Friday, 20 April 2018

Super Sonic Racing - Putting a Full Game Into Action! [Gaming]

There’s a lot of excitement and curiosity about this new racing game from SEGA. Unless a mis-direction, we know it to be a kart racer – but that’s it. As you’ve no doubt seen, I like talking ideas, with post three having recently been added of the Future of Mario Kart series. Much like ideas for a future Mario Kart game, I’m doing the same with this Sonic racer. Everything will be contained within this post, with levels, characters, and other ideas within. And no racing game is complete without the tracks to race on, so we’ll start there.

For this idea, there are eight cups of four tracks, but each cup is effectively part of an island. Each island is a hub that the tracks are accessed from, but also becomes a track itself for the final challenge. As for those islands and tracks, I have taken a level from every major Sonic game release and a number of spin-offs as well. Each section of the island [or biome as I’ll call them] is formed with two stage themes, and as such are named to easily identify those themes.

Green Coast – Green Hill / Emerald Coast / Leaf Forest / Windmill Isle
Ancient Sea – Aqua Road / Rusty Ruin / Wild Water Way / Coral Cave
Canyon City – Canyon Cruise / Megalo Station / Radical Train / Red Gate Bridge
Spooky Sands – Mirage Saloon / Mystic Mansion / Sandopolis / Skeleton Dome
Winter Forest – Iron Jungle / Press Garden / Frozen Factory / Botanic Base
Cyber Mine – Aquatic Mine / Cyber Track / Crystal Cave / Digital Dimension
Skybase – Wing Fortress / Quartz Quadrant / Altitude Limit / Egg Rocket
Galaxy Amusements – Tropical Resort / Radiant Emerald / Twinkle Park / Carnival Night

As for how this plays out – a championship starts each biome off, with the four tracks within being a cup. The winner of the cup is then challenged to a one-on-one race on each of the tracks with special challenges being active. Collecting the most rings or attacking the other racer the most, for example. Winning all four of those will net the player the ability to race the boss of the biome. Upon beating the boss, a Chaos Emerald is obtained. Once this has been done on all biomes, Galaxy Amusements is open for business. A championship still happens on Galaxy Amusements, but instead of facing off against one-on-ones on the tracks, all seven bosses will challenge the player to a race on the biome itself.
Of course, that’s just the adventure mode, but other modes I’m proposing include rivals [the one-on-one races, but with the player setting the conditions], riders [effectively the versus mode], mania [completely random settings which include racer selected, tracks chosen, and ability rules], rush [time trials], and advance [basically the same as a Grand Prix]. Yes, it’s using game names to represent the modes, but it’s just a neat little referencing.
As for the online and local multiplayer, there’s several options. For local, you can play any of the modes with two players, or riders and advance modes with four players. Yes, I’m saying you can do the adventure mode co-op. Well, competitively anyway, as the winner will be playing the one-on-ones. But the player who hasn’t got the chance to race gets to ghost, being either help or hinderance to the other player.
As for online, along with riders and rivals, there are some online-only modes available. Heroes mode groups racers into teams of three, with the objective being to have the most points by finishing in the higher positions. Whichever team gets the most points upon each race gets the point. The first team to three points wins, so it might be best in larger groups instead of randoms. Unleashed doubles the amount of racers on tracks, so instead of twelve it would be twenty-four.
Both local and online also get blast and forces. These two are more about battling than racing, with blast giving each racer three lives in a last-man-standing type battle. Forces has one player being an attacker whose job it is to turn other racers into attackers as well. If even one defender remains upon the completion of the three laps, the attackers lose.

Now, I mentioned ability rules. That’s because one idea I am proposing is to not use items in the way most other kart racers do. Instead, each track will be littered with rings to collect. These rings offer two abilities to use – attack or defend. Both abilities have three tiers. The first tier are basic abilities, such as activating a shield or using a quick burst of an element [water, fire, electric]. The second tier would be using a character’s abilities such as Sonic’s speed or Tails’ flight. The third tier would be off-limits to the top three as it includes speed boosts and invincibility bonuses. In one-on-one races, this third tier would be off-limits at all times. The reason I’m suggesting this? It makes use of a Sonic staple, with is rings to give power. Yes, usually all rings do is keeping the player alive, but think to when they’ve been currency to buy abilities or even Adventure 2’s multiplayer. That’s the thing I’m going for here.
As for the tracks themselves, I won’t say that all of them need to be point-to-point, but having different areas to go to each lap would make the tracks themselves stand out. Take Press Garden for example. The starting line would be within the factory, with the first lap being mostly outside. The second lap would be fully inside the factory, needing to avoid the pressing machines as they work. The third lap would take the racers up a level, through a window to get outside, then complete the circuit. It gives variety, especially for those like Windmill Isle or Tropical Resort where structures are similar. For those where stage themes change with levels – Quartz Quadrant being the obvious one – a point-to-point would effectively show them off. Unlike with Mario Kart, I’d expect the difference between the two styles of races to be 50/50. That doesn’t include the biome tracks, as they are adventure-exclusive.

Now is the fun part. Characters. Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Shadow, Rouge, and Omega. Amy, Cream, and Big. Espio, Vector, and Charmy. The Heroes Majority, as I call them. Since most of these have pretty much been the core cast [with only Cream and Big having dropped off] since Heroes released in 2003. Bringing those two back just for this game wouldn’t hurt or affect the cast list. In terms of other characters, seven are the bosses of the biomes. Silver is boss of Green Coast. Marine is the boss of Aquatic Sea. Bean is the boss of Canyon City. Fang is the boss of Spooky Sands. Bark is the boss of Winter Forest. Mighty is the boss of Cybermine. Ray is the boss of Skybase. Each boss is unlocked upon first completion of the adventure mode.
As for other characters, Eggman is a must, as is Metal Sonic. Orbot and Cubot take a vehicle for themselves, and repping the Hard Boiled Heavies is Heavy Rider – since the motobug it’s riding is already a vehicle. Zavok and Zik team up in a vehicle, with Jet, Storm, and Wave of the Babylon Rogues each getting a position in the list. That leaves Blaze, Tikal, and Chaos 0 to round out the list to thirty racers. If I wanted to push it a bit further, I’d put Infinite in the list, along with classic versions of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles. Zazz and Zor would be together, along with a group of Wisps. Pushing it even further, a Hero and Dark Chao together in the same vehicle. The GUN Commander. A group of the animal friends from the original games [so Ricky, Pocky, Flicky, Rocky, Cucky, Pecky, and Picky] within the same vehicle. And the one villain sure to get up everyone’s nerves if he’s does get in – Mephiles.

Overall, I can see this most of this being possible in some form. Of course, if this is a kart racer, then all of what I’ve just stated will work. If this is an on-foot racer, some changes need to be made. All the modes will stay the same, but the biomes and stages will be catered to make use of on foot racing mechanics. The roster would be reduced to allow such a set-up to work. The Heroes Majority would stay, as would the Babylon Rogues, Silver, Blaze, Marine, Mighty, Ray, Bean, Bark, and Fang. Metal Sonic would be the only villain to stay on. That’s twenty-four racers. Still a sizable amount. Abilities would still work the same, but each character would also fit into one of three categories that gave them extra field abilities. Speed, power, and fly. For the Heroes Majority it’s easy, as Heroes already put them into distinct categories for the team mechanic. Fitting the rest of the characters in proves easy for some, and hard for others.

Speed – Sonic / Shadow / Amy / Espio / Jet / Blaze / Metal Sonic / Mighty
Power – Knuckles / Omega / Big / Vector / Storm / Fang / Bark / Marine
Fly – Tails / Rouge / Cream / Charmy / Wave / Ray / Bean / Silver

The Babylon Rogues easily fit within the speed-power-fly dynamic of teams, having been designed that way thanks to Riders using the same classifications. Metal Sonic has been built to be as fast as Sonic, so choosing the speed class is easy. Mighty was designed from the concepts of Sonic – which included an armadillo – so he also gets into speed. Ray is a flying squirrel, so that choice is easy as well. Bark is a large polar bear, so gets into power. Bean is a bird, making that an easy choice as well. Fang is difficult to place, as are Marine and Silver. Silver has been shown to use his psychokinesis powers for flight, so he gets put into there. Marine has some sort of energy blast she can use with her fists, so power is the best place for her, and with Blaze being a speed character – the only position for Fang if we were to keep these classifications equal would be power. He uses weapons to attack, so it’s not a stretch to imagine him using explosives or the like.
A new mode is added just for this type of game. Colours restricts character choice to one of the three classes. It might seem a bit unfair to do so but keeps everyone on an even playing field. Per race, the class changes, meaning selecting a character per race is needed.

I’m hoping at least some ideas can make it into the actual game, but it should be a good one no matter what. Sumo Digital are hopefully behind it again, and really, the only way I can see the game being even further from Mario Kart than what I’ve suggested is if it was basically the Sonic version of Forza Horizon. When this finally gets its full reveal, it’s going to be interesting to see how it compares with Mario Kart.

Tuesday, 10 April 2018

Future of Mario Kart - Refreshing Additions of the Feature Base [Gaming]

Last month focused on the Grand Prix and ways to change it while keeping roughly the same focus. At the end of it, I said that I wouldn’t want Mario Kart to go the way of Crash Team Racing or Diddy Kong Racing and have a story mode with open hubs to explore. The reason for saying such a thing? Bringing back mission mode from the DS game.
The idea was to make use of the mechanics in a way that hadn’t been explored in a Mario Kart before – whether that be forcing the player to drive in reverse through a section of a track, one-on-one racing, or checkpoint races – or learning the player of mechanics such as item usage and power-sliding. There was even boss battles to complete. It was a varied mode that – like most features – never returned. Well, it inspired the online challenges in Mario Kart Wii, but wasn’t a fully accessible thing [and to me seemed less focused].
The return of it could see some of the missions revamped and new ones added. Bosses have a chance to be fleshed out more, and could pull inspiration from a wider selection of games than just Super Mario 64. Looking back to my first idea of refreshing the Grand Prix mode, the same style could be used here. Nine missions per level with a boss unlocked upon completion of all nine, with ten levels total – equalling 100 missions overall. Coin collecting and one-on-one racing would return, as would the item related ones. The powerslide missions would be changed to time-based considering the new mechanic for it, and would see how long in total you could hold them for. Checkpoint races would return, and underwater and gliding sections would allow for more diverse layouts with them. As for bosses, Odyssey seems a good inspiration for at least one with the Mechawiggler.

This post isn’t just to detail the new mission mode I want though, so into other features. Mario Kart TV has had a good start, replacing the regular replay feature with something a bit more interactive. However, it can be limiting in some respects. I’ve had some fantastic plays while on MK8 – including last second overtakes at the line – but due to how MKTV works in its tracking of racers sometimes will fail to show them off fully. While I’m not suggesting removing the simplicity from it, the case is there for a more complex system to be added. The system already tracks and records the full movement for all racers on the field, so allowing the player to manipulate the camera and get the shots they want wouldn’t be that difficult to have.
Another thing that could be given a touch more detail is the item toggle. Currently it works by selecting only a certain type of items – bananas only, shells only, frantic mode, no items – but by adding a true item toggle for friendly versus matches it allows for more varied races. Taking Mario Kart 8’s item selection, the Crazy 8 could be turned off, along with coins and all triple items. Taking it a step further, the item toggle could be similar to Super Smash Bros., where items can be set to appear with a higher or lower frequency than their normal rate. We all know the friendship-destroying blue shell is the bane of Mario Kart existence, but what if it was set to appear at a high rate of frequency?
Implementing a true Double Dash mode would be too much work unless it was to be the core of the game, and considering the mechanics of the series have been worked on since MKWii to be functional and solid, it wouldn’t be a good idea to throw all that away just to bring two-in-a-kart gameplay back. But in a way it’s already been implemented with 8 Deluxe, with the ability to hold two items at once. However, as tactical as having two items is when the coin has a very high chance of appearing, it is missing the one thing that made the way items were held in Double Dash even more tactful. Swapping between the two slots held the advantage of being able to remove items you didn’t need while holding onto the one you do. And just like in Double Dash, only double item boxes would give a second item if your main slot was filled. And as for item usage itself, I wouldn’t say no to removing the ability to trail items behind you like Double Dash did. Then again, the item mechanics of Double Dash were pretty unforgiving at times, such as having very little in the way of invincibility frames after being hit.

So far, all the features I’ve talked about have been bringing in old ones or expanding on previous ones. Adding new things to an established series such as Mario Kart can go either way. People grew to like the anti-gravity, and the glider and underwater sections have been accepted by many. One thing I can see being added are new ways to play outside regular racing and battle modes. Sure, pure arcade racing is what many people come to Mario Kart for, but outside of that is just battle mode [and no item racing if you want to add that]. A mission mode sort of caters to that already, but that’s nearly always a one racer deal. These modes keep all twelve racers on track. The only mode I’ll talk about is a score-based mode. Everything you do within this mode builds points as you race – whether that be attacking or defending with items, overtaking others, drifting, etc. – with the way to win being to have the most points at the end of the three laps. Negative effects such as driving the wrong way or falling off the track will reduce points, so it isn’t just a case of building them up with no consequence. New modes offer fun new ways to play without detracting from the main modes, and in a way offer new sorts of battles depending on how you look at it.

Next month I’ll be taking a break from Mario Kart to bring some Star Wars ideas. After all, it will be Star Wars month, so it gives me plenty of opportunity to cover that over the month. With E3 being the month after that, Future of Mario Kart will return in July. I’ll more than likely be covering characters and crossovers in that post, so keep an eye out for that in two months.

Monday, 2 April 2018

April '18 Monthly Update [Network]

I’ve said before that I’ve been targeting releasing Elemental Heroes on the 7th of this month to tie into the first release of Alternate Adventures of Halesowen last year. Slight delay means it won’t be out on that date, but April is still the targeted month. The preview of the second chapter that would have been up on the 30th will instead go up a week before release. As usual, a post will also be up once it does get released with hints as to my future novels. Except this time, I don’t need to give hints. The next one is already as good as announced if you’ve been with me since the beginning. Or at least November 2014. When the time comes, the full title reveal will be within the release post of Elemental Heroes.

Elsewhere within my posts, there’s going to be another Future of Mario Kart addition that talks about other features – whether bringing previous ones back or adding new. There’s also the case of the new Sonic Racing game that was teased at the Sonic SXSW panel. I’m glad that Mania is getting new content, and the short series is already off to a great start, but this racing game is the more curious thing. Rumours were flying everywhere about a racing game, and aside from confirming that it does exist, nothing else is known. I’m not touching on rumours, just my own speculation of what this game could be. The only thing that is known – unless it’s a misdirection – is that the game is a pure kart racer like the All-Stars Racing games. In the post about this game, I’ll be talking about both ways to make it different from Mario Kart should it be a pure kart racer, and ideas for an on-foot racer. Some of these ideas I’ve already mentioned over on SSMB, but there will be more.
Since there was a Nintendo Direct last month, it seems unlikely that another general Direct will be coming this month. However, series-specific Direct? I can see it happening, and one such series that could use the announcement is Pokémon. The Switch game is something a lot of fans are waiting for, and this game is sure to cause a stir. If an announcement happens, I’ll be sure to cover it.
As for video, another Battlefront one is on the way – once the new season of content comes. I’m waiting for that before doing the video, but there could very well be more than one Battlefront video. There might be a video from another game as well, but all that depends on Battlefront.