Sonic Dash Interview With Hardlight's Chris Southall
Creating a runner with Sonic fans in mind.
Sega made its loyal supporters happy this month with the release of Sonic Dash for iPhone and iPad, a 3D endless runner starring everyone's favorite hedgehog. Both fast-paced and pretty, this engaging title immediately shot up the App Store charts while achieving critical acclaim from several outlets [read our Sonic Dash review]. On that note, we spoke to Sega's Vice President of Digital Business, Chris Olson, and developer Chris Southall from Hardlight to learn more about what it took to create Sonic's newest game.
It seems like endless running and Sonic is the perfect marriage. Considering the sheer number of these games on the App Store, why did it take Sega this long to make Sonic Dash?
[Chris Olson] Indeed, Sonic and running go hand-in-hand, so the concept is a bit of a no-brainer, but when dealing with our favorite little blue guy, we wanted to carefully consider our approach to ensure we were delivering the best consumer experience possible. We knew we wanted an internal studio to tackle the project and Hardlight was a natural choice, but we also wanted to make sure the team was able to further familiarize themselves with some of the finer points of working with mobile games. Hardlight started with Sonic Jump as a first project since it was a remake of a game created for feature phones, and was a nice opportunity for the team to get their feet wet with mobile. We saw good success with Sonic Jump and have poured our learning into creating Sonic Dash. Our team has been quite happy with the results so far.
We love Seaside Hill and Sky Sanctuary. Do you have plans to add more environments?
[Chris Southall] We're looking at all sorts of options for updates right now - there's definitely a balance to strike between keeping the game clean and simple versus offering a broader range of experience in the environments and depth of play. I think the short answer is that we want to make the experience retain lasting value for players, and part of that is in offering new content in updates, but it's too early to talk about specifics.
Conspicuous by its absence is the Android version. Will this game come to Google Play?
[Chris Southall] Unfortunately, we don't have any news to share at this time but can keep you updated if anything changes.
What helps set this game apart from, let's say, Temple Run 2?
[Chris Southall] While Sonic Dash definitely sits in the infinite runner genre on mobile, as well as in a subset of 3D like other titles including games like Temple Run, we included quite a few key features and updates that we felt made the experience unique. In addition to optimizing the graphics, we also worked to balance the accessibility of the game with a competitive edge that some comparative titles may not have. While Sonic as a brand is not only about speed, one key thing to note is that we had the opportunity to work directly with the director of Sonic Team to develop Sonic Dash in order to get this iconic experience just right. We also wanted to include more risk/reward aspects by giving players options, like having the choice to hold onto their rings to prevent an early death, or banking them in order to speed up an upgrade. We also included classic enemies in Sonic Dash, since that's a key aspect of all Sonic the Hedgehog games as well. The next question might be - where's Dr. Eggman? Suffice to say, now that the game is released, we're looking at various other additions in the future.
What were the challenges in bringing Sonic Dash to iPhone and iPad?
[Chris Southall] The main challenge really is a question of: how to make a title work well on the older devices while not working to a lowest common denominator. One of the key advantages to Apple's eco-system is that developers can design an App to really utilize all the features and technology in a device and OS - but more recently, especially with demanding 3D Apps, it's a challenge to have something that runs well on, say, an iPhone 4 - while using the latest iPad can offer.