Friday Oct 31, 2008
Hello to all Sonic fans!
In this 2nd issue of the Developer’s Diary, I am going to introduce you to the following topics.
[New Sonic Concept]
I kept asking myself “Is this the Sonic the fans really want to see?” It looked to me that Sonic was tied on a heavy chain, taken away his freedom. I could hear his cry; “I want to run faster! I want to run freely!”
For years to come as I worked steadily to build my career at Sonic Team for Sega, I kept my belief that “The True Sonic the Hedgehog can be a lot better!” Then, in 2005, I was accosted and asked by the Producer, Akinori Nishiyama “Would you like to produce the next Sonic?” This when the new chapter of Sonic has began.
I started straight off to think what is needed to make the real Sonic. And I found the answer pretty quickly. Actually, I already had my answers in my head since I’d been always thinking about what “ideal” Sonic was.
· Sonic is all about speed. Without it, he is not Sonic. So put absolute priority on the sense of speed and let him dash non-stop on the trackless routes.
· Take in and Improve the classic “Side-Scroll Sonic” from Genesis. It will surely attract old Sonic fans.
· However, Do not end up with only an ordinary side-scroll game. Because it will be nothing more than a “Nostalgic Sonic”. We wanted to make a “Ultimate Sonic”.
· Keep the 3D game play that progress towards the back of the screen, which was adapted since Sonic Adventure. 3D is absolutely essential to give the sense of speed and the punchy presence. 3D Sonic can be very entertaining if made right. Rather, we go further into the 3D ( 3rd person ) Sonic direction.
· By comparing 3D/ 2D, 2 completely different game plays take only the good stuffs from both, discarding the demerits. And then we mix those 2 parts seamlessly will result in a stage that changes rapidly and dynamically.
· We keep Platformings too: Speed can be appreciated more with the slower-pitched areas.
· *To realize the non-stop-supersonic-running action, revise the control. and prepare (develop) a new speed action mechanism.
· Prepare amazing visual images with rich presence so that the player can sync with Sonic.
· “New Sonic” would be born from the set of these key concepts.
Usually, the player moves in a 3D gameplay using the left stick in the, but since it’s analogue, it limits user’s move to linear directions. Sonic dashes at the supersonic speed. So it is difficult to let him to run non-stop within a complicated 3D environment by the left stick alone. We needed a system that allows sonic to move quickly and avoid the obstacles. That is “Quick Step”.
The control was quite simple: while running, all needed to do was to press either trigger with your right or left index finger.
Next, I focused my attention to the rings, the item traditionally used in the sonic games. With rings, or even with one ring, Sonic can avoid the damages by the enemy. That was a fantastic system for fast action character such as Sonic, but I always felt it is a shame that collecting more than 2 rings makes little difference in the game play.
So I presented a new concept called “Ring Energy” in which collectin many rings is enjoyable and rewarded, marrying the concept of the ring and the speed. As more rings collected, more energy will be accumulated / pooled, and by consuming the rings, it also allowed Sonic to “Sonic Boost”, the fast accelerating feature. “Sonic Boost” also allows him to break the wall and the objects, and run quickly blasting the enemies. “Sonic Boost” is so refreshing and you will be addicted.
And then, the ring became more important in its role. More the rings (collected) , faster the Max speed Sonic can sprint, so Time Attack has really became hot! Moreover by using various actions such as “Sonic Drift”, ”Sliding”, ”Stomping”, ”Wall Jump”, ”Light Speed Dash”, we materialized our concept to “let him dash non-stop supersonic on the trackless route.”
Once the speed mechanism has is there, we moved onto the stage designs. The stage that sonic dashes through is designed to show the change the view rapidly from 3D to 2D every 15 to 30 seconds. On each 3D and 2D area, the course is carefully laid out with various geographical elements such as uphill, downhill, bank, loop, valley, wall, ceiling, floor, grind rail, spring and jump bumper.
In this title the speed in which player travels in game is actually multiplied compared past Sonic titles. Since he’s so fast, each action stage is as long as 10~20Km. Our artists worked so hard to put together these massive geography. And one day we finally saw Sonic running in these courses. Even though the control is pretty simple, Sonic runs around freely in the beautifully elaborate background in his super speed. Camera is looking good and the change between 2D/ 3D is pretty smooth and dynamic.
“Wow! This is so fun! And feels good!” All our staffs are excited too. Sonic is finally freed from the heavy chain and started shine in his true color. This is the moment when finally Sonic is Unleashed.
[Hedgehog Engine and its visual quality]
Back in 2005, I was able to see new games from other studios for Xbox360 and PlayStation3 and I remember always feeling that something was not right. “True, they’re looking better than past-gen games. But I feel something is missing.” “They are doing stuffs with Shadow Map, Normal Map, HDR… shaders and everything. Ok, lighting is richer. But it’s not blended enough. It just looks flat as a whole. I think the users’ expectation is much higher.” So we need graphics with “pre-rendered CG animation” level.
So I started thinking about what is need to achieve this; what does pre-rendered CGs have that game graphics lightings doesn’t? I went on to make it a habit to observe many games, a lot of pre-rendered graphics and real-life sceneries. As a result, I came to the conclusion that “the effect of light reflecting from one object to another” was what was completely lacking in gaming graphics. I realized that this was what I felt was “missing.”. This is a concept called “Global Illumination” in the field of pre-render CG.
After much struggle, we finally developed a Renderer that calculates Global Illumination by our 100% original algorithm. To cover the vast amount of calculation that needs to be processed, we also improvised a system that connects 100 PCs in the team to distribute the work load, which enabled us to complete all the lighting calculations for an action stage which goes as long as 10~20Km in 2,3 days.
At the same time, we developed a technology called Light Field, which used to ensure that the lightings on Sonic, enemies and objects are naturally blended to the background under Global Illumination environment. The result of Global Illumination and Light Field was brilliant. Graphics with the quality which was only a dream just a few years ago start to move before my eyes.
As you all know, We have Sonic in Sonic Unleashed. The overall taste of graphic is rather cartoonish. Usually people don’t associate high-end visual technologies from these cartoony graphics. But we have set the ground to make the world-leading quality visuals that could be applied to the hardcore FPS or racing games with “real” taste.
We made no compromise in visual quality and/ or game mechanism. This is Sonic Unleashed.
[Back to Origin?]
I’m confident that this one is so good that everyone will say “Sonic is back!”. This title has the best of SEGA, the passion of Sonic Team. I can’t wait the to have everyone see and play this newly unleashed Sonic. Stay tuned!
There will be more of the developer’s diary. So look forward to the next one, too!
Posted by Clumsyorchid in Sonic Unleashed on 1:22:32PM Oct 31, 2008
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