WAIT A MINUTE…

… EA ANNOUNCED A NEW SKATE GAME  IS IN DEVELOPMENT? 

During the EA Play 2020 Livestream last week, Skate franchise Creative Director Chris “Cuz” Parry and Game Director Deran Chung popped up to reveal that, yes, a new game in the Skate franchise is in the works. As mentioned previously on this blog, I have said that Skate3 is, in my professional opinion, the best skateboarding game of all time, and only something like Skate 4 could top it. And here we are. 

Yes, another blog post about video games. I’m a game developer, I’m allowed to talk shop here, OK? Some people prefer Tony Hawk games, with their massive combos and grinding power lines (and to be honest I am stoked to play that remaster in September), whilst others prefer the hardcore realism of Session and SkaterXL. I find Session still has a very long way to go, and some of the design decisions in the game are at odds with what I look for in a skateboarding game.

I am yet to play the newer updates for SkaterXL, but it looks like it has edged past Session in getting some decent transition skating in there. Both, however, feel overly complicated to me, striving for that real simulation approach. If I’m being honest, the last thing I want to do when playing a skateboarding game is remind myself how difficult skating in real life is. I know how satisfying it is to try a trick for half an hour and finally land it. I don’t need that in a game, I just want to blast some realistic airs. Skateboarding, and gaming, are massive though, and there is room for THPS, Session, SkaterXL and Skate to all exist.

I continue to play Skate3 a lot – the controls make the most sense to me and there is just enough difficulty in trying to land something complicated. You can battle with tricks in Skate, but the game isn’t such a slave to simulating skateboarding that it’s frustrating. It straddles the line between simulation and arcade perfectly. The closest thing I could liken it to would be something like Forza Horizon – a racing game based in reality, which amplifies the fun aspects of driving to make it accessible and never forgets it’s a video game. But, I would say those games are fun, because (at the expense of showing off) I worked on them.

If Skate 4 (or whatever it ends up being called) aims to continue this tradition, and retain the feel and tone of the first 3, I am totally in. People seem to think the whole #skate4 thing is a meme, but it really isn’t. This is a calculated, smart move by EA. With competing skateboarding games coming out, skateboarding on the verge of entry into the Olympics, core brands still more popular than ever amongst young people: There is no better time to make a skateboarding game. The team behind the originals have “brought the band back together” too, which instils confidence that this will carry a lot of the core principles we love about Skate, and not be in the hands of a completely different team with no understanding of what made Skate good (e.g. the THPS5 situation).

Some people I know are skeptical – Why would EA choose now of all times to bring Skate back? Is it only because of the popularity of Session, or SkaterXL, or the return of THPS? Video games are, first and foremost, a business, and it is totally EA’s decision to develop whatever game they think is going to make them money. If Skateboarding games in 2020 are deemed profitable for them, and they want to add another game to the now expansive list of new titles featuring skateboarding, I say that’s completely fine. We had a drought of 10 years without a decent skateboarding game. I’m not saying you have to like whatever game is produced, but the arrival of a new Skate is likely to not impede on the success of it’s rivals. As has already been proven, these games have healthy, growing communities.

As mentioned earlier, there is room for all of these games to exist, and quite frankly, I have missed having the options on the table. Not since the PS1 have we had such a varied selection of video games representing skateboarding: Anyone remember Grind Session? Thrasher Skate and Destroy? MTV Skateboarding? Street Skater? After the PS1, everyone chased the THPS template, until Skate came along and offered a true alternative. And whilst not every single game of the PS1 era lived up to expectation, the competition between all of these games created some cult classics and spawned some great game design ideas. There are people who swear down that Thrasher Skate and Destroy is a better game than THPS, and there’s even a small group who absolutely love Grind Session (for the record, Grind Session is fucking amazing).

What excites me about new “triple A” skateboarding games, is the prospect of the next Skate being a “live game”, like some of EA’s other titles like (fantastic Battle Royale shooter) Apex Legends. Live Games are a modern invention in game design, introduced in the latest generation of consoles, where games continue to draw players in after launch – adding new content, new levels, new gameplay. Skate3 had the beginnings of this, with additional levels you could buy and new boards, but live games go further than this. Forza Horizon 4 is a live game, and we have added a variety of new cars, race events and features to the game every month for almost 2 years. Even as someone who works on the game, knows what’s coming, and should realistically be sick of seeing it, I still hop in every Thursday to see what new content has dropped.

Imagine a new Skate game where they add a new drop of boards, new areas to skate, new challenges based on the latest video part on Thrasher, and new features? Imagine UI which highlights the best new user created parks, and updating with new parks and board designs which are trending? All of the improvements in game accessibility and an increased presence on social interaction over the last 10 years, re-enforcing the feeling of this game being a giant, virtual skate scene. Skate3 was ahead of the curve on this in many ways, so expanding this for Skate4 could be something very special. In an era where making games “streamable” and promoting user generated content is more important than ever before, a game like Skate, a game all about expression and tackling the environment in your own way, could be awesome with the budget of an premiere EA game.

A Skate game in 2020 (or whenever it comes out) is a very interesting prospect, and after an extremely long wait, I am very excited to see what EA produces. 

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