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Would an Open World/Sandbox style Sonic game work?


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This is something I've often wondered to myself. Right now, most 3D Sonic games have been fairly linear. You go from point A to point B. Then I saw Azukara's idea for a sandbox style Sonic game and it got me thinking about it. A sandbox style game would take advantage of Sonic's speed. I mean huge open go anywhere island would be fun to play, but then I had a different idea.

I thought of a game where Sonic had to travel the universe on different planets and each planet was it's own huge open world with missions and had it's own unique theme and gimmick. And the planet idea made it so that the worlds wrapped around themselves.

An open world with different objectives would fix the length issue Sonic Team was mentioning and wouldn't need to pad it out with Werehogs or anything. So it's basically Super Mario 64 on speed. So how about it? Do you think an open world Sonic game would work?

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Universe....planets....gimmicks....

Mario Galaxy anyone?

Would be a good idea, to have an open world/mission based game though, We'll see what SEGA Bring us in the future.

That's pretty much where I got the idea from except the planets would be bigger like full sized levels.

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My favourite stage in Unleashed is the DLC Arid Sands Act where you find chao.

My favourite thing about Sonic 06 is Castle Town. You can go anywhere and do anything in that HUB area.

My favourite stages in SA2 are Knuckles/Rouges hunting stages, especially the larger ones like Mad Space, Death Chamber and Pumpkin Hill.

I have made numerous SADX hacks that open up the stages, with different Egg Capsules about the place.

Sonic 3D is great fun because everywhere and everything is so open.

I love to spend hours hopping around each individual stage in CD because each one is like a maze with a huge number of clear paths.

My biggest gripe with Unleashed, Secret Rings and Black Knight is that the worlds look so vast and open, but you're restricted to incredibly tight and mostly narrow paths. It would be fantastic if we were given stages that multiple goal rings (or better yet, Capsules and Eggman Signs =P) and you can chose whichever way to the goal you like. Not "pick a path and stick with it" but designed like a giant skatepark. Ramps, springs, rocks- all sorts of features that allow you to make your own route. And there might be huge chasm which Sonic simply can't get past. No matter! Play the stage as Tails to get over there. And what about those rings that can been seen under the ice? You want to get down there but can't figure out how, so you continue along your merry way until you get to a later level and get the Bounce Attack. Take Sonic back to the ice and now he can smash through it. It leads to a new goal, a goal that leads to a secret level. So there's plenty of different goals to find, but how about other methods? Sounds great to me. If you can find all the chao for a NPC in the stage, or collect XXX rings, fantastic!

Case in point, I love Sonic when it's open and fast. That's why S3&K is my favourite Sonic title.

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It's an interesting idea, check out my version of it, in another topic. Something like that, Slasher?

Instead of just a sandbox, the globe idea is cool because the world actually never ends, and Sonic can run laps around it as many times as the player wants. So space versus speed is really not an issue with this concept. I had the idea of having missions instead of A-to-B play, but having the missions carry out in an act-to-act form, so story is linear while gameplay isn't. Besides speed I was thinking that hills and ramps would have a place in the game, like the old games. There would also be a large focus on vertical play.

Edited by Goldar
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I like the idea, but I don't exactly know how I'd go about doing it. If it were just a big open area with a simple A to B goal, there's the problem of getting lost or not being sure which way to go. You could have a big open level where each way you take leads you to the goal, but it just sounds more like a linear level with a ton of alternate routes and not a sandbox level. And then there's just going for just a pure sandbox game with a mission based structure, but there's the thought of having multiple levels and variety.

The best I could come up with was to do a level structure similar to what I've seen in Super Mario Sunshine. And open world area with a linear objective. The levels are pretty much sandbox areas, but with a linear path of where you need to go to complete the mission.

In fact, It just hit me and it sounds perfect! It could be almost exactly like Sunshine's level structure. Each world consists of several missions you must complete, such as mini bosses, and the like. These worlds are sandbox areas where each mission takes place in different areas of the level. These missions could be primarily based around the platforming aspect of Sonic's gameplay.

And like in Sunshine, there are missions where you are transported to an area where you do a classic linear Mario platforming obstacle course. Well, these could be the missions where you do classic linear Sonic platforming obstacle courses! These would be where the main focus of speed comes into play, and where the player can really take advantage of Sonic's speed.

It's a mix of mission based sandbox gameplay and linear speedy platforming. And of course, the sandbox missions and the linear missions don't have to have a black and white "Sandbox= all platforming, and Linear= all speed" The missions should obviously mix it up a bit. Some of the missions could be stuff like racing NPCs, or speedruns, while some of the classic gameplay missions could have larger focuses on platforming.

It's not an idea for how to incorporate depth into otherwise linear Sonic levels, just an idea of how to go about doing a sandbox style Sonic game.

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What is the point of a loop if you can walk around it?

I don't believe open worlds match up with Sonic's basic gameplay style. For all the ranting about how the old games weren't "linear" and had multiple paths, they weren't anywhere near being open worlds, either. Once you pass an intersection, you're generally on a linear path until you hit the next one. And this is where the bulk of the gameplay happens; "here are some obstacles, get past them to continue", and your only options are to do just that or (maybe, and very rarely in my experience) backtrack to a different path and do it there. In a fully open world styled game, "go around" is always an option and they can't always predict what angle you're going to come upon an area, so making those sort of focused and directed areas doesn't always work so well. This is especially true for Sonic characters due to their extreme abilities; Tails has flight (remember how badly it broke the levels in SA?), Knuckles can climb walls and glide infinitely (find one high point in an open-air level and everything on the ground is meaningless), and even Sonic, with the most limited movement of the three, runs on walls and ceilings regularly.

Now, that's not to say it isn't possible to make a good open world Sonic game. But I think it'd be missing the point of being Sonic.

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I was thinking something along the lines of a mission based game kinda like Spider-Man 2 where either talking to an NPC or touching some kind of mission marker starts the mission. Most mission would be finding a goal ring, or capsule, or a lost NPC with an arrow above the screen showing you where to to go ala Crazy Taxi. Basically just trying to figure out which way is the best way to get there while smashing badniks and using springs and the environment.

Control wise, I'm thinking about removing the boost since the spin dash already serves that kind of function and it would be nice to give the spin dash some relevence again. Also, I'd probably get rid of boost pads and replace them with loops so that running through loops would give you a momentum boost in speed for scaling up long half pipes or something.

That's how I'd struture it at least.

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What is the point of a loop if you can walk around it?

Loops don't have to be just like they were in 2D. They could end off at paths that you wouldn't be able to reach by simply walking. It just takes some thinking outside the box.

I don't believe open worlds match up with Sonic's basic gameplay style. For all the ranting about how the old games weren't "linear" and had multiple paths, they weren't anywhere near being open worlds, either. Once you pass an intersection, you're generally on a linear path until you hit the next one. And this is where the bulk of the gameplay happens; "here are some obstacles, get past them to continue", and your only options are to do just that or (maybe, and very rarely in my experience) backtrack to a different path and do it there. In a fully open world styled game, "go around" is always an option and they can't always predict what angle you're going to come upon an area, so making those sort of focused and directed areas doesn't always work so well. This is especially true for Sonic characters due to their extreme abilities; Tails has flight (remember how badly it broke the levels in SA?), Knuckles can climb walls and glide infinitely (find one high point in an open-air level and everything on the ground is meaningless), and even Sonic, with the most limited movement of the three, runs on walls and ceilings regularly.

Now, that's not to say it isn't possible to make a good open world Sonic game. But I think it'd be missing the point of being Sonic.

Well, this is all easily solved by building levels around the character. Knuckles' levels could have a lot of vertical depth, or closed ceilings(Red Mountain and Death Chamber come to mind), Tails' levels could also have vertical depth and obstacles specifically built for his flight(Heroes' levels are an example of this), and Sonic's perfectly fine with those abilities, since even though he can cover a lot of vertical distance with wall running, he wouldn't be able to cover a lot of horizontal distance, at least no more than he would be just running normally.

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Missions in an open world could go like this. The goal of each level would be to leave the level, the exit being in the sky. NPCs like Flickies would be asking you to help them escape during cutscenes and maybe hint at the direction you need to go in gameplay. Each mission would be like a step to the final goal of the level, which is making it to the exit at the top. But the missions might be like, save the extra Flickies, disable the security, activate the elevator, discover the secret passage - which makes the story linear like I said, while the player can choose however to get to the goal. Maybe an incentive would be given to explore less necessary areas of each globe. The boss of the world comes when the missions are complete, then it's on to the next globe.

And Dio, since the focus of forward play is vertical platforming and gimmickry, the missions wouldn't be as linear as they seem. The idea would be to utilize each area separately, and make the areas the player is more likely to revisit a little different each time. Sort of like how in open games like Mario 64, aspects of a level might change depending on what mission you select. Because missions are related to the player's goal, there'd be the added illusion of impacting your environment, if the player were to destroy a bridge for example, as part of an earlier mission. More like chapters in an open world instead of missions, like a making a mini-Shadow of the Colossus world out of each level. Also, Sonic Chronicles did an alright job of showing us loops in 3D. Or corkscrews work too.

Edited by Goldar
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What is the point of a loop if you can walk around it?

I have a few ideas.

You could make them bigger and wider and have them use the momentum coming down from the loops as a way to lead you else where...

Or rotate them vertically to make it more chamber-like so you could run in several different ways on them...

Ooh, here's another one. How about a boss arena one super massive loop and fight along it?

No? ...Well, I tried.

But even so, you do bring up a good point on the flaws of a sandbox style game compared to what's Sonic's style.

Many sandboxes games have a certain defining trait different from one another that gives them their identity.

Prototype's trait was disguise and destruction

inFamous' was electricity

GTA was crime (and other stuff I lost the words for)

CrackDown was...GTA on steroids

Assassin's Creed had stealth and assassination

and so on...

But there's also something else with them. Their worlds are essentially made of walls and and blocks, and you don't use the environment the same manner as Sonic would.

Where as most of the sandboxes listed above have you mainly running and jumping over things, Sonic's style is more unique as it works on speed and physics to make the world his bitch, and for a Sandbox game to work for Sonic an open world would have to work in favor for that. The surfaces of the world's environment would have to allow Sonic to use not just walls and blocks, but slopes, curves, loops, and also platforms. Sonic wouldn't work as good as Altiar does in his world, or as good as Cole does in his (although I can see a few traits that are similar). That's not to say it's impossible to make one for Sonic, but various level designs are absolutely crucial for Sonic if he were to put his foot down in an overworld.

I don't think it's that difficult to incorporate Sonic's stage traits in a sandbox game, but the main problem is how one will use them. A loop, for example, could just simply be ran passed instead of being ran inside, and to prevent that, you'd have to have the loops useful enough for the player to use them.

The buildings in sandboxes are allowed to be jumped on and over and would be an ideal thing for Sonic to have in having the freedom to go anywhere high and low. But with Sonic moving as he does, be he in the Genesis or the post-adventure games, it would do him more justice if he were to run upon much wider buildings than your average skyscraper. Buildings similar to the megastructures seen in Blade Runner, or worlds like this:

Megastructure_by_Hideyoshi.jpg

with curves and slopes along with blocks and walls that Sonic can use

rather than this...

Neo_Tokyo_by_Hideyoshi.jpg

with mainly blocks for Sonic to jump on and over. [images are copyright to Hideyoshi on DA]

Not only could this work for Sonic alone, this could work well for other characters as well provided that the character itself is designed for it:

Tails could easily take to the skies and dive bomb from above in a place like the first picture above, while being on equal terms with aerial enemies and vulnerable to anti-air attacks.

Knuckles can easily climb upon the structures, and would probably be one of the only characters suited for a block and wall environment.

Shadow could play as his own man rather than a Sonic clone, combining speed with much hardcore combat while playing off structures to help his attacks and ravage the area around him.

Silver could likely use a lot of the environment with his telekinesis abilities than other characters.

Rouge could play off the environment with her own variation of aerial abilities while combining stealth to get around much easier than any other character would.

I could go on.

Should a Sonic game combine all these elements, a Sandbox game just might work.

Then there comes the missions. If you make Sonic a Sandbox game, you'll probably have to do away with the Goal Rings and have the mission take place around the whole area or use the Goal Ring as a marker for where exactly you need to be. Sandboxes are more about going from point A to B to C, D, and E in one mission alone, and each mission can have various ways to be completed instead of one exact way; If one way fails, try another and see if it works, or if it can still be done in that way, refine your steps and continue. If a Mission has you destroying Eggman's latest prototypes before it hits the production line, you'll have to go to where each one is an destroy them.

I'd say do away with the mission failed part if you let a prototype slip away and have in bite you in the ass later on in the game, but that would be a helluva lot of work.

Just my 50 cents. :P

Edited by ChaosSupremeSonic
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Wow, I'm flattered you made a topic in inspiration of my ideas. =P

Well, of course I believe a sandbox Sonic game would work; just only in a certain way. Unleashed's style doesn't exactly work too well in sandbox style since it's made to be extremely linear. Of course, since I already have written this down, you might wanna take a look at the website (in my sig, since I'm too lazy to type it back out =P).

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CSS, I really like that pic. It's close to what I imagine large 3D obstacles would look like. I wouldn't use an urban setting, but it's the same idea. Kind of reminds me of the mountains and rock spires Sonic climbs in the CD opening. The future version of that. ;)

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CSS, I really like that pic. It's close to what I imagine large 3D obstacles would look like. I wouldn't use an urban setting, but it's the same idea. Kind of reminds me of the mountains and rock spires Sonic climbs in the CD opening. The future version of that. ;)
Picture it as Eggman's newest city that Sonic's hop-over without a care in the world. :D

But the same idea can be used for other settings, i.e. mountains, forests, grasslands, etc.

I figured the city setting mainly needs the most work because you don't see many sandboxes designed like that, while other settings are much easier.

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It's good to be open minded. Sonic games are usually developed in a 1.5 year period. With 6 months of pre-production.

For something like this, I think at least 2 years would be required. That and some seriously talented game designers to balance this concept out. Super Mario 64 is one of the most ingenious games I've ever played. And it was actually rushed.

I'm no game designer, but it's definetly interesting. I really don't like gameplay styles of sonic unleashed.

Oh, and in no way should this type of game be similar to any of the town stages in the past games.

Edited by lounge
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I've been going on about this for a while now.

Sandbox gameplay would be the first of many great decisions SEGA can make with this franchise. If anything, build upon the Spiderman style, but make it larger, bigger, and faster. Plus, if anything, roads are not flat, SEGA. Roads have slope. You seem to be forgetting the physics based gameplay that Sonic was based on. Plus, Sonic living in a normal everyday world like ours is boring. Sonic games are meant to be futuristic, funky, and retro. You know, like those geometric 70's houses. (I'm not good with decades, please help.)

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  • 2 weeks later...

Another thing just came to me. When it comes to a sandbox game for Sonic, what other environments would Sonic do well in?

Most sandboxes are city environments majority of the game, and Sonic happens to travel to several different places than just a city in a whole game. One moment he's in a grassland, then he's in a city, next he takes to the skies, and afterwards he's in space.

For each environment, there are different objects, terrains, and features that vary from one another. In a grassland or city, you have the comfort of knowing that there is always ground for you to land on. However, when you take to the skies, you eliminate the safety of the ground being below...almost.

Instead of losing a life as you normally would falling off an airship 30,000 feet in the air, should you fall off, you fall straight back down to the environment below. Since the airship is always in motion, you may fall towards a city, a grassland, a forest, etc. And since Sonic characters are strong enough to survive kilometer high falls, you don't have to worry about fall damage.

Space, however, is a whole new ball game. You have to deal with the lesser gravity, which could allow you to jump skyscrapers in a single leap. You also have to worry about zero-gravity, where you could float aimlessly in the setting, or inverse gravity, where you're on the cieling instead of the ground. Similar to the airship stage, you could make a mistake which haves you falling towards the earth. While Sonic characters can survive this type of fall, they may likely take fire damage from the intense friction while falling through the atmosphere.

For every environment, you have to have different variables in the game to keep them unique from one another.

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Would anyone else like a random mission generation thing, like in Spiderman 2 but one that isn't the same two missions all the time?

I.e things like 'bank's been robbed, chase the robbers to get them!' or 'eggman's robots attacking, kill off three waves!'- Sorta like Sonic 06, but I mean, randomly generated for unlimited replayability, you can just free roam around the city doing random missions rather than the actual goal path, just like Spiderman 2. That would be a great idea for a sandbox, if a little ripoffish.

Another good thing would be to have missions initiated within one single world as a whole, perhaps maybe three different cities for sake of difference of environment, so the whole story mode takes place in that same sandbox style world, providing a great temptation for gamers to deviate from the path and explore a little. Perhaps if you want some more variance, add in the odd subway, underground lair etc., or even make a space station level; the ARK in free roam would be really cool.

My idea seems to rip off Spiderman too much, but oh well...If it was decently done I can definitely see Sonic in this sort of gameplay, especially if they decide to include freerunning abilities in game.

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Would anyone else like a random mission generation thing, like in Spiderman 2 but one that isn't the same two missions all the time?

I don't know about a random mission. How about a random surprise attack out nowhere?

Here you are enjoying the settings, looking for more treasures for unlockables and in the blitz of the moment, four enemies shoot you out of nowhere and speed off in front of you. It seems almost like they're taunting you, and so you chase after them, pissed off, and fight them just to get payback.

And each time, it's a different assortment of enemies. How about that?

I won't be anything that happens too often though. It'll happen when basically all you're doing is running and jumping for a determined amount of time, then they show up and break whatever repetition you had.

Edited by ChaosSupremeSonic
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A open-world Sonic game could work, but I'd hate Sonic to turn into a fetch-quest like they did in Mario 64 (it was a great game, but awfully repetitive).

I think something like Banjo-Kazooie/Sonic Adventure could work. There's an open hub, similar to the previous games, where you can do open missions (ala fetch quest, yes) and find secrets, and explore. The gameplay nwould be momentum-based (lots of hills and such), with plenty of platforming relying on controlled speed (Sonic would go crazy fast). For instance, by pressing the jump button while running, Sonic would jump forward spinning, clearing big gaps. Then, you can find plenty of giant rings lying around, send you to a good old fashion linear Act, just for nastalgia and consistancys sake.

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A open-world Sonic game could work, but I'd hate Sonic to turn into a fetch-quest like they did in Mario 64 (it was a great game, but awfully repetitive).

I thought Mario 64 was the best 3D game he's had while Sunshine and Galaxy were lame as hell.

I don't know, it just seemed like there was so much more to have fun with in 64, where as Sunshine's FLUDD mechanic fell a bit flat as you progressed. Galaxy...had good gimmicks, I'll admit, but for some reason once you beat the game you (or me in this case) never feel the need to play it any further.

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I thought Mario 64 was the best 3D game he's had while Sunshine and Galaxy were lame as hell.

I don't know, it just seemed like there was so much more to have fun with in 64, where as Sunshine's FLUDD mechanic fell a bit flat as you progressed. Galaxy...had good gimmicks, I'll admit, but for some reason once you beat the game you (or me in this case) never feel the need to play it any further.

Yeah, Mario 64 wasn't a bad game by any means. It's just that Mario had always meant 'point a to point b platformer' to me, not 'adventure quest'. I just prefer platforming over exploration, that's all.

Edited by BlazingTales
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I don't understand the call for a sandbox Sonic game. Sandboxes are giant open worlds, but Sonic hasn't even had a regular sized open world game, like a Mario 64 or Banjo Kazooie. It seems to me like sandboxes are for RPGs and games with ridiculous amounts of content over long periods of time. Just because Sonic could run from place to place in a large world, should he? What would he even do, just run around with chaser bots like in Unleashed? Shadow of the Colossus for example, was as large as it was to create the illusion that you were in this huge undiscovered country, slaying some mythical giants. It was epic, but between each colossus the world was pretty much eye candy. There wasn't much else to do. Or should Sonic have sidequests? I really don't think he should unless we're talking about his RPG. I support open levels, and larger than usual open levels because Sonic needs more space to move. But as more games feel like sandboxes, I don't think that bigger is always better. It doesn't work with every game.

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Instead of there being a free-roam sandbox with a plot, why not fill a sandbox with lots of interesting things to interact with. What if there were a Sonic game where part of the game took place in freeroam environments, like the city and jungle in Sonic Adventure 1/DX, and the other had typical linear "get-to-the-finish" stages. But then add an element of player/object interaction like 5Cell did with Scribblenauts. Sonic could interact with his environment using a large amount of objects that the developers placed in the game. For example, Sonic could enter a store a buy a rope, which he could then use to access a new area. This kind of stuff in other games is being called emergent gameplay.

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