The Tony Hawk series will this December be making its long-awaited return, but long time fans will be in for a surprise. The game, due out on Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii, will set you back £100. Before you sharpen your pitch forks, know this: it'll be bundled with a full size skateboard peripheral that'll allow you to live out your skateboarding dreams in a virtual world. Still not convinced it'll be worth the cash? Let Patrick Dwyer, lead designer at developer Robomodo, convince you otherwise.
VideoGamer.com: What kind of audience are you targeting with Ride?
Patrick Dwyer: We're actually targeting anyone. We want to get anyone that has ever wanted to learn to skate or just thinks it would be a fun experience. If you've ever seen someone skate you can play our game. We want the controls to be intuitive. We've built our gameplay sessions so that anyone can skate. So, people who used to skate in the old days, pro skaters, play our game, and then young kids and old people.
VideoGamer.com: Are you more looking forward to getting gamers into skating or skaters into gaming?
PD: It was more about developing an experience that people would get attached to. We tried to take what was fun from skating, the social aspect of people coming together and then session in the spot - that's fun. And then the other part of skating, which is developing a skill, in the single-player practising the certain area over and over again and honing a skill and learning and getting better. So both aspects of skating, as far as incorporating those two things into a gameplay experience.
VideoGamer.com: At E3 we interviewed Robomodo president Joshua Tsui, who said this peripheral can almost be seen as a platform, and that there are ideas for different things. Can you tell us any of them?
PD: There's really nothing I can tell you. But the board is extremely versatile. We developed this thing and we developed the software from the ground up at the same time. Any future software that comes from it, I would suggest the same way of developing the software at the same time so you harness what's best about the board and bring that to the player. So as far as titles and everything, can't say.
VideoGamer.com: Will the board be allowed to be used by third-parties or only Robomodo?
PD: That's more up to Activision. We had tons of fun making this game and enjoyed the process of working with Activision. Getting this thing out of the door was fun.
VideoGamer.com: It'll cost £100 in the UK. Considering everyone's pretty strapped for cash at the moment, are you happy with the price?
PD: The price I'm not concerned with. I'm not sure what the price is. Even if it has been confirmed it hasn't been told to me. As far as the price, we were trying to develop a solid gameplay experience that has never been done before. The one thing about replayability for this game is, you're learning the skill. Every day you play this game, you put in an hour or invest two hours, how much time you invest in it, that's how much time you're going to get out of it. It's not like you play this game and it's done in eight hours, or it's done in 30 or 60 or whatever. It's done whenever you feel you've mastered it. Tony Hawk skates every single day and he still doesn't think he's mastered skateboarding. That's kind of the same way our game is. It's infinitely long because there's no way to judge how you're the best at it.
VideoGamer.com: During the development of the game, was there any point when you thought you should keep traditional pad control for people who don't want to use the board?
PD: No. It was more about what Robomodo is about. We're about developing unique gameplay experiences with unique art styles, that are intuitive with good intuitive control schemes. So it was more about making a skateboarding game that Robomodo would be proud of and that we would do. We didn't think about what was legacy from Tony Hawk and just say, okay we're just going to copy and paste that and put that into our design. It was more about what do we like about skateboarding games? What do we like about peripheral games? What do we like about casual and party games? What do we like about games in general, and bringing those into a gameplay experience.
VideoGamer.com: You'll be able to play as your Mii in the Wii version. Will we be able to use our Avatars in the Xbox 360 version?
PD: We haven't investigated that yet. Avatars were new and came out when we were already down the path of development for our game, so... maybe later.
VideoGamer.com: There are quite a lot of critics of Nintendo Wii waggling gameplay. What have you done to improve these critics' perception of motion gaming?
PD: I would say a lot of the motion gameplay, a lot of them build the hardware after the software is already there. We had a peripheral and we made this thing from the ground up. We prototyped tons and tons of different iterations of any kind of mechanics we wanted to on this thing, which is the same thing you do as a developer on the software side. So we were able to iterate on this while iterating on the software. If you're going to make a unique gameplay experience and you're going to use a motion controlled peripheral, then that software better be made after you already had that thing created. A lot of them are just after market products. They don't take advantage of what the peripheral does and the peripheral doesn't take advantage of what the software can do.
VideoGamer.com: The Wii Remote has smashed televisions, lamps and hospitalised people, and it's a six inch piece of plastic. What is a full size skateboard going to be capable of?
PD: Initially we were curious ourselves to see what people were going to do. We haven't had any injuries in the office at all. We haven't had anyone fall off the board. It's only two inches high. You can step off at any time. If people get crazy with it then people get crazy with it. We recommend that you don't actually do kick flips and heel flips and ollies and stuff. To play our game you don't have to get crazy. So, don't go crazy!
VideoGamer.com: With peripherals like Project Natal and others on the horizon, do you think there's a possibility that peripherals like the skateboard will have to step aside and make way for completely controller-less gameplay.
PD: Project Natal is interesting as far as the whole gameplay experience about it and just me controlling everything. We investigated that stuff and it is a ways out. But as far as the technology goes, we like that the board gives you feedback. When I'm standing on the board and I'm doing a manual and both my feet are on it and I'm feeling the sensation of the board and when I'm tilting I feel something that's moving underneath me, well you can't get that kind of experience just reaching out and grabbing things because I'm not reaching out and grabbing anything. I'm not lifting something or tilting something. The feedback you get while you're standing on the board is definitely something that's unique and adds a lot to our gameplay experience. The combination of the two would probably be way, way into the future. I think that would be more of the thing to look at.
VideoGamer.com: You're not worried then that Natal and the like will overshadow what you guys might bring out with the skateboard in the future?
PD: Not really. We'd be excited to use that technology. If we get a title and then we look at the gameplay experience we want to create, the art style, the control scheme and everything, and it comes together, and the board is the best way to handle that or we need to create something new to handle that, whatever works to make the best product.
VideoGamer.com: Why do you think it's taken so long since the days of the arcade Top Skater for us to finally be able to play games on a board?
PD: If you've ever seen Top Skater, you've seen that thing, it's a big, huge thing. It has handles. The easiest thing is the technology is finally here. Cell phones, everything has accelerometers in it. So we just put two accelerometers in here, infra reds. The technology has come down in price, that makes something like this accessible. We're seeing the benefits of taking a gameplay experience and bringing it out with a peripheral or some other control scheme that's different from what people have been used to.
Tony Hawk: Ride is scheduled for release on December 4 for Xbox 360, PS3 and Wii.