Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice director on changes and improvements from the first game, fan feedback, Sonic Bible, more
GameSpot caught up with Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice creative director Matt Kraemer to learn more about the game. Much of the discussion pertained to how this title improves upon the original and listening to fan feedback.
Per usual, we’ve rounded up the interesting responses below. For the full discussion, head on over to GameSpot.
On what’s changed from the first game…
Matt Kraemer: One of the biggest changes is the level design. It’s a lot more streamlined, it’s a lot more made for speed. A lot of the stages that you see here are built for combo-ing. You can literally combo stages from the start all the way to the end. It was something that we didn’t have in the first game, it was more maze-like where you had progression where you would get to a dead-end and then you would have to go back and go at a different pace.
And there’s no progression blockers in the game. In the original game, you would play a stage, and then you couldn’t move forward because you had to collect these badges. We removed those gates so you can freely move forward at your will.
On feedback the team really took to heart…
The backtracking people really didn’t like; and just generally the sense of speed, the sense of combo-ing. The last game–I would [compare] it more to a Sonic game that has more of a maze-style layout. Like a labyrinth, you get to a dead-end and then you turn back. [in Fire and Ice], the path from A to B is a lot more straightforward.
On whether Fire & Ice is making good on a lot of the stuff they wanted to do with the last one…
Yeah, and that’s something we always do, especially me. I read every single comment–I go on all the forums, I go on NeoGAF… but you have to take things with a grain of salt, especially with Sonic. Everyone’s going to hate on Sonic and have something to say, but you look at those comments constructively. I take all the information and granularly break it down, and [say], “People really didn’t like that feature, or they really wanted this,” and those are the things you focus on.
Most times when you finish a game, you don’t have much time when the game is completely together to keep playing it and [think about what needs to be improved]. With this game, we had that extra time, and we did a lot of play tests… and we could see people literally play the game as a whole and see where people got stuck and rectify those.
On any instances where they were developing something and had to tone it back…
Oh yeah. The original races when you’re racing against bots were way too hard. We toned those back a lot and did a lot of rubber-banding.
And the boss fights–some of those we had to tone back. And it’s surprising when you go into those playlists because you always try to get a really wide [demographic]. And you know who’s the better players? The younger kids. And the old dudes over there are saying, “Man, this is too hard for me!”
I think that a lot of the really difficult things are best left as optional. You don’t have to do them, but for the players that like the challenge, that’s there for them.
I think making it easier is better.
On some other ways the team is tying this into the classic games, as well as the animated series…
A lot of the motion, a lot of the combo-ing, the designs of the enemies, the characters—some of those were directly designed by Sega Japan. We went back and forth on character sketches and what they look like. I would go through my Sonic Bible and say, “Oh this guy is like a rhino…” and then we’d go back and forth.
On whether they actually have a Sonic Bible…
We do have a Sonic Bible. There is a Sonic Bible. And it’s very helpful, because you want it to be close to the animated series, but you want it to be recognizable to those fans [of classic games] as well.