Sonic Retro user “Sammybeany” unhappy with experience
Here’s a heads up if you weren’t aware: Sometimes Sega holds community events in their San Francisco offices. Thankfully for us, Sonic Retro user Sammybeany not only went to the event, but relayed a very detailed post about his experience. The point of interest for Sammy was the block of time allotted to feedback regarding Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1. After sitting through four hours dedicated to what Sammy called a “pretty disorganized and ridiculous” Valkyria Chronicles 2 play session, Aaron “RubyEclipse” Webber opened the floor to collect feedback and discuss Sonic 4. For our more sensitive readers, a warning: strong language.
He started out by saying we’d go through items that people felt needed work. First thing he writes on the whiteboard is “physics.” Everyone in the room laughs. How embarrassing for Sega!
Brad Flick, some guy who is apparently an admin for Sonic Stadium and Sonic Retro, was the first to speak up. Everyone basically turned to him and assigned him the task of breaking the ice, as I guess he’s been a vocal detractor of Sonic 4. He goes into a fairly cogent explanation of why Sonic 4’s physics suck dick. I used his point as a springboard to interject, explaining that any “experimentation” they were trying to do with the game would have been slightly more understandable, if not for the fact that it’s billed as SONIC FUCKING FOUR. I explained that they set the bar pretty high when they’re claiming to be creating a direct sequel to the original games.
After talking about this for a very brief period of time, RubyEclipse starts trying to push the conversation to a new bullet point. I don’t even remember what he put up on the whiteboard next. It might have been “levels.” From here, Brad started explaining how poor the flow of Sonic 4’s levels are, compared to the original games. Other points came up, like how there’s less variation in level design, from zone to zone, compared to the classics. Plenty of great points were made, and the people moderating the discussion did a fair job of acknowledging them.
Unfortunately, every time we’d get the ball rolling on some topic, they’d be forcing us along to a next one.
For Sammybeany, this is where the frustration began to set in.
You call us in for a four hour Sega circle-jerk, then you sit us all around in a campfire-esque circle in a goddamn room for focus group bullshit, and then barely give anyone a chance to speak? A few of the people who tried to make points about what bothered them would do so in a belabored, barely coherent way. And, I mean, you EXPECT that. These are nerds coming in here. They’re not sitting behind the comfort of their keyboards. This is difficult for them. But, if you value their opinions so much, why don’t you fucking give them enough time to try to convey what they’re feeling!
In the end, about 90% of the discussion was between Brad + me and the discussion moderators.
But perhaps most interesting is what happened after the Sonic 4 feedback session had concluded:
A couple of the employees came up to me, and “thanked” me for my “passion.” (…) They “explained” to me that it’s difficult, when you’re working on something, to take a step back and observe it’s faults, because you’re too absorbed in it. So they need some constructive criticism. (…) This was pretty much the final insult, for me. I didn’t really have anything else to say, because nothing has ever made their corporate delusion clearer to me. You have teams of professionals working on these games, but you bring a bunch of nerds in off the street trying to fix your problems, and then you don’t even give them a fucking chance to provide what you apparently expect.
After receiving a brief tour of Sega’s offices and seeing a collection of “rescued” Sega memorabilia that was originally destined to be destroyed, Sammy leaves us with this bitter quote:
Sega, as a company, does not care about their culture. They don’t care about their games. They don’t care about their fans.
To some extent, I feel like this was a final footnote in my enduring interest and concern for the series and the company. I’ve been “over” Sonic for quite some time, but this is sort of the last nail in the coffin, I guess. I’ll always be able to look back on the old 16-bit games fondly. I’m pretty confident that I’ll never look forward to another Sonic game, though.
The whole forum post, complete with pictures, is here (copy and paste the link.) A big thanks to Sammybeany for sharing his experience.