Shaun White Snowboarding
When Shaun White won a gold medal at the Torino Olypmics, Ubisoft's attention was well and truly caught, the publisher joining forces with the self-confessed Prince of Persia fan to create a realistic snowboarding title aimed squarely at the masses. With the game due out this Christmas, we sat down with game designer Thomas Simon to learn more about the PS3 and Xbox 360 version of the new extreme sports title.
Thanks for speaking with us. Was Shaun involved from the very beginning of this project?
Yeah, he was involved from conception, he advised us a lot on the gameplay front... and also the dialogue, the story. He wanted the player to experience his vision of snowboarding, so, he really wanted to show to the player what snowboarding is for him.
Having played the game, I'm impressed by the nice view, the graphics, etc. But obviously the gameplay has to be accessible, so are there perhaps arcade elements? How do you pick and choose where you want realism, and where you want accessibility?
In fact we wanted to provide the player with a true snowboarding experience; so we wanted the game to be true to the sport. But at the same time we wanted the game to be accessible. So, we let players pick the controls, the path, how you carve, where you go... if you go to the peak, it's going to be a bit riskier... we have cliffs, you need to be more precise. Stuff like that. But really the remit was to provide players with a true snowboarding experience, to be able to really carve big in the snow. Everything is physics-based, so gravity will pull you down... it's not animation. There's a lot of physics - it's a real challenge.
What was the most important thing for Shaun when you were designing the game?
The thing he really likes in the game is being able to provide the experience of riding the peak - so he went to Alaska and did work for the game. It's not everyone that can visit the peak. But with your character here you can. He really wanted that in the first-person, too. So at any time you can choose... switch to the first-person. See what Shaun sees through his goggles when he goes to a peak. So he pushed a lot for that... so we did that. We showed him, got feedback, it's really a challlenge... you don't want to make the player motion-sick. You have to be really careful with extreme sport, so... it was a challenge. Shaun wants the player to experience the real feeling, so when you're in first-person you can't see as much. It's a great experience.
We have massive environments, everything is open so that's another thing Shaun wanted in the game - the open world, big environments, so you're free to go wherever you want, whenever you want. Also, the fact that you can play with your friends... when you go snowboarding, even though it's not a team sport, you almost always ride with your friends. The fact you can do that online as well - we have a 16 player online 16 experience - is really cool, too.
How do you add social elements to the multiplayer mode?
The way it works is that - for example - you can create a session, and go to your mountain. Then your friends can join your session and they're on the same mountain. These are not multiplayer maps... they're really big, real, mountains. We have Alaska, Japan, Europe and Park City... you can go where you want, whenever you want on these mountains. We have challenges, other conditions, you can do all this with your friends, or you can just go riding. There are some interesting challenges - freestyle challenges, and you can bet. So you can bet your friends 100 dollars you will beat them... it's really interesting.