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Ideas about 3D Sonic Stages


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The first thing I will do in this post is put a link to another post by a used named Ritz from Sonic Retro. This post is something that has caught great attention from me whenever I skim over the Utopia topic there. (Just so there is no confusion it is post #31).


I find most of the post interesting with regaurds to his ideas of tension and the issue of thinking of Sonic's gameplay in terms of altitudes. 

The thing though I think about the most is the proposition of the ideal 3D Sonic stage being an inversion of the bell-curve of Super Mario 64 stages, and instead be a bowl profile. The idea of having sections of running/rolling downhill and different levels taper off at certain points of the hill and thus a number of levels of different altitudes resulting is I think a fascinating one. 

I've made a very crude demonstration that shows somewhat what comes to my mind when I read this. The red sections are the areas with highest altitude; the yellow with intermediate; and the very green with the lowest. The black are simply walls. In a real stage it wouldn't look nearly as boring or generic as this, but it is simply a visualization. 


So the point is that as Sonic goes down the hill, certain pathways diverge which become levels of their own and several of these occur. They will have a variety of shapes on them but I think a general rule of follow is that the higher a level, generally the narrower it will be, with the bottom of course being as wide as can be. The bottom sections would generally tend to be the most tedious while the higher levels have greater interests on them giving incentive to pay attention and stay up higher and switch between different levels and whatnot. 


Float your geometry. Player needs to play smart to leverage enough momentum to reach the highest levels, and the layout should feature multiple opportunities for them to filter up and down through the stack. Merge back down to the ground plane at the end of the map.

This is of course just an application of 2D Sonic principles in 3D, as the highest levels should probably be the most challenging to reach but great speed can be maintained. 

A nice way to visualize what these multiple levels would look like is perhaps Windy Valley Beta towards the ends. 



I think along with this, it's a nice parallel between Sonic and the pinball roots he has. You're fighting to not fall to the very bottom and trying to do it as stylishly as possible. 

Excuse the very unorganized nature of this post, it's just a collection of reflections of what I think is a very interesting post. It's just something I've thought about for a while. 

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3D level design is a very complex subject, especially when applied to Sonic.

I think that, to date, none of the platformers I ever played managed to translate the feel of going from point A to point B in a 2D game, in 3D, even Mario.

Mario 64 has that sandbox level design that kinda works, but you have 2 main problems:

  • the level borders (most levels are floating islands in the empty space, or they have invisible walls, or stuff such as killer quicksand).
  • If you make them "A to B" where A is an edge of the sandbox and B is the center, the level is pretty short and a huge part of it is ignored most of the times... or in the case of levels such as Tall Tall Mountain, it's just a linear path where you climb in spiral until the top (with some occasional shortcuts that also work as annoying obstacles where you fall from above nd you need to play a part of the level again - I think this is bad, worse than backtracking).

the main goal is to make a level that's linear but open, and that has better "borders".

I recently played Jalopy, and I think that the game is pretty clever. It's basically an evolution of My Summer Car... My Summer Car is obviously a troll game made for youtubers, the game is frustrating and unintuitive on purpose.

Jalopy starts from a similar concept, but it's way more accessible and enjoyable; I wouldn't say it's a fun game, but at least it's an interesting experience.

You must travel from point A to point B, you do it by car (a crappy car actually). The game discourages the player to explore outside the road, so much that you can do it but you simply don't want to. Occasionally, the road is surrounded by guard rails and you just can't, other times there are huge open spaces that you can explore, though... if you go into those spaces with the car, you just damage it (and repairing it costs a lot), or risk to get stuck and to need to restart the run; if you go on foot it's just too boring and pointless that you just prefer to not do it. It's not a transparent wall, the game motivates the player to just follow the route by his/her own decision. (somewhere, after those open spaces, walls and invisible walls are still there, but you don't notice them because you just focus on the road); as a result, the game feels very open and free, even if you have to follow a route instead.

I never saw something like this in a platformer... it may be hard to implement in a not annoying way, though I think it's definitely possible.

As for the level design itself, the core one, the subject is just too complex for a single post... way too much. Though, I already did some experiments on that reguard.

Sorry for posting my own videos, you don't have to watch them if you don't want to, though, that's a project I did for a game (custom track for Re-Volt); the project is still unreleased and while it's almost finished, I always stop working on it for real life reasons, but sometimes I'll eventually finish it.


This video is from a different user, not myself, but it shows an outdated and even more incomplete version of the track:


Keep in mind that the track is made for a racing game with an old and outdated engine, full of limitations and with inaccurate physics (not enough accurate for Sonic stuff); also, cars can't jump.

The map is not designed for Sonic, but there are concepts of parallel routes and different vertical layers of the levels that also apply to Sonic's level design.

I think this level is an interesting proof of concept for how to structure a 3D level design for Sonic, though it's made with the Mario 64 bell-curve structure in mind and if you fall in water there is just nothing, you are teleported back on the track.

There are some underground sections that are barely shown in the video, you should play it to understant it better, though the track is still incomplete and unreleased so it's not possible for now... but if you want I can make some screenshots to show stuff.

Another thing that's missing from that track and that needs to be in a Sonic level, is level gimmicks; in 2D it's a lot easier to think of level gimmicks, in 3D is more complex as long as you don't want to be generic; a good level gimmick is very flashy and covers a big part of the screen, and it helps to give a stronger identity to the level; A good gimmick is also interactive in a dynamic way and not just a quick time event or an automated sequence.

The track is also light on running on walls and you never run on ceilings (aside of loops) because it's very hard to do it with the engine of that game... though a couple of cool wallrun sections are there, in some alternate roads.

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You know, now that I think about it, there's one thing which I would love to see in a 3D Sonic game.

Large, open areas with actual freedom of movement.

Like, for Colors or Unleashed Wii I can forgive the linear, corridor-esque and frankly very 2D-heavy stages. Come on, the damn things were on the Wii, a console that couldn't really render all that much. Unleashed HD also could have a pass, because, well, it was the first, and it also had dem graphix, which made it kinda hard for the system to render open areas.

But everything afterwards just had these large corridors for no apparent reason. I guess that Generations was a boost game and also had the rendering issue, but Lost World, a game with a slower, almost Mario-like Sonic, and the game not being all that resource-heavy having flat, linear tunnels or sausages instead of at least semi-open stages? Why? 

Forces is a different beast altogether, because while all the other boost games were on inferior systems, this thing was on Next-Gen consoles, and could definetly provide enough freedom for the player, without having too many frame drops.

But, even if there WERE open levels, Modern Sonic is such an uncontrollable mess, that it simply wouldn't feel right, so we need a new Sonic, that would have tighter and more responsive controls, and then we could have large stages, but, now we're getting into the game design stuff.

Because, who doesn't want to feel Sonic's speed by zooming through a large, open field?

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This reminds me of one of my problems with SA1 was that when it came to the exploration part of levels, they were almost useless because the game had only one Point A and one Point B so you would either have a half-assed thrill of a pseudo exploration that technically did nothing for the game that( for the Sonic and Tails part) was just entering one sandbox, getting to the next via speedy linear section.  Which, IMO wasn't all that bad, but I'mma bring it up since we're talking about.

Honestly SA2's Green Hill Level nailed it kinda IMO, not worrying to much about the level borders

On 5/1/2018 at 4:55 PM, Iko said:


Sorry for posting my own videos, you don't have to watch them if you don't want to, though, that's a project I did for a game (custom track for Re-Volt); the project is still unreleased and while it's almost finished, I always stop working on it for real life reasons, but sometimes I'll eventually finish it.



Not only do I agree with what you are saying, but holy shit, those race tracks have similar level design to Sonic Robo Blast 2 and Sonic R, the latter I consider a good idea of how Sonic levels are viewed in 3D.


On 5/3/2018 at 9:03 PM, A person, that exists said:

Because, who doesn't want to feel Sonic's speed by zooming through a large, open field?

I promise you, someone out there doesn't want it.

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