Sonic the Hedgehog celebrated his 25th birthday with a big party for San Diego Comic-Con attendees last week. For those able to stop by, it was a good time; fans got to try out next year’s new game, Sonic Mania, as well as dance to the synthpop music of Crush 40 and take home goodie bags of Sonic swag. They also were the first to hear new game announcements and other teases.
For those of us out-of-state, however, Sega hosted a livestream of the entire stage show. What we watched online was a far less pleasant experience, a stream that’s already garnered some notoriety for its unfortunate production quality.
Hunter Bridges, an engineer with a background in music production, led the team in charge of the livestream. He held an informal postmortem on his Twitter account today, calling the gig at once a dream and a failure.
"I epically failed in front of 50,000 people on Friday," he wrote earlier today. "But look, I’m still here."
"I think given the circumstances, we all made the right choices"
He then broke down the various issues that ruined the experience for those watching Sonic’s party from home, including a delayed start (by a full half hour), complete audio drops at inopportune moments and a persistent buzzing sound throughout.
As Bridges tells it, the problems began as soon as setup began. The production team’s setup was rearranged by the audiovisual techs on hand at the House of Blues, where the party took place. Eventually, right when the show was set to begin, a blown mixer derailed the event.
"I had to decide whether to cut stream and fix [the issues] (and lose reach on SEGA's behalf) or maximize content people got while hearing my mistakes," Bridges wrote in a tweet.
He chose the latter, leading to the sound cutting out in full as the stream’s major announcement was happening. The technical problems were corrected by the time Crush 40 took the stage, but the late start caused more trouble.
"So after we breathe a sigh of relief from killing the buzz[ing sound], our host's girlfriend suffers an accident and ambulance takes her to hospital," Bridges said. "So due to the combination of timing changes and host being temporarily away dealing with identifying his [girlfriend] to paramedics, we improvised."
"A lot of hard work wasted"
As the host, Skyler King, took care of things offstage, the production team scrambled to fill time, even as the four-hour event became compressed into 3.5 hours. Eventually he came back on, and the whole thing wrapped without Bridges’ team stopping the stream a single time.
Partygoers experienced their fair share of issues too, however. In a supercut of the anniversary show’s most uncomfortable moments, produced by Jim Sterling, it’s mentioned that the partygoers didn’t see the trailer the first time it played, which is why King talks over it the entire time. You can watch it above to see — and hear — much of what went wrong during the event.
"I think given the circumstances, we all made the right choices and minimized the degree of failure as much as we could," Bridges said in closing. "Nonetheless, the mission was a failure. A lot of hard work wasted. But oh boy will I learn from it, and what a great story too."
The livestream may live in infamy, but Sonic still had a pretty good party; with two games announced as on the way for 2017, including sidescroller Sonic Mania and 3D adventure Project Sonic, the hedgehog has plenty to look forward to.
Correction: The livestream was hosted by Skyler King, not Sega social media manager Aaron Webber. We've edited the article to reflect this.