Q&A: Neversoft talks Tony Hawk's Proving Ground

Neversoft Project Director Chad Findley on wrapping up Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, making videos within the game, and striking a balance between realism and fun in a skating sim.

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Neversoft's latest stab at its long-running Tony Hawk franchise, Tony Hawk's Proving Ground, is just weeks away from release. GameSpot AU caught up with Neversoft project director Chad Findley at Activision's Activate Asia conference earlier this week to quiz him about the new features being introduced in Proving Ground and much more.

GameSpot AU: How's development going on the game?

Chad Findley: We're wrapping it up. It's been a year and a half--the longest we've ever been on one of the Tony Hawks. That's one of the coolest things about this one--it all really came together. The big thing is all about being who you want to be and being able to skate the way you want within the game, and be able to do that with videos and cameras and films, and to have all the stories come together, and it all really works together.

GS AU: What's that extra time allowed you to do?

CF: The reason we were able to start working on this one so early is I was working on Gun as project director. Brian Bright was working as project director on Tony Hawk Project 8. I finished halfway through Project 8, so I got an early start on this one. And with that early start, that's why we chose to do such a big game, because we knew we had the extra time and therefore we did this thing with choice. Now we have over 300 goals, and 83 cutscenes, and a video editor finally--all these things that we never had a chance to do before, now we could finally do.

GS AU: Project 8 introduced nail the trick, and in Proving Ground you're expanding that to include nail the manual and nail the grab. Why did you decide to add those two?

CF: I just really wanted to do it. I wasn't working on Project 8 and I saw them do nail the trick, and I thought that was one of the coolest things I've seen. You got to control your board in any way, and there was a lot of gameplay in it too. We had these three different career paths going, and we thought it would make perfect sense to do [add nail the grab and nail the manual]. The addition of the two new elements really allowed you to control in a whole different way that you could never do before.

GS AU: Another major addition this year are video editing tools. Why did you add it?

CF: Now that we finally have hard drive space in consoles, we were able to add this video editor. This is a huge thing because video is a huge part of a skater's life, whether they're a hardcore, rigger, or whatever type of skater. We wanted to give players the ability to record your skating while you're playing. So you can just skate along, and as soon as you do something cool you can save your edit. You can do this as many times as you want, filling up your hard drive with as many edits as you want. Then you can create new edits with all these clips you've saved, and you can increase the length of them, you can trim them, you can change the camera angle. Then you can add effects and overlays on the top of them.

And then we've got this challenge within the game which asks you to do the best videos in our three different cities--Philly, Baltimore, and Washington, DC. The game will judge it for you depending on how you skate it. We've also beat mapped our songs so it can see if you've done tricks in time with the songs, and if you've edited to the beat. If it's good enough and it beats enough people's scores, it'll make it onto the Xbox Live leaderboards, and others can download them and check them out.

GS AU: How important is building a dedicated gaming community to a game like Tony Hawk?

CF: It was really important for us, particularly for this game as it was about who you are and how you want to skate and how you choose to build your career. We wanted to let you show that off to other people, and there's no better way than to do it online, really. That's why we added this video editor--to show how you skate and how you direct your videos.

GS AU: What are your plans for downloadable content?

CF: There's nothing that I can speak of right now. Our goal for this one--because we wanted you to really feel that you had the choice to play the game the way you want--we really wanted to put everything in the box we could to make this feel like a worthwhile game to you.

GS AU: You've got some competition this year in the form of EA's Skate, which seems to be going for a more realistic experience. Overall, would you say Proving Ground is more realistic than previous Tony Hawk games, or even more fantastical?

CF: There are two parts to that. One is that you can play the game in a sim mode, where you can record your video and make it look like a real skate video. Also at the end of the day we want to make a great game. It's fun for people who skate and people who don't skate. We always walk that line--it's a game, but it's about skating. We want to make sure that the skating audience and skate culture is adhered to, but also is a lot of fun.

GS AU: Chad Findley, thanks for your time.

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