TSS@E3 – Interview With Matt Kraemer (Sonic Boom 3DS)

[youtube width=”600″ height=”340″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BUZ1KtEE_Q8[/youtube]

Sometimes when working for two sites at an event, it’s easy to get your wires crossed. In this case, I refer to myself as Shigs from Segabits after Alex informed me that this interview was meant for Sonic Stadium. Oops!

Anyway, this is my interview with Lead level designer from Sanzaru Games, Matt Kraemer. Matt was incredibly friendly and I gotta admit, Sonic Boom:Shattered Crystal (3DS) was by far my favorite of the two Sonic Boom games. Here, we discuss collectibles, second goals, Streetpass features and more! So why are you still reading this? Press play!

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TSS@E3 – Interview With Stephen Frost

[youtube width=”600″ height=”355″]https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EU3neKGNktA[/youtube]

While on the E3 show floor, I got a chance to interview the producer on Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, Stephen Frost. We talked about the game, some fans concerns and Sticks. I was originally going to do a transcript of the interview, but it’s 16 minutes long and that’s a lot to transcribe and it’s been a long week and I’m lazy. Besides, this way you get to hear it straight from the man himself and reading is overrated anyway. Enjoy!

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Sonic Stadium Interview: Sega’s Stephen Frost

Sonic Boom Logo

Here it is! The interview I promised and gathered some fan questions for! I’d like give huge thanks to Stephen Frost and Kellie Parker for working with me and answering the questions. 🙂

And now, let’s get started!

Hero of Legend: So Stephen Frost, as I already listened to the SEGABits interview just published about you, you’ve already said a lot about yourself, but just for readers here who haven’t heard that interview (and should right now!), would you like to give a brief introduction about yourself and talk about past experiences and such? I’d also like to hear about you as well Kellie Parker. I haven’t heard much about you, so take this opportunity to talk about yourself and your experiences at and prior to Sega.

Stephen Frost: Well, for those who haven’t heard about me, and I assume that most have not; I’ve been a producer at SEGA for almost eight years now. I’ve worked on a variety of titles ranging from the Sega Genesis Collection to Universe at War to some of the Marvel titles and Shinobi on 3DS.

I started in game development at a studio called Dynamix in Eugene, Oregon and eventually moved to California to work at Imagine Media. There, as Webmaster, I helped to build the foundation of what would eventually become The Imagine Games Network (IGN) before eventually jumping over to launch PSM: 100% Independent PlayStation Magazine.

Around seven years later, the desire to return to game development was too strong, so I jumped at the chance to join the team at Electronic Arts, where I worked on such titles as Armies of Exigo, Ty the Tasmanian Tiger 2 and Oddworld: Stranger’s Wrath. From there, I had a brief stint at an Activision studio (Z-Axis), working on some Marvel superhero properties before hanging my production hat at my current home at SEGA, where I’m now fully focused on Sonic Boom.

Kellie Parker: I’ve been working in online community for 15 years. I got my start on the IRC network TalkCity, which became a company called LiveWorld. While at LiveWorld, I worked on message boards and live online chats for many companies, including HBO, Showtime, Food Network, A&E, Intel, eBay, Slim-Fast, and MSNBC. I left LiveWorld to become the community manager for PC World and Macworld magazines, and after a few years there, I joined SEGA where I am the Senior Community Manager. I’ve been at SEGA for 5 and a half years now, and it’s been an amazing experience.

HoL: I’ve been very curious about who exactly is the exact character design of Sonic and company here? I have my beliefs it’s Bob Rafei as he’s had a history of character design work at Naughty Dog (I believe he worked on designing Jak and Daxter themselves, please correct me if I’m mistaken) and he has indeed addressed himself as one in the recent interviews about Sonic Boom.

SF: The development of the main characters in Sonic Boom was a joint collaboration between Big Red Button, OuiDo Productions, Sega and Sonic Team. We definitely pulled a lot from Bob’s past experience as a character designer but a lot of people had input into the final designs you see today. Given all the different mediums that the characters will appear in (games, cartoon, toys, etc.), it was important to make sure that the character designs met the needs of each of those.

HoL: You (Stephen) spoke about the composers not being set in stone, but I am curious if perhaps you’ll lean towards Sonic Team veterans like Jun Senoue, or maybe perhaps work with composers who are familiar to the people at BRB who worked at Naughty Dog and Insomniac prior, such as Mark Mothersbaugh and Josh Mancell who worked on Crash Bandicoot and Jak & Daxter, or perhaps David Bergeaud and others who worked on the Ratchet & Clank series?

SF: At this time, we are not talking about the soundtrack or the musicians involved in the game. We should have more details at E3, though.

HoL: I am actually also really interested in knowing more about the names of people at Big Red Button involved with the game, more specifically just how many people who worked at Naughty Dog and Insomniac because of the key folks from the companies are known to be working on this game. I’ve done my own research about this and have found some interesting results.

I’m a dedicated researcher, I love knowing who works on games and what they’ve done before.  Knowing just who’s behind a game can really generate a lot of anticipation and confidence that the game is in fantastic hands, in my opinion. And so far some really amazing people have been seen to be working on Sonic Boom.

SF: Well, I would like to be respectful of all the team members and not mention them by name, but there is definitely a lot of talent at Big Red Button. We’ll be sure to put as many of them in the spotlight as possible as we get further along with the project. However, at a management level, we have folks who have worked on such franchises as Crash Bandicoot, Jak & Daxter, Uncharted, True Crime, Shrek, God of War, PlayStation All-Stars Battle Royale, Ghostbusters and Simpsons, to name a few.

HoL: I’d like to ask about the 3DS version of the game. I understand Sanzaru Games is behind this version and they’re most well known to have carried the torch of the Sly Cooper series from Sucker Punch. I’d like to know if this version will be for example a 3D platformer as well, also if maybe it will have it’s own style, like maybe it could be cel-shaded like Sly Cooper: Thieves in Time as they made just prior, similar to how the Wii U version is very similar in style to Jak & Daxter.

SF: At this time, we aren’t talking about the 3DS version of the game. You are correct that Sanzaru were responsible for the most recent Sly Cooper title and I’m sure they will bring all their experience from that project over to Sonic Boom. All I can really say right now is that the 3DS game is its own experience with a separate storyline from the Wii U version. We have a few surprises to announce in relation to the 3DS game, but you’ll just have to wait and see what they are.

HoL: Again about the 3DS version, is it likely to feature some connectivity with the Wii U version? Sonic Lost World already did so I personally wouldn’t be surprised if it did.

SF: The 3DS game will have some connectivity with the Wii U but details of that have not yet been announced.

HoL: Back to the Wii U version. I am personally interested in knowing if at least in the main hub shown if there will be a real-time day/night cycle for ambiance and such? Because some sneaky folks managed to slip in footage of the game way back in March 2013 during Crytek’s CryEngine 3 demo:


Under our noses all along and before Sonic Lost World was unveiled, my mind is still blown!

Anyway I personally love touches like this, and I understand this was in fact planned for Sonic the Hedgehog for the PS3 and 360 (aka Sonic ’06) but was removed for one reason or another. I personally hope this is indeed in the game as shown here, and the moving shadows is such a beautiful sight.

SF: The footage shown in Crytek’s CryEngine 3 demo was of an early visual prototype. It does not necessarily reflect the current Sonic Boom game or its features. That also includes the day/night cycle showcased in the video.

HoL: Also, as a fan of platformers that allow you to just relax and look around to your heart’s content, I’ve always been a huge fan of freely movable cameras, whether it’s just to swing 360 degrees around a character, or even as a first-person view to look up into the sky or down to your feet, is there a camera system like this in place so fans can look at the pretty environments from anywhere? Sonic Lost World and also the three Sonic games prior at least (Unleashed, Colors, Generations) did not have this at all or extremely minimally, but the Sonic Adventure games, especially the first really used this very well, and it was sorely missed.

SF: I can confirm that exploration is an important part of this game, so I would expect that the camera system would be designed around that, as well.

HoL: Bob Rafei mentioned to The Guardian about there actually being 2D gameplay in the game. Is this more or less like Classic Sonic again, or is it actually more like the 2D sections in Crash Bandicoot? Also how much of them are there in the game? I would think the game is very much mostly 3D, hopefully with only a few 2D bits sprinkled in, just my personal opinion.

SF: As with most Sonic titles, where there is generally a mix of 3-D and 2-D-based gameplay. Sonic Boom will be no different. Given the focus on exploration of this new world for Sonic, we generally wanted to focus on 3-D. However, given our desire to deliver a “familiar but new” experience, you can bet that elements like the 2-D-based gameplay will certainly show up, but maybe with a few twists.

HoL: Are you able to give a detailed enough idea on what the characterizations of Sonic, Tails, Knuckles, and Amy will be? People are wondering if Knuckles will be on the less-than-intelligent side and if Amy will still go cuckoo for Sonic for instance? Tails is also in question as some are wondering if he’s going to be snarky as it were? (some point out his facial expressions art) Also curious if the brotherly bond between Tails and Sonic will be developed on.

SF: I am certainly aware that the characterizations for Sonic and team are a big discussion point amongst the fans out there. We know it’s important and we spent a lot of time working out how these characters should behave and act. It’s obviously key to be true to their original designs, but we also need to balance them out a bit, while accenting certain personality traits so that folks not too familiar with Sonic can quickly and easily understand who these characters are and what they’re like. This is the same philosophy that influenced the overall visual character designs for the characters. With Amy, for example, we aren’t really meaning that she is a strong, independent and acrobatic character only in Sonic Boom. She has been that way in other games. In Sonic Boom, though, these aspects of her character will really be emphasized in the story and gameplay in order to make it clear to everyone that this is how she is.

HoL: People are wondering where the idea of the Enerbeam came from? It’s certainly a new concept for the series.

SF: The original concept for the Enerbeam came from the general idea of us wanting a physical manifestation of the friendship between the main characters, something that connected them all together in a visual way. That was the genesis of the idea, at least, but the Enerbeam has evolved a fair bit since those early days and has been refined into something that is more of an extension of the characters, themselves. Once players see how the team gets this ability, they will definitely understand it a bit better.

It plays a role in all major aspects of the game, including navigation, combat, and interaction with the world, but is designed to enhance the gameplay, not detract from it. The uses for the Enerbeam are built to be fun and, again, build upon the character-specific abilities that each character has.

HoL: Is there teamwork in gameplay? How does this work? Something like in Sonic Heroes or Sonic Advance 3 perhaps?

SF: Yes, we have what I prefer to call “working as a team” but it isn’t really like either of those two games. Our teamwork dynamic is a bit more organic than what is found in Sonic Heroes or SA3. You aren’t hitting a button to have another character come over and perform a team-based attack, for example. Something like that doesn’t really work in a co-op setting since we wouldn’t want to take control away from the other player. It’s more like actually, physically working together. So, in combat, for example, maybe there is an opening that both characters would need to take advantage of at the same time to damage an enemy. Or, maybe there are navigational challenges that would require both players to work together in order to get past. Sonic is stronger with his friends in this game and that is something that reflects all core aspects of the experience, so “teamwork” is definitely important.

HoL: Speaking of the characters in-game, I read that in single player you always have two of them at once, and up to 4 people can play at once with each of the four? So is there online co-op or 2-4 player local split-screen? Or is it like where maybe one person uses the GamePad screen and the other person or up to three others use split screen on the TV? And as I said there’s always at least two of them in single-player? So you can’t just have Sonic all alone? He has to have at least Tails following him while being controlled by the AI?

SF: At this time, all we have announced is that the game will support up to two players in the main mode with parts of the overall game supporting up to four players. In minimum, there will always be two characters together, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that Sonic has to be one of them. I also want to confirm that there are no online co-op features currently planned for this game. We felt, given the design of the game, that local multiplayer and co-op would be the more appropriate things to focus on. When people actually get their hands on the game and see how it plays, I think they will more clearly understand why we focused on what we did.

HoL: This was glossed over in the SEGABits interview when asked as it was bundled with another question, but will there be any humans in the game and the show (not counting Eggman obviously)?

SF: We want this world to be a living, breathing place to explore and that wouldn’t be possible if it was completely deserted.

HoL: We’ve seen most of the characters show their trademark abilities, but so far we haven’t seen Sonic perform a Spin Dash or seen Knuckles Glide, will they have these abilities? Also in terms of combat could Tails perhaps use his tails to whack things again? They’ve been out of the combat field since Sonic Adventure 2, and that was in the Chao Garden!

SF: While we have not yet revealed all the character-based abilities, what you have seen in the announcement trailer does reflect a decent number of them. We definitely want to include as many classic abilities and attacks for each of the main characters, as possible, but some of them would not be useful or work properly in the game we are building. I feel, though, that there will be enough in there for fans to appreciate, along with several new abilities that will add to the overall game experience in Sonic Boom.

SF: As a final thought, I just want to thank all the fans out there who have gotten involved in forum discussions, created artwork and sent me comments. It’s great to read and see everything you all have been doing in relation to Sonic Boom. Please keep it up. I love the passion and excitement that everyone has and I can’t wait until I’m able to share more about these games. Just please continue to be patient and I promise that we’ll have some great stuff to show in the near future.

And that wraps it up! Thanks again to Stephen and Kellie for taking the time to do the interview. 🙂

What are your thoughts on what Stephen and Kellie said? Do the answers make you more or less excited for Sonic Boom?

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SEGA Nerds interview with Stephen Frost


SEGA Nerds have put up a video webcam interview with Stephen Frost that explores more about Sonic Boom. There’s some more insight on the 3DS version, as well as more talk about the beginnings, the show, and what not.

There are also code giveaways in the video itself (Stephen shows them on a piece of paper) for 3D Classics Sonic the Hedgehog for 3DS, but I think it’s safe to say they’ve been long taken by now. 😛

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Iizuka: Lost World is a “Must-Buy” Title


Ahead of Sonic Lost World’s release,  Nintendo Life have sat down with the one and only Takashi Iizuka to talk exclusivity, hardware limitations and the current reputation of the franchise among other interesting morsels for you to get your hedgehog-hungry teeth into!

Continue reading Iizuka: Lost World is a “Must-Buy” Title

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Summer of Sonic 2013: Kazuyuki Hoshino Interview

Kazuyuki HoshinoIn the second part of our Summer of Sonic interviews, I sat down to talk robots and character design with Metal Sonic and Amy Rose’s creator – Kazuyuki Hoshino!

TSS: First of all, what does it mean to you to be here at Summer of Sonic?

Kazuyuki Hoshino: It’s great to be here and meet the fans who have continued to love the characters that I have created!

TSS: How do you go about the process of creating the Badniks and other enemies for Sonic games?

Kazuyuki Hoshino: Other than creating some of the key central characters I’ve also created lots of sub-characters. Whenever I create a main character, someone that’s central to the story or series, I always fully immerse myself in that character to really put myself in their shoes. When I was younger I always dreamed of my creations being sold as figurines in shops so people could buy some of the things that I had created. I’ve always kept this in mind when creating characters so I can design them to look great not only for their purpose, but so they would look good as figurines too.

TSS: Out of all the enemy characters you have created, which would you say is your favourite (Metal Sonic excluded!).

Kazuyuki Hoshino: Although he’s not as much of an enemy anymore, I’d definitely have to say Shadow the Hedgehog.

TSS: How did designing for NiGHTS differ to designing for Sonic games?

Kazuyuki Hoshino: When I’m creating characters for Sonic, I always have in mind that it needs to be appealing to millions of people. Sonic has such a big mass audience so I try and design to meet that taste. With NiGHTS, it has a very particular theme with quite a specific and niche market so I can push the boat out a little further to make designs that are more dream-like and psychological.

TSS: What were your biggest challenges in terms of design when making the transition from 2D to 3D games?

Kazuyuki Hoshino: When designing in 3D, you have to make sure that you create everything so that even the parts that weren’t visible before in 2D are now visible in 3D and they look good. You have to figure out how every part of the design would look from different angles and make it work. In the classic Sonic games he only had to be shown from the perspective that made him look best, now that everything is in 3D, you see Sonic from behind a lot more than you ever would have in 2D so now you have to make sure he and all of the other characters look good from all angles. Shadow has a red stripe going down his back and this is because we wanted to make him look both cool from behind and distinctively different from Sonic.

TSS: If you were to re-design Metal Sonic today, what new features would you give him, if any?

Kazuyuki Hoshino: When we originally created Metal Sonic, the thing I really had a focus on was making him look metallic because he is, of course, called Metal Sonic. If I were to re-design him, I would potentially challenge this and try to give him a different feel and texture that you would pick up just from looking at him. For example, a new feature I would perhaps give him is the ability to become invisible. You know in Sci-Fi films where they have the light-reflection technology that camouflages  the user? I’d love to experiment with things like that and incorporate that technology into not only his skillset, but his visual design too.

TSS: You’ve created many iconic and memorable characters over the years. Do you think that we might see an art book dedicated to your works one day?

Kazuyuki Hoshino: I’m honoured that this question has been asked several times already today! I don’t have any plans at the moment to create a compilation of all the art that I’ve created so far. It would be great to have though and my Mother actually looks at art books quite often so she would be incredibly proud!

TSS: Thank you very much for your time, Hoshino-san!

Thanks again to Bobby Wertheim for translations!

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Summer of Sonic 2013: Takashi Iizuka Interview


I once again had the amazing opportunity to sit down with the head honcho over at Sonic Team – Takashi Iizuka! In the interview we talk Summer of Sonic, Lost World, Colour Powers and Sonic’s future. It’s quite a read so you definitely don’t want to miss it!

Continue reading Summer of Sonic 2013: Takashi Iizuka Interview

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An Interview With Ian Flynn


Last Sunday, I managed to catch popular Sonic the Hedgehog comic book writer Ian Flynn during the final hour of the Sand Diego Comic Con. Despite being dead tired from 4 days of signings, he generously shared his time with me and Nuckles87 on all things Sonic. From the redesigns to the future of the book and even his thoughts on Sonic Lost World. Sadly, during the interview we were attacked with a grenade! AAHH! Watch the interview to see what I’m talking about.

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An Interview With Aaron Webber


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.

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An Interview With Ken Penders

2013 Comic Con Day 4 005

Near his friend Elliot S! Maggin’s booth in the artist alley at the San Diego Comic Con sits a man who is currently criticized, respected and envied. Criticized by some Sonic comic fans who feel that his recent copyright case with Archie Comics is taking away many of their favorite characters from the Sonic book. Respected because in his tenure on the Sonic comics, he created such a legacy of characters that the comic suffers a bit with them gone. And lastly, envied by other comic creators who would give their drawing arm to have the chance of owning their creations back. To them, Penders is living out a dream come true.

With his famous mustache gone, replaced with long hair and a ponytail, also sits a man who some feel may be a bit too confident in his abilities than he realizes. His video and movie projects “The Republic” and “The Lost Ones” have still been unreleased for over five years and are still in production. Could the Lara-Su Chronicles (an upcoming series of graphic novels based on Knuckles daughter and relations set in an alternate future) suffer from the same fate? And what of his art? Many people have been very critical about his latest promotional pieces. How does he feel about that?

Read on to see Ken Penders side of the story.

Continue reading An Interview With Ken Penders

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Sonic Stadium Interview: Archie Comic’s Ian Flynn


Last week Jason and I had the pleasure to sit down with Ian Flynn, writer of Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, Megaman, New Crusaders and Dawn Best’s upcoming web comic Sylvanna. Join us we have not one, but two interviews with the architect of the Sonic and Megaman crossover Worlds Collide: a text interview written up by Jason Berry and a two and a half hour long interview hosted by me on Sonic Talk featuring dozens of questions from fans like you.

Also, special thanks to Ian Flynn, who not only devoted a considerable amount of time to this, but also answered far more questions for the text interview than he had initially promised, due to me sending him the wrong text file that included a dozen questions that I had intended to omit.

Enjoy! You can also find the Sonic Talk interview here.

Continue reading Sonic Stadium Interview: Archie Comic’s Ian Flynn

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Ian Flynn Interview with The Super Power Flower Hour

The Super Power Flower Hour, a Find the Computer Room podcast and an upcoming show for SEGASonic:Radio, has kicked off the first episode of its second season with a very special guest!

FTA and Smoovies are accompanied by Ian Flynn, the head writer for Archie Comics’ Sonic the Hedgehog and Mega Man franchises, and chat about the two series, some behind the scenes tidbits, as well as the ongoing crossover special, Worlds Collide!

It’s a whopping 1 hour and 45 minutes long, but it’s plenty fun and informative!


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Wreck-it Ralph Director Rich Moore on Sonic

Rich Moore and Iizuka

The Sonic Channel has recently posted an interview held by Takashi Iizuka with Rich Moore, director of the recent video game-filled movie Wreck-it Ralph (Sugar Rush in Japan). The two directors talk about Sonic’s cameos in Wreck-it Ralph, what a sequel could mean for the blue blur and what other SEGA franchises Rich would love to see included in a potential follow-up.

Hit the jump for the full interview and some more images!

Continue reading Wreck-it Ralph Director Rich Moore on Sonic

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Summer of Sonic 2012: Takashi Iizuka Interview


Second in our 3-part lot of Summer of Sonic interviews – the one and only Takashi Iizuka! Pictured with him up there are his translator and Sonic’s Brand Director – David Corless. Anyway, onto the interview!

Continue reading Summer of Sonic 2012: Takashi Iizuka Interview

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TSS Interviews: Archie Comics at San Diego Comic Con


While at Comic Con Alex and I got the chance to interview the recently promoted executive director of editorial Paul Kaminski, art director Jon “Dubs” Gray and artist Evan Stanley. We discuss all things Sonic and Megaman and even throw in the Mighty Crusaders for a little variety. It was pretty hard to get an interview schedule in as Archie booth was incredibly busy this year, so you’ll notice that the interview is in two parts. We have the second part of the interview in the comments page. I think the second part came out much better as it was more off the cuff and natural and my stomach isn’t as stuck out, making me look like I’m 9 months pregnant. Enjoy!

Continue reading TSS Interviews: Archie Comics at San Diego Comic Con

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Summer of Sonic 2012: Crush 40 Interview

First up in the 3-part series of Summer of Sonic interviews, we have two legendary guys  – Jun Senoue and Johnny Gioeli! Together this duo makes Crush 40, but I’m sure you all knew that already! Without further ado, let’s get on with the interviews, shall we?

Continue reading Summer of Sonic 2012: Crush 40 Interview

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Coming Up Next: Summer of Sonic Interviews!

Well, it’s been just over a fortnight since Summer of Sonic has been and gone for another year and what a day it was! Between meeting many old friends, playing S&ASRT and enjoying all of the on-stage entertainment I had the opportunity to sit down with Jun Senoue, Johnny Gioeli, Takashi Iizuka, Steve Lycett and Tim Spencer for a chat about the past, present and future of their involvement with everyone’s favourite blue blur! These interviews will be coming up over the course of this week, so stay tuned for more!

Here’s a little taster from Johnny Gioeli!


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Interview: Aaron Webber

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.

The Sonic Stadium may link to retailers and earn a small commission on purchases made from users who click those links. These links will only appear in articles related to the product, in an unobtrusive manner, and do not influence our editorial decisions in any way.

Interview: Paul Kaminski

Paul on the left. followed by Mike Pellerito, Ben Bates and Ian Flynn

Down at the 2500 isle of the San Diego Comic Con, Archie Comics had thier biggest booth yet. Stationed next to IDW Comics and Boom Studios. In recent years, Archie comics has been doing well at making their presence known, making headlines with the “Archie Marries” and “Kevin Keller” series. Their biggest acquisition in the past year has been the Mega Man license. Sales of the comic have been doing phenomenally well pushing past sales of their former top seller and still big seller Sonic the Hedgehog. Sega was also at Archie’s booth with two demo stations playing Sonic Generations. Needless to say, as a Sonic fan, I hung out there quite a bit. On Friday, I sat down with Archie Comics editor Paul Kaminki to discuss Mega Man, Cosmo and all things Sonic. Here’s what he had to say.

Last year, you used one word to hint at the events of this year “Genesis”. Ian hinted at the events of #225 with “BLAM!BLAM!BLAM!” What is the one word you would use to hint at #230 and beyond?

Paul – The best. I’ve seen 230 and 231 pencils and it’s the best stuff we’ve ever done. It’s the fallout from 225, the aftermath of Genesis and the road to 250 all in one. Ben Bates worked on those and he outdid himself. He worked on 232 and it’s coming along fantastic as well.

Awesome. Out of the main four Sega characters, Knuckles, Tails and Sonic have all had their backgrounds fleshed out well. But Amy Rose seems to have little known about her. Will we ever see an arc about her backstory?

Paul – Yes. You won’t see too much in the near future, but you will see some more of that next year. Amy will be taking up a larger role as well. I really can’t say to much more than that, but Sonic’s gonna need her help.

Sounds very interesting. With Sally’s life hanging on the line, it seems to have divided some of the fanbase. Some who want her to live and some who’d love to see her dead. Will the outcome of this current story be able to please both sides?

Paul – I think so. It satisfied me anyway. (Laughs) We’re not trying to disrespect the character at all. We just want to make a real interesting story like you’ve never quite seen with her before. It’s easy to say she’s got Jean Grey syndrome in that she’s taken out and brought back again over and over, but I think what we’ve done with her and what we’re about to with her is unique. Whether she’s alive or dead, her story is not over at all.

In Sonic Genesis, it’s kind of a flashback to Sonic 1 and 2 as Eggman reset the world. Will the effects from the Genesis storyline affect the Prime World at all?

Paul – Yea. Definitely. With some characters you might not expect it to have an effect on. It will have an effect on the cast going forward.

I kind of like what was done with Rotor/Boomer in Genesis. Making him smarter and tougher.

Paul – Yea. I saw online that this reviewer’s little kid loved it when Boomer smashed up the Caterkiller. I love him too! Mike (Perrilito) hates him. He keeps telling me. “Why do you keep using the dumb Walrus?” I tell him “Cuz Rotor’s cool man!” (Laughs) Genesis has some great qualities that I think will transition nicely into the main universe.

Will Silver’s search for the traitor come to fruition soon?

Paul – VERY soon. 

Moving onto Mega Man which is doing absolutely incredible in sales. Are you surprised at the high sales in the direct market? Even surpassing Sonic by quite a bit?

Paul – Yes. Quite happy with direct market and newstands too. We saw a particular spike in newstands that we’re hoping to stretch ever further with the graphic novel later this year. Because, I became a big fan of Fables through the graphic novels so I’m hoping more people will become fans of Mega Man and Sonic through the trades. 

I think the first 3 issues were handled very well. It seems less of a game adaption as it does about a boy being sent off into a war and the effects it has on him. In issue #2, he has to kill other robots for the first time and he hates it. He doesn’t like killing his own kind. In issue #3, he’s become desensitized to it and he starts getting an attitude. Did you and Ian mean to develop his character in this manner?

Paul – His character is the most important thing we’re trying to juggle. It’s very important to us that we develop this character properly in the first arc and beyond.

The only small complaint I had about the first three issues is that the Robot Masters seem to get squashed pretty quickly with no time for their characters to get any personality (outside of Cutman). Will this be addressed in future stories?

Paul – Well, the comic isn’t called “Robot Masters” it’s called Mega Man so he’s the main thing we’re focused on. The Robot Masters are not going away. They’ll be back and back and back as part of the regular cast. I’ve read alot abut the complaints about them being taken out too easily. They are part of Mega Man’s evolution as a character. Wily’s the real bad guy. He won’t be gone for long either. In hindsight, maybe we took them out too fast, but we needed to get through the book to establish the first story. I think in the graphic novel, it won’t seem so fast and it will seem like a very coherent tale.

What will we see from Mega Man in the future?

Paul – An integration of original stuff to a limited degree with faithful adaptions of the other games. Different artists. All stories done in a 4-issue arc Sonic Universe style.

So we can expect to see his robo dog Rush next year?

Paul – Yes. I saw the preliminaries of his design. but we work pretty far in advance. I’m pretty excited myself. I’ve seen the finished pencils from the next arc and it looks great.

Going onto Cosmo the Merry Martian. Can you tell us what this title is all about?

Paul – Cosmo is still something we’re working out. we don’t have a set date for him yet. He’s an old character from the 50’s and 60’s. He’s pretty much Spongebob in space. It’s Ian’s opportunity to run wild.

Speaking of poor Ian, he’s got a lot on his plate now. What with four titles to work on. Is there any chance for a not-so-young up and comer with a popular webcomic that Yardley’s worked on to have a shot at one of the titles to ease his burden? (Nudge, nudge. Wink, wink)

Paul – (Laughter) Is that a pitch? You’ll see some changes in the writing lineup in the future. Tracy will be writing the Babylon arc after Scourge is done. We have two other writers coming in to do backup stories, so you’ll see a little switch up here and there. Ian’s still the brain trust. He and I get together to workout the storylines for years to come.

Well, thank you so much for your time Paul, it’s been a pleasure.

Paul – Thank you.

Stay tuned this week to see how you can win a Comic-Con package that includes an exclusive SDCC copy of #226 signed by Ian Flynn. Along with Sonic Boom buttons and an animation cell from “Adventures of Sonic the Hedgehog”!





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E3 2011 Q&A: Takashi Iizuka on Sonic Generations

(NOTE: Because this is a Q&A with questions taken from staff from both Sonic Stadium and Segabits, this article will be posted on both sites simultaneously.)

On the Tuesday afternoon of E3, Alex and I got the privilege of seeing the first new footage of City Escape from Sonic Generations played by Takashi Iizuka himself. Seeing little classic Sonic going through the famous SA2 level was a thrill. We saw as the large GUN truck made every attempt possible to run down the roly-poly hedgehog as two new remixes of “Escape from the city” played through both levels. As he played through he told some interesting tidbits including the fact that outside of Green Hill zone, all stages on the 3DS will be different from the HD versions and will have levels based on the portable versions of Sonic’s games. Also voice overs will be done for all nationalities. Not just Japanese and English. He quit the last level as the GUN truck with it’s giant sawblades ran over modern Sonic as he ran out of boost. Here, our Q&A commenced.

There have been some who were wondering why the Wii was not given a port when the 3DS, which has comparable graphics has one. Why not port the 3DS version to the Wii?

The 3DS version is a celebration of Sonic’s portable history. As such it only makes sense that we keep that history on a portable system.

There have been rumors of hub worlds between levels similar to Unleashed. Is this something you can confirm?

Ha, ha. Well, as we’ve said. Classic and Modern Sonic meet through time anomalies as a mysterious force is erasing time. Areas are a wash of pure white. As classic and modern beat these classic levels more color comes into the world. You could say the white space starts as a hub that opens up more as the color comes back in.

Will there be any online features or DLC?
We cannot discuss anything for DLC at this time, but we are planning for online leaderboards.

Will there be more than two acts per zone?

Yes. I cannot give more detail than that at this time, but there will be several acts in each world.

Can you discuss what systems will be represented on the 3DS version such as Game Gear?

Game Gear? (Laughter) No. For the 3DS we wanted to go with systems of more recent memory. So we are more focused on levels from the GBA and DS.

We have seen boss fights with classic Eggman. Will modern Eggman be joining him?

We cannot discuss that due to story elements not yet revealed. I can say there will be remixes of classic boss fights through Sonic’s history.

Since Sonic Colors got it’s soundtrack published onto iTunes, will there be a Sonic Generations soundtrack as well?

(Laughter) Well, we know that Nintendo just announced a 25th Anniversary soundtrack for the Legend of Zelda. We are currently releasing 20th Anniversary soundtracks for many of our older Sonic games. As far as Sonic Generations goes, I cannot confirm anything at this time, but I’m glad your interested.

How early on did you go on the idea for a split between classic and modern Sonic gameplay?

Shortly after Unleashed, we were discussing what kind of game to make to celebrate Sonic’s 20th Anniversary. It was around that time that we decided that classic/modern split would be the best.

How many zones are being planned for the game?

That is something we cannot discuss at this time. (The next day, The E3 Insider  magazine said 9 worlds were planned with a release date of October. It was later debunked by Aaron Webber.)

With that, our time was up and we gave our thank you’s and goodbyes.As we I told Mr. Iizuka how much I loved last year’s Sonic Colors. He seemed genuinely happy and pleased by that.I was surprised at how many of our questions we were able to get in as most of the other press was fairly quiet. I will say that neither me or Alex are pleased by the omission of Game Gear levels for the 3DS.



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Interview: Sonic Colors Adaptation – Tracy Yardley!

Well, it’s here! The final part of our Sonic Colors adaptation interview. Tonight, we interview Tracy Yardley!, the penciler for story. We’ve also got some never before seen art straight from the story, courtesy of Archie and SEGA.

TSS: Hello Mr. Yardley, thank you for taking the time to talk with us. When were you given the Sonic Colors assignment?

TY: The script was emailed to me on July 15.

TSS: How much time did you have to work on this adaptation compared to a typical Sonic story?

TY: I wasn’t given a specific deadline. Paul just said as fast as possible.I sent back scans of the pencils on July 23. I know it didn’t take me seven days to do though. I was almost certainly working on another issue at the time.

TSS: What sorts of materials did SEGA give you to make a proper adaptation of the game?

TY: They gave us much more than they usually do. I was given many many screenshots from the game, as well as pre-production art and an unfinished game trailer.

TSS: What are the differences between working on a game adaptation and working on a regular Sonic story?

TY: Mostly that Sega is much more particular about matching the visuals as closely to the game material as possible. And it usually seems to be a rush job. The Sonic and the Black Knight story was completed from script to finished colors in something like  3 or 4 days if I remember correctly.

TSS: Did you run into any unique challenges when working on this story?

TY: Not anything too bad. The game stories are always fun for me. The only real difficulty was with the first panel on the first page. It called for this planetary elevator, and there was no very clear shot of it in the art reference I was given. I did the best I could with what I had and I’m pleased with how the whole thing turned out.

TSS: Thank you for your time, Mr. Yardley

Finally, here’s the art we promised:

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Interview: Sonic Colors Adaptation – Ian Flynn

Continuing from where we left off yesterday, today we bring you our interview with the writer of the Sonic comics, Ian “Potto” Flynn.

TSS: Hello Mr. Flynn, thank you for taking the time to talk with us today!

IF: My pleasure!

TSS: When where you approached with the Sonic Colors adaption?

IF: If memory serves, it wasn’t too long after the first public announcement.

TSS: How did it interfere with the plans you already had for the book?

IF: It didn’t, really.  “Welcome Back, Chao!” was originally going to be two parts, but we were already thinking it was a bit too slow paced.  We condensed it down to one and put in “Sonic Colors” in its place.  One or two back-ups had to be shuffled around as well, but that happens all the time.

TSS: How did the development of the script differentiate from the development of a typical Sonic comic script?

IF: Not much.  The only real difference was that, instead of me coming up with the story on my own, SEGA supplied us with the English script and some concept art.  The rest of the process happened as per usual.

TSS: What sorts of materials did you have access to from the game during the script’s development?

IF: I guess I got a little ahead of myself with that last question!  SEGA provided us with the English script and concept art for the updated Orbot, for Cubot and all the Wisps.  There was level concept art and videos, primarily of the opening sequence and CGI promotional stuff.

TSS: This is…I believe the third game adaption in the book to use the setting “Another Time, Another Place”.
Do these stories all take place in the same universe?

IF: They could be – call it the “SegaSonic Universe” if you like.  Or they could each be their own zone.  It’s entirely up to the preference of the reader.

TSS: Are these stories basically meant to take place in the game canon?

IF: More or less, but it varies from project to project.  The “Sonic and the Black Knight” tie-in was almost shot-for-shot, word-for-word the opening sequence so it’s obviously the same thing.  “Sonic Colors” will be a little more liberal, but it’s still true to the source, so you can take it as a retelling or a synopsis.

TSS: Will we be seeing Orbot, Cubot, or Yacker in this adaption?

IF: Yes on all three counts!

TSS:  Do you have to work under any special restrictions for these types of stories?

IF: Aside from the tighter deadline, we really have to be true to the SegaSonic art style and accurate to the story.  For instance, I couldn’t add Amy into the story if I wanted because she isn’t in the Wii version, and that’s the version we’re adapting.

TSS: Back in the day, the comics use to reserve substantially more space for in-continuity adaptions of the games. Why don’t we see those anymore? Might we ever see them again?

IF: Part of it stems from the game’s having much bigger stories.  The more involved the game plot, the harder it is to integrate it into the comic’s plot.  This ties directly into the next issue, which is time.  We usually work six months ahead, and the game tie-ins are usually requested with much less time to work with.  This means adjusting the publishing schedule, the story order, and taking the plot of the game and whatever’s currently going on into account.  Add on top of that the higher level of scrutiny since it’s a direct tie-in story, and it simply becomes unfeasible to do stuff like the Sonic Adventure tie-ins.  For now and the foreseeable future, we’re sticking with the elegantly simple “Another Time, Another Place” option.

TSS: Many ask why the Archie comics do not simply base a comic in the game continuity, either as a reboot or as another series. Would you run into any problems – beyond angry fans who enjoy the current comic canon – with such a move? Would there be any restrictions writing a comic in the game canon that you don’t currently work under in the comic’s own canon?

IF: We’ve considered a SegaSonic companion book, but never seriously pursued it.  The ArchieSonic canon is hard enough for new readers to keep track of without having a totally different canon to follow as well.  “Sonic X” had a little bit of this problem, but we mostly solved it by making it very continuity light.

Additionally, SEGA is very protective of their material, and rightfully so.  But that means the SegaSonic cast is perpetually stuck in their present characterizations.  The ArchieSonic cast and world give us the means to tell compelling stories where individuals grow and develop.  Come for the Sonic, stay for the story.

TSS: Will we be seeing any of Sonic Colors’ characters appear in the main book? Orbot already has quite a following from his Sonic Unleashed appearance.

IF: That all depends on SEGA.  Orbot and Cubot would fit right in, and the Wisps would certainly make enough sense given all the other aliens running around.  You’ll just have to wait and see.

TSS: Have you had a chance to play Sonic Colors yet?

IF: Unfortunately, no, but I do have it pre-ordered. (I. Must. Have. That. HAT!)

TSS: Thank you for your time Mr. Flynn

IF: My pleasure.

The final interview will be going up in the next few days. It will be with artist Tracy Yardley, and will include some exclusive concept art from the story Archie was nice enough to send to us.

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Interview: Sonic Colors Adaptation – Paul Kaminski

The creative team of Sonic the Hedgehog and Sonic Universe have been gracious enough to grant us a three part interview about their upcoming adaption of the Sonic Colors game. The adaption will be included as the backstory of Sonic the Hedgehog #219, which releases later this month. First up is the comic’s Editor, Paul Kaminski! Enjoy.

TSS: Hello Mr. Kaminski, thank you for taking the time to answer a few questions for us!

PK: My pleasure!

TSS: Did SEGA approach you with the idea of a Sonic Colors adaption story?

PK: After the game announcement back in May, we approached SEGA to see if they would be interested in working out a “Sonic Colors” story the same way we worked the past few game adaptation back-ups. SEGA seemed as enthused about the idea as we were and shortly after the exchange the details were ironed out and Ian was hard at work on draft one of the script!

TSS: As I understand it, the comics are meant to help advertise the games in the series. Why does SEGA ask you to only do adaptions for a fraction of the Sonic games released every year?

PK: Whether games get adaptations or not, at least in my experience, is less of a strict mandate and more a matter of practicality/availability. Our primary goal, besides trying to tell a good story, is to help promote the Sonic  franchise as a whole, and I think we do a pretty good job of doing just that.

TSS: Do you have any idea what it is about the Sonic Colors game that separates it from the other games that haven’t been adapted, in particular Sonic 4 and the upcoming Sonic Free Riders?

PK: A comic adaptation of ‘Sonic Colors’ just makes sense. The game has fantastically stunning visuals, plus new characters like the Wisps that lend themselves to the types of storytelling we seek to achieve month after month with the Sonic comics. As for the other Sonic game releases this year, you may in fact see adaptations of these games, just not in the traditional “another time, another place” style.

TSS: SEGA has a reputation for keeping actual game material very close to its chest when it comes to game adaptions in the comics. What sorts of materials did SEGA lend you to allow you to do a proper adaption for this game?

PK: We had access to a pretty awesome collection of materials and imagery from the game to make the adaptation as faithful to the source material as possible.

TSS: How much lead time did you have with this adaption compared to typical Archie stories? Has it significantly altered plans for comic’s near future stories?

PK: The game adaptation stories require a little extra lead time because of the sensitive game materials and more meticulous rounds of approvals. The first conversation about doing the adaptation was back in May so that’ll give you a rough idea of how long the process took. As for altering plans, it hasn’t really. Ian wound up having to cut “Welcome back Chao” down to a one-parter but that was pretty much it. Other back-up stories got shifted around too to make sure the game story came out at around the same time as the game’s release.

TSS: What sorts of behind the scenes work have you done for this story in particular?

PK: Just a lot of coordinating with SEGA contacts, freelancers and media types to make the thing come together-  which sounds boring but is in fact a lot of hard work! I LOVE to get creative with the books and contribute as much as I can, but this story is SEGA’s baby and we’re just here to help the team!

TSS: Are the wisps and other Sonic Colors characters off limits for the in canon stories in the same way Eggman Nega is, or will you be able to include these characters on your whim?

PK: Well I can’t speak for SEGA, but the only folks I’ve ever dealt with over there are wonderfully creative cats that are just as interested in telling a good story as we are. I would guess that if there was a story that demanded we include the Wisps down the line, they would be cool with it.

TSS: Have you had a chance to play the game at any point? Maybe at NYCC?

PK: What is this…”leaving the Archie booth” you speak of?

TSS: Thank you for your time Mr. Kaminski

PK: Anytime!

Tomorrow, we’ll be interviewing Ian Flynn, and after that, artist Tracy Yardley, complete with exclusive concept art straight from the story!

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NYCC: Interview with Sonic Production Artist John “Dubs” Gray

There are men, and then there are those who are more then men. Ian Flynn and Pat Spaz (and I guess Paul too) are all good men. They do not compare to the awesomeness that is embodied in the one known as John Gray, or “Dubs” as he is known as by us lesser beings.

Dubs is the God-King of Archie Sonic, the master of all he surveys. He is a champion of the Nerbish people, whom will one day lead them back to the promised land that is printed media once more. His mighty, booming voice makes lesser men quiver in his presence. He is truly the mightiest, most handsome man to ever work on a book about a blue cartoon hedgehog and his furry friends.

Ladies and gentleman, I bring you the God-King, Nerbish representative, production artist, and all around awesome guy of Archie’s Sonic comics!



Join us tonight as we bring you the video of Archie’s Creators Tell All Panel, featuring Ian Flynn and Pat Spaz!

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NYCC: Interviews With Sonic Artist Pat Spaz and Writer Ian Flynn

This interview is a dream come true, in all honesty. Patrick Spaziente is a very difficult man to get a hold of. He has absolutely no online presence, and hasn’t done an interview of any kind since 2005, at least from what I’ve been able to find. Spaz is famously reclusive, and until now I didn’t even really know what he looked like. The fact that he was actually at the con is remarkable in and of itself, since Spaz rarely ever even goes to conventions. The fact that he was even there is the whole reason I even asked Selinka to cover the con for us. Even more remarkable is the fact that he let us conduct a video interview, since Mr. Selinka was originally told by Spaz that he wanted to remain “an enigma”. This interview is a huge score for us all, and I hope you will all enjoy it.

We also have another man in this interview, of course. He is bearded. He is mighty. He is the enemy to all Drago fan everywhere. He is also an awesomely friendly dude. He is Ian “Potto” Flynn, writer extraordinaire. He got the Sonic comics out of teen drama, endless love triangles, convoluted solutions to simple problems, and Tommy the Turtle, and into high flying action, adventure, humor, and Bean the Dynamite Duck. We got an interview with him too. Not as awesome as Spaz, I agree, but he just kinda wondered onto camera, so Selinka thought “why the heck not?”

This epically awesome 3 part, 34 minute HD video interview is brought to you by Thomas Selinka, better known around the Sonic fandom as “Illustrous Q”. He’s got a comic coming on ECC this week. Thank him by reading it. Now, without further ado…

Coming later tonight, we’ll have the complete Archie panel in HD video for your viewing pleasure, and tomorrow, the most awesome interview of them all….John “Dubs” Gray!

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NYCC: Interview with Sonic Editor Paul Kaminski!

These videos have been a long time coming, but their finally here! Over the next few days we’ll be bringing you some awesome, in depth interviews with the Archie staff. ECC’s Thomas Selinka was kind enough to take the time out of his day to record these interviews and panels in full HD.

First up, Paul Kaminski, the editor for Sonic the Hedgehog, Sonic Universe, and the upcoming Megaman books.


Of course, Paul isn’t the biggest interview we got (sorry Paul, we still love you!). Coming up later in the day…the first ever video interview with Patrick Spaziente, the famously reclusive and hard to contact cover artist of the both the Sonic books (well, occasionally these days) and the upcoming Megaman book. We also got some guy called Ian Flynn hogging up some camera space with him, but you don’t care about him, right?

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Interview: Ken Penders

At the San Diego Comic Con in aisle 3900, across from Konami’s booth, lies Floating Island Productions. There, the head of the production company and former writer of the Archie Sonic series, Ken Penders, sits.  He is drawing a commissioned art piece of Captain America for a fan, the occasional ping-pong ball flying in from the booth next door.  To the left of his booth, a preview is shown for his upcoming internet show, “The Republic.”  The rest of his booth shows his past history with the blue hedgehog. Boxes of Sonic comics can be seen, while piles of original cover art lie at the front center of his table.

What you won’t find is the promotional poster for the upcoming Echidna book, a book involving Locke, Julie-Su and other characters related to Knuckles. “With what’s going on at the moment, I decided it would be best to leave them behind.” Chalk one up to common sense.

Ken Penders is a hard man to peg. When you meet him in person, he’s always friendly and outgoing.  Though I’m not too happy with some of the things he has said and done this year, I have a hard time being mad at him. I still see the man who greatly helped develop what Sonic and Knuckles’ world has become today.  The man who signed at my store, who loved the job he lost and is very optimistic about his future endeavors. The man who recently lost someone near and dear to him.

There is another side to Penders, however.  A side that seems self-absorbed.  A man who doesn’t seem to want to share, like a child playing in his own corner of the sandbox. He himself says he never read any of Ian’s work and only read the other writers’ works when it might affect one of his stories.  Penders only seems to care about Penders’ world.

Although he does not want to bring up the current copyright case, he did have this to say:

“I just want to let you and everyone know, these copyrights are official. I own these stories and characters. The U.S. Government recognizes it as such… Whatever some of the fans have been saying on the forums, they don’t know everything. They are misinformed on some things. That goes for what Ian posted as well.”

I decided to push the subject a bit and asked if he had signed a “Work for Hire” contract while at Archie. “No comment” was his reply.

Here is the 3-part interview. Sorry for the poor audio. It’s actually much better than what we had for the Aaron Webber interview (which was so horrible that it ended up as a transcript), but the background noise is still pretty bad.




Although I gave Penders ample time to talk about his future projects, I was surprised at just how much he wanted to focus the conversation on Sonic and Knuckles. You can tell he truly loved that world with a passion and was hurt to be taken from it. It even shows in the title of his production company. No one can read “Floating Island Productions” and not think of Knuckles’ home.

Off camera, Penders had this to say

“I hope that in the end, we can come to an agreement that will be beneficial for both myself, Archie Comics and Sonic fans.”

Let’s hope so.

(P.S. I honestly do like Ron Lim’s work on Silver Surfer and X-Men 2099. I just think his art on Sonic is horrible.)

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E3 2010 Interview: Sonic Free Riders

On Thursday, we did an interview with the project manager on Sonic Free Riders, David Allen. It’s a short interview, but it may give you some insight on the game.

My main question to ask on this, is this an all new Riders game, or is this a Kinect adaption of a previous Riders title?

There are some elements and some stages from the previous games, but obviously, controlling the game and some of the content is different.

What’s the newest additions to this game besides the control scheme?

That’s a very good question. I don’t think I can answer that right now unfortunately.

Will there be any new characters in this game that haven’t been in previous Riders games?

Only the same characters from the previous games.

Are the mechanics similar to the previous games or all they all new?

It does take elements from both of them of course, but with the Kinect, it’s a completely different ballgame.

When’s the game due out??

We haven’t set a date yet, but it will be in time for Holiday 2010.

That makes four Sonic games for this Christmas.

(Laughs) We’re keeping real busy, yea. Busy year. We haven’t set a date because we had to wait for Microsoft to settle their dates out for Kinect.

How long has this game been in production?

I don’t know the answer to that unfortunately, because I’m new to this project and have only been on it for two weeks.

Will the game have online multiplayer?

It will have multiplayer yes. I can’t say how many it will accommodate right now.

Will it be a retail release?

Yes, it will be a packaged product.

Okay guys, I’m officially confused. Wasn’t it announced as an Arcade title? I wonder which it is?

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E3 2010 Interview: Aaron Webber

NOTE: We have this in video form, but the audio is so poor and hard to hear due to the loudness that is E3, (I was yelling too!) that we’re just gonna have to transcribe it. I may still put up the video later if we can clean up the audio. By the way, I wanna say that Aaron couldn’t have been a nicer guy. He puts up with a lot of heat on the forums, but always comes off very classy. Also, you can thank Nuckles87 for the Mine Kart question.

Hello folks, I’m here at Alton Towers. (Points to Sonic 4 backdrop) Just kidding! We’re at the Sonic 4 area here at the Sega booth. With me is Sega Rep, Aaron Webber. Who many of you may know as RubyEclipse. Aaron, how’s it going today?

Aaron – Pretty well. It’s been a really busy day as it was yesterday with a lot of people playing Sonic 4. It’s great though because for many, it’s their first time getting their hands on it.

Now, Sonic 4 has been a controversial game with many people loving it or loathing it on some forums. There does seem to have been some improvements on the physics I myself, have been enjoyed what I played so far and it is up for IGN’s nomination for best platformer at E3. Can you tell me what kind of improvements they’ll be making to this game?

Aaron – It’s actually much more than just physics. There’s a lot we haven’t announced yet or talked about as far as changes we are making to this game. We’ll be revealing some of those soon, but I just want to say that physics will be just a small piece of it. Now, with regard to your comment about the fans, I think there’s truth that no matter what kind of Sonic game we make, no matter what it entails, no matter what it’s expected to be, they’ll be people who love it and they’ll be people who hate it. No matter what kind of game you make, there will always be people in that spectrum and you have to accept and understand that.

We understand that no matter what we do, no matter what improvements we make they’ll still be people out there that are like “You know what? Those eyes are not black, ergo it’s not cool with me” The physics might be perfect. The game might be feeling like classic Sonic. But because the eyes are different, they might feel it’s different. We understand that people will always have difference of opinions, but when it comes down to it, they don’t say those things because they’re angry or negative people, but the reason they are so passionate is because they really love Sonic and the franchise and they love the memories and nostalgia they had growing up with the Genesis games. I think that’s the reason why they are so passionate whether they are for it or against it. So, regardless where they sit on that spectrum, if it’s because of that passion, then it’s very respectful.

Is there anything you can currently tell us about what to expect in Episode 2?

Aaron – We haven’t officially announced episode 2 at this point, so I can’t really talk about a game we haven’t announced yet. We did call it episode one for a reason though, so there is more we’ll be able to talk about Sonic 4 in the future.

Is there anything you can tell us about the exclusive iPhone levels coming out?

Aaron – The iPhone levels are definitely designed to take advantage of the accelerometer and motion controls. I know a lot of stuff’s been out there, (in regards to leaked videos) I know a lot of people have seen some stuff, but it’s not the final version of the game. So I think in many ways, having Sonic 4 at E3 is a good chance for us to let them know that just because you saw something that you think is final doesn’t mean it’s final. Somethings that are touchy on console controls work much better on a motion control setting.

When I first saw Sonic 4 in motion, I thought it would make a great portable game myself. But as far as leaked videos go, from my own experience, it’s one thing to see it. It’s another thing to actually sit down and play it. It’s a much better game than they might expect. Is there anything you can tell us about the controversial Mine Kart level?

Aaron – (Laughs) That level I know was very controversial when it got out there. One was probably because of the design of the level and two because it was actually unfinished. So people might look at it and say “this isn’t what we were expecting”. It’s kind of like, when you look at a building being built. You don’t look at the framing and say “Well, where’s the air conditioning?” That was something people were obviously frustrated about because they saw what was not completed and they judged it based on that.

That’s kinda how I felt about Casino zone act 2. It’s obviously unfinished and feels like it’s there as possibly a placement holder.

Aaron – In many cases, it’s things that we test out. So at times it’s like “How would this play on a console? How would this feel?” and in many cases we got some fantastic feedback. In many ways, regardless of what some guy on a forum might have said, regardless of how controversial things may have been, that any change we make because of that is for the better.

Thanks so much for your time.

Aaron – You’re welcome.

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E3 2010 Q&A: Takashi Iizuka on Sonic Colors

Two fat, sweaty men got to talk to the head of Sonic Team.

Although we were running very late and exhausted (fat men were not meant to run!), we got a chance to interview Sonic Team’s head guy, Takashi Iizuka. We once again apologize to Sega for our lateness. Dang traffic.

The interview was focused solely on Sonic Colors for the Wii. He played two levels for us. One from Tropical Resort and another from Sweet Mountain. At the end of his game session, it was time for questions.  We were short on time, so we were only able to get a few questions in.

SS – Is this game made with just children in mind, or more for a general audience?

Iizuka – Of course, we are putting in kid friendly elements, but it’s not just for kids. The are some challenging elements put in as well.

SS – Who are the music composers for the Wii and DS versions?

Iizuka –  There’s not one composer. It’s the Sega Sound Team. It’s pretty much the same people who worked on Sonic Unleashed.

SS – What was the inspiration behind this game?

Iizuka – First we wanted to work with what was successful in the past. Like Sonic Unleashed’s daytime game play and add the Wisp Color powers to give it more variety.

SS – What was the decision behind making this Wii/DS exclusive?

Iizuka – It’s difficult to get into details. We basically used Sonic Rush and Sonic Unleashed Wii as models for the game play.

SS – What is the length of the game, in hours?

Iizuka – The game’s still in development, but in previous Sonic games, there would be an act 1 and act 2 of a zone. In this case,  for each of these worlds there are several stages. Also, once you get more color powers from other worlds, you can go back to older levels and find new paths to access. It also depends on how dedicated you are to finding all the items in the game.

SS – Is this game made from the ground up, or does it use any previous assets?

Iizuka –  Completely new as far as art and engine. Obviously, the game play is inspired by Sonic Unleashed.

SS – When is the game due?

Iizuka – This holiday season.

SS – What is the little Robotnik ship flying around the planets?

Iizuka – (Laughs) Sorry, we can’t talk about that yet.

SS – Last question,  any chance of a new NiGHTS or Burning Rangers game?

Iizuka – (Laughs) We can’t talk about that right now.

SS – Thank you so much for your time. .

Iizuka – You’re welcome.

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Community Interview: Hazard the Porgoyle

Remember when Dreadknux said that you could “get in touch” with us here at TSS?  Well, a visitor of ours did.  He has been featured here before and wanted to showcase his improvement for all of you.  I said, “Well, hey, your improvement is so great and your art has always been awesome.  Why not do an interview?”  And here we are… about to sit down with “Hazard the Porgoyle,” a guy who “lives to recreate Sonic boss battles.”

Brad Flick: Welcome back to the front page, Haz.  It’s great to finally talk to you.  I’m a big fan of your boss battle art.

Hazard the Porgoyle: Thanks… and thanks for featuring me here at TSS again.

Brad Flick: No problem.  So, what inspired you to start recreating boss battles from Sonic?

Hazard the Porgoyle: When I joined deviantART in 2005, all I had to present were a couple of Sonic Adventure Egg Carrier clay figures and some fancharacter drawings. I did obtain a Sonic Adventure 2 Battle strategy guide prior to that, and in it was a render of the Biolizard. I figured, “Why not recreate that model on paper, then insert the background around it?” So, for a couple of years I carried around a (rather shoddy) hand drawing of just that.  When I drifted away from hand drawing and delved into Macromedia Flash 7, I thought, “While I’m trying to learn this program, I might as well see what that old picture looks like when redrawn in Flash.” I posted the result, and (even regarding its quality) it was a hit. (Nowadays, and after a load of edits, that picture looks a little something like this http://hazard-the-porgoyle.deviantart.com/art/The-Prototype-The-Biolizard-87732400 ) From there, I began to think, what other seldom drawn scenes from the Sonic series can I put a new perspective on?  Such is my motto today.

BF: Cool.  You were featured a year ago in the “Fanatics” series when we were in the blog format last January.  The series only ran for a few months, so not a whole lot of artists were highlighted here How did that make you feel to be featured?

HP: At the time, (and even today) it couldn’t have felt better. It was such a pleasant surprise, (surprise is an understatement – I nearly jumped out of my skin) and I will certainly cherish the memory of that January morning forever. It started so normally, except that I had 48 messages out of nowhere, and continuing my morning routine by visiting my favorite Sonic Fan Site I found, well, you know.  Alas, after a time I was troubled – I saw how my skills were growing, and how by comparison, quite a few of my pictures had an off model Sonic and completely unrealistic shading.

BF: You thought that you had unrealistic shading then?  You certainly look like you’ve gotten better at it.  Do you think that you’ve improved a lot in the last year?

HP: It would seem that risks make all the difference. As time has passed, I not only improved my shading (switching from slapping radial gradients on everything to Photoshop 7’s Burn and Dodge tools) and accuracy, but also started playing with even more dynamic perspectives. My accuracy standards have also driven me to never leave any stone unturned. (Action Replay float codes anyone?) Details I thought were “good enough” in the past… not so much nowadays. If I had to bullet point it all, it’d look something like:

– Started drawing Sonic correctly.

– Vastly improved efficiency.  Pictures that may take others a week to do can be completed in a day or two by me.

– Learned how lighting works in the real world, and have applied that to my shading techniques.

– Starting expanding the cast found in my pictures.

– Started to truly understand Geometry and Perspective, leading to more dynamic scenes.

BF: It shows.  Your DeviantArt profile is full of your boss images.  What have you accomplished since starting your DA profile?

HP: Now I’m starting to wish I left one badly drawn picture for comparison, but hey, that in itself is an accomplishment. As I have improved and expanded my skills, I’ve extensively overhauled my Sonic Boss gallery to make sure every moment of the Sonic Series has equal representation through my hands. Specifically, my greatest accomplishments have to be my large animation projects. “To End a King’s Reign” and “For the Fallen Land’s Fate…” both take all of the same elements found in any still picture, and sets them into motion. But no, this doesn’t mean they’re perfect, (they are quite repetitive) but what I have learned form those projects can and will lead to bigger and better things. Oh, and nearly quadrupling my Boss gallery in a single year ain’t too shabby, neither.

BF: It also is amazing that you’ve managed to touch base with almost every game, including Sonic Labyrinth! What do you hope to do with your boss battle art, if anything?

HP: I don’t plan on things changing too much – I draw solely for the people of the Sonic community, just to see their reactions to finding that “Hey, someone does remember that boss.”  I’m learning what I hope are skills that will better my chances of working in the field that I hope to enter, but other than that, these pictures are for the fans.

BF: What are your other works of art that you are proud of?

HP: Outside of Sonic bosses, I may not do much, but when I put my skills towards other projects, I make it count. Case in point, in Spring ’09, Chicago held its Farmers Markets Reusable Bag Design Contest. No prizes for guessing who won that and got their picture taken with the mayor.   Closing statements: People of the Sonic Community, it’s only because of you that I have improved at all. Without feedback, I’d still be stuck in yesteryear’s patterns. Comments are always valued, and I hope to build my knowledge for the production of even greater pictures and animations. Brad, I cannot express my gratitude for you taking time out of your schedule to create this article, and I hope it marks the beginning of a productive and fulfilling year.

BF: And just for fun… which Sonic games are your favorite?

HP: There can never be a clear cut winner (I seem to go through phases with this sort of thing), but it boils down to Sonic 3 & Knuckles, Sonic Adventure 2 Battle, and Sonic Rush Adventure. The rich level design of S3&K keeps it from getting stale, the replay value of the hunters’ stages and Chao in SA2B keeps it fresh, and Rush Adventure’s fast and frantic boss battles are always a joy to experience.

BF: Thanks for the interview, Haz.  It was great to hear about your improvement as an artist.

HP: No, thank you.  Being featured here is an honor.

BF: Before you go… tell me… what the hell is a “porgoyle?”

HP: I knew this wasn’t going to conclude without that loose end being tied up. Porcupine Gargoyle, my friend. I was only about 11 or 12 when I made that really awkward concept up.

BF: That’s… really ridiculous.  Oh, fancharacters…

Visit Hazard’s DeviantArt Gallery of Sonic Boss Battles!

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Interview: Mike Pollock, Voice of Dr. Eggman

Last week, I talked to Mike Pollock, the current voice of Dr. Eggman and we had a grand ol’ time.  If you’ve got 21 minutes to spare, you can listen in as we discuss Mike’s work on Sonic Unleashed and other Sonic titles.  In addition, Mike talks about how he got into voice acting and he reminisces on his early days in New York radio and his work on his only film, Little Tug’s Big Adventure.  He also does some voices for us!

Mike is currently signed to do voice work on an upcoming, to be announced Wii title.  He recently was the announcer for AC/DC’s Black Ice album and has acquired credits for his work on commercials, Ultimate Muscle, and Kirby!  Right Back At Ya!.  For more information on Mike Pollock, visit his website.

Embedding and audio playback here at Sonic Stadium is wacky, so Jay (Disco Ponies) has hosted it at the Sonic Show website.


Do you have a question for Mike that was not asked during this interview?  Who do you think that the Sonic Stadium should interview next?  Post a comment then, dummy.  😀

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Interview: Archie Artist Matt Herms

TSS caught up with Matt Herms, colourist and artist for Archie Comic’s Sonic the Hedgehog series, to chat a little about comics, conventions and of course, beards…

So Matt, how did you get started with the whole comic book drawing thing? Were there any comics that, as a child, you particularly enjoyed reading, or that inspired you into drawing comics and cartoons yourself?

Dude, I think I’ve always read comics – for as long as I can remember, for sure. My first comics were stuff based on cartoons I liked, like Transformers or Real Ghostbusters; or stuff based on video games. Valiant published a series of Nintendo and Super Mario-based books way back when… And then I got into my first and true comic book obsession: Sonic the Hedgehog.

I know, I know – how convenient ‘n’ coincidental, right? Seriously though, I’m very honored, humbled, and blessed that my first major comic book work stateside happens to be on the very book I adored and collected with such a passion growing up. (I even drew my own Sonic comics as a kid!) It’s the comic that really got me into comics, in every single way.

Growing up with Sonic, do you have any favourite Sonical moments from your childhood? Did you have a favourite Sonic game you liked to play as a kid, or any favourites from the recent flurry of games?

Oh man, I hate to break the news to you guys, but I have a confession to make: I’ve always been a Super Mario man [Sacrilege! – T]. I know, I know… We can stop the interview right here, if you want. But I dug the Super Mario Bros. =P My only real Sonic gaming experience early on was Sonic the Hedgehog 2, for Genesis. It was the first and only game I actually had for the system – and I played the hell out of it! It was challenging, and pretty, and I logged months on-end into that game. (I never beat it, either.)

I think what really drew me into the Sonic fandom was what DiC Animation did with the license – Sonic “SatAM.” It was such a different beast of a show from what I’d previously known. Continuity-driven, even maturely-themed. Through that and the comics, my investment in the characters grew. Then Sonic Adventure happened and I knew I was hooked: I once again shelled out for an entire gaming system just to play one Sonic game.

Now that you are an artist for Archie’s Sonic the Hedgehog series, how do you go about drawing a character to reflect their attitudes and demeanours? Do you have any favourite characters, or characters you get particular pleasure out of drawing?

These days I do mostly colorist work, but I got to tackle almost all of my favorite characters during my drawing tenure. I’d lost track of StH while in high school, and when I came back to it years later Sonic had an all new romantic interest: Mina Mongoose. And I recall thinking “Holy crap is that ballsy… Way to go, Archie!” I mean, I come from the Internet fandom, and know that we can be rather outspoken sometimes… The idea of Sonic dating anyone whose name isn’t “Sally” or “Amy” is practically sacrilege. I got back into the comic big-time because of it, and was thrilled when my very first ish as penciler was re-introducing Mina into continuity after a long, long absence.

Sonic himself is by far the most fun to draw – he’s so pose-able and action-tastic! And even characters I thought I’d severely dislike drawing (Mammoth Mogul) turned into new favorites. I even got to draw Fiona Fox, who I have wa-a-ay too much of a comic-book-crush on. XD The only thing I’d missed was a Scourge brawl – I friggin’ love Scourge. Much to my excitement, I got to finally draw a Sonic/Scourge smackdown in the recent StH#197.

I gotta’ say, I’m not fond at all of drawing Amy, though. =/ And I had a whole issue with her in the spotlight! XP

We all know you are a master of the beard…something to which I relate, and salute. Do you have a name for your “beard style?”

Hah! Alas, I do not. I’ve been bearded since ’05, and ran the gamut from goatee to scruffy lumberjack, to my favorite Gendo Ikari (from Evangelion) beard… Which my future mother-in-law says makes me look Amish. I’ve done Amish-beard with blue-dyed hair, too. (Not intentionally Sonic-inspired… Seriously, it didn’t even occur to me until I was out promoting the comics!)

You’re also involved in other web comics such as Sticky Floors on Snafu; tell us a little about that.

…Haha! Oh man, Sticky Floors... XP

So, when I was just starting out, I’d noticed that web comics seemed to be a booming kinda’ business: A great way to get your name, your style, your work out there and a great way of building a readership and fan-base. Web comics were also getting a great deal of perks at conventions, and I wanted in on that gravy train.

Sticky Floors was a li’l high school comic strip based largely on the personalities of me and my pervy, juvenile, sex-obsessed friends. David Stanworth, owner of the mega web comic-collective Snafu-Comics.com, offered me a free-ride with hosting and promotion and a built-in readership of thousands from the get-go, and the rest was history.

The comedy of authoring a horribly explicit, potty-mouthed raunch-fest like Sticky Floors while simultaneously being employed by the most wholesome, family-friendly comic book publisher in America isn’t lost on me. (I’m actually very tickled by it. Just don’t go spreadin’ that around! ;P) It’s partly been why the strip has fallen by the wayside in the last year: While I’m out-and-about promoting the Sonic books and my work in them, I have to shelf SF and censor its shenanigans. I miss it from time-to-time – I love the format! But it accomplished everything I wanted it to and I’m very proud of that.

We love our music here at TSS – particularly our Sonic music! Visiting your Deviantart account we see you’re a Coheed and Cambria fan (rock on!) – What genres of music particularly inspire you, and do you have any favourite pieces of Sonic-related music from games or TV shows?

Okay, so I’m totally a geek. And I’m proud of that and think I’m in excellent company. =P I have absolutely every single vocal track from Sonic Adventure and (especially) Adventure 2. I love them hard! In addition to video game soundtrack (preferably instrumental stuff from RPGs), I have very varied tastes. I love Reel Big Fish, All American Rejects, and definitely Coheed & Cambria. Anything 80s music, and a lotta’ techno and trance and dance music, too.

Also, musicals. Serious face, I love the hell outta’ them. And, yes, I sing along. And have done so publicly and unapologetically, while sober in fact!

What does a World-class comic artist do in their spare time?

These days, planning a wedding! =D

I’m actually very blessed that my career happens to be doing something that I’d just be doing anytime, anyway, as a hobby or such. So in the time I may not be drawing or Photoshopping, I usually just poke around the Inter-webs. (Wikipedia is awesome, and awesomely time-consuming.)

You’ve just been to the IKKiCon 2009 convention in Austin, Texas – how did that go? We know you’re a Power Rangers fan (aren’t we all?)…did you manage to bump into Jason David Frank?

Haha! Well, since you’ve given me the opportunity, I’d like to properly shout-out to Mike Loredo and his con-staff over at Ikki – they really put on the most amazing show every year and they invite me out and treat us so well and I absolutely love Austin. IkkiCon is one of the best shows I do all year, and this last weekend lived up to the hype.

As for Jason David Frank… Ya’ see, Loredo is as much a Power Rangers fanboy as I am. We grew up with that show – hell, I still have quite a few of the action figures from Mighty Morphin’ on display in my office! So one morning, Loredo drops by my table in Artist Alley, all cool and calm and crap. And he’s like, “So Jason Frank just got here. About to do a signing. Wanna’ meet him?” And I’m thinking: Dude, I just got here. I can’t go stand in a line right now. And he’s all, “No, like, meet him. Before the signing.” Hell yes!

So we get introduced, I give him a big poster of a Power Ranger illustration I’d done especially for the con, and I got my picture taken with him. He’s a totally nice guy! I had such a hardcore fan moment, it was morphinominal! (Yes, I said it. =P) I found out later in the con he wanted some postcard prints of individual Rangers I’d drawn. For his daughter. How friggin’ cool is that?

The convention scene is something you are quite keen on; what do you enjoy about doing conventions? Are you attending any up-and-coming conventions that your fans should put the dates in their diaries for?

Man, I adore conventions. I starting doing ‘em in 2005 – I was a kid, fresh out of high school, no work to my name. There’s a lot I love about the shows – the travel, meeting new and interesting people, seeing old friends I only get to see every couple months. I especially love the interaction with fans and readers! When somebody comes up and is like “Oh man, you do Sonic!” or Sticky Floors. It’s such a high, and I love chatting about how the book is made or my favorite characters or games and stuff. (In case you haven’t noticed, I can ramble on-and-on about this stuff.) When I’m at a con, my goal is to make everyone that stops by the table feel like it was absolutely worth it. I’m there as part of your convention experience, and I take that job very seriously.

Nothing is set in-stone yet about my upcoming calendar, but I will definitely be doing Free Comic Book Day the first Saturday of May. This is an amazing event – we’ll have a special retrospective issue of Sonic up for grabs (It’s free!) as well as free copies of some of the issues my work’s appeared in… And I’ll be doing free sketches! =D All from Laughing Ogre Comics and Toys in Lansdowne, Virginia. (My fellow Sonic creatives will be doing likewise at other stores, too.)

Trying to avoid the generic question…but what are your aims and aspirations for the future?

Keep doing what I’m doing, working with great teams to produce some truly great comic book experiences! I like to work – I’m a full-on work-a-holic – so I’m hoping to see a lot of material produced this year.

Thanks for letting me talk your ears off, guys! =D It was a pleasure.

Big shout out to Matt for the interview! Keep an eye out in the coming weeks for your chance to win yourself a copy of Matt Herm’s Sketch book, complete with a hand-drawn sketch of Sonic by Matt himself!

The Sonic Stadium may link to retailers and earn a small commission on purchases made from users who click those links. These links will only appear in articles related to the product, in an unobtrusive manner, and do not influence our editorial decisions in any way.

Interview: Sonic XG’s Christian Whitehead

If you’re not involved in the Sonic fangaming/hacking community, or even the fan community at large, you might have heard of or seen either Sonic XG or Retro-Sonic at one point or another while perusing forums and websites. Both titles are not only fantastic re-creations of classic 2D-Sonic, but they are influential to others wishing to do the same. At the 2007 Sonic Amateur Games Expo, both of these titles were among the best of the lot, but were each lacking in a department that the other excelled in. XG had extraordinary graphics and design. Retro-Sonic prided itself on its far-superior engine.

Soon after, these projects combined to form a fangaming juggernaut. The perfect Sonic engine and the definitive fan-sequel to Sonic 3 & Knuckles merged to become “Retro-Sonic XG.” However, the buzz was short lived. The RSXG team, Christian Whitehead (Taxman), Euan Gallacher (Sir Euan), and Joseph Waters (Nitemare) are rarely heard from and thus, XG gradually vanished… until today.

The creator of the Retro-Sonic engine, Whitehead, re-surfaced when it was announced that my Sonic project, Sonic Nexus, would also be using the engine, thus creating the “Retro-Sonic Series.” The 2008 demo of Nexus motivated Whitehead to construct a brand new version of Retro-Sonic, one that would optimize the development of both games. After the successful launch of Nexus’ demo, Christian retuned to Retro-Sonic XG. Now that months of work has been put into the title, he’s ready to unveil new information and screenshots with the world. Click the image thumbnails to make them full-size.

BF: Welcome to the TSS Interview of Christian Whitehead, Christian Whitehead.

Christian Whitehead: Thanks?

BF: OK, let’s begin with the question that is on every RSXG fan’s mind.  The project has been out of the community’s conscience for the past year or two.  Nobody knows if it’s dead or alive.  When you joined the Nexus team, that raised further suspicions that you had left the project.  Could you assure the readers and the community at large that RSXG is alive and well?

CW: Yes, I can.  As most people know, a fair portion of development time in 2008 was spent creating the new revised edition of the Retro-Sonic engine, along with the RSDK and the 2008 Nexus demo. Before then, I had already converted a fair portion of the assets from Sonic XG into the 2007 version of Retro Sonic. While most people will groan at yet another engine change, this is the definitive change, and has already increased the productivity on the RSXG project. 2009 will be the year of Retro-Sonic XG though, as part 1 is slated for release, much in a similar vein to how Sonic 3 was released before Sonic & Knuckles.

BF: Part 1, eh?  So, we’ll see 6 of the 12 zones in Sonic XG this year?

CW: Yes. Rather than putting out another 1 level demo of Final Fall, I wanted to finish a ‘complete’ work of sorts… and half a game is a more realistic target to keep us motivated.

BF: That’s an idea worth stealing, if you’re a fangamer.

CW: Haha, yeah. Even as half a game, there will be a lot of content.  The aim is the same scope as Sonic 3, in terms of level sizes, bosses and the like.  Which I guess makes sense, since RSXG is a sort of spiritual sequel that picks up where Sonic 3 & Knuckles ended.

BF: Yes, RSXG does what a lot of “Sonic 4″ fangames wish that they could do, in my opinion.

CW: And there are a LOT of those.

BF: Tell me about it.  Now, after Nexus’ release, you talked about the new Retro-Sonic Development Kit (RSDK).  How does the new RSDK benefit the development of XG?

CW: One of the big benefits, I reckon, has been the improved stage editing tools within RSDK. It’s now much quicker to setup tile mappings and stuff, so the process of building all the level set pieces is much less tedious. The updated scripting system, ‘TaxReceipt,’ is also more powerful than before, which makes for some cool cutscenes, graphical effects, etc etc. We’re aiming for a level of graphical quality on par with the 32bit Sega Saturn.

BF: Excellent!  We talk about the RSDK, because we’re plenty familiar with it and how it works.  However, readers might not understand what we’re talking about.  What exactly is the Retro-Sonic Development Kit?

CW: Basically, the RSDK is a suite of tools that I created to design content for the Retro-Sonic engine. There are visual editors for Stages, Parallax, Tiles, Objects, etc. In addition there’s text based scripting with syntax hilighting and other additional setup menus for stuff like stage ordering and resource management. Since everything is scriptable, it’s actually possible to make games other than Sonic, too.

BF: I’m totally making a Socket fangame after Nexus then.

CW: Socket?

BF: Shitty Sonic clone with kickass music.

CW: Haha! Man, there’s a new Sonic clone discovered every minute isn’t there?

BF: Yeah, I should start ripping backgrounds from it and editing them to match my foreground tiles.  Nobody will notice!

CW: They will now.  You just said so.

BF: Well, damn.  Let’s move on from my flub and talk “Part 1.”  What are we going to see?  Levels, characters, features?  Give us the low down!

CW: Well, without giving too much away, you’ve got the standard triple threat of Sonic, Tails, and Knuckles as playable characters.  There will be 6 zones: Final Fall, Peak Panic, Wood Works, Palm Paradiso, Scorched Spire and Robotic Resort, two of which some some keen players might recognize from their previous incarnations as Retro-Sonic levels. Also, the 7 chaos emeralds make an appearance, which means Special and Bonus Stages.  Finally, plenty of bosses will be ready to attack and a data select menu will save your progress.

BF: When part 2 is released far down the road, will players be able to merge their Part 1 data with Part 2’s data to make a SUPER game?

CW: Definitely, although to make it simpler, we’ll just provide the full game to download and players can just use their existing save file to continue where they left off.

BF: So, players will have to manually copy their data into the new EXE?  Sounds simple enough. Do you think people will manage to fuck that up?  Haha…

CW: Anything’s possible, haha.  I guess we can make an installer… but most people dislike that.

BF: Usually.  Everybody at SFGHQ hates that shit.

I’ve heard rumors that all the level art is completed.  Is it true that you’ll have to do no more graphical work for levels? I ask, because the level graphics always seem to be the hardest part for fangamers and hearing that all the level graphics are done will be a great sign of RSXG’s progress.

CW: Yes and no.  We have graphics for all the zones, but I guess things always get tweaked or updated as you go, due to new ideas that might come up or tile considerations due to the change from MMF2 to Retro-Sonic. But overall, yes, level graphics aren’t too much of a worry now.  In fact, it was one of the great benefits of the merge to me.

BF: It was a good choice.  Retro-Sonic got what XG lacked and vice-versa.  Who initiated the merger and were the level graphics a main reason that you decided to go along with it?

CW: Well, I was the one who extended the offer to Euan and Joseph. I was really impressed with the graphics, presentation and the overall feel of the game. They were paying attention to little details that I, up until that point, hadn’t had a chance to do in Retro-Sonic. I thought, “I should really be doing that!” Then, I considered that I’d only created graphics for about 3 of the Retro-Sonic levels and how much more work it’d take on top of all the other stuff I was doing. The merge just seemed like a good idea to me at the time, and when we had discussions about it, everything just seemed to click.

BF: What was the thought process behind joining up with the guys and I on Sonic Nexus?  Months before the release, I was as surprised as people were on release day on the news that Nexus and Retro-Sonic were joining forces.  You and Damizean were talking without my knowledge, as I never even considered asking you due to the XG merger.

CW: Haha, the fact you guys were considering using the Torque game builder? XD

BF: Oh…right.  Well, it looked like a good idea at the time.

CW: No, seriously… Torque?  XD

BF: It’s in the past. What’s it like working for two projects anyway?  Besides that fact that it is time consuming and probably sucks at times.

CW: Well, for one, I guess, it has been one of the main driving forces that made me do a final restructuring of the Retro-Sonic engine! At least that’s over and done with, but it keeps things fresh for me too, I suppose. If I get a creative block or am bored with one, I can switch to the other. :P

BF: Fair enough.  So, back to RSXG.  I remember seeing pictures of old builds that had appearances from classic Sonic antagonists, like Nack/Fang and Metal Sonic.  Are they still hanging around and/or other villians coming to the party?

CW: Well, everyone’s favorite Egg Garden boss will make a comeback… does that count? Seriously though, in terms of actual “intelligent characters” no, but there may be a few cameo appearances from a classic boss or two. ;)

BF: Coo’.  Well, I’m out of questions.  Do you think that I missed anything?

CW: Yeah, we’ve covered all that there is to know.

Visit the Retro-Sonic Homepage

Visit the old Sonic XG Homepage

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Community Interview: Super Sonic Knockout!

‘Sup, chumps?  You like good fangames?  Me too.  So, today, I managed to get my buddy VexusVersion (the artist formerly known as “Project ShadowBlaze”) to spill some details on the past, present, and future of his Sonic fighting game, “Super Sonic Knockout.”  Amidst the walls of text, you’ll see some awesome new screenshots of the 2009 build of the game, debuting right here on TSS.

Brad Flick: What it do, PSB?

VexusVersion: It’s actually VexusVersion now.  The name “Project ShadowBlaze sucks too much.”  XD

BF: Fair enough, dawg.  So, before we get to what’s new with SSK, there might be some TSS readers who have never heard of it.  Would you mind briefing us on what the project is?

VV: Sure!  “Super Sonic Knockout” is a platform-fighting styled fangame, which has been in development for over 3 years now.  The game is an expansion of my first project, “Sonic Knockout,” which was to get many Sonic characters and have them fight in many places across the Sonic universe. When people think about SSK, the Smash Bros. series is usually the first thing people compare it too, which is funny, because that was never really the priority.

So, I guess that it’s fair to say that SSK is kind of like Smash Bros., but just with Sonic.

BF: Yeah, I’d wager that a Smash Bros. comparison is fair.  I had never heard of “Sonic Knockout” before.

VV: That’s probably a good thing.

BF: Haha!  Anyway, what is the development history of SSK?

VV: Back in 2005, I almost finished my first fangame project, “Sonic Boom.”  I already had an idea for a sequel to continue what I started, only better. On September 23rd, 2005, I officially started programming the new project, titled “Sonic Boom 2.” However, progress stopped for a long time on both titles because of other commitments.

However, in 2006, the first Summer of Sonic event was a few months away and I thought it would be a good idea to try my hand at fangaming once more. I renamed the first game to “Sonic Knockout,” hastily put together all the pieces, rushed the ending, and submitted it on SoS 2006.

BF: S0S 2006 is a blur to me.  I don’t even remember there being fangames there aside from BlazeHedgehog’s Sonic 2K6 2D-adaptation.

VV: Well, it was and since that the original was finished, I began continuing work for the sequel, which I renamed to “Super Sonic Knockout.” I think that the first demo was released in January of 2007.

BF: You gave me such a specific date for “Sonic Boom” and for your current project, you say, “I think?”

VV: *shrugs* XD

BF: Speaking of whens, when and what was the last demo that you released to the public?

VV: The last demo I released? That was way back in March of last year. It was a bug-fix of the last beta that I made and was titled “Beta 3.3.” I released the last beta one month before, and I had quite a list of glitches to fix.  Unfortunately, I made one new glitch that people STILL mention as if they were the first to find it.

BF: Heh, it’s the Internet.  People have a tendency to be complete fuck-ups and not read anything.

VV: I still find it funny, too.

BF: Are you looking to erase that famous glitch in your next demo, along with other developmental strides?

VV: Well, people who have been following the project probably know that I have started a new engine from ground zero, which will eliminate the glitches in the previous builds. I’ve dubbed it the “2009 engine.” The old engine was showing its age. It was built around code that I developed over 2 years ago, so it was unorganized and had a lot of unused stuff. That, and some features had to be cut because they just wouldn’t work.

The new engine solves that though. Basically, everything that I wanted from the beginning is in the new engine, from throws and arial combos to tag-team and multi-stage elements.

BF: That’s the gameplay side of things, but I know that you have a story lined up for this game as well.  Are any story surprises going to surface in the next build?

VV: Surprises?  I look back at my first game and I see the story as a disaster… it didn’t make a lot of sense.  As a result, I’m rewritting the original game’s story and putting that as a secret story in SSK’s “Story Mode.” The improved story should make much more sense than the original did, plus it would help shed some light to story elements in SSK’s story, too.

BF: You ever going to tell me what that damn, red fancharacter is doing there?

VV: You and fancharacters.  I swear.

A video package of Beta 3.3.

BF: Sue me.  I digress.  After you release a demo with the 2009 engine, what are your future plans?

VV: I plan to continue working on SSK and to make sure it gets done and done right, of course. I’m also helping STi work on Sonic Firestorm, working on zone backgrounds. I’m also going to be working on refining my art skills, so I’ve always got something to do.

BF: I know what STi is, but again, some people might not.  What is it?

VV: Sonic Technical Institute is the formerly named “Sonic Cage Dome Technical Institute.”  We work on SSK and Sonic Firestorm, two popular fangames.  If anybody wants to join our team, visit our website and inquire.  Make sure that you have skills!

BF: Mad skills?

VV: Sure.

BF: Well, I’m done here.  Say “hi” to your mother for me, ok?

VV: …ok?  XD

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Community Interview: Sonic Paradox


TSS is bringing back community interviews (omg more exclusive content)!  Aside from speaking with specific individuals, I’ll be talking to the heads of Sonic communities that you may not of heard of in “Know Your Sonic Sites.”  Today’s featured community is Sonic Paradox, a Sonic site that specializes in Sonic flash animation.  I’ll be interviewing one of its staff members, RGXSuperSonic.  Yeah, he’s my flash man for Nexus.  I’m playing it safe for the first one and, plus, I never heard of Paradox until he joined the team.  Time to feed my curiosity!

Continue reading Community Interview: Sonic Paradox

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