Skate in the wake of disaster

Posted: Thursday, May 29, 2008

After providing a much-needed shake-up to the skating genre on the Xbox 360 and PS3 with its huge success, "Skate," EA is bringing its realism-focused franchise to more tactile consoles. Fortunately, this isn't just a straight port with scaled down graphics and tacked-on waggle controls. Electronic Arts has found a creative, and possibly controversial, way to make "Skate It" feel different, yet familiar at the same time.

Courtesy Of Mcclatchy Newspapers
Courtesy Of Mcclatchy Newspapers

We caught a brief trailer that played initially more like a grim news broadcast than a light-hearted skate video. A series of freak disasters has destroyed "Skate's" home base of San Vanelona, leaving it completely evacuated, save for a small contingent of skaters looking to capitalize on the new lines and lack of people.

Producer Mike McCartney explains the inspiration. "We read an article somewhere about surfers flocking to areas where hurricanes are about to hit to go surf the big waves. And we thought, 'That's a really cool idea. It's really turning this negative thing into a cool positive thing.' On the same hand, we saw this great thing on YouTube about these skateboarders in New Orleans that after Hurricane Katrina were skating all these deserted areas that they could never skate before," McCartney said.

He stresses that no one is hurt in the San Vanelona disaster, and also hints that several famous real-world skating destinations will take players out of the city for the first time.

We got to play around with an early build of "Skate It," and the motion controls feel very intuitive. Only about half of the tricks are implemented at this point, but EA is looking to include the entire move set from the console game. The developers went through several iterations of the controls before arriving at the current setup. "One day we were sitting around debating why the current control scheme wasn't working and somebody said, 'The Wiimote is the skateboard,'" McCartney said. "As soon as we started thinking that, it was just rapid fire."

The core control scheme is based around a single Wii remote. Tapping the A button will get things rolling, while tilting the remote will steer your skater around the environments. Tilting back the remote triggers a manual, and a quick flick of the wrist initiates most jump tricks. Plugging in a nunchuk allows for a more traditional analog steering mechanic, but those looking for a control scheme on the opposite end of the spectrum can use the Wii Fit Balance Board for steering and manuals.

While the interface worked well in a small demo area, we're very interested to see how it holds up throughout an entire game. Will specific tricks be just as easy to pull off once the rest of them are implemented? After all, there are only so many movements the Wii remote can register. The developers are confident they can pull it off, and based on their slick implementation of the original, we're inclined to believe them.

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