Nine ways to improve the Sonic series

(1) Provide greater control over Sonic’s speed

The classic games have different varieties of speed

  • Over-clock speed – The fastest speed – achieved using devices such as speed pads
  • Top Speed – The fastest speed possible without using devices
  • Normal & Accelerating speed – Experienced when moving from a stationery state.

In the classic games, the player can usually shift between these speeds at will.
This provides more control over the speed.

The modern games frequently use devices such as speed pads.
These force the player to exclusively use over-clock speed for large stretches of the level, making the game overly-linear.


Refer to: **Categories of speed | Speed differences in the classic and modern games

(2) Use less scripted events

In scripted events, the player has limited control over Sonic’s speed and so cannot perform actions that would slow Sonic down.
Scripted events, therefore, unleash the full potential of Sonic’s speed.
However, by limiting control, scripted events can be linear and repetitive.

In the classic games, scripted events infrequently occur, allowing them to remain exciting.
In modern games, scripted events occur frequently.
Although this makes the games faster, it also causes repetition.

Later games have added obstacles to the events to increase interest.
However, reacting to the obstacles is difficult due to the speed of the scripted events.
This cause frustration as the player has to memorise the course to succeed.

Refer to: Scripted mechanics | Dramatic scripted sections

(3) Make speed meaningful

Platform games frequently contain devices that assist progress through the level.
For example, an elevator may allow access to a higher area.
In the classic Sonic games, these devices have a unique Sonic twist.
For example, spinning tops are powered by Sonic’s speed to make them fly upwards.

These devices allow Sonic’s speed to be put to a meaningful and useful purpose. It caused Sonic’s speed to be valued as a super power.
The devices also establish a unique identity for the Sonic series, as they can only work in a Sonic game.
The slower protagonists of other games lack the speed needed to power the device.

Such devices rarely appear in modern games.
This lowers the value of Sonic’s speed and removes the unique identity of the series.


Refer to: Super hero situations | Gravity Obstacles

(4) Restore the pinball mechanics

The classic games incorporate a pinball dynamic

For example, Sonic can roll into ball whilst running. This enables him to tear through obstacles (similar to a pinball that has been flicked across a pinball board).

These mechanics create a thrilling sense of invulnerability and allow for the unique experience of being a ‘living pinball’.

The mechanics are missing in the modern games as Sonic’s ball rolling abilities no longer have a useful purpose.


Refer to: Pinball mechanics | Pinball mechanics: invulnerability

(5) Include carefully integrated, slower-paced obstacle sections

Speed can become repetitive

Slower paced obstacle sections occur in the classic games at regular intervals.
These sections create contrast to the speed, allowing the speedier moments to stand-out

The obstacles are carefully integrated to encourage (not force) the player to slow down.
This also makes the slower pacing virtually unnoticeable.


Refer to: Slower paced obstacles | Techniques for seamlessly integrating obstacles

(6) Increase player choice

Moving at high speeds is a thrilling, exhilarating experience.
It is also a linear experience, as only a limited range of actions can be perform when running.

The classic games offer plenty of alternative routes (some hidden), which allow the player to devise an individual path to the goal.
This counteracts the linearity of the speed.

In modern games, alternative routes are rarely used.
Although simple shortcuts occur frequently, they barely differ from the main route, which removes the motive to find them.


Refer to: The importance of choice | Choice through multiple routes | Techniques for implementing multiple routes without hindering navigation

(7) Remove bottomless pits

In modern Sonic games, deviating from the main path will usually cause the player to fall into a bottomless pit. This makes the game claustrophobically linear.
Bottomless pits are frustrating as they force the player to restart and retread old ground.
Speed is pleasurable as it allows us to move forwards and reach ‘new’ spaces.
By forcing the player to retread ‘old’ spaces, bottomless pits disrupt progress and negate the pleasures of speed.

Refer to: The five problems of bottomless pits

(8) Make challenges more forgiving

In the classic games, challenges are ‘forgiving’.
For example, if the player makes a mistake when tackling an obstacle, Sonic does not die, but only loses rings.
If the player recollects the lost rings quickly before they disappear, s/he can attempt the obstacle again without the danger of death.
In modern Sonic games, making a mistake often sends Sonic into a bottomless pit.
This causes frustration for, as noted, bottomless pits go against the pleasures of speed.

Refer to: Forgiving challenges

(9) Remove unnecessary play styles

Modern Sonic games offer multiple play styles.
Developing different play styles consumes significant development resources (in both time and money).
This causes modern Sonic games to feel underdeveloped and unrefined.
If multiple play styles must be included, they should closely adhere to Sonic’s play style.
This will minimise the development costs, allowing more resources for developing and refining the main Sonic experience.

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Key ingredients in the Sonic games Introduction Zone Speed Index


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