#133 Interview with Zezima the owner and founder of the Sonic Community

Written on:July 21, 2012
Last modified on: July 21, 2012 @ 10:12 PM
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9) Which sonic game is so far the best of all of them in your opinion and why?
Zezima: In my opinion? Well, I’ve always debated it in my head for years and still can’t really settle on just one, but the ones I’m impressed with the most are easily the Adventure and Advance series. I suppose if I had to give them an order, it would be as such, excluding extra editions:

  1. Sonic Adventure 2
  2. Sonic Adventure
  3. Sonic Advance 3

Honorable mentions are Sonic 2, Sonic 3&K, and Sonic CD.

10) On what platforms do you like or is it recommended to play the Sonic games on?
Zezima: Genesis and Dreamcast for life. For pre-1999, you just can’t go wrong with the Genesis. This is what made Nintendo sweat and have to bust out the Super Nintendo. Think about that, Nintendo had to ascend to Saiyan level just to match SEGA’s sheer power.

Post-1999, Dreamcast, baby. Sure it wasn’t as successful as the other consoles at the time, but that was moreover due to bad timing with an early release than it was anything else. Solid platform, solid software, solid games and development backing, it was ahead of its time, just too ahead for its own good that by the time the competitors came in on the market they knew how to 1-up SEGA.

A series of unfortunate events led to SEGA having to ironically rely on Nintendo to supply the hardware for their games now. I would say that just gave them more resources to focus on their remaining intellectual properties, but as aforementioned in this interview, it’s evident that removing their console efforts didn’t necessarily improve their game quality.

But yes, Genesis for 2D, Dreamcast for 3D. The rest just aren’t the same to me.

10.1) From where do you think the developers of the Sonic games got their inspiration to make all of the Sonic games?
Zezima: Well this was answered partially in two other questions, so I guess I’ll combine those two and expound upon them. SEGA’s main inspiration drew from two sources. Emulating icons like Mickey Mouse and Felix the Cat, and wanting to compete against and eventually best the gaming titan, Nintendo. Though they drew more inspiration from the latter half.

See, back in the day, Nintendo was infallible. They had the NES, Mario, and all the peripherals that went with it, Nintendo could do no wrong. No other company had even a hope of owning as much of the market share as Nintendo, they just had their technique down to a science. Eventually, someone said enough was enough, and SEGA went on a crusade to prove that other companies besides Nintendo could share the spotlight. But how to do this? They started by taking note of Nintendo’s popular mascot, Mario, and figured, if there were a similar mascot, but for SEGA, it’d be much easier to combat Nintendo’s reign. So, coming up with all the ideas they could, they decided to go with an anthropomorphic animal of some variety that would be the same color blue as SEGA’s logo. They went through many renditions first before arriving at a hedgehog, such as an armadillo, a bunny, and some other unidentifiable creatures. This paid off for SEGA for the years to come.

11) You don’t just play the Sonic games, but also started a “Sonic Community”. Was the name always like that or had the site in the beginning a other name?
Zezima: Oh no, it’s gone through a couple name changes before and after arriving at that. See, in the beginning when I first started off I wasn’t very knowledgeable about web design and wasn’t sure where to start, so I went through the administration panel to see what would help, and there was an option to apply a skin made by another user submitted to a public gallery for use. The skin I happened to choose was made by a user who ran another site called The Sonic Family. At the time, I was unaware of this, so I thought I had something original going, and gave the site the address of thesonicfamily.phpbbonline.

Somehow the owners of the actual Sonic Family found out and made me aware of the situation and demanded a rename. One of my other administrators, The Freedom Fighter, took it upon himself during one of my absences to take the same concept of a family and alter it a bit so it held the same meaning, but in a different light. Thus came to be The Sonic Community, which has appeased everyone since then.

Recently, however, another one of my administrators, Mly, took the abbreviation of TSC, and inserted vowels at random to give it a phonetic pronunciation, and gave birth to the stand alone name Tescia. I took to it rather quickly, and was planning on renaming the site as a whole to that, but I decided to let the community in on the decision first. Turns out they weren’t too supportive of the idea, their reasoning being that new users wouldn’t be able to properly associate Tescia with Sonic or a community, and it would cost us more than it would hurt us in the long run. I consented to this logic and decided to keep everything as TSC, The Sonic Community, and I intend to keep it that way for a long time to come.

11.1) You recently changed the entire look of the community; a new theme has been added. Do you believe it looks a lot better now? Was it time for a change?
Zezima: Oh, most definitely. For the first half of TSC’s lifespan we were generally a dark community. A menagerie of blacks and grays, interlaced with the occasional white text for visibility. This was favored by some, but the majority cried out for a brighter, more welcoming theme. After some deliberation and great help from yet another administrator of mine, karkooshy, we began to remodel TSC not after general Sonic-themed concepts, but in honor of specific games.

We’ve gone through Sonic 4: Episode I, and Sonic Generations, and are developing a Sonic Colors skin, which should be able to effectively please both parties who enjoy an easily navigable and read site with those who would prefer a site with less assaulting gamma. The current theme still needs improvement and I’m constantly working on ways to do that. I’m relatively pleased with how it’s turned out as it stands, but the work’s never done.

12) Do you have any major competitors who have a similar site as yours?
Zezima: We used to have many, many competitors starting out, seeing as I wasn’t exactly the only one out there wanting to build a Sonic forum. But, as time went on and TSC grew more unique in terms of design and userbase, the competition’s been gradually weeded out and conquered, one by one. Of course TSC isn’t number one yet, but according to the research I’ve done we’re definitely in the top ten largest Sonic communities available on the internet today. From this aforementioned research, I can ascertain that our largest competitors are as follows:

  1. Sonic Blast – 1.1m posts
  2. Sonic Retro – 685k psts
  3. Sonic Stadium – 493k posts
  4. Sonic HQ – 366k posts
  5. Sonic Zone – 205k posts
  6. Sonic Online – 156k posts
  7. The Sonic Factory – 151k posts
  8. Find The Computer Room – 137k posts
  9. Planete Sonic – 137k posts

Of those, we’re very closely matched with Find The Computer Room and Sonic Online, who have been around considerably longer than we have. And the top dogs, Retro, Blast, and Stadium, sure, it’ll take some time to reach their level, but it’s certainly not impossible, and I have no qualms about doing the work necessary to topple them. You only get out what you put in and I’m willing to and have put a lot in to TSC. To our fortune, many of our once direct competitors have fallen off the map, most of the time due to lulls in activity wherein the administrator begins to feel hopeless and shuts down their forum out of inactivity. Luckily we’ve never had to completely start over with TSC, we’ve just had some bumps in the road here and there, and we’ve been able to recover every time.

12.1) What are you proud of so far that you achieved on this forum?
Zezima: Just the fact that it’s been as well received as it has been is an achievement in of itself. It’s surpassed all my previous goals for what I wanted it to become and it doesn’t show signs of stopping. Though, besides the impressive memberbase, I’d suppose the facet of the site I’m most proud of is the unique design. Due to no small part from karkooshy, the site being able to differentiate itself from other Forumotion and freeware sites in the way it has has definitely helped it garner an identity of its own and made us stand out among the sea of unoriginality. People aren’t going to want to join a site that’s obviously had little effort put into it, and the design is the most immediate indication of that. When users come here they can acknowledge how much attention to detail has been put into the site’s development, and that’s something worthy of at least a little respect.

13) This forum is run on Forumotion, are you pleased with the current forum software? Do you ever regret there is the possibility the site might have been so much more on a other forum software like VB or IPB, MyBB, PhpBB, etc?
Zezima: I did early on, but that was more out of my own ignorance and ineptitude than anything else. Once I became more familiar with the Forumotion software and controls, it became a breeze to work with, and I’ve never looked back or cared about other software hosts.

Sure, I did experiment with other hosts, Zetaboards, countless different variations of Invision, MyBB, phpBB, but none of them were as user friendly as Forumotion, and there’s something about Forumotion many people tend to overlook. It’s extremely customizable. Now, I know it may not seem that way and they all blur together in some indistinguishable mass of congealed similarity, but that’s not the case. Thing is, Forumotion gives the wrong impression to people who don’t use it as some garbage freeware for administrators who can’t afford to pay for professional software like vBulletin. It’s not. It’s simply the fact that the vast majority of those users have found Forumotion through some search engine in hopes of finding a good, easy to use software to start developing with.

And the problem with that is they’re largely uneducated or unskilled in the ways of necessary assets, like coding language fluency, or image manipulation mastery, and so on. That, and you have to understand that some of these paid-for software platforms do a lot of the work for you and have a rigid structure you must adhere to when designing your site, and that stifles creativity. In my time with Zeta and Invision, sure they may have been arguably more stable or offered a couple more features here and there, but I never had the sense of control over what I see that I do with Forumotion. Now, the exception may be MyBB, but I didn’t spend enough time with it to find out personally, however, I don’t think it’s worth it at this point since I’m now thoroughly satisfied with Forumotion.

14) What are the major ups and downs of Forumotion ? Did you ever run this site on a other software or wanted to do that?
Zezima: Well, partially answered in the previous question, but I suppose the major pros of Forumotion is the freedom, flexibility, and responsiveness of the Forumotion support team. The cons would be no access to your database or the other benefits of having server-side access, but if you become proficient enough in client-side it compensates for the negligible lack of features you may otherwise get. Not a huge loss either way.

15) Can you tell us what has been most recently the biggest issue/problem on the forum? (activity, etc.)
Zezima: Well it’s been a while since TSC’s been faced with a monumentous obstacle, but I suppose the only real problems we’ve had recently are a few technical issues here and there, like a PM button, emoticon glitches, or chatbox inconsistencies, but for the most part it’s been fine. Activity’s always been an issue in varying degrees from day one. That problem never really goes away because even the most earth-shatteringly large gods of foruming are susceptible to user apathy and can fall prey to inactivity. Though, I don’t want to give the wrong impression, TSC’s been on the upswing for months now and is only getting livelier. But of course, from the admin’s perspective, it’s never active enough.

16) Do you believe this to be the biggest and best Sonic community there is? Can you sum up some features or events that go on at this forum that makes it so great to be here?
Zezima: Biggest? No, I’m not going to be delusional about any of this, I know TSC is not the biggest by any means or definition. Sure, it is one of the biggest, but not the biggest. But that doesn’t deter or discourage me from becoming the biggest. Best? Now this is where things start getting subjective. I’ve been told on numerous occasions that TSC’s the best by many users, but that’s been moreover in regards to the actual community itself than anything. When I think best I think in what the site as a program has to offer.

And I’d say it’s rather difficult to compare my site to other big 9 or so because this is the only competing site running purely on freeware, and the only Forumotion site that’s achieved this size. There are many things we’ve done that many people believed we couldn’t do with the software given, and there are still many more things I want to do with it. Like I said with the size, it’s not the best definitively, in every respect, but it’s certainly up there, and it can certainly be the best given enough effort. I would say Sonic Retro is currently the best overall, with Planete Sonic as an honorable mention. The rest we could easily argue which is better in comparison between them and TSC, so we’re not too far off.

17) Where do you see the site in 5 years ? Bigger, on a other host? etc…
Zezima: Definitely bigger and better than ever. I don’t see us ever changing hosts, I’ve had a good relationship with Forumotion these past 4 years and it’d be nonsense to just up and leave them out of the blue. Not like I have much of a choice anyway, given my non-existent access to the database and my inability to move forum data around to different hosts, but I’m content with that since I’ve already expressed my satisfaction with Forumotion’s progress.

We’ve made it to the top 10 in less than 5 years. In another 5 years we’ll probably be in the top 5. Breaking the top 3 will be a challenge, but I’m up to it.

18) Are there any staff of SEGA on this board or people of the companies behind Sonic and other related games?
Zezima: There are only two notable users on TSC who are officially affiliated with the gaming industry. One, who’s a quality assurance and localization tester for EA, as well as an environment artist, Phantom, regularly attends TSC, though considering his work schedule it’s understandable that he’s not as active as some, but it’s still an honor to have him here with us. The other, Lunacara, is an official moderator on the official SEGA forums, as seen here.

He’s much less active than Phantom, having only posted 9 times before announcing that he’s far too busy working under SEGA to maintain consistent activity, but he did leave behind a very popular legacy in the form of The Random Hotel. Originally formed on SoA, it eventually got shut down, and TSC’s the last site to have an official Random Hotel, as decreed by Lunacara himself. Other than that I haven’t had very many official affiliations with members of developing parties, but I have had many forum celebrities join, members who are well known in the fandom but don’t actually work under any actual corporation. Hopefully we’ll get more in the future.

Thank you for doing this interview with me Zezima. I enjoyed your detailed replies and I hope everyone else will to. – Max Pen


One Comment add one

  1. Zezima says:

    *Zezima seal of approval*

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