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Improving Sonic's Moveset For the Next Game


azoo

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So Frontiers is a game I'm uhh, very torn on. But one thing I think the game does pretty well is creating a new control scheme for Sonic that mostly works. That said, I do think there's a lot to do with it that could make it better. Here's my attempt.

6fcd6e8539703276e7d264891d3d6a18.png

The intent is to make a Sonic that allows more variety in not only movement options, but making combat more movement-oriented. The control scheme itself is more streamlined too, with each button having a dedicated focus (A is for jumping, LT is for rolling, RT is for boosting, B for grounding, Y for pathing, X for attacking, LB/RB for guarding, and the D-Pad for mad fuckin' stunting). Some actions are repositioned to be in better placement, and there's various QoL improvements.

Below is a list of notes that describe the additions and revisions I've made.

Quote

 

- Added the roll / Spin Dash, because of course I did. Drop Dash is remapped to pressing LT + A while in the air, to make initiating it identical with on the ground (also to remove it from it's awkward "third jump" position).

- The cyloop is reinvented into "Sonic Wind", with the aesthetics changed to be wind-related rather than cyber-related. Alongside that, the Light Dash is combined with it. This may sound crazy, but I think heavily nerfing the Light Dash to move across rings slower and only across obvious paths (instead of every ring imaginable) would make going from pathing with the Sonic Wind to riding a trail of rings incredibly smooth. The properties of the move would stay when Light Dashing too, so if you ride a trail of rings that loop or do a circle in their path then it also sucks up everything.

- Instashield is back, and happens when you press LT in the air. It works as an extended range attack, and will bounce you high off an enemy if timed right. I would make it a parry too but it already is pretty strong, and we already have a move for that anyway. (I guess that does remove the purpose to calling it "Instashield" though.. Air Slash? Jump Slash? Spin Slash? Double Spin? Hm?)

- Holding LB and RB now makes Sonic simply guard. Enemies hitting your guard won't parry any longer (that now takes timing, you lazy punk) but it'll still block the move, albeit while pushing Sonic back out of a guard state from the shock. That is unless if it's a bigger enemy, then you probably should've just dodged. Sorry.

- Parrying is done by timing the release of the guard. Sonic's jazz-hands pose is from him breaking his arms-crossed "guard" position. Making it about the button's release rather than the instant it's pressed would make it easier to time for newbies, but not mindless like in Frontiers. I guess the mindless option could still be in the game if we insist on keeping difficulty modes and make it an 'Easy' feature.

- Pressing LT and RT at the same time will make Sonic drift. There are many moments in the cyberspace stages that would feel better with a manual drift, but they decide to either keep Sonic dead in the center of the path when making sharp turns (bad) or make you do a slippery slow drift after hitting specialized dash pads (worse), so we're putting manual drifting back in. When drifting, Sonic can take really wide turns (with his Unleashed/Colors animation). Tapping A while drifting will tighten the turn (with his Generations "spin drift" animation) at cost of his speed. Timing that tapping right could mean transfer into a charged Spin Dash out of a drift, similar feeling to drifting in Sonic Riders. 

- Combat without a target no longer kills your speed, because why did it do that in the first place. Also imagine cool kicks like in Battle or Smash Bros instead of that dumb punch.

- Press X in the air to do a jump dash. It's similar to the Heroes one (starts forward and curves downward) and Sonic does a cool kick like his forward air kick in Smash. If Sonic does it while boosting it becomes like the 06/Boost-esque "Long Jump Dash" (straight forward but cuts momentum at the end) and he does the Adv2-3 spinning top animation. If Sonic does it while spinning he does a "Short Jump Dash" similar to the Adventure era (a slight momentum push forward) with his animation as an axe kick.

- I brought back the Sweep Kick from 06/Unleashed. It's just nice to have. You're welcome.

- Pressing in on the left stick makes Sonic insta-stop (and move at walking speed when held while tilting the stick). This is so you can make precise stops without needing Frontiers's cool feature where it instantly kills your momentum upon removing stick input. The slow walk also lets you be extra careful if you need it. Because normies would really dig that. (While I believe thoroughly in the insta-stop, the slow walk might not be great, I'm not sure. At best, I can imagine a toggle in the Options menu for cutting it off if the player keeps activating it on accident.)

- RT + Y is the "Tornado Loop", which is like the Quick Cyloop from Frontiers, but without being locked onto enemies it causes a swirl of wind for Sonic to float on, similar to in Sonic Heroes. That's right, I paid respects to Heroes. You thought I was incapable of such things, didn't you?

- You can bounce with LT + B in the air (stomping but while spinning, see? Intuitive!), which frees us of the awkward half-bounce stomp that's in Frontiers. To get the shockwave stomp, just hold RT + B (because it's you stomping down with intense force. Intuiiitiiiveee gaaame deesiiign).

- TRICKS AND TAUNTS. Sonic's tricks have been moved to the D-Pad so you can do them completely separate of being in the way of air movement; and can now also do tricks on rails because why the fuck not. Also did I say TAUNTS? Sonic can now make different expressions to NPCs or enemies to get different reactions from them. Want to make a poor little kid laugh? Do a silly pose and a thumbs up. Want to throw an enemy off guard? Slap your ass and wag your finger at them. Nice.

- Combat returns, but we're nixing a lot of the current move set. A few moves could stay (like the Phantom Rush after images thing or the hold-X thing), but I'm far more interested in trying to make the movement abilities Sonic has more viable in combat, rather than the automated anime nonsense they often went for. Imagine instashielding yourself upward (LT), then bouncing down (LT+B) for multiple hits (x3) as you ricochet back up, and ending the sequence with a heavy stomp (RT+B). Or charging a Drop Dash (tap LT+A) into an enemy and sawblade them in place for a second as you rev it, then as you bounce back, Tornado Loop (RT+Y) the enemy into the air and finish it off with a homing attack combo (spam X). Melding the functionality of movement and combat seamlessly like this would improve the game feel tenfold. If you really need the anime junk, save it for Super Sonic.

- And of course, yes momentum is more emphasized with this control scheme in mind. Jumps carry your transferred speed again, but air resistance eventually pulls it back enough to reign it in (like SA1/2). Sonic's run and boost still have speed caps, but do slightly increase down slopes and slow up slopes (though they return to the cap once hitting flat ground). Rolling meanwhile has no cap, and no longer uncurls when you reach walking speed (again like SA1/2, manually uncurl with LT). Sonic also, as mentioned before, doesn't instantly stop upon removing input from the analog stick, but he still decelerates fast to keep the game feeling tight.

 

And that is how I'd do it.

If you like the control scheme let me know. If not, let me also know. And I guess if I'm asking anything here in regards of a discussion; how would YOU improve Sonic's controls for a sequel? Would you at all? Discuss below, I suppose.

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I think this is overdesigned, to be honest. Sonic having button combos for a whole bunch of different moves strikes me as crowded, hard to remember. An air dash, a long air dash and an air boost feel like something for a platformer with more precise movement than I really want out of Sonic, and stuff like the insta shield feels like it applies to an idiom of Sonic that doesn't exist in 3D. The stomp and bounce can probably just be one or the other, and since the stomp tends to be a good brake, it should probably be the stomp. Same with the slide/roll, what's the difference even meant to be? Just have the roll, everyone likes it better anyway. B as a crouch button on the ground to charge the spindash works, or holding L to spin or roll ala SA1/Lost World is fine, we don't need to overthink things. Same deal with the "slow walk", Sonic should just naturally be able to modulate his speed with the analog stick, something Frontiers does perfectly fine and even has an entire wall of sliders for (not to mention capping his speed to hell and back when you're not boosting anyway).

I guess it partially depends on what design philosophy we're looking at for the game here, whether we're just following Frontiers' lead or trying to tweak it. I honestly think the size of the islands is a detriment, and it's also a result of Sonic and his boost being too damn fast. I would much prefer a game where you platform by manipulating Sonic's weight and momentum and free up RT for drifting, but I don't think we're ever going to get that so long as the boost exists (and ironically, most games without it don't need drifting...).

Other than that, I guess it's okay. Parrying as a "perfect guard" makes sense, having the d-pad actually do stuff is cool, keeping timing-sensitive actions as far from L3 as possible is always a good choice. If we're going to have combat at all, we should probably just bite the bullet and have multiple attack buttons to shuffle between and different inputs for different moves. Sure, the werehog sucked, but that was because everything was slow and crappy and there was almost no strategy on what input sequences to use for a given encounter, all something that a future game could be designed around.

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My design for it is based just on what Frontiers gave us, not wanting to change much but shift around pieces. 

If I were to make the control scheme I’d want 100% I’d go much simpler and nix a lot of ideas, but I was wanting to make it work in a way that could be realistically considered in a future title. And I kind of doubt they’d ever let go of most of the ideas presented in Sonic’s current move set, so it’s a “I did what I could” situation.

That said, I don’t mind the options and button combinations. I’ve always thought Sonic could use a robust variety of jumps and dashes even if they overlap in purpose. It’s the same approach 3D Mario games take, and I’m a big fan of how robust those are. But your mileage may vary for how much you want that on Sonic.

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Have guard/parry just be on a separate button, rather than a combined input. If you're playing a hectic, fast-paced action game then there's risk of two different actions accidentally overlapping and creating something completely different. People normally rest their index fingers on the shoulder buttons, so they might accidentally block instead of doing a dodge. I'd recommend making one shoulder button dedicated to dodging, with the left stick deciding which direction you dodge in, and the other shoulder button for blocking/parry. 

I'd also specifically put Tricks/Taunt on D-Pad Up or Down depending on the Gamepad, and have it be a hold input rather than mash. Would also personally change the Light Dash to how Frontiers does it on R3, since it just feels kinda natural to me? Otherwise, I quite like this a lot.

 

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48 minutes ago, ZinogreVolt said:

Have guard/parry just be on a separate button, rather than a combined input. If you're playing a hectic, fast-paced action game then there's risk of two different actions accidentally overlapping and creating something completely different.

Not just that, but if you're goina to be generous not to require timing of a guard/parry (do you have any idea how much that screwed me over before I realized you could just hold it without any time? lmao), you might as well just use one button for it.

Matter of fact, make the Instashield the guard/parry button instead. It'll simplify things. Freedom Planet 2 practically does just that with their guard/parry--it's essentially the Instashield 2.0. That said, that might bring back the need require timing the ability, so depends on what you wanna trade off with that. 

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8 hours ago, azoo said:

So Frontiers is a game I'm uhh, very torn on. But one thing I think the game does pretty well is creating a new control scheme for Sonic that mostly works. That said, I do think there's a lot to do with it that could make it better. Here's my attempt.

6fcd6e8539703276e7d264891d3d6a18.png

The intent is to make a Sonic that allows more variety in not only movement options, but making combat more movement-oriented. The control scheme itself is more streamlined too, with each button having a dedicated focus (A is for jumping, LT is for rolling, RT is for boosting, B for grounding, Y for pathing, X for attacking, LB/RB for guarding, and the D-Pad for mad fuckin' stunting). Some actions are repositioned to be in better placement, and there's various QoL improvements.

Below is a list of notes that describe the additions and revisions I've made.

And that is how I'd do it.

If you like the control scheme let me know. If not, let me also know. And I guess if I'm asking anything here in regards of a discussion; how would YOU improve Sonic's controls for a sequel? Would you at all? Discuss below, I suppose.

I like it, but I think Sonic's general movement moveset should probably be pared back a bit. Having a fewer simpler to use movement options, but providing the player greater freedom to use those abilities (e.g none of this context sensitive wall jumping/running etc on specially marked terrain), would ultimately be much more beneficial to how Sonic feels, I think.

Left stick - general movement. Walk, jog, run depending on how far you push the stick. Absolutely fine. No hard speed-limit - that is determined by gravity/terrain. Downhill speed should be uncapped, but acceleration is determined by steepness. Uphill, again no hard speedcap, but you're limited by the deceleration due to gravity/steepness. If you carry enough momentum you can go as fast as you like up to a point. Allow the player to gain a feel for how they can exploit the existing terrain to get Sonic to fuck around with his movement - allow and even encourage sequence breaking if you're good enough with simple movement tech.

A - Jump. Double jump if really needed, I personally think they should work on Sonic's aerial momentum enough to make it so that you don't need a double jump, and/or make sure platforms are designed to account for Sonic's aerial velocity. In other words don't force Sonic to jump on tiny lil platforms across vast chasms. Design the game around the controls. But hey if a second jump is needed for corrective or new and interesting movement tech then fine. Just don't use it as a crutch - if it exists it needs to add something.

X - Homing attack/air-dash/heavy attack. Homing attack if near an enemy that you're locked onto, SA1/2 Air-dash if no enemy. Whilst in combat, its a heavy attack (e.g kick)

Y - Light-speed dash/light-speed attack/light attack. Make the lightspeed dash give you a lot of acceleration and make it into a damaging attack. If an enemy is misfortunate enough to be standing on or in front of a line of rings, do big damage. Also maybe give it some interesting other purposes. Maybe allow Sonic to go through transparent objects like glass or crystals or something if a line of rings enables it. Reward players for trying it out in random situations and not only for context-specific situations. Maybe add a skill that allows you to charge the light-speed attack a la adventure, to do burst down a bunch of nearby enemies by consuming a few rings. In combat this functions as a light attack (e.g punch)

B - Stomp/bounce/slide. Stomp by default, but you can bounce if you time your jump just right after hitting the ground to gain some height.  Repeated stomp-bounces should gain a fair bit of height, but not an unlimited degree. Maybe max-height is 3x the default jump height. Maybe have the bounce interact with steep slopes to get a bounce in the direction of that slope - play around with this to make sure it feels good. Maybe you can time the stomp-bounce on aerial enemies to gain a bit of height too if you're skilled enough. Risk/reward for not just using the homing attack as an easy way out. Slide when stomping downhill.

LT - I agree with what you have. Crouch/roll while grounded. Insta-shield or shield power while aerial. Roll+stomp while aerial for drop dash seems sensible. Crouch and mash A gives you ye-olde spindash.

RT -Mostly agree here. Boost, Air-boost - this is fine. I don't think you should need to boost to run on walls. If you have enough speed from general movement you should just be able to wall-run. The purpose of the boost should be to give you a real burst of speed for a short period, not just raise your top speed for a while. Max 1 airboost while in the air, until you touch ground or an enemy. Again airboost should give you a sharp burst of speed in a direction. Its whatever speed you're carrying + the extra burst. So if you're already carrying a lot of speed, you should go absolutely flying. Boosting up steep inclines should drain the "stamina" faster. Opposite while boosting downhill. Boosting should be a thing a player should be able to optimise. Use it to overcome some steep inclines. Maybe allow rolling downhill to recharge your boost stamina faster, so you can find a way to keep a nice pace whilst traversing interesting terrain. Boost jumping should work the same way spindash jumping worked in the classics and adventure and allow you to get some nice hang-time.

LT+RT for drifting makes sense.

LB/RB - Quick-step/dodge.

I think all the others combinations you have there are possibly a bit too much. If anything should be context sensitive in Sonic's movement it should be combat. For normal enemies that die in one hit, the focus should just be on allowing Sonic to keep moving. Fighting a large number of scrub-type enemies is difficult to really visualise with a system like this. Clever usage of Sonic's default abilities, like drop-dash, jumping, stomping and homing attacks to quickly plough through a lot of scrubs is probably the best approach as it allows Sonic to stay on the move.

Drifting in tight circles (i.e doing donuts) activating a tornado/cy-loop type thing would be pretty cool.

I think that actual combat and wailing on people should be reserved for mini-bosses and bosses. Anything that needs more than one or two hits to kill should be the context to then switch on heavy/light attacks and then the way you move, dodge etc combined with the heavy and light attacks should be the combat tree. Something from Frontiers can probably be used as a baseline here and expanded upon or otherwise improved. I'm less certain of combat tbh. My main focus here is Sonic's movement.

So maybe I'll give the combat element greater thought later.

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One of my issues with Frontiers was that the control scheme was too complex. I eventually got used to it, but I felt like there were too many buttons and too many combinations to keep track of, and often I confused them, doing wrong moves.

So, I'm not completely sure how I would improve the control scheme, but for sure I would make it simpler.

I want to point out that in the game, the Drop Dash and the Quick Step are almost useless and most of the times even counterproductive because other options just work better in most cases. Either balance those moves in a way so that they are useful again, or just cut them out completely.

I'll probably try to make a control scheme myself later, maybe.

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I think the combat is an interesting start but needs some serious improvement. The combat feels best when it's quick and focuses on Sonic's unique strength - speed. Dodging, spin cycling, and recovering with the spin slash are all super fun, but I think the 'cutscene'-like special attacks are too slow and remind me of a turn-based RPG instead of a fast-paced Sonic game. These should be tightened up.

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On 11/20/2022 at 9:50 PM, Iko said:

One of my issues with Frontiers was that the control scheme was too complex. I eventually got used to it, but I felt like there were too many buttons and too many combinations to keep track of, and often I confused them, doing wrong moves.

So, I'm not completely sure how I would improve the control scheme, but for sure I would make it simpler.

I want to point out that in the game, the Drop Dash and the Quick Step are almost useless and most of the times even counterproductive because other options just work better in most cases. Either balance those moves in a way so that they are useful again, or just cut them out completely.

I'll probably try to make a control scheme myself later, maybe.

Drop Dash would definitely not be useless in what I’m proposing here, since physics tweak mods make it immediately more useful. And I think there’s definitely use for the Quick Step that they hadn’t really touched on much in this game. Like Mulder says, the game’s combat is at its best when about moving around, so I feel like zipping around to weak points is something they didn’t really do enough of, if at all.

34 minutes ago, Spooky Mulder said:

I think the combat is an interesting start but needs some serious improvement. The combat feels best when it's quick and focuses on Sonic's unique strength - speed. Dodging, spin cycling, and recovering with the spin slash are all super fun, but I think the 'cutscene'-like special attacks are too slow and remind me of a turn-based RPG instead of a fast-paced Sonic game. These should be tightened up.

Agreed, and it’s why I wanted to replace or emphasize how button combinations make moves that are equally as helpful in moving around as they are in attacking enemies. IE the idea of drop dashing into an enemy to slash them up is fun, but the idea of that same input near an enemy pulling you into an unskippable 5 second cutscene is not. 

Looking back at my move set, I feel like there’s room to simplify this, but I’m not sure how yet. I may do a second revision at some point.

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First things first, scrap the drop dash. Or at least tweak it so it doesn't feel so awkward go use. I've beaten the game 100% with all s ranks and I still have no idea how exactly the drop dash works. Something about not actually pressing the stick forward for momentum to happen? The opposite?

If something is that counterintuitive, you're better off completely scrapping it or heavily reworking it. The boost fills the drop dashs role anyways (and even better, since you don't have to waste a double jump to activate it.).

Besides that, rework blocking/parrying. Only time I remember parrying was for the first boss, and some of the circle enemies on the last island. Besides that, there is never a threat big enough to make you remember dodging/parrying is a thing you can do.

Also make the bounce less awkward, and able to be activated if you hold stomp after hitting it the first time.

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Image

I've revised and simplified my concept by a bit. Here's the revision notes:

- Extra jump dashes have been cut. As has the extra layered moves. I personally like them, but I can see how they become a bit of a nuisance for the player in how they overlap your inputs, similarly to how I find the combat in Frontiers sometimes. Anyways,

- Y: Special Move. Thought about how Light Dash and Cyloop/Sonic Wind are both valuable moves but there's not infinite room on a controller. My initial idea to fuse them I've kind of fallen out of love with. So I thought.. maybe Sonic gaining some of these moves and being able to change it out could be fun. If you want things that help Sonic breathe underwater, give him a high jump, become invisible or use those dumb Frontiers projectiles, this could be the same function. I imagine Light Dash is the default move.

- B: Skid Kick. This is the "slide" from the Advance games; it works as a harder brake than the slide ever did, and would feel like using the somersault in SA2 in that it slows you to near a halt. And yes, I'm thinking you could do the somersault-jump out of it too. Possibly as an on-ground method of starting a trick combo?

- LB: Guard/Parry and Dodge. I took time to think about criticisms of Frontiers's usage of the Quick Step for dodging, and I think I agree. It takes up too much space on the controller, too, consuming two buttons. My proposition here is to turn it into a traditional guard with Sonic's own version of a dodge-roll. 

- RB: Center Camera / Target and Spine Transfer. I find centering the camera and changing targets to be kind of annoying on R3, so I think it deserves a spot on RB. I also introduce the concept of the "Spine Transfer", a Tony Hawk's Pro Skater staple. 

I've always thought this move would be excellent in a Sonic game, as it makes interacting with more nuanced slopes much easier. The player not only magnets towards the slope's arc, but the camera orients towards it too. I can see this being a major player in making Sonic stages go crazy with it's level design, and would quickly turn maps into vertical playgrounds.

-------------

Anyways, give me your thoughts, as you would.

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