Sonic Generations interview with Aaron Webber

UPDATE: Extra comment at the end of the interview.

Sega had a very strong presence at the San Diego Comic Con this year. Not only did they have a Sega Arcade down in the Gaslamp Quarter, but on the floor they had Captain America at the Marvel booth and two demo stations of Sonic Generations at the Archie Comics booth. Surprisingly (or maybe not), there was no 3DS Generations demo anywhere to be found.

At one of the demo stations, I found Sonic brand manager Aaron Webber. Trust me when I say there’s no more likable fella working at Sega. Look at him. He’s just so gosh darn huggable ya wanna stuff him in your Warner Bros Comic Con bag and take him home with “AHEM!” Anyway, as he manned the station, many people were checking out the demo. Mostly the modern version. In fact, one fan kept coming back every day and managed to beat Aaron’s record on modern by one second! When he had some time, we went to the back of the Archie booth and set up an interview. (I wanted to snuggle, but he refused. XD Kidding, kidding.)

Have you been having fun at the Con this weekend?

Aaron – Definitely.  It’s been very, very busy. We’ve had tons of people playing Sonic Generations. There’s a lot of standing so your legs get a little tired, but beyond that, it’s good.

Classic Tails has recently been shown alongside of a modern model. Since we now have classic Sonic and classic Tails, will we bee seeing classic representations of other characters?

Aaron – For the most part, classic Sonic and classic Tails are the only one’s you’re gonna see. There’s not much I can go into after that but stay tuned. Classic Sonic and Classic Tails fans should be pleased.

Along with Classic Tails, the Chemical Plant was shown. Along with Metal Sonic chasing Classic in what looks like Stardust Speedway from Sonic CD.  Will we see other surprises like this? Will boss fights be on separate stages?

Aaron – You mean will the boss fights be taking place in their original settings? That’s a very good question. In the majority of cases, you should probably expect that. The other question would be “What are those other bosses?” and you’re just gonna have to wait on that.

Now, the classic demo was recently released and…..I’m sure you’re aware was then hacked into and some assets were leaked. I’m not gonna go into that much as I’m sure you don’t wanna go into that yourself. However, one of the things shown was that there are several missions in each act. One of them appears to be a “Co-op” mission. We know that as you finish levels, you free your friends and the world opens up more. Are Sonic’s friends playable in the game once they’re unlocked or after the game’s finished?

Aaron – Ah the leak. I really wish that hadn’t been published. Several of those assets are from an older build and will not be in the final game. It’s a misrepresentation. As we stated in the beginning, only classic and modern Sonic are playable. You will see many of Sonic’s friends in the game but you will not play as them.

I noticed the demo released to the public felt a tiny bit different to the one at E3. Is this an older build of the game?

Aaron – Actually, the download is a more current build.

There have been some criticisms of the demo from different forums. Mainly in his short rolling and his need for spindashing to gain enough speed for some loops. Is there a reason for classic Sonic’s heaver pull on gravity? (I mean, he is chubbier.)

Aaron – Well, there’s always a reason. I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is A.) Will it change? and B.) Why was it done? The team in Japan was working to emulate the physics of the original as close as possible. It’s not 1 to 1 or 100% ratio, but more like 90-95% in looking at the original and looking at Generations.

Well, they are trying to emulate classic Sonic physics on an engine built originally for Sonic Unleashed or Modern Sonic if you will.

Aaron – Yes, but improved upon as well. That’s kind of the key in that it’s not 100% but very close. In this case I know that the rolling for example, I think is good feedback. I’ve already sent that back to Sonic Team. But a key element like rolling for example, to change that drastically now would mean that they would have to redesign and test every single level, every single move to make sure this change in the roll doesn’t break something. Like maybe he’s supposed to go off this ramp in a certain way and he ends up overshooting it greatly. In this late of the stage in development, a change that small could break the whole game. Like taking one brick from the bottom of a wall you’re building, it could make the whole foundation crumble.

That’s like when someone on Neogaf, they posted a video in which they changed the value by 1 and it changed the roll dramatically, but even he said it would probably break the game on other levels.

Aaron – Exactly. When you see something like that, it looks so simple to fix, but it’s not so easy. The long and the short of it is, it’s still good feedback. Just like with Sonic 4. People said “Sega didn’t listen! They didn’t care!” But we did listen and we do care and now look at Generations. We’re improving step by step by step. It’s very difficult to go from 0-100 and get everything perfect on the first go, but we are doing our absolute best to do right by the fans and make everything the best we can, and I hope the demo – which I think is really, really solid even with the rolling – is something they’re enjoying.

I think so. I know this has gotten a much more positive response on forums than Sonic 4 had and Sonic 4 still got pretty good review scores. One thing I’ve noticed since E3, is that there are certain spots in the demo that have what I would call “scripted physics”. For instance, in the first corkscrew tunnel, Sonic instantly goes into a high-speed spindash when getting near it whereas the other tunnels have a rock in front that Sonic has to bust with a spindash to get through it. Also, there’s the wooden bridge with a loop. Get close enough and Sonic takes over himself and runs through it with no input from the player. Are there reasons why these particular areas are programmed like this or will this be fixed in the final version?

Aaron – Well, even in Sonic 1 when you would go through those tunnels, it would give you an automatic speed boost even if you went through them backwards. So even if you went uphill, it would give you that speed boost. What’s interesting here is from what I’ve played around with in the demo is that if you go in as a spin, it will push you though the tunnel, but if you run full speed it won’t force you though or force you into a spindash which is interesting, so I’d say these spots are kinda half-scripted. It’s going to check to see if you are in ball form before shooting you through which is kind of cool. You’ll see some of that stuff in the game, but not a lot. I wouldn’t use the term “scripted” which is kind of a derogative term used like “scripted vs. non-scripted” in some Sonic games in the sense that some scripted events are cool and dynamic, but mostly you have control over.

I won’t say much about the hack, but one of the cool things from it, was that someone put modern Sonic in the classic level and vice versa and it was actually pretty cool and looked playable. Especially modern Sonic. Is that something that Sonic Team would look into adding?

Aaron – (Laughs) That’s definitely something I couldn’t answer. That would be up to the dev team in Japan. There’s no intention to my knowledge of flip-flopping them into each other’s stages. Admittedly, the “what-if” scenarios are pretty neat.

In the classic Sonic games, you would have to press down and rapidly tap jump to make Sonic spindash. In Generations, it can be done the old fashioned way, or the simpler “hold X” style. But that style can be done even when running full speed or on sharp inclines. Is there a reasoning behind that?

Aaron – I couldn’t give you the exact reasoning as that would be up to the dev team. I can tell you it makes it a lot simpler and in many ways that’s a good thing. That said I’m sure a lot of the purists might think that it makes it too easy. I think this is something where the dev team is trying to please both groups which is why the other way is optional. In fact, many of the kids playing Generations here at Comic Con were unfamiliar with the spindash and were getting stuck. I told them to hold X for a second and that’s simple and they got that quickly. But at the same time, you want to appease the retro fans. Which is why down and A is also in there. Personally, I get both sides. I kind of like what they’ve done here to make it easier to play for kids who’ve never played a classic Sonic game before. Although I did have one eight year old kid who told me Sonic CD was his favorite game. I was flabbergasted and told him: “Kid, you’re awesome!”

(Laughs) Awesome. I’ve noticed, not so much in modern, but in classic mode the environments are so lush and so detailed that Sonic can get lost in them. There’s one time where I’m hitting a spring and collecting gold rings and I see a platform to right of me that makes it look like I can land on it, but I fall right through because it’s just background detail. Is there a way for them to make it so Sonic pops out a little, or possibly fade the background a bit?

Aaron – If you turn the 3D option on and you have a 3D TV, Sonic will definitely pop out. Alternatively, I know exactly the spot you’re talking about as I’ve made that same mistake myself. Beyond that, there’s not too many spots where that happens. Most backgrounds are either easy to recognize as background or deep in the back. It’s a very minor thing and I wouldn’t worry too much about it

Now in the case of the 3DS, is there much you can tell us of the streetpass feature?

Aaron – There’s not too much I can say about the 3DS version in that regard. 3DS has some very cool stuff and is very unique. We went the idea that we can either do a lazy port or build something from the ground up that’s very cool and very unique and we went with the latter. I can’t tell you much right now, but stay tuned in the near future as we will have a lot of info going out about the 3DS version as we go forward.

What excites you most about Sonic Generations?

Aaron – What excites me most? At first it was just classic Sonic being there. Now, it’s that we get to introduce Sonic to two very distinct generations of people at the same time. We get the younger fans who love modern Sonic and we get to introduce them to classic Sonic and show them why so many of us older fans adore the Genesis games. But likewise, we get to pull in the older fans who might not have played a Sonic game in a long time. I’ve had some people come up to me who’ve said “I’ve not played a Sonic game in 15 years, but this looks amazing!” Every time I hear that (and it’s happened like, 150 times) it’s such a nice feeling that this is finally the game we can show that Sonic is really back. While Colors and Sonic 4 did a good job of bringing us back, but Generations is the one to unite both fans. While we may not always make 100% of both Sonic fans happy all of the time, but I’m betting the majority will be very pleased with this game.

One final question, I know Takashi Iizuka has stated that he feels Sonic Adventure on is the main cannon and that the current Chaotix are not the same ones from 32X Chaotix and he doesn’t seem to want to use any of the real old characters. While we do have poster in City Escape of some of the forgotten characters, one of those being Nack/Fang. There’s a poll on First Four Figures to see is there is enough interest to do a Fang statue. If this does come to fruition, do you see a possibility of Sonic Team bring him back in the future?

Aaron – That’s a good question, but one I couldn’t decide myself. We could make the case for that if enough fans ask for him. (But PLEASE don’t spam our Facebook. PLEASE! My bosses will not be happy.) There are much better ways to get people to recognize a fan following. I mean look at NiGHTS in SASASR. The entire campaign that Trippi and Digi (Sorry if I’m not getting the names right) did which was wonderful. So, if you really want to see Nack there’s always hope. It’s not my decision of course so I can’t answer the question completely. Make the case for it. Try to rally support. That helps. But, Sonic is so out there anyway, with so many cannons and universes. I mean, we are standing in the Archie booth right now. But, if you really want it, I say don’t give up, rally support around it and who knows?

Thank you so much Aaron. It’s been a great interview.

Aaron – Thank you.

NEW COMMENT:  On the last day, I was pretty much done with Comic Con and just hung out with Aaron for a bit at the Archie booth. I played the modern demo some more and watched as some really skilled players went back and fourth on the game. They were kind enough to let others play. I was amazed at one player’s skill. Ends up he’d been hanging out for quite awhile. Aaron has decided to leave one final comment relating to this.

Aaron – One of the things we’ve had a lot of fun with here at SDCC is speed running – for the few unfamiliar with the term, it just means getting to the end of the stage as fast as you can.

Trying to get as fast a time as possible is surprisingly addicting – so much so that at least 20 people have returned to our booth every single day to try and beat their previous times. One guy named Sergio literally spent three days here at the Generations console perfecting his time, teaching others how to complete it faster, and waiting to jump on again when the lines died down. As a result, he even managed to match my best time for the level!

So to anyone reading, here’s a little challenge when the game finally comes out: Can you beat 1 Minute, 49 seconds as Modern Sonic in Green Hill Zone? As it stands – and the level may still change slightly – that’s the fastest legitimate time the world has seen thus far. I’m most excited to see what tricks and strategies fans will use to complete even faster runs!

NOTE: Since some of these questions came from Segabits, this interview will be published both on Sonic Stadium and Segabits simultaneously.

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26 responses to “Sonic Generations interview with Aaron Webber

  1. Radrappy says:

    No classic knuckles? Well f**k that.

  2. CosmicCastaway says:

    Great interview Shigs. Mr. Webber is indeed a cool person. I found it interesting that he said the content in the hack is a misrepresentation. It makes me wonder what content from it is going to be in the final build and what won't be.

  3. cube_b3 says:

    Nice interview, I love the part where you say "the levels were so large you could get lost", that used to happen in the 3D games as well up until Sonic 06 anyway.

    I wish you had asked him why are there 2D sections in the modern games, when you have dedicated 2D stages?

  4. Scar says:

    Do you know anything about game development?

    Changing the rolling would mean they have to change the angles of incline on every single ramp. Its pretty difficult to do this with sprites and tiles in Mega Drive ROM-hacks. Try changing the ramps on every single stage, with actual level geometry and polygons. Yeah, that requires a lot of work.

    Don't buy it? Well, that's a shame. Anyone who knows anything about game development would know that the man speaks the truth. Heck, even Polygon Jim (the guy resposible for fixing the rolling in the Generations Demo) said that changing even one value, can fuck the level design over completely.

    Sonic 4 was bullshit, because 6 months of dev time was added. Not the case here. They only have a couple months left till D-day.

    Also Tails is in the game, just not playable. How you took offense to this is beyond me entirely.

  5. Suzuki Yu says:

    i know that if they speed up the rolling & make the game run at faster frame-rate (PC ver FTW) it would end up being a better game, but this game doesn't need fixing to be great!
    it's already shaping up to be an incredible game and a "huge" achievement for Sonic Team.

    IMO Sonic Team is back as one of the finest studios at SEGA of Japan….. i appreciate their ongoing efforts.

  6. unknown says:

    Alot of the questions from the Forums didn't get asked, oh well…

    I expect not many changes, for the gameplay of Classic Sonic. However some stuff in the Leak could turn out to not be true and take us by suprise.

  7. George says:

    Here are a couple of things that I still have trouble with Sonic games.

    First of all is the speed. Its way too fast. There are sections in the levels that encourage you to just go fast, then all of a sudden they add platforming into the mix. I think slowing it down tot he point of the Genesis games would help transition the 'running' and platforming parts and even help with frame rate.

    Frame rate being my second issue. All Sonic games should be locked at 60fps imo. They 'try' to do 30fps….

  8. CrazyTails says:

    I really couldn't have said it better myself

  9. Deef says:

    In admitting they got it wrong, again, I wonder if Ruby is disappointed about things like the rolling. Or perhaps just thinks it wasn't imporant.

    • Suzuki Yu says:

      they got most of the things right, why we only focus on what's wrong and make it big deal and game breaking?!

      when you listen to some sonic fans they always talk like there is nothing right in the game, and all these great efforts in sonic generations are nothing to them! they feel good bitching sonic games!

      matters like the rolling all we need to do is pointing out the problem and SEGA will keep fixing whether in this title or in future titles….. but make it out like it's the end of world! this is ridiculous and not fair to what this game really offer.

    • Jon says:

      When it is something as important as character physics, you can't help but point out that they have done it wrong. I mean look at the story.. It's old school sonic. Why attempt the physics and not do it properly? They did nearly everything else well.. Why screw up on the physics?

      It's not the end of the world. It's just ANOTHER wasted opportunity to make a decent sonic game. And it's disappointing that the game could be tainted by something that is such a no brainer.

  10. SonicFTW says:

    Really awesome game >:) Better be chaos!!!! little babies 🙂 cute and original!!!!

  11. Barry the Nomad says:

    Hey Aaron, welcome to the comments! Yeah, ignore the +/- ratings, they don't mean much, as evidenced.

    Some responses would be way past cool. One question I had: some fans have picked up on how Colors shares enemies with Generations, right down to the design and animation. I wanted to know, did Generations enemy designs influence what we see in Colors, or the other way around? Also, did Colors begin as an SD Generations? Or was it Sonic Colors from the very start?

    Thanks!

  12. Zero-Boom says:

    I just don't get it. SEGA and Sonic Team should know, especially after the fail whale that was Sonic 4, that we want good physics. And don't give me any of that "easy for kids to pick up and play" bullshit, kids in the 90's picked it up just fine. Futhermore, what the hell is that fail of an excuse for scripted sections? They're plenty of scripted sections everywhere in that demo: the corkscrew, the "S" tunnels, the spring distances. At least in Sonic 1 I could slow down or even dump when going through the "S" tunnels, and I could jump out of the corkscrews in Sonic 2. Not scripted my ass.

    And kids today play Call of Duty, so I'm sure they can handle a game which requires the use of holding down and pressing a button multiple times. This spamming spin-dash is outrageous.

    • Zero-Boom says:

      Not to mention kids have the power the internet today. It requires no more than Google search to discover such things.

    • Zero-Boom says:

      Sonic 1 pushed you through but only slightly when you go at at the slowest speed. And you could jump in the middle section to stop yourself unlike Generations, where you're throttled to the bottom until you go off the scripted ramp into rings.
      The corkscrew: you can hold the reverse button and you'll keep going forward, proof of the scripts there. Springs are scripted to force you to go to a certain height or distance before you can freely move.

    • Aaron Webber says:

      The S tunnels work very much like Sonic 1; it's a case of people complaining if you do and complaining if you don't, I think. All personal preference there.

      As to the corkscrews, you can both:

      1: Jump off
      2: Fall off if you lose momentum

      So they're not scripted, as that term implies a very linear progression with no other options – not the case here, as proven above.

      Springs should be no surprise though – I think that's getting into some real minutia. You could argue they're "scripted" in the sense that they always bounce you roughly the same distance based on their color – but that's every spring in almost every Sonic game ever. : )

    • Jon says:

      I guess the difference is that in the original sonic games you could be running forward and hit a spring which would launch you skywards but you would still have that forward momentum progressing you across the screen. Now you just shoot straight up with absolutely no control until sonic hits the peak of the jump. It feels really lame.
      I get that developers try and cater for all ages but something to consider – when I was five and playing a commodore 64 game that basically had no instructions on how to play the game… I managed to Suss the game out eventually. Let's now compare some of the aspects of control which I consider as being dumbed down. Being able to spin dash at any point compared to having to stop and duck then dash… Not being able to control a spring jump…
      As for the s tunnels… I recall at the end of the demo there was a loop and vertical corkscrew that hurtled you down it without much choice and then when I tried to go back up it with just as much speed.. It flat out refused to let me. I take that as scripted.

  13. Aki-at says:

    I do not understand the spindash comment for little Timmy, my nephew, who just recently turned 5, has no trouble at all being able to spindash the normal way. And he has been playing the classic Sonic games from the age of 3 and has never once complained about that issue.

    Infact, how can you argue that would be confusing for a child but how modern Sonic is designed would not be even more troublesome for a child?

    • Aaron Webber says:

      I think it depends on the child, and with the amount of practice they have. (At a young age, even just a year or two can make a huge difference here.)

      It's not to say that it would be too confusing – I think they'd get it eventually. It's just my opinion (again, I didn't make the call to map it to X as well as down +A), that it's not as big a negative as it might get made out to be.

    • Shigs says:

      It's just easier to do. I know I used X when doing speed runs. Otherwise, it would be much more difficult to get a good time because you'd have to stop and jam down on A rapidly.

      Dunno why people are whining when it's totally optional.

  14. Laelaps says:

    Segabits: Good interview, though the words are "canon(s)" and "forth."
    Aaron: Instead of dragging your feet (not impressive for Sonic's crew) and improving step by step, why not just make your next game the best? You CAN go 0-100 (by the way, anyone else notice Sega's implied admission of just how terrible their Sonic games truly were when he said that?) if you just wake up one morning, decide to make your next game the best ever, and don't stop or release it until you do that. You'll need both a firm foundation (don't redesign all the levels, just start off with them in the right mindset for the best physics engine to begin with) and unrelenting revision dedication, but you can – and SHOULD – do just that. Honestly, why must one game inherently be severely flawed because an entirely separate game released previously was?

  15. UncleREG says:

    @ Aaron Webber

    1) When did you first play Sonic Generations?

    2) Did you flag up the physics issues back then….when there would have been more time to address them?

    3) If it turns out you didn’t flag anything with Sonic Team. Then quite frankly you would have lost the trust of myself and many fans.

    4) When are the forums going to be back up?

    5) http://xat.com/sonicgenerationsdiscussion

    Thank you

  16. -nSega54- says:

    Holy shit that’s a lot of comments!

  17. Sky Blue says:

    The only thing I would be disappointed in is the small amount of routes you can take…but then again I’ve only played the first level in the demo.

    The graphics are great and I’m sure the engine will be improved closer to release (even if it’s not perfect, it will be functional I will presume).

    It’s not Ruby’s fault either…being a PR is pretty difficult since you have to deal with even unhappy customers (in this case the fans), and you know if you were in his position making everyone happy is a very hard job and wording questions to answers effectively makes a good PR. 🙂

  18. Aqua-Drought says:

    Dear Aaron,

    Was the team able to fix Tails’ Spin Dash and Spin Jump? It has never been the same since Sonic Fighters or Sonic the Hedgehog 3 and Knuckles.

    Even if it looks weird, as in the case of Sonic the Fighters, I would still like Miles’ tails to flow behind him as it does in the classic games.

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