2.5D might be one of the best ways to blend new with the old. Scenery, characters, objects, everything in a title can take advantage of modern day hardware while still feeling like the games of yesterday. The Sonic series began to take to 2.5D more and more starting with Sonic Unleashed, with the entire “boost trilogy” doing the brunt of the platforming in the 2.5D sections, with the high speed antics in 3D, almost racing-esque segments.
In 2013, a Retro user by the name of Ell678 began work on his own Sonic fan game, one that would be comprised almost entirely in 2.5D by utilizing SonicGDK. Since that point in time, Sonic Incursion has begun to take shape into the extraordinary title we see here today. A huge fan of the early Genesis games, Ell678 felt he could take what he adored about the level design the two games had and put it into something modern while still maintaining a “classic” presentation.
By using SonicGDK, Ell678 had his work cut out for him. Little modification was needed for the engine to work, as he explains:
“It didn’t require any modification. Sonic GDK is really versatile, and is designed for 3D or 2D gameplay. Some specifics, like the signposts at the end of each level, required I come up with a sequence of events, but it’s nothing that cannot be done within the editor. Xaklse did further modified the engine to allow for multiple characters, which let me do some interesting character specific events in certain levels.”
Prior gameplay videos have shown us both Sonic and Metal Sonic as playable characters in Incursion. The question is, would the characters essentially play the same, as Sonic and Tails do in Sonic 2, or would there be some large difference between the two character’s paths, ala Sonic and Knuckles? Ell678 elaborated:
“It’s a mixture of the two games. They share the same levels, but there are no routes that only one character can traverse. But they have a different skill set and stats – Metal Sonic can use the homing attack, stomp, and boost; but cannot spin dash or use shield abilities like Sonic. Sonic is, of course, faster. They certainly play differently.
However – some Act 3s are unique to that character. For example, one zone has a Wing Fortress-esque Act for Metal Sonic, while Sonic hops on to the Tornado for another Sky Chase. The final levels are also totally different for each character, as well as their final bosses.”
Of course, being that this is Sonic Retro, we had to inquire about the physics of Sonic Incursion. SonicGDK, as impressive as it is, is not 100% accurate to the Genesis titles folks know and love. Ell678 has it covered however, for even the most diehard fans.
“I think that people that have played the Megadrive/Genesis games to death will notice they are not absolutely accurate, but most would not notice. Incursion does have many loops, slopes and angles that all work exactly how you would expect them to, so the slight differences shouldn’t put people off.”
Gamepad support is always appreciated in any PC title, especially when it comes to fan games that are attempting to recapture the classic feel of titles that were always meant to be played with a controller in hand. Ell678 says Incursion will be no exception:
“It has native Xbox 360 pad support. However, a keyboard is also fully usable. In the few Act 3’s that have 3D, you won’t need to control the camera at all – the cameras are set up correctly. I don’t have any other pads to check with, but I’m fairly sure other pads will work immediately. I don’t want to make promises – but re-bindable keys is something I will look into closer to the game’s release.”
As Ell678 stated before, Act 3 of each zone would be unique to both playable characters. Incursion looks to have plenty of replay value, as well as some surprisingly length for a fan game:
“I’d estimate 1 -2 hours playtime for one character. As some things are unique to each character, I would double that for players to experience what Incursion has to offer. There are 10 zones overall, and each character has their own final level, there are 9 zones per play through.”
Sonic Incursion could very well be the first full game to utilize SonicGDK. That doesn’t mean Ell678 hasn’t met some difficulties along the way, especially working alone. Sometimes, trial and error was the only way to go:
“Making custom Badniks and bosses without Unreal Script (as in, just using Kismet/Matinee) is certainly possible but it takes experience and knowledge to make it possible. The most complex non-boss enemy in the game – the standard Metallix – has several behaviours, and it picks one when it spawns. I’d say this is a perfect example of the power GDK has, but I can tell you from the perspective of making it work – an example of the frustration involved. That being said, there is absolutely nothing wrong with SonicGDK itself. I feel it is because UDK (which GDK is based on) is aimed at development groups or studios, where certain people would focus on one or two aspects. In this case, I would have passed on the Metallix behaviour requirement onto someone who would create a script for it. It has taken a lot of time, learning and experimentation to get to a skill level where I can work on something as big as this.
The aforementioned Sky Chase level took a lot of trial and error. But with the Badniks and bosses, once a few golden rules are uncovered, it suddenly becomes very, very simple.”
Right now, Incursion is almost an entirely solo project. While there are plenty of stock assets Ell678 has used, implementing everything has been on him alone.
“It’s mostly a solo project. The level designs are all by myself – so this includes implementing all the gimmicks, Badniks and bosses. The music is either from other sources, or they are remixes I have permission to use. I have had some help with certain aspects, but I could always have more! I could definitely use animators and people who can make sounds at the moment.”
Anyone interested in joining Ell678 in developing Incursion can contact him via PM on the Retro Forums or his YouTube. We were also informed he could really use material artists and effects artists to make the game look as good as possible!
Ell678 has already made serious headway on Incursion on his own. In it’s current state, the vast majority of the game can be played from the beginning to the the final levels. While that may be, Incursion is very much a work in progress, with constant improvements, tinkering and changes occurring with the game. At this point, Ell678 is aiming for a 2017 for Incursion. He hopes to have a demo ready in a couple months with a couple of the earlier levels polished up and ready to go. Sonic Incursion is shaping up to be a one-of-a-kind experience, and we can’t wait to dive into the full game, next year.