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Some discoveries on the Sonic Team developers


Plasme
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I looked up the team who worked on Sonic Generations. I've made some discoveries which have blown apart a few common myths which are spread online about the Sonic Team developers. I've put my most interesting findings in bold.

The game is directed by Hiroshi Miyamoto, who had previously worked as a designer on Sonic 06 and the Sonic Riders games. I think we can agree that those games are pretty naff, but he did a good job directing Generations. He's only worked on the Sonic and Mario games since (as a director). I have no idea if he still works at SEGA.

The art director is Sachiko Kawamura. She is the person who created the Chao and designed the Chao garden for Sonic Adventure. She was the art director for Sonic Unleashed, Sonic Lost World and a senior art director on Sonic Forces. She's inarguably a very talented member of Sonic Team and hopefully stays for future projects.

The programming director is Outa Sano and he has only worked on the Mario and Sonic games since. He must be a close associate of Hiroshi Miyamoto. No idea if he is still at SEGA.

The lead designer is Yoshinobu Uba. He was the lead designer for the daytime stages on Sonic Unleashed and was a 'system designer' for Lost World. So the controversial decision to leave Boost behind and go the Lost World approach was made by Generations' lead designer. He no longer works for SEGA.

There are several game designers. Daisuke Shimizu has since left SEGA and worked on UMVC3 and Super Mario Maker 2, Katsuyuki Shigihara worked on the Mario and Sonic Games, Utako Yoshino hasn't worked on anything since Generations, Takamasa Usui has no info online, Takayuki Okada would work on both Sonic Lost World (as a level designer) and Forces (as a lead planner), Kanano Yamaguchi worked on Sonic Lost World as a level designer, Haruhiko Kashiwazaki was only a temp worker at SEGA and would leave the company upon Gens' completion.

Of the Sonic Gens key members of staff, the most important members to continue working on Sonic are Sachiko Kawamura, who would lead the art for Lost World and Forces and Yoshinobu Uba, who would play an important role in designing the core systems for Sonic Lost World.

Of the more standard designers, Only 2 of the seven designers would stay on to make future Sonic games. Takayuki Okada would stay on as a significant team member, working on Lost World, Runners and Forces. Kanano Yamaguchi worked on Lost World only.

The upshot from this is that Sonic Generations was made by different people than those who worked on Lost World and Forces. However, only at the more junior level and not at the senior level. It's also not true that the Gens Team had 'nothing' to do with future games. Several designers would work on Lost World and a few would move to Forces.

It's also clear that the Gens level designers aren't 'Team B' or working on another project, most of them have probably just left SEGA,

Perhaps most surprising is that several members of Gens would work on the Sonic and Mario games, rather than work on a new 3D platformer.

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I thought my findings were interesting so did some digging up on Lost World and Forces. Both games are directed by Sonic Colors director Morio Kishimoto, but this is common knowledge.

Sonic Lost World had several level designers. Natsuha Matsubara had worked on Unleashed (night time levels) and Colors, Takayuki Okada we have already covered, Kanano Yamaguchi we have already covered, Rei Hata was a Namco dev who had worked on Tekken and Soul Calibur of all things,  Yuma Matsunaga I can't find any info online, Jyunpei Ootsu is covered below, Takahiro Ono had worked on Black Knight and Colors.

Think what you want about Lost World, but it had many seasoned Sonic developers, including a few who had worked on Gens. 

Forces has one lead level designer, Jyunpei Ootsu. He had previously worked on Secret Rings, Black Knight, Valkyria Chronicles, Colors, Lost World and Sonic Runners.

The game only had two other level designers. Shoko Kamiya had only worked on Mario and Sonic and Shoko Kamiya hadn't worked on anything.

People speak about Forces as though the game was made by complete newbies, but this is not true. The lead level designer was a seasoned Sonic developer and had worked on the franchise for over 10 years. Only the more junior designers were relatively inexperienced.

SEGA's statement that Forces was 'made by those who brought you Colors and Generations' is technically true. The senior art director had worked on Gens, the director worked on Colors and so did the lead level designer. So when people say SEGA made that up, they are wrong.

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My feeling upon researching this is that the whole 'A Team' and 'B Team' theory is complete nonsense. There is one clear team working on all recent Sonic games, and it goes as far back as Sonic and the Secret Rings. It's just that many people leave SEGA, especially upon Generations.

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I suppose the whole Team A/ Team B thinking comes from the 2000 era when Shadow, Sonic 06 and Sonic and the secret rings were all made at the same time as even Unleashed was being cooked up in the background.

With how simple, short and lazy most modern games feel, I suppose many of us love the theory that "the real" Sonic Team is somewhere in the shadows working on the next"real" Sonic game. While the clunky games served up are mere spinoffs about to be erased in relevance as soon as that hypothetical real Sonic game finally shows up.
Of course those feelings were never based on facts or reality, more a vague hope.

But yeah, thanks for the research, interesting read. Now I lost even more hope and optimism for the next game. Was surprised I still had optimism left to be lost.
I thought more ex- Sonic team designers moved on to Mario kart 8 and Mario Odyssey. Surprised I didn't see these games show up.

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8 minutes ago, Roger_van_der_weide said:

I thought more ex- Sonic team designers moved on to Mario kart 8 and Mario Odyssey. Surprised I didn't see these games show up.

I had heard similar rumours to this myself and took them for granted, but if you actually look up the credits for Mario Kart 8 and Odyssey, none of the main designers on Generations moved on to those projects. Maybe some of the programmers and artists did, I haven't cross-referenced them, but none of the game designers did.

To be honest, it's pretty shocking how many rumours are spread around the Sonic forums, reddits and youtube comments which can be dispelled with an hour's basic research.

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For me, the people who worked on Generations are no Sonic veterans, as that game is just as middle of the road as any of the boost games. Take away the nostalgia factor and that it's an anniversary tittle, and you have nothing that stands out or is remarkable about that game.

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7 minutes ago, Tarnish said:

For me, the people who worked on Generations are no Sonic veterans, as that game is just as middle of the road as any of the boost games. Take away the nostalgia factor and that it's an anniversary tittle, and you have nothing that stands out or is remarkable about that game.

It doesn't matter what you think of the game's quality, Generations had been developed by people who had worked on many Sonic games.

In fact, for a lot of the people who worked on Unleashed and onwards, Secret Rings and Black Knights represents something of a starting point. Makes sense when you think of it.

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When the rumor originally started circulating it was well known that the people who left Sonic Team were artists and programmers. We were specifically trying to find out why all aspects of Sonic games had taken a hit, not just the gameplay. 

 

And I still consider Sega's statement about Sonic Forces's development dishonesty. Even if the people in lead positions worked on previous Sonic games a lead position hardly determines the quality of the game as much as people think as does. The people doing the gruntwork are just as important and most of them were switched out for new developers or contractors when work wasn't being outsourced entirely. 

Even if the team had remained largely the same over the years, it's a worthless statement to make if you can't even match the level of quality of those games.

 

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6 minutes ago, Wraith said:

And I still consider Sega's statement about Sonic Forces's development dishonesty. Even if the people in lead positions worked on previous Sonic games a lead position hardly determines the quality of the game as much as people think as does. The people doing the gruntwork are just as important and most of them were switched out for new developers or contractors when work wasn't being outsourced entirely. 

Even if the team had remained largely the same over the years, it's a worthless statement to make if you can't even match the level of quality of those games.

 

For sure you can say that we shouldn't give all the credit to senior staff (I agree in fact). But let's be honest, that's how most people think. FF7 remake got a lot of positivity because the senior team had worked on the original, no one crossreferenced the junior roles.

SEGA weren't being dishonest because this is the way people think. When people think of a game's staff, they think of the director, art director and lead level designer. All of them had worked on either Gens or Colors.

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Just now, Plasme said:

For sure you can say that we shouldn't give all the credit to senior staff (I agree in fact). But let's be honest, that's how most people think. FF7 remake got a lot of positivity because the senior team had worked on the original, no one crossreferenced the junior roles.

SEGA weren't being dishonest because this is the way people think. When people think of a game's staff, they think of the director, art director and lead level designer. All of them had worked on either Gens or Colors.

That's why I said that from my perspective that it is dishonesty. I don't care if it's how most people think.  

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Just now, Wraith said:

That's why I said that from my perspective that it is dishonesty. I don't care if it's how most people think.  

That's not how dishonesty works though.

From SEGA's perspective they were telling the truth, they were speaking in good faith. They weren't being dishonest.

You can think it was a vacuous statement for sure though.

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I don't really have any problem about people feeling burned about the development staff claims ("technically true" or not) because I see that disappointment around that as an extension of a broader complaint. Sega/ST highlighting those two games in Forces' marketing was clearly their attempt to set audiences' expectations for Forces to be on the same level of quality of those games, only for the game we actually got to not remotely meet those standards Sega set themselves anyway. The staff from Colors/Generations only "technically" being back for Forces is just added salt to the wound more than anything else.

Forces as a whole is honestly mired in quite a bit of this, like the whole hullabaloo about the series' former villains being supposedly brought back as a villain team working for Eggman. The rebuttal can be made that the villains were "technically" there in the game, but their incorporation/execution was so unsatisfactory that it's mostly irrelevant to the actual point of complaints.

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17 minutes ago, Plasme said:

What do you mean?

I'm guessing he might be talking about the bit in your OP where you said Uba was responsible for having the Boost gameplay replaced for Lost World.

Which in fairness, I don't think there are any sources to hold him responsible for that. A quick check of interviews (mostly given by Iizuka) doesn't highlight anyone in particular, the decision to change the gameplay is described as a choice collectively done by the development team.

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2 minutes ago, Milo said:

I'm guessing he might be talking about the bit in your OP where you said Uba was responsible for having the Boost gameplay replaced for Lost World.

Which in fairness, I don't think there are any sources to hold him responsible for that. A quick check of interviews (mostly given by Iizuka) doesn't highlight anyone in particular, the decision to change the gameplay is described as a choice collectively done by the development team.

Well I'm not criticising him for it. He was the 'systems' designer on Lost World, which is a big job. It's where you design the game systems and fundamental design decisions.

So he definitely played a large role in it.

What I'm trying to get across is that people have just assumed that Lost World is made by a different team than Gens, when if anything, the lead designer for Gens played a fundamental role in Lost World.

Actually on the Team A and B thing, arguably there was. Team A worked on Lost World and Forces and Team B worked on Mario and Sonic.

I doubt that's what people had in mind though 😛 

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2 hours ago, Plasme said:

What do you mean?

 

2 hours ago, Milo said:

I'm guessing he might be talking about the bit in your OP where you said Uba was responsible for having the Boost gameplay replaced for Lost World.

Which in fairness, I don't think there are any sources to hold him responsible for that. A quick check of interviews (mostly given by Iizuka) doesn't highlight anyone in particular, the decision to change the gameplay is described as a choice collectively done by the development team.

That alongside the implication that he lost his job and deserved to. Especially since he was described as A system designer, without any indication of what that entailed or how it was related.

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5 hours ago, Roger_van_der_weide said:

Hmm, I didn't really get the implication the original post intended to tie him no longer working at Sega to the reception of Lost World. Every description ends with the current status of the employed in question.

It appears to have been changed to be more neutral.

Or I simply misread it in the skim.

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This is somewhat related to this thread so I thought I'd post it. I was working on a spreed sheet specifically because I wanted to see if there were any trends inside Sonic Team over the years, but I must admit due to the large amount of members per game I didn't get too far with it even when reducing it by only staff who worked on at least two games. I had planned on doing it by myself and then posting it at some point in the future, but maybe I could open it to others if they'd like to help contribute. If you are interested private message me with an email and I can add you to it.
https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1lXvPlbva1VqK_wEPpX3Qfd-4i_QqREZM3OEzr0hnBqI/edit?usp=sharing

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4 minutes ago, Plasme said:

I didn't change it, you are just trying to find something to get angry about.

That was not where I was coming from. 

Online overviews of things tend be rather hyperbolic at times. And sometimes statements in text can get across a different mood depending on the context.

If I indeed misread it, I apologise for the misunderstanding.

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1 minute ago, DabigRG said:

That was not where I was coming from. 

Online overviews of things tend be rather hyperbolic at times. And sometimes statements in text can get across a different mood depending on the context.

If I indeed misread it, I apologise for the misunderstanding.

It's cool, we can be Sonic pals!

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On 4/5/2020 at 8:35 AM, Plasme said:

My feeling upon researching this is that the whole 'A Team' and 'B Team' theory is complete nonsense. There is one clear team working on all recent Sonic games, and it goes as far back as Sonic and the Secret Rings. It's just that many people leave SEGA, especially upon Generations.

This was actually confirmed almost 4 years ago. A 4Chan user claiming to be a Sega insider is what started this rumor. He went under the name "Wentos", named after the Sonic Unleashed NPC, and claimed he lied about it to "present plausible educated guesses in a positive light at a time when the series NEEDED it"

You can read more about it in this TSSZ article: http://www.tssznews.com/2016/05/27/wentos-4chan-leaker-revealed-as-noninsider/

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On 4/5/2020 at 6:27 PM, Wraith said:

Even if the team had remained largely the same over the years, it's a worthless statement to make if you can't even match the level of quality of those games.

My take on that statement is that SEGA were being dishonest...in a honest way

Yes, most of the senior stuff who worked on generations and unleashed also worked on Forces, but with this statement SEGA was indirectly trying to imply that just because those people were working on Forces then the game would have the same quality standards of Generations, so yeah, i agree with you it was a worthless statement

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