Interview: Katie Chrzanowski (2023-08-28) by Game Informer

From Sega Retro

This is an unaltered copy of an interview of Katie Chrzanowski, for use as a primary source on Sega Retro. Please do not edit the contents below.
Language: English
Original source: Game Informer
I was a little nervous. I was like, “how do I kindly explain that we wanna kill Sonic for fun on social media, but we’re not, maybe we’re not actually…”

Making a game on social media was something that I’ve actually wanted to do for a long time. I remember my first month here, “hey, we should make a game, that would be fun.” We didn’t really have the resources at the time so we kinda shelved that idea. And then, at the first Sonic movie premiere, I had a group of friends there and we all kinda joked about making a game someday.

Again it didn’t really kinda go anywhere until a year later, when we were a bit of a bigger brand. And I was talking to my manager, I talked to our chief brand officer, and I said, “Hey, I really think is something that we could do, I think we have the resources now”, and they were on board. They were like, “if you think you can do this, we trust you, lets go”, and it just kinda took off from there.

Right, so. From start to finish: at the very beginning it was a group of maybe five to ten of us, kinda forming the story, figuring out exactly what we wanted, and then as you get further in it becomes more of an actual game. So then you get QA involved, you get marketing involved, you get production involved, and it just becomes it massive team effort. So you watch, and you’re like, “oh, its a social media bit”, but no, it was a real production that a lot of people put a lot of work into.

So I kinda pitched a few different genres and a few ideas, like, “oh maybe we could do this, maybe we could do that”, and we tried to figure out like, “what would be kinda the most viral, I guess, for April Fools’ Day, what would get people excited and surprised.” And we’re like, we’ve not done a visual novel: a murder mystery is just fun, you can do a lot with that, especially playing around with different characters, and the idea of murdering our mascot is definitely a surprise, so we thought that would just be the best route overall for our skillset, for the characters, and just for the community.

It's a very long process. It took us probably the first three-ish months at least to nail down the story, of like, “here’s everything thats happening, here’s what we want the characters to be, here’s which characters we want to interact with each other”, and how we want that to kinda play. And then from there, you can kinda fine-tune and say, “alright, Knuckles is the sheriff, how’s he gonna handle that? Is he gonna take that seriously, is he gonna kinda break character?” Same with shadow, is he gonna break character, being a locksmith.

And you just kind of work bigger, and then work smaller and smaller until you nail down the characters. Everyone on the team has been gamers for a long time. Games like Phoenix Wright were really big for us, any kind of murder mystery; point and click-kinda style, Danganronpa.

We looked at diff murder mysteries, what kind of the typical roles that you would see there, kinda looking at Victorian-style murder mystery parties, what would be funny for this character. Originally, Espio was a doctor, but were like, “actually a poet would be kinda funnier, we could play around with that.”

Game Informer: And were there any characters you wish you could have included?

Oh of course. We have so many great characters like Cream, Charmy, any of the IDW characters could have been cool to involve.

Game development is very tough. i have a lot more respect for game development now. Of course, theres always roadblocks, just trying to get something through, and we had about a year of development. The teams were all amazing, and helping us, it was a big learning opportunity. I mean, I learned a lot in the process, and I’m very gracious thats the teams were there to kinda catch us if anything happened.

I know our lead developer Greg, he kinda looked at the Sonic 2 special stages, he was really inspired by those. We still wanted some speed in the game because it’s a Sonic game, and a visual novel (unless you’re a speed reader), is not really fast

Maybe fans of Sonic who haven’t played a lot of Sonic games might be playing, or fans of visual novels who haven’t played Sonic can play, and they might get there and get frustrated. Or even if you are a seasoned Sonic player, you might have difficulties with those levels, because they do get a bit difficult towards the end. So we wanted to make sure that our game was accessible and everyone could have fun with it, and we don’t want them being kind of stuck on those levels for hours and hours and not get to see what happened after. So accessibility was just very important to us. 

Game Informer: What was the feedback like when it had launched?

It was very positive. We were very humble, very gracious; we knew it would do well because we were all very proud of the product, but just seeing how excited everyone was, it made it just so worth it.

Sonic the Hedgehog, way back on the Sega Genesis, was the first video game I ever played in my life, and if you told like two year-old old me that I would be making Sonic games one day, I’d be like, “I don’t know what that means.” Knowing what Sonic did for my childhood and how much it meant to me, and knowing that maybe this game will do the same for someone else now, its just the most surreal feeling.