Sonic Stadium Interview: Sega’s Stephen Frost

Sonic Boom Logo

Here it is! The interview I promised and gathered some fan questions for! I’d like give huge thanks to Stephen Frost and Kellie Parker for working with me and answering the questions. 🙂

And now, let’s get started!

Hero of Legend: So Stephen Frost, as I already listened to the SEGABits interview just published about you, you’ve already said a lot about yourself, but just for readers here who haven’t heard that interview (and should right now!), would you like to give a brief introduction about yourself and talk about past experiences and such? I’d also like to hear about you as well Kellie Parker. I haven’t heard much about you, so take this opportunity to talk about yourself and your experiences at and prior to Sega.

Stephen Frost: Well, for those who haven’t heard about me, and I assume that most have not; I’ve been a producer at SEGA for almost eight years now. I’ve worked on a variety of titles ranging from the Sega Genesis Collection to Universe at War to some of the Marvel titles and Shinobi on 3DS.

I started in game development at a studio called Dynamix in Eugene, Oregon and eventually moved to California to work at Imagine Media. There, as Webmaster, I helped to build the foundation of what would eventually become The Imagine Games Network (IGN) before eventually jumping over to launch PSM: 100% Independent PlayStation Magazine.

Around seven years later, the desire to return to game development was too strong, so I jumped at the chance to join the team at Electronic Arts, where I worked on such titles as Armies of Exigo, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2 and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. From there, I had a brief stint at an Activision studio (Z-Axis), working on some Marvel superhero properties before hanging my production hat at my current home at SEGA, where I’m now fully focused on Sonic Boom.

Kellie Parker: I’ve been working in online community for 15 years. I got my start on the IRC network TalkCity, which became a company called LiveWorld. While at LiveWorld, I worked on message boards and live online chats for many companies, including HBO, Showtime, Food Network, A&E, Intel, eBay, Slim-Fast, and MSNBC. I left LiveWorld to become the community manager for PC World and Macworld magazines, and after a few years there, I joined SEGA where I am the Senior Community Manager. I’ve been at SEGA for 5 and a half years now, and it’s been an amazing experience.

HoL: I’ve been very curious about who exactly is the exact character design of Sonic and company here? I have my beliefs it’s Bob Rafei as he’s had a history of character design work at Naughty Dog (I believe he worked on designing Jak and Daxter themselves, please correct me if I’m mistaken) and he has indeed addressed himself as one in the recent interviews about Sonic Boom.

SF: The development of the main characters in Sonic Boom was a joint collaboration between Big Red Button, OuiDo Productions, Sega and Sonic Team. We definitely pulled a lot from Bob’s past experience as a character designer but a lot of people had input into the final designs you see today. Given all the different mediums that the characters will appear in (games, cartoon, toys, etc.), it was important to make sure that the character designs met the needs of each of those.

HoL: You (Stephen) spoke about the composers not being set in stone, but I am curious if perhaps you’ll lean towards Sonic Team veterans like Jun Senoue, or maybe perhaps work with composers who are familiar to the people at BRB who worked at Naughty Dog and Insomniac prior, such as Mark Mothersbaugh and Josh Mancell who worked on Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, or perhaps David Bergeaud and others who worked on the Ratchet & Clank series?

SF: At this time, we are not talking about the soundtrack or the musicians involved in the game. We should have more details at E3, though.

HoL: I am actually also really interested in knowing more about the names of people at Big Red Button involved with the game, more specifically just how many people who worked at Naughty Dog and Insomniac because of the key folks from the companies are known to be working on this game. I’ve done my own research about this and have found some interesting results.

I’m a dedicated researcher, I love knowing who works on games and what they’ve done before.  Knowing just who’s behind a game can really generate a lot of anticipation and confidence that the game is in fantastic hands, in my opinion. And so far some really amazing people have been seen to be working on Sonic Boom.

SF: Well, I would like to be respectful of all the team members and not mention them by name, but there is definitely a lot of talent at Big Red Button. We’ll be sure to put as many of them in the spotlight as possible as we get further along with the project. However, at a management level, we have folks who have worked on such franchises as Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, Uncharted, True Crime, Shrek, God of War, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Ghostbusters and Simpsons, to name a few.

HoL: I’d like to ask about the 3DS version of the game. I understand Sanzaru Games is behind this version and they’re most well known to have carried the torch of the Sly Cooper series from Sucker Punch. I’d like to know if this version will be for example a 3D platformer as well, also if maybe it will have it’s own style, like maybe it could be cel-shaded like Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time as they made just prior, similar to how the Wii U version is very similar in style to Jak & Daxter.

SF: At this time, we aren’t talking about the 3DS version of the game. You are correct that Sanzaru were responsible for the most recent Sly Cooper title and I’m sure they will bring all their experience from that project over to Sonic Boom. All I can really say right now is that the 3DS game is its own experience with a separate storyline from the Wii U version. We have a few surprises to announce in relation to the 3DS game, but you’ll just have to wait and see what they are.

HoL: Again about the 3DS version, is it likely to feature some connectivity with the Wii U version? Sonic Lost World already did so I personally wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

SF: The 3DS game will have some connectivity with the Wii U but details of that have not yet been announced.

HoL: Back to the Wii U version. I am personally interested in knowing if at least in the main hub shown if there will be a real-time day/night cycle for ambiance and such? Because some sneaky folks managed to slip in footage of the game way back in March 2013 during Crytek’s CryEngine 3 demo:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zAJE_twq4wE

Under our noses all along and before Sonic Lost World was unveiled, my mind is still blown!

Anyway I personally love touches like this, and I understand this was in fact planned for Sonic the Hedgehog for the PS3 and 360 (aka Sonic ’06) but was removed for one reason or another. I personally hope this is indeed in the game as shown here, and the moving shadows is such a beautiful sight.

SF: The footage shown in Crytek’s CryEngine 3 demo was of an early visual prototype. It does not necessarily reflect the current Sonic Boom game or its features. That also includes the day/night cycle showcased in the video.

HoL: Also, as a fan of platformers that allow you to just relax and look around to your heart’s content, I’ve always been a huge fan of freely movable cameras, whether it’s just to swing 360 degrees around a character, or even as a first-person view to look up into the sky or down to your feet, is there a camera system like this in place so fans can look at the pretty environments from anywhere? Sonic Lost World and also the three Sonic games prior at least (Unleashed, Colors, Generations) did not have this at all or extremely minimally, but the Sonic Adventure games, especially the first really used this very well, and it was sorely missed.

SF: I can confirm that exploration is an important part of this game, so I would expect that the camera system would be designed around that, as well.

HoL: Bob Rafei mentioned to The Guardian about there actually being 2D gameplay in the game. Is this more or less like Classic Sonic again, or is it actually more like the 2D sections in Crash Bandicoot? Also how much of them are there in the game? I would think the game is very much mostly 3D, hopefully with only a few 2D bits sprinkled in, just my personal opinion.

SF: As with most Sonic titles, where there is generally a mix of 3-D and 2-D-based gameplay. Sonic Boom will be no different. Given the focus on exploration of this new world for Sonic, we generally wanted to focus on 3-D. However, given our desire to deliver a “familiar but new” experience, you can bet that elements like the 2-D-based gameplay will certainly show up, but maybe with a few twists.

HoL: Are you able to give a detailed enough idea on what the characterizations of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy will be? People are wondering if Knuckles will be on the less-than-intelligent side and if Amy will still go cuckoo for Sonic for instance? Tails is also in question as some are wondering if he’s going to be snarky as it were? (some point out his facial expressions art) Also curious if the brotherly bond between Tails and Sonic will be developed on.

SF: I am certainly aware that the characterizations for Sonic and team are a big discussion point amongst the fans out there. We know it’s important and we spent a lot of time working out how these characters should behave and act. It’s obviously key to be true to their original designs, but we also need to balance them out a bit, while accenting certain personality traits so that folks not too familiar with Sonic can quickly and easily understand who these characters are and what they’re like. This is the same philosophy that influenced the overall visual character designs for the characters. With Amy, for example, we aren’t really meaning that she is a strong, independent and acrobatic character only in Sonic Boom. She has been that way in other games. In Sonic Boom, though, these aspects of her character will really be emphasized in the story and gameplay in order to make it clear to everyone that this is how she is.

HoL: People are wondering where the idea of the Enerbeam came from? It’s certainly a new concept for the series.

SF: The original concept for the Enerbeam came from the general idea of us wanting a physical manifestation of the friendship between the main characters, something that connected them all together in a visual way. That was the genesis of the idea, at least, but the Enerbeam has evolved a fair bit since those early days and has been refined into something that is more of an extension of the characters, themselves. Once players see how the team gets this ability, they will definitely understand it a bit better.

It plays a role in all major aspects of the game, including navigation, combat, and interaction with the world, but is designed to enhance the gameplay, not detract from it. The uses for the Enerbeam are built to be fun and, again, build upon the character-specific abilities that each character has.

HoL: Is there teamwork in gameplay? How does this work? Something like in Sonic Heroes or Sonic Advance 3 perhaps?

SF: Yes, we have what I prefer to call “working as a team” but it isn’t really like either of those two games. Our teamwork dynamic is a bit more organic than what is found in Sonic Heroes or SA3. You aren’t hitting a button to have another character come over and perform a team-based attack, for example. Something like that doesn’t really work in a co-op setting since we wouldn’t want to take control away from the other player. It’s more like actually, physically working together. So, in combat, for example, maybe there is an opening that both characters would need to take advantage of at the same time to damage an enemy. Or, maybe there are navigational challenges that would require both players to work together in order to get past. Sonic is stronger with his friends in this game and that is something that reflects all core aspects of the experience, so “teamwork” is definitely important.

HoL: Speaking of the characters in-game, I read that in single player you always have two of them at once, and up to 4 people can play at once with each of the four? So is there online co-op or 2-4 player local split-screen? Or is it like where maybe one person uses the GamePad screen and the other person or up to three others use split screen on the TV? And as I said there’s always at least two of them in single-player? So you can’t just have Sonic all alone? He has to have at least Tails following him while being controlled by the AI?

SF: At this time, all we have announced is that the game will support up to two players in the main mode with parts of the overall game supporting up to four players. In minimum, there will always be two characters together, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Sonic has to be one of them. I also want to confirm that there are no online co-op features currently planned for this game. We felt, given the design of the game, that local multiplayer and co-op would be the more appropriate things to focus on. When people actually get their hands on the game and see how it plays, I think they will more clearly understand why we focused on what we did.

HoL: This was glossed over in the SEGABits interview when asked as it was bundled with another question, but will there be any humans in the game and the show (not counting Eggman obviously)?

SF: We want this world to be a living, breathing place to explore and that wouldn’t be possible if it was completely deserted.

HoL: We’ve seen most of the characters show their trademark abilities, but so far we haven’t seen Sonic perform a Spin Dash or seen Knuckles Glide, will they have these abilities? Also in terms of combat could Tails perhaps use his tails to whack things again? They’ve been out of the combat field since Sonic Adventure 2, and that was in the Chao Garden!

SF: While we have not yet revealed all the character-based abilities, what you have seen in the announcement trailer does reflect a decent number of them. We definitely want to include as many classic abilities and attacks for each of the main characters, as possible, but some of them would not be useful or work properly in the game we are building. I feel, though, that there will be enough in there for fans to appreciate, along with several new abilities that will add to the overall game experience in Sonic Boom.

SF: As a final thought, I just want to thank all the fans out there who have gotten involved in forum discussions, created artwork and sent me comments. It’s great to read and see everything you all have been doing in relation to Sonic Boom. Please keep it up. I love the passion and excitement that everyone has and I can’t wait until I’m able to share more about these games. Just please continue to be patient and I promise that we’ll have some great stuff to show in the near future.

And that wraps it up! Thanks again to Stephen and Kellie for taking the time to do the interview. 🙂

What are your thoughts on what Stephen and Kellie said? Do the answers make you more or less excited for Sonic Boom?

36 Comments

  1. Good to see Stephen keep quiet about some of those questions for now, haha.

    I will say that I do like the original “requirement” that spawned the idea of the Enerbeam. Even though having a visual representation of the main characters’ friendship sounds a little cheesy to me personally, incorporating the idea as something they use for a variety of purposes in teamwork actually sounds like a great way to represent that side of their personality and give the Enerbeam a charm of it’s own. Consider me curious to see how it’s explained in the game & show. 🙂

  2. Well Perhaps remember the first Sonic Boom video game trailer the person said this is paradise remind me of Windmill island from Sonic Rush Adventure looks absolutely familiar. Also is it going to be like percent Angel Island from Sonic Adventure are returning back so as Tikal, to right also as Marine to?

  3. Next time you do an interview,please ask about some of the other returning characters new design-
    like Shadow.Is he going to return?Any teasers of him,Rouge,or Silver?I really like Shadow and his character,
    and let me just warn SEGA-Shadow is as popular and almost as widely known as Sonic himself.If you screw up on his design,it
    will be the end of you.There will be a fan base RIOT.Anyways,please ask about returning characters next time.
    AND PLEASE DONT FLAME ME GUYS,THIS IS MY OPINION!

    1. We could have asked about any other characters. Or we could have asked questions which stood a chance at getting an answer.

      1. All questions get an answer.

        I wasn’t a big fan of Shadow, but it will be nice if he is in the game. It will be even nicer if he was part of the main cast. He deserves to be with the main cast, and improved upon. I don’t know, I don’t know much about Shadow, I’m more of a Knuckles fan, but seeing Shadow as a SIDE character and not playable or main, looks…….. weird and wasteful.

          1. Yes they do. No matter what type of answer it is, be it a yes or no or maybe or an evasive answer, it is still an answer. It may not be the answer you are looking for, but it is still an answer.

          2. No they do not. Look we’ve been doing these kind of interviews for a while now, we have a very good idea as to what questions can and will be ignored or rejected.

  4. “It’s obviously key to be true to their original designs, but we also need to balance them out a bit, while accenting certain personality traits so that folks not too familiar with Sonic can quickly and easily understand who these characters are and what they’re like”
    Judging Stephen words I fear that this incarnation of Knuckles is going to be of the stereotypical strong-dumb guy type, the fact that he also promptly evaded responding the knuckles part of the question doesn’t really have me getting my hopes up for our echidna.

      1. well, on a second thought I admit to have read way too much into the lines without any actual proof nor reason to do so, I just hope knux gets treated with respect by the devs ._.

      1. Just because Knuckles is a tough guy dosen’t mean he can crack a joke? Besides, that could be the Alternate-dimension Knuckles for all we know.

  5. “We’ve seen most of the characters show their trademark abilities, but so far we haven’t seen Sonic perform a Spin Dash or seen Knuckles Glide, will they have these abilities?”
    Actually, Sonic does do what appears to be a spindash or a spindash-like move in the trailer, and the rings seen in Knuckles-specific areas that are at his glide ratio suggest that he can glide. Just thought I’d clear that up.

    Also, I hope we get more reveals pre-E3. 3 months is a long time.

  6. Am I the only one who noticed that Kelly Parker didn’t really say anything at all in this interview?

    1. I noticed that too. I wonder if it was cut out or will be released later. Then again, maybe they didn’t ask her too much.

  7. Hmm, interesting. I hope they keep day and night cycles – game looks gorgeous in both.

    Still annoyed at the lack of online connectivity, but since this game really seems to be up in my alley – exploration! – I might be too busy to care. Besides, I’ll likely have Smash Bros 4 for that, so… In any case, nice of them to point that fact out about Amy, since she does sometimes display those traits in the other games, but it’s interesting to see them brought out.

    E3 is a long time away, but I’m content to wait. Sega loves to drop little hints for fans to nibble on, rather than starve.

Comments are closed.