All About Creating Sonic Boom: Rise Of Lyric With Big Red Button

By Spencer . June 3, 2014 . 3:02am


After playing Sonic Boom: Rise of Lyric, Siliconera spoke with Bob Rafei, Creative Director and CEO of Big Red Button which is developing the Wii U game. Rafei and his studio have been working with Sega and Sonic Team to make a new type Sonic the Hedgehog game tied to the upcoming TV show of the same name.


What was the biggest takeaway you got from fans after Sonic Boom was announced?


Bob Rafei, CEO of Big Red Button: That’s easy. What a strong fanbase and a vocal fanbase this franchise has.


The most important feedback was from Sega and Sonic Team. This is something they are exploring in terms of a different approach for Sonic. That was the most important guidance to us.


In terms of your first question, having that strong reaction to me validates we were on the right track. The majority of it was strong and positive so we know we are hitting the right chord. Also from my personal perspective is if we didn’t foster such a strong reaction we wouldn’t be giving Sega their run for their money by having us really explore a different approach with the franchise. We ultimately believe we are on the right track and we are happy and comfortable with the direction that Sonic Boom is going in.


What part of Sonic Boom surprised Sonic Team the most when you showed it to them?


I would say combat. That was a bit of a head scratcher for Sonic Team, but the more they saw what we were doing the more they helped us hone it. We knew it had to have speed elements because it is a Sonic game. That sense of exploration is going back to a Sonic Adventure feel.


[Feedback from Sonic Team] was really in terms of balancing and tuning. Part of the mission mandate at Big Red Button was to expand on Sonic. I would say that is something we brought to the table and Sega really digested and agreed it was a good approach.




Sonic is an interesting series since there are kids that grew up with 2D Sonic and there are kids that grew up with and prefer 3D Sonic. And now, there are going to be kids that will grow up with Sonic Boom. There are three different kinds of games with one starring character. When you look at your style in Sonic Boom what are the tenets of this kind of Sonic game?


Primarily, it is a character action exploration. It’s an epic adventure story. It’s all about exploration. We introduced combat in a way that is kind of new to the franchise so it was very important that we do that right because it is such a different approach. And certainly speed is part of the equation. The speed component for us is tapping into joyous movement, the sense of rollercoaster and exhilaration of movement.


In terms of the main project pillar, it was cooperative play. We wanted to have an experience where friends and family sit down on a couch and are able to play the game together. That kind of relationship people will bring to it, we wanted to have the characters display that in their banter. Personality was another big important part of it, in terms of how the characters emote and how it reflects into the mechanics as well.


For example, Sonic is all about speed. His navigation and combat are centered around fast rapid movements. Knuckles is a big bruiser, he’s a power character. Tails is the inventor on the team and Amy has agility. She has a triple jump. Knuckles has burrow and wall climbing. Tails has a buddy bot, which he can release onto enemies or unlock gates for him. That kind of characteristic that comes out in their persona also come out in how they speak to each other in the story. These guys known each other for a long time that means we can have some fun since they don’t always agree with each other.


Is it hard to do joyous movement in 3D space compared to the 2D Sonic games where Sonic had one less plane to worry about?


I think Sonic Boom has found a good formula for that. We tried to make a subtle variation by having lane changing and the obstacle course. There are a lot of different paths too. Classic Sonic has the main path and for the more skilled players you can access the higher levels. That is also something we wanted to tap into as well.


In terms of navigating in 3D space, yeah it is more difficult because spatially you have to understand what is happening. That’s the challenge of any driving game has or flying game has. That is something we were also very aware of when we developing the course in Sonic Boom.


How did you solve the problem?


It’s the progression of challenge and that’s through introduction and mastery of a mechanic. There will be cases when we’re introducing it will be a lot more straight forward and you are just mastering lane changing or obstacle avoidance. Later on, it becomes pretty fast and frantic. It was very important for us to get the right balance into the game. Right now, you’re seeing one of the levels and later on we’ll give you more feedback about what the full game has.



Sonic is known for having an attitude and in the old cartoons he made a lot of one liner wisecracks. When you were writing the story, what are some of the jokes and catchphrases he has in Sonic Boom?


There are so many. We wanted to find a balance between making the character appealing and not being so repetitive by saying the same one liners. What we love about his personality is we wanted to build on his attitude of rushing into action sometimes without thinking about it. Tails, a lot of times, is telling him, “We got to check this out” or the other team members will say, “I don’t know if we need to go there.” That’s the fun aspect of having Sonic rush into action and then have to backtrack to see if he got into trouble or not. That plays a big part in the story which will we reveal more at E3.


What about Amy? It seems like she’s changed the most.


We wanted to have a strong, able-bodied female character. We didn’t want her to be fawning after Sonic. The goal was to have her be appealing on her own. She is very agile, she is very acrobatic, and very graceful. She’s the only character, from a pure mechanics perspective, that has a triple jump. There are some places that only she can get to.


And Knuckles?


He’s the most fun character to write for because he’s a little slow on the uptake. A lot of times, the things he is saying tend to be funny because he is trying to process what is happening. He’s our go to guy for the punch line and I think the show does that as well. In collaboration with the TV writers, we wanted to have a consistent approach with their personalities and the show really plays up on that.




How does Eggman fit into this since Sonic Boom has a new main villain?


We wanted him to pass down the torch in terms of introducing a new villain. That’s a very fun dynamic that was very cool to create, these two guys have an uneasy partnership and we’ll be talking about that more at E3.


We will still see a decent amount of Eggman in the game?


Oh yeah, absolutely. We wanted to tap into the best parts of canon and build on top of that. Eggman is in the game and there is a boss round with him here. Part of the narrative arc is being stronger with friends, which is what are team represents and that kind of discord the antagonist team goes through. They can ultimately never be able to work together, so that becomes their undoing. Versus the team, which learns to mesh together and use their individual skills to their best advantage.


It seems like there are more collectables in Sonic Boom like all of those robot parts in the demo.


Because we chose to do a character adventure, part of the genre is the ability to explore and to find these rare items. That’s where that comes from, to be true to the genre blending, taking those parts of Sonic that we love and putting a twist on it by giving it a classic character adventure feel. You go to the hubs, you meet NPCs, there are unlockables there, there are missions that they give you. There are home improvement missions you’ll see at the hubs and those are satisfied by collecting robot parts.


Are we going to see any other characters from the Sonic universe? Maybe Metal Sonic, Shadow or Fang?


That’s to be determined later.

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  • Derek E Nay

    Sonic Boom! Sonic Boom! Sonic Boooommm!… oh wait wrong song :(

    • E.T.993

      I hope Crush 40’s version will be the show’s main theme.

  • Crevox

    This game is going to be received very strangely I feel… it’s like a 3D action brawler more than a Sonic game. It’s really weird. Seems like it’s going to really need the TV show to help it take off and for people to understand why it’s a thing.

    • Invisbin

      Not really. The game/show tie in will be a cash cow. From gameplay impressions, it looks like Sonic Adventure with fighting mechanics and not just “Kill it with the Homing Attack and move on.” There’s fighting, exploration, and even the same 2.5 speeding around and platforming.

  • Fidelis

    Really, I’m loving everything about this besides the lasso…
    The lasso just looks dumb to me.
    But really, this is what’s selling the WiiU for me.

    It’s really funny how well I’m receiving this change to my all-time favorite franchise when I was so irked by DMC’s change.

    I’m excited for anything and everything Sonic Boom

    • Namuro

      You know, the way they gave the interview makes me think of DmC straight away. They seemed to be really confident with this version of Sonic. We’ll see if they can deliver.

      Speaking of the lasso. Yeah, it seems really out of place, since Sonic is supposed to be able to overcome anything, relying only on his speed (and the powah of friendship!). Had they given the lasso to Tails only, being the “gadget guy” he is, it would make more sense (but even then, he can fly, so there’s no need for him to have it…). But if it will make for a good gameplay, then let’s see how it will turn out.

    • persona_yuji

      About the design change, it’s not that strange that it’s being well recieved. I mean, when you look at Sonic, you still say “Yep, that’s Sonic” but when you look at DmC’s “Dante”, you can’t help it but say “Uh…who in the hell is this guy? He looks nothing like Dante.”
      Overall, you can see that Big Red Button respects the Sonic franchise and wants to add their own tweaks to the formula, unlike Ninja Theory with Devil May Cry.

  • Tylor Boreas Makimoto

    Amy’s a strong, independent hedgehog who don’t need no man.

  • Namuro

    So… They’re making Knuckles a totally dumb brute? I know he’s not the smartest echidna around, but I’ve always see him as a cool-type character that has a mysterious air about him. He can be calm and collected, as well as going all out like a typhoon. There’s also the hip-hop vibe that SEGA gave him, which I think suits him very well.

    Let’s just see how his character turns out…

    As for the game; while it seems promising, I can’t help but think that it’s just going to be another Jak and Daxter in Sonic’s skin. But what do I know, there’s no way to tell until I can actually try it. Let’s hope it’s good!

    • Knuckles was originally the rival character for Sonic and worked quite well for that role — his strength and dexterity to contrast with Sonic’s speed and agility. Yet at the same time, they were both energetic and tough go-getters who could kick all manner of ass once they shared a common goal, their contrasting abilities turning complementary in the process.
      It was Sonic Adventure 2 I believe that marked the shift in Knuckles’ character — or rather, nobody knew what to do with him anymore, since Shadow took on the role of Sonic’s rival at that point. (A much less engaging type of rivalry IMO, but opinions opinions.) At any rate, I don’t feel the whole “Knuckles is the dim-witted friend” angle is very interesting. He wasn’t meant to be Sonic’s pal–that was Tails’ role. And though Knuckles was duped by Robotnik in S3&K, I don’t think that really marks him as an idiot. Robotnik is a genius, after all! (And my favorite character in the Sonic world… Will be curious to see what Sonic Boom attempts with the mad scientist, though I probably shouldn’t expect much.)

  • HassanJamal

    I thought Sanzaru games were the developers?

    • DanijoEX ♬ the Cosmic Owl

      For the 3DS version, they are.

      • HassanJamal

        Ah, cool, thanks.

  • This game is starting to grow on me from all the previews they keep giving. AND I JUST CAN’T WAIT FOR THE SHOW AAAAAAA

  • Göran Isacson

    Man is this a strange one.

    Like, I like Bob Rafeis work and I dig Jak and Daxter. Taking Sonic more in that direction is a pretty decisive move, which I think can work in it’s favor. Sometimes you just have to decide what you want your game to do, and it really feels like they’ve got a clear direction for the game. The question now is how GOOD they will be at taking Sonic in that direction. Someone said that the lassoo feels more like a Tails-gimmick, and I agree, he’s the guy who does machines here.

    Gotta admit though, not feeling their decision to make Knuckles the slow muscle.

  • Reading over this, it sounds as if… Tails doesn’t fly? They never mention it, and they say Amy’s triple jump gets her places others can’t reach… Does Tails fly in this game?

    • Kaetsu

      They mentioned that he’ll be able glide far in windy areas.

  • s07195

    Not sure I think Knuckles works as a “Dumb brute” archetype that much.

    • A character called Knuckles? Sounds obvious.

    • Invisbin

      Its always been like that

      • Scourge626

        No it hasn’t. He’s easily tricked by Robotnik in the games, but he’s not the dumb brute type especially in the comics.

      • Fidelis

        It was more of a progression
        The adventure series turned him into a serious loner. Sonic Heroes reconciled that with his portrayal in older Sonic games (Chuckling all the time whenever he screwed Sonic over) By turning him into a mature and cautious, yet lighthearted person who pokes fun at Tails and has a rivalry with Sonic without being overtly excitable and competitive.(If you pay attention, he’s friggin obsessed with Sonic. 80% of his dialogue is addressed to Sonic by name. He kind of ignores tails.)
        Shadow the hedgehog upped the dial on his aggressiveness. After that, he was portrayed as somewhat slow, because…that’s just what happens to a character that’s the hotheaded muscle. Two out of three writers will turn the archetype into “dumb muscle” when they get their hands on it”.

    • Kaetsu

      He never was in the previous games. Before he had more of an edge to him. I think I’m fine with the change mostly because Travis Willingham will most likely give a good performance.

  • Spirit Macardi

    I do like how they want to make Amy a more complex character; as funny as her hitting on Sonic can be, it’s also a bit exasperating.

    Eggman being usurped though… Part of what’s made me love the recent games is that he’s been the main baddie, even when it seems like someone else is going to steal the spotlight. He’s just such a great villain, and Mike Pollock’s performance is so delightfully hammy.

    I’m not for him passing the torch, but sharing it could work.

  • John Diamond

    wonder if the soundtrack would be on par tho

    • Invisbin

      They always are…Well…except for Lost World imo.

  • 60hz

    why is this even a sonic game… perhaps it should have been a knuckles game… some strange decisions here… doesn’t seem to have the spirit of sonic, it may still be a decent game but i’m wondering: why sonic?

    • Invisbin

      Why not? At least Sega tries different things. You know…takes risks. This will boom, pardon the pun, with the kids, and the kid in me wants this.

  • Scourge626

    The only thing I’m hating so far is how they are making Knuckles the big dumb jock character. He’s a lot smarter than that in the comics and his spin-off comic is probably the best thing to come out of the Sonic comics in general. Yet, he’s never been given his due.

    • Ixbran

      they didnt say hes dumb, just that hes slow. Being dumb and being slow are two different things.

      He could very well be very intelligent, but he just takes time to formulate the things he wants to say before saying them. There’s nothing wrong with that.

      • Scourge626

        Either way, that’s not him. Knuckles is a little naive to some things having grown up on an island by himself (but then again he was tricked by Robotnik and he is the smartest man alive in that world) but he’s isn’t slow on the uptake. Knuckles was created to be Sonic’s rival in which case they made him similar in some aspects but different in others. Primarily, Knuckles was the more intelligent of the two who thought out his moves (unless thoroughly enraged) while Sonic (while not dumb or slow) never thought about his plans unless he needed to.

  • God

    Never liked that kind of antagonist(s)… you know, the kind whose undoing is something simple like “teamwork” (unless it’s a single antagonist and he works alone), “friendship”, “love”, “good always beats dark”, etc… I like to take my antagonists seriously, to be dangerous, as strong or stronger than the main character, and who actually is hard to bring down, not only at the start of the game, but to the very end.

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