Wednesday, 22 February 2012

Sonic should have stuck to hating humanity and shut the hell up!

Have I gone out of my mind? The article title might suggest this but I do in fact have a fairly decent collection of points to make about it, although the question of my sanity still lingers for other reasons. This post concerns the character of Sonic the Hedgehog and his endless struggles against the tyrannous Dr. Eggbotnik Man, or whatever he is called...

... well it's this guy, anyway. He bad man.

If you look at the history of Sonic's character, it is hard to disagree since Sonic's inception in 1991 that things were going swimmingly until Sonic Adventure came out on the Sega Dreamcast in 1998. In the blue boy's defense, Sega's imminent demise as a console manufacturer did harm the reputation of Sonic Adventure but since that time, what has become to be known as "Modern Sonic" style games have come under significant fire from even the most ardent of Sonic fans long since the Dreamcast became nothing but a memory so the blame must lie within the games themselves.

Sonic wasn't to blame for the Dreamcast's demise. The blame must lie somewhere else...

Sure the transition from 2D to 3D wasn't fantastically graceful but the games have always been more than playable. You can still go fast, collect rings and emeralds and duke it out against ridiculous mechanical bosses just like old times and also play as a full cast of memorable characters... and Big the Cat. Although the merit of each of these features is debatable, one significant change to the Sonic games is the fictional universe within which it is set.

Back on the Sega Mega Drive (or Genesis in the US) the way we interpreted Sonic was as a champion of nature in an unspoiled paradise populated entirely by local flora and fauna. Then along comes the evil human character of Dr. Eggman, with all his machinery and selfish disregard for the beautiful environments he has come across as he sets about (sometimes literally) ripping the entire world apart in search of the fabled Chaos Emeralds. The emeralds themselves are integral to the balance of nature in Sonic's world which again shows Sonic as a sort of eco-wariror against the insatiable lust for power that his nemesis Dr. Eggman possesses. Back then, Sonic was fighting for the future of his homeworld, particularly so in Sonic CD, where the time travelling aspect of the game emphasised the damage that would be done if Dr. Eggman's robots and machines were to suck the life out of the world.

In Sonic CD, you can see how failure to stop Eggman's plans can ruin the world forever.
However, skip to the Sonic Adventure games and we find that humans are everywhere! spewing their pollution from their grand cities left right and center and Sonic is hounded by their police and military as well as having to stop Dr. Eggman getting up to no good, except now it seems that there is nothing left to save! What is Dr. Eggman even trying to do? Apart from being hellbent on killing Sonic, I can't see what else motivates the good doctor any more since he isn't trying to overthrow any governments or enslave humanity in any measurable way. The whole thing seems pointless. There's even a scene early on in Sonic Adventure 2 Battle where Doctor Eggman clearly admits he's just stealing the Master Emerald for no real reason.

Also, who thought it would be a good idea for Sonic to speak? The sonic narrative used to consist purely of Robotnik running away comically with his spindly little legs and of Knuckles trying to inconvenience Sonic in increasingly petty ways (such as turning off all the lights and punching your spaceship) and in my opinion it should have stayed that way. Speaking is human's business and Sonic never should have got involved. Don't believe me? Try this out for size. Goodbye.  

Monday, 20 February 2012

103% Interview with Matt Thorson (Matt Makes Games)

Hi gang. In this 103% Interview we talk to Matt Thorson, who also goes under his developer name Matt Makes Games. Usually working alone or with very small teams of friends, Matt has produced  an impressive array of games including An Untitled Story, RunMan and the Jumper series, which are all available to download from his website. He's also had success making some of the more playable games on the Adult Swim Arcade. Just check out  Matt Makes Games and fill your boots with some fun and then come back and read this interview once you've experienced some of his works...

One of the multiplayer maps in An Untitled Story.

103%: You've made some impressive games as a solo developer and sometimes involve a small team of people close to you. Nonetheless you're generally iron manning the entire development process. What drives you to make games?

MT: Just a desire to create I suppose. At this point it feels like if I wasn't making games I would be nothing.

103%: I've found that a lot of people who make games don't play them much. Does this apply to you? If not, what kind of games do you like to play? 

MT: Yeah I don't play nearly as many games as I did as a kid. I still play a lot of Team Fortress 2, and recently 100%'d Rayman Origins. Other than that I usually just play indie games here and there, because I'm curious where my peers are taking game design in a way that I'm not generally curious about big-budget games.

Rayman rules. Team Fortress 2 is also good.

103%: Will there ever be another epic adventure game like An Untitled Story?

MT: I love designing with exploration and an open world, but it's hard to control. As my games get more ambitious in scope and polish, it seems harder and harder to maintain an open-ended project like that. But on the other hand, I just read an article on Zelda 1 design that really got me thinking about it again.

103%: Making games for Adult Swim's website now are we? How did all that come about?

MT: Edmund McMillan had put me in contact with the Adult Swim guys when I was looking for a buyer for MoneySeize. They rejected it, but when I finished Give Up, Robot I had a feeling it would be more their style. They ended up being amazingly accommodating and we really saw eye-to-eye on everything for Give Up Robot 2 and Fat Wizard. As far as contract work goes, they're probably the ideal company for me to work with (when I'm okay with selling a game's IP).

Look me in the eye and tell me you don't want to play a game called Fat Wizard

103%: Your minimalist style is celebrated and distinctive.  If you were magically given a team of code ninjas to make games with you would you keep this style or would you want to try some more complex visual techniques. 

MT: Shit I don't even know. It's so hard to separate what I've done out of necessity from stylistic choices at this point, because I started so young with such a limited skill-set. If that situation arose, I'm sure it would take a lot of experimentation for me to figure out what I even want to do. My limitations are a huge part of my process.

103%: Do you have any game making heroes?

MT: If you make games you're passionate about, you're my hero.

103%: Simple question. Do you own any games consoles?

MT: Right now I have an XBox 360 and a Wii.

103%: Ogmo cameo'd in Super Meat Boy. Would you ever consider making a premium game or do you like keeping it free?

MT: Yeah I feel like I want to start selling my games straight to players, and build more of a direct conversation with them. And it seems like the business side of indie game development is shifting in a way that will allow me to do that.

Pictured: Ogmo a.k.a "Jumper"

103%: Are you working on anything at the moment?

MT: Two things! A big collaboration with a couple friends that I'm not sure I should talk about, and a solo platformer that's starting to feel like a follow-up to Jumper or MoneySeize in a lot of ways (although it is not a sequel).

103%: Finally. Who (or what) is Ogmo?

MT: I'm not entirely sure. I remember he was just a red square for the entire development of Jumper 1, then I added his legs/face after all the levels were finished. I guess that makes him either an extension of the level design or an afterthought. Both kind of fit his character.


And there we conclude another exciting edition of 103% Interviews. I'd like to thank Matt again for taking the time to answer these questions and invite all you readers to play some of his games once more.

If you have any real life human being gaming heroes (or villains!) that I should know about please let us know of their existence. Thanks.