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Should SEGA replace Takashi Iizuka and Sonic Team and replace them with a new talented team?

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4 hours ago, Diogenes said:

Colors and Gens' padding is less immediately offputting than the werehog but it's still padding.

I’d rather that than dilute a game with nonsense. Give me short 3D acts, or 2D acts that center around a platforming gimmick, anything except something that feels like a chore to play before I get to the next good part. We’ve agreed that management is the problem. Now I’ll say that whoever is on design team that thinks filler material is a good response to management needs to be replaced too.

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The question in the topic title is so blatantly loaded that I feel like it’s actually crossed into the territory of disingenuity. I mean, it groups wanting Sonic Team to stick around with the implication that Sonic Team as it is is not “talented” (with no clarification as to what talented even means in this context. Are we talking potential, desire, execution, or something else here?), so it almost immediately labels people who disagree with the OP as people who don’t want talented developers working on Sonic. That in turn places people in a very bad position to disagree with the OP, because they are implicitly expected to have to conflate and defend their position against an argument that is ultimately meaningless, too subjective to lay any solid foundation of agreement on, and borderline insulting.

And really, I ask the same question here as I do every other time people get into this discussion— if we’re getting rid of Sonic Team, what are we replacing it with? What will the replacement do that Sonic Team cannot or will not? Will the replacement introduce new problems and if so, what would those problems be? Then ask those questions again but with Sega instead of Sonic Team. Seldom do I even get a concrete answer to these questions, and I haven’t heard a compelling one yet.

People target these figurehead people because they like to think that they can do something about things that are not in their control. That blaming somebody or some entity and seeking their humiliation, ousting, etc. will somehow fix things. And you’d think people would’ve figured out by now that it never actually does. Best case scenario is that nothing truly changes but the people associated with the franchise.

So just... quit sweating what you can’t control. Maybe Sonic Team needs to be replaced, maybe it doesn’t, but that doesn’t really have a whole lot of bearing on a fan. Sure I have my opinions of what I’d like to happen, but in the end that’s all they all: Opinions. They’re not obligations. A consumer is really only owed honesty about the content and costs of a game from a company, nothing more or less. 

Make your own stuff if you’re really keen on seeing your ideas and fixes come alive— creator-oriented software is constantly getting better and more accessible to novices these days, and if that’s not an option, pencil-and-paper drawings and literary fanfic can work surprisingly well.

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9 hours ago, Wraith said:

Almost every time Sega has handed Sonic off to someone else the results are about as good as what ST can put out if not worse. Sonic Mania is the exception but even the things I heard about that game's dev through the grapevine werent pleasant. 

Sega's management is fucked up. It's been an open secret for years. A lot of artists who have worked with them have said this outright. That needs to be fixed before anything else. It needed to be fixed back in the 90s before they chased Naka out the first time. Let alone the increasing pile of industry vets they've chased away since. It's still going on. Remember the Mania DRM incident and how Taxman openly expressed his disagreement? 

They need to be uprooted. 

People like Chris Senn, Masato Nakamura (who said he had no more tears to shed for the franchise a while back), etc. 

 

And yeah, even though Izuka was less involved with RoL, I really don’t want to know what a project without him would be like. There has to be something higher-up going on. 

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Wait, so I’m hearing it that Sega’s seems  to be repelling people and that Iizuka is the among the few sticking around?

That’s something new to me (then again, given the industry, maybe not). But it explains a lot that I’ve been unaware of.

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I just dont think any of us truly understand what is going on at SEGA enough to determine whether or not ST needs to be "replaced". I've thought about this for a long time but as much I've as dug and tried to find any concrete information, it doesn't really seem clear who is at fault for the inconsistency between titles. What has seemed to be clear is the miscommunication between SOJ and SOA; in recent days that seems to be changing as the company has recently restructured. Maybe something good will come out of it, who knows.

Utimately who works on the games is not the primary issue anymore. I believe takashi Iizuka is one of the people remaining who have cared about fans and the franchise; he wont be around forever but it is important that sonic team always retains someone like him, or else Sonic could change into something frankly unrecognizable. I think what really matters right now is for someone with a vision for a great sonic game to come forward and for the company to allow it to breathe. Regardless of how talented people are, if there isnt a clear vision for what sonic should do next, the game wont be any good regardless of who works on it. So it could be someone old or new, there just has to be a clear gameplan and vision to move on. Mania had a clear vision. Forces sorely lacked one. 

 

I wish I had a way to channel some of my ideas to the right party, to be truly honest. I dont want to be a developer because I'm working on other more important things in my life. But I have some ideas I'd like to get considered by people with the resources and time to develop a concept. If I could I'd contact someone there and write up what I've thought about and let them have at it. I just want to see something like it see the light of day and dont care about whether or not my name is attached to it, or money comes my way. I have the same dream I've had for sonic in 3D I've had since the 90s, and want to see it in action.

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Whenever imagining things getting better, replacing people isn't the first thing that comes to mind. More than anything, I'd really prefer it if whoever's over there right now just stepped up and pulled things together in a manner that saw results. One fitting a team of people who had their hands set in something consistent with a clear vision and a restless amount of focus on going above and beyond.

In the end, when it comes down to it, I'd like their team (if there even is a 'team' in the traditional sense of the word) to have a good relationship with the fans again. 

Maybe then people wouldn't need to constantly search for a scapegoat to thrust all their frustration at. It's gotten so bad that even topics created discussing hypothetical things to add to the franchise are devolving to discussions about how said idea is pointless because things aren't going to get any better.

An environment like that can be hard to handle.

 

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It's hard to see the fanbase simply hate the games Sonic has had over the past two decades. There's positives in all of them--as I can attest to, having played all the 3D titles and beginning work on the handhelds. There is plenty to like even with games like Shadow the Hedgehog, which I personally really like despite the flaws it has. What separates the titles of the 2000's from those of the 2010's is the ambition Sonic Team had. Every game in that time period was trying to be something grandiose, even if it never quite met the mark. Unleashed came the closest to meeting the vision that the creators had for it, and I respect the Sonic Team that existed then, no matter the mistakes they made. Not even for Sonic 06, which I squarely blame on the ignorance of the management.

But starting with Colors, the games did start meeting their vision. It wasn't that they reached the bar they set so high; they instead lowered the bar, whether it be storytelling, level design, or everything else that began to degrade. I think that Sonic Team just started to...mellow. After 06, the fanbase scrutinized their every move, criticizing them for the smallest thing wrong. I think it finally reached the point where they thought, 'The fans will hate it no matter what we do with it, so why bother?' That sounds rather harsh, and I don't think that is the sole reason the quality of Sonic games have diminished. But tell me: didn't you feel a soul in Adventure? Some drive in Secret Rings? Something in the game that made you think, 'This game had real heart,' even if it wasn't the greatest in the world? The last game I saw that in was Black Knight, and then in Mania. Generations was fun, but it didn't strive to be anything more than it was.

I don't care if Sonic Team makes a game that gets rave reviews from the critics, as much as I'd like to see it. I just want to see another game where they truly cared about what they put out--no matter the backlash. They've only ever wanted to appeal to the fans.

P.S. I fully understand that you can't judge a game based on what was planned for it, and that the feeling put into a game doesn't immediately make it better. I would much rather have a mediocre game that had a team's full effort behind it than a great game that was made just because the team had to.

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13 hours ago, Knight56 said:

It's hard to see the fanbase simply hate the games Sonic has had over the past two decades. There's positives in all of them--as I can attest to, having played all the 3D titles and beginning work on the handhelds. There is plenty to like even with games like Shadow the Hedgehog, which I personally really like despite the flaws it has. What separates the titles of the 2000's from those of the 2010's is the ambition Sonic Team had. Every game in that time period was trying to be something grandiose, even if it never quite met the mark. Unleashed came the closest to meeting the vision that the creators had for it, and I respect the Sonic Team that existed then, no matter the mistakes they made. Not even for Sonic 06, which I squarely blame on the ignorance of the management.

But starting with Colors, the games did start meeting their vision. It wasn't that they reached the bar they set so high; they instead lowered the bar, whether it be storytelling, level design, or everything else that began to degrade. I think that Sonic Team just started to...mellow. After 06, the fanbase scrutinized their every move, criticizing them for the smallest thing wrong. I think it finally reached the point where they thought, 'The fans will hate it no matter what we do with it, so why bother?' That sounds rather harsh, and I don't think that is the sole reason the quality of Sonic games have diminished. But tell me: didn't you feel a soul in Adventure? Some drive in Secret Rings? Something in the game that made you think, 'This game had real heart,' even if it wasn't the greatest in the world? The last game I saw that in was Black Knight, and then in Mania. Generations was fun, but it didn't strive to be anything more than it was.

I don't care if Sonic Team makes a game that gets rave reviews from the critics, as much as I'd like to see it. I just want to see another game where they truly cared about what they put out--no matter the backlash. They've only ever wanted to appeal to the fans.

P.S. I fully understand that you can't judge a game based on what was planned for it, and that the feeling put into a game doesn't immediately make it better. I would much rather have a mediocre game that had a team's full effort behind it than a great game that was made just because the team had to.

And sometimes they fail even to meet that low bar; Lost World, RoL, etc. 

 

The one time they did try raising the bar just a little, they failed. But this time, they failed even harder than when they had a higher bar. 

 

The involvement of Izuka in both RoL and the movie, along with the surprise success of Power Rangers Beast Morphers, Ducktales 2017, etc, give me confidence that maybe this should happen.

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There's one question that usually comes to my mind when we talk about Sonic Team and I think it isn't discussed enough: How Sega manages the Sonic Team staff? Are they still being overworked?

This from a Gameinformer article about Sonic:

Quote

Iizuka recalls the development cycle of Sonic Heroes, the first multiplatform mainline Sonic console game, as the most stressful of his career, in part thanks to deadlines. He was based in the United States while the rest of the development team was in Japan, and mismanagement took its toll on the team. "The level design for Sonic Heroes was made by two people: me and one other person," he says. "As we got to the later stages of development, this other person got pretty sick and didn't show up to work, so level design was made by one person! So for those very last stages of the game, I didn't sleep at all and I was constantly working. I lost about [22 pounds] because I was just cranking away and it was just work, work, work. I didn't sleep because I had to finish the game on my own. Almost dying!"

 

https://web.archive.org/web/20161116181942/http://www.gameinformer.com:80/b/features/archive/2016/11/09/where-sonic-went-wrong.aspx?PostPageIndex=3

If you doubt about Iizuka's passion for this series and how reckless Sega or other companies can be, here it is: The guy almost died while developing Sonic Heroes. Unfortunately, This isn't the first story of someone working on a Sonic game and being gravely ill, though. In the 90s, Sonic X-treme almost killed one of its own programmers (Chris Coffin) as well:

Quote

Desperate to make the deadline, programmer Chris Coffin moved into the development headquarters, working almost non-stop, the few hours of sleep being had in a cot within the office. The strain of the project became simply too much, Chris being overtaken with pneumonia in August of 1996. With doctors saying he only had months to live if he kept this up, Coffin was forced to bow out of the development cycle. With its lead programmer out of commission, Mike Wallis was forced to tell management that the game would not be completed in time for Christmas.

http://info.sonicretro.org/Sonic_X-treme#Saturn_Development

I wonder what happens behind the curtains nowadays. I may be very wrong, but something says that Sega didn't learn they lesson yet.

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3 minutes ago, Cayenne said:

There's one question that usually comes to my mind when we talk about Sonic Team and I think it isn't discussed enough: How Sega manages the Sonic Team staff? Are they still being overworked?

This from a Gameinformer article about Sonic:

 

https://web.archive.org/web/20161116181942/http://www.gameinformer.com:80/b/features/archive/2016/11/09/where-sonic-went-wrong.aspx?PostPageIndex=3

If you doubt about Iizuka's passion for this series and how reckless Sega or other companies can be, here it is: The guy almost died while developing Sonic Heroes. Unfortunately, This isn't the first story of someone working on a Sonic game and being gravely ill, though. In the 90s, Sonic X-treme almost killed one of its own programmers (Chris Coffin) as well:

http://info.sonicretro.org/Sonic_X-treme#Saturn_Development

I wonder what happens behind the curtains nowadays. I may be very wrong, but something says that Sega didn't learn they lesson yet.

Man. That's terrible.

You know, you hear that stuff like this happens and sometimes think it's slight hyperbole when there's little of well-known consequence. But lo and behold this type of documentation.

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Well, once again, I don't doubt that individual developers, and even Iizuka himself, has genuine passion for the series. Despite how much I hate the word "passion" as it's the overused go-to word for clean and happy PR speak, it's not as though the concept itself is a myth.

The problem with how the fanbase perceives some of the people at Sonic Team to be comes in when the passion doesn't come through in the product. Loads of people are tuned to assume that if the product came out bad, then it's because the development behind it was lazy. There are times where it's obvious that's not entirely the case. I do, to this day, still feel incredibly bad for all the people who worked on Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Just hearing about how they were dicked around and the terrible decision making that came from powers beyond their control just drove me up the wall.

That's why it's always best not to target individuals when speaking about this stuff. I mention Iizuka in passing mostly when it comes to stuff that he's been confirmed to do or say but on the whole, if I'm slagging off Sonic Team, I'm talking about it as a complete entity; as a business. 

You know, it's like when we call out EA and Activision for being a bunch of troglodytes. No specific person on the bottom rung is being targeted there. If anyone is being mentioned it's probably some overpaid, rich asshole who's never touched a game, let alone had a hand at developing one. 

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59 minutes ago, Dr. Detective Mike said:

Well, once again, I don't doubt that individual developers, and even Iizuka himself, has genuine passion for the series. Despite how much I hate the word "passion" as it's the overused go-to word for clean and happy PR speak, it's not as though the concept itself is a myth.

The problem with how the fanbase perceives some of the people at Sonic Team to be comes in when the passion doesn't come through in the product. Loads of people are tuned to assume that if the product came out bad, then it's because the development behind it was lazy. There are times where it's obvious that's not entirely the case. I do, to this day, still feel incredibly bad for all the people who worked on Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric. Just hearing about how they were dicked around and the terrible decision making that came from powers beyond their control just drove me up the wall.

That's why it's always best not to target individuals when speaking about this stuff. I mention Iizuka in passing mostly when it comes to stuff that he's been confirmed to do or say but on the whole, if I'm slagging off Sonic Team, I'm talking about it as a complete entity; as a business. 

You know, it's like when we call out EA and Activision for being a bunch of troglodytes. No specific person on the bottom rung is being targeted there. If anyone is being mentioned it's probably some overpaid, rich asshole who's never touched a game, let alone had a hand at developing one. 

Pretty much.

I suppose it's just easy for people looking for something to blame to use the collective name of companies.

9 minutes ago, Dr. Detective Mike said:

Despite how much I hate the word "passion" as it's the overused go-to word for clean and happy PR speak, it's not as though the concept itself is a myth.ne. 

My Sweet PR.

 

 

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7 hours ago, Cayenne said:

If you doubt about Iizuka's passion for this series and how reckless Sega or other companies can be, here it is: The guy almost died while developing Sonic Heroes.

Geez, I didn’t know that.

Interesting thing about Iizuka that a lot of people don’t acknowledge is just how persistent the man is when he wants something to happen.

For example, Shadow the Hedgehog had the vote of no confidence from Sega. Now we could go all day on if Sega was justified in having little faith, why Sega would even allow a title that it didn’t like the prospects of from the start to be approved and published, and so on, but I’ll stick to a very notable example of internal sabotage from Sega trying to get Iizuka to can the project.

That example is denying the project needed staff. Shadow the Hedgehog had a completely avoidable skeleton crew, with Sega providing zero employees as options for writing and editing and very few employees as options for designers in areas like level layout. Furthermore, workers were often taken away mid-project and assigned elsewhere with no replacements, further limiting the staffing and sabotaging the game’s consistency.

But Iizuka never canned the project, he just took on all the empty roles himself. Frankly, it shows. Producers are not writers, or editors, or level designers, or really any of the myriad positions Iizuka filled along the way. So producers are neither well practiced for nor hired for their skills in non-producer roles. And what happens to be amongst the most glaring faults of Shadow the Hedgehog? Bad writing, incohesive story structure, confusing/tedious level design, and bland graphical design. Really, all but the issues with the controls were the direct result of Iizuka taking on positions he’s not cut out for just to keep the game’s development and his hopes for the game alive. And he knew that he’s not a writer, editor, etc. on at least some level, but still tried filling those positions anyway to save Shadow the Hedgehog from cancellation.

This would not be the last case of Sega trying and failing to get Iizuka to can a project. Remember that remake of Nights Into Dreams for the Wii? Sega had and probably still has zero confidence in the future of the Nights IP, and it took years of Iizuka proposing and requesting a Nights followup to even get a remake of the first game approved.

This time Iizuka was pretty much left to do his own thing with little interference. But the one interference Sega did contribute is a critically important one: it suddenly mandated that the remake (which was intended and created for the PS2 with maybe a Microsoft-console port down the line) be Wii exclusive without giving the developers any extra time or funding to make the necessary changes to adapt the remake to the Wii. Nevertheless, Iizuka didn’t can the project and instead devoted the rest of the remake’s development to finishing and adapting the title for the Wii as well as possible. The results were at best mediocre, but again, the game turned out as it was largely as a direct result of Iizuka’s measures to stop the cancellation of and preserve the hopes he had for one of his dream projects.

And those are just the examples we know about.

That’s probably why Sega hasn’t driven him away yet— for better or for worse, he’s way too determined to let anything stop him from at least releasing what he wants to get out. His attitude is that releasing something has a better chance of success than releasing nothing. And yeah, I can see why not everybody likes that attitude, as something can sometimes be worse than nothing for a franchise. But I like it because it comes from a good place of wanting to give ideas he likes and projects he’s dreamed of the opportunity to shine, obstacles be damned. And it’s so hard to find open-minded and not exclusively money-driven attitudes like that in such a risk-averse and capital-first industry as games development. If nothing else, a person with that kind of unusual attitude is incredibly difficult to replace.

———

Admittedly, I am biased. I’ve always had a great admiration for Iizuka. His unwavering tenacity in the face of some awful situations is incredible to me. I also think it’s very brave of him to take on the figurehead role of Sonic post-Naka, even knowing that it entails being blamed for literally everything people dislike about Sonic today and at times having to face some seriously disgusting behavior from people as a result.

Meanwhile I am still not over how Sega threw BRB and Stephen Frost under the bus for RoL’s failure when the game’s problems were largely on Sega’s end. To this day Sega still has not taken any responsibility for its mistakes with RoL or Boom in general, nor issued any sort of apology that I know of to the people who were mistreated or harmed as a result of being scapegoated and/or abandoned by Sega. The whole thing left a bad taste in my mouth that isn’t going away any time soon.

But hopefully my biases haven’t clouded my point too much.

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There was an article circulating after the release of Unleashed that stated ST was basically a sweatshop. Perhaps the conditions have become even worse since then, especially where Sonic in Japan is by now little more than a marketing figurehead akin to a cereal box mascot. No wonder Izuka wanted to move westward, where Sonic is not just some stamp of approval, while letting the people who do Puyo no longer have to deal with Sonic. This is also possibly why Sonic Forces was made by a skeleton crew.

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If all of that's true, I can't help but feel sorry for the guy. As much as I love Sonic Heroes, it ain't worth almost dying over.

I also couldn't imagine putting in so much work to pump out a game as universally hated and widely ignored as Shadow the Hedgehog. The very idea of that happening to me would crush any spirit I had left.

I want the behind the scenes info even more now.

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While overwork is an universal issue, there's a very negative part of Japan's work culture that actually encourages the same behavior that Iizuka had and it usually leads to something called "Karoshi". Here's a video about the subject:

 

21 hours ago, Miragnarok said:

There was an article circulating after the release of Unleashed that stated ST was basically a sweatshop. Perhaps the conditions have become even worse since then, especially where Sonic in Japan is by now little more than a marketing figurehead akin to a cereal box mascot. No wonder Izuka wanted to move westward, where Sonic is not just some stamp of approval, while letting the people who do Puyo no longer have to deal with Sonic. This is also possibly why Sonic Forces was made by a skeleton crew.

Ah, I remember that article. It was posted on TSSZ with the title "The Blog Sega Doesn't Want You to Read":

http://www.tssznews.com/2009/01/05/the-blog-sega-doesnt-want-you-to-read/

The answer from Sonic Team:

http://www.tssznews.com/2009/05/15/sonic-team-speaks-out-on-andac-allegations/

These links are a very juicy reading because they give some insight of what Mad Convoy said about Nights and what was happening with Sega and Sonic Team at that time.

 

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Were there also any further articles on that subject? I think I recall some from around RoL’s release. This also reminds me that Sega have forgotten their promise to pull poorly-ranking games from shelves. I think Izuka is being kept around as one of the very last people who worked on the original games.

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1 hour ago, Miragnarok said:

Were there also any further articles on that subject? I think I recall some from around RoL’s release. This also reminds me that Sega have forgotten their promise to pull poorly-ranking games from shelves. I think Izuka is being kept around as one of the very last people who worked on the original games.

I wish they would end that policy completely, especially for Unleashed 

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1 hour ago, Miragnarok said:

This also reminds me that Sega have forgotten their promise to pull poorly-ranking games from shelves. 

What do you mean?

 

1 hour ago, Miragnarok said:

 I think Izuka is being kept around as one of the very last people who worked on the original games.

That makes sense.

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36 minutes ago, DabigRG said:

What do you mean?

 

That makes sense.

Ya know what they did shortly before colors released? They discontinued all of their past console games due to poor reception. They promised that for the future, but today, they allow poorly revived games to have ports years later.

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57 minutes ago, Miragnarok said:

Ya know what they did shortly before colors released? They discontinued all of their past console games due to poor reception. They promised that for the future, but today, they allow poorly revived games to have ports years later.

Do they now? 

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