Skateboarding game fans can easily be divvied up into one of two camps: You’re either a Tony Hawk Pro Skater gravity-slapper or you’re the kind of chap who preaches the gospel of Rodney Mullen’s street wizardry and you prefer the virtual shredding of EA’s legendary Skate series. Whereas the Tony Hawk brand would eventually fizzle out and vanish with a whimper in a last ditch effort to reclaim past glories, Skate’s legacy is one of a trilogy of excellence.
Three magnificent games, built on a foundation of sick tricks and engaging controls that resulted in a fandom that couldn’t get enough of the more realistic alternative. Skater XL developer Easy Day Studios knows that in the grand scheme of things, that Skate fans were starving for a return to unforgiving streets and more authentic sessions, kickstarting their journey on Steam’s Early Access back in December of 2018.
Inspired by Skate but designed to be its own beast entirely, Skater XL is built around the concept of heelflips and grinds via a system where each foot is controlled by an analogue stick. The end result? A system with a natural learning curve that allows for a more organic system of maintaining equilibrium on even the slipperiest of rails. Which is good news for anyone looking to avoid breaking bones in their old age. “Gaming properties like Skater XL give access and engagement to so many more people than who are actually doing these sports,” studio head Dain Hedgpeth explained in a live demo of Skater XL.
We all come from a skating background but we’re in our thirties now. It’s not so easy to just get on the board when you have a meeting the next day. Once you get the hang of it, it starts to feel like an expressive thing. It’s like a musical instrument. A guitar has six strings, but there’s a nuance to the way you hit those strings, make chords and combine things. There’s no limit. How much do we want to reinvent things or how much do we want to give people a skating game that’s familiar?
The key takeaway here, is that Skater XL wants to be authentic. To that end, it’s busting out plenty of weapons in its deck-buidling arsenal to ensure that it does the skateboarding community proud ahead of its full release in July on PS4. There’s currently a quartet of skaters in the roster that includes new generation faces such as Tom Asta, skateboarding brands are lending their cosmetic visual flavour to the project and the game’s first big slice of metropolitan real estate to explore will be none other than downtown Los Angeles.
For anyone who has ever visited that section of the US, they know just how tempting it is to bust a few moves on its many ramps, stairs and rails that feel like they’ve were designed by an architect who was drawing blueprints while attempting a Pop Shove-It. It’s not a one to one replica of downtown LA exactly, but with a bit of artistic license merged with LA staples such as the E3 convention center and other infamous spots such as the Chinatown Ledge, it certainly feels like a digital reconstruction of one of the holy sites of the skateboarding religion.
Minus all the grime, busted pavements and that jug of piss at a bus stop that was present the last time I popped into the city of angels. “A lot of people that have any connection to skating, part of that obsession is with LA and SoCal. The big open streets, beautiful sidewalks, big blue sky,” Hedgpeth explained.
LA was a no brainer to set this game. LA was the thing we were most excited to build and have as a centerpiece.
Beyond just making a game based on their vision, Easy Day Studios is also looking to release a project that has been guided by the skateboarding faithful, players who have supported Skater XL since the Early Access days and have in the months since then created a community that numbers 50 000 strong with their own mods, websites and even a regular magazine dedicated to the virtual scene.
“There was this realisation that contrary to back in the day where you would build a title, polish it up, ship it out, and that’s the thing that people consume, this feels so much more like the product is a combination of what we create and what the community is creating, Hedgpeth added.
I guess we feel a lot more like a part of the ecosystem, rather than we’re the creator and they’re the consumer.
The end result is a game that is designed to grow over the coming months and years not as an obligatory live service experience, but rather as an expression of skateboarding artistry. Of hitting a perfect grind, nailing a manual and finding pure catharsis in the brief second between achieving lift-off from a flight of stairs and making an impact on the tarmac below you. Skateboarding games are coming back in full force, and Skater XL is leading the charge with a project that is reclaiming the glory days of the genre while shredding along and establishing its own identity.
Last Updated: April 30, 2020