GZ Interview: Splash, Turn, Twist and Flip in Wakeboarding Unleashed

Splash, Turn, Twist and
Flip in Wakeboarding Unleashed


Louis Bedigian


The king of extreme
sports games has unleashed an all-new entry into the genre: Wakeboarding
Unleashed featuring Shaun Murray.  GameZone Online speaks with the game’s
producer, Jeff Poffenbarger.


Becoming the world
skateboarding champion wasn’t easy.  Between the broken legs, the shattered
elbows and my deformed nose (which has been smashed five times now), I was
beginning to wonder if the glory was worth all this pain.  Thankfully I still
had my thumbs.  As long as those existed, I knew I could go on.


Spending my days and nights
in the GameZone Online recovery room, I honed my skills as a Tony Hawk Pro
Skater and began to work my way up the polygonal ladder.  My goals were cut
short though when a new Tony Hawk spin-off arrived: Wakeboarding Unleashed
featuring Shaun Murray
.  Wakeboarding Unleashed was so fresh, so new, and
extremely exciting.  I couldn’t put it down.


When the doctors told me I
would soon be able to walk again (and thus have to leave the recovery room), I
quickly hopped my skateboard and threw myself into a wall, acquiring an
additional five weeks of recovery time.  Nothing was going to keep me from
playing Wakeboarding Unleashed.  Nothing!


GameZone Online reviewer
Natalie Romano
felt the same way, saying, “
in the very footsteps of the Tony Hawk series and delivers a game that’s both
fresh and addictive.”  Regarding the gameplay, Natalie says that

you’ll “be hooked the second
you start launching off a wake” and that you’ll “love every second of it.” 
You can read the rest of her comments in her

full review
of the Xbox version.


With help from a few fellow
staffers, I lifted myself into a wheelchair and met with Wakeboarding
Unleashed’s producer, Jeff Poffenbarger.  In our interview, Jeff talks
about the sport, how it was turned into an extreme sports game, its amazing
water effects and much, much more. 


Skateboarding and snowboarding have
become mainstream sports, but a lot of people don’t know what wakeboarding
is.  Could you describe it for us?


Jeff Poffenbarger:

Wakeboarding is a little bit of a lot of sports.  Basically it’s like
snowboarding, but you are riding behind a boat in the water (as opposed to on
the land or in the air).  The boat creates a wake that the rider does tricks
off of, imagine a constant set of quarter-pipes.  There are also elements of
skateboarding in the form of rail-slides and other similar tricks.


How does the sport translate
into an extreme sports game?



The sport translates quite well.  First and foremost, as I mentioned
previously, you have a constant set of quarter-pipes in the wake.  Second, you
have this boat, going at speeds up to 30MPH pulling you through the water. 
Last, you have the rope that you hold onto.  For a game, these three things
create an interesting relationship unique to an extreme sport’s game.  Couple
that with the ability to let go of and re-grab the rope and you have a pretty
fantastic gaming experience.


Boardersliding is a great
way to double, triple, quadruple [etc.!] your score.



What are the player’s
objectives in Wakeboarding Unleashed?



There are different objectives depending on which level you are playing. 
Included are objectives that are recognizable to someone that has played
action sports games (extreme sports).  Those include high score objectives,
manual distance objectives, and trick objectives.  There is another layer of
goals that we dubbed "challenges".  The challenges take place outside of the
objective environment and are tailored to the level you are riding in.  For
example, in the Ocean World level there is a challenge where you free a killer
whale by doing tricks to keep it’s interest.  That challenge is unique to that
level.  As a note, I personally verified that this challenge was realistic. 
One a hot summer’s day in 2002, myself and key Shaba personnel, scaled the
fences at a popular water park, started the boat up and raced away from the
killer whale attraction.  We lost one that day.  Bobby, if you can hear this,
we miss ya buddy. (Disclaimer: Jeff Poffenbarger is quite the kidder.)


How do you perform tricks
and stunts?



On the surface the trick system is similar to the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater
series.  However, we have elements that are unique to Wakeboarding Unleashed.


Does Wakeboarding Unleashed share any of
the same game modes as Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater?



The game is similar to Pro Skater in that we have a career system, single
session, and free ride.  In multiplayer we have HORSE and Trick Attack, both
of which can be found in the Pro Skater series.  On top of that, in single
player, we have a Free Drive element that allows the user to drive the boat
around unlocked levels.  In multiplayer we have a Tug of War mode that pits
player versus player in a battle for rope length and Co-op mode.  In co-op
mode the players work together, one riding and one driving, to complete a
mini-career system.



As Jim Carrey would say, the
water effects are B-E-A-U-tiful!



Activision’s extreme sports games are
known for having excellent stages from a variety of locations.  What are some
of the locales we’ll see in Wakeboarding Unleashed?



We mostly used realistic locations including Hong Kong Harbor, Lake Powell,
Venice, Italy, and Belize.  While these locations actually exist in the real
world they all have a definite Shaba twist to them.  There are a total of
eleven locations.


How are the spectacular water effects
being produced?  Was a specific engine created just for them? 



The water effects have their own dedicated pipeline and microcode.


The main features of the
water engine are:


  • real-time
    environment map generation.

  • reflection
    goes through a custom filter to simulate the streaky look you get on real

  • Fresnel
    simulation so that water opacity and reflection varies with the viewing

  • multiple
    animated texture layers.

  • continuous
    local deformation of the water based on the boat’s speed and direction.


Does Wakeboarding Unleashed feature any
graphic techniques that haven’t been seen before?  



Apart from the water, we have developed several techniques that allow us to
have more polygons and a lot more high-quality textures than is usual in a PS2


Wakeboarding Unleashed is
headed to both Xbox and PlayStation 2, but I have yet to hear of any other
versions.  Will the game be coming to any other platforms?



Right now the plan is for Xbox and PS2.


Up for a little multiplayer



How extensive are the
multiplayer features?



As I mentioned earlier, there are two multiplayer game types that the
action/sports gamer will be accustomed to.  We also have two multiplayer game
types that are unique to the game.  The first, Tug of War, pits the players
versus one another.  Each much complete trick combos in order to cause the
other players rope to shorten.  The player with the longest rope at the end
wins.   Another mode, the co-op mode, has two players working together to
complete a mini-career mode.  Instead of players battling one another, one has
to drive the boat and the other rides behind it.  This is something that we
are very proud of and a definite first in action sport’s games.


Thank you for your time.



For more information on
Wakeboarding Unleash, read GameZone Online’s full reviews:



PlayStation 2 Review


Xbox Review