Talking Epic Skater with Andy Gentile and the team
What if I told you that some of the people behind Guitar Hero and more importantly, Tony Hawk, were now working on a skating game for mobile devices. Pretty rad right? Epic Skater will bring crazy tricks, customization and competition to skating fans everywhere but the team does need your help. Their Kickstarter which can be found here, still has 23 more days to go, so we wanted to get in touch with Andy Gentile and the team and get some insight on Epic Skater, what it will bring to the table, and why having people who worked on Tony Hawk games an important element in Epic Skater's design.
First and foremost, tell me a little about your and the teams background.
Andy Gentile: I met Kurt playing THPS3 online while he was a tester for Activision, and he moved up the ranks to eventually become a designer at Neversoft. He pushed to get me on board as a tester, and I became a level designer shortly after. Most of us on the team have worked on THPS titles before, and some of us have worked corporate jobs on totally unrelated games or apps, and some of us have always been completely independent. Our recruiting has been based on everyone's experience and pure love and excitement for the idea of Epic Skater which is a great foundation for a startup team.
What sparked the idea behind Epic Skater?
AG: We just really love skate games, and we noticed there's no one really making skate games on mobile. We're huge fans of games like Trials and Bike Baron, and just about every sidescroller game in general. We really thought that we could blend those concepts together with skate culture and have a really approachable game to share with everyone.
Why choose to do a skating game in 2D, as opposed to 3D?
AG: Restricting the player to X and Y allows us to create a real simple experience that's more fit for mobile games. With the environments in 3D and the camera using a angled perspective view, it allows you to see much more of what's coming ahead and give you more time to react.
We also wanted to take advantage of incorporating really cool camera angles which is a huge part of capturing the feel of skating. I think a lot of people assume that there's not enough variety in gameplay with sidescrolling, but it's really not the case. There's high lines, secret areas, and it's all running off of a physics system so each run is unique in its own way, and everyone has their own style.
We have some hardcore skate game fans playing who are hooked on our demo level alone, and just heard about a friend's 4 year-old who played the one level for 4 hours straight on a long car ride.
How will this appeal to fans that grew up with games like Tony Hawk's Pro Skater?
AG: The timing-sensitive tricking system and the responsive controls are very familiar, but the control scheme is designed to be played from a touch input device. We'll have a very appropriate and well-tested scoring system to ensure balance, and a goal system that will keep players trying for high scores for a long time.
Tell me more about the overall gameplay.
AG: Players will start out with a bare bones skater equipped with the default trick set and character outfit. It's really fun to just cruise through the level, gap over obstacles, and collect coins. There's checkpoints setup throughout the levels to help you along the way, and a Force to Bail button for endless ragdoll fun.
Each level will have a main line to cruise through with the option of taking higher or lower routes, or shattering through windows to access secret areas.
The idea is to cruise through all the levels in your own way, and top your friend's scores on the leaderboards.
How exactly will the control scheme work with the long list of tricks in the game?
AG: Hold the screen to go, and release to jump. Swipe in any of the 8 intercardinal and cardinal directions to do a different trick.
As you progress through the game, you'll unlock new tricks to equip to your skater via a drag and drop interface making it visually easy to see your arsenal of tricks, and how to do each one.
We have yet to experiment with double, triple, or even quadruple input swipes (multiple fingers), or gestures, but we plan on trying it out for the Beta. We don't want to overcomplicate things. The game is really fun as it is with just 8 tricks at a time.
Will there be multiple modes beyond just completing a level and getting the highest score?
AG: We've been kicking around the idea of throwing together an "endless mode" where levels are laid out modularly and pieced together randomly so you can just hit "start" and keep skating or tricking until you bail. It would take a long time to get it right, but it might be worth it.
It'll be hard to top the way levels are laid out and designed from the ground-up right now though. It's really addicting to play the same level over and over, and we have being toying with putting teleports that bring you back to the beginning of the level mid combo.
'Skate with Homies' was also announced as a possible addition to the game, tell us a little about it.
AG: I love games like Draw Something and Words with Friends with their play sessions consisting of being notified to play your turn against a buddy, pick-up-and-play to compete for a minute or two, and then put the phone back your pocket.
Whether people notice it or not, playing games online always help you up-your-game as far as strategy goes when you see other people play. It'd be really awesome to race and do doubles with your own best run as well as finding out where and how your buddy is getting such a high score, and maybe discover a high line or secret area they've been using.
There are some crazy tricks already planned as was revealed on your Kickstarter such as 'Elbow Drop Grind', 'Weight Shake Grab' and '360 Piledriver', what's the process of coming up with them.
AG: We threw around a lot of names, ideas, and concept art for character outfits with personalities that could be tied into special tricks, potential special effects and VO, and these are the ones that we were the most happy with. We can't wait to show them off.
As mentioned on the Kickstarter page, if you hit a certain goal, you're planning on expanding the game beyond mobile devices. Will this be just a port, or are there plans for enhancements?
AG: If there's a Steam version, we definitely want to give the visual detail much more attention. With OUYA, it's hard to say since we don't have our hands on an SDK, but we're looking to treat it as it should be treated. The game is designed for touch input, and we're not going to be lazy with porting it to a console doesn't have touch input support. We want to do it right.
You already have a part of the soundtrack announced. What was the process of selecting the perfect songs to skate to?
AG: In the past, I've gotten a lot of recognition and success from being a part of bands that were on the Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk soundtracks. People recognize the early Hawk games (and a lot of games) for their iconic music, and we put two and two together to pass the exposure on to indie bands, and have the team decide which tracks are most fit for the game.
I have a lot of friends that jumped at the opportunity, and we decided to open up submissions to anyone who plays our game and can prove ownership of their track. If our community thrives enough, we could eventually have them decide which ones go and stay.
Would you say Epic Skater is geared more towards a casual crowd or one that's more familiar with past skating games?
AG: We're doing our best to aim for both. I'm a hardcore gamer, but can really appreciate casual and arcade games. Our first objective was to nail down a satisfying feeling for going, jumping, landing on downslopes, and collecting coins before even implementing any animations or tricks. Everything else we've done after that has really been more icing on the cake and we're really excited about it.
What was your and the rest of the teams favorite skateboarding game?
AG: I personally love them all since they are all great in their own way, but I definitely have the most hours logged playing THPS3 and 4, and most working hours on Tony Hawk's American Wasteland. Our Programmers say "THPS hands down" and "The arcade version of 720 and Skate or Die for the C64."
Would the game continue to be supported with new content after launch? If so, what kind?
AG: Oh, absolutely. This is very important to us. Once you get thousands of people mashing your game, you get TONS of feedback and stats that we can work with. So aside from tweaking levels and fine-tuning tricks and the score system, we plan on releasing new character outfits, tricks, levels, and maybe even new power ups and mechanics for as long as there is an audience backing it.
Thanks for your time. Is there anything you'd like to add about the game to get people really excited for Epic Skater?
AG: Secret areas, high lines, gear, decks, unlockables, special tricks, updates, new tricks, tweaks and fixes are all on tap for a growing mobile skate game!