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Sonic Boom developer discusses focus audience and changes to the series

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With the big reveal of Sonic Boom last month, many long time Sonic fans are lamenting yet another reboot of the series. Since its early days on the Sega Genesis, Sonic has been in everything from traditional platformers to psuedo-open world games that just don’t work. It’s understandable that fans of the blue hedgehog would have such concerns, which is something developer Big Red Button understands. Recently Gamasutra had a chance to sit down with Sonic Boom’s creative director, Bob Rafei, in order to discusses changes to the franchise.

According to Rafei, Sega originally approached his team with the idea of a new Sonic game that focuses more on narrative than simple gameplay mechanics:

Sega approached us with their bold plan for a local co-op Sonic title with emphasis on action and strong narrative. Given the possibility to try something different with one of the most iconic gaming characters and BRB team’s prior experience with third-person character action we saw a great match and jumped at the opportunity.

Aside from the focus on the strong narrative, Rafei revealed that the team wanted a more open-world game than any of the previous games, while avoiding some of the more disastrous results of previous attempts at this style of game:

Fortunately, we were given a lot more freedom than I anticipated. Right from the start we worked closely with Sega, Iizuka-san, and Sonic Team to review initial BRB proposals to determine what worked, and more importantly, what was off-limits. They were very open to a lot of world, mechanic, enemy, villain and NPC proposals — with notes, of course, but ultimately pretty accepting to the possibilities.

In determining who the game would target and who it would appeal to, Rafei says Sega wanted to focus on kids, as well as those who enjoy local co-op with friends:

Kids 6-11 and shared local play experiences with friends or families. We set out to make Boom simply fun by finding the right balance of accessibility for new fans, yet have enough challenge, depth and player expression for established fans or more seasoned gamers. Boom’s gameplay encourages working together to defeat enemies.

Our goal was to build on the characters’ personalities by building on each character’s play mechanics, as well as fun characteristics through banter and story. We developed common pickup and play controls for seamless play experience no matter which character is selected. Our goal was to allow player expression via character selection and abilities in navigation and combat.

If you’re interested in reading the rest of the interview, you can find it here. It’s an interesting look at what Big Red Button hopes to accomplish in terms of creating a unique take on Sonic, while also offering long-term fans something they can enjoy and hope to see more of in the future.

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  • Dj

    God, how I want this. Maybe the best Sonic game in a while…

    • Squid

      Generations was good.

      • Dj

        Oh without a doubt. But recent good/great sonic games on Nintendo platforms? (Wasn’t really feelin’ Lost World, and Sonic Colors was out i n 2011

        • MerryBlind .

          I really enjoyed Lost World, and don’t understand the complaints it got, at all.

        • Jaymes Deen

          I got lost worlds and its freaken awesome in my book.

  • Niknique

    It’s good that they’re trying something different, putting the character designs aside, I’ll probably be picking this up.

  • Wren Justin Umlauf

    6-11? Psh, Im 20 years old and this game looks pretty awesome. Havnt owned a Sonic game in years, but Big Red Button has really got me interested in this one

    • NkoSekirei

      people arnt reading the article very cleary cause the dev also said this game is also being cater to the season sonic fans not just kids and i agree im getting this game cause i havent play a good sonic since the classics

  • Petri

    Not sure about this game yet, but lost worlds should have been like this.

  • Blue Hernandez

    I can’t wait! This sounds pretty awesome so far.

  • Jack5221

    I hope they bring back the Chao garden, similar to Sonic Adventure 2 battle. Raising Chaos, collecting, putting them in the karate matches and races was always a lot of fun and gave the game great replay value. With online capabilities the Chao garden can be so much better :D

    • palomino blue

      I like the term “Raising Chaos”.

    • Sdudyoy

      Yeah, the Chao are what keep me coming back to SA2 after all these years!

    • J_Joestar

      Heck, just put the Chao Garden as a stand alone raising game on the 3DS and i’d play it to death.

  • juancaar

    Zero faith that this will be good. Sonic and Knuckles was the last good Sonic Game…

    • Decker Shado

      You do realize that if Sonic and Knuckles were released today… people would hate it, right?

      • URFTBOUND4LIFE .

        BLASPHEMY!!!!!

      • juancaar

        Bullshit… it was a great game and if any sonic would even come 50% close to it. it would be great.( Sonic 4 was not well made)

  • Alpha

    Ages 6 to 11? Oh hell….. I smell hand-holding throughout the game.

    • David Trail

      Last of Us was full of hand holding. I know for a fact that Sonic Boom will be a hard game. As games for a younger audience require more challenge e.g. Mario, DK, and Pikmin.

      Games like Last of Us, you just press sure and shoot, watch next cutscene.

  • ActivesiN

    this game looks fun, but if its aimed for 6-11 it might be too easy…
    hopefully there is a hard mode or something

    • Ryan F

      Reminds me of SM3DW — really easy, but also really fun. With some more challenging unlockable stages at the end.

      • NkoSekirei

        dont even remind me about that one lava stage were u roll on a log near bowsers final castle i lost so many lives on that one it started to piss me off

        • thedeciderU

          i raged into the night

          • thedeciderU

            but then when i beat it, there was a sense of accomplishment – something i find missing in many of today’s games. although, that white leaf is bullshit. shame on you, nintendo. shame on you. NO. NO. bad nintendo.

    • NkoSekirei

      i think their will be some higher difficulty on there or some really hard challenges

  • FIreproof_actual

    Kids 6-11? wtf?? there goes my purchase….

    • URFTBOUND4LIFE .

      …says the person considering getting a Sonic game

    • Spike Ashford

      Dude… it’s a bloody Sonic game. Who do you expect it to be aimed at, the Final Fantasy crowd?

    • Deadpool U

      You are aware that the Sonic series is about a blue hedgehog with superspeed and his sidekick is fox with 2 tails right?

  • FIreproof_actual

    What age was Sonic Adventure geared to??

    • C4

      Hard to say. It was their first major 3D Sonic so it had to be some kind of jack of all trades for all ages, even featuring different sub-genres and multiple playable characters. I don’t think the story or game itself was targeted to kids specifically. I’m not entirely sure that’s the case here either, even if they try to make sure the game (and TV series) will resonate with kids.

    • NkoSekirei

      i dont think age matters wen it comes to sonic games mostly every one has played them

  • Snake Eater

    I am getting this game, I love local co-op

    • Sonic the Hedgehog

      I’m happy too! It’s time I get a proper co-op game!

  • Capt. Smoker

    I love the changes so far, it’s about time, looks more like the good old Sonic adventure games to me, I feel a good buzz around this game

    • URFTBOUND4LIFE .

      I’m not gonna have high expectations for this game..Promised myself not to go through the Sonic cycle ever again after Lost World.

      • Capt. Smoker

        I never thought Lost World was gonna be good lol and it wasn’t but I had a good feeling about colors, like I have about this Sonic game, hoping that feeling remains true

        • URFTBOUND4LIFE .

          It’s not that Lost World was bad per-say, but poorly executed.
          All of the bosses sucked and story made no sense whatsoever and and why the hell were the wisp even in the game

          I did enjoy some levels and the parkor system could have worked if they took the time to build the levels around it .It would have benefited SEGA if Lost World gotten delayed because in my opinion it was just not polished enough..

    • Sdudyoy

      Yeah, this is the first Sonic game in years that has caught my attention, I’m gonna wait for reviews though.

  • LukeMM95

    Why is everyone up in arms over the fact that this is a KIDS game?

  • abe

    so basicly, Mario 3d world did good lets clone that lol

    • Mario

      Mario: Such is the nature of a my old rival.

    • Saleh Sbeiti

      Mario 3D World is not very open. Sonic had local multiplayer since Sonic 2. And Mario platforms with a deep narrative? Yeah….

  • GregoryTheRainMaker

    I’ll have more of a grasp of where they are going when the gameplay is more accessible.

  • C4

    6 – 11? Same target audience as Call of Duty! :)

    • Josiah Parsons

      lol. It’s only funny cuz it’s true!

      • TheWichi

        I think his image made it more funny.

    • Rinslowe

      I totally agree.
      But I had to consult the inner voice to see why I feel so ok with liking both.
      Being a tad bit older than that….
      :)

      • J_Joestar

        It is fine, worrying about the need to play “Mature” games is more the mark of a child than an adult.

        • Rinslowe

          Exactly!
          :)

          • http://www.captincomics.webs.com CaptinnDaGameMaster!

            I haven’t played an M-rated game in my life, and I don’t intend to do so anytime soon.

            What makes me a hardcore gamer is the fact that I 100% most of my games.

            I 100% Wonderful 101, Sonic Hereos, Pac-Man World 2-3, Super Mario 3D Land, Donkey Kong Country Returns, and a lot of other stuff.

            I’m 12 and I’m persistent. Deal with it.

          • Rinslowe

            What?

  • Arnold Pain

    I really dont like that they are designing this game for 6-11 year olds.
    In this day and age, that just means extreme hand-holding(in most cases).
    I had quite high hopes for this game, but now I’m staying neutral until I see more…

    • J_Joestar

      that sounds like most games in general rather than simply stuff aimed at younger gamers. with all the quick saves, checkpoint continues, auto-aims, etc… most “Adult” games aren’t particularly hard save for a select few anyways, typically the only major separators now are usually how grimdark/bloody the story/setting is.

  • Yousif Alromaithi

    Why do I think this game could not be great as it seems for kids lol. Sega better make another COD instead of wasting time on Sonic if they wants kids instead of adults. Wanna know why Mario beats Sonic it is because Sonic relies on depth and challenge. That’s why it sells.

    • starwars360

      COD?????????????????????????????????

      COD is Activision, not Sega. Lol

      • Yousif Alromaithi

        Yeah that’s correct. But you did not understand what I said lol.

    • NkoSekirei

      wow dude sonic boom is being made by well known devs that used to work for naughty dog and this game is in good hands especially wen its using farcry engine 3 so ur logic is saying sonic games are just for kids(facepalm)

      • Yousif Alromaithi

        Lol you did not understand my intention and what I am aiming at.

        • Guest

          just should have said: Sega better make another fps game like COD

          • Yousif Alromaithi

            Nope you got it wrong.

  • andrewjcole

    I honestly don’t know any 6 year olds of this generation who have a clue of who Sonic is.

    • C4

      That’s why there will be TV animation series too ;)

    • J_Joestar

      I’m sure that is also largely why their main target demo is that age, to ensure that another generation grows up knowing who Sonic is

  • andrewjcole

    For those of you who are complaining, just remember a lot of your old time favourites are aimed for children. DOWN-VOTE TIIIIME!

  • Mario

    Reboot? Ashley, you do realize that this game is a Spin-off and is not replacing the main Sonic titles right?

    • NkoSekirei

      but cant wait to get my hands on sonic boom those graphics are sick

      • Mario

        What does that have to do with what I said?

    • Sonic the Hedgehog

      Even my rival knows that!

      • Mario

        Well duh! I’m not stupid! I do my research very well!.

  • steveb944

    I just hope it has some difficulty for people that are older than 11. Otherwise I won’t bother with this

    • David Trail

      It will be more difficult than Uncharted or TLOU

  • NkoSekirei

    so let me get this straight some people on here are bitching about sonic boom being cater to 6-11 year olds which the dev basically said its also for season sonic fans as well.Also wats mario games for just for kids no it also caters to adult audience as well and theres no age restrictions for these kind of games and dont get me started about cod ive seen and heard liitle kids on ghosts recently screaming and crying on the mic which is a big problem and past cod games as well.

    • J_Joestar

      yeah, it isn’t really a big issue, i remember a lot of cartoons back when i was young sneaking in a lot of extra material for parents too.
      Like Fingerprints in Animaniacs. (though i doubt they could get away with that level of stuff now)

    • thedeciderU

      wow, makes me glad i never use a headset in cod. ughhh

  • David Trail

    Sonic Boom will be a hard game. Sonic Lost World was hard. It’s those Hardcore mature shooters that are easy and casual aka Titanfall ad COD.

    Sonic, DK and Mario are for adults and hardcore gamers!

  • David Trail

    When people say that a game is for a younger audience. I love that as the so called adult games have no challenge. Too many cutscenes, button bashing ( tapping square), retarded enemies, and mindless shooting.

  • Sinsko

    So the target audience is… essentially the same as previous Sonic games?

    Story driven? Ehhhhhhh

    You know, it’s really simple to know what gamers want with Sonic… high-speed fun and good platforming, with more than 7 levels… and not levels we have to go back to with obtuse characters looking for stupid gems.

    It’s a simple formula – and it worked for Sonic years ago… throw in some useful collectibles and you have a Sonic game that actually gets some good reviews that the series really hasn’t seen since the early 2000’s.

    • David Trail

      I beg to differ,: Sonic Generations, Sonic Rush series, Sonic Colours have had good reviews, Sonic Chronicles and were not made in the early 2000’s…
      Where have you been???

      • URFTBOUND4LIFE .

        Sonic Chronicles sucked! That was the WORST RPG I’ve ever played on the DS. That game was the perfect example on how NOT to make an RPG.

        Bad art that was clearly a rush job
        No NPC other than shop keep,man,old man,shady sales man and little boy. They added nothing to the game.

        Awful music that was not only ear gouging,but did not draw you into the story at all
        Story was bland and predictable and full of plot holes
        Battle system was functional but boring

        Lack of currency needed for items and weapons

        Obnoxious escape system
        Re-spawning enemies on the field map that hinders exploration

        Cliff hanger Ending (Which is the biggest offense of all)
        Sorry to go off on a tangent but I loath that game so much.

      • Sinsko

        Where have I been?
        Playing Sonic Heroes, Sonic the Hedgehog (2006), Sonic Unleashed, Sonic 4 (what is with the acceleration???), Sonic Lost World…

        So I guess the argument turns to “Sonic is TERRIBLE on home consoles, but decent on handhelds” ????

        Trying all these games and hoping for ONE decent one is a damn shame.

        The Sonic brand was one we were able to trust for a good game.. but those days are long gone.

        • David Trail

          I love Sonic Lost World though. Everyone has a different opinion.

  • Rodger_Ramjet

    Hahaha that’s so true! Cod is just full of 12vees. Although a lot if cod players on WiiU seem to be of a more mature audience.

  • JFizDaWiz

    Sonic should only be side scroller games. With the exception of Sonic 4 there hasn’t been a good sonic game since 1994 and I’ve plagued them all….. Good I hate Lost World’s so much