Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam (Wii!) Interview

I’ve been working on this one for a while. I’ll post my article from “TheWiikly.com” after the break , but I hope you’ve already read it and checking the Wiikly every wiik week! If you haven’t read it yet, it also is a preview for the game. Here’s the raw interview:

Kel Lind: How did the idea come about to change the Tony Hawk format to a more racing format?

Alex Ness (producer at Toy’s for Bob): When doing consumer research on the Tony Hawk franchise, Activision asked fans of the series what they’d most like to see in another Tony Hawk game and downhill racing kept coming up again and again. So I guess, YOU the people are to blame for this. I’m just happy that we are the ones that got to do this game.
KL: Have you received the information on how to access the speaker on the Wii Pointer? And if so, what kind of uses can we expect?
AN: We have and we do use the speaker to play certain sounds in the game. It’s a pretty cool feature and definitely makes a difference. As far as the pointer goes, we don’t use it for Downhill Jam. It just didn’t seem to fit any of our design plans.

KL: Will Tony Hawk Downhill Jam feature the same level of customization as past installments on the franchise? (Such as Create-a-Skater, skateboard art).

AN: We do have the Create-A-Skater mode with a fairly unique interface. But you can’t create your own skateboard art.

KL: Will there be multiple control schemes, and will the Nunchuk be used in any way?

AN: We added an option to change the Wii Remote’s sensitivity to be tilted/turned but there is only one control scheme the player can select. We did a lot of testing with different configurations but only one seemed to work out well for the game. We do not use the Nunchuk for those reasons as well.

KL: Have you run in to any troubles in developing for Wii? Have there been any really cool things, that you can’t do, due to restrictions in technology?

AN: No, it’s been real easy for us so far. We had the game up and running on the Wii within days of getting the hardware. I mean, we are pretty smart but still that’s significant. As far as cool things we’ve wanted to do but couldn’t do, no, there’s nothing there either. We wanted a very fast-paced, arcade-style downhill racing game that looked good and ran at a solid 60fps and that’s what we have.

KL: Will Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam use the WiiConnect24 service (downloadable content? There’s been talk on how Online play could be added to games that didn’t ship with it. Is there any truth to that?)

AN: We are not presently doing anything with downloadable content or online play. I didn’t hear that rumor about adding online play post-release and don’t know of any future plans regarding Downhill Jam.

KL: Toys for Bob is known for making games of the highest replayibility. Will Tony Hawk: DH follow this tradition? Will unlockable’s play a big role in achieving that?

AN: We are? That’s awesome! Thank you, I appreciate your candor there. And yes, Downhill Jam will totally follow this tradition. We have over 100 race-type events in the game and in addition to challenging the player to get gold/silver/bronze medals in each of those events, we also have a Ghost and Super Jewell Ghost feature. If the player gets a gold medal, they unlock the Ghost Run for that event. If the player beats the Ghost skater, they unlock the Super Jewel Ghost Run, which is basically the best anyone here was able to do and they can compete against whatever designer or tester made the Ghost for that event. That can offer infinite replay value right there because no matter how good anyone from the outside gets at the game, it is pretty unlikely that they will be able to beat our best player. Dare I say, impossible? We also have different skaters and we’ve found the experience of playing with all of them individually is pretty different. We feel that will motivate people to beat the game with more than one character. And each skater has 4 different outfits that can be unlocked throughout the game.

KL: How does the party play of Tony Hawk: DJ rate? I hear Toys for Bob are big fans of Bomberman. Will Tony Hawk: DJ become one of those great games you pull out to play whenever friends come over?

AN: God I hope so. We are huge fans of Bomberman and Downhill Jam does support 4-player split-screen mode. One of our main goals was to make a game that anyone could pick up and quickly play and I think we’ve achieved that. People can get together to play a multiplayer event or even a series with very little time commitment. The action is very fast paced and because each location has a ton of shortcuts and pushes the combat feature, all 4 players are almost never out of the race. And the game is just generally fun so yeah, let it be known that Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam WILL become one of those great games you pull out to play whenever friends come over (and you’re not trying to make them leave).

KL: Are you considering Progressive Scan and Wide-Screen? I’ve seen many gamers, as well as some big name press reacting negatively to hearing that many titles will not feature them.

AN: Yep, we support Progressive Scan and Wide-Screen. I’ve heard some of those negative reactions and even received a few emails threatening my life if we don’t support them. Not only am I happy to remain alive but I myself just bought one of those wonderful HD TVs so this is particularly good news to me.

KL: Could we expect to see anything Star Control in the near future? As in Virtual Console, portable, etc.

AN: Again I say, “God I hope so”. We would all still very much like to do another Star Control game someday and REALLY appreciate all of the online and email support from everyone so far.

KLind


————————————————————–

The Tony Hawk franchise is one that has evolved through the years. Through roughly 11 games, we have seen the addition of a major story mode, BMX bikes, voiceovers, as well as an expected graphical update. These changes aren’t monumental, it would be rather hard to change the formula of a skateboarding game. But one developer is taking that very challenge. Toy’s for Bob, is currently working on Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam for the Wii.

“When doing consumer research on the Tony Hawk franchise, Activision asked fans of the series what they’d most like to see in another Tony Hawk game and downhill racing kept coming up again and again.” says Toy’s for Bob producer, Alex Ness. “So I guess, YOU the people are to blame for this. I’m just happy that we are the ones that got to do this game.

When playing Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam, you’ll have to turn the Wii Remote on it’s side like a steering wheel. This Tony Hawk is a racing game, and you twist and turn the Wii Remote to turn your skater, navigating them down the course to win the race. Besides the use of motion controls (which use the Wii Remotes motion sensor instead of the Pointer), Toy’s for Bob have implemented into the game some of the other innovative features of the Wii.

“We do use the speaker to play certain sounds in the game, it’s a pretty cool feature and definitely makes a difference. We [also] have the Create-A-Skater mode with a fairly unique interface. As far as the pointer goes, we don’t use it for Downhill Jam. It just didn’t seem to fit any of our design plans. We added an option to change the Wii Remote’s sensitivity to be tilted/turned but there is only one control scheme the player can select. We did a lot of testing with different configurations but only one seemed to work out well for the game. We do not use the Nunchuk for those reasons as well.”

The two levels I got to try in the demo were Hong Kong, and Edinburgh. Each course seems to be geared towards a specific skating style. Hong Kong is heaven if you love grinding tricks, whereas Edinburgh seemed more a blend of all styles. Other locations you’ll find yourself tearing through are Rome (variety), Machu Picchu (big jumps), San Francisco (speed), Rio de Janeiro (great views), and the Swiss Alps (big jumps).

Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam also plans to continue the series’ tradition of unlockables, and great replayablity.

“Yes, Downhill Jam will totally follow this tradition. We have over 100 race-type events in the game and in addition to challenging the player to get gold/silver/bronze medals in each of those events, we also have a Ghost and Super Jewell Ghost feature. If the player gets a gold medal, they unlock the Ghost Run for that event. If the player beats the Ghost skater, they unlock the Super Jewel Ghost Run, which is basically the best anyone here was able to do and they can compete against whatever designer or tester made the Ghost for that event. That can offer infinite replay value right there because no matter how good anyone from the outside gets at the game, it is pretty unlikely that they will be able to beat our best player. Dare I say, impossible? We also have different skaters and we’ve found the experience of playing with all of them individually is pretty different. We feel that will motivate people to beat the game with more than one character. And each skater has 4 different outfits that can be unlocked throughout the game.”

Ness continued. “Downhill Jam does support 4-player split-screen mode. One of our main goals was to make a game that anyone could pick up and quickly play and I think we’ve achieved that. People can get together to play a multiplayer event or even a series with very little time commitment. The action is very fast paced and because each location has a ton of shortcuts and pushes the combat feature, all 4 players are almost never out of the race. And the game is just generally fun so yeah, let it be known that Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam WILL become one of those great games you pull out to play whenever friends come over (and you’re not trying to make them leave).”

One of the features that shows Toy’s for Bob’s sense of humor is the ability to punch and kick, not only your competition, but the many pedestrians that litter each level. You control which way you attack with the D-pad.

The game seems to be not only another addition to the Tony Hawk franchise, but a great game on it’s own. And what a great way to start off with a new console.

“It’s been real easy for us so far. We had the game up and running on the Wii within days of getting the hardware. I mean, we are pretty smart but still that’s significant. As far as cool things we’ve wanted to do but couldn’t do, no, there’s nothing there either. We wanted a very fast-paced, arcade-style downhill racing game that looked good and ran at a solid 60fps and that’s what we have.” Ness said, on the Wii console.

“We support Progressive Scan and Wide-Screen. I’ve heard some of [the] negative reactions and even received a few emails threatening my life if we don’t support them. Not only am I happy to remain alive but I myself just bought one of those wonderful HD TVs so this is particularly good news to me.”

Tony Hawk’s Downhill Jam will be available to the world, on day one, November 19, 2006.

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