Patrick Riley and Ken Balough interview by Crave Online (November 13, 2008)
From Sonic Retro
Crave Online: How did you bring Sonic into the next generation?
Patrick Riley: One cool thing about the game is it's based on a new engine technology, the Hedgehog engine which they've been working on at Sega Japan since 2005. It's an internal proprietary engine that's multiuse but has features that make it especially good for Sonic games, such as the ability to quickly stream geography and textures really quickly. Sonic runs fast so that's a necessity.
Crave Online: Does each location have corresponding day and nighttime levels?
Patrick Riley: There will be hub areas and you'll be able to enter the daytime/nighttime action stages from those hub areas. Every environment will have a hub area, a daytime action stage and a nighttime action stage. Same environment so the level based on Mykonos, there'll be a Mykonos hub, a night Mykonos and a day Mykonos. This is the first daytime level inspired by Mykonos in Greece. We're not going to call it Mykonos in the game. It's kind of inspired by. When you gather the rings, not only does it act as hit points but it provides you ring energy and you use ring energy to engage sonic boost. It's cool turbo that Sonic uses to dispatch enemies. It's really incredible, reckless given a speed, like engaging turbo in Burnout.
Crave Online: I see it goes into side scroller mode at some points. Did you find that gamers miss the classic side scroller?
Patrick Riley: Absolutely and so did the development team and that's why they wanted to bring that back in a strong way. The cool thing about it though are there are parts that definitely work in 3D as well so we're able to seamlessly merge those. It's really nice. As you've noticed, we transition into a 2.5D side scroller perspective so we have a best of both worlds approach. The parts of the level that are good in 3D, we'll show in 3D over the shoulder, and the parts that are good in 2D, we'll seamlessly switch to a side scrolling perspective.
Crave Online: So what's new for Sonic?
Patrick Riley: Another thing about classic Sonic games is the amount of alternate paths that you can take. We're definitely also holding that in this game. Our traditional alternate paths where you just go left or right, up and down but there are also button press sequences. You'll see a series of three buttons it'll ask you to push right here. If you succeed, you'll go to the top of this building. If not, you'll go to the bottom. You get to gather some rings at the top. Coming up is a more traditional split in the level, left and right.
Crave Online: Will that ever kill you if you get it wrong?
Patrick Riley: If you miss it, you'll go to the lower part of the building and you won't be able to gather rings. You won't die.
Crave Online: Is that ability to slide under things new? I don't know, I haven't played every Sonic game.
Ken Balagh: It's not been used in every Sonic game but it's not the first time it's been used. It's rare that it is used so we're bringing it back. It's something we can use to make the levels more robust.
Crave Online: So what happens at night and what is this werehog deal?
Patrick Riley: The nighttime game play, early in the game, Dr. Eggman captures Sonic, uses the chaos emeralds on him and the random chaotic effect of the Chaos emeralds transforms him into Sonic the Werehog. Sonic loses his superspeed but he gains super strength and he gains the ability to stretch his arms. Nighttime is a different type of game play. You can think of it as kind of like a chocolate/vanilla swirl seamlessly mixed together. It's more of a traditional action/adventure game, combat based, platforming and exploration.
Crave Online: It still looks pretty fast.
Patrick Riley: Yeah, but not nearly as fast. We didn't want it to be too big a difference because if you slow Sonic down too much, it's like whoa, whoa, whoa. We didn't want it to be too shocking.
Crave Online: Is he evil at night?
Patrick Riley: He is not. He still maintains his personality as Sonic.
Crave Online: So what was Eggman's goal in changing him?
Patrick Riley: I don't want to give away too much but I think he felt that he'd just be mean to Sonic and get rid of him, but Sonic doesn't perish for certain reasons.
Crave Online: Will we see Evil Tails?
Patrick Riley: Not in this game.
Crave Online: Will other favorite characters be returning?
Patrick Riley: Yes, most of Sonic's friends, Shadow, Tails, Knuckles and Amy are appearing as members of the story but not as playable characters. 99% of the time you'll be playing Sonic or the Werehog.
Crave Online: How much of this game was developed in response to fans or critics of the previous games?
Patrick Riley: It's a completely new development team and I think they definitely are listening to fan criticism, but also I think that they are very passionate about the series and so doing a lot of thinking about what needs to happen. I think they also happen to be thinking in the same direction as many fans, like let's bring back the 2.5D in a cool way.
Crave Online: Will Sonic meet any new enemies?
Patrick Riley: Yes, there is. As you may have noticed, the creatures he is facing at nighttime do not look like typical Dr. Robotnik/Eggman creations. There is a new opposition. There is a creature that Eggman awakens inside of the earth. Those creatures that he's fighting at night are minions of that.
Crave Online: What was the inspiration for the Chinese platforms?
Patrick Riley: I guess real life China, the Chinese patterns. This is the China daytime level. This daytime level's about midway through the game. It's a much more difficult level, again "based" on China, inspired by China. The new daytime speed element we're going to show you is quickstep. It allows you to keep your forward momentum but go left or right to avoid obstacles or hit acceleration pads. Sonic is running on the surface of the water so if he stops, if he slows down, then he'll sink below.
Crave Online: Did you have to do any tests to make sure won't make kids crazy and jittery?
Patrick Riley: Well, we have done some focus tests and we haven't noticed any kinds of such problems.
Ken Balough: Most kids actually wanted us to go faster.
Crave Online: Is there any multiplayer?
Patrick Riley: No, we're focused on providing the best single player experience as we can.
Crave Online: Will there be any Wii exclusive features?
Patrick Riley: Well, the Wii controls are motion controlled but the Wii/PS2 and the 360/PS3 are pretty much entirely different development teams. Of course they're based on the same concept, ideas and environments but the levels will be completely different. The controls will be quite different too, not just 360 controls mapped to nunchuk and Wii remote.
Crave Online: Any DS plans?
Patrick Riley: There are no plans for the DS.