Secret talent for fake Needlemouse concept art
Thursday, 28th January 2010, 2:01pm (GMT), 5 Comments
Sega are playing interesting games at the moment. They've already revealed who's going to be in Sonic 4 - whoops, I mean, "Project Needlemouse", and teased toward its content with concept art of a classic badnik design, all by connecting to the fans directly and more personally, through setting us challenges on their blog. We complete the challenge, we get the info or media that, like crack addicts, we desperately desire! I must say I think it's a much more original and involving approach than the traditional "we release trailer, press release, screenshots, you talk amongst yourselves kthxbye" way of doing things, and particularly appropriate for the subject matter. They know they've got something big and probably franchise-shaking on their hands, if that's a term, and they're being charmingly sneaky about it. Crucially though, as a fan, I feel like more of a part of this than I would otherwise. They could have gone to all the big gaming sites who facelessly slam their games when it comes to review time and ask them to pass on this kind of stuff, but I do admire their alternative marketing strategy here. It makes a world of difference to have this kind of thing delivered in such an informal way, and cut out that unnecessary middleman.

Today they've launched another challenge, and made big promises about what's at stake; The game's real name, concept art from the first Zone (note that they use that term rather than level or stage) plus a "very cool" bonus surprise, which I might predict would be artwork of Sonic himself, perhaps in his original form. Tantalising, but this time the task is a little more strenuous than just answering a few questions that everyone knows, we need to get our creative hats on and come up with our own concept art of our favourite classic badniks, a challenge inspired by Trakker, an artist who in turn was inspired enough by the first Shellcracker Needlemouse artwork to come up with a couple of his own. We have until Monday to get a hundred of them over to Sega.

In what I probably saw as a perfect excuse not to do work, I've decided to play along this time and jump through their hoops, so here's mine, on what must really be the coolest (no pun intended) badnik ever..

Penguinator

I had fun with the eyes. It strikes me that adding a touch more realistic detail to a character with really cartoony eyeballs must be quite difficult. I've kept their shape but made them a bit more synthetic - rather like webcams. The irony of this choice of course is that Penguinator has already reappeared since Sonic 3 (in Sonic Advance). Submit links to your own designs to their blog post

They also sneak in an additional, official return of Moto Bug, just to show they mean business. Now, while it's all very well to bring back classic designs, it's a relatively small aesthetic compared to overall focus on level design and pace in the game, which one would hope matches that of the classics. Is there any word on that yet? It's easily missed, but at the bottom, a small poetic paragraph offers, I think the most exciting thing about this post:

Speed is something that is not given; but rather earned through dedication. Speed is not found by simply pushing a boost button, but by building momentum. It is the reward for skill in the face of difficult challenges – this kind of speed is the most exhilarating, not only because it is fast, but because of the pure perfection such speed exemplifies. This is the truth of the original Sonic games – and this is the truth of Project Needlemouse.

Seems like they're really putting some thought behind this - an excellent indication that they've finally done what they should have done years ago and really looked in depth about what made those early games so great. It's my hope that in searching for inspiration behind every design decision in this game, they haven't even glanced at anything that didn't precede Sonic Adventure. I don't know about you, but I cannot wait for next week!
Comments   5 Comments have been posted.
#1. Comment posted by Meph on Thursday, 28th January 2010, 3:45pm
I bet that IGN and the like are still going to give it a zero, even if it does turn out to be the best game of the year! Lately, the review sites are being extremely negative at everything they see.
#2. Comment posted by LiQuidShade on Thursday, 28th January 2010, 3:56pm
I think this game will probably have the best chance of any to appeal to them, but whether they like it or not, I don't read anything they have to say about Sonic anymore. Sonic will keep going as long as fan interest still drives up sales high enough, so it's pretty irrelevant what they think. Fan opinion is the only thing that matters these days.
#3. Comment posted by Mercury on Friday, 29th January 2010, 10:08am
It's so huggable! I want a big plush Penguinator! ^_^

This new little challenge of Sega's is much cooler than the first. It's fun and creative as opposed to those brainless trivia questions, and we also know what we're aiming for (zone concept art, w00t!). The "Who's gonna be in the game?" was just too obvious to be that thrilling.
#4. Comment posted by Zeupar on Saturday, 30th January 2010, 7:23pm
You got a really nice piece of concept art there! Its style is similar to the official Moto Bug art. I guess you did that on purpose.

I agree that that last paragraph is the most interesting thing of the whole entry. It looks like Sonic Team's members are learning from their mistakes (or at least that is what I want to believe).
#5. Comment posted by supersonicsmash on Monday, 8th February 2010, 9:15pm
DARN! I missed it. Easy come easy go.
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