At this point, there's really only one name in video game snowboarding: SSX. The series started out strong as a PlayStation 2 launch title, and it's only improved over the years (sort of like fine wine, you know). EA Sports' team up in the Great White North--that's Canada, natch--delivered the best installment yet in late 2003, with SSX 3, and now the team is looking to improve on its last accomplishment with a new entry in the series, tentatively titled SSX On Tour (working title). We went straight to line producer Steve Anthony to get the first details about what will surely be a highly anticipated sequel.
GameSpot: How long has SSX On Tour been in development?
Steve Anthony: The game has been in development since early fall of 2004.
GS: What platforms is it going to come out on? Will there be any unique content for any of them?
SA: The game will be available on the PS2, Xbox, and GameCube. Unfortunately, we cannot talk about any unique content at this time.
GS: Is the game only for this generation of consoles, or will it appear on next-gen consoles?
SA: The game will only be available on the current generation of consoles.
GS: Following SSX 3's success, how did you approach a sequel?
SA: Our approach to building the game this time around was to take the great base we had built from previous iterations and really build it out to offer an unparalleled experience on the mountain.
GS: Given your decision for a new approach, where did you choose to take the game?
SA: We have really built upon our core experience in three key ways. First, we have a new career mode, the tour, which gives you purpose for moving through the game. The entire goal is to take your player from an unknown on the mountain to iconic or rock-star status. Along the way, you'll be fighting to both build your name and climb the ranks to the top of the chart. Second, there are more ways to customize your experience, from creating a character to choosing your music. And third, there is an emphasis on player choice at every turn. You will have the choice between skier or boarder, medal or shred events, and tricks or racing.
GS: What can you tell us about the cast of characters in the new game?
SA: We will have seven returning characters from SSX 3, as well as three new characters, in this year's game. We are very focused on our new create-a-character, which will allow you to be part of the SSX world for the first time. It will allow you to customize your character's body type, hair, and face, as well as allow you to both outfit your rider with clothing and customize your equipment. Along these lines, we have partnered with real-world companies to bring some of the coolest new equipment and clothing, for both skiing and boarding, into the game.
GS: What can you tell us about the game's modes and structure? How closely will it follow SSX 3's?
SA: As I have touched on, our new gameplay experiences will come through "the tour." There are two main events on the tour, medal and shred events. Medal events are considered the "official" events of the tour, and they will consist of sanctioned competitions, as we have had in the past. This year we will be adding more variations to the medal event structures and scoring to add further depth. Shred events are "unofficial" events off the tour that are much more personal. Contained within the shred events will be both one-on-one events and world-based challenges.
GS: What kind of multiplayer will it have? Will there be online modes?
SA: We won't be doing any online modes this year, but more importantly, our multiplayer this year offers new challenges to fans of the series by allowing riders to compete in shred and medal events anywhere on the mountain, in addition to the ability to free-ride from top to bottom. Furthermore, our new streaming technology will let you and your friends explore the mountain together, without interruption, using your created characters.
GS: What can you tell us about the control and handling? Will you be retaining the same scheme or doing something different?
SA: We are always looking at improvements over where we have been, and this year is no different. Currently, we are experimenting with some different control schemes, but, ultimately, they will only be implemented into the game if we feel they offer significant improvements over last year.
GS: Is the trick system going to change? If so, how? If not, what are you adding?
SA: One of the areas we are looking to improve is the triggering of monster tricks. In the past, you were often caught by surprise when one of these tricks was initiated and the result was a wipeout. This year, we have moved the controls to the right analog to enable you to have more control and choice over when and where you pull off monster tricks. Coupled with this is a new visual treatment--which centers on pulling off monster tricks--that really highlights the intricate player movements and worlds around you. The other big area for us is the addition of skiing this year. With skiing comes an entirely new set of tricks and monster tricks for the user to learn and master. You'll not only have the ability to perform tricks while moving forward down the slope, but also twin-tip skis will allow you to pull them off going backward as well!
GS: What can you tell us about the graphics engine? Is it an extension of SSX 3's, or will it be new? Can we expect the same seamless experience?
SA: The engineers have done an amazing job this year of again allowing us to push the gameplay and graphics to places we have never been. We have gone to a full streaming system this year and have designed our world around it. So the experience is far and above what it was last year, based on a partial streaming system. The new track design allows you to travel down the mountain from one area to another, seamlessly, and with continuous gameplay, which is something we lacked last year. And, visually, the art directors, artists, and engineers have again delivered amazingly beautiful characters and worlds, wrapped in a fresh, unique badass style and tone for the game.
GS: Thanks for your time.