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Reaction to Forces: Public Discourse


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In light of the incoming reviews for Sonic Forces and the expectation that they will be less than stellar....and given the fact that SEGA has claimed to be serious about restoring the Sonic brand and ensuring quality (ignore the PR speak for now)...is there anything we can do as fans to ensure that the process of evaluating and reviewing the mistakes of this game can allow for effective change? It is possible for once that the most important issues of the series can be agreed upon among fans and discussed publicly? 

We don't make the games and I don't believe games should be designed by committee in the public sense; its important that in the next hypothetical big budget Sonic project (hopefully?) that the developers have a firm understanding of what makes Sonic fun to play in the first place and the natural appeal of the series.

This goes without saying but since there are nearly 3 generations of Sonic fans now, there will be no agreement of what the natural appeal of the series actually is (or what that even means). But I suspect that at least among a majority of fans (and even the general community) there can be agreement in the most fundamental thing: Sonic himself. I don't think I've encountered really anyone who would disagree that Sonic has not reached his movement potential in the 3D plane. It seems possible, to me, to use this as a starting to can provide useful feedback and commentary on this issue... that can allow the next developers to have a strong concept and goal in mind.

If the conversation can be narrowed and focused, perhaps a more effective channel of dialogue can be established between us and the developer. Instead of rooting against them to fail so "someone out there" (who may not, in any real capacity, exist) can do a better job, can we properly establish this channel such that regardless of who takes up the task of the next big title, they can know without a doubt that they have the support of fans behind them, rooting them on? One of the biggest tragedies of Forces, in my opinion, has been to see that SEGA and Sonic Team both misjudged so heavily on the appeal of this game, thinking that it "is not for Sonic fans, but for everyone"....but then to have it be released and find appeal only among the most diehard of Sonic fans...and a minority of them, at that. If even we can't get behind their efforts, hope for them is lost.

So, doing our best to put aside our biases for now (I have a classic bias), can we find some common ground to help ensure that the next big title is a winner?

 

One quick example of putting my bias aside and contributing to this conversation: Most "Adventure era fans" that I know really enjoyed the full 3D movement of Sonic in those games and found them, at least in concept, "ideal". I don't think his controls were "ideal" in those games but do believe that SEGA did have some good ideas that could be built upon in the future had they focused more on polishing Sonic. Its apparent here that we're after the same thing, in this regard. So let's discuss what "that same thing" might look like fully realized, or sketch out some ideas. And keep some momentum (pun not intended) on this thread of thinking, and vocalize it to someone at SEGA *cough Aaron* who may or may not be paying attention.

 

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I would suggest cycling through the most popular themes of Sonic games which I think would be 3 types. That way everybody wins. People who only like Sonic and hate all his friends being playable can have a Sonic only game. People who like playing as other characters besides Sonic can get a game. And of course people who like the classic 2D can get a game. And each game would cycle through each type making sure each gets something they like. Though the game still could be bad but at least the main things would be to their liking, as in playable characters for instance.

I have no idea if there is anything that everybody agrees on. Perhaps making a list and rating how much each one means to you could help. For instance how strongly for or against are the following to you?

Strongly Against, Against, Neutral/(Not For or Against), For, Strongly For

A strong well told story?

Nice level design?

Having nice music?

Having fast gameplay?

Good graphics?

Replayability?

2D gameplay?

3D gameplay?

Mixed 2D/3D gameplay?

Open explorable 3D world?

Closed linear 3D world?

Playable characters?

Sonic only gameplay?

2 playable Sonic's?

Boost gameplay?

Online multiplayer?

There are probably more but that is what I could come up with. I would hope that everybody could agree that everybody wants a good Sonic game to play.

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3D platformers barely exist today, and for good reason. Depth perception is very difficult to communicate with sufficient accuracy on a flat screen to make jumping between platforms feel precise and fun. The 3D console genre that rose to ascendency, FPS, is in one sense basically a "2D" game about aligning your camera vertically/horizontally with the target. The few relative successes in this space (Mario, Crash) are much slower-paced games, and other games that feature some 3D platforming moved increasingly towards exploring and collecting or melee combat instead of mastering jumps. So this is a very difficult problem to solve in the first place, which is compounded a million times by Sonic's trademark breakneck speed, and I don't see Sonic team getting the talent or budget to really "solve" it.

Unleashed started the trend of sidestepping this issue by making the 3D day segments mostly corridors/racetracks to boost around, putting the majority of day platforming into 2.5D and relegating 3D platforming to the slowhog. I don't recall much 3D platforming in colors that wasn't heavily centered on slow-moving wisps, and Generations was mostly a 2.5D game, which is my favorite of the "3D" series, and that was dragged down in my opinion by the few 3D platforming segments over bottomless pits. Barring some amazing breakthrough (I mused whether a more forgiving "jump" like tails flight could bring back 3D platforming), given their resources/talent I think Sonic team mostly has it right to sidestep this issue. Use 3D for racetracks or exploring hubs, keep the intense platforming to 2D.

Lost World seemed like an experiment to get Sonic back into 3D platforming, and its not one that is seen too favorably. But its going to take a ton more crap games like that for Sega to discover Sonic's true 3D potential, if they can even pull it off. Realistically I think they are probably better off mostly avoiding the issue, maybe including one experimental idea in a few easy sections so as not to tank the whole game, but I realize that 3D sonic will never reach the same greatness as 2D with this approach. That's probably fine for 3D sonic fans but it will never break through into the "mainstream" appeal his 2D games once had. Still its probably the best outcome we can expect.

I also think its worth keeping in mind that the 2D sonic games were never a big thing in Japan, and what Sonic fans there are over there center mostly on Adventure era. We can't expect most Japanese developers to cater perfectly to Western interests that don't overlap with their own, and we also can't expect the same kind of budget that Mario gets, who sells extremely well both at home and abroad. That is, since adventure is the "gold standard" in Japan, that is closer to the baseline quality we have to expect than the genesis/MD games. So I don't see much point getting bitter or invested or hoping that 3D sonic will ever be at the top of gaming like his 2D counterpart was in the west, and we at least have a western developer now that can reproduce the 2D greatness at low budget.

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3 hours ago, TailsTellsTales said:

I would suggest cycling through the most popular themes of Sonic games which I think would be 3 types. That way everybody wins. People who only like Sonic and hate all his friends being playable can have a Sonic only game. People who like playing as other characters besides Sonic can get a game. And of course people who like the classic 2D can get a game. And each game would cycle through each type making sure each gets something they like. Though the game still could be bad but at least the main things would be to their liking, as in playable characters for instance.

Interesting that Modern 3D Sonic is not actually a choice against Classic 2D in this selection. Is it because you've subconsciously recognised that it's provably not?

Or are you rendering Modern as a default, somehow? Because a choice between Modern 3D, Modern 3D :sparkling_heart:with friends:sparkling_heart:, and Classic 2D comes out to a line-up of 2/3rds games nobody wants to buy.

Because that's the thing we all need to get back into our heads: if we're fans of Modern Sonic, it has only ever been because of potential. It hasn't been because of the actual games. Outside the Sonic fandom there is no equal basis between liking Classic and liking Modern. They are not equally valid opinions. One of them is based in objective evidence. One of them isn't. People who aren't this fandom and don't have a stake in an imaginary good Modern 3D Sonic title actively recognise that.

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23 minutes ago, DoubleXXCross said:

Because that's the thing we all need to get back into our heads: if we're fans of Modern Sonic, it has only ever been because of potential. It hasn't been because of the actual games. Outside the Sonic fandom there is no equal basis between liking Classic and liking Modern. They are not equally valid opinions. One of them is based in objective evidence. One of them isn't. People who aren't this fandom and don't have a stake in an imaginary good Modern 3D Sonic title actively recognise that.

(Emphasis mine.) I understand your broad point, but that's not really how opinions about something as subjective as a form of entertainment work. I may strongly prefer classic Sonic games to modern ones myself, and I do think this position has good reasons behind it, which is why it's closer to being the "consensus" among gamers, but I'm certainly not going to say someone is literally "wrong" for having a different opinion, or that opinions that don't line up with this are "invalid". That just seems unnecessarily undermining of others for no reason. I mean, it's video games. It's really not the most objective thing anyway. They consist of so many different elements all put together and people are going to have different views on which elements are most important to a game's overall quality, how well-executed each element is in each specific instance, etc.

At the end of the day, opinions are opinions. It's certainly good to expose the reasoning behind them and subject them to analysis rather than just giving up on discussion or anything like that, but that doesn't mean "right" and "wrong" opinions on something as subjective as the enjoyability of a game are a thing that exists.

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Again, just want to remind that this thread, while differences of opinion are absolutely allowed and hopefully can be had peacefully, is not really about creating a checklist of elements to please everyone with the next Sonic game. That is one of Forces main drawbacks in ambition and scope; trying to appeal to many subgroups at the same time with a mishmash of ideas, rather than one strong and focused concept.

This is about where we can find common ground. And since its nearly 20 years since the creation of Modern Sonic and Sonic Team's first serious attempt at 3D Sonic gameplay, my suggestion is that we focus the conversation on that. This is something we can discuss and something the current developers have openly admitted they do not understand.

Its important to think about how Sonic can reach his full potential and why that matters, and then discussing what that might look like. 

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4 hours ago, rahkeesh said:
Spoiler

 

3D platformers barely exist today, and for good reason. Depth perception is very difficult to communicate with sufficient accuracy on a flat screen to make jumping between platforms feel precise and fun. The 3D console genre that rose to ascendency, FPS, is in one sense basically a "2D" game about aligning your camera vertically/horizontally with the target. The few relative successes in this space (Mario, Crash) are much slower-paced games, and other games that feature some 3D platforming moved increasingly towards exploring and collecting or melee combat instead of mastering jumps. So this is a very difficult problem to solve in the first place, which is compounded a million times by Sonic's trademark breakneck speed, and I don't see Sonic team getting the talent or budget to really "solve" it.

Unleashed started the trend of sidestepping this issue by making the 3D day segments mostly corridors/racetracks to boost around, putting the majority of day platforming into 2.5D and relegating 3D platforming to the slowhog. I don't recall much 3D platforming in colors that wasn't heavily centered on slow-moving wisps, and Generations was mostly a 2.5D game, which is my favorite of the "3D" series, and that was dragged down in my opinion by the few 3D platforming segments over bottomless pits. Barring some amazing breakthrough (I mused whether a more forgiving "jump" like tails flight could bring back 3D platforming), given their resources/talent I think Sonic team mostly has it right to sidestep this issue. Use 3D for racetracks or exploring hubs, keep the intense platforming to 2D.

Lost World seemed like an experiment to get Sonic back into 3D platforming, and its not one that is seen too favorably. But its going to take a ton more crap games like that for Sega to discover Sonic's true 3D potential, if they can even pull it off. Realistically I think they are probably better off mostly avoiding the issue, maybe including one experimental idea in a few easy sections so as not to tank the whole game, but I realize that 3D sonic will never reach the same greatness as 2D with this approach. That's probably fine for 3D sonic fans but it will never break through into the "mainstream" appeal his 2D games once had. Still its probably the best outcome we can expect.

I also think its worth keeping in mind that the 2D sonic games were never a big thing in Japan, and what Sonic fans there are over there center mostly on Adventure era. We can't expect most Japanese developers to cater perfectly to Western interests that don't overlap with their own, and we also can't expect the same kind of budget that Mario gets, who sells extremely well both at home and abroad. That is, since adventure is the "gold standard" in Japan, that is closer to the baseline quality we have to expect than the genesis/MD games. So I don't see much point getting bitter or invested or hoping that 3D sonic will ever be at the top of gaming like his 2D counterpart was in the west, and we at least have a western developer now that can reproduce the 2D greatness at low budget.

 

 

I definitely disagree with the assertion that 3D platforming won't work for Sonic. We've already seen it working, namely in Sonic Adventure. And it was actually pretty precise, too, despite the jankiness of the overall game. You could pinpoint ladders in Sky Deck, for example, or mess around with platforms in Lost World (the stage). This is why, as much as I like it, I'm willing to let go of the boost formula. This kind of platforming isn't really feasible when your thumb is centimeters away from a button that will instantly get you killed. 

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The best playing 3D Sonic game I've played would be Sonic Robo Blast 2 on the PC. The camera angle makes it so that you don't need a homing attack button to easily bounce off of enemies, you have a high speed cap that never feels out of control, and you can quickly tap the keys to give yourself an amazing degree of control while in the air and on the ground. However, the problem with that game is that it only controls amazingly with mouse and keyboard controls, since it plays like a third person shooter with no actual shooting. You COULD replicate the gameplay with a controller, but you'd be losing a degree of precision that a mouse gives, and it wouldn't feel natural on console because 3D platforming games have had analog control for decades now.

I think SEGA themselves have realized that analog control is difficult for a 3D Sonic game to pull off (Heroes and Shadow the Hedgehog being the worst examples), which is why 2D sections have become the norm and Sonic Forces has devolved into an endless runner that ends in 4 hours for 40 dollars. Sonic Adventure 1 probably had the closest thing to a balance of speed and precision, but even it relied on forced camera angles and automation to be workable. Sonic 2006 had the potential to be an evolution in that regard, by slowing itself down and giving us wider levels to explore with a variety of moves and almost always full camera control... too bad every movement you made in that game felt like trash due to the shoddy programming.

I don't think a perfect solution to the question of Sonic in 3D exists yet. I know that if I were to attempt to make a 3D Sonic game, it would probably resemble Mario Odyssey, which has more enjoyable rolling physics than any Adventure and Modern Sonic game has. I think a lot of people have this idea that Sonic should be the antithesis of Mario, but the problem with that thinking is that Mario games are... really good games, so the antithesis to that would by its own reasoning be of lesser quality. SEGA could learn a lot about 3D platforming from Mario if they looked at how they control, instead of just stealing the wallpaper from Galaxy and slapping together a Lost World.

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4 hours ago, Whatever the WhoCares said:

I definitely disagree with the assertion that 3D platforming won't work for Sonic. We've already seen it working, namely in Sonic Adventure. And it was actually pretty precise, too, despite the jankiness of the overall game. You could pinpoint ladders in Sky Deck, for example, or mess around with platforms in Lost World (the stage). This is why, as much as I like it, I'm willing to let go of the boost formula. This kind of platforming isn't really feasible when your thumb is centimeters away from a button that will instantly get you killed. 

I won't argue with adventure doing 3D platforming sections better than boost. Maybe that's the direction they should head for now even. But I don't think it propels adventure to be a "great" game that is widely accessible to today's audience. Precisely because it remains janky. They also couldn't get the adventure speed sections to be all that much of the total game, and when they started building the whole game around them a la heroes/shadow, the plummet in quality per level just ruined things. (Another thing I hadn't mentioned: building quality 3D space is just plain more time consuming than 2D, and making enough of it to keep up with the insane speed Sonic blazes through it is difficult for Sega to budget. This is something they have complained about time and again, justly so.)

I get a sense that the OP and many posters here want 3D Sonic to become as great and iconic as his 2D days, and I just think that's incredibly unrealistic. At best you're going to have something janky and slightly shallow like the adventure games, and Sonic Team can produce games like that on occasion. But its not the kind of thing that will move the industry, win widespread acclaim, or become a widely recognized classic. That's a state of affairs that I accept, good luck to those of you that think you can change it.

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8 minutes ago, rahkeesh said:

I won't argue with adventure doing 3D platforming sections better than boost. Maybe that's the direction they should head for now even. But I don't think it propels adventure to be a "great" game that is widely accessible to today's audience. Precisely because it remains janky. They also couldn't get the adventure speed sections to be all that much of the total game, and when they started building the whole game around them a la heroes/shadow, the plummet in quality per level just ruined things. (Another thing I hadn't mentioned: building quality 3D space is just plain more time consuming than 2D, and making enough of it to keep up with the insane speed Sonic blazes through it is difficult for Sega to budget. This is something they have complained about time and again, justly so.)

I get a sense that the OP and many posters here want 3D Sonic to become as great and iconic as his 2D days, and I just think that's incredibly unrealistic. At best you're going to have something janky and slightly shallow like the adventure games, and Sonic Team can produce games like that on occasion. But its not the kind of thing that will move the industry, win widespread acclaim, or become a widely recognized classic. That's a state of affairs that I accept, good luck to those of you that think you can change it.

It's true that I do want Sonic games to be as great as they once were in 2D (or as Mania is now). But my personal opinion in the path that one could take to get there may be quite different than others. I won't do it in this thread, but I have argued before that one of the primary problems with Sonic Teams history of 3D games is that they're stuck thinking about how to directly translate the 2D gameplay into a 3D plane, rather than creating an entirely new 3D concept based in part on the 2D principles. The two are quite different. (And not just Sonic Team, but most sonic fans do this and ironically follow the exact same line of thinking Naka and company had in 1996 while running into their development hurdles.)

A great example of this is the difference between super Mario world and Mario 64. The essence of the platforming are similar but the gameplay was carefully rethought and restructured for the 3D plane, into an entirely new concept but one that is still consistent with the trend and genre already established. Sonic has needed that like a glass of water in the desert but due to SEGA''s pressuring of sonic Team over the years and because of their in house talent restructuring, they have never had a consistent enough hive mind to do so.

 

An excellent 3D Sonic game is definitely possible and can be developed practically as well.

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Being a person who likes much more of the modern era and adventure era (but still think the classic era Ok), here are some things I like in each one of them.

Classic Era
    1. It is simple. You need to run, avoid obstacles, and pay attention to the scenery around you to progress as fast as possible. Level design usually does the job of being complex, giving Sonic a range of fairly simple moves.
    2. Momentum: I know it's cliche to say, but keeping the speed steady and growing is a very simple and satisfying reward for those who have mastered the controls and physics.

- Adventure Era
    1. Here is where I saw a certain balance in ideas, but a poor execution of them. I think the cool thing about the adventure era was how complex the controls were beginning to become (in general). Sonic now had the Homing Attack, could kick (heroes), Stomp, and do some other things. In addition, the games had more characters playable, with different gameplay controls and alternative purposes.

3. Although the momentum was really dicreasing importance, the level design was great several times. Whether it was in the visuals or in the mechanics of each level, most stages were able to stand out because of something different and super fun in there. (The Heroes Level Design was my favorite).
(Obviously, I repeat: the ideas were great but the execution of them was not that great)

Modern Era (Boost):

Here, I consider  that the qualities are opposite to that of the Classic Era .

1. Sonic's controls were now much more complex. He could now run faster, and there were A LOT habilities. Stomp, Homing attack, Boost, slide, Wisps, etc.
 Because of this, the level design was no longer so great, it was just "the place where Sonic runs," but progressing the game, it would become increasingly difficult to know which Sonic skill you should use at that particular time.
 3. ... However, I like to control Sonic having such a great range of skills, but I think Level design has a lot to improve in this era.

 

 

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I personally find Adventure to be the perfect 3D Sonic formula. Not 2, but 1. Large open levels to mess around with the physics (which are janky, but in a fun cartoony way). Simple goals, a nice speed that is still under control but requires good momentum and skill to achieve. A good tone between serious but still slapstick (Robotnik's Sleeping Gas...)

I don't think they can top Adventure, even Adventure 2 moved away from those ideas towards *shiver* Heroes.

 

Keep in mind, I grew up with Adventure so I have a severe bias, but I know why I like it and can defend it to the end of the earth. 

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