Interview: Shaun White Transforms the World with New Skate Game

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What do you do when you’re a snowboarding prodigy? If you’re Shaun White, you start skateboarding and win medals for both Summer and Winter X Games in the same year. What happens then, when you’re one of the most popular and recognizable athletes in the world? You go and win a gold medal in the 2008 Olympics. And after that? Well, you make a skateboarding video game.

Shaun White Skateboarding is the athlete’s third game with Ubisoft, following up on Shaun White Snowboarding: Road Trip and Shaun White Snowboarding: World Tour. Skateboarding takes a bit of a left turn, though, by adding a story that has the board maestro fighting against a repressive regime. Players will add color and vibrancy back to the nameless cityscape by performing tricks and a unique mechanic lets you draw environmental elements into the world, by steering the trajectory of a trick’s path in certain areas. White recently visited New York City to promote the title and talked to Techland about why he likes skateboarding better than snowboarding and the comic-book inspirations for his latest video game.

What made you decide to have this new game be about skateboarding as opposed to snowboarding which you’re probably better known for?

Yeah. I mean, the main reason was that it was something new. But the second reason is that when you’re working on a snowboard game, it’s so hard because there’s not a lot to interact with. There’s rocks and trees and snow. That’s it. When you’re skating, you’re in cities–there’s cars, there’s people, there’s so much more interacting with things on the street. We found that was really intriguing.

Then, we had this great story idea to go with the whole skating-in-a-city thing, and the new technology was going to allow us to create something different from what was already out there. And that was my big concern. I walked in and I’m like, “What are we going to do that’s different? How do we separate ourselves from the games that are already out there?”

So you were aware of what’s out there?

Oh yeah. I play games. I’ve played all the other skate games. And that’s why this new tech was exciting because, in our game, you’re actually changing the level as you skate through it. No other skating game has that kind of gameplay. So, while you’re going through, you have this ability called “shaping” that allows you to bend and curve rails and take the ledges and different things where you want to go with them.

You’re allowed to reshape them, and you reshape them again. So, if you and I are playing the same levels, they’d look completely different because of the way you would skate compared to how I would skate.

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That’s a cool idea. Because the one thing I always hear from my friends who skate that there’s a certain creativity at play in terms of what tricks you choose at what time, and how you express yourself. So it’s kind of cool that you’re kind of embedding that mentality inside the mechanics of the game.

You’re not going from a list of professional riders. You’re you in the game. We’re not going, like here, be this guy or that guy! Like, you’re yourself man. So, yeah, individual creativity is part of what we want to the game to be all about. Go out there, choose the clothes you’re going to wear, skate the way you want to do it. “Change the world through skateboarding” has been kind of the slogan for what we’re trying to accomplish.

Skating games usually don’t have any kind of narrative to them. Why add a story to this game?

From the last two snowboarding games that I did, we didn’t really have a big storyline. So I was sitting there thinking, “Wow, it would be great to have a plot or have something else going on besides just, ‘Be the best!'”  So, we worked with one of the writers from Family Guy, which was really cool. There’s one-liners and there’s that quick humor where you’re like, what did he say? There’s little details where, as you skate, this shockwave of influence goes out of your board, and trees shoot out of the ground, and everything changes around you. It can get so boring with “Cool, go over there and do a big air and win points.” We wanted to have these moments of interacting with various characters, and seeing them react to changes happening in the world.

If you really take the time to hang out, you’ll see that posters that were once saying one thing, are now saying something totally different. And they got funny slogans and sayings. Just those small details are really cool.

(More on Techland: Get On Board, Together: Techland Reviews Skate 3)

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