Skate 3

[PAX East 2010] Skater's Paradise

Skate 3 makes some important changes to the formula, but it doesn't reinvent the gnar gnar.
Author: J.D. Cohen
Published: April 7, 2010
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At the inaugural PAX East, one of the most hoppin' booths on the show floor was dedicated to Skate 3. Now, whether that enthusiasm was for the game itself or for the skateboard decks that were being given away as prizes throughout the expo is hard to say, but it was a good showing either way. Attendees waited in a line that snaked around the circumference of the booth in order to get a turn at hurling their virtual skater selves off of high places, aiming to beat a certain target score based on style points and degree of injury. This showcased the "Hall of Meat" mode, which returns with increased options for controlling the post-bail action. Opting to demonstrate the game this way was smart, because the usual gameplay in Skate is very intricate and technical, and while that's great when you have the time to learn the ins and outs of the unique control system, it would demo poorly in the small chunk of play that can be afforded an individual in the expo milieu.

To glean some insight into the larger game, I spoke with producer Chris Parry (more commonly known as Cuz) about a variety of topics. First, I grilled him about the all-new setting of Port Carverton, which represents the series' first foray out of the original city of San Vanelona. In the past, players have been presented with a single contiguous open world in which to skate, while Port Carverton is broken up into three discrete regions. Though in a technical sense this may seem like a step backward, Mr. Parry pointed out that it liberates the level designers. In the construction of San Van, having everything connected constrained the design to being essentially one big hill that would always dump players off in one of a couple of basins near the bottom.

In the second Skate installment, San Vanelona became much more hostile to skateboarders. The city crawled with power-tripping security guards, and rails were capped off to prevent grinding. You could earn the ability to deal with both of these impediments, offering some sense of progression, but in practice it was mostly irritating. I asked Chris if Port Carverton would be similarly unfriendly, and he replied, "It's absolutely not like that... we bounced that idea." He described the new locale as a place where there was never a crackdown on skateboarding, but instead it was embraced and readily legitimized as a sport, with things like university-supported teams. Compared to San Van, Port Carverton is a skater's paradise. And this time around, if there's something you don't like about it, you can change it.

In Skate 2, players gained the ability to move objects around in order to set up unique spots, but in Skate 3, the power to mold the world is far more godlike. Using a robust editing interface, it is now possible to annihilate existing objects, and to summon objects into the world from a vast library that encompasses every object that one is likely to come across, from mailboxes to ramps. It's actually possible to design entire skate parks from scratch. The way this is handled is emblematic of the deeper changes to the game's structure. There are two major philosophical differences in how the player progression works in Skate 3 as opposed to the previous games. The first is that the game will guide the player to the fun. The danger of a total sandbox approach is that players may not discover some of the more interesting things that they can do, and the previous games fell into that trap on occasion.

The Skate games feature increasingly strong creation tools from game to game, allowing players to edit replays (which can be uploaded to the web), make custom designs to apply to clothing and skateboard decks, set up score challenges in custom spots, and now to create skate parks. In the past, these kinds of features were there, but the singleplayer campaign never asked you to use them. Now, all of these tasks will be part of the player character's ascending career. It makes sense, too; pro skaters do tend to create videos, custom clothing and equipment, and their own parks once they make it big. It's all well and good when a game gives you the ability to "make your own fun," but it's also good to at least give a helpful nudge in the fun's direction.
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