Project Rascal is a promising new 3D platformer from Sonic the Hedgehog fan game developers and Co-Creators Pedro (P3DR0) and Gabriel (Greedy). With the ability to bounce and run at a quickening pace in a stunning open world, the game looks exciting to play and there is a demo you can try right now. We wanted to find out more about Project Rascal from the horse’s mouth.
RW: How did Project Rascal come to be? Will it be a full game down the line?
P&G: We got a chance to work together last year when Gabriel was getting ready to release his fan-game project Sonic GT, he asked me (Pedro) for some help rewriting dialogue, beta-testing it, and giving some artistic feedback on some stages. We became friends over it and we just sort of started brainstorming ideas for an indie game, not soon after that, Project Rascal came to be. Yes, we do have plans to continue working on it and eventually make a full game out of it.
RW: You say you are deeply inspired by the Sonic Adventure games. What are you bringing in from those games and how are you improving them for a modern audience?
P&G: One of the most interesting things about that series is that you could ask 100 different people about what they love about Sonic Adventure and have 100 different answers. We’re mainly trying to recreate the fun we had when growing up playing those games, rushing across stages that felt huge and unique, finding cool things to do on every new location and new ways to interact with the environment, the exploration, the fun gameplay, etc. You could say that… at the risk of sounding a little cheesy, we are trying to bring in the feeling of Adventure from those games.
However, those games are also two decades old, and back then there were a lot of things still being figured out. The 3D platforming genre was still in its infancy, there were a lot of limitations to what they could do with gameplay as fast and intricate as Sonic’s and there weren’t a whole lot of games to take inspiration from. So as far as “improvements” go, we’re mainly just trying to apply the things we’ve learned since then and drawing inspirations from more modern sources, and applying an extra layer of polish that simply wasn’t possible back then.
RW: How important are events like SAGE to get your work out? What is SAGE about? Is the Sonic fan community very tight-knit?
P&G: It is our belief that the Sonic Amateur Games Expo (or SAGE) is by far one of the most interesting events out there today for game developers and hobbyists. It gets a lot of traffic every year, it’s entirely free to participate, and helps give good games the exposure they wouldn’t have had otherwise. If it wasn’t for SAGE, Gabriel and I would’ve likely never met, and very likely neither of us would’ve been pursuing a career in game development now.
The Sonic community as a whole has its ups and downs and it’s far too large to comment on every single part of it, but the fan-gaming scene which is the one both me and Gabriel are more familiar with, I’d say it’s very tightly-knit. It’s a place that only exists due to the passion people have for making content for others to enjoy, be it from events such as SAGE or games. It’s a place where knowledge is shared around freely and you have things like very advanced frameworks where even the most unskilled noobie can make a very impressive game out of, and years of knowledge and research not only in the franchise itself but on game development as well. It’s by far one of the most welcoming places on the internet and the sheer quality and volume of content you see coming out of it almost every day just speaks for itself.
RW: Project Rascal is so fast and stunning to look at. How do you manage to keep the frame rate high, despite so much happening on screen?
P&G: While some optimization is required, we’ve tried being as smart as we could with our code, art direction, and level design. While more modern hardware can absolutely take it very easily it was very important for us very early on that the game could run well and look good on even lower-end computers. There’s still a lot of roads ahead of us with developing the game, but we’re trying to be mindful of optimization and disciplined as we implement new things just to make sure porting the game in the future to game consoles such as the Nintendo Switch won’t be too much of a headache.
RW: What kind of personality does Rascal have? Does he have that ‘90s attitude that Sonic has?
P&G: Rascal is a young kid. He’s dorky and silly but he’s also courageous and adventurous. He’s kind at heart even if sometimes a little annoying. If you have any younger siblings, Rascal is just that: your little brother. He prefers to speak through actions, but because of his impulsive nature, he oftentimes finds himself in the middle of trouble. However, he’s a good kid that’s loved by everyone who knows him.
RW: Rascal is adorable but what is he exactly?
P&G: This is something we’re looking into revealing more with the game’s story. What I can say right now is that Rascal is part of a long-lost civilization that is tied to the game’s main collectibles that the story revolves around. He, alongside everyone in his species, has strange rubber-like properties that allow them to stretch parts of their bodies and to do things such as turn into a ball. So, while we’re not ready to reveal yet what exactly is he, I’ll just give you the answer I always give when asked this question: He’s a cool kid.
RW: How will Rascal changing into a ball affect the gameplay later on? Do you have any ideas in your heads on future possibilities with this mechanic?
P&G: Turning into a ball is one of the main gimmicks of the game. It’s the main way for the player to obtain speed using the terrain’s inclination. It also gives the player access to an alternative move-set where he can do things such as bouncing and spinning around like a ball. We are still developing ideas for both forms (Normal & Ball Form) and a third one that wasn’t fully explored in the demo (hijacking enemies), but it’s our goal to make each of them equally essential, but also entirely optional. Playing the game well will require good use of all of Rascal’s abilities and mechanics, but we also believe that player freedom is the most important thing in the game. Our job is to provide the tools and make sure everyone can enjoy themselves regardless of their gameplay style.
RW: What kind of levels should we expect in the full game?
P&G: We currently don’t have a set number of stages in our heads, but the game takes place on an island with a diverse number of biomes and settings as well as some man-made locations, think of Sonic 3 and how you had dense jungles, ancient pyramids, and circuses on the same island. For us, we’re trying to work with multiple themes for each individual location in order to make those places feel lived-in and interesting to explore. Our goal is to create a world that people can explore and have fun in.
RW: Will there be any story elements or voice acting in the full game?
P&G: We are not looking into making the next Lord of the Rings installment here or having any deep philosophical questions, but we do have a story to tell. While we are still not really ready to go too much into detail about it, as stated previously, it will be mainly about Rascal’s kind and the main collectibles of the game: The Shards. As for voice-acting, that’s still too early to tell, and it all depends on whether or not we’re going to be able to raise funds for developing the game and commissioning voice actors.
RW: You’ve shown a clear love for the Sonic the Hedgehog series with Project Rascal. Which games are your favorite?
P&G: The classics, Sonic Adventure and Sonic Mania are some of our favorites. We also really enjoy some of the more modern outings such as Sonic Generations and Sonic Unleashed.
RW: After Project Rascal, you’re now given the keys to the Sonic franchise. What would you do with the blue blur if this ever happens? What about the maligned modern Sonic games would you change and what would you keep?
P&G: The Sonic franchise is one that has been going on for many years and as such, it has fans of each gameplay style, all with perfectly valid reasons as to why they love the games they are fans of. With that in mind, I think it’s impossible to actually make changes and please everybody. I guess we would try to bring back some of the elements from the Adventure-era games since that’s what we have the most fun with. But in all honesty, if we are ever successful enough with Project Rascal to the point where we would be given the keys to one of the most popular franchises in the world, I think that would be a very clear indicator that we are doing something right and we would rather just develop Rascal 2 instead.
RW: Are you planning a KickStarter sometime soon? I see that you have a Patreon set up.
P&G: A Kickstarter is something we’re definitely interested in doing at some point in the future mainly to be able to hire additional help to create the best game we possibly can and add a layer of polish, port the game to different platforms, and so on. As of right now, we have a Patreon set up where people can aid us in turning our ideas into reality, and in return, they can be more involved with the game’s development, help us shape things up, and play early build whenever we release them. Making games is time-consuming and a costly effort altogether, so in order to develop the best game we possibly can, we do need to resort to external help and resources sometimes, and having the funds for it can certainly make sure we can put the best people in the areas we are not very skilled at.
RW: Is there anything I missed?
P&G: Where to reach us and keep updated on the project! We currently have a Twitter (@ProjectRascal) where we post more general updates on the project every time we have any and a Patreon (https://www.patreon.com/ProjectRascal) where people can support the development of the game and be more involved with it. We also have a Discord server (discord.gg/QHA4CMEVRw) where people can talk to us directly and to other fans of the project!