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How Skate Aims To Be The Definitive, Free-To-Play Entry In The Series

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Developer Full Circle talks about going free-to-play, Collabo Zones, why transparency matters, and what's next for the Skate series.

It's not Skate 4, Skate HD 2.5 Remix, or even Skate Infinite; it's just Skate. Full Circle's upcoming Skate game will launch as a free-to-play title published by Electronic Arts, and it's set to combine a single-player experience with a new games-as-a-service model, and will be actively supported with new gameplay elements, content releases and events, and seasonal drops. Skate will also feature cross-play and cross-progression on last-gen and current-gen consoles, PC, and (eventually) mobile, and similar to Apex Legends' debut in 2019, it will include microtransactions at launch.

"Monetization" isn't a fun word to say out loud, but as Full Circle explained in its first episode of The Board Room video series, Skate's new free-to-play model is about cosmetics and convenience. It won't be pay-to-win or driven by loot boxes and DLC map expansions, as its "no barriers" strategy is designed to open the city of San Vansterdam to everyone without separating groups into smaller audiences with surprise mechanics like timed exclusivity. That's because the team says it cares about social connections and how they influence skateboarding, its culture, and Skate as a whole.

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"COVID-19 helped us broaden and also reflect on what has been happening over the course of public skate parks being built," creative director Chris 'Cuz' Parry told GameSpot. "I'm not a huge fan of the Olympics, but I don't hate it and the fact that all of these smaller Japanese and Brazilian women crushed it--that's going on around the world and everybody knows now. The barriers are down."

For the Full Circle team, skateboarding has always been about freedom. Black Box's Skate 3 is a cult classic in part because it added an object dropper, darkslides, co-op challenges, custom skate parks, two difficulty levels (Easy, Hardcore), an introductory Skate School featuring Coach Frank (Jason Lee), and a brand-new skate mecca called Port Carverton. That was 2010--the same year as Fallout: New Vegas--and it remains a diverse microcosm worth revisiting, whether it's rolling through the University District on a lazy Sunday afternoon or ripping backyard pools to Power Trip and Sudan Archives.

That freedom of choice and expression means everything. Skate has the physics and the "core toy" mechanic that imitates the original trilogy, but it aims to be more than that--trading in the forced tension and RNG elements of the battle royale genre for an interactive playground that invites others to create, collab, and skate. To find out more, GameSpot recently caught up with Full Circle's Chris "Cuz" Parry (Creative Director), Deran Chung (Creative Director), and Isabelle Mocquardo (Head of Product Management) to discuss where Skate is headed next, its new free-to-play model, the growing importance of transparency, and why testing 60-player lobbies is just the beginning.

As Parry explains: "We don't care if you're good; we care if you try."

GameSpot: With it being more than 12 years since the release of Skate 3, what has the last decade been like for you two?

Chris "Cuz" Parry: I don't remember (laughs). Okay? Next (laughs). I left EA for a little while and had amazing adventures in, like, surreal land for me. D[eran] always had his foot in the door as he was back with EA but for me, it's finally happening. Because I'm like all the other people who have been yelling "Skate 4! Skate 4! C'mon let's do it!". D and I have always been friends as we live here [in Vancouver] but I'm just excited for it.

Chung: He's very modest. He had amazing success working in the mobile space, working on titles like Marvel Contest Of Champions and helping to develop those IPs, and working on Fast & Furious: Legacy and stuff. As he said, I kind of stuck around at EA and not necessarily on purpose but it turned out to be extremely fortunate that I got to make another new IP trilogy, which is kind of crazy. I worked on the Plants vs. Zombies Garden Warfare series and always in the back of my mind, thinking at some point I'd love to bring Skate back. It wasn't until somewhere during the last PVZ where I started working on a pitch and the timing just seemed to be right. It's been a pretty crazy decade but it's pinched me in a lot of ways in terms of us being here today.

Parry: I will say one thing that was kind of surreal was going to the skatepark over the years and having people show up asking, "Hey, when's Skate 3 coming out?" or "It's Skate 4, right?" I don't know? I don't work there! It's been a crazy time. We didn't blow it yet, and that's our goal.

Chung: To map it back to Skate 3, seeing how the game just never died for people was amazing. Cuz and I like to say we kind of kitchen sink-ed it, like threw everything we possibly could into it knowing that we probably weren't going to make another one. And then having the community evolve and even little kids come up to us about it that weren't even born back then and they're fans of the series--it's been kind of surreal in a lot of ways. It's really cool.

Looking back, what would you say is the biggest lesson you learned while working on the original Skate series?

Chung: Making games is hard. Actually, the biggest thing was that the teams had developed into families and we just decided that all of the teams should keep in touch with each other. Like we have this weird tradition or holiday that we made up called Skate Patty's Day and literally there's this alumni group and it doesn't matter if you worked on Skate 1 or all three, or you were on it for two weeks or whatever, we all get together and have this annual tradition to hook up. Whether there's actually a Skate game being made or not. So it's been 17 years running and we still have a Skate Patty's Day, and we just thought all dev teams were like that and it turns out they're not. We had something really special, and we're bringing that to our new team and our new studio.

With Full Circle being born during the pandemic, how much has the studio grown since 2020? And what has it been like working with a team that's mostly remote across North America?

Chung: Honestly, I don't know the exact numbers now but we have obviously grown a decent amount. The team has been amazing. Like we have a pretty good percentage of returning folks, we've got new people, we've got some people who grew up playing the previous games as well and are super, super passionate to be able to bring the new one to life. There's definitely no shortage of passion and being able to kind of handpick and curate this team to come together to build this new version has honestly been really special.

Parry: And to unleash them too, D. Like what you said--I don't know if we're supposed to talk about this, but we have this called "Creative Week" where we let people kind of just jam and they came up with all of these passionate ideas. I watched some of them yesterday and it's like "Okay, yes! Put it in the game! Put it in the game!" It's exciting because one of the hardest things back in the day is we always had to edu-skate people about skateboarding and physics, and we took a rocket scientist to a skatepark to figure out pumping and how pumping works. Now, everybody grew up playing our game and they're like, "This is the dream job." For some of them, anyway. As for other people it's definitely a chance for them to express their creativity and their freedom. I love the passion that we're seeing from our team and the genius that a lot of them have. We used to have to try to compensate in some ways as skaters and we don't have to do that anymore. They know way more about a proper pinch than I do (laughs).

skate. is about having the freedom to be yourself.
skate. is about having the freedom to be yourself.

How is Skate an authentic evolution of the previous titles and the franchise as a whole?

Parry: What I always say to everybody is viscerally the toy is there already and anyone who picks up the game will notice that, and that's amazing. But then they start playing with what we have now--and we're not polished as you obviously see in "The Board Room" and the fact that we're in pre-pre-pre-whatever alpha we're in--but it feels like the game.

Chung: It feels right. It feels like Skate.

Parry: It feels right and that gives me the confidence to talk to you about it today.

Chung: And honestly, that's where it all started. Even before we were officially greenlit, the first thing we knew we needed to do was to recreate the core toy mechanic and make sure that it felt right because without that, it's not Skate. You could call it Skate, but it wouldn't be it. That is the heart of what the franchise is and what it will continue to be.

Is Skate a linear single-player experience or is it a live-service title that focuses more on online multiplayer?

Parry: It's not where we started with the original trilogy. It's not a traditional single-player. Will you have a story? Will you tell your story? Yes, but it's a bigger context and in a persistent city. What we're trying to build is something… I've really been trying to describe it from a creative standpoint but we're building a city and like the team figured out years ago, it's a place that's meant to be a playground. We're building that and giving it to you, starting with Skate and starting with that toy and making things better about it, like the off-board stuff, climbing, having total control over your body and making it an expression of yourself. In terms of what you asked, is it a single-player campaign that ends? No. I come from a world where there's a beginning, a middle, a middle, and a middle, and we want you to tell your story and how you express your story over the course of that may be different from somebody else but there's no deadline. There's no "it's over."

Isabelle Mocquard: Within the team, we share this dream that we want Skate to never end. I didn't work on the past games, but our games are still available on Xbox Game Pass today so we have a lot of feedback from players and something that we learned is that players want new stuff on a regular basis and this is something we want to deliver with the new Skate game. We want to keep supporting the game for a very long time and as long as the players want it to be supported. Our dream is that Skate never ends and that we keep evolving the game thanks to players' feedback.

How does Skate plan to expand on the free-to-play model of titles like Apex Legends?

Mocquard: We're still very early in the development process so we're still figuring out what types of content our players would want in our game. With our approach to development and testing, I think that we're going to learn a lot as we go but we are thinking of adding new content updates with gameplay tweaks, lots of seasonal drops and events, and post-launch content.

With Dead By Daylight, you helped to create a monetization feature that was built on four core values: Valuableness, Respect, Generosity, and Transparency. Will similar values be applied to Skate? Or is there a better model for the skateboarding genre?

Mocquard: I think every game is unique but we believe the best business models are based on respect, trust, and transparency. Ultimately with Skate, we want to build a healthy business model that allows us to continue investing back into the game and support a never-ending, ever-evolving F2P Skate game. In terms of values, respect, trust, and transparency are values that we want to support.

One of the more recent hot topics in gaming is live-service titles promising post-launch content and seasonal events and failing to deliver due to internal delays and time constraints. How does Full Circle plan to avoid similar issues in the future? And will the team remain transparent about their goals and timelines?

Mocquard: You have probably seen it in our new "Still Working On It" video, but transparency is super, super important to us and even within our studio as it's one of our core values. So if for some reason, content is late because of certain issues or if we end up changing plans because of feedback from players then we'll communicate about it and we'll be transparent about it.

Chung: And early.

As you noted in "The Board Room," Skate still has the slams and the physics, but what makes it original compared to the rest of the franchise and other skateboarding titles?

Parry: Where we're evolving it, right, D? In the gameplay, there's a lot.

Chung: There's a ton of things that over the course of a decade--from skating and an on-board perspective that we were like, "Aw, we'd love to do that!" or "I wish we could have improved this" and from an off-board perspective, there was a ton of potential that we saw, and honestly, we started talking to players in March of last year. We shared our crazy vision for this thing and shared a few super-micro features for on-board and off-board and asked them what they thought and what resonated with them, and it was really cool because it validated what our gut instinct was. So we kept moving forward. We did the same thing with the business model--we talked through our vision and shared what we were thinking and across the board people were like, "Wow, that's sick. That makes sense."

So how we're innovating is in a bunch of different axes. We're innovating in how we're developing the game, we're evolving the game from a business model perspective, and then from a gameplay perspective, we took the heart--the core toy--and we're expanding upon it without throwing it completely aside or starting from scratch. We're building upon it, so innovation is just a starting point and will continue to evolve with us. One of the great things about being live and being games-as-a-service is it can continue to grow over time and you're not having to wait for the next iteration to get better lip tricks, as an example.

Parry: The game changer also in terms of what D's talking about is…

Chung: Multiplayer.

Parry: Multiplayer. It's a game changer. That is it. We've never done it. 60 players?

Chung: Not at that scale.

Parry: Not at that scale, and we're testing it right now. I was playing just now before I switched over because I'm in a session and people are doing different things and inspiring different people to do stuff. And it's not just skateboarding, it's other stuff with communication.

Chung: But it feels like a real session.

Parry: It feels like a session! You're always asking, "Who's in the session? Are you getting on? I'm getting in. Let's go, let's play! What are we doing?" and then the session moves around… it's totally different from anything we've done before.

Chung: And it feels like skateboarding.

Parry: It feels like skating (laughs).

Is the team currently developing more new social integrations like "Collabo Zones"? Or are you also experimenting with other ideas that didn't make it into the original series?

Chung: The very short answer is absolutely and yes. What those are, we are still exploring lots of different features. In terms of Collabo Zones--when we introduced them, the team went crazy for them and it became this epicenter for where the fun is. There's obviously something very special happening in those situations and yes, there's a lot of other multiplayer things that we're excited about but we can't necessarily talk about yet.

Parry: I think a big thing without saying any features is facilitating the ability to find out where the party's at and where people are having fun--that's another breakthrough that's really resonated with us. Because if I'm an antisocial Skull Skates guy and if I want to go over here, I can.

Chung: But if you get lonely (laughs).

Parry: Yeah (laughs). But to be able to find where people are congregating and having fun and they're building stuff or doing something--I think that's a breakthrough for us and we're seeing it be proven in our day-to-day with what we're currently working on.

Are there any plans for Skate to add a Photo Mode to older ideas like Photo Challenges? And will the game continue to expand on other aspects of skateboarding culture?

Chung: I hate to say "yes." There will always be the thirst to have more authentic things that are true to the culture feature-wise and challenge-wise. That's the easy answer. I can't go into much detail but I'm not going to say "no."

Parry: Since we're going to be a persistent game over the course of years, we want to put the game in the hands of the players and find out what's resonating with them and what they're doing with it, and how we need to give them the tools. That may not be Day One or Day 500, but it…

Chung: It starts now. We're already seeing what they're engaging with and are always asking them questions about what we're working on to hear what they think. The thing that Cuz kind of just talked about is that on Day One, we're handing it over. We're going to be out in a lot of ways because we want you guys to tell us what you want and give us feedback, and we'll try to make it as close to what we're all excited about. Because gone are the days where you work on a game for three years and throw it in the atmosphere and hope it lands. That's just not the way we're operating on this game. We always say that you commented our team into existence, and it's true. You guys played a critical part in bringing us back and we wrote a pitch and whatever, we're greenlit, great--but it shouldn't end there. It shouldn't be like, "Okay, see you in three years" or whatever. We've decided to actually continue that journey with the community so if they're thirsty for Photo Modes or more real skateboarding stuff, then we'll do it.

Parry: What we did learn--we knew a little bit but not as much--but the fact it was still on Xbox and all of those different places over the course of that time, there's so many different gameplay styles. There's different communities within our overall Skate community, like there's trick riders and there's these people and even right now I was just glitching with somebody and we know we're not leaving them in but they'll be there and there will be others. But looking at those types of players--"I'm only going to take photos" and "I'm going to make a realistic skate video" and "I'm just in it to win"--all of those people can exist and that's why we want to give it to them.

How important is representation to Skate and the entire Full Circle team?

Mocquard: Diversity was one of our core pillars for the studio when we founded Full Circle. When you two interviewed me--Cuz and Deran--we talked about the culture of skateboarding and how international, generational, and how diverse and inclusive it is, and that really spoke to my heart. For us to reflect that culture, it's important that it starts with the team and the people that we have on the team building the game, so representation is super, super important to us.

Chung: To your question earlier about Skate being an evolution of the franchise, skateboarding has also evolved a lot from 2010 and it is much broader and more diverse as Isabelle mentioned but the generational gaps and literally anyone and everyone is welcome at the skate park these days is relatively new--and that's so, so refreshing. One of our key pillars with the game is to make sure that people are able to have the freedom to be who they want to be and express themselves through their avatars in a way that befits who they are as an individual and identify.

Parry: That was something that was true to skateboarding from Day One, but not expressed the way it is now. Now there's even less rules around it so it's just like, "Jump in, have fun, let's do it." A lot of the places that were toxic around skateboarding by "keeping it real"--if they see this, they will know who I'm talking about--they've changed, and I love the fact the worlds of skateboarding and gaming can change. It's more just grow up. Like my kids are teaching me. Just grow up.

Mocquard: I watched the British skater Sky Brown at the Olympics and she's super young and she's super cool and if you haven't watched it then I really recommend it, but she made me want to believe that I'm not that old and I can also skate (laughs). Deran also taught me how to do an ollie, so thank you for that as I have some bruises that look painful. But I think that skateboarding today is such a powerful medium for diversity, and our studio, our team, and the game that we are currently working on have an incredible opportunity to support it as a whole.

Chung: The beautiful thing about skateboarding, in general, is it is about freedom and you are completely free to find your fun in whatever way. You can be street, you can be transition skating, you could be freestyling--there's all of these different genres within skating and there's no rules around it. You can just kneeboard if you want. You can make it whatever you want it to be.

Is it a priority to make sure Skate launches with its own definition of community?

Chung: 100%. And the great thing I'm super proud of is no one dies in our game. It's non-violent--outside of slamming or breaking bones…

Parry: Well, you just get up and roll away (laughs).

Chung: And it's not competitive where you have to be in fear of the other players that you're playing with. So I'm hoping that really fosters players to collaborate and cooperate to build things, skate together, and find fun together. After that, they can just leave. There's nothing binding you to cooperate. Like you go into a Collabo Zone and nothing is forcing you to be there--you're there because you want to be there. And then you can leave and go off to do your own thing and find other people to do it with. Creating that other space for players to exist and be their real selves in terms of expressing themselves through their avatars, but also in the way that they find their fun, and finding other people who are like-minded in our space…

Parry: That's the keyword to me: like-minded. We've been using that one for a long time. Finding like-minded people for your session or whatever you want, that's how you start forming these pockets of community and that happens in skateboarding and even around different skate shops. Each skate shop is a little different and has a little different vibe, but they're like-minded people even though we all meet at different places and different spots. We will succeed when we start doing that beyond just skateboarding too. We're building a city so help us build this city.

Why should newcomers and long-time fans be excited about the next evolution of Skate?

Chung: We're going to keep making the game, we're going to keep listening to our fans in terms of what they do in game and what they say about it. Why should they be excited?

Parry: There's going to be new places to skate, new things to do, and new stuff to wear. For me, all anybody ever wanted was more places to skate, but oh no, we're going past that. New places to skate? But what about all of the things that you can do in those places?

Chung: The future is unwritten with where we're going. That to me is the most exciting thing. It's Skate plus plus plus plus, and who knows where it's going to go because you guys are going to help shape where it goes. That's exciting as a developer, but we're doing it in concert with our community because we care about what they think and we care about what they have to say.

Parry: In the early 1970s, nobody knew we would be skating in a pool. By the end of the 1970s, it became someone's going to ollie someday, someone's going to kickflip someday, somebody is going to ride a Mega Ramp and jump over the Great Wall of China--that's gnarly. What are they doing now? There's that but don't limit us only to that. There's other things that we can do. Tell us what you want. Tell us what we're doing. Tell us what's fun.

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Joshua Khan

Joshua Khan is a freelance writer for GameSpot and Wired. He loves indies, RPGs, and FX's Atlanta, and he's still not over Frank Ocean's "Nights".



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