity for example. The whole stage is an automated straight line.

But god damn I would be lying if I said that I don't LOVE Terminal Velocity. Easily one of my favourite zones of Sonic Colours. Probably at the top 2.  

If SEGA manages to find a way to make it more interactive, be my guest. But as long as it's functional and doesn't feel tacked on. 

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I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with filling the dead space that would otherwise be used for running straight or waiting out aerial hang time with a chance to rack up extra points or to view the situation from another more stylish angle. Granted, you could maybe design out areas where Sonic runs straight ahead for awhile without much to interact with, but I don't see how you get rid of aerial hang time in a platformer, especially one that deals with high speeds and subsequently large levels that are just going to have ramps and drops by design. So why not add something easy or mindless in these segments where a player wouldn't be doing anything anyway, especially since Sonic as a character shows off just for the sake of showing off. Really, aside from Sonic 2, 3, and Heroes where he's with someone all the time, what would be the point in doing tricks at all? Because YOLO, that's why. I think Sonic is a franchise that has more room than others to implement tiny mechanics and touches just for the sake of fun and dumb coolness, because I think these things help give a game life and creativity. I always point out the shower bit in SA1's Casinopolis as one such example. It is completely irrelevant and could've been cut to have time spent elsewhere...but it's so damn amusing and charming that you get to shower off after a run through the sewer.

Granted, this doesn't mean every instance in the franchise isn't necessarily flawed. I actually don't like City Escape's truck segment that much because with Sonic being so close to the back-facing camera and with there being no telegraphs, it's honestly impossible to see where you're going or where rings and ramps are. After years of having and playing the game, I've only done a successful trick off of a ramp once or twice. Speed Highway, on the other hand, is perfect: The glass breaks under Sonic's feet which the player isn't prepared for, but the automated segment where the camera's facing towards him gives you a chance to breathe and understand that the short-term goal of the stage has changed. The camera then flips behind him and allows you to take over. Coo'!

Also, automated segments and things I think have been covered for awhile, although I don't mind them in really short bursts. Again, cool for coolness' sake should be allowed in the Sonic games. The silly dashpad area in the Egg Carrier stage is fine, a "why not?" way to get you to the next segment. Sonic 4 or Sonic Forces Classic Sonic's level of automation? Absolutely gross.

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I'm of the opinion that the games shouldn't have long corridors or long stretches of air time where you're not doing anything (unless it's for adding suspense pre-boss fight or something like that), so I think the remedy is simply not having those moments in the first place.  On that note, I find the shower bit in Casinopolis to be a faulty analogy.  I, too, find it charming, but it is a minor detail that adds charm to the character while not intruding upon the gameplay experience or repeatedly prompting you to do it.  It's more akin to stopping to watch the pelican from Apotos salute the player.  Not necessarily, but fun.

Spoiler

Imagine, though, if there were a promt saying "PRESS A. TO WATCH SONIC WASH HIS FILTHY ARSE!"

The button prompts in Colors and Dash, on the other hand, are not so subtle and are given a heightened level of importance by comparison.  If this were just something you could do as an added little bit of fun, then I'd agree.  But it's not.  It's a full-blown mechanic.

That said, I do think there needs to be spaces in the level that allow the player to breathe, as opposed to being constantly bombarded for several minutes with neverending perils (Adabat Day), but I don't feel like the method employed is the method I would choose, personally.

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Aerial hang time as a thing to deal with has been kind of a staple of Sonic since the classics though. Sonic's acceleration and potential top speed, along with ramps, half-pipes, pinball bumpers and other gimmicks, or just vertically-oriented levels are gonna combine to cause Sonic to fall or be flung around decent distances. I'd be really uncomfortable taking them out without somehow contextualizing them some other way or replacing them with something just as cool. In fact, I don't see how you could without removing a fundamental passive feature of the games themselves.

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By "aerial hang time" I was presuming we meant the strictly scripted ones.

If aerial hang time is achieved through launching one's self up via a slope, a spring, or whatever else, that makes sense and is fine.  In fact, I'd encourage some kind of trick system, a la Sonic Rush (which also has the added benefit of filling the boost meter, which the player needs to access the special stages).  But in the instance of Colors-onward and Dash, these hang times are purely scripted and not a result of a physical input, thus making their inclusion feel like padding and ultimately without charm or necessity.

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Scripted sequences are not universally evil. Used occasionally, they can add a little extra flair to a game by allowing for things to happen that simply don't mesh with the core gameplay. The problem comes with overuse, which this series has in spades. Not just big setpieces, but even small, moment-to-moment gameplay elements (springs, loops, dash pads, dash hoops, it goes on and on) are dominated by automation. We don't need the games to show us Sonic doing cool things. We need the games to give us the tools to do cool things ourselves. Unfortunately that requires some very fundamental rethinking of both Sonic's abilities and the series' level design philosophy.

19 minutes ago, Nepenthe said:

I don't think there's anything particularly wrong with filling the dead space that would otherwise be used for running straight or waiting out aerial hang time with a chance to rack up extra points or to view the situation from another more stylish angle. Granted, you could maybe design out areas where Sonic runs straight ahead for awhile without much to interact with, but I don't see how you get rid of aerial hang time in a platformer, especially one that deals with high speeds and subsequently large levels that are just going to have ramps and drops by design.

I think it would be pretty easy to tighten up a preplanned drop by just raising the ground up closer to the player.

And if that's not an option for whatever reason, then it's an aspect of the game begging for more mechanical depth. I'm all for Sonic being a cocky showoff, but that's no excuse for situations where striking a pose is the only thing the player is able to do. The series has played around with some options before (Advance 2's tricks and Unleashed's skydiving sections come to mind), but nothing with any real meat to it has managed to stick around.

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In most other action games I can think of, style has to be earned by good play. I think sega should focus much less on these automated segments and more on designing levels in a way that allow for the player to potentially do cool things. Sections like the aboved mentioned speed high way aren't so bad as long as there's some control, but I want to see more thought put into making a playground for the players to do their own tricks(hint hint steal the trick system from Rush/Riders already)

The moments in Sonic games that I remember ACTUALLY giving me a rush are moments like in City Escape and Final Rush where you can use well timed jumps, poll swings and rail grinding to go extended periods without touching the ground, for instance.

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As long as we're talking about spectacle, I feel like SA2 was really onto something, insofar as they gave you plenty of opportunities to do cool shit by adapting it from the reflexes of their players. Take City Escape for example - there's loads of jump ramps in the downhill segments. Jumping at the very tip of the launch is already a well-conditioned response from pretty much anyone who's ever played a platformer before, under the expectation that it extends your jump length as far as it can possibly go. Knowing players will do this, they directly reward the player with a neat flip animation and some extra distance for pulling it off right. If there's any kind of automation the series needs more of, it's that - a neat little sequence that's directly initiated by the player's actions, not just chucking springs and boostpads in the player's path and locking their movement to keep them from falling into the inevitable death pits they hold the entire level above.

How would that work today? I can think of a few possible examples. Like making the last hit on a particular Homing Attack sequence gives you a different pose if you strike certain criteria (like the one in Metal Harbour, where you can detour to get a gold beetle and an extra life if you're careful). Or making the camera pan back briefely to see all the enemies you just Boosted through hitting the ground and blowing up if you hit every single one along the way. Maybe hitting a certain enemy at the top of a slope lets you grind it all the way down to the bottom and ram it into something you ordinarily wouldn't have the chance to break on your own. Just so long as it's designed on a case-by-case, level-by-level basis - Generations stunt ramps get old pretty quick when literally every fucking level has them.

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6 minutes ago, Blacklightning said:

As long as we're talking about spectacle, I feel like SA2 was really onto something, insofar as they gave you plenty of opportunities to do cool shit by adapting it from the reflexes of their players. Take City Escape for example - there's loads of jump ramps in the downhill segments. Jumping at the very tip of the launch is already a well-conditioned response from pretty much anyone who's ever played a platformer before, under the expectation that it extends your jump length as far as it can possibly go. Knowing players will do this, they directly reward the player with a neat flip animation and some extra distance for pulling it off right. If there's any kind of automation the series needs more of, it's that - a neat little sequence that's directly initiated by the player's actions, not just chucking springs and boostpads in the player's path and locking their movement to keep them from falling into the inevitable death pits they hold the entire level above.

Honestly, that's not even something that needs automation; I can't think of any harm in it not taking control away or fixing your launch angle beyond the basic "you need to play well to not die" aspect, which shouldn't be a problem if the level design isn't shit.

6 minutes ago, Blacklightning said:

Or making the camera pan back briefely to see all the enemies you just Boosted through hitting the ground and blowing up if you hit every single one along the way.

Eh, this seems like it could be too distracting. In a Sonic game you don't want to stop moving forward unless you genuinely have to, so anything pulling your attention backwards seems sketchy.

6 minutes ago, Blacklightning said:

Maybe hitting a certain enemy at the top of a slope lets you grind it all the way down to the bottom and ram it into something you ordinarily wouldn't have the chance to break on your own.

This is interesting, though. I think there could be a lot of room to explore things like this, where doing something cool isn't just for the cool moment itself but affects how you progress through the level. I feel like Sonic has never really played around with stuff like that, any effect you have on the level always seems really short term.

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Interactive environments are definitely something I would like to see explored when further exploring the multiple routes in Sonic gameplay.  Something that adds a great deal of intrigue to exploring the different routes, as opposed to the usual "add different nooks and crannies that all eventually lead to the same place" philosophy of level design.

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2 hours ago, Tara said:

Interactive environments are definitely something I would like to see explored when further exploring the multiple routes in Sonic gameplay.  Something that adds a great deal of intrigue to exploring the different routes, as opposed to the usual "add different nooks and crannies that all eventually lead to the same place" philosophy of level design.

That depends entirely on what you mean by interactive environments. Sonic games are always in motion, making the player stop to metaphorically 'smell the roses' goes against the purpose of a Sonic level. It's one thing to admire a beautiful vista as you race by on your way to the goal ring/post but making the player stop to messy with something time consuming is just going to annoy a lot of people. You'd have to tie a lot of bonus points to those interactive environments to make up for the lost points on the time bonus for players to even consider deviating from the fastest route they've found through the level.

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1 minute ago, Kintor said:

That depends entirely on what you mean by interactive environments. Sonic games are always in motion, making the player stop to metaphorically 'smell the roses' goes against the purpose of a Sonic level. It's one thing to admire a beautiful vista as you race by on your way to the goal ring/post but making the player stop to messy with something time consuming is just going to annoy a lot of people. You'd have to tie a lot of bonus points to those interactive environments to make up for the lost points on the time bonus for players to even consider deviating from the fastest route they've found through the level.

I was referring to it as described in this post:

4 hours ago, Blacklightning said:

Maybe hitting a certain enemy at the top of a slope lets you grind it all the way down to the bottom and ram it into something you ordinarily wouldn't have the chance to break on your own.

 

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3 minutes ago, Tara said:

I was referring to it as described in this post:

I see what you're getting here. Although, that kind of interactivity, like using an enemy to destroy part of the environment and unlock a different path, starts to sound more like the grand set piece moments you're arguing against. In my view a cool Sonic level isn't style over substance, the style is the substance.

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Just some minor clarification on my part:

3 hours ago, Diogenes said:

Honestly, that's not even something that needs automation; I can't think of any harm in it not taking control away or fixing your launch angle beyond the basic "you need to play well to not die" aspect, which shouldn't be a problem if the level design isn't shit.

Maybe my wording wasn't quite right, but I wasn't actually trying to advocate taking control away to this extent - by all means, if the player character doesn't appear inhibited by something he should still possess the amount of control he usually does. It should just be a little harder to resist if a launch only has one intended purpose and the player gains nothing by deviating. Classic games did this too on occasion - I'm sure there was a fuax-3D ramp in Lava Reef that behaved like this.

3 hours ago, Diogenes said:

Eh, this seems like it could be too distracting. In a Sonic game you don't want to stop moving forward unless you genuinely have to, so anything pulling your attention backwards seems sketchy.

That depends on the setpiece really - if there's nothing harmful immediately ahead of the player and they can already discern that based on the time they're already spent moving fowards, they can probably spare about a second or two to show Sonic being a cool dude who doesn't look at explosions. Obviously you wouldn't do this for a much more involved setpiece, or even regularly throughout the game - maybe a one-off in an earlier level, and keep mixing things up after that point.

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Just now, Kintor said:

I see what you're getting here. Although, that kind of interactivity, like using an enemy to destroy part of the environment and unlock a different path, starts to sound more like the grand set piece moments you're arguing against. In my view a cool Sonic level isn't style over substance, the style is the substance.

I'm not sure you understood the point of my rant.  The difference is that defeating an enemy to destroy a set piece and unlock a different path is something initiated by the player in an integrated setting.  The aerial hang times in the boost games are all automated.  There's no amount of precision, accuracy, or speed you can build up that will change the course of your trajectory, and that's not even the main problem I had with it.  The button prompts are fundamentally designed to be segmented and visually distracting, as opposed to blended with the overarching gameplay to provide its own layer of unique challenge.  There is little to no satisfaction to be gained, because it does not test your skill, reflexes, or level of observation, but rather tests your ability to repeat simple, repetitive tasks that, in some cases, are essentially handed to you, rather you do them right or not.  Mastering the game mechanics to figure out how to destroy an enemy that will allow you to reach new heights, on the other hand, puts your skills to the test and rewards with you an alternate path that comes with its own share of tests in addition to looking cool (provided, obviously, that it is done right).

When done right, Sonic doesn't have to sacrifice style for gameplay or vice versa, but dating as far back as Sonic 3, the games have only increasingly added pseudo gameplay mechanics that are mere visual distractions, as opposed to an integrated experience.

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21 minutes ago, Tara said:

I'm not sure you understood the point of my rant.  The difference is that defeating an enemy to destroy a set piece and unlock a different path is something initiated by the player in an integrated setting.  The aerial hang times in the boost games are all automated.  There's no amount of precision, accuracy, or speed you can build up that will change the course of your trajectory, and that's not even the main problem I had with it.  The button prompts are fundamentally designed to be segmented and visually distracting, as opposed to blended with the overarching gameplay to provide its own layer of unique challenge.  There is little to no satisfaction to be gained, because it does not test your skill, reflexes, or level of observation, but rather tests your ability to repeat simple, repetitive tasks that, in some cases, are essentially handed to you, rather you do them right or not.  Mastering the game mechanics to figure out how to destroy an enemy that will allow you to reach new heights, on the other hand, puts your skills to the test and rewards with you an alternate path that comes with its own share of tests in addition to looking cool (provided, obviously, that it is done right).

That just sounds like trial and error gameplay to me, which has always been the foundation of arcade style games, Sonic the Hedgehog included. Memorisation has always played a key part in platforming, knowing the best way through the level, long with the location of important items and difficult enemies, is an essential skill worth developing as much as reflect actions or the ability to observe small detail in any given situation. So it's always quite strange when I see rants (your term not mine) critical of modern Sonic games because of the degree of memorisation that they rely on. Sonic games encourage reply value, this means playing the same levels over and over again and refining the best approach as a result. In this way broad multiple paths and set-piece moments are a deliberate design feature as these landmarks aid in memorisation.

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10 minutes ago, Kintor said:

That just sounds like trial and error gameplay to me, which has always been the foundation of arcade style games, Sonic the Hedgehog included. Memorisation has always played a key part in platforming, knowing the best way through the level, long with the location of important items and difficult enemies, is an essential skill worth developing as much as reflect actions or the ability to observe small detail in any given situation. So it's always quite strange when I see rants (your term not mine) critical of modern Sonic games because of the degree of memorisation that they rely on. Sonic games encourage reply value, this means playing the same levels over and over again and refining the best approach as a result. In this way broad multiple paths and set-piece moments are a deliberate design feature as these landmarks aid in memorisation.

Again I'm not sure you're comprehending, as you're highlighting the issue in question.  What I described is not trial and error, because there's no error to learn from, nor does it foster memorization because there is literally nothing to memorize in the first place.

To the contrary, the mechanic in the text you bolded was made explicitly to PREVENT memorization and to prevent any form of trial and error.  And that's exactly the problem.

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26 minutes ago, Tara said:

Again I'm not sure you're comprehending, as you're highlighting the issue in question.  What I described is not trial and error, because there's no error to learn from, nor does it foster memorization because there is literally nothing to memorize in the first place.

To the contrary, the mechanic in the text you bolded was made explicitly to PREVENT memorization and to prevent any form of trial and error.  And that's exactly the problem.

If you're going to focus on the aerial button prompts specifically there's still more skill involved then it might seem at first glance. More commonly it's clear just to call these button prompts 'quick time events' (QTE for short) and Sonic games are hardly the only franchise where they are a contentious issue for many gamers. Personally though, I don't have a problem with QTEs; I think that they can provide an interesting challenge and when done well can really add to the overall gameplay experience.

For example, to this day some of the best QTEs come from Shenmue:

A good QTE is a legitimate test of reflexes, observation and memorisation; to know where the right buttons are and respond to the prompts on screen. With success or failure alternating the next gameplay sequence that the player sees. It's no different in modern Sonic games; QTEs are just place a more literal emphasis on correct button pressing they might see in other parts of Sonic's gameplay.

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I feel that there are two separate issues here: Firstly, exciting set-pieces in general, and secondly, extended aerial hang time as area transition.

Now, exciting set pieces are all very well.  Sonic as a series defines itself partly on style, and the plots, such as they are, generally involve visually stunning locations and cathartic events.  Exciting things should happen, and if they can be integrated into the gameplay rather than taking place in cutscenes only - great!  But it does have to be integrated.  As a player, I do not want to be tricked into thinking I am playing a game when I am actually watching a cutscene.  Sonic is the playable character; for the purposes of the game, Sonic is me.  He should not do anything cool without me being responsible.  Now, sometimes this is not so much of an issue as at other times.  I would point out that, while the Ice Cap snowboarding sequence in S3 is fairly superficial, the player is given the power to jump, and this can skip extremely minor alternative routes.  It's not very sophisticated and I would agree should have been made more so, but it's a start and a middle ground.  On the other hand, we have sequences such as the orca chase.  I vividly remember the Generations 3DS version of this, where I literally put the game down and didn't touch the buttons and what do you know, I won regardless.  Sequences like that are empty; they aren't gameplay, they are illusions.  And I would question what noble motive the developers could have for tricking the player into believing they are playing a game when they aren't.  Make Sonic do the running and jumping himself; I would even accept a pseudo-quick-time-event in which the orca bursts out from beneath him and there is a prompt to press the jump button to leap from its snout.  However, on the other hand, Generations 3DS also had at the end of (Classic, I think) Water Palace a sequence where a giant badnik appears in the background and pounds on the ceiling to cause rocks to descend, and another at the end of Modern Tropical Resort where meteorites descend upon a trio of grind rails which you must switch between to avoid.  I have no objection to these because you respond to the set piece with normal gameplay.  Whether or not grinding should be a part of "normal gameplay" is another question; I would argue that grind rails are mostly cinematic in themselves, as they don't require the player to press any buttons to progress.  You can and occasionally must boost or jump, but why does it have to be on a rail?  Is it to show off the background, or to load a new part of the area?  The latter isn't unreasonable, the former could be done with normal gameplay. Both can and should be made more playable.  If the player has no choice, there is no gameplay.

Now, so far as extended aerial hang time as area transition goes, I suppose we have to ask whether the purpose is psychological or functional.  Do these areas exist, in the first case, to give players a breather after intense sequences?  Or are they there to disguise the loading of new areas?  Most likely it is both, and in that respect I think that the existence of extended aerial hang time as area transition is not objectionable; the problem is simply what they make you do during it.  I would argue that a little button mashing during downtime in an action-heavy game is not unnatural; humans are fidgety and will respond to instant gratification, as many mobile games demonstrate.  But I'm not a fan of a purely scripted trick system; Sonic Rush and Rush Adventure managed perfectly well with an unscripted and occasionally even risky trick system, where otherwise empty hang time and grind time could be filled by selective, player-driven and optional button-mashing to perform tricks, which rewarded the player with boost energy; there were ways of extending these trick sequences, and very occasionally there was a potential trade-off against imminent platforming which you might not be paying enough attention to.  I see absolutely no reason why such sequences could not be added to Modern Sonic games to replace their alternative: Scripted, timed, and sometimes obligatory trick sequences which occur in these aerial hang times only for no apparent reason, while Sonic soars along unconstrained by any illusion of his usual physics.  These have no relation to the rest of their game and their existence is nakedly to trick the player with something superficially satisfying.  I see nothing to be lost by letting the player decide their actions in these situations... while level design accommodates for Sonic not simply flying in a straight line to the next area.  Now, strict quick time events where Sonic, for instance, bounces from pillar to pillar or some such are slightly different.  Again, the normal physics do not apply, but there is some attempt to rationalise the action taking place.  Those are perhaps a step in the right direction, but only so long as the actions the player performs relate to what happens on-screen in a meaningful way.  It should be possible to die in these sequences.  It should not be possible to press buttons which do not correspond to the action taking place.  If this makes these sequences less interesting, then don't use them.  Sonic games should not be interrupted by a different game.

One final note: In the classics, Sonic never did anything that the player could not have achieved while controlling him; I would argue that it follows that Sonic should never do anything without the player controlling him.  I will draw attention in this regard to such sequences as, say, the transitional semi-cutscenes between zones in S3&K, which sometimes were playable and sometimes were not; I would argue that Sonic could perfectly well have been playable in all of these, including the ends of Angel Island, Mushroom Hill, Flying Battery etc.; it would not have been hard to indicate to the player what action it was necessary for them to take, because they are perfectly well left to their own devices at the end of, say, Carnival Night.  Minor modifications and an assumption that the player would not willingly commit suicide would be all that was necessary.  I believe this principle should be extended to all Sonic games.

To summarise: Set pieces and style are fine so long as they are actually playable with something at the very least closely approximating normal gameplay.  If they aren't, they have no place in a game which claims to be a platformer.

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7 hours ago, Kintor said:

If you're going to focus on the aerial button prompts specifically there's still more skill involved then it might seem at first glance. More commonly it's clear just to call these button prompts 'quick time events' (QTE for short) and Sonic games are hardly the only franchise where they are a contentious issue for many gamers. Personally though, I don't have a problem with QTEs; I think that they can provide an interesting challenge and when done well can really add to the overall gameplay experience.

 

For example, to this day some of the best QTEs come from Shenmue:

 

 

A good QTE is a legitimate test of reflexes, observation and memorisation; to know where the right buttons are and respond to the prompts on screen. With success or failure alternating the next gameplay sequence that the player sees. It's no different in modern Sonic games; QTEs are just place a more literal emphasis on correct button pressing they might see in other parts of Sonic's gameplay.

I do have a strong dislike for QTE's in the context of platformers, but that is still hardly the point.  See the Colors and Dash examples above.  There's no test of reflex or memorization when the prompt is ALWAYS "just mash the A button repeatedly" (Colors) or "swipe some combination of up, down, left, right." (Dash)

Similarly there's no challenge to getting past an orca when the only thing that need be done is holding down the joystick (something you were probably already doing) or running down a building by doing much of the same.

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10 hours ago, Tara said:

I do have a strong dislike for QTE's in the context of platformers, but that is still hardly the point.  See the Colors and Dash examples above.  There's no test of reflex or memorization when the prompt is ALWAYS "just mash the A button repeatedly" (Colors) or "swipe some combination of up, down, left, right." (Dash)

Similarly there's no challenge to getting past an orca when the only thing that need be done is holding down the joystick (something you were probably already doing) or running down a building by doing much of the same.

Those are certainly fair examples of how QTEs could have better implemented better in Sonic games. Although, Sonic Dash gets a free pass from me because it's an endless runner and not a platformer, it was never designed to have the same level of sophistication as a normal Sonic game. Regardless, I do think that the QTEs can work quite well in Sonic games.

In particular, I did like how QTEs were implemented in the daytime stages for Sonic Unleashed. You were required to input different button combinations at certain points while in the air, making use of reflexes and memorisation, with success or failure usually resulting in a different path for the player to take. Sonic Generations did something similar, even if the QTE prompts were easier to complete, but the principle remained the same. That’s the kind of QTEs I’d like to see in future Sonic games.

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  • 2 weeks later...
On 5/10/2017 at 2:50 PM, Tara said:

33f8e0ccbd65d7bd6e0fc6dcc34540d9.gif

Am I the only one who thinks that GIF looks lewd? :huh:

Anyway, my stray points are:

1) "When you can move at the speed of sound, the things you do that are cool should be the ones you're actually controlling" sounds like a self-evident statement on paper, but the reality is Sonic could probably never go anywhere close to the speed of sound in a playable game.  If he did, players simply wouldn't be able to react in time to dodge things, and even assuming Sonic could just smash through them instead of impale himself on them, it would happen too quickly for people to know what's happening.  So that might be a part of why the games take away controls at various times, in favor of showing Sonic going sonic.

2) Things like the Orca and Truck, I think, would be easy to implement in a form that is actually playable, if only there was a good, adjustable camera to select the angle.  Perhaps if Sonic Team knew how to make such cameras at the time of the adventure games, there'd be more interactivity.  However, because they didn't have it down and had to settle for fixed cameras, they were forced to choose what they felt was the lesser of two evils.  Look ahead of Sonic, and you won't see what's chasing him, meaning there isn't much point to having it chasing him.  Look behind Sonic, and you won't be able to anticipate what he's approaching, so you can't put in many obstacles.  Personally, I think the best case would be to view those segments more from the side, that is if a camera had to be fixed, but I guess they wanted to go more cinematic.

3) That said, I have no idea why they chose to have camera while Sonic runs down the side of a building be looking up at Sonic's face.  It doesn't take much understanding of psychology to know that if you're trying to trigger fear and adrenaline, looking down from on high is a better way.

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I'm double-posting, because I had another thought.

Something that gets a lot of mention in criticism of the official 3D Sonic games is that loops in them are pointless, since they're little more than scripted sequences you can't really fail at.  For example, this was the sentiment expressed in the description of this video of the BlitzSonic engine's early form.

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This is what 3D Sonic should be playing like, honestly. Entirely momentum-based gameplay, none of this "forced down a linear path, bottomless pits on all sides, speed pads galore" business. Loops are there to prevent you from moving forward if you lack speed, not just eye candy to be pasted every few blocks or so, where the camera pans out to show you being forced around the loop by way of speed pads.

And all that is true enough.  Loops are rather pointless as anything but eye-candy when the speed needed to go through them is provided for free by a boost pad. However, the haunting question is, even if they make a 3D game where you have to work for that momentum, does that actually make loops back into the impediment they were in 2D?  The short answer is no, because when you can move in three dimensions, you can choose to simply jump a little bit left or right to skip going around the loop.  Or in other cases, such as is true even in many open-world Sonic fangames, you can deviate even further from that intended purpose by running (or even walking) around the side of the loop.  They can, of course, make alterations to turn loops into more of an impediment, such as giving them more depth to the left or right or putting a transparent wall in them, but the point here is you can't just convert old 2D stages 1-to-1 and get the same experience.  Placing limits on what characters can do is an important part of game design.  In fact, it very arguably is the thing that makes the difference between a game and just a toy.

This factor is of particular interest when viewed through the lens of the old console wars, because it illustrates how Mario and Sonic had very different priorities.  When Mario went 3D in Super Mario 64, a lot of things people considered iconic about that series were downplayed or even dropped entirely; among them, Koopa shells, fireballs, and pipes, and this was probably because the mechanics they facilitated in 2D just wouldn't work as well in 3D.  Koopa shells sliding across the ground and bouncing off of things are potent in 2D because in two dimensions there isn't as much way to dodge them; in three dimensions there's plenty.  Fireballs are similar; in two dimensions they hit their targets pretty easily because enemies can't dodge to the sides and Mario and Luigi never angle to the sides, but in 3D both of those possibilities become problems.  Pipes worked in 2D because of limited visibility; in fact, only a few of them were actually, functionally pipes, while most were solid objects, and the depth was provided by not being able to see which was which; you just had to test them to see if you could go through them, but in 3D, where whether or not a pipe is hollow is plainly visible, that doesn't work.

The TLDR of the above paragraph is, gameplay mechanics are the highest priority in the Mario series, and what terrain, objects and characters get in them are largely down to that.  However, style has always been important to the Sonic series, and so from Sonic Adventure onward it's kept things like loops around even if they're obsolete as gameplay mechanics.

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