This is the busiest Sonic/SEGA news period we’ve had in years, courtesy of an E3 where SEGA finally has Sonic games to discuss.
Takashi Iizuka recently took part in an interview with Game Informer to do that very thing. Some interesting questions were asked, including concerns that some fans have had about Sonic Forces. We’ve included highlights below. It, however, is highly recommended to see the full interview for much more that was asked:
In a lot of Sonic games, we play as side characters like Knuckles, Tails, and Amy in addition to Sonic. Sonic Forces seems more focused on Modern Sonic and Classic Sonic. Were you worried that introducing custom characters would distract from that focus?
For a lot of the other games in the whole history of Sonic the Hedgehog, when we didn’t want to introduce playing as Knuckles or playing as Tails or some other character, we wanted to make it a new kind of gameplay experience to keep things fun and bring some variety so you’re not just doing the same thing with a different looking character; we wanted it to feel like a different character. As we were doing that, we realized a lot of the fans enjoyed some of the gameplay variety, but they still really wanted to play as Sonic. They’d always say, “This game’s great, but I just wanted to play as Sonic instead of these other characters,” or for [Sonic] Unleashed, it was always, “I really love the Sonic running stages, and the Werehog’s cool, but I really wanted the Sonic running stages.” The team was aware that all the variety we were bringing to the fans… some people like it and some people don’t like it. There’s always this mix of “It’s cool,” and “It’s not cool,” and we wanted to make sure we were bringing something that people were going to enjoy. Starting with Sonic Colors, we started bringing the focus back to Sonic and putting all the gameplay focus onto Sonic the Hedgehog in the traditional, Modern Sonic kind of running gameplay.
With this new game, we realized we wanted to bring this create-your-own character, have them play in the game, and we want it to be different from how Sonic felt, but not so different that people are going to start getting upset that they’re not doing what they want to be doing. So we gave the character a Wispon, which is the new variety of gameplay that’s something fun that Sonic can’t do, and something fun that players can become good and skilled at, but we still wanted to keep the core feeling of running as Sonic, and jumping as Sonic, and playing as Sonic with this original character. In order to do so, we focused on high-speed running and we wanted to make sure your original character still has the feeling of Sonic and all of the fun that you get when you play as Sonic, while still giving them a Wispon so they get to still be a different character and have a different kind of gameplay style. It’s kind of a merging of all the fun things of Sonic with the variety of a different character without going to the extreme of not having the Sonic elements or not having the variety. We weren’t concerned with the original character because we knew we were going to deliver something that people who just like playing as Sonic like to play with something new that we wanted to bring.
Was the addition of custom characters at all inspired by the vibrant fan community?
I’ve been working on Sonic for a really long time, and I’ve been getting a lot fan-mail for a really long time – for like 20 years – and a lot of the fan-mail, even 20 years ago, people were saying, “Hey check out this drawing of Sonic I did,” and “Hey, check out this character I made that’s in the same style or look of Sonic the Hedgehog.” I’ve been constantly receiving these fan drawings or custom-created ideas, so even from 20 years ago, I had this understanding that fans enjoyed creating and existing in this world. I wanted to let people to do that to some extent, but I think the spark started a long time ago when I saw all of these people creating Sonic-type stuff. I understood that Americans like creating their own stuff, so this whole understanding how American fans are interacting with the character was the seed that was planted a long time ago. It just so happens that now we have the skills, the technology, and the team is making a representative world of Sonic the Hedgehog with characters that fit into our world. Players can now go in and make what they want with the format of the series. Fans have been making stuff – we’re very aware of that – and we hope they like the content that has been created. But really, the genesis was a really long time ago, seeing all of the created pictures coming into me.
These two games seem like they would be the first Sonic titles to be developed under Sega and Sonic Team’s new approach talked about a couple of years ago with being less deadline driven and more quality focused. How has this new approach benefited Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces?
Back when Sonic Boom was created, everybody was focusing on different things. The U.S. was really focused on Boom with a TV show and games to support it, and the Sonic Team back in Japan was working on Modern Sonic doing their own thing. Before this restructuring and organizational change, it wasn’t that things were fragmented or broken, but people were focused on different things that they wanted to do with Sonic the Hedgehog and the franchise in general. Since that has been reorganized and I’m here in Burbank communicating worldwide with all of the groups, we’re noticing that this is the best way of doing things and how it should be a real positive going forward. We’re now able to communicate with everyone worldwide from one perspective of what we want to do, what products we want to make, and how we’re going to be moving forward with the brand and the franchise. That’s probably the difference you’re seeing with the content that’s coming out. It’s really all of us being on the same page and supporting one product all together, instead of us focusing on what we want to do and what we want to do with our version of Sonic the Hedgehog for our territory. I think we’re much more globally minded now in moving everyone forward together instead of separate.
When I look at Modern Sonic games, some of the biggest consistent problems with gameplay have been how slippery it can feel when you’re moving, and then the way the action goes into autopilot at times, where lots of cool things are happening on screen, but you’re not responsible for much of it. With what I’ve played of Sonic Forces, both of those issues seem to have been improved. How has the team learned from these gameplay pitfalls of the past?
The controls have been a progression ever since Unleashed. We took the controls from Unleashed and brought it into Colors, kind of tweaking and changing and tuning it a bit, then taking it to Generations. What you’re seeing with Forces is this iterative process of making it tighter, better, and nicer feeling. It’s the continuous process, and since we have the same great team working on the same great content, they get to take their learnings forward with them on the next titles they’re working on. A lot of the playtesting we’re doing, a lot of the feedback given back to the developers is being built upon and built upon and built upon. Forces is the result of that iterative process from Unleashed all the way to the current day. That goes for not just the maps, but also the character running on those maps.
Is there any chance of a multiplayer component in Sonic Forces?
It’s a single-player game, and we’re going to focus on you creating a character and enjoying the story as a single-player experience. If you’re connected online, there will be some features that will work when you are connected to the internet through the first-party services.