Check out the Sonic Mania panel at 2017 to get all the details we couldn’t cover! Join host Aaron Webber with guests, Takashi Iizuka, Christian Whitehead, Tee Lopes, Tom Fry, and Simon Thomley as we get more details on what went into this game.Get the full scoop on the game, check out some wacky glitches and the fan Q&A it’s all here! Continue reading Sonic Mania: Behind the Scenes Panel from San Diego Comic Con
San Diego Comic Con played host to the Sonic Mania Development team yesterday, in a panel that included Takashi Iizuka, programmers Christian Whitehead and Simon Thomley, alongside lead artist Tom Fry, composer Tee Lopes and SEGA community manager Aaron Webber. Our man in the field Jason Berry was at the panel, and captured the events as they happened via The Sonic Stadium Twitter. Continue reading SDCC Sonic Mania Panel Roundup & Special Stage Reveal
During a recent interview with Playstation at E3, SEGA Community Manager Aaron Webber revealed that each character in Sonic Forces (Modern Sonic, Classic Sonic and “the Rookie”) will have their own unique soundtrack style. Continue reading Sonic Forces: Soundtrack Style Is Character Dependent
In more than ten years of writing for The Sonic Stadium, this article has by far consumed the most time, and required the most revisions. I guess this is because sometimes it’s hard to really convey what you mean when you’re in love, and I can say without a doubt that I am already in love with Sonic Mania. Continue reading The Spin: Sonic Maniacs In The Making
UPDATE: SEGA has reached out to us with their statement on the error, telling us that the issue has been resolved!
As part of a special promotion, Sonic CD is now free with ads (regularly priced at $2.99) from the App Store. For players who previously purchased Sonic CD, ads were mistakenly added to their game. This was not intended and the issue has now been resolved. Players will need to update to the latest version of Sonic CD (2.0.1) on the App Store. We apologize for the error.
Original story continues below.
SEGA showed off a very tongue-in-cheek infomercial two weeks ago for the Collector’s Edition of Sonic Mania, which starred familiar faces such as Aaron Webber and Kazuyuki Hoshino. Fans of old loved the nostalgic infomercial parody advert for parodying the original Sonic 2 commercial… which was also a parody of infomercials in itself. The rabbit hole gets so much more nauseating from there…
If you were interested in the filming process behind the Mania infomercial, then have no fear: Sonic’s got you covered. Check out the behind-the-scenes below!
Yesterday, I sat down in a quiet location of E3 with the master of memes himself, Aaron Webber. We discussed a little bit of Sonic Revolution, Sonic in Lego Dimensions, but mostly Sonic Boom: Fire and Ice. You’ll hear about improvements made due to the delay, the trailer cutscene, the length of the game and much, more! So please watch and enjoy. Continue reading E3 2016: Interview With Aaron Webber
It’s been almost one year Since the Sonic Boom franchise officially launched with both the games and T.V. series and we celebrate by looking back on the first season. Join Jason, GX and guest Evil Dr. Reef as we discuss not only Sonic Boom, but the latest Sonic news and make Stick puns. Mostly by accident.
After that, Jason gets a one hour, one-on-one interview with the man who made Sonic the coolest thing on Twitter, Sega’s own Aaron Webber! He talks about Sonic Boom, the upcoming Sonic Lost World and much more including some exclusive Sonic Boom info This one’s a must-listen!
The first thing he’s made sure to address is the game’s quality. “We’re putting a Big effort into improving the game based on feedback from last year!” Big puns aside, Webber has elaborated on what’s been improved.
First of all, the level design has been streamlined. Shattered Crystal’s stages were criticized for being too large and taking too much time, but in Fire and Ice the levels will allow for a faster experience. The collectibles that forces players to replay stages in order to progress have also been repurposed. Now, stages only need to be completed once and collectibles only serve to unlock “neat things” according to Webber.
The titular “fire and ice” powers are toggled on the fly with the shoulder buttons and affect how the player progresses through a level. Webber spoke in-depth about how these powers work on NeoGaf, which I’ve posted below:
Within the levels, you’ll find elemental blocks and interactable components that you can adjust depending on which of the elemental powers you have on. As you can see in the trailer, you can melt ice blocks with fire, or freeze water blocks with ice, etc. It’s all pretty simple early-on, and gets more complex as you progress.
The game’s music is being composed by none other than Richard Jacques, who’s best known within the Sonic community for his work on the Saturn version of Sonic 3D Blast, Sonic R, Sonic & All Stars Racing Transformed, and both of last year’s Sonic Boom games.
Finally, when asked whether or not the game might be ported to the Wii U, Webber said that there are currently no plans to release the game on any other platforms. So if you don’t have a 3DS, I’m afraid you’re out of luck!
Those are all the details Webber has revealed today, but be sure to stay tuned as we continue to bring you all the latest on Sonic Boom: Fire & Ice!
With the current relocation of SEGA of America’s HQ, we have in the past few days said goodbye to many long-standing employees of SoA, including Kellie Parker and Julian Mehlfeld from the Community Team.
One of the most vivid memories I have in dealing with the SEGA social team was during a trip out to Los Angeles for E3 and the very first Sonic Boom event back in 2011. What struck us was the dedication of the team whom over the course of the week seemed indefatigable, not only working tirelessly manning the gargantuan stand in the main convention centre, but who tangentially assembled another monster event down the street. I’m sure tired didn’t begin to describe their state during that week, yet I don’t think I remember a moment they didn’t all have huge beaming smiles across their faces, or were laughing at the end of the day with a well-earned beverage. Kellie has written a parting post on the SEGA blog where she has stated “we laughed hard, and we worked harder” – I can’t think of anything more appropriate to describe what I saw during my brief insight into the team’s operation.
This is but one of countless examples of what the community team were involved in, and similarly, I’m sure everyone who has had any interaction with the SoA social and community team over the past decade will agree that the hallmark has, and likely always will be, a penchant for excellence, and a drive to go far beyond the call of duty. An inordinate amount of what is has now become the face of the Sonic the Hedgehog community, both online and in real life, is in part of wholly due to the fantastic team that has been at SoA.
I’d love to be able to write down the extensive résumé of the team’s accomplishments to date, but I’d fear it would fail to be a comprehensive summary of the entirety of great things they have managed. Instead, we at TSS would like to invite you all to share the stories you might have of any memories of your interactions with the social team in the comments below.
While we sadly bid farewell to some, we welcome back others!
TSS would like to welcome back to the SoA fold Aaron Webber, who will be taking up the social media and community reins once more for our favourite hedgehog! Many of you will remember Aaron from his previous roles at SEGA, and as host of the Sonic Boom fan event from 2011 to 2014.
We wish all the community and social team members the very best in the future, and that they will always be a very special part of the Sonic the Hedgehog community.
To be honest, if it wasn’t for Barry’s Weekly five list on Segabits, I probably wouldn’t have been inspired to do my own Sonic List column. Seeing how people comment and react to my opinions gives me a great feeling of pride (and sometimes shame). The first time I did one of these columns and saw all the replies, good or bad, it was one of my favorite Sonic related moments. That’s what today’s column is all about. My favorite moments in Sonic-dom. Weather it’s from a game, a cartoon or just part of my life. These are the moments that I remember back with great fondness. Click below and enjoy! Continue reading The Sonic List: My favorite Sonic related moments
Pictures courtesy of Christian Gausin and 50 Rings Photography. This past Sunday was the first ever gathering of Sonic Revolution at the Holiday Inn at Buena Park. It’s the largest organized Sonic convention in the U.S. similar to “Summer of Sonic” in the UK, but still fairly small so far. We also are encouraging other Sonic fans across the U.S. to make their own Sonic conventions or at least a “meet and greet”. Sonic Revolution was founded by Shayne and Charles Edwards, Christian Gausin and Lidice Garcia. It started with them organizing “Sonic Boom U.S. West Chapter” (it was in response to Sonic Boom moving to St Louis) in September of 2013. During our little meet and greet, she asked if we’d like to be involved in building up the community for a full on Sonic convention and we were all in!
So how was it? It was great! We had some wonderful guests and a nice amount of attendees. Guests included gaming composer legend Tommy Tallarico, Archie Comics Evan Stanley, artists Elson Wong and Devin Taylor, my brother John and his girlfriend Debbie selling her hand-made jewelry, Darian Gonzalez with his very Sonic-like fan game “Bingo the Multiva” Chris Wilcots of fan film “Sonic Prologue” and rock band Serenity Seven. Not to mention the extra surprise of Sega’s Aaron Webber and Stephen Frost who stopped by to check out the event. We even had a real life hedgehog show up!
The schedule of events included a cosplay contest, a panel with Tommy Tallarico talking about his life and video game music (he confirmed that Michael Jackson was the composer on Sonic 3), two concerts by Serenity Seven, Chris Wilcots showed off two exclusive scenes from his upcoming fan film “Sonic Prologue”, Aaron Webber and Stephen Frost had a Q&A panel (or course someone shouted “When do we get Shenmue 3?”), a very tough trivia contest (hosted and prizes supplied by yours truly), a one minute art contest in which Evan and Elson had to draw Sticks auditioning for Sonic Boom, a gaming competition (with several consoles in the back showing off many Sonic games) and finally, a raffle for some cool prizes and one more concert by Serenity Seven. It was an absolute blast and I can’t wait until next year! Let’s get to the pics!
Our Gaming Tournament booth.
Tanner “Ogilvie” Bates showing off his display of Sonic merchandise for sale.
Our program guide.
Bishop’s son enjoying the show.
Now THAT’S a big Sonic.
Bishop Gahram’s Silver poster.
Rouge with what appears to be a piece of the Master emerald.
Blaze the Cat.
Aaron and Steven Arrive on the scene.
“Time to go super!”
Some classic Sonic merchandise.
Here, Aaron is showing off a fan’s concept art for a game idea Stephen had were Tails (who’s deathly allergic to bee’s in his official bio) is being chased by Charmy and the object of the game is to keep the pair apart.
Aaron and Stephen answering questions on stage.
Evan won the one minute art contest with her drawing of Sticks jugging. Elson was apparently drawing her on a surfboard,but didn’t quite get to finish.
Last weekend at the Sega Arcade across from the San Diego Comic Con, Alex finally get some time in front of the camera to interview Aaron Webber on all things Lost World, the quality of Sonic games as of late and tried desperately to get some hints at the third Sonic title. Where in previous years, Aaron would spend most of his time showing off a Sonic game in front of the Archie booth, this year he was all over the place promoting Lost World at the Archie booth, Sega Arcade, Gamespot bar and elsewhere so it was lucky for us to get a few minutes of his time last weekend.
P.S. Sorry about the little droplet of water on the lens. Didn’t notice until we uploaded the video.
Hot off of IGN, an extensive amount of gameplay footage of Sonic Lost World has surfaced along with some additional information about the game. That’s right, footage as in both Wii U and 3DS versions got previewed!
For the Wii U edition, “Support Mode” will see to that a second player will assist in destroying badniks and obstacles via a “Radio Controlled Gadget” invented by Tails, utilized through the Wii Remote.
For the 3DS version, SLW has Dimps once again returning in the handheld version development and will feature level design different to that of its home console counterpart. In addition, up to four players can race against one another in Versus Mode both locally and online. Connectability to the Wii U game has also been hinted with players to be able to share items.
Catch the commentary video of the Wii U version between Aaron Webber of SEGA of America and Rich George of IGN first, then the three 3DS videos, for gameplay footage of Windy Hill and Desert Ruin!
If you’re over at E3, be sure to try the demoes yourself!
UPDATE: Aaron Webber has confirmed via Twitter that there won’t be any new game announcements at the panel.
You may recall an article we published last month about Ken Pontac being listed on AOD 2013’s website as the writer for an upcoming Sonic the Hedgehog game. Well, we’ve now learned from AOD 2013’s Dominic Nguyen, that Ken will be there as part of a bigger official SEGA Sonic presence.
Aaron Webber, better known as RubyEclipse the associate brand manager for Sega, took to twitter a few hours ago and posted the following image and caption.
“Sonic’s Next Adventure Begins in… The Great State of Texas?”
The destination on the ticket and other photos uploaded suggest that he’s gone to Austin Texas. As for why? Well, unless you take the tweet literally, it could mean anything… Except there is one other significant thing which has happened…
Sega had a very strong presence at the San Diego Comic Con this year. Not only did they have a Sega Arcade down in the Gaslamp Quarter, but on the floor they had Captain America at the Marvel booth and two demo stations of Sonic Generations at the Archie Comics booth. Surprisingly (or maybe not), there was no 3DS Generations demo anywhere to be found.
At one of the demo stations, I found Sonic brand manager Aaron Webber. Trust me when I say there’s no more likable fella working at Sega. Look at him. He’s just so gosh darn huggable ya wanna stuff him in your Warner Bros Comic Con bag and take him home with “AHEM!” Anyway, as he manned the station, many people were checking out the demo. Mostly the modern version. In fact, one fan kept coming back every day and managed to beat Aaron’s record on modern by one second! When he had some time, we went to the back of the Archie booth and set up an interview. (I wanted to snuggle, but he refused. XD Kidding, kidding.)
Have you been having fun at the Con this weekend?
Aaron – Definitely. It’s been very, very busy. We’ve had tons of people playing Sonic Generations. There’s a lot of standing so your legs get a little tired, but beyond that, it’s good.
Classic Tails has recently been shown alongside of a modern model. Since we now have classic Sonic and classic Tails, will we bee seeing classic representations of other characters?
Aaron – For the most part, classic Sonic and classic Tails are the only one’s you’re gonna see. There’s not much I can go into after that but stay tuned. Classic Sonic and Classic Tails fans should be pleased.
Along with Classic Tails, the Chemical Plant was shown. Along with Metal Sonic chasing Classic in what looks like Stardust Speedway from Sonic CD. Will we see other surprises like this? Will boss fights be on separate stages?
Aaron – You mean will the boss fights be taking place in their original settings? That’s a very good question. In the majority of cases, you should probably expect that. The other question would be “What are those other bosses?” and you’re just gonna have to wait on that.
Now, the classic demo was recently released and…..I’m sure you’re aware was then hacked into and some assets were leaked. I’m not gonna go into that much as I’m sure you don’t wanna go into that yourself. However, one of the things shown was that there are several missions in each act. One of them appears to be a “Co-op” mission. We know that as you finish levels, you free your friends and the world opens up more. Are Sonic’s friends playable in the game once they’re unlocked or after the game’s finished?
Aaron – Ah the leak. I really wish that hadn’t been published. Several of those assets are from an older build and will not be in the final game. It’s a misrepresentation. As we stated in the beginning, only classic and modern Sonic are playable. You will see many of Sonic’s friends in the game but you will not play as them.
I noticed the demo released to the public felt a tiny bit different to the one at E3. Is this an older build of the game?
Aaron – Actually, the download is a more current build.
There have been some criticisms of the demo from different forums. Mainly in his short rolling and his need for spindashing to gain enough speed for some loops. Is there a reason for classic Sonic’s heaver pull on gravity? (I mean, he is chubbier.)
Aaron – Well, there’s always a reason. I’m sure the question on everyone’s mind is A.) Will it change? and B.) Why was it done? The team in Japan was working to emulate the physics of the original as close as possible. It’s not 1 to 1 or 100% ratio, but more like 90-95% in looking at the original and looking at Generations.
Well, they are trying to emulate classic Sonic physics on an engine built originally for Sonic Unleashed or Modern Sonic if you will.
Aaron – Yes, but improved upon as well. That’s kind of the key in that it’s not 100% but very close. In this case I know that the rolling for example, I think is good feedback. I’ve already sent that back to Sonic Team. But a key element like rolling for example, to change that drastically now would mean that they would have to redesign and test every single level, every single move to make sure this change in the roll doesn’t break something. Like maybe he’s supposed to go off this ramp in a certain way and he ends up overshooting it greatly. In this late of the stage in development, a change that small could break the whole game. Like taking one brick from the bottom of a wall you’re building, it could make the whole foundation crumble.
That’s like when someone on Neogaf, they posted a video in which they changed the value by 1 and it changed the roll dramatically, but even he said it would probably break the game on other levels.
Aaron – Exactly. When you see something like that, it looks so simple to fix, but it’s not so easy. The long and the short of it is, it’s still good feedback. Just like with Sonic 4. People said “Sega didn’t listen! They didn’t care!” But we did listen and we do care and now look at Generations. We’re improving step by step by step. It’s very difficult to go from 0-100 and get everything perfect on the first go, but we are doing our absolute best to do right by the fans and make everything the best we can, and I hope the demo – which I think is really, really solid even with the rolling – is something they’re enjoying.
I think so. I know this has gotten a much more positive response on forums than Sonic 4 had and Sonic 4 still got pretty good review scores. One thing I’ve noticed since E3, is that there are certain spots in the demo that have what I would call “scripted physics”. For instance, in the first corkscrew tunnel, Sonic instantly goes into a high-speed spindash when getting near it whereas the other tunnels have a rock in front that Sonic has to bust with a spindash to get through it. Also, there’s the wooden bridge with a loop. Get close enough and Sonic takes over himself and runs through it with no input from the player. Are there reasons why these particular areas are programmed like this or will this be fixed in the final version?
Aaron – Well, even in Sonic 1 when you would go through those tunnels, it would give you an automatic speed boost even if you went through them backwards. So even if you went uphill, it would give you that speed boost. What’s interesting here is from what I’ve played around with in the demo is that if you go in as a spin, it will push you though the tunnel, but if you run full speed it won’t force you though or force you into a spindash which is interesting, so I’d say these spots are kinda half-scripted. It’s going to check to see if you are in ball form before shooting you through which is kind of cool. You’ll see some of that stuff in the game, but not a lot. I wouldn’t use the term “scripted” which is kind of a derogative term used like “scripted vs. non-scripted” in some Sonic games in the sense that some scripted events are cool and dynamic, but mostly you have control over.
I won’t say much about the hack, but one of the cool things from it, was that someone put modern Sonic in the classic level and vice versa and it was actually pretty cool and looked playable. Especially modern Sonic. Is that something that Sonic Team would look into adding?
Aaron – (Laughs) That’s definitely something I couldn’t answer. That would be up to the dev team in Japan. There’s no intention to my knowledge of flip-flopping them into each other’s stages. Admittedly, the “what-if” scenarios are pretty neat.
In the classic Sonic games, you would have to press down and rapidly tap jump to make Sonic spindash. In Generations, it can be done the old fashioned way, or the simpler “hold X” style. But that style can be done even when running full speed or on sharp inclines. Is there a reasoning behind that?
Aaron – I couldn’t give you the exact reasoning as that would be up to the dev team. I can tell you it makes it a lot simpler and in many ways that’s a good thing. That said I’m sure a lot of the purists might think that it makes it too easy. I think this is something where the dev team is trying to please both groups which is why the other way is optional. In fact, many of the kids playing Generations here at Comic Con were unfamiliar with the spindash and were getting stuck. I told them to hold X for a second and that’s simple and they got that quickly. But at the same time, you want to appease the retro fans. Which is why down and A is also in there. Personally, I get both sides. I kind of like what they’ve done here to make it easier to play for kids who’ve never played a classic Sonic game before. Although I did have one eight year old kid who told me Sonic CD was his favorite game. I was flabbergasted and told him: “Kid, you’re awesome!”
(Laughs) Awesome. I’ve noticed, not so much in modern, but in classic mode the environments are so lush and so detailed that Sonic can get lost in them. There’s one time where I’m hitting a spring and collecting gold rings and I see a platform to right of me that makes it look like I can land on it, but I fall right through because it’s just background detail. Is there a way for them to make it so Sonic pops out a little, or possibly fade the background a bit?
Aaron – If you turn the 3D option on and you have a 3D TV, Sonic will definitely pop out. Alternatively, I know exactly the spot you’re talking about as I’ve made that same mistake myself. Beyond that, there’s not too many spots where that happens. Most backgrounds are either easy to recognize as background or deep in the back. It’s a very minor thing and I wouldn’t worry too much about it
Now in the case of the 3DS, is there much you can tell us of the streetpass feature?
Aaron – There’s not too much I can say about the 3DS version in that regard. 3DS has some very cool stuff and is very unique. We went the idea that we can either do a lazy port or build something from the ground up that’s very cool and very unique and we went with the latter. I can’t tell you much right now, but stay tuned in the near future as we will have a lot of info going out about the 3DS version as we go forward.
What excites you most about Sonic Generations?
Aaron – What excites me most? At first it was just classic Sonic being there. Now, it’s that we get to introduce Sonic to two very distinct generations of people at the same time. We get the younger fans who love modern Sonic and we get to introduce them to classic Sonic and show them why so many of us older fans adore the Genesis games. But likewise, we get to pull in the older fans who might not have played a Sonic game in a long time. I’ve had some people come up to me who’ve said “I’ve not played a Sonic game in 15 years, but this looks amazing!” Every time I hear that (and it’s happened like, 150 times) it’s such a nice feeling that this is finally the game we can show that Sonic is really back. While Colors and Sonic 4 did a good job of bringing us back, but Generations is the one to unite both fans. While we may not always make 100% of both Sonic fans happy all of the time, but I’m betting the majority will be very pleased with this game.
One final question, I know Takashi Iizuka has stated that he feels Sonic Adventure on is the main cannon and that the current Chaotix are not the same ones from 32X Chaotix and he doesn’t seem to want to use any of the real old characters. While we do have poster in City Escape of some of the forgotten characters, one of those being Nack/Fang. There’s a poll on First Four Figures to see is there is enough interest to do a Fang statue. If this does come to fruition, do you see a possibility of Sonic Team bring him back in the future?
Aaron – That’s a good question, but one I couldn’t decide myself. We could make the case for that if enough fans ask for him. (But PLEASE don’t spam our Facebook. PLEASE! My bosses will not be happy.) There are much better ways to get people to recognize a fan following. I mean look at NiGHTS in SASASR. The entire campaign that Trippi and Digi (Sorry if I’m not getting the names right) did which was wonderful. So, if you really want to see Nack there’s always hope. It’s not my decision of course so I can’t answer the question completely. Make the case for it. Try to rally support. That helps. But, Sonic is so out there anyway, with so many cannons and universes. I mean, we are standing in the Archie booth right now. But, if you really want it, I say don’t give up, rally support around it and who knows?
Thank you so much Aaron. It’s been a great interview.
Aaron – Thank you.
NEW COMMENT: On the last day, I was pretty much done with Comic Con and just hung out with Aaron for a bit at the Archie booth. I played the modern demo some more and watched as some really skilled players went back and fourth on the game. They were kind enough to let others play. I was amazed at one player’s skill. Ends up he’d been hanging out for quite awhile. Aaron has decided to leave one final comment relating to this.
Aaron – One of the things we’ve had a lot of fun with here at SDCC is speed running – for the few unfamiliar with the term, it just means getting to the end of the stage as fast as you can.
Trying to get as fast a time as possible is surprisingly addicting – so much so that at least 20 people have returned to our booth every single day to try and beat their previous times. One guy named Sergio literally spent three days here at the Generations console perfecting his time, teaching others how to complete it faster, and waiting to jump on again when the lines died down. As a result, he even managed to match my best time for the level!
So to anyone reading, here’s a little challenge when the game finally comes out: Can you beat 1 Minute, 49 seconds as Modern Sonic in Green Hill Zone? As it stands – and the level may still change slightly – that’s the fastest legitimate time the world has seen thus far. I’m most excited to see what tricks and strategies fans will use to complete even faster runs!
(Edited for typos.)
NOTE: Since some of these questions came from Segabits, this interview will be published both on Sonic Stadium and Segabits simultaneously.
Canadian game site Console Creatures got associate brand manager Aaron Webber at E3 to sit down and play through the Sonic Generations demo. He went through both classic and modern and showed some never before seen paths and details. Modern almost seemed like a totally different level through Aaron’s run. Check it out.
Aaron Webber was recently on Gamespot’s Daily Demo. He discussed Sonic Generations for awhile and also talked about the upcoming Sonic Boom event on June 8th at Club Nokia. Some hints of what to be expected include “Musical Guests” and “stars from Sonic’s history”.
As always we’ll keep you informed as more details of this event emerge.
SEGA in recent years have had greater invested interest in the opinions and the involvement of the Sonic the Hedgehog fan community with many aspects to the franchise. One of their greatest assests are the people who work as the community teams, and liase with the fans; this line of communication has definitely had a hand in shaping the face of games over the past half decade.
Three years ago a new member joined the crew at SEGA of America, appearing frequently on the SEGA blogs and known only as RubyEclipse. Today, after many Free Stuff Fridays and blogs (and the occasional festive fanmail reading video), Aaron Webber has become one of the most well-known community members – and with good reason. Aaron has struck a fantastic balance over three years on the community team with SEGA, between being a professional, effective representative and ambassador for SEGA, as well as being a Sonic the Hedgehog fan himself. Aaron’s enthusiasm for his work along with the rest of his team has shone through and has remained unwavered in his time at SoA.
It will therefore sadden many of you to hear that Aaron has announced he will be departing the community team, however I’m sure you will all join us in congratulating Aaron in his promotion to Associate Brand Manager at SoA. We wish him all the best in managing his first assignment of the highly anticipated Sonic Generations (and we hope we will still see him pop up occasionally on FSF vids too!). You can read his final heartfelt blog on the SEGA blogs site.
I’d like to end on my favourite Webber moments from the last few years – if you haven’t seen these before…enjoy!
Friday in San Francisco was one of my favorite days of 2010. Considering all that has been happening on my end, that’s saying something (I graduated college this year, for starters). I’ve wanted to go to a SEGA sponsored event since I was a little kid, but never got the opportunity. Friday was the day.
I was wondering what kind of mental shape I’d be in going into this weekend. This past week, I’ve been in 2 cities on independent gigs and the long hours of work and flight time started to wear on me. Yeah, you sit on a chair in the sky for hours on end, but it still takes a lot out of you. San Francisco would be my third city of a four city tour. Frustrations were compounded when my flight was delayed six hours for maintenance. I could have driven from L.A. to San Francisco in that time. To kill it off, I beat Sonic CD 100% by skipping the special stages and instead destroyed every Roboticizer. I had never done that before and it ate up so much time. That, and I was talking to Kev and Aaron via Twitter every so often.
Luckily, the parent company of U.S. Airways also owns United Airlines and they transferred me to a 2:19 PM flight. An hour later, I was in San Francisco.
San Francisco is a beautiful place and I immediately felt more relaxed when gazing upon the cityscape. Upon arriving at the Holiday Inn, the bell boy, Mike, welcomed me and got me squared away. I changed, showered and got my tech ready for the event. Mike waved down a cab and offered me some delicious gum. We traded phone numbers and took me to a local diner for breakfast Saturday morning. He is one cool dude.
Once the elevator doors opened on the 4th floor of the building, I was instantly greeted by a massive Sonic statue and a pair of gaming kiosks. I was beaming and I felt stupid standing by myself away from the groups of people smiling. People were checking in and Aaron Webber, SOA’s Community Manager, was flying in and out, making sure everything was ready. He grouped us all together and put us in a conference room for us to mingle before we got started.
Aaron walked back in a few minutes later to greet us and lay down the itinerary for the night. Dinner was provided, a hearty helping of gourmet sandwiches and Coke products. They were tasty as hell. Delicious! Then, I met the only person I “knew” (quotes for the fact that I only know him through the Internet) at the event, Moonshadow Caz (real name Skyler). He came in character as Ben Kalough, PR from SEGA of Antarctica. What I thought was great is that, right away, we talked to each other like we’ve been real life buds for years, continuing our normal discourse from the forums and chat rooms. It definitely brought my comfort level up.
In this video: Ben Kalough reviews Sonic 4. Warning: sarcasm.
While eating, Aaron and SEGA’s customer service rep Robert Miles handed out PSPs and copies of Valkyria Chronicles and Phantasy Star Portable 2 to those who didn’t have any. I have never touched a PSP or played a Valkyria/PSO game, so tonight would be another first. My PSP was glitter pink and therefore totally ruled all other PSPs. Hannah Montana stickers on the back would have been the icing on the cake.
I continued to screw around with these games when, all of a sudden, Ken Balough, Sonic 4’s Brand Manger, walked into the room. He is a huge fan of Skyler’s Ben Kalough videos. They shook hands, shared some laughs and posed for some pictures. Aaron asked Skyler what he thought of that moment and replied, “You know that one part in Chrono Trigger where time stops?” “Yeah, that one time,” said Aaron. “It was like that.” Truly the encounter as we imagined it.
Ben Kalough and I interviewed the guests during the PSP tournaments, asking them where they were from, why they were here, what they thought so far and assorted stupid, obvious-troll questions for kicks (“So, sir, what do you think of Sonic’s green eyes?”) that were met with laughter. For real… Skyler is a funny dude.
The PSP tournaments continued and I basically gave up on learning how to play. I was having illegal amounts of fun talking to everybody and getting their games captured on film. Networking with people is a valuable skill and it’s something I enjoy doing (it’s also how I survive in my industry). It was also cool to see strangers getting together to duke it out in the same room.
(Sweet side-note: everybody got to keep their copies of Valkyria Chronicles and Phantasy Star Portable 2.)
Ken and I started talking for a while during the tournaments as well. I was asking him about his job, what difficulties he has had and SEGA’s new marketing strategy for Sonic, where they appeal to each side of the fanbase. We both felt that it was about time SEGA recognized the generational gap that was created with Sonic Adventure and, hopefully, down the road, SEGA is able to capitalize on it.
We gathered back in the conference room, a white board now sitting at the front. It was time for the Sonic 4: Episode 1 feedback session. Aaron set the stage for criticism when he asked everybody in the room, which was about 50-60 people, if they liked the game. One guy kind-of raised his hand. That’s it. “Fair enough,” said Aaron with a smile.
The first thing he wrote on the board, to our chuckles, was “physics.” Were you expecting something else? (If you did, I’m disappointed in you.) The discussion about the game engine went for about 10-12 minutes, about half of the time allotted for the meeting. We talked about level design, level-specific gimmicks, bottomless pits, homing attack, music… everything, really. All the guys from SOA were awesome and open to it.
Feedback was mostly coming from about five people with a few other people throwing in their two cents. There was a guy in one back corner of the room, a guy near the front and the “Sonic Retro Contingent” in the back corner, consisting of myself, Skyler and Sammybeany (Carl). I don’t know if people were shy or hadn’t played the game, but that’s just how it was. Us Retro dudes had the most to say (again, what did you expect?) and I thought everything was articulated by everybody involved exceedingly well and, in Carl’s case, passionate. People are riding Carl like a rodeo show right now for his comments on the event, but there were people who were shaking his hand and liking what he had said back there. If he was being unruly, he would have been tossed. If you weren’t there to see him, please shut up. That’s how he feels, so let him feel it. He’s a fun guy to hang out with.
I, too, would have liked to see the feedback session go on a bit longer. There’s not much left to say about the game, but we did spill over the allotted time a few minutes with more on the table, so I think another half hour would have been beneficial. With the meeting’s brevity and all of what we said already online in the form of reviews and forum topics, I prepared myself for being as concise as possible. I managed to touch base on everything with succinct points. I had so much time to think about what I was going to say in the airport and on the plane. A lot of people expected me to go in guns-a-blazing and tear the house down without restraint, like it were the old Slingerland’s Corner on The Sonic Show. Well, that’d be really stupid. I know when I’m putting on a show and when I’m not. That’s not the approach you take into an atmosphere like this one.
For those 30 minutes, being there made me feel like I was a part of the game development. In the grand scheme, I was an extremely small part, but a part nonetheless. If anybody knows of my fangaming exploits, then you know that I’m big into game creation in my spare time, especially the classic Sonic experience. The fangaming/ROM hacking communities were (and I guess, depending on your perception of Sonic 4, you could say still are) the only place keeping that experience alive. Now that SEGA is back into it, I want them to be as successful with it as possible, because, as success with the Retro-Sonic, Sonic XG, Sonic Nexus and Sonic Fan Remix demos have illustrated (Ken did mention SFR during the meeting), it’s a formula that is still wildly appealing with a fanbase all its own. A fanbase that they deeply want back.
My reasoning behind getting into fangaming mid-way through the last decade and creating a game with a high level of authenticity and professionalism was because SEGA stopped making those games and has struggled with Sonic since then. It was something I wanted to see again. I sought to impart any knowledge that I could to help the next episode be something that would take that monkey off my back to see that 2D Sonic magic return full-time. Honestly, when I get time (which isn’t often anymore with my constant traveling), it has been tough to fangame with Sonic 4 out there.
Interaction with people was another plus. I’m not sure if you have noticed this trend in the last couple of years, but a fair share of the community are batshit crazy on negative opinions over anything Sonic-related. They sniff it out, they find it and they bitch in comment boxes about how the author is a “retrofag,” “unpleaseable,” or how he’s “raging”/bitching himself, regardless of how well he/she presents his/her points.
At this meeting, everybody was chill, nobody raised their voice to an intolerable volume or tone and nobody involved with the game got defensive about anything said. It was like the exact opposite of reading the comment boxes at any of the fansites. Svend refers to it as the “Summer of Sonic Effect.” I wish more people would act more like everybody did at the feedback session on the forums. It’d make all of our jobs as writers and moderators more tolerable and we’d all have a better time. It was so refreshing to talk about this game in a group and not be attacked day and night for it. Binky and his armchair were done proud.
In short, to close this section out, the feedback session was just what has been said over and over the past few months, but I think it was great for SEGA to see those reactions coming from actual mouths. How a person presents a point and illustrates it for the other helps the validity of said point, I believe. Having that instant discourse, as opposed to delayed over a forum or messages, between developers (in this case, brand manager) and players helps, too.
With the feedback session winding down, Aaron started wheeling out boxes of prizes for a raffle. The champions of the PSP tournaments were literally crowned before people walked away with a Sonic & SEGA All-Stars Racing slot car game, a clock, a variety of figurines or posters. Skyler actually walked away with the biggest prize of the night. As was the status quo for the evening, everybody was ogling while I stood there not knowing a thing about it. It was a large Valkyria Chronicles figure that has not been released yet and it was more expensive than the game itself to boot! I didn’t win anything, but at least I got a goodie-bag. I didn’t really care. I was just happy to be there. I wouldn’t know how to get it back home anyway because I only came with carry-ons!
With the event officially over, people stuck around and talked to each other for about another half hour or so. I was talking to Robert, Ken, Julian, Kellie, Kareem and Aaron and I exchanged business cards or contact info with most of them. Ken then took Skyler, Carl and I to his cubicle where we took pictures of Ben Kalough at work. We chatted some more on a few things and Skyler and Carl said their goodbyes.
I stuck around the latest and, as a result, was without the free shuttle service back to the hotel or a cab. Ken gave me a ride back to the Holiday Inn and that was super cool of him. I know that I’ve already left you a thank you voicemail but I just want to reiterate my thanks to you, Ken, for the lift and the opportunity to speak with you at length. Everybody else at SOA was great, too. You guys are respectful, extraordinarily friendly, down-to-Earth people. Guests, including myself, made jokes at SEGA’s expense in front of everybody (hell, Ben Kalough was a walking punch-line) and you laughed with us. You guys are the kind of people I enjoy being around.
It also helped that we all had a bond between us going into Friday. I don’t think I have to mention specifically what that bond is, but it involves an angry young man in a dark corner of the Sonic community. We’re all card-carrying “Club” members. 😉
SEGA is a much different company than they have been over the past decade. Not only do they open their doors to the public, but they’re in our fan forums, providing us with some exclusive content and exposure and understand the professionalism and perspective that is necessary at their position. That includes dealing with the opinions and occasional mockery from people like me and then saying, “Hey, you wanna go get a beer sometime?” Beer rules. SOA rules.
Also, thank you to all the guests. All of you were really cool and thanks again for talking to the camera for me.
To the people that made my trip possible: thank you. Nuckles87 paid for my trip. How cool of him is that? Very. Very effing cool. Also, it was Jason’s idea to send me there and represent this site. I thank him for his vote of confidence in me to voice my opinion on Sonic 4. Finally, thanks to a pair Food Network producers who re-scheduled Friday into a B-roll day so that they could cut their sound guy loose to go talk about blue hedgehog games.
My adventure in San Francisco was awesome and I hope they hold another event soon. I will have contests up this week because I have a lot of SEGA swag to give away, ranging from buttons to t-shirts. Stay tuned for that, as well as a video of the whole community event on The Sonic Show.
To those who were following me on Twitter, I was so wrapped up in the event (and filming it) that I forgot to tweet more. I only took a handful of photos. I had a laptop and a webcam there, too, so that I could live-stream the meeting, but the stream quality was so piss-poor that it wasn’t worth the trouble. So, it’s all in the video!
I really want to go to Summer of Sonic now. After meeting some people here, I can only imagine that SoS would be absolutely insane. Svend and I would brofist so hard, we’d make Big Ben run backwards.
If any Stadium readers in Toronto are free, I’ve got some gigs there starting next Saturday. We’re playing pond hockey in Sonic Colors hats. That is all.
(Skyler is all up in this article. If you want to read his report, check it out here.)
SEGA’s Aaron Webber aka RubyEclipse appeared in CNET’s latest episode of preGame yesterday, where he talks about Sonic the Hedgehog 4: Episode 1, as well as giving a demonstration of Casino Street Zone and Mad Gear Zone. Webber confirms what we all assumed, that the new playing card features in Casino Street Zone are from a refurbished Act 2 and that it will be an exclusive stage to the console versions. We can only guess that the iPhone/iPod Touch/iPad version will still contain the pinball score attack stage seen in the leaked version of the game. Both zones look to incorporate plenty of careful platforming and not just speed, which should make a lot of fans happy. The recently seen map screen is shown again here, but this time it has a warp-hole above the island, which we assume is the E.G.G. Station Zone, in which the final battle with Dr.Eggman takes place.
To view the video, head over to CNET.
Thanks to Woun at the SSMB for the heads-up!
Aaron Webber joined the folks over at SEGA Addicts for a podcast and a Sonic 4 discussion started amongst conversation about SEGA’s other upcoming titles, like Valkyria Chronicles. He fielded a lot of e-mail questions regarding the game and took on two of them that many people are wanting to hear more about: difficulty and the homing attack.
When asked about difficulty, Webber responded that Sonic 4‘s difficulty will be on par with the three games that came before it. Like in any of those games, your tropical/green zone will be the easiest and ramp up from there. On the bosses, Webber commented, “Some of the boss battles near the end gave me a real challenge and I died quite a few times.” Depending on how easy or hard you thought the original trilogy to be, that could go either way.
When the homing attack was brought into the discussion, Aaron responded to the move’s critics, whom have labeled it an “instant win button.” As one of those critics, after noticing how piss-easy boss battles and gameplay were due to the move, I was happy to hear Webber discuss detractors from spamming it. Webber details that “when you do a homing attack and hit a target, there is a quick moment afterward when you have no control. It’s during that instance when could get hit.” He provided an example from the first Eggman boss battle in Splash Hill, where using the homing attack to hit Eggman’s ship will leave you momentarily exposed to the wrecking ball.
For all of this information and more, check out the entirety of the SEGA Addict podcast.
If you’re a fan of SEGA or Sonic the Hedgehog on Facebook, you might have seen the pics of Aaron Webber’s desk. Now, there is a video! Aaron, the community manager for SEGA of America, went on a 3-week vacation and returned to find that his cubicle was turned into Green Hill Zone:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=osrUYdOv8-w
I talked to Aaron yesterday and we determined that this prank really isn’t a prank. It’s too cool to be a prank. Who doesn’t want their desk to be a fully functioning Green Hill Zone? Aaron said that he might leave his desk in Green Hill form for a while. Check the gallery below for the pics uploaded earlier this week.