Other Modes
Thursday, 31st July 2008, 9:04pm (UTC), 1 Comment
Update: Other Modes page added to the Sonic 2 section
Those who have been desperate for Special Stage advice in Sonic 2, or perhaps just juicy details about the options menu (oooh!) need look no further than the Other Modes page of the Sonic 2 section. Rather plumper than the corresponding page of Sonic 1, it also contains everything you need to know about Super Sonic, the 2-player mode and even Knuckles in Sonic 2. I originally kept the latter to the Sonic & Knuckles game guide, but as that's obviously a while away yet, I've imported it in. You may not see anything wrong with the page, but compared to the new design I'm working on, the current layout for the info pages all look very plain and disorderly to me. I'm afraid it'll have to do for now though until I can implement the new look, within the next two or three months, but when I do, you'll be blown away! Or, you may not be that bothered, I don't know. I'm pretty sure you'll say "ooh, this looks different" though.

Only one more page to go now before we can finally call Sonic 2 all present and accounted for; the Miscellaneous page, where, among a couple of other matters, I will be looking briefly at Sonic 2 Beta and things that didn't make the cut. A subject that many Sonic fans are fascinated by, but I want you to bear in mind that it's not really what Zone: 0 is about, so I won't be going into great details, and certainly not really technical ones. Perhaps one day Zone: 0 will grow to encompass all details on Sonic that have ever existed, both general and very geeky, but for now I'd rather keep it a reference and strategy guide to the finished games, with particular emphasis on level design. So don't expect everything that we know about the beta version and all the other various pre-releases to be contained within it, as it's really a different subject as far as I'm concerned. Expect more of an introductory overview to the topic, with links to where you can find out more about the research. I thought I'd get that out of the way now, as I know I've had at least a couple of comments from people looking forward to this section.
Comments   1 Comment has been posted.
#1. Comment posted by supersonicsmash on Friday, 19th February 2010, 11:16pm
First to coment whooo a left the codes on Hydrocity zone coments the stages and story thing not the brief info.
YOUR suggestions for "Zone: 0.1"!
Wednesday, 23rd July 2008, 10:24pm (UTC), 6 Comments
Update: Gameplay page added to the Sonic 2 section
That's right, Zone: 0 is currently undergoing a BIG redesign, as you might already be aware, in fact it'll be its proper launch (until now, the site's design has technically been in a temporary WIP state), so you could call the update Zone: 0 v1 (or Zone: 0.1?). If you're already pretty familiar with the site and its contents, I'd very much like to hear any suggestions you might have to improve things!

In terms of what's already in the pipeline, you can expect to see a much better and more stylish overall layout, with graphics that I'm really rather proud of. The actual contents and structure of the pages won't be changing much, but you can expect an improved comments feature in which you'll be able to view and add notes to each individual section of a level or page in a little drop down box. Hopefully captions for images will be improved, with universal formatting across every browser and there should also be a full-size feature in place, allowing you to see the full screenshot for each of the cropped images on the page. I have plans to make more files available for download too, beyond just maps, and including manual scans, artwork and music perhaps. Subject to bandwidth I guess. The door will also be opening for the articles feature of the site, which I'll eventually be using to suggest some methods for ordering and classifying the games and levels of the series, and hopefully Palmtree Panic will be included to kick off Sonic CD too.

So I suppose I'm looking for more handy little features like that. Rather larger ideas like the addition of video guides and a google maps-like interface for viewing the level maps would be very cool, but not particularly practical over the next few months. So if anything's occured to you lately, go ahead and leave a message and I'll see what I think! If you do happen to have a bigger idea that might be very cool, do feel free to mention it too, I just may have to put it in the back of my mind for a while. In that vein, I'd be particularly interested if anyone would rather fancy a Zone: 0 forum for highly interesting discussions of Sonic level and game designs.

It'll be great if I can launch it in sync with the whole project's fourth year anniversay on 31st August, but there's no guarantees on that, as my back-end admin system also needs a complete rebuild and I still need to convert most of the existing pages to a dynamic form. I definitely want it done by the time the Sonic Site Awards start this year though, after being respectfully nominated for three awards last year - I think the improvements, and the site's increased notoriety since then might just give it that extra nudge.
Comments   6 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Thursday, 24th July 2008, 1:56am
Hmm... how about an RSS feed to alert us of updates?

I can't wait to see the new design, and the Articles sound like they'll be a blast, too.
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Thursday, 24th July 2008, 9:18am
Oh yeah, RSS will probably be there too! That was a suggestion from a while back so I'll definitely see what I can do about that.
#3. Comment posted by Reckoner on Saturday, 26th July 2008, 5:25am
Here is one suggestion that I have: use PNG instead of GIF. As long as it is properly compressed, a PNG will generally always be smaller than a GIF, and it is supported by all the major browsers (see http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comparison_of_web_browsers#Image_format_support for a comparison). And note that, while IE 6 and below can't handle alpha channels, they can still do single color transparency like GIFs.

For best compression, I recommend a tool from Ken Silverman, called PNGOUT. It's a freeware command-line program for converting images to PNG format (and optimizing existing PNGs). It produces file sizes smaller than just about any other program I know of, and its compression is completely lossless. You can find it at http://advsys.net/ken/utils.htm. I used it to re-compress some of the images on the site and got some nice results; for example, the first summary image in the Sonic 2 Aquatic Ruin page, s2-arz-summaryimg1.gif, was reduced from 23.5 kB to 11.1 kB in PNG format, which is less than half of the original size. It seems you can also shave about 9-10% off of your maps, just by re-compressing them.

And about those maps, I was wondering if it might be possible to reduce their colors enough to fit into a palette-based PNG. The Genesis can normally only display 64 colors at a time, and this is doubled with a single mid-frame palette change (such as the switch to the underwater palette to render the below-water portion of a Sonic level), so that gives a total of 128 colors in any given stage (and thus a theoretical maximum of 128 colors for a plain, unedited map, though 40-50 is more typical). Naturally, since you reduce the maps to about half of their original size, you must apply some type of filtering so that they still look pretty and that will add additional variations in color. Combined with the little markings, arrows, and the map legend, many more unique colors are added, but I still think you could take the existing maps and reduce them to a palette-based image in Photoshop without much loss of quality, but with a huge decrease in size.

Just as an example, I took your Metropolis Zone Act 3 map, which was nearly four and a half megabytes, with over 160,000 distinct colors, and reduced it to an 8-bit palette-based PNG, and the resulting image was only 842 KB (a reduction of nearly 82%!), with very little noticeable decrease in quality (I can email you the image if you'd like, so that you can evaluate the quality yourself). Getting those maps down to a reasonable size would not only make your users' downloads faster, but it'd also help with your bandwidth.
#4. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Saturday, 26th July 2008, 10:41am
Thank you Reckoner, your suggestions intrigue me. While bandwidth isn't a problem right now, it's likely to be a big issue as the site gets more popular and I add more maps and other files. If it'll save me the cost of having to buy more, not to mention having to turn away visitors because I've run out of bandwidth that month, then it's definitely worth looking at. I'll check out the program you've suggested and in the meantime if you could email me that Metropolis zone map (just click on my name at the start of this post), I'll have a look at that too, thanks!
#5. Comment posted by Rachel on Saturday, 26th July 2008, 2:27pm
You could make a blue backround.
#6. Comment posted by supersonicsmash on Monday, 8th February 2010, 10:01pm
I just wanna say this: don't change the logo. That's a beautiful picture of Sonic.
Sonic and the Never Ending Gimmicks
Monday, 21st July 2008, 10:43pm (UTC), 2 Comments
If you haven't heard, Sonic and the Black Knight is, now, an official new entry in the series, announced today and hinted at yesterday with a leaked Nintendo Power cover of Sonic with a knight's glove and sword. Just the other day I was thinking that it was unusual to have only two Sonic games in this current 2008 'batch', and surprise surprise, here comes another one. Sega made a press release that doesn't really add much more info other than what could be assumed from the name and the image, but confirms that it is essentially the sequel to Secret Rings, this time set in a medieval storybook as opposed to an Arabian one. I know a lot of uproar against the sword idea has been expressed and I'm not saying I particularly like the concept, but I'm going to reserve my judgement until I know more about it. Evenso, it's hard to envision a game that merges standard Sonic, and presumably Secret Rings-esque gameplay with swordplay that won't drastically change it in any way that is really worth doing at all. The best that anyone determined for Sonic to keep new ideas to an absolute minimum could hope for is that the sword simply offers a few new moves while you're running about the place, but somehow I suspect it'll be a little more complex than that.

Although personally not a big fan of Secret Rings myself, I quite liked the idea of giving the game a whole new theme, and indeed a sub-series of these "Sonic and the.." specially themed games is fine by me, and I suppose they've got the chance to perfect the system that only partly worked well for the original, in my opinion. But then, the best of that system (running fast and dodging obstacles from a behind view) is already being employed in Sonic Unleashed with the added precision of not having to automatically run, allowing for superior platforming, so I wonder if we really need this game at all? Maybe I don't, but anyway, too early to say at the moment.

I just worry about the effect this wacky new idea and Sonic Unleashed's Werehog concept, which is clearly rubbing some people up the wrong way already, will have on the overall public and critical opinion of the series, which, for the last year or so has been building up to a gradual comeback to a state of reasonable respect again. It's almost an ongoing struggle between critics who just want Sonic to be purely Sonic like they knew from the nineties (and don't get me wrong, they do have a point at times), and Sega, who know damn well that they can't just keep churning out modern Sonic 1 clones because the series just won't last. In a way, they're prolonging its life by keeping people in constant hope of a classic style game, instead of just giving them one, then a series until it quickly dries up and everyone's sick of Sonic altogether, as opposed to being sick of Sonic doing new things. I think Sega are damned if they do, and damned if they don't, as they're trying to meet the needs of so many different people, while keeping their most successful franchise alive and well. It's no wonder that Sonic Unleashed is, as IGN put it, like two different games stapled together.

Whereas Mario seems to be built for doing anything from traditional platforming to baseball and golf, etc, Sonic has always had a much more narrow range regarding what people would be happy to see him do, perhaps because of his "attitude" and slightly more serious and action-oriented content, which has always been there, but has evolved moreso down that path, as opposed to one where Sonic doesn't take himself too seriously. I do wonder if the average person who is fairly familiar with playing Sonic in their youth but hasn't really paid much attention since, will see a picture of Sonic with a sword or Sonic as a werewolf beast and think "OMG, that's not the Sonic I know and love! What are they doing??" or will they just simply think "Huh, Sonic as a werewolf.. cool". In other words, do they see Sonic as a more versatile character who can get away with these sorts of ideas, and we're all just too close to the subject matter, or would they agree with the critics and old skool fanboys? It'll vary, but I suspect one of the reasons Sonic still sells well is because of all those people who only pick up a Sonic title once in a blue moon because of old memories, and I think we need to think a little more about the opinions of those people regarding new ideas.

As far as where I stand on new ideas, I just think that we Sonic fans are extremely lucky. We're coming up to 50 Sonic games now, and I think only Mario and probably MegaMan can really top that figure, and over half of them are platformers. That's well over 200 levels, so no matter what happens, we've got 17 years worth of Sonic gaming to entertain ourselves with, and that's partly what this site is all about - a place to celebrate and catalogue that as a shrine and resource to the multi-faceted video game empire that is Sonic the Hedgehog. It just makes you wonder how important it really needs to be to us that every new Sonic game be true to the original concept and avoid all deviation and transformation into other things. That's evolution and after all this history, how can it not happen?

Anyway, what I wanted to talk more about was Sonic Unleashed, now that everything from E3 appears to have emerged and we can sum things up a bit more clearly now. I think by far the most useful piece was Gamespot's exclusive coverage of the game being played live, which answered quite a few questions/concerns about certain gameplay specifics...

I don't know about you, but I felt quite a bit better about the Werehog side of the coin while watching him in action. Sure, I'd prefer the platforming aspect to be a bit more emphasised over the combat than it probably will be, but I really like the stretchy arms with regard to grabbing onto ledges and shimmying across them and I think that mechanic has some great platforming potential, the likes of which are probably nothing new to the genre, but is something that's fresh to the series. Meanwhile, in combat, he does look like he has a number of different moves at his disposal, apparently around 30, and I must say it does look quite fun, at least initially, but may get tiring. On the other hand though, the Subspace Emissary in Smash Bros Brawl is full of hand in hand button-bashing brawling and platforming, and a word against that game is practically unheard of. I particularly enjoyed Streets of Rage in my early gaming days, so to describe the actually fairly comprehensive Werehog combat system as "mindless", as I've heard, is, I think more a problem with its inclusion in a Sonic game more than the actual idea itself. There are any number of equally "mindless" games out there at the moment, particularly among the 105 generic shoot-em-ups released every year these days.

It's a shame we didn't get to see more of the standard Sonic gameplay in the video (and we had to see most of the werehog's stuff twice!), but my biggest concern was settled - Sonic isn't automatically set on a forward run at any point, and the control seems fairly tight, although I think we'll need more proof to be sure. I'm wondering how the mechanics of running fast and being able to turn will play out, in this case. When you're on a full blown, boost-powered run down a long road with the camera behind you, presumably you have to hold forward to accelerate, but what if you turn to the top left on the analogue stick? Does Sonic strafe a bit, or does his whole direction shift and just the shoulder buttons are used for strafing? Does this limit the accuracy of the strafe? It seems like at some points Sonic doesn't shift with the road as it turns, and instead runs along the edge at the wrong angle a little bit, and this even seems to be the cause of the second death suffered by the player. Yet on other, slower occasions such as the infamous rotating, multi-floored platforms, Sonic appears to control more or less exactly in the same way he already has in 3D in the past. It all seems to mesh really well together in motion, but I just wonder how it all actually works and shifts from section to section. I thought that restricting your movement to 2 dimensions at any one time would simplify things and therefore reduce the possibility of unforseen glitches occuring, but perhaps things won't be that straightforward.

I'm very confident that I'll enjoy Sonic's sections in particular, it seems like the level designs allow for a very smoothly flowing experience and there's evidence of plenty of variety, I just worry a lot about what would happen if the game isn't the success it really needs to be. I suppose if it at least manages to be relatively glitch-free and all reasonably well designed, it'll be a step in the right direction for most, who will then allow for a similar but more improved experience next time, but I've a feeling the werehog aspect will play a big part in the game's overall success. There will be people who just won't come round to the idea, no matter how well made it is, but also others who are willing to give it a chance. It does seem somewhat unfair to me though to give the game a bad score purely because it contains a mode that the reviewer feels is "un-Sonic-like", especially if they'd be happier playing it in a non-Sonic game. My view is that without the werewolf mode, I think there would be a sense that the game would lack real "meat" to it, I suppose. Straightfoward running fast all the time is fine for smaller games like Sonic Rush, which is clearly a heavy influence on this title, but modern primary Sonic games do seem to require some more substantial variety in gameplay styles and things to do. Speeding through levels without a care in the world is brilliant, but I suspect the slower werehog sections will make the first playthrough much longer and deeper. We shall see, come November.
Comments   2 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Tuesday, 22nd July 2008, 12:42am
This all brings up an interesting point: What is the Sonic name/brand trying to sell?

There is no attempt at a canonical storyline, and the characters, especially Sonic, are given no more than the most basic rudiments of personality. And there isn't even a consensus on the planet or world in which the games take place. So no one buys a Sonic game to "see what happens next", like they would buy Halo to "finish the fight" (or whatever).

The creative forces behind the games aren't consistent, either. There are few, if any, original team members left from the Mega Drive era. So no one buys a Sonic game for that reason either. It's not like buying a Zelda game that you know Miyamoto was definitely behind.

And in recent years, the Sonic brand can't even be taken as a symbol of quality.
Thus, I would conclude that the name "Sonic" is supposed to sell the gameplay. You can always rest assured when you buy a Sonic game, that the speedy, platforming gameplay, will be intact.

Or can you? Ever since Sonic Adventure, Sega has almost comically chucked in countless other gameplay styles to make Sonic more interesting. Many of them are the direct antithesis of speedy platform gameplay. Fishing, digital pet raising, adventuring, clomping around in a mech and shooting stuff, sailing a boat, searching for emeralds with ear-splitting radar, and now this - Werewolf combat.

The question isn't whether the new gameplay is any good - much of it is. I enjoyed raising Chao and sailing pirate ships as much as the next guy. But what all these extraneous play styles seem to suggest is that good old school Sonic gameplay isn't good enough to sell a game anymore. They as much as said flat out that the inclusion of Chao in Sonic Adventure was because the game was too hard and they wanted something for younger players to be able to do with the disc if they got the stuck in the main story.

But it's all bollocks. Not once has Sega released twenty-five Sonic games in a row with classic gameplay and watched their sales slowly sink. In fact, the most classic style games, such as Sonic Advance and Sonic Rush, garner the best reviews. The old adage, "if it ain't broke, don't fix it", comes to mind. Why does Sega think Sonic needs other types of gameplay? Are they not confident in the gameplay that sold the Mega Drive, won them the 16-bit console wars, and made their character more recognisable than Mickey Mouse? I don't mind if they have creative ideas and try to install them in their flagship series - but I'm afraid that's not why they include all these gimmicks. I think it's because they don't think Sonic is good enough to stand against other modern games without some sort of crutch.

Well, they're wrong. There are hundreds of games where I can lumber around and smack enemies around. But there's only one Sonic. Putting all this unnecessary stuff in each new Sonic game is like putting catsup on ice cream.

That said, I'm still looking forward to all the new games, and will probably enjoy them. But I don't think Sonic will truly have his fabled "comeback" until someone starts to take the series seriously and stops treating Sonic like a mascot who can just be injected into mediocre environments and stories largely borrowed from other things. Someone might consider putting Sonic in Arabian Nights or Arthurian Legend to be an "original concept", but really, that's not original - it's stepping on someone else's ideas to make your game seem cooler. Suddenly they don't have to do any work to make Sonic cool - cos King Arthur already is!

I guess I'm really rambling now, but I can't help it. One look at any Zone from Sonic CD is all it takes to see what Sonic needs. Not even today, with all their polygons and processor power, can they match the fantastic worlds of Mega Drive Sonic. I played Stardust Speedway when I was 7 years old, and it blew my mind and changed my life. I'm doing what I'm doing today because of those games, and I've never seen anything to match them. I can only hope that this is a temporary state of affairs.

#2. Comment posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, 22nd July 2008, 3:18am
What are they thinking they will achieve with the Dark Knight game ezcept nothing?
Sonic Unleashed trailer dissection
Wednesday, 16th July 2008, 1:31pm (UTC), 3 Comments
Following my impressions of the trailer from yesterday, I thought I'd draw attention to a few little bits and pieces you may have missed. Because over-analysing things to suckle out every piece of information we can is what being an obsessive Sonic fan is all about! Firstly, bosses...

Here we have the bosses for the Europe, African jungle and China stages fought as regular Sonic on the run, ala Mushroom Hill, Sonic Advance 2, Sonic Heroes, etc. It does really make me begin to wonder if Sonic simply runs automatically, regardless of the orientation throughout the whole game as we have yet to see him stop at all, and bosses are normally one of the places to do that. Still, I like the designs I see here, particularly the first one in Europe, which reminds me a great deal of the afforementioned Mushroom Hill Zone boss from Sonic & Knuckles - the laser beams acting as the rows of spikeballs. Also note that you can see Eggman inside a cockpit in each of the first two - just how it should be!

This is quite cool - I thought it was a spring at first but on closer inspection, Sonic latches onto a giant firework that blasts him forward. He drops off at the beginning of the next path as the firework continues forward and explodes - looks a very satisfying level object. Would be great if there would be several, and Sonic hops between them in mid-air before each explodes. Also, what in the hell are those icons in the top left corner? One looks like a tiny Sonic head icon, and the other either a rocket facing down, or a hand pointer icon facing up. If they're for the in-game HUD, why isn't the ring meter and life counter there? Is it part of the development software? Mysterious. Check it out for yourself at 2:09.

Platforming! Yay! Sonic must traverse these rotating circular platforms and avoid the spiked things. Note that this takes place on the rear view, so if that gaming aspect is on-rails and Sonic runs automatically, you'll have to do it while being forced along. On the other hand, I can see how controls for moving forward and back, and dodging left and right might work quite well, while being taken on a certain path around the obstacles. While blazing along the speedy paths at that view however, I think I'd prefer not to have to hold the forward direction all the time. I'll be very interested to see how this section actually works, however, any errors obviously result in death by falling, which I don't mind at all in small bits, but lets hope the team stick to their promise of having fewer death drops than we've been accustomed to lately.

These rings are clearly following Sonic as if he carried the lightning/ring magnet shield, however if you examine the video sequence of the first shot, Sonic is clearly without any shield, and doesn't appear to acquire one as he hops between grinding rails. Do rings suddenly become attracted to you when you obtain a certain amount of speed or ring energy? The first sequence is around the 1 minute mark, the second at 1:56.

Some sort of precision involved here as Wolfy carefully walks across this thin beam, very slowly. Wii motion controls would be quite good here, as you attempt to keep the remote balanced in some way.

Lets have a look at some enemies now, seemingly monsters that emerge from the center of the Earth once it's been torn apart and who, hopefully, only pop out at night. I don't mind that too much actually, and they look reasonably interesting. Kind of remind me of the twilight monsters from Zelda: Twilight Princess a bit, but suitably Sonic styled. The dog one in the middle is from the recently released batch of screenshots and there's even some wizard style ones in cloaks. Also note that the ring meter is replaced by shield and vitality meters, indicating a whole different health system to regular Sonic, which makes sense, as it looks like Were-Sonic is going to be taking a bit of battering at times from all these bad guys.

Ending on a bit of a geek-note, we can see in the first screenshot that the checkpoints are a modified version of the Adventure style ones, now with glowing lights across them. In the second shot, you can see what appears to be the same lights, and part of one of the posts to the side, with Were-Sonic possibly in the way of the rest of it. If this is a checkpoint, it extends much further across the path than normal, so perhaps they stretch according to the size of the paths to make sure you don't miss them? Particularly useful with regular Sonic I'd imagine.

I'd love to do a great big article on Sonic Unleashed soon, the first of hopefully many articles that I'll write for this site, going over every thing I've been throwing around in my head and see if I can come to any conclusions and predictions of how it might all work regarding gameplay mechanics, level designs and overall game structure. Whether I will or not is another matter, as I'm also eager to continue redesigning the site (which I've been doing a lot of behind closed doors, and it's looking, frankly, brilliant!) but I do have a few weeks off now, so we'll see how it goes.
Comments   3 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by mercury on Thursday, 17th July 2008, 4:51am
Okay, now this is just weird.

It was many, many years ago that I had a dream, which I can still vividly recall.

I was standing in the store, looking at the back of the packaging of a newly released Sonic game. I remember being surprised - and a little appalled - at what I saw.

Sonic had stretchy, cartoony, rubbery arms. They could extend to great lengths so that he could grab objects, swing on poles, and combat enemies.

After waking up, I realised how ridiculous of a concept it was. This was long before I played or even heard of Ristar.

And now, bizarrely, the very same mechanic has made its way into a real Sonic game. I guess it wasn't so ridiculous as I thought.

The world is a funny place.

Incidentally, my current project has gone through each of the following working titles: Sonic Collection, Sonic Gems, Sonic Chronicles, and Sonic Genesis. Each of these titles has been summarily absorbed by Sega, of course. To combat this I decided to name my game something I thought they'd never do, and make it a bit like a Harry Potter book - Sonic the Hedgehog and the Such-and-such of So-and-so. Mere days later, I kid you not, Sonic and the Secret Rings was announced. Honestly, sometimes I wonder if Sega has me bugged... So you can see why I'm so uptight about revealing even the name of what I'm working on...

Anyway, in a bit of free time I began to work on the Sonic 3 & Knuckles Zone format, from savestates. I've got them mapping accurately already (minus objects, of course), but they're so bloody big! Ice Cap Act 1 is over a hundred million pixels large, and takes over 400 megabytes to process! I'm at a loss as to what to do, unless users would accept multiple maps per act. Sort of like a part 1, part 2 kind of thing.
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Thursday, 17th July 2008, 9:19am
Haha, yeah, sometimes I get the feeling Sega are reading my thoughts as well, as I'm often preconceiving ideas for new level environments that soon pop up in some form.

Great to hear you're working on the S3&K maps. I for one wouldn't mind at all having the maps separated into bits and then stitching them up together in Photoshop or something, if that's a viable solution.

Their massive size is going to be a problem for me as well regarding the size of the final png's and my bandwidth, but if you can work out a way of doing it it would really be so awesome, as I think because of their complexity, those maps are probably the most useful to have as there's so much you can miss by just playing.
#3. Comment posted by mercury on Sunday, 20th July 2008, 9:40pm
You're right. I hadn't thought of it that way. Aside from perhaps Sonic Advance 2 (because it requires you to take very specific routes through its Zones to gather the 7 Special Rings necessary to enter the special stage), Sonic 3 & Knuckles would benefit the most from maps, due to the sheer size of them. I think next to Oil Ocean, Carnival Night was the Zone I spent the most time lost in in my youth.

I'll just have to make sure that the maps are cut into sensible chunks - it wouldn't do to have the split run right through an object graphic, for instance, especially for users who may not Photoshop or computers with enough memory to stitch them together.

Interestingly, the reason for the Zones in Sonic 3 & Knuckles being much larger than Sonic 1, 2, and CD is because of a programming trick. They store the layout data in a different format that takes up much less information, so they can fit twice the vertical resolution. That Yuji Naka really knew how to squeeze every last bit out of the Mega Drive, didn't he?
Sonic Unleashed at E3!
Tuesday, 15th July 2008, 10:35pm (UTC), 0 Comments
It's that time again.. E3! When a new primary Sonic game is on the horizon it's usually the biggest event of its development progress. We get a snazzy proper trailer, buckets of screens and info and usually some off-screen gameplay footage and impressions. Apparently Sonic Unleashed isn't playable so dunno about the last two, but these are some seriously juicy items..

..plus screens and info.

The trailer features more of the speedy Sonic segments of the levels, arguably the definition of unrelenting fun, in Sonic form (surely the best form of fun imaginable), plus our very first glimpse of Werewolf gameplay. The low-res version is very low res, and can only give you a basic feel of what's going on, but a 300 meg, very large and high quality version is available here and I strongly recommend FlashGet or something similar to download this, as otherwise it only seems to go no higher than 20 kb/s.

I must say this is an excellent trailer, especially once you've seen it in full quality, with a mix of both old and brand new footage, but mostly new. Firstly, the music, by a guy from Bowling for Soup and which I assume is the main theme, I think is perfectly suited to Sonic, whether his somewhat generic teen-like voice is your cup of tea or not. It has a perfect, upbeat tune and good lyrics that, I don't know about you, but kind of give me a certain "everything's going to be alright" feeling. It's odd that I mention cinematic shots before the actual gameplay, but I am just so impressed by them. Sonic Unleashed kicks off with what appears to be the ending from another, unseen Sonic game where Sonic thwarts Eggman's space-based schemes and it's just so classic Sonic, with, what I would say are clear homages to the endings of the likes of Sonic 2 and Sonic & Knuckles. The bit where Eggman's mech has Sonic in his grasp and then he later bursts out of it as Super Sonic and zooms off as everything explodes around him.. just wow. Definitely the coolest FMV yet, if that footage is anything to go by. Kind of hard to see what order everything is happening in, as Were-Sonic is also seen falling away to Earth, but we'll soon find out.

Werewolf Sonic plays much like I expected him to, operating in full 3D controls, as I expected, and clearly there's a mix of more slow-paced platforming and some enemy hack and slash going on. I must admit I was a bit disappointed when I first saw it, perhaps only because it somehow seems less impressive and much more ordinary when compared to the unique thrill of the Sonic speed levels, surrounding it. Also the inclusion of lots of enemies and health bars filled me a bit with dread, as like many others, I could live quite happily without them in a Sonic game.

Did you see the recent teaser trailer about Were-Sonic terrorising a real city? A bit corny I know, but the way Sonic made grand leaps between street lights and rooftops at a fairly quick pace made me wonder how cool it would be to be able to control him like that, in some way, but unfortunately the gameplay we see doesn't appear to be particularly like that. Still, the more I watch it, the better I feel because although your attention is drawn a bit to the fight sequences, you can also catch numerous bits and pieces where he's inching along ledges, swinging between poles using those crazy stretchy arms, dropping off a statue on a pedestal to open a door and even balancing along a thin walkway. It seems like this part of the game could be a lot more varied, and certainly has the potential to offer a bit more meat to the otherwise possibly shallow regular Sonic gameplay. 3D Sonic has always had the problem of offering substantial, careful platforming without his speed getting in the way and causing him to fall off ledges etc. By separating the two and keeping the thrilling speedy bits to 2 dimensions at any one time, you offer the best of both worlds. I'm still unsure about the battle sequences though - even in high res it looks a little bit awkward, and hard to tell if his attacks are actually doing any damage because he's surrounded by these odd purple creatures all the time. Still, there appears to be lots of different grabs, slashes and throws to utilise, and of course Smash Bros Brawl remained very entertaining with plenty of combat alongside platforming, so there's nothing at all to say at this stage that it won't play well.

What sheds more light on the subject is the interview with Patrick Riley, who explains that the levels won't be separate for each form of the character, there will be a day-to-night system (yes yes YES!) that plays out in the duration of certain areas of the level, eventually transforming Sonic into his were-self come nightfall, although other areas will be locked into certain times. I'm not entirely sure how this will work, considering that they've already said they don't want the levels to last more than five minutes, but maybe he means some whole levels will be set at one time of the day, while others vary, perhaps making multiple instances of the same level environments like Sonic Adventure 2 or Shadow the Hedgehog, which I think would be a good idea. But in these variable sections you can apparently advance the time at your own will too, thereby sticking to a particular form. This not only suggests that you can avoid a particular style of gameplay if you like, but also a considerable amount of complexity in level design, if they're able to accomodate both at the same time. You could be able to transform into Were-Sonic at any time and not be forced to walk across very long roads, but at the same time, somehow still account for Sonic's need to run very fast across large distances. The intricate paths we've seen in some screenshots, particularly the city levels, seem to suggest that perhaps Were-Sonic would be able to drop off to a side road here or there just underneath the main one, leading him down a more platform-heavy route that regular Sonic can't access. That would definitely lead to some seriously varied replayability.

We definitely need more clarification with all that though, but it certainly sounds very interesting, and for me, by far the most exciting aspect to it is the day-to-night shifting, which the newest screenshots alude to by showing Africa at sunset. This is a feature I have longed for over so many years now, and I thought we were finally getting it in Sonic '06, only to have it phased out during production. As a level enthusiast, I think the idea is brilliant, adding a whole other visual dimension to their replayability factor and solves the problem that I was having with the fact that, until now, every level was all bright, blue afternoon skies. Nothing wrong with that of course, but I wouldn't want it for every stage. Now, my prayers have been answered at long last, plus the China stage is suitably cloudy too.

Last time with the Europe trailer, my dissection of key frames that showed hidden bits and pieces proved quite popular, and I've already noticed numerous lovely tidbits in this trailer, quite well hidden by the split-screen section in particular, so tomorrow I'll be screen-grabbing and pointing things out like a well prepared lecturer. The China stage has some very interesting components to watch out for.
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Background Info (and Brawl stuff!)
Wednesday, 9th July 2008, 9:59pm (UTC), 2 Comments
Update: Background Info page added to the Sonic 2 section
The Sonic 2 Background Info section has been added, henceforth the entrance to the wonderful sub-world that is the Sonic 2 section, and contains all sorts of bits and bobs, mainly stuff I've gathered from other sources and just general descriptions of the game really. The kind of stuff you find on any other Sonic resource site to be honest, so it's never really my favourite bit to write. I prefer the levels, which is where I know I'm breaking new ground as far as Sonic sites are concerned, and is why I put them up first. Next up is Gameplay details, which will take a little longer - lots more images.

So I've got through the Subspace Emissary on Smash Bros Brawl, and I must say I was really impressed. Platforming is the best game genre of them all and it's time we saw much more of this sort of thing - doesn't have to be 3D, just good old, innovative platforming puzzles and pure fun gameplay. Although I would liked to have seen Sonic pop up in the story in such a way that he'd interact with the other characters (a confrontation with Mario would have been brilliant to behold), I enjoyed it when he finally did appear. He's fun to control, especially as he comes eqipped with all the kind of moves we know and love, but it seems like he requires a bit of practise to fully make the most of. My brawling skills are rather limited to be honest, and I'm finding the likes of Meta Knight and Kirby to be slightly more effective for me. The Green Hill arena and the selection of music tracks available (particularly the excellent Angel Island Zone remix) are truly brilliant though. It's a little chunk of classic Sonic for the modern gaming world, and in that respect, the whole spirit of the game is admirable - flying in the face of modern conventions and the new, casual gamer in favour of great nostalgia.

I'll probably be beaten, but what the hell, my brawl code is: 2707-3106-1661 for anyone interested.

Thanks to the recent nod from Sonic Retro. It always makes my day to read that someone appreciates what I'm building here, and to see it recommended on other sites, particularly those of Sonic Retro's prominence and quality, is even better. Cheers Jayextee! I see I'm on the affiliates list as well, I'll have to include my own when I revamp the site, and return the favour.
Comments   2 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by Cybershell on Wednesday, 9th July 2008, 11:51pm
Hey this site is shaping up to be pretty fucking magnificent so far. Thanks for all the hard work you're putting in.
#2. Comment posted by Crono S. Magnum on Thursday, 10th July 2008, 2:07am
I'm gonna second Cybershell's commment.

Keep up the good work man!
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