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HOT TAKE: Should Sonic Team stop listening to the fans?

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I don't think they should completely ignore the fans. They should stay aware of what kind of things the fans want, but they shouldn't let it dictate how they build their games.

I know this is a bold statement, but hear me out.

So I was in the middle of reading this Russo brothers interview (directors of Avengers: Infinity War) and there's one quote that caught me by surprise

Quote

"You know, it's always an agenda of ours to block out the outside noise because it can lead you to make some bad choices with the material. We've learned over the years just to listen to ourselves"

I don't know why but when I saw the phrase "bad choices" used in this kind of context, my mind jumped to Sonic Team. To me a game like Forces seems like the very epitome of trying to please every possible faction of the fanbase. It's designed by committee basically.

Let's be real here, there are a lot of different voices in the fandom and it's never really possible to reach a kind of consensus. Every Joe on this planet has made a feature length Youtube video-essay on how to fix Sonic in 3D. 

I basically think Sonic Team should hire a director who has a clear and confident vision for what a 3D Sonic can and should be like and give them free-range to make the type of game that they know would work.

But like I said, I don't think they should completely ignore the fans because it has lead to some great things.   

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The only fans Sonic Team should listen to....are themselves. They should design games based on their own ideas, not ours. Although this has sadly lead to consistently lacklustre titles.

Not that listening to the fanbase is a bad thing. Just look at Mania. Not only was it made by fans, but lots of design choices were included which had long been requested by the fanbase, and even when Mania-Plus was released there were some tweaks which clearly evidenced Team Mania had listened to our feedback.

So there are advantages or listening to and interacting with the fanbase.

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The opposite.  They should listen to us more.  Look at Mania and Mania Plus compared to Sonic Forces.  No challenge in picking the better title.

To be honest the last time hey listened to us besides being approached by fans offering to do a project (Mania) was this:

image.thumb.png.12917fb9c1cf938c184784bd5466b774.png

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If Sonic Team listens to any fans for input on their games, it's most likely the cult of diehards that tell them they can do no wrong and that everyone who complains about their games are just a bunch of irrational biased whiners who don't know what they're talking about. Because nothing about their recent spate of games really demonstrates any meaningful understanding of and incorporation of critique into their products or learning from past mistakes on the behalf of the development team. At best, you get pure lipservice, small, superficial, and/or inconsequential tweaks or fixes of glaring mistakes that only the aforementioned enthusiasts of the series would praise as significant and worth parsing about. At worst, you'll see a fan request twisted into some unwanted monster hardly anybody wanted. The "fan feedback" campaign from the Sonic 4 days and everything included with it is the most egregious example of Sonic Team's largely apathetic approach to recommendations from outside sources in action.

Besides, the Russo Bros. and their production staff actually have a solid track record to their credit (Winter Soldier, Civil War, Infinity War) for them to support their notion of not taking fan feedback seriously--they can be said to understand how to make good films and understand the source material they're adapting into films. That is a milestone Sonic Team over the past ten years struggles to even come close to achieving, outside of a couple of decent games that in retrospect come off as pure accidents.

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I would love it if Sonic Team stop listening to there league of haters who only follow them to hate on them as much as possible. Then maybe Amy can go back to being herself and not "mature" every time she's in a new game.

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I honestly don't know what they should do... to me, it honestly feels like no matter what they do or who they do/don't listen to, when it comes to Modern Sonic, a sizeable-enough group of people will ALWAYS find something to complain about.

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It's a bit of a "damned if you do, damned if you don't" type of situation with ST. On one side of the spectrum, we have Forces, which tried to appease every single person in the world with adding so much superficial shit the overall package felt really inconsistent. The butchered boost gameplay is there to try to appease boost games fans. Classic with its butchered gameplay is there to try to appease to classic fans. The more serious take on the story is there to try to appease those who wanted something more than a silly, goofy "haha nosehair" stuff. The OC character creation is there to appease the OC creators/deviantart people. Chaos is there to bait out more Adventure fanboys. The oversimplification of gameplay is because they wanted to appeal toddlers (probably, but mostly an exaggeration there). There's a lot of surface-level stuff that pretty much tried to appeal to everyone, only for the whole thing to fail miserably.

But on the other side of the spectrum we have Lost World, which also tried to appease as many people as possible, but this time putting non-fans/casuals at the forefront, while completely ignoring actual fans. No-one asked for sausage design for levels. No-one asked for the run button (at least from what I've seen). No-one really asked for Play-Doh villains that don't fit Sonic at all. This game is a mess because there was nothing for the fans, even on the superficial level (except for aesthetics "trying" to go for more classic and failing miserably at that as well).

So it's not that they should stop listening to fans, it's moreso that they should stop trying to make games and trying to appease every single person in the existence. It's impossible to do and you're just asking for trouble if you try doing it. Find a specific target group and focus on it when making games. Sure, that wouldn't increase the quality of games right away, but at least that'd alleviate the problem of "ST don't know what the hell they're doing" somewhat. At least I think.

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Drowning out criticisms and critiques completely is equally as unappealing as caving into fan demands and bending over backward to incorporate feedback. Both approaches lead to end results that are unappealing.

Like all things in life, its best to find that happy medium. I want Sega/Sonic Team to develop a better system of deciphering solid, actionable criticism from white noise, and heed those claims in the roadmap of the next game, while at the same time not compromising the ultimate vision of the creative leads as to what the next game is supposed to be. That's what leads to the most consistently solid product.

 

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Sonic Team/SEGA don't know what the fuck Sonic is supposed to be regardless of fan input. Meanwhile, a team of mostly long-term Sonic fans produced the best Sonic game in over a decade.

How about SEGA gradually integrates Sonic fans into Sonic Team until the whole thing is Sonic fans

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No, absolutely not. That's what leads to games like Lost World that have no business at all existing coming out. 

I think it's pretty clear that Sonic Team has no idea what the hell they're doing. Case and point: Sonic Lost World immediately after the success of the Boost trilogy, and screwing up Forces when by every measure that should have been a slam dunk. Let's also look at Classic Sonic and how Sonic Team has handled him, and if you wanna get more general, Sega themselves: Sonic 4, Sonic Forces, either they genuinely have no idea why people even liked Sonic to begin with or they have no clue how to replicate it.

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They should listen to reasonable input. Whether it comes from the themselves or from the fans. It doesn't matter. 

Reasonable decision making from those up on high is what's going to lead to good ideas coming to fruition at the end of the day though. For example, if they listen to fans but it turns out the fans they decided to listen to were the weirdos who wanted a Sonic game where you get to shoot people with realistic pistols and AK-47s then there's not much you can do.

I don't care who they listen to, so long as whoever it is has a good head on their shoulders and knows what they're doing.

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Generally I think it's better to have an "arm's length" approach to fan feedback. You need to have a good grasp on why they're interested in your thing, but you shouldn't really indulge them too much beyond that. That sounds a little weird, but it just hard to be surprising when you've resigned yourself to abiding by the strict set of rules that the fans have set up for you. It leads to some of the most boring and self indulgent media out there. The best game sequels tapped into something I didn't know I wanted. They didn't just give me more of what I already liked. I'm sure there are people that would be content with safe Sonic Mania or Sonic Generations sequels forever, but it would lead to stagnation eventually.

Another thing is to consider the rest of your audience. The truth is there's not much a fan has to offer you except what you could do to sell the product to them specifically, and that's just a small part of the larger audience of people you're trying to sell a big budget game to. I've seen dismissals of "casual" fans in this topic and elsewhere when they make up the vast majority of the people who buy Sonic games. Arguably more important than just keeping the "core" fanbase around is establishing a future for the IP.

Another thing is that fans just...don't get what it's like on the other side of the fence. There are a lot of video essays on where the Sonic series should go but almost none of them come with any game developer knowledge on how to execute on that idea. They have an idea about what they want, but with nothing but a basic guideline it's nigh useless to any of the people that can actually do the job. That's the awkward thing about fan feedback: most "fans" don't come with any real knowledge or insight on how to execute. It will likely just be a laundry list of requests or hypothetical "boundaries" they have to abide by no matter how eloquently they word it. This isn't to say that the Sonic fanbase are all like this but the ones who have a good grasp on making games are...actually making games of some kind. 

Fan feedback isn't worthless but it's such a small part of the bigger picture. You'll find many of the greatest devs in the world won't look too deep into fan feedback at all or might even frequently fly in the face of it. The statement from the Russo's makes a lot of sense.

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Sonic Team is really weird about how they approach fan feedback... It's like they have a guy spying on fan communities, who overhears bits of conversation lacking in context, and then relays his interpretation back to Sonic Team who just sort of hear all this gibberish and say "okay, we can do that." Obviously the thing to keep in mind here is balance, as most everyone in the thread has pointed out, and the act of creating should be based on one's own sensibilities with those of the audience factored in to the extent that is healthy, but I'm gonna say at this point that if given the choice of "have sonic team keep doing things the way they're doing 'em" or "have sonic team not give a dooky about any of us whatsoever," I'd probably choose the latter and see what happens. I mean who's to say if they'd put out something good that way, but I'd be more interested in seeing shit no one asked for than half hearted attempts to pander.

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1 hour ago, Scape said:

Sonic Team/SEGA don't know what the fuck Sonic is supposed to be regardless of fan input. 

This is really the central problem.

 

They need to pick a direction based on some consistent vision that they have for the franchise, and that they themselves come up with first, not us. Kind of like the OG title sonic 1. Or to a lesser extent, sonic adventure 1 for the dreamcast. They didn't need fans to tell them how to make those games. They just did based on a vision and clear direction they had for themselves. The sequels are the time to use fan feedback to know what worked and what didnt. Right now theres no foundation for feedback, since theres no clear established vision for what sonic is or should be. Right now and for the bulk of the last 20 years, sonic has been many things to many people, with no wide agreement on any of it really.

 

Part of having a vision comes from having passion though. Who at SEGA has real passion for sonic's future these days? This is not a criticism or insult, I'm just recognizing they've been taking punches from the media and fans for a long time now (due to their own choices, to be sure). Sonic future does look questionable, and there isn't a common, purveying sense of optimism surrounding the big titles these days.

 

3D Sonic most probably needs a current day Yuji Naka/Hirokazu yasuhara/Naoto oshima equivalent in its braintrust...and also for SOJ or SOA to fully commit behind his potential.

 

 

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If sonic team continues to try and play the nostalgia “good old days” angle, then I think yeah they probably should have some degree of knowledge on what it is fans are looking for and what the large groups of fans are wanting. In terms of original unique games though, then no they really shouldn’t be bound by what fans are wanting as you can’t really branch out and like wraith says, surprise people if you’re pulling from the same pool.

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7 minutes ago, Blacklightning said:

You say genre roulette is fucking stupid, they hear "let's never have more than one playable character besides Sonic ever again, oh but we're still doing the genre roulette thing". 

Technically, I'd say that was more of a response to the "Sonic's shitty friends" narrative rather than a critique of genre roulette in Sonic itself.

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I don't know how true this is, but I read that supposedly in an interview Yuji Naka gave around 2005/2006 (I think to Gamespot), he said that they incorporated guns into the Shadow the hedgehog game because fans were asking for the use of guns in a Sonic game. They didn't feel Sonic + guns was a good idea, but thought Shadow + guns was fine. I have no idea if there's any truth to this, but IF it was true, then we can say that 1: they did listen to fans at some point, and 2: they were really terrible at deciding which fan requests are worth listening to.

My take is: they have to have their own vision about what Sonic is about and where to take it (which they oh so obviously don't have and didn't have for over a decade now), but that doesn't mean they shouldn't listen to fan input. They just need to evaluate each suggestion and decide which fits into their own vision and which doesn't.
 

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I'll throw in my own hot take on this and ask this: 

Should SEGA had even started listening to fans in the first place? I mean, as a long running series, they likely had to reached out their audience at some point. I'm gonna stick with the era between Black Knight and 4/Colors. 

Most everyone was happy to see a more accesible Sonic game, with no werehogs, waggle swords, edgy story or other playbles aside from Sonic. Nowerdays some people hold Unleash and Black Knight on a higer pedistal for having better, non-kiddy stories and less Genisis throwback shoved down ones throat. 

It may have been more profitable that Sonic Team done these changes. But would things had been better of if they'd never did all that? Of course this all comes from the prespective of a 1998-2009 fan, I'm more of a Classic and Post-Colors person in actuality.

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The hatred for Sonic friends isn't just due to genre roulette though. A lot of people say that and it's a revision of history. There are other key reasons.

A major criticism is that you spend more time as the other characters than Sonic himself. This was a problem in a number of games; Adventure 1, 2, Heroes, 06 etc. Sonic's importance in the franchise became increasingly irrelevant as it went along. And I can't say I disagree with this argument, it would be like playing 4 mainline Mario games in a row in which Mario had little relevance to the narrative and didn't feature much.

Secondly, some peopls just never liked the designs of his friends. I remember reading articles and magazines in the early 2000s which mocked how out of place Rouge, Big and others from Adventure felt. In fact, I remember reading a review for Adventure 2 (a positive one, gave the DC version a 90) complaining about playing as a sexualised bat girl. 

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