Q: Can you give us a summary of the game’s storyline?
Mario Galardo: You and your friends travel the world trying to hook up with Shaun who’s plans to go on a snowboarding road trip with you were foiled by last minute obligations. You follow Shaun’s path from Canada to Chile and eventually in the Alps, Japan and the U.S. trying to meet up with him, which you eventually do. Along the way you meet knew friends who have in their own way something to bring to the road trip. As a rider, each friend contributes in his own way to your growth as a snowboarder. In the end you realise snowboarding is more than just riding down the mountain. It is about friendship and sharing the life of a snowboarder with others.
Q: What were you going for in the character’s design?
MG: We really wanted to have a good variety of characters that would visually differ from each other. It was really important since we wanted to have entirely different personalities for each of them. Also, we did not want to use real people. We could have simply taken some of the real pro snowboarders out there and tried to caricaturize them to our style, but it would have made our characters less authentic. When I write for characters, I prefer creating my own rather than trying to shape a personality around a real person’s. It is more creative and way more fun.
Q: Can you explain the emails and mementos?
MG: Our game being a snowboarding road trip, we were thinking of ways for the player to identify himself as a pro snowboarder on the road. Since today’s riders often use cell phones and personal laptops to communicate with friends and loved ones, or for professional use, we thought adding an e-mail feature would enhance sensation that you are really out there, and that people are trying to get a hold on you, wherever you are. So that was it for the emails. For the mementos, it was a way to reward the player but also to give him a few souvenirs of his road trip. Just like some people apply stickers of places they’ve been to on their luggage, most snowboarders love to keep souvenirs as well.
Q: We’ve seen pictures of your character’s vehicles evolving in the game. Can you go into detail on this?
MG: We start the road trip with an old beaten-up Van and with only two characters, but as you explore the world looking for Shaun, you meet more friends who join the road trip. With more and more friends joining, you need a bigger vehicle to hold that many people, so we had to come up with various ideas and concepts to find the right ride for the right country, and for the right amount of characters. I’m happy with the final vehicles and how they turned out to be. The team has worked extra hard to try to bring not only what was needed in the game but also to bring some elements of humour and personal touches here and there. It was a really fun project to work on and I hope people will appreciate it.
Q: Can you tell us about the game’s mountain locations?
Trent Ward One of the things that’s so powerful about Snowboarding as a sport is that it’s a real ‘pick up and go’ experience and there are phenomenal locations all over the world that people are making great films and pushing the boundaries. So in that sense, it was really difficult for us to try and focus our attention on just a few. For the real road trip experience though, we wanted to make sure that we would break boundaries for players and give them a chance to board in hot locations that are out of reach for all but a few. We also wanted to pick locations that had a really unique local feel through the mountain shapes, environmental style and cultural objects, although we tended to have a bit of fun with the latter.
Q: What are some differences in the gameplay between each location?
TW: Through these existing differences in our locations, we then built our events for each mountain around the spaces themselves. For example, in Canada, players are going to find a lot of rugged outdoor beauty, long gentle slopes but with enough man-made jumps and obstacles to keep them on their toes. Canada’s a great place to hone your skills, challenge yourself and look for new paths that will push your last time. Compare that to Chile, where we look at the openness of the mountain and the beauty of nature from a much more angular and, frankly, frightening fashion. The mountains are steeper, the obstacles are natural and the surroundings are harsh and unforgiving. Players have to find ways to work with the mountain’s own lines or they’re going to have a lot more trouble finding their way down. In other locations like Japan and Park City, we move towards a more technical style of boarding and give players a setup that allows them to push themselves to the limit in an environment that was crafted specifically for competition. This is where players are going to find half pipes, rails, big air events and all of the really crazy stuff that you see on TV and say, “they have to be out of their MINDS!” We want to make sure everyone gets a chance to experience that without having to knock out all of their teeth. Between the extremes of technical and big mountain we’ve got the Alps which we’ve built as the more traditional competitive setting. This is the place to go when you want to test your skills directly against AI opponents or, better yet, your buddies…
Q: What are some of your favorite areas to ride in?
TW: This has been one of the most amazing things about working on the project. As we built the game we really assumed that we would eventually get tired of playing the maps or that at very least we would ‘cap out’ on our skill level. Neither has turned out to be the case. I keep having a blast on the game every time I play and frequently have to be reminded when I’m demoing to get off and let the people who are supposed to be there to see it have a turn. My scores continue to improve both on the Wii Remote and the Balance Board as I learn new lines to take down the mountain and as I get physically better at maintaining my balance and pushing into jumps at the right moment. That said, from the first time I saw them, I’ve been addicted to the different half pipe levels in the game. To me they’re just such an over the top physical challenge on the balance board and that’s just a completely new thing to me from a design perspective. The rivalry between Antoine Guignard, the game’s producer and I was pretty heated at E3 until he finally defeated me badly enough that I just had to give up. I’m still practicing for a rematch, its full-on Rocky in my basement right now.
Q: Can you give us some examples of the types of maps and challenges the player will face in the game?
TW: There’s a lot. We wanted players to have a wide variety of different events to choose from as they went through the game, but more importantly we wanted to make sure that every event would be someone’s favorite event. We’ve got everything from straight races against time to big air events that challenge the player to score as many trick points as possible. There are environmental events that encourage the player to explore the space more fully by picking up garbage off the course, slalom events that combine speed and maneuverability, multiple forms of half pipe event, events that challenge the player to score as many points as possible within a given time and much more. I think more important than this though is that every event in the game is open-ended. What this means is that after you complete any course in the game, you can keep coming back to push yourself harder and harder to beat your old score. This is where the major value of the game has been for me with my friends at home.
Shaun White Snowboarding is scheduled for release on November 16, 2008.