Interviews// Bioware's Miles Holmes

Posted 24 Sep 2008 16:42 by
SPOnG: How challenging has it been to create this RPG? I don’t suppose Sonic the Hedgehog is a franchise that prides itself on its storyline.

Miles Holmes: You’re right, it doesn’t and it was a good challenge to be thrown my way – it’s the kind of thing a designer is always looking to get. To begin with we had to go and start doing a lot of research, despite the fact that I had played many Sonic games over the years in one form or another.

You start compiling as much information about the series as you can to support your ideas, and one thing that I found to be a bit surprising was just how much depth story-wise there actually is in the franchise and how many different characters there are… how many plot lines they had cooked up across the TV shows, comic books, and even the games.

As soon as you start seeing all these different stories it inspires you to try and add something to that, and bring a new exposition to some of the existing stories. There were a few stories in particular that really caught my eye and became inspired to add new angles to – I won’t say which ones, because that would give a bit too much away (smiles).

In terms of the arcade aspects that you’re used to seeing in Sonic… one thing we had to be honest with ourselves on from the start was that we were going to create a BioWare game with Sonic in it, and not a Sonic game with RPG elements. As soon as we had that straight in our heads – because frankly, we couldn’t make the other option, that’s not how our studio is set up nor where our talents lie – we were able to figure out how Sonic’s traits could be applied to a BioWare game.

So, here we were saying “Well, Sonic’s about speed and about moving through the worlds very quickly in new and exciting ways”, and from that we started to look at all the different things we could include in the game that might make it different to a standard BioWare project, that would pay homage to that kind of fast-paced action.

If you’re talking combat in that case, you’re talking about Sonic making more attacks and using power moves like the Whirlwind like he would in a standard Sonic game.

When you talk about exploration, we’re talking about how we broke the map up to require different character abilities so the characters are moving around the world like they would in a Sonic game. You may not be required to use your reflexes quite so much but you do see the characters in some respects moving true to what the fans are used to.

SPOnG: I think what a lot of fans can agree on is that Sonic games aren’t always about speed in the first place; the original Mega Drive games were more about level design, physics and character abilities. So, Sonic Chronicles isn’t so much a trade-off against the speed of Sonic but almost going back to what Sonic games were originally all about. Would you agree with that?

Miles Holmes: Yeah, one of the most influential games for us was actually Sonic Heroes. You’d be playing that game and you’d have Team Sonic or Team Rose and you’d actually see three characters working together as you were moving through the world. That was a good influence for us and that’s how we saw it.

I like to think when you’re picking your team in Chronicles it will be important that you’re picking characters that have abilities that will help you get through the map. It depends on what type of map you’re on.

And also in combat, I find that it’s almost a step up from previous Sonic games in that you’re seeing how they work as a team even more than you’ve ever seen them before. You know, with the Power moves that can feature up to four characters… it’s just really visually an exciting experience, even if it’s not completely action-based.

Having said that, we do have certain reflex-based parts like the real-time inputs that’s sort of like Elite Beat Agents… actually the reason the real-time inputs ended up in the game was because when you’re playing Sonic the Hedgehog, most of the time you’re kinda stressed.

The speed at which you’re going at means you have less time to react to things and your reflexes are being tested. We felt that even though it’s not an action game, to have those elements in there keeps you on your toes and doesn’t make you relaxed or complacent about your enemy. It does keep you involved the whole way.
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