With all the hype surrounding Super Mario Maker 2 for the Nintendo Switch, there’s no doubt the thought of a Sonic-esque equivalent is on the minds of Sonic fans around the world. Indeed, what if there was a Sonic Maker?
Well, if you haven’t heard, one Sonic fan has gone above and beyond to bring this fantasy to life, and The Sonic Stadium is proud to provide you with an exclusive interview with the brains behind the project known as Sonic Studio!
If you are active in the Sonic community on Twitter, there’s a good chance you’ve come across some snippets and screenshots of the game. We barely gave it a mention during SAGE (Sonic Amateur Games Expo) of 2018, and after taking a closer look at the project on Twitter, we think it’s time we gave the lone developer some recognition.
Sonic Stadium: Tell us about yourself! How did you get to be a game designer?
Lewis: Hi, I’m Lewis, developing Sonic Studio, a stage editing fan game, cause I’m all cool n’ stuff.
I taught myself everything I know, which means I spent a lot of time not being very good but thinking I was. Luckily, I’ve learned from my mistakes and Sonic Studio is becoming everything it’s intended and wanted to be.
TSS: What inspired you to create a Sonic level maker?
Lewis: I first had the idea one Christmas when I thought up and asked for exactly this: a creative suite for creating Sonic stages. It didn’t exist and I was an imaginative idiot, but I never gave up on the dream that’s for sure. I had no life then… and I still don’t, I suppose?
As time went on and after multiple attempts, I began to realize that creating a Sonic stage editor which not only was true to the originals but was also fun to do not only to play, it would be an uphill battle. Building stages with tiles is tried, tested, and true, but does not lend itself to much creativity when building a slope-y playpark, or at the very least it’s mind-numbingly painstaking. So the challenge presented itself to me, and I jumped on it.
— Sonic Studio (@SonicStudioProj) October 15, 2018
TSS: How long has Sonic Studio been in development, and when did you start putting it together?
Lewis: Most would probably imagine that I was first inspired by Mario Maker and… that’s only slightly true.
SMM certainly inspired the design philosophy for the current development, but I began creating Sonic level editors back in 2010-ish, inspired (again) by PlaySEGA’s level creator.
You can see the similarities. Valiant and ahead of the curve as they were, these efforts fell flat on the creative front. You could do a lot more with any normal Sonic framework in Game Maker, and MMF, etc. Sonic Studio itself began creation after Mania, in GameMaker Studio (which is better than anything else, of course) and once I had a good framework going, it carried on naturally from there.
The most unique gimmick and main draw of Sonic Studio comes from using vectors for collision rather than tiles – but more important is creating a sandbox plaything rather than a strict Sonic stage creation tool. Though of course, the physics and gameplay will be as identical to what you’re used to as I can get it, that’s a priority.
TSS: What sorts of things have you added to Sonic Studio that haven’t been in a Sonic game before?
Lewis: So much!
But most integrally – interaction. The Genesis Sonic games didn’t (for the most part) have a single sandbox gene in them. Aside from very specific areas such as the little block/spike trap puzzle in Marble Zone Act 1, items rarely interacted with each other.
Contraptions like this and more can now be created using a huge list of compatible items. For example, you can stack multiple push blocks and push the entire stack (but be careful, they can crush you!). Maybe that stack is sitting on a moving platform? Maybe the blocks hit a spring that points at a button? Maybe they land a specific way if you push them into the correct platform/spring combination and only then can they form a staircase? Maybe these and other gravity affected items will be able to make use of seesaws?
Of course there’s then all the ways Sonic can interact with items which he never used to be able to, such as spin-dashing or pushing on top of a push block to get it away from a wall, or drop-dashing into it to make it fly along the ground and slide down a hill.
Without giving too much away, there’s a ton of possibilities you’d expect from a ‘maker’ game which you didn’t find in any of the Genesis titles, all while making use of twists on the original items only.
TSS: What sorts of level environments can we expect to see?
Lewis: There’ll be a decent array of starting zones to pick from, and through a combination of brand new assets and time of day options, you can make a stage your own.
TSS: The artwork looks gorgeous! Who is the artist for this project?
Lewis: Thanks! That’ll be me. (…or my identical twin, if I have one) – but in all honesty, I honed the style over a few months using a mix of inspiration from Sonic Mania, Tyson Hesse and a slight flair of my own. I now have a rather cohesive style going which hopefully puts a fresh spin on the original graphics, even more loosely than Mania did.
TSS: Which features are you most excited to see players toy around with?
Lewis: Too many! Most of which I cannot show just yet.
There are a few features which aid a stage’s development. There are many customizations for each item, a large clipboard of pinnable shapes which you can re-use, a tool to create any loop you desire automatically, and the tools to create them manually too. Much more than I can say here that’s for sure!
However I’m certain there are features I hadn’t even considered working together, the things that seem mundane when you add it but some jolly smart person can make it into a vital mechanic in a stage. The surprises and discoveries would be the #1 thing I’d look forward to seeing.
TSS: Are you worried that SEGA might ask you to cease development?
Lewis: I (much like any other Sonic fan, I’m sure) would love to see an official Sonic stage creation game release, and while no one wants their work shut down, I share the opinion most would hold – especially those also making fan games.
Mine just happens to be more user content-driven. It’s arguably less threatening than a full framework you can make another actual fan game from.
Best part of a stage editor is how you can creatively combine items for stage mechanics. I've been adding many – do you have your own ideas about how potential objects & items could interact? I'd like to hear your suggestions 🙂 #SonicStudio #FanGame #SonicTheHedgehog pic.twitter.com/IfRvObjk3R
— Sonic Studio (@SonicStudioProj) June 30, 2019
TSS: Have you planned for a way for players to share their levels?
Lewis: It’s an important question for sure, something I have and still do put a lot of thought into.
Offline saving and sharing will be a guarantee. For example, you can send a file to a friend, or even copy-paste level data someone shares directly to you without downloading anything and play instantly. Even this can definitely lead to a satisfying play session, but I know it’s the minimum. Anything further is to be determined depending on a few factors behind the scenes.
An in-game online stage sharing hub is the ideal goal and it changes the entire experience to be able to play a random stage instantly, as many times as you like. I can’t say much but: if feasible, it will happen, even if not at release.
TSS: When can we expect to see more? When will Sonic Studio release?
Lewis: Large feature reveals are incoming, I can’t give a lot away of course, but when reveals start coming they won’t stop for a while and they are “e p i c” if I do say so myself!
The release date is TBD.
— Sonic Studio (@SonicStudioProj) November 10, 2018
TSS: What other sorts of projects have you worked on, or would like to work on?
Lewis: I’m a freelance artist, animator, programmer, and I’m currently working on Kyle & Lucy: Wonderworld, Freedom Planet 2, as well as many other fantastic in-the-works indie projects. I like to work on a ton of varied projects aside from this one Sonic related pastime.
TSS: Is there anything else you’d like to share about Sonic Studio?
Lewis: It is all as it seems for now! Just a humble fan game made by one person.
Sonic Studio is completely non-profit and always will be. I do get a surprising amount of support and offers to financially support from fans, which I cannot accept. I usually say buy another copy of Mania to motivate a sequel which will motivate me. But we’ve yet to see how that worked out, ey? 😉
To support me indirectly you can check out my Twitter @LapperDev, as mentioned I am a freelance artist as well so check me out and if you require a commission or work on an indie game, let me know.
Many thanks to Lewis for taking the time to answer our questions! We’re all looking forward to seeing more of Sonic Studio.
Stay tuned to the Sonic Stadium for more features and community spotlights like this!