Interested in learning what’s next for the gaming industry? Join gaming executives to discuss emerging parts of the industry this October at GamesBeat Summit Next. Learn more.
Sonic Frontiers is planning to come out this holiday season for PlayStation 5, Xbox Series X/S, Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. But fans have been debating if it should.
Most are reacting to trailers, but I had a chance to actually play some of Sonic Frontiers during the Summer Game Fest Play Days event last week. And what I tried has promise. Running around an open environment with Sonic can feel freeing and fun. I also enjoyed the combat, which manages to mix Sonic’s speed with modern action game basics like combos and dodging.
But there’s also room for concern. While running, grinding and dashing through the world feels good, movement gets more awkward when you slow down. At one point, I wanted to jump to the roof of a ruined temple. Maneuvering Sonic during tighter platforming like this can feel rough, especially when objects feel like they have random hit detection.
Speaking of hit detection, I also fell through the ground and died after beating a boss. These kinds of bugs aren’t unusual for a game that is still in development, but Sonic has a history with these kinds of problems. It’s concerning. Basically, what I played was promising but unpolished.
While at the Summer Game Fest Play Days, I also had a chance to talk with Sonic Frontiers creative officer and longtime Sonic series shepherd Takashi Iizuka. I asked him about taking Sonic in this new direction and if he thinks Frontiers will hit its holiday launch target.
GamesBeat: What was most difficult when it came to translating Sonic to this more open world design?
TakashiIizuka: This is really speaking to the difficulties in making these games. But both the classic Sonic games, and even the more modern Sonic games, they all had a start and a goal. We put Sonic somewhere. We know where he’s going to go. In between we fill that space with a lot of platform action. Through that design, we’re able to encapsulate the high speed action and get Sonic to the goal while you have a fun time.
But the challenge that we have now, now that we have this huge 3D open area, the open zone gameplay we need to create has to encapsulate that same high speed platform action we experienced up to now in every Sonic game, but in this wide, expansive 3D format. It was a lot of making sure that the open zones still featured the high speed platforming and the action, all in this brand new format.
GamesBeat: Is it hard judging just how fast Sonic should be in this kind of open game?
Iizuka: If you slow down Sonic, you’re missing some of the essence of Sonic. We couldn’t really slow him down. In fact, we kept him at the same high speed. We even have a boost feature. It’s very much the same speed for Sonic, the feel of Sonic. We wanted to make sure that remained in the game. The only way we could make sure to keep that was the expansion of the island. That’s really where we had the biggest challenge. We had to make this really massive island, because Sonic has to be fast, but he can’t just run all the way around the island super quickly. So how big could we make the island? That became the challenge.
GamesBeat: We’ve seen this grassy area of the island so far. Are there going to be other different-looking locations?
Iizuka: Sonic Frontiers takes place on the Starfall Islands, that whole world. We’re just showing the first island right now. On that first island we do have these grassy, rolling hills. We also have a waterfall area, a cliff, mountains and other areas on that island. But yes, on the Starfall Islands, yes, there will be other islands. We can’t talk about it right now, but there will be islands that look and feel differently.
GamesBeat: Does Sonic Team look at a lot of other open world games for ideas or inspiration.
Iizuka: Open world games are very popular. I play a lot of them myself, and so do a lot of people on the team. But the open zone game that we’re creating, actually, it’s not open world. It comes from a different kind of world design. We wanted to take that linear platform action format and expand it. Instead of being a start to finish goal in a linear format, we wanted to make this huge expansive island and allow you to freely go wherever you want, while you were doing action platforming. Instead of trying to create a world, create people in that world, create all these world details, we wanted to expand on action platforming and make open zones in the island where 3D action platforming could take place.
We know a lot of people look at the videos and think, oh, this is an open world game, but the whole design element, the starting point and the idea behind the island that we created, was really the linear platform action, not building an open world.
GamesBeat: Some Sonic games have a lot of story elements, and some not so much. Where does Frontier land?
Iizuka: In a lot of the previous games, the storytelling was very direct to the player. It would always be, Eggman has arrived, Eggman has done something wrong, now I have to do something to make Eggman do something. It was this direct storytelling where you would passively accept all these things happening and then go out and do something about it.
The storytelling techniques we’re using for Frontiers are a little bit different. We wanted to have you experience things as Sonic would experience them, in a very mysterious format. You show up on the island, but why are you here on the island? What even are these islands? That’s the mystery we wanted to set up, and have you figure that out as you explore the islands. You’re going around and figuring out more of the mysteries. You’re learning more about what’s going on in the story. Because you’re going out and experiencing it while playing as Sonic. We’re advancing the storytelling, and that’s what I think is going to be different about the storytelling in Frontiers compared to previous Sonic games.
GamesBeat: The music also seems different in an interesting way. Usually Sonic music is loud and energetic. This is almost sort of … soft and pretty? Why the change for this game?
Iizuka: It kind of ties into the story. We have Tomoya Ohtani, who’s been a music composer on many Sonic games previously, and a lot of his music is that really heavy rock, meant to get you excited, pump you up, go out and have a fun time. He’s done that kind of music before. When he heard about the story, and the kind of mystery and intrigue that’s going to be conveyed on the islands, he went and made music that would be a great fit for that feel. If you have this mysterious music alongside the mysterious story, it really fits. We think he did a great job of making sure you could feel that bit of anxiety, the sense that you’re not sure what’s going on, that mystery. That’s all part of the music that matches along with the game.
GamesBeat: Sonic fans can be pretty intense, pretty passionate. Is it scary showing a new game sometimes, especially one like this that’s a bit different?
Iizuka: I’m always interested in how the fans react to the things we announce, the things we show them. They are, as you say, a very passionate group. When we look at the previous games, the first generation was side-scrolling, that classic Sonic gameplay. The second generation was the more modern gameplay, from Sonic Adventure on. What we’re doing now is taking the next step. This is the third generation, almost. We know we’re showing fans something new that maybe doesn’t make sense to them yet.
But we really wanted to think about where we need to take Sonic for the next 10 years. What kind of gameplay do we need to start building out to keep people excited for the future? Sonic Frontiers is that next step for the next 10 years. We hope that fans believe in us and that they enjoy what we’re showing them. We’re looking forward to when they get to play it and really understand what it’s about.
GamesBeat: We’ve been seeing a lot of gameplay already, and you’re still targeting this year for release. Are you feeling confident about that release window still?
Iizuka: Everyone’s working very hard to keep everything moving forward to release this year. We’re having a good time sitting here, but the team in Tokyo is really putting in long hours to make sure we can deliver something amazing for the fans this year. Game development is always so tough. We want to put more in. We want to do better. We want to make sure the fans are impressed. Everyone in Tokyo is working hard to make that happen.
GamesBeat’s creed when covering the game industry is “where passion meets business.” What does this mean? We want to tell you how the news matters to you — not just as a decision-maker at a game studio, but also as a fan of games. Whether you read our articles, listen to our podcasts, or watch our videos, GamesBeat will help you learn about the industry and enjoy engaging with it. Learn more about membership.
For years, USB technologies have been an alphabet soup of terminology—when, really, all consumers care about is how fast the USB connection is. But now, finally, a new USB logo scheme solves this problem.
The USB Implementors Forum unveiled new logos on Friday for laptop ports, chargers, and cables that actually try to communicate what each one does. It’s a far cry from the nightmare naming scheme that the USB-IF implemented in 2009. It’s worth noting that the names of each specification apparently haven’t changed, but the logos have, and that’s all that matters.
USB-IF executives said the new logos were established alongside the new 240W USB-C power specification, which can now charge USB-C powered laptops at the levels required by even some gaming laptops. Now, the various USB specifications are defined by their speed. Charging specifications are defined by their wattage, with logos that actually indicate this.
“With the new higher power capabilities enabled by the USB PD 3.1 Specification, which unlocks up to 240W over a USB Type-C cable and connector, USB-IF saw an opportunity to further strengthen and simplify its Certified Logo Program for the end user,” said Jeff Ravencraft, USB-IF President and chief operating officer, in a statement. “With our updated logos, consumers can easily identify the USB4 performance and USB Power Delivery capabilities of Certified USB-C cables, which support an ever-expanding ecosystem of consumer electronics from laptops and smartphones to displays and chargers.”
Check out the new logos, which will be used on packaging, ports, and device power ports:
About the only drawback? There’s no obligation for device makers to actually inscribe the logo on their laptops, which could mean a continuation of the confusion around ports.
The new USB cable logos also feature clear communication of their speed as well as their charging capabilities. The big question is whether these cables will support Thunderbolt, or DisplayPort, or USB4 —any of the protocols, that is.
OLED monitors, with their vibrant colors and perfect black levels, are some of the very best screens you can connect to your PC. Unfortunately, they’re also crazy expensive: with only a few models on the market, the cheapest is still more than a thousand bucks. That might be changing soon, if a report on OLED mega-manufacturer LG Display is accurate.
OLED-info.com quotes unconfirmed news out of China’s manufacturing sector, saying that LG is ready to start manufacturing smaller OLED panels for smaller TVs and computer monitors. Specifically, it’s preparing to ramp up smaller displays using the cheaper WOLED panel technology, which can be produced much more economically than the older types of OLED panels seen in high-end televisions.
Despite being ubiquitous on smaller gadgets like phones and smartwatches, and extremely popular in high-end televisions, OLEDs have been slow to come to the PC market. We’re just starting to see them become a popular option on more and more laptops, but you can count the number of commercially available desktop OLED monitors on one hand. And, of those, LG’s own offerings have been focused on the ultra-high-end professional media market — it’s only this year that the company has begun supplying panels for gaming monitors to companies like Alienware and Corsair.
While we can’t verify the news without a more conventional source, it makes sense. The high-end television market is currently saturated (no pun intended) with OLED screens since there’s been relatively little innovation in the last few years and huge numbers of consumers upgraded their home theaters during the pandemic. OLED manufacturing technology is poised to go bigger (or rather, poised to hit the midrange between small and big) after spending a decade maturing in the mobile electronics market.
If all goes well, we might begin to see more affordable OLED monitors announced at trade shows like CES, E3, and Computex in 2023, with models hitting the market in the summer or fall. Keep your fingers crossed for some display bargains.
Michael is a former graphic designer who’s been building and tweaking desktop computers for longer than he cares to admit. His interests include folk music, football, science fiction, and salsa verde, in no particular order.
The Google Pixel Watch is incoming (Image credit: Google)
We’re expecting the Google Pixel Watch to make its full debut on Thursday, October 6 – alongside the Pixel 7 and the Pixel 7 Pro – but in the meantime a major leak has revealed much more about the upcoming smartwatch.
Seasoned tipster @OnLeaks (opens in new tab) has posted the haul, which shows off some of the color options and band styles that we can look forward to next week. We also get a few shots of the watch interface and a picture of it being synced with a smartphone.
Watch faces are included in the leak too, covering a variety of different approaches to displaying the time – both in analog and digital formats. Another image shows the watch being used to take an ECG reading to assess heartbeat rate.
Just got my hands on a bunch of #Google #PixelWatch promo material showing all color options and Watch Bands for the first time. Some details revealed as well…@Slashleaks 👉🏻 https://t.co/HzbWeGGSKP pic.twitter.com/N0uiKaKXo0October 1, 2022
If the leak is accurate, then we’ve got four silicone straps on the way: black, gray, white, and what seems to be a very pale green. Leather straps look to cover black, orange, green and white, while there’s also a fabric option in red, black and green.
We already know that the Pixel Watch is going to work in tandem with the Fitbit app for logging all your vital statistics, and included in the leaked pictures is an image of the Pixel Watch alongside the Fitbit app running on an Android phone.
There’s plenty of material to look through here if you can’t wait until the big day – and we will of course be bringing you all the news and announcements as the Google event unfolds. It gets underway at 7am PT / 10am ET / 3pm BST / 12am AEDT (October 7).
Analysis: a big moment for Google
It’s been a fair while since Google launched itself into a new hardware category, and you could argue that there’s more riding on the Pixel Watch than there is on the Pixel 7 and Pixel 7 Pro – as Google has been making phones for years at this point.
While Wear OS has been around for a considerable amount of time, Google has been leaving it to third-party manufacturers and partners to make the actual hardware. Samsung recently made the switch back to Wear OS for the Galaxy Watch 5 and the Galaxy Watch 5 Pro, for example.
Deciding to go through with its own smartwatch is therefore a big step, and it’s clear that Google is envious of the success of the Apple Watch. It’s the obvious choice for a wearable for anyone who owns an iPhone, and Google will be hoping that Pixel phones and Pixel Watches will have a similar sort of relationship.
What’s intriguing is how Fitbit fits in – the company is now run by Google, but so far we haven’t seen many signs of the Fitbit and the Pixel lines merging, even if the Pixel Watch is going to come with support for the Fitbit app.
Dave is a freelance tech journalist who has been writing about gadgets, apps and the web for more than two decades. Based out of Stockport, England, on TechRadar you’ll find him covering news, features and reviews, particularly for phones, tablets and wearables. Working to ensure our breaking news coverage is the best in the business over weekends, David also has bylines at Gizmodo, T3, PopSci and a few other places besides, as well as being many years editing the likes of PC Explorer and The Hardware Handbook.