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Sonic Adventure 2, Style, and Scoring.

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Yes, I totally agree. It's always very fun and satisfying to pull off stylish and "cool" moves in Sonic games, but it's even better when you're recognized for doing so. The constant exclamations of "Jammin'," "Awesome", etc. on the screen accompanied by an increase of score is the sort of thing I think future Sonic games could benefit from.

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I feel it says a lot about the player depending on how they feel about the ranking system.

Nothing sucks more than having your effort undone by a single death, reaching the end of the level, and then the game admonishes you for it.

Me personally, I said "fuck that" and swore to myself that I would do better next time. It's that type of mindset that encourages repeat playthroughs and that's kind of the magic of Sonic games; that feeling that once you've mastered the mechanics and controls and how the game openly praises you for it.

It's the same type of feeling you get for getting a SSS combo chain in DMC.

 

I feel the ranking system is a bit too lenient nowadays, probably to alleviate that feeling I described; you're outright given an additional rank for not dying in Forces iirc, and tricks don't really increase your score.

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I feel like SA2 was a bit too strict actually, but I do agree that it was cool that it made you have to go through certain obstacles to earn the rank. 

That said, I actually do prefer when the ranking system is tied to the time, but I'm just that kind of a person when it comes to Sonic games where I'm trying to take just every shortcut and get to the goal as fast as I can (most of the time, at least), and I also feel that idea of tying the rank to the time does also feel like a reward for playing like Sonic. I feel the recent games like Generations kinda got really lenient with it but I liked how the Unleashed Project mod handled it. Really tight time requirements but it was a fun grind haha

I do understand the rationale for making it lenient though, Sonic's for everyone including kids and it's possible that kids would feel discouraged if they're constantly getting Ds or Es. Maybe ranks don't appear when you play the main game, but pop up after that? That might be a solution.

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I would say ranking conflicts with the Sonic philosophy of offering exploration and experimentation if you get told off for going through how you want but the games that feature ranking are so straightforward in level design it doesn't really matter. I say Boost gameplay gels with it the best, being a style thats all about optimization and not much else. 

They sure made the system work for NiGHTS though, so much that its nearly essential.

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Rush handled it best. You had to downright ace every mechanic to earn the top rank. A fast time alone wouldn't do it. Collecting all the rings and not getting hit wouldn't do it either. The only way to champion a stage was the find the optimal path, with the most rings, the most trick jumps and all the while completing a flawless speedrun all at the same time. I think Rush was the last game I played where I felt I had to outright earn my S rank. Nowadays they get handed out like candy for avoiding death. 

I understand the viewpoint against ranking systems. Nobody wants to get scolded by Sonic - but at the same time I feel like avoiding that misses out on the charm of the character. If the player isn't making him look like a beast, he's the kinda guy who will let you know. And its not like the difficulty curve of any of the modern games is so great that children can't muster up the skills to tack on B or A runs with a little practice, short of Eggmanland. If you hide behind the concept of not making the player feel bad, then you'll miss out on the charm that can be added by that. The out-of-tune Orchestra in Unleashed is a perfect example. Omega stating that he was falling short of Gamma and Beta was another. You loose that by coddling the player. 

 

The ranking system in recent games has been watered down to the extent that it doesn't even matter anymore. I want to see the rankings re-balanced so that those fancy S ranks are reserved for only the truly elite passes. One solution could be re-balancing the ranks between modes. Offer a score attack for people who want to play that way. A time attack for pure speed. And the story mode could be a middle ground. That way, people won't feel too punished for playing their way, and everyone else has options to push their limits in the appropriate avenue, without being held back by the casuals. 

 

 

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1 hour ago, Natie said:

I would say ranking conflicts with the Sonic philosophy of offering exploration and experimentation if you get told off for going through how you want but the games that feature ranking are so straightforward in level design it doesn't really matter.

SA2's ranking system would force you explore the level, which would then help you on ranking.

It's not just based on time, but just a more accessible form of speedrun routing technically.

Finding "just" the fastest route would net you a C or B rank at best in that game.

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In the case for a game like Sonic Adventure 2 (one that has a Chao Garden or any kind of shop, in other words) I think a happy medium would be to offer your final score at the end of a level without a letter grade in the main story or a free play mode, instead offering something like bankable rings/credit depending on how high your score is.

Letter rankings would be based off of the same criteria, except would only be present in missions or challenges, like Time Attack or Find the Lost Chao. That way it doesn't necessarily dictate how a player should play through the main campaign, but gives the player a very clear reference point when they're voluntarily challenging themselves.

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My opinion is ranking systems are fine & fun in their own right... but there should always be a separate mode/option to turn it off for when you just wanna explore or goof-off, plus the level death timer should be removed in those cases too. I also agree with thinking the characters should react in more fun ways to how you play during the levels.

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I feel that modern Sonic developers could definitely benefit from remembering the more arcadey aspects of Sonic gameplay, namely the portions you described well. But not only that, imo it needs to be somewhat part of the advertisement of the game it you're going for this particular style. 

If you build a game in which the layers of depth are really contained within its replay value, make people understand this better. Make people understand that, you can play the game once or twice but the real brilliance comes out when you're reached that 15th or 20th run and you're getting very good at it. I don't just mean motivation in the game, I mean in the marketing and promotion of the game. At least in a subtle way. Then general audiences will understand it better. 

I only mention this because a lot of modern gamers seem not to understand the arcadey aspects of Sonic games as well as they did in the early 90s, for very natural reasons. But I think the games then sometimes get unfairly criticized for this. SA2 is one of the better Sonic games in terms of its replayability factor in the good levels and blending that in with bonus features in the game (Chao), and I think the series would stand to benefit from maintaining this in future games. 

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1 hour ago, Lord-Dreamerz said:

...plus the level death timer should be removed in those cases too.

Is this really necessary?

Are you really gonna stand in a level for 99:99:50 amount of time in the 3D games?

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24 minutes ago, StaticMania said:

Is this really necessary?

Are you really gonna stand in a level for 99:99:50 amount of time in the 3D games?

to a less absurd degree, yes? I sometimes played around in a level for 30+ mins. It especially had no place killing you in games with a focus on exploring such as Sonic CD. Furthermore how is a death timer necessary anyways? should not be forced to get punished for it honestly. Thankfully many of the 3D games remove the 10 min limit anyways, but i feel it should not be forced on you in the 2D games either for the normal mode.

as a side note i don't remember how many 3D games had the 10 min timer, so i was speaking more in general about the subject.

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If you're actively engaged with finishing the level, the death timer is almost never a factor. If you're trying to explore it gets in the way. In that sense it's kind of failing on two fronts. It's not encouraging a real sense of urgency and actively getting in the way of other playstyles. I think the idea behind the timer is good but it's not really serving that purpose or really any other purpose right now so I wouldn't think much about it if they removed it. They should find other ways to encourage players to move it along.

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1 hour ago, Wraith said:

If you're actively engaged with finishing the level, the death timer is almost never a factor. If you're trying to explore it gets in the way. In that sense it's kind of failing on two fronts. It's not encouraging a real sense of urgency and actively getting in the way of other playstyles. I think the idea behind the timer is good but it's not really serving that purpose or really any other purpose right now so I wouldn't think much about it if they removed it. They should find other ways to encourage players to move it along.

Could probably do like what Lost World did and make it strictly for time attack missions. Say 2:00 minutes is an S rank, then 2:45 is an A, 3:15 is a B, so on and so forth. Those are generous estimates but you get the idea. Regular gameplay could be used to afford the player more time to familiarize and explore the level, and then speedrunning missions can be additional things to play later on.

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I think what makes SA2's ranking system interesting is that it isn't just based on time, but how many rings you have, enemies defeated and the 'trick' scores you have mentioned.

I think Generations has a mediocre ranking system, because it's mostly based upon how quickly you beat the level, and if you haven't died for the S Rank. And this is a real shame, because I think Generations had potential to have a much better ranking system than SA2 did.

Nailing quick steps, using the trick jumps and hitting a perfect landing, are obvious points which they could have used. But there are loads of shortcuts and daredevil jumps which already exist in the game and it is a real shame that they didn't incorporate them into the ranking system. There are loads of examples, but Speed Highway is a good test case.

Jumping on the helicopter early

image.png.f2b1d242713fdfa68cb4bc71c17ad8e9.png

Taking the risky shortcut before the building.

image.png.11d37eaa3a0bdc357fef89e184572b6f.png

Another great example is using the secret route through the motorway when you smash down the wall of the skyscraper. Unfortunately I don't have enough data left on this post to show an image for it!

All of these routes and secrets are far more frequent and more organically interwoven in the level design than their sparse equivalents in SA2. They could have given you bonus scores for doing them and make the A/S rank require genuine mastery over the level as the rankings had demanded in SA2.

Almost every level in Generations had secret routes and daredevil jumps like this. Just thinking of the possibilities in Modern Seaside Hill gives me limitless ideas.

The more I reflect on Generations, the more I realise how genius it was.

 

 

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SA2 is the only ranking system in the series that I think feels "right" and fair. The new games have a system that might as well give you an S for simply booting them up, but on the other end of the spectrum there are the Rush games which I think are far too strict. I did get all S ranks in them years ago, but I tried again earlier this year and couldn't do Leaf Storm 1 even after almost an hour of playing.

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One of the things I find facinating about SA2's approach to it is that a lot of the point bonuses you need to get max ranks - at least, in the case of the main hedgies - are simple routing differences. And that a lot of them are otherwise frivilous, but at the same time a perfect fit for the character if that makes any sense?

Alright let's clear this up by going to probably the best example of this, which is pretty much the near goddamned entirety of Metal Harbour.

Just 14 seconds in you're given an open invitation to grind rails. Is it necessary? No. Is it even faster? Probably not. But is it cool? Fuck yes it's cool.

What about the homing attack chain at 0:27? I think you can just spindash jump over most if not all of it if you're just going for time. So why would you not only incentivize completing it at all, but even go as far as offering a longer route for points? Because fuck you it's there, and fuck you I wanna.

And that whole deal with the rocket? Who the fuck in their right mind would literally risk life and limb ignoring a perfectly reasonable opportunity to escape to hunt down one that's even further out of the way for the same outcome anyway? Sonic the fucking Hedgehog, that's who. A hedgehog who eats danger, shits awesome and shows off just for the sake of it. It's such a perfect, self-encapsulated representation of the character, and it makes me a little sad that we've never gotten anything like it since - at most, integrated as a gameplay mechanic instead ala the tricks system in the Rush games.

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8 hours ago, Blacklightning said:

One of the things I find facinating about SA2's approach to it is that a lot of the point bonuses you need to get max ranks - at least, in the case of the main hedgies - are simple routing differences. And that a lot of them are otherwise frivilous, but at the same time a perfect fit for the character if that makes any sense?

I think it isn't just that the routes showcase Sonic's daredevil and stylish nature, but also because that they are more difficult to pull off. Messing up the homing chain can result in you falling in the water, same with messing up the homing attack on the rail, and missing the rocket is self-explanatory.

This is where I think Generations could have done really well too, because while it did have a bunch of shortcuts which were perilous (the Speed Highway shortcut, jumping on the water to boost and take the shortcut to the rocket in Seaside Hill), a lot of the secret routes were also just difficult to pull off in terms of timing while going fast (the Speed Highway motorway, the City Escape ramp jumps at the beginning). Even Green Hill Zone, which is very linear and simple, has secret routes for hitting the wall jumps.

A real missed opportunity.

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14 hours ago, Blacklightning said:

And that whole deal with the rocket? Who the fuck in their right mind would literally risk life and limb ignoring a perfectly reasonable opportunity to escape to hunt down one that's even further out of the way for the same outcome anyway? Sonic the fucking Hedgehog, that's who. A hedgehog who eats danger, shits awesome and shows off just for the sake of it. It's such a perfect, self-encapsulated representation of the character, and it makes me a little sad that we've never gotten anything like it since - at most, integrated as a gameplay mechanic instead ala the tricks system in the Rush games.

Although can we just say that due to janky controls that don't let you move in a straight line, dash panels that shoot you into walls and a light dash that only works when all the planets in the solar system line up on the on the 30th of February, Metal Harbor's A Rank quickly goes from an awesome to awful. 

But yeah, all that aside, the scoring systems in recent Sonic games are absolutely pants compared to SA2. Setting aside the mech, driving and treasure hunting stages for being totally different approaches to gameplay, the Sonic/Shadow levels awarded points for doing things stylishly and quickly. Longer enemy chains awarded bonus points, extra grinds and light dashes congratulated you, and pulling off a slick jump at the end of the grind rail gave you speed, a shortcut and valuable points. Plus there was the Golden Beetle in every stage. I'm a bit torn on them because they were a hit and miss at times, but the idea was solid. It was never a mystery as to how you'd get enough points for an A rank because the opportunities to rack them up were all very clearly laid out. All you had to do was master those objectives. and when you finally managed to do so, it felt fucking great.

SA2's problem comes in its form of punishment. The amount of times that I've been caught off-guard by a rogue laser blast or an enemy spawning on top of me is too high to count. And these little mistakes range from losing all your rings to losing a life and having your points reset to zero. The game is unfair and unforgiving. God forbid you die near the end of a level, particularly one that demands perfection like Metal Harbor does. You're more likely to die during the rocket launch because Sonic ran into a railing after hitting a dash panel than through any fault of your own. And even if if was your fault, you'll be lucky to see anything higher than a C rank after death. It's kind of an all or nothing affair, due to unpolished design. 

Assuming that a game is perfectly well polished and not subject to many of the crapshoots you find in SA2, I still think that giving players a rank at the end of the stage when they're first playing it (i.e. in story mode) is a bit rough. Of fucking course I'm going to get an E rank the first several times I play Crazy Gadget. You don't need to tell me how badly I did after I already got a game over and had to repeat the Tetris room dozens of times. Instead, the game should just save your score and rank it invisibly. When you go to select the level from the time attack or stage select menu, it should show your best score there along with the corresponding rank. None of your efforts would go unrewarded, but the game wouldn't be intruding with ranks at a time when they aren't necessary. 

As for the other games...

Lost World kind of gets this right very slightly. I say kind of, because despite offering you animal bonuses for multi-homing attacks and relegating the ranks to time trials, the animal bonuses don't influence your rank as it's entirely based on your completion time. Plus the game doesn't take any notice of your best time unless you're in time trial mode. I really think that ranking the player invisibly during the story would be a nice boon. 

'06 originally included a ranking system very similar to SA2's, awarding points for doing cool shits as you played the levels. It was eventually gutted from the final game, I think with only the Rainbow Hoops remaining to give any bonus points. All of the other mentions of "cool" or "radical" ect were absent in the end. The only way to earn bonus points was to defeat the leader of a group of enemies, which is about as exciting as bopping a single Egg Pawn and moving on. As with a lot of things in '06, the gameplay and scoring system had the right ideas and simply failed to deliver.

Colours deserves a mention for its pathetic scoring system. You want an S rank? Just spam Wisps and quick steps, because you get bonus points just for completing those actions. Unleashed and especially Generations and Forces hand you S Ranks on a silver platter just for going fast. There's no strategy involved, no cool things to get extra points. If just pick up rings and get to the end as quickly as possible without dying. In Forces, you can get S ranks despite a truly shameful showing where you constantly get hit and reach the end with virtually no rings. Time is the biggest factor. It's this way because of the way that the games are designed now. All the boost gameplay encourages is rushing to the end. There's no opportunity for doing cool shit in the levels because they're railroaded towards the goal. SA2 used to get flack for being too linear, but it had plenty more opportunities than we get now.

Mania employs its "cool bonus" at the end of each stage, which is a fun little bonus. You start off with a 10,000 point cool bonus, which goes down every time you get hit. A death instantly puts it down to zero. I'd like to see this return in future games with a ranking system. It's a better system than instantly losing all of your points and therefore any hope of scoring well just for dying once. 

I honestly don't remember the scoring system in the Rush series to comment well enough on it. Performing tricks was always oodles of fun. Unlike the QTE tricks in Unleashed and Colours, the trick ramps in Generations and the QTE cutscenes in Forces, the Rush series had you doing tricks whilst you were in full control of Sonic and you could do them any time you hit a spring, ramp or were grinding. Whilst tricking you could make snap decisions to jolt Sonic in any direction, potentially attacking badniks at the risk of losing some control. It was engaging and cool. Plus more tricks = more boost energy = more points and speed = higher rank. It was a cycle of encouragement. Shame the series never learned anything from Rush except to incorporate a boost. And the boost has never been as well implemented as in those games. 

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5 hours ago, Blue Blood said:

Assuming that a game is perfectly well polished and not subject to many of the crapshoots you find in SA2, I still think that giving players a rank at the end of the stage when they're first playing it (i.e. in story mode) is a bit rough. Of fucking course I'm going to get an E rank the first several times I play Crazy Gadget. You don't need to tell me how badly I did after I already got a game over and had to repeat the Tetris room dozens of times. Instead, the game should just save your score and rank it invisibly. When you go to select the level from the time attack or stage select menu, it should show your best score there along with the corresponding rank. None of your efforts would go unrewarded, but the game wouldn't be intruding with ranks at a time when they aren't necessary. 

I don't accept this argument because other games, Devil May Cry especially, give you rankings throughout on your first playthrough and it doesn't feel like you are being humiliated. I also don't think a game shouldn't have a ranking system because you might not get the perfect score. The primary issue here is how horrible Crazy Gadget is to play.

Although I do think that SA2's E-A Rank system is too punishing. If you look at Devil May Cry, it goes from D to SSS. And I think in Sonic you could just get rid of the D and start with C, since the ranking is done at the end of the level and is the final score (in DMC, D is presented as a base to build upon rather than a final grade you could get). I know qualifications are changing to numbers now, but C is generally recognised as a respectable pass grade, so it doesn't hold the same punch in the face quality that the E rank does.

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29 minutes ago, Plasme said:

I don't accept this argument because other games, Devil May Cry especially, give you rankings throughout on your first playthrough and it doesn't feel like you are being humiliated. I also don't think a game shouldn't have a ranking system because you might not get the perfect score. The primary issue here is how horrible Crazy Gadget is to play.

Although I do think that SA2's E-A Rank system is too punishing. If you look at Devil May Cry, it goes from D to SSS. And I think in Sonic you could just get rid of the D and start with C, since the ranking is done at the end of the level and is the final score (in DMC, D is presented as a base to build upon rather than a final grade you could get). I know qualifications are changing to numbers now, but C is generally recognised as a respectable pass grade, so it doesn't hold the same punch in the face quality that the E rank does.

The primary issue isn't Crazy Gadget being "horrible to play". You shouldn't expect to get a high ranking on your first playthrough of a level. But getting a bad ranking because all you're doing is learning the game, casually playing through it is a bit demoralising to a lot of people. I don't agree with it personally, but it's an issue that I've been a lot of people cite in the past. They don't like getting graded in games when they're not playing for grades. And while it's easy enough just to ignore it (its what I've always done), I do understand the point. Making the ranks invisible in story mode (but still counted) behind the scenes, and perfectly visible in other modes means that you never have to pay attention to the ranks if you don't want to, but you also never have to miss out on any run of a level either.

A game like DMC is designed for players to perfect their skills in where, whereas a platformer like Sonic is much more free flowing. There's more than one way to play Sonic well, but it's a different story for a hack and slash series. 

I personally don't care what the grades are, just a long as they're all plausible. You're basically never going to see the grades lower than a B in Generations, Colours or Forces. I think you can get Ds in Generations, but not Es. I don't quite remember. It just feels so silly to have grades that you won't see unless you leave the game idle for an hour after dying at the last checkpoint. E to A is absolutely fine. C to A is absolutely fine too. Just make it clear what the requirements are for each grade and everything's dandy. I'd like to see A and S grades the same thing in terms of rewards, with S being a bonus ranking the player can achieve by not taking any damage, not dying or something else. Get an A rank PLUS the extra criteria equals an S. I think Generations might have done something like this. But if the game locks anything behind getting good ranks, A and S should be regarded as the same.

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28 minutes ago, Blue Blood said:

 

A game like DMC is designed for players to perfect their skills in where, whereas a platformer like Sonic is much more free flowing. There's more than one way to play Sonic well, but it's a different story for a hack and slash series. 

 

Ehhhh part of the appeal of DMC is that it's sorta free form, they have more in common than you think. The highest rank(SSS) might require specific strategies but any sort of  competent gameplay or experimentation at all will net you a C or B at least. A similar mindset could apply to Sonic and it would be fine IMO.

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I feel it's a difference of expectations; DMC is a character action game, which are generally considered to be more difficult than your average game because the game expects you to master the mechanics and its nuances.

Sonic is a platformer, which tend to be better at easing the player into the experience through simplicity. So if you're the type of person who just wants a casual, laidback playing experience, you might feel a ranking is mocking you.

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1 hour ago, Kuzu said:

I feel it's a difference of expectations; DMC is a character action game, which are generally considered to be more difficult than your average game because the game expects you to master the mechanics and its nuances.

Sonic is a platformer, which tend to be better at easing the player into the experience through simplicity. So if you're the type of person who just wants a casual, laidback playing experience, you might feel a ranking is mocking you.

3D platformers don't have the same wide appeal as 2D ones do. It's easy for us to take for granted, but many casual players find if too difficult to navigats in an open 3D space.

So I don't feel like a ranking system is out of place here. 3D platformers aren't a casual genre.

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Reminds me of how in the comments of most speedrun videos of the Sonic games that have ranks, there's always that one guy that's like "he beat it in 30 seconds and only got a D? WTF?" It sort of hearkens back to that old adage of the Genesis/Mega Drive games that we tend to think where speed isn't the entire point of the games contrary to popular opinion.

Yeah sure you can go fast but where's the fun in just doing that when you can go fast stylishly? 

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