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Do you believe that Sonic fans do a better job at making Sonic games than Sonic Team?


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So for the past couple of years, Sonic fans have pumped out some amazing fans games. Like for example, Sonic Robo Blast 2. Or the many mods for all the Sonic games ported to PC. 

You cannot deny, these games, mods, etc have been great. But for nearly the same amount of time, Sonic Team has made alot of "just alright" games. Which lead to many to believe that the Fans should collect ALL the power because they've had a better track record these past years .

Which rises a question. Whould the Sonic series be better of when it is run by Sonic fans?

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The "the fans do better than Sonic Team" idea is the conjunction of several things.

- First, the "good-to-excellent fangames" are just a small part of the existing fan-games. The fans, as a collective, have a varied range of game, and we can find every sort of quality. Fans haven't a "better track record", SOME fans make game that are better finished product that some of the game that Sonic Team does. But "the fans" has a collective hasn't really a "track record". Everything exists. Good and bad things. We don't see a lot of the things because there is a curation that we don't see.

- Many of these project are derivative work, and are easier to make. It's easier to make a mod or a remake fixing a game than making the game in the first place. First because the fixed benefits from all the work done in the initial version. Secondly because when we fix something, we have the insight. P-06 have those, for instance : it reuse the work done on the previous game.

- The scope of the fangame is more limited than creating a "full Sonic game". First because we don't have much "complete 3D Sonic games" (the amount of work is just incredible), but also because for a lot of them, they're created using proprietary existing engine like Unreal and Unity. A lot of the work is already done for us (and would need SEGA to approve the use of this tech, and thus paying for it). This also make a fan-made project more difficult to make approve for SEGA, even if they use Unity for some project, for the moment no Sonic game have been made using it AFAIK. But all that also participate to make that some work have been done for us when we make a Sonic fangames. ( It's no wonder than the "fan-made official project" is using a custom engine )

- "For the same amount of time". Not really. A lot of the "complete" fangames are in the making since a lot of years, and for obvious reason go way slower than an official games. You even used SRB2 as an exemple, that is in the making since 98.


Moreover, what would be "giving the power to the fan" ?

Just getting some fans the key of the studio ? We already are getting fans of Sonic working on Sonic (one of their new designer is, a lot of the third-party working of Sonic are fans that have made a studio). If fans want to work on a Sonic title, they have to do as it was done for Mania : creating a studio, working on a few title, and proposing a sound project for SEGA that is possible to do and wouldn't cost too much. Which mean that they have to become professional first. The people behind Mania aren't just "Sonic fans" : they're professional gamedevs. But dreaming for "SEGA to hire all those good fans and making a dream team to replace the baaaad Sonic Team" is something that isn't realistic.

( Especially with the amount of drama in the fangame world a lot of the people that could be interesting hates each other's guts lol )

Would it need to become more community-based ? Well, it would mean to invent a whole new business model that allow such a thing to happen (because we don't have much "community-based IP"), think of how to handle a centralized handling of what would be allowed to be official/commercial, wouldn't really solve that much a lot of the deeper issues of quality control and stuff (and would certainly make Sonic have even more mandates to keep some kind of control).

Sure, some fans are excellent, and deserve to be followed and totally could work on professional games (and does). And I would love Sonic being innovative in the field of "giving power to the community". But it's more complex than "fangame dev good ; should do official games".

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Nope. Even the most middling 3D Sonic games have more content and polish than almost any fangame. Most of them aren't anywhere close to being done. They're proof of concepts that get dropped when the reality of what making a full 3D action game entails hits.

And I mean...that's how I expect it to be. We're talking about large teams of career programmers, game designers, artists and producers vs a few hobbyists. If any Sonic games were actually any worse than the pre alpha stuff you see out there it'd be deeply embarrassing for the brand.

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There's also the fact that fan games, by their very nature, are made by the fans, for the fans.  It doesn't matter whether they're profitable or not, they don't need to be.  Now yes, we got away with Sonic Mania... that game was a great success (I think?) and was very much exactly what the fans wanted... almost anyway.  I think we all wanted fully original zones, and yet still compromises had to be made for a wider appeal, which is why the game opens with Green Hill and Chemical Plant, to attract the nostalgic masses, not just those who have stuck with Sonic the whole time.

Things get thornier when Sonic Team are trying to design a game that will be profitable as well as true to Sonic's core appeal that we all enjoy as fans.  Which is how we've ended up with a bunch of games that are mostly appealing and review okay to well, but feel lukewarm to the hardcore fanbase.

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I feel the whole "fans doing it better" thing has really been boosted in recent years thanks to Sonic Mania. It's important to keep in mind though that the devs behind it are not simply fans with a good understanding and love of Sonic who happened to get to make an official game, they're full-on professionals. 

Much in the same way there are plenty of Disney and Pixar animators who grew up watching the films who now work on them. That passion and fondness for the IPs is an important part of who these people are as professsional artists but it's a bonus on top of a solid portfolio and experience. The headline "Sonic Mania was made by fans" isn't untrue but I do think it's simplifying things a bit.

Now when it comes to the 3D fangames, NONE of them are fully complete and polished but the likes of Project Hero and Sonic Utopia definitely demonstrate more ambition to make use of a 3D space than anything Sonic Team has put out since arguably 2006. Doesn't make them better games overall, they're really no more than tech demos, but there's room for scope VS the recent Sonic Team games which have seemingly hit the ceiling on what the gameplay can accommodate. With Sonic Frontiers we'll hopefully see that design mentality finally change.

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I feel like the difference with fan games is that, on average, they are generally aimed at specific portions of fans and therefore, have much more consistent direction. 

Take Sonic Mania for instance, that game is pretty upfront about which demographic it's catering towards given the age range of Whitehead's team. The tagline "By the fans for the fans" is a bit disingenuous. It's more accurate to say Sonic Mania is "By classic fans, for classic fans" And that's perfectly fine, hell it worked in the game's favor. The hardcore classic fans finally got that follow up they've been waiting decades for, and the general audiences can take a look upon the type of game that put Sonic on the map to begin with.

Sega, being more focused on profit, care more about mass appeal than catering to a specific demographic, because they don't want to alienate any of their fans. (Cuz they want money)  They wanna maximize the appeal Sonic has, but very often compromise the game's development in order to do that. It leads to almost every Sonic game feeling unclear about which demographic its trying to cater towards, because it's literally trying to be everything for all fans. 


Fans gravitate towards fan games more because the developers don't treat them as just a statistic or a number; The fan game community is probably the only thing Sega doesn't screw over. I don't think fans could ever make a better game than what Sega puts out, but at the same time, fan games know who they're catering their games towards and what the fans want, while Sega only superficially care about what the fans want and only really care about what's gonna get them the most recognition from the mainstream.

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So let's be clear about one thing: the vast, vast, vast majority of fan games come nowhere near the quality of even Sonic Team's most mediocre efforts. Of Sonic Team's 3D games, only Sonic 2006 is comparable to the average fan game, and that's because Sonic 2006 and the average fan game are both unfinished products. If most fan games got an official release, they would rightly be savaged by the press and fans alike.

That said... yeah, I do believe the best fan games are better games than any official 3D Sonic game. But that is an indictment on Sonic Team more than anything else. While I personally enjoy Robo Blast 2, GT, and Utopia more than any of the Adventure or Boost games, none of those fan games are anywhere near being a commercially viable product in the AAA space that 3D Sonic games occupy. And as @Kazhnuz explains better than I can, there's a lot of reasons to be skeptical the developers of those and other popular fan games can make that jump from amateurism to professional game development. That's not to say it's impossible for the enterprising fan to make that jump - there's nothing stopping anyone from approaching Sega with their idea for a new Sonic game - but you aren't talking about the difference between the fans and the current developers' ideas on what's best for Sonic, you're talking about the difference between amateur and professional game development.

Edit: I would love to see future Sonic games embrace fan work. There's active modding scenes for the more popular Sonic games, and it'd be great if the games had some official support for mods. Maybe even a level editor built into the game.

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Like everyone else mentioned, it depends on whether or not the fans themselves are professional game developers.  A lot of the fangames you see on YouTube are either completed or not finished and I have seen a lot of Sonic fangames that really interested me, but go by unfinished.  If the fans are willing to work for SEGA for many years, than I can see a bit of improvement in the games, in terms of adding more creative touches to the franchise that the mainline games really needed.  Also, if you have fans working on the mainline Sonic games, then they would have a better idea of what the Sonic community really want out of the games vs how SEGA and Sonic Team look at what the fans want and only do the bare minimum of what the fans wanted.

But on the negative side of this, if you hired too many fans to work on the Sonic games, then there's the risk that there would be too many different ideas on how to approach this series.  Every fan has a different idea on how the Sonic series should go and if SEGA doesn't oversee the many ideas coming from the fans, then the series can become bloated or the gameplays can change radically in each game, confusing anyone who comes by playing the games.  Also, it would be hard to see if the fans themselves are professionals in dealing with gameplays or not. So, if SEGA decided to hire more fans for the series, they need to make sure that the fan developers themselves already had some experience with developing Sonic the Hedgehog games.

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1 hour ago, BadBehavior said:

Theres, also, of course the danger that it falls victim to the Running the Asylum trope.

Ah yes.  There can be fans who want to put in material in the series that shouldn't be there like maybe sex or strong violence, which clashes with the family friendly image of the series (for the most part).

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  • 3 weeks later...

Kind of a stupid comparison.  Sega has made some crap but they have to deal with deadlines and mandates that the fangame teams don’t.

the community might be able to make a generations quality game but they’d need a lot of (unpaid) man hours.  I guess if a few teams shared assets/code that could help but there’s probably a good reason why that’s not happening.


also you’d need really good art assets and levels for a sense of speed, not just a good engine.  Anyone know how to make 6 different walk run cycles?  Cause I don’t!

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