Jump to content
Sonic Fan J

A Level Design Approach to Encourage Better Gameplay

Recommended Posts

  

5 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

You know, we can pitch all of the ideas we want but I think we'd find more success if we identified what are the (perceived) problems of 3D Sonic games so we can actually identify what are the actual issues that need to be addressed. 

Control and level design are kind of the big offenders here. 

 

 

I think the biggest problem with level design is that it's always so short to the point SEGA finds it mandatory to force us to replay levels or slog through pace killers. But that's a budgeting thing I guess. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I personally think that the main problem is that the level hazard Sonic Team has (almost) always leaned overwhelmingly on for 3D levels has been pits specifically; when they were comparably a minor issue in the 2D games and were really more of a Mario level design hazard (the amusing thing being that 3D Mario games primarily switched away from that to environmental ones instead). I think that's why they've also so frequently gone to the "running/grinding along bits of scaffolding in the sky" idea for the level design, with the actual themes as a result almost coming off as irrelevant tinsel on top of levels that otherwise could be interchangeable.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

In terms of controls, Sonic's just needs to be slowed down. That would solve a lot of problems on it's own in regards to how the game controls and even save them some anguish designing levels. The only problem is that people have become really attatched to the image marketing sends of Sonic being the flash and turn their nose up at anything slower. Just look at any given fangame engine and how Sonic's top speed is usually way too high to be controllable if you want an example of how that can affect things. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Tornado said:

I personally think that the main problem is that the level hazard Sonic Team has (almost) always leaned overwhelmingly on for 3D levels has been pits specifically; when they were comparably a minor issue in the 2D games and were really more of a Mario level design hazard instead (the amusing thing being that 3D Mario games primarily switched away from that to environmental ones instead). I think that's why they've also so frequently gone to the "running/grinding along bits of scaffolding in the sky" idea for the level design, with the actual themes as a result almost coming off as irrelevant tinsel on top of levels that otherwise could be interchangeable.

I was reading about this last night, and yea, Bottomless Pits are mainly used to force the player on a linear path and actively discourage exploration or trying to experiment. On top of that, they're frustrating as fuck because you dying means you lose time and usually have to restart a portion of the level from a previous checkpoint. Not that bottomless pits are inherently terrible, but Modern Sonic are practically built on them and highlight just how linear the games tend to be. 

In the Classic games, there are very few bottomless pits, mainly because the levels are actually grounded with the rest of the world. The worst penalty for bottomless pits was simply dropping to a lower, slower part of the level. Very few bottomless pits lead to death outside of endgame stages to begin with, and those are generally levels that have a reason to be suspended in the sky (Wing Fortress, Death Egg, Flying Battery) 

39 minutes ago, Wraith said:

In terms of controls, Sonic's just needs to be slowed down. That would solve a lot of problems on it's own in regards to how the game controls and even save them some anguish designing levels. The only problem is that people have become really attatched to the image marketing sends of Sonic being the flash and turn their nose up at anything slower. Just look at any given fangame engine and how Sonic's top speed is usually way too high to be controllable if you want an example of how that can affect things. 

There's no reason you can't have those overclocked speed moments, but I feel they need to be moderated; if you're constantly going at over the top speed, it becomes less special over time. This is one of the main reasons I feel people have been burnt on Boost gameplay. It was considered amazing in 2008 with Unleashed since Sonic had never gone that fast before in a 3D game outside of specific moments, but after the novelty wore off, you realize there's not much else to actually do .

It's actually one of the things I'll praise Lost World for, being able to control Sonic's level of speed. I don't think people really appreciated it though. And it still definitely different from the classic games in how you had a few levels of speed to go through. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I suggest you to give a look to Hill Top Zone in the fangame "Sonic GT". it's still very linear, but it's complex and filled with options to go through the same piece of level in different ways, not really alternate roads but a variety of options, the player is free to try whatever they want.

Still not the ideal level design, it still has many of the problems 3D Sonic has, and too few badniks, no level gimmicks, confusing at times, difficult to understand the gravity when you are running on walls/ceilings etc. but it's very close to what I think 2D Sonic in 3D would be.

The point is, even that one is just a glorified hallway... they just made it larger and filled with more content, but it's the same stuff; when you reach the top route, you can clearly see that the level is a big road with bottomless pits at the sides, and some of the lower roads are the usual roads with walls at the sides to force the player in the designed direction; Sonic Utopia is not much different either, it's just way more open to the point that you can easily lose your sense of direction. With some more development, maybe in the hand of professional developers, those examples of level design could turn out into something interesting, but it's still not the ideal solution, especiall considering how much it takes to design a level like those, with countless secrets, routes and obstacles, while the player will barely run through 10% of it and end it in a couple of minutes at best (the reason for why in Sonic Unleashed the Werehog stages take more of the game lenght compared to the daytime ones, day stages require way more development and last way less).

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think for Badniks to be more relevant to Sonic at top speed, they need to operate less as pure obstacles, but more as real enemies in active pursuit of Sonic. 

This is one element I find engaging about the movie Robotnik fight we see, it's that Robotnik is the one chasing Sonic, and I think Badniks should operate more on that sort of hyper aggressive front of trying to catch Sonic rather than just acting as obstacles that he bowls over or gets smacked by because Sonic didn't see them. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The ball guy really doesn't chase Sonic. He just zips up to his area and then stops. And I'm not saying that in 2D, mostly in 3D.

And besides, in 3D there are many different ways for a character to attack you. In SA1 you have the cop cars that pursue you recklessly, or the big chase sequences in the boost games. It really comes down to how each enemy tries to down Sonic, either by attacking him with projectiles or trying to desperately swipe him, or even trying to use group tactics to outmaneuver him. There are a ludicrous amount of ways to have a pursuing enemy be engaging in different ways. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

A chase doesn't have to be automated or even linear. It doesn't have to be like in the boost game with the laser badniks, but could be as simple as you pass by a badnik or a badnik sees you from far away and immediately goes into a long pursuit if you decide to run. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

More active badniks is a good idea IMO.

They don't have to ram at you only, I think badniks should be more advanced and provide an actual challenge.

Stationary badniks are necessary as well, but it wouldn't be bad if occasionally there are some badniks that not only will chase you, but also "fight" you while running. Like sort of "micro bosses", maybe with just 1 hp but advanced enough to dodge/parry your attacks and try to stop you in several ways.

Sonic Mania had a couple of those type of badniks by the way... one in Stardust Highway (the light bulb thing) and another in Titanic Monarch (those traps... the badniks who throw it at you are kinda stationary but the trap will chase you).

In 3D this type of badniks should be more common, given how easily you can walk around regular badniks and ignore them.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Most of the time in these games when you're going at full speed, there's rarely an enemy that's trying to impede you. Remember, when you're at top speed, you have less control overall and with that, less ways of fighting back. Its why Boost just destroys enemies outright, because imagine going that fast and trying to react to any obstacles constantly.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I feel like having enemies that actively chase the player would be more trouble than it's worth. They'd need more complex AI/pathfinding to even have a chance to keep up, and even if they can, what then? Do they just get taken out in one attack like usual? Do they harass the player enough to get in the way of platforming if they don't stop to deal with them?

I'd rather they stick with simple enemies but figure out how to make them more effective obstacles. Sonic's a platformer, he's about movement rather than combat, so enemy design should focus on how he moves. Enemies that attack at particular directions/angles/areas to encourage the player to move in a certain way, or that have effects other than damage, like wind or bounciness pushing him off track or sticky goo or something that slows him down.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I don't think the idea of having enemies chase the player is inherently a bad idea; having enemies that can match Sonic's speed adds to the idea of how dangerous they are since Sonic goes so fast. It's why the race with Metal Sonic is so memorable, because you're up against an enemy that can actively keep up with you.

 

That said, I feel such enemies should be reserved for major boss fights rather than badniks to keep that uniqueness going. If any mook can keep up with Sonic, it devalues moments like Metal Sonic and Shadow being able to do so. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think if the enemy keeps behind Sonic, trying their best to take potshots at him keeps them from being too aggravating. To me, having enemies in front of you as a brick wall has always been a bad thing when you are moving fast, either in 2D or in 3D. For the most part the damage you take is from them as a destructible wall you careen into, but having them as a present threat behind you or beside you keeps them from either being a nuisance you run into or something you bowl over. 

 I also think you don't even need to always directly attack them but could just trick them into blowing themselves up by having them crash into obstacles you avoid. Having multiple ways to dispose of them through the level design. That way you could also keep bosses like Shadow and Metal memorable by not having them succumb to tactics like that.

Of course, I still think the static ones are important too in their own right. Though I would reserve that for flying enemies that you have less of a chance of just running into.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The problem is that in all the 3D Sonic games (including the Adventure games), enemies are either bowling ninepins or homing attack bridges most of the times.

This because simple enemies in 3D just don't work. Mario 64 made the goombas chase you because having them walk in a direction and turn back when there's a wall like in the 2D games didn't work, the player would have just ignored them unless you fill the floor with them (also to make them easier to stomp); every other enemy in the game also has been redesigned to work in 3D, they look at you, shoot at you and chase you.

In Sonic there are many enemies that aim at you and chase you, but most of the times you simply ignore them. Those egg-pawn like robots from Sonic Unleashed can chase you (or the actual egg-pawns in Sonic Colors), but you never notice because you go so fast that it's all meaningless... in Sonic Adventure, that first enemy you find on the beach rams at you, but you either run around it or just jump and air dash away because Sonic is excessively faster than the enemy and it ramming at you means nothing unless you walk very slowly near it.

Recent games increased the amount of enemies in the formations to make them more noticeable, but you still go bowling ball into them.

You understand that there's a problem in 3D Sonic's enemy design.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I think you don't even really have to focus on confrontation with the regular Badniks. They are really little match for Sonic, and I think some of the best ways we've seen Sonic take out enemies is usually through some form of avoidance and confusion. Having the enemies make active pursuit of you and letting them destroy themselves in various comical ways through some form of ineptitude could be rewarding in it's own right. 

Like, you could homing attack and waste your time with a badnik who would want to chase you, but you could also just let him pursue you and blow up by smacking into a wall or another badnik, or having a badnik missile blow up the other. I don't even think the AI has to be smart. Again, some of Sonic's coolest moments are stuff like the Sonic CD ending where half the time the enemies just break themselves in their attempt to stop Sonic.

This kind of enemy design was explored in Mario 64 with Mr. I (The eyeball you run around) and with the bullies, where movement and trickery were your means of disposal rather than direct confrontation, and I think that could translate well with Sonic. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, Iko said:

The problem is that in all the 3D Sonic games (including the Adventure games), enemies are either bowling ninepins or homing attack bridges most of the times.

This because simple enemies in 3D just don't work. Mario 64 made the goombas chase you because having them walk in a direction and turn back when there's a wall like in the 2D games didn't work, the player would have just ignored them unless you fill the floor with them; every other enemy in the game also has been redesigned to work in 3D, they look at you, shoot at you and chase you.

In Sonic there are many enemies that aim at you and chase you, but most of the times you simply ignore them. Those egg-pawn like robots from Sonic Unleashed can chase you, but you never notice because you go so fast that it's all meaningless... in Sonic Adventure, that first enemy you find on the beach rams at you, but you either run around it or just jump and air dash away because Sonic is excessively faster than the enemy and it ramming at you means nothing unless you walk very slowly near it.

Recent games increased the amount of enemies in the formations to make them more noticeable, but you still go bowling ball into them.

You understand that there's a problem in 3D Sonic's enemy design.

I don't really think that's a problem at all; even the Mario 64 example, you can still literally ignore any enemy and keep progressing through the level. 

Platformers are meant to get you from A to B, enemies are mostly there as obstacles to impede your progress, but fighting or dispatching them has never been the focus of the genre outside of boss fights. 

If the problem is how enemies impede your progress, then enemies should be designed in a way where they can't be dispatched with a simple homing attack. In the classic games, not every enemy could be destroyed the same, certain ones had to be destroyed from another angle. (Catakillers needed to be hit on their head, Spiker's needed to be rolled into on the ground, etc etc) 

 

But having enemies impeding Sonic at top speeds makes for clunky sections such as most of the chase sequences in the boost era games where there is not much input from the player beyond just jumping to avoid a shockwave move. That's why enemies work better in slower paced areas since there's more control over the player in how to dispatch them. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
4 minutes ago, Kuzu said:

But having enemies impeding Sonic at top speeds makes for clunky sections such as most of the chase sequences in the boost era games where there is not much input from the player beyond just jumping to avoid a shockwave move. That's why enemies work better in slower paced areas since there's more control over the player in how to dispatch them. 

Yeah, but I didn't say they should go at Sonic's full speed... just chase/aim at Sonic and provide some challenge instead of being Homing Attack bridges.

Imagine a buzz bomber flying in circle over Sonic's head and putting several targets on the floor. It advises you where it's going to shoot, it gives you time to react. You can easily outrun it and forget about it, but the platforming won't allow you to run away easily, cause there are spikes, slopes, pits (that lead to a lower route offcourse) and stuff.

Just an example, though I find this way more interesting than any homing attack bridge we have in all the 3D (and occasionally 2D too) games.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
9 hours ago, Kuzu said:

If any mook can keep up with Sonic, it devalues moments like Metal Sonic and Shadow being able to do so.

Sonic Forces' OC says hi.

Anyway, a lot of talk about badniks, but I feel that should come after solving the problem of controlling Sonic, stage design and how the two can work together. But that's just me.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

The only way I can imagine a free-roaming skatepark style stage design working in 3D for a "Sonic 64" style re-think is to change the objective to be many within a stage rather than a point A to point B affair.  I'm sort of imagining something with Sonic Forces' "mission control" style voiceovers but... instead of the narrative of the stage just changing as you go through it, Sonic is actually doing stuff and solving the problems that are brought up.  Like the most basic scenario is "Eggman is attacking the zone, there's a badnik generator at the top of the volcanic hill!" and the player has to use the skatepark-esque stage to make their own way to that one tall part of the stage with smoke coming out the top.  Then once you get up there and bop the thing, two more generators appear, and you now have to make your way to those in whichever order you prefer.  Objectives would gradually become more complex/numerous as the stages progress, possibly with the order you do them in also affecting what objectives pop up next, leading to a dynamic play experience.

IDEALLY... the level designs are clever enough to anticipate some of the most common routes through the stages, and provide interesting things to interact with on those "typical" paths, but there is always that fear that players will discover more efficient but less fun paths.  It's hard not to imagine the plethora of videos of 3D fangame engines I've watched where as soon as the creator applies their impressive physics system to a stage intended for platforming rather than testing those physics, most of the video is Sonic rolling down slopes and making football-field clearing jumps over mountain ranges of interesting geometry.

At that point... forget all the clever physics you made.  Sure it takes an understanding of the physics system to achieve, but it often looks stupidly easy to perform these ridiculous acrobatic feats when you know how to recognise slopes and jumps that you can use.  Once you achieve that... well, you might as well be playing Sonic Forces, where playing well was the most boring platforming experience because it just sent you straight into shortcut after shortcut where you sailed over all the more methodical, lower routes (not that there's much fun to be had on those either, it's all pretty uninspired stuff, but there is more jumps to make down in those areas).

 

Anyway, back to that original concept of wide-open levels with multiple objectives dotted around rather than a single end goal, heck if I'd know how to incorporate badniks and combat into that which wouldn't get in the way of the platforming or just add slowed down busywork for the player that is completely different from the gameplay "language" they use to get around the stage.  I suppose one could argue that if we're throwing out the guidebook to "what is Sonic" there is a validity to the question of "maybe this game design concept would be better without enemies".  You could even justify it in the plot by having Eggman announce that he's scrapped badniks this time in order to put all his resources into colossal boss mechas that are fought using the platforming mechanics to get around them etc.  Not totally out there.  In a sense, you could even use these mecha boss stages to sort of be like the Bowser levels of this "Sonic 64" - providing concentrated tests of skill on a more linear, immediately punishing course to act as a change of pace from the regular wide-open stages where there is less threat but the fun comes purely from the act of movement.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

It's sort of underrated in this conversation how satisfying it is to bash a robot or two now and then. They should be kept for that reason alone even if they don't end up do it a whole lot. 

Mario 64 shied away from combat because the precision required to make precise jumps on their head wasn't there yet, but the later games in the series became more aggressive with their enemy design once the controls became more polished and Mario got more tools to deal with them. Galaxy is chock full of enemy encounters due to close quarters design and the spin giving Mario a really easy way to dispatch them. 3D World's incredible camera work makes jumping on enemies easy. Odyssey turns enemies into power ups which incentivized engaging with them from the start and the cap is another tool Mario can use to safety deal with them. 

What I'm saying is that there are a lot of ways to make enemies work, and Sonic even doesn't have the precision problem Mario did. His hitbox when jumping and spinning covers whole body and assuming we keep the homing attack that stops the precision problem in its tracks. 

Forcing the player to deal with enemies from certain angles or uncomfortable positions seem like the best way to make it interesting but that would probably involve giving up on the open ended concept or at least toning it down a tad. 

In an open ended concept theres really nothing to stop players from dodging most enemies entirely so I'd say give tbe player incentive to engage with them. Destroying all badniks could be one of your objectives or maybe they can drop some collectable that feeds into some other side fluff in the game like Chaos Drives. 

 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Guest
Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    No registered users viewing this page.

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

You must read and accept our Terms of Use and Privacy Policy to continue using this website. We have placed cookies on your device to help make this website better. You can adjust your cookie settings, otherwise we'll assume you're okay to continue.