Dark Summit Q&A
We talk to the brain behind Dark Summit--Radical Entertainment's Justin Sheffield. Get the skinny on this exciting game.
Snowboarding games, as a whole, tend to focus on the actual mechanics of the sport. Seldom is the human drama involved in this crazy pursuit ever touched upon in any real way. EA's SSX briefly explores the rivalries and interactions that occur between people on the slopes, but the story behind their motives for actually being on the snow to begin with is left untouched.
Radical Entertainment's Dark Summit, though, wants to alter this a bit. Heavily driven by a lighthearted adventure narrative, the game blends the tight snowboarding gameplay, which has become Radical's trademark, with quite an oddball tale. As the Sassy boarder Naya, you have to brave the snowy slopes of the mysterious Mt. Garrick in a quest to rid the once-fair park grounds of a nefarious ranger with some very dark plans. Along the way, she'll encounter a great many people, a few of which will end up helping her.
Of course, the game's foundation is in trick-based snowboarding, and luckily, the foundation is solid indeed. The game's control scheme is based on that of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, and its level of intuitiveness shows. The game looks great, moreover, easily on par with the best that its competitors have to offer. In any event, we managed to get some Q&A time with the game's lead designer, Justin Sheffield, who answered some of our more prominent questions about the game. See what he had to say.
GameSpot: Why the urge to create a narrative-driven snowboarding game? Care to mention any particular sources for the actual story's inspiration?
Justin Sheffield: Dark Summit was a story that simply had to be told. It may sound strange, but this is a snowboarding game based on everything from The X-Files to Apocalypse Now, Scooby-Doo to Pink Floyd's Atom Heart Mother.
GS: In terms of the world's layout, how will it differ from recent games in the snowboarding category? What types of games would you say served as sources for this type of design?
JS: Building on our architecture from MTV Sports: Pure Ride, we developed a wide, expansive world. We're all about exploration, secret trails, and back roads--not narrow rails. Not to mention the fact that a once pristine mountain resort is going to hell--heavy construction equipment, surveillance facilities, even tanks are littered over Mt. Garrick's slopes.
GS: How will players measure their progression?
JS: As Naya progresses on her quest to save Mt. Garrick, you'll gain lift points by completing challenges. Lift points are the currency that will unlock further chairlifts and runs on the mountain. You'll also get equipment points for completing tricks. These will get you new gear packs to improve your performance, along with some cool new outfits.
GS: Despite the game being heavily story-driven, there's no question that its focus will be on the sport of snowboarding and its intrinsic movements and intricacies. How does it stack up to games like SSX, in terms of number of tricks, special moves, and the like?
JS: If you spend all your time worrying about your tricks, you won't get far against Chief O'Leary and his lackeys. Most of your time will be spent completing challenges--everything from finding hidden halfpipes to setting off avalanche guns to clearing pools of radioactive goo. Along the way, of course, you've got all the tricks, combos, and special moves that you'll need to spice up your trip.
GS: How will the game's control scheme facilitate this type of gameplay?
JS: Dark Summit's controls are totally inspired by Tony Hawk. X to jump, circle plus direction on your analog for a grab, and then toss in rotations, flips, manuals, whatever the situation calls for. Special moves are activated by button combos, and all your rail tricks play off the square button. So you're looking at three-button controls for all the basic moves--throw in the analog stick, and you've got endless possibilities.
GS: Conversely, how will the game's narrative influence its minute-to-minute gameplay?
JS: Other than a few fellow snowboarders, it's pretty much you against the world up there. Between the Ski Patrol, Ranger Dick, some irritating skiers, and Chief O'Leary himself, you're not going to get much breathing room.
Luckily, you've got someone on the inside working for you. As you accept and complete challenges, the inside information you'll receive will start unlocking some of Dark Summit's mysteries. Once you find out what the Chief is up to, you'll simply need to stop him--you know, save the world, no big deal.
GS: How will the character develop throughout the game, stats-wise?
JS: Your gear packs, kind of like the mountain's care packages, will increase your abilities across the board--landing, turning, speed, hang time. You'll need to get enough equipment points to upgrade your gear, because as you get higher up this mountain, your challenges and surroundings get more and more extreme.
GS: How will the game's other elements (sound, music, and so on) work into the overall aesthetic package?
JS: Dark Summit's immersive score helps drive the story and gameplay experience toward its dramatic conclusion. The sights and sounds of a busting mountain resort under siege by a secret military force make it clear you've got a job to do. Something's definitely not right here.
GS: Where do you think the game will stack up against other snowboarding games?
JS: Snowboarding games are fun, but how many games let you jump hovering helicopters, take out surveillance outhouses, stir up a crazy forest ranger, and escape an avalanche--all in the name of saving the world?
GS: Finally, do you have any words for the audience?
JS: Don't litter. Stay in school. Spay or neuter your pets. And for god's sake, do everything in your power to stop Chief O'Leary and his henchmen before they take over the...
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