Sonic Forces Producer Discusses Changes To Ring System And Darker World

by Kimberley Wallace on Oct 05, 2017 at 06:01 PM

Sonic Forces launches in less than a month. This entry in the long-running Sonic universe allows you to create your own avatar and fight alongside Sonic to save the world from Dr. Eggman’s evil plans. With these custom characters, players can equip gadgets called Wispons that grant your character different abilities. One Wispon can transform into a powerful drill, while another turns into a whip. Wispons can be used to uncover secrets as well as different routes, and you'll need to equip specific ones to reach certain areas. 

While this is a modern Sonic game, it also has features some levels reminiscent of the classics, such as a casino stage and Green Hill, though the latter isn’t as lush as it used to be thanks to Eggman’s destruction. To discover more about the upcoming game, we spoke with producer Shun Nakamura, asking him everything from why you can’t recover rings to how this darker Sonic world came to be.

In Sonic Forces, Sonic loses his rings when hit like always, but he doesn't have the ability to regain them. This is a huge departure from the series' history and seems to go against the notion of classic Sonic. Why make this change?

We realize Sonic Mania came out and had classic Sonic portrayed in the classic world, with the classic gameplay of when you get hit, you lose all your rings and you have the chance to gather them back up and continue running. That was made by a different team with a different design aesthetic of recreating a classic Sonic title. What my team wanted to do with Sonic Forces is really expand on the game design and make something different and new for the Sonic Forces world, which is more modern. When we were designing the game, we wanted to make sure it was balanced properly, so it’s not too easy, but also not too challenging. 

Since presenting it at E3, we’ve heard a lot of people ask what you have, and it’s something the team feels really strongly about. They do like the design of Sonic Forces as we have presented it, but we’re also listening to a lot of the people saying they want that classic gameplay element back. We believe what we made [is a good balance] and will be a great experience for people — but we also are hearing that people are wanting something that we haven’t provided to them. I’m still sitting with the team digesting it and figuring out what to do. It’s an unresolved topic even amongst the team. 

With Sonic Mania proving so successful, how do you differentiate the classic Sonic gameplay in Sonic Forces from the retro style found in Sonic Mania?

It’s different teams creating Mania and Forces, but we were watching some builds come in for Mania and were like, "Wow! That’s a really great game." It hits that classic Genesis/Mega Drive era of gameplay right on the head. It’s solid. When we were looking at what was being done in Sonic Mania, we were like, "There’s a couple of ideas in here that are really good." But from a classic standpoint, what we’re doing is looking back to Sonic Generations and saying, “Look, we need this classic Sonic gameplay and people really liked Sonic Generations, so let’s bring that into Sonic Forces.” [We also asked],  “How can we expand on that Sonic Generations classic style gameplay and make it be something more than Sonic Generations was?” There is a little bit of a design difference and design philosophy in the base content that each team was referencing [for Sonic Mania and Sonic Forces].

How long should fans expect a typical playthrough to last?

The gameplay content is going to be very similar to Sonic Colors or Sonic Generations, if you want to think about experiencing it from start to finish. What’s going to be additional is all the extra little things the team has hidden inside the game that will require you to go back and play with different and more powerful Wispons. There’s content in there to make sure that everyone can play through the game and have a fun time, but there’s also all these little things to do later that, if you really wanted to dig into the game, will be there for you. 

One thing I do want to make sure everyone understands is that we’re selling Sonic Forces at $39.99 in America, and we don’t want people to think that maybe this is a short game or this is a lesser experience than what we’ve done in the past. When we were thinking about pricing and what our audience was, we really wanted to make sure we could get as many people to play this game as possible by putting it at that price point. Even with Mania, we had a really solid, great game that everyone loves and we put it at $19.99 because we wanted everyone to play it and enjoy the content. So with Forces, nobody should be worried that they’re getting less content, or there’s not even [extra] stuff in there, or that we cut some corners. That’s really not the case. We’re aggressively pricing it to get this great content out to as many people as possible and really have people secure when they buy and play it to know that this is the same as all the other Sonic games we put out there, plus extra content for people to find and enjoy.

You have already announced a couple of different DLC packs (Sega/Atlus pack and Episode Shadow). Do you plan on supporting Sonic Forces long-term through DLC? Will we see actual story content added DLC beyond Episode Shadow?

There is really no long-term plans to continue releasing content to support Forces, but we created Episode Shadow [and the Sega/Atlus pack] for everyone to play and enjoy. We’re trying to get as much content out there for people to jump right into the game and play.  

The Sega/Atlus DLC pack includes costumes from games like Persona 5 and Super Monkey Ball. Are there any other franchises you'd like to collaborate with? 

The team had a lot of fun taking the content [from those games] and representing it in the Sonic universe. If we have more opportunities, we would definitely love to explore other licensed content. 

With so many main bad guys in Sonic Forces, how did you address the potential problem of making sure they all have enough time on screen that they feel like actual threats and not just cameo appearances?

For the enemies, especially for Infinite because he’s the main new enemy, we wanted to make sure we put him in with a story that included him in from beginning to end, and that [the characters] were interacting with him constantly throughout the game. When we were making Sonic Forces, we realized some of the previous games didn’t really have a strong secondary main villain, so we wanted to make sure that when we put Infinite in the game, you saw him enough and were interacting with him enough that it really felt that you [as a character] had a connection with him as a threat. 

With Sonic Forces, you're taking a decidedly darker approach than we've previously seen; Dr. Eggman has already taken over and Sonic is leading the resistance. Was this an intentional shift after recent games were more lighthearted in tone?

It wasn’t necessarily that we set out to make a dark world, but when we were thinking about making everything a little more dramatic and making the enemies feel [more like] enemies, what the team really wanted to do was have Sonic as this really powerful, positive character and then have the enemies as these really strong villain characters. What we wanted to do was really make those villain characters feel like villains and to do that we need to see some villainous activities going on — there’s got to be something done to this world to make it feel like Eggman is really taking over and is a threat. By putting Sonic in this threatening situation, it turned out that the world had to become dark and we had to tell this dark story. Perhaps it came to be a dark story because of what we wanted to do with the characters, more so than we [set out] to make a dark story. We really like where the world has gone. Hearing people say that they really like it and that it's different from what we've done in the past makes us feel good, like we're going in the right direction.

Is there anything that you want to share with the fans about Sonic Forces, such as what you’re excited about in the game or any misconceptions you want to clear up?

I really want people to enjoy creating their own avatar and character in the world because we have this world where Sonic is a really strong, really unique kind of hero character. The character that you make is going to be just a regular person who’s in this world that Eggman has destroyed and you have to now sneak in and be like, “Hey Sonic, come save me.” You have to now stand up and join the resistance and become part of the positive force fighting against Eggman. You get to go on this adventure with Sonic The Hedgehog and get better and stronger, and then in the very end, be a companion of Sonic. We’re hoping everyone gets to make their character and goes on this adventure with Sonic feeling like they’re as strong [as him] and that they’re really helping out in saving the world from Dr. Eggman.    

Sonic Forces launches on November 7 for PS4, Xbox One, Switch, and PC.