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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 12:40 pm  Post subject: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Joined: Fri Apr 29, 2011 2:24 pm
Rank: Jonas Brother
PSN: CharmyDweeng
Thanks to Phillipe (SpeedyDesiato) for putting these all up. =]

Batty Interview

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Phillipe Bosher: Right, here we go, SSX Community Questions!

Todd Batty: Here we go!

PB: SSX Uberfan #1 wants to know: Will there be any characters coming after the game has released, via DLC?

TB: Absolutely, I think that we will be doing that. One of things that, internally, we’re trying to push for with SSX is to continue to support the game after we launch it.

PB: So similar to Burnout: Paradise.

TB: So Burnout: Paradise had the Year of Paradise, right? They just continued to add on and they built a relationship with their customers. One of our bigger goals, as a company, is to start to transition our business from the ‘Ship-and-forget’ model, which is very transaction-based, into something that’s more service-based. As we continue to go digital, as the industry continues to evolve, it becomes more and more important for us to develop that relationship with our customers. I’ve put forward to the senior people at our company that I think SSX, given that we’re right on the leading edge of technology and innovation – we’re really pushing social features and online, RiderNet, all that kind of stuff – that we would be a perfect game for the company to say ‘Hey, let’s invest in a year of SSX, and let’s continue to build on this game. Let’s continue to listen to our customers, listen to what they want, read our telemetry data and continually adjust, tweak and tune the game… it would make [the customers] happy, and hopefully we can build a huge strong community. God willing that the launch of the game goes well, then we can do a lot of DLC later on. Obviously new characters, bringing back returning characters and introducing some new ones would be a big part of that plan.

PB: Staying with the theme of characters, Citylights wants to know about character customisation. We know that you can customise some aspects of characters’ outfits, but will we be able to customise the characters themselves? Say hair, nose rings, whatever…

TB: No, you’re not going to be able to do that in the shipped version of the game. We looked really early on at doing ‘Create-a-player’ and even simple edit/tweaks. I know a lot of those questions have popped up because the community isn’t happy with the way that Kaori looks…

PB: And I can cross that question off my list…

TB: You know, I read the forums all the time, I’m on Merqury City (a big SSX fansite and forum) all the time because I met some of those guys when they were up at our community day… They’re fantastic and amazing people. They’re our biggest fans, and we want to make sure they’re happy with everything we’re doing…
If we had done ‘Create-a-player’, I don’t think that’s the right thing for SSX. I don’t think SSX is about that. It would have been very easy for us to have a character editor, but when we made the decision not to have ‘Create-a-player’, the editor also went out the window. We want to able to customise gear, and customise the look/colour of your outfits and whatnot, but as far as having a robust enough editor to change hairstyles, that’s not going to be in the shipped version.

PB: So, we know about returning characters – Elise, Mac and the like – but Charmy Dweeng wants to know if there will be any tracks returning to SSX?

TB: That’s an interesting question. In early days, when we first started developing SSX, we needed some mountains to ride on while we were building our core gameplay and core physics, but we didn’t have any. So we used a lot of the tracks from SSX 3 in development… it was actually one of the things that led us to a lot of our new gameplay innovations. When we said ‘Hey, I want to use some mountains! Oh, we’ve got some old SSX tracks, we should bring that stuff in!’ – and believe me, it’s hard to find data for a game that’s seven years old! As well as we archive everything – I still don’t think that we’ve found all the original SSX 1 tracks – we had to pull in tracks from SSX 3 and Tricky in order to help ourselves.
So we put them in our game, but the interesting thing was: all we got was the core geometry of the track itself. All of the objects – rocks, trees, buildings, etc – that stuff didn’t come with it. That stuff was an additional layer. [The core geometry] was all we needed. Then we realised ‘Wow! These mountains are huge!’ but then our first pass, with all the core physics, we realised that, actually, it’s not that good, and it’s not that fun. Our original physics was based on old SSX physics, and that’s part of what led us to say ‘You know what? We should be able to ride that stuff. I should be able to go off a wall, if I have enough speed, and flip off a wall without losing momentum. So we used a few of the old SSX tracks very heavily in early days, and just recently, while working with my world builders and my level team, we started tossing around the idea of taking some of those levels and putting them in our game.
Now, if we put them in our game, we don’t have access to be able to set-dress and make them an exact replication of what they were. But the core geometry of those tracks are still really fun to play, they still stand up today by today’s standards and against what we’re building, but I don’t know how appreciable it would be by the community or how recognisable it would be, but for how great those mountains were for us in development, I was saying “I kind of want to throw in Happiness – it was one of those mountains that we used a TON of for SSX. It’s one of those mountains that’s huge, fun and interesting, with huge air moments. Some of the areas don’t hold up as well with our new physics, but we could probably tweak it a little bit. We thought it would be fun to throw it in the game – we’ll throw some ice and rocks on it and put it in the game… more for our benefit than the community!
So: maybe. Long answer to the question comes down to Maybe. *Laughs*
The second thing that we’ve talked about, and this won’t be in the shipped game, is something that would come via post-ship content. We spoke to the community, and we asked the community would they like us to bring back Big Mountain, for example, or Tokyo Megaplex, or…

PB: Well, that’s my vote!

TB: Well, some are going to be easier than others. Something like Tokyo Megaplex… the entire gameplay was all in the objects. If you actually look at that track – and I’ve seen it – without any objects, it’s actually… it’s nothing! Literally, everything was in the pipes and the wind-elevators, and…

PB: Oh yeah! The wind-elevators! Man, they were awesome!

TB: Yeah! But without those, it’s a really basic level. Something like that would be a lot more effort than we would be potentially willing to invest into it, but we thought: if we could put Big Mountain together, and there were enough recognisable landmarks, it would still play different – our physics is much more advanced – but I think it would be recognisable in a cool way. We asked the community, and they said they would absolutely love that, so that’s certainly one of the things we’re going to look at post-ship.

PB: So, I heard recently that you inadvertently announced custom soundtracks…

TB: Yeah, that was at Community Day!

PB: I don’t believe you were supposed to, but you did! That’s ok, it’s out there now. *Laughs* MartyMcFly885 wants to know if you’ll be able to assign certain songs to particular tracks. So say that I really want to hear More Than a Feeling by Boston playing as I ride down Alaska, drop number 2, will I be able to set it so that I will always hear More than a Feeling as I ride down Alaska’s drop number 2?

TB: Is that what you want to hear going down Alaska, drop number 2? More than a Feeling?

PB: I don’t know!

TB: Who wouldn’t?!

PB: More Than a Feeling is a great song!

TB: *Laughs*

PB: If you can time it right, hit a big jump as the chorus kicks in… yeah!

TB: *Pauses* I’m not going to get in any more trouble by talking about a feature that I’m not supposed to talk about! I can say that our audio team is looking at things like that, and I know for sure that some things, like ‘I want this selection of music to play while I’m doing a race’, or ‘I want this selection when I’m doing trick events’ because, you know, I like to listen to far different music when I’m doing a race than when I’m doing a trick event. I’ll listen to Hip hop and reggae and stuff when I’m doing a trick course, but when I’m racing I want to hear something a little more high-paced.
Beyond that, I’m not going to say anything.

PB: Funnily enough, I was just thinking about the music in Burnout Paradise. They had some classical music playing throughout. Will there be any classical music in SSX? It’s not really the right sort of game for it, but neither was Burnout! So, Vivaldi’s Four Seasons – confirm/deny?
TB: I’m not going to talk any more about music or audio! *Turns to EA PR* I’ve already told him so much! *Pauses* I’m just kidding!

EA PR: Really, we don’t actually know yet.

TB: A lot of it is that we don’t know. We’re still in negotiations with a lot of people, trying to figure out who we want to get, who can be on the soundtrack, who wants to be on the soundtrack… obviously SSX is a game with a rich musical history, so we’re doing our best to make sure we have a really rich, robust soundtrack. We have some big shoes to fill, if you look at the past soundtracks, and if you look at how some of those artists have blown up today… I think that if you tried to put together one of those soundtracks, considering how big those artists are today, it would cost a LOT of money! *Laughs*

EA PR: I think you can be rest-assured that we have one of our best audio producers at EA Canada working on the audio for SSX. He worked on Fight Night Champion’s audio, which had a great soundtrack… did you mention the Remix at all?

TB: I think the community should know all about Remix, because we talked about that at Community Day.

EA PR: Ok! We will do whatever it takes to create a soundtrack that’s SSX-worthy. We have the best people working on it!

PB: Moving away from audio, Mus wants to know what the frame rate will be like in SSX. What are you aiming for?

TB: We always aim for a locked, hard, 60 fps. Now, we’re simming at 60 and rendering at 30. Personally, as a designer, I’m a big fan of 60 sim, which means the inputs are done at 60. Rendering at 30 with motion blur actually looks and feels faster than 60 without motion blur. I know we can’t do 60 with motion blur, so I’m pushing for 30 with motion blur and 60 sim, but all that could change right up until the last minute.
I think the most important thing, as far as framerate goes, is to make sure that it is locked hard and stable. Often games that are criticised for bad framerate have glitch framerates, where it fluctuates up and down, as opposed to ‘It was 30 and that wasn’t any good.’ I’ve played games with 60 fps that I think, on a framerate experience, are awful, and I’ve played some 30 fps games that are incredible. I don’t think it’s as much about the number as it is about stability, personally.

PB: I’d agree with that. Next, Sweet Wild Flowers wants to know some more about the story for SSX. Obviously it’s not going to be a story-heavy game, but when will we know more about the character motivations etc? Is everything already out there?

TB: Oh no! There’s some more stuff coming but we’re not going to be releasing Campaign details until a much later date. Maybe at Tokyo Game Show in September sometime, but it could be closer to October/November. We’re still working on a lot of the cinematics and building that out. Again, we’re not building a huge story mode, but there’s a cool fiction, it drives you through the game. There’s motivation to keep going; there’s a beginning, middle and end; there’s a reason to keep doing what you’re doing, but it’s not a story-driven game.

PB: With the characters that are returning, will they have the same Uber tricks as they did in previous games, or will there be new ones?

TB: Lots of the Ubers are new. We’ve looked at old Uber tricks for inspiration… You’ve probably seen tricks in the game that are almost a direct replica of tricks seen in older entries. Another thing that we’re doing, again this was based on community feedback a long time ago, people really wanted signature super-Ubers…. So every character is going to have their own signature super-uber. We are looking directly at what each character’s signature super-uber was before, and we’re making a new, updated version of that. They should be instantly recognisable.
The first one that we put in the game, a while ago, was Simon’s Hang-ten trick – you can see it in the trailer we showed at the Press Conference. I received an e-mail today that Elise’s signature super-Uber just went in… and I know what it is! I’m pretty excited. She’s my girl.

PB: Yeah, agreed. Always Elise! When I applied to be a part of EA’s gamescom coverage, I wrote something along the lines of “There are always characters where… you know you’re not supposed to fancy them, but you probably did a little bit. With women like Elise… Sure, it’s PS2, it’s blocky, but damn she’s hot!”

TB: *Laughs*

PB: You just can’t help it! Anyway, moving on… nice and simple: Wilbert wants to know how many tracks will be in the shipped game, and how tracks will be sold in DLC. Will they be singular tracks? Track packs?

TB: As far as total number of tracks, we’re still working on that right now. We continue to toss ones out that we don’t think we’ll have enough time to make a really great SSX experience. So far though, we have: nine mountain ranges, 3-4 peaks per mountain, multiple drops per mountain (with drops being a track)… we’re somewhere in the neighbourhood of around 150 tracks right now, which is massive!
For some of those though, we’re using the same part of the mountain to do a race drop and a trick drop for example, but… it’s huge. It’s massive. It’s a massive world to explore.
As for DLC, I just don’t know. Whether we’ll release a mountain, or single drops at a time, that depends on where we go from here. We wouldn’t want to throw out tracks simply for the sake of throwing out tracks; we want to think about where we can fit it in the world, will it be adding new gameplay, new mechanics… that kind of thing.

PB: In the USA, Mount Fiji is a PS3-exclusive. Tricky Emu wants to know: is that a timed exclusive, or will it eventually come to the 360 via DLC?

TB: That’s a timed exclusive. I believe, and I’m 99% sure, that’s a timed exclusive.
As a development team, and as a marketing team, we need to do things like Retail offers and exclusives. It’s a part of our building relationships with first-party and retail and whatnot. My goal is always, and I’m a bit of a pain to some executives for, that I want anybody and everybody to ultimately end up having the opportunity to have the same game. Anytime that we can bring something to everybody that might have originally missed it, like an exclusive to a console, we’re going to try to do so.

PB: Very quick question that LePierre wants answered: is RiderNet going to be cross-platform?

TB: No, you can’t do it. First-party won’t allow cross-platform communication. I would love it if it could be, but I think we’re going to have a big enough community on both consoles that it should be pretty awesome anyway.

PB: EvilPengi wants to know: Collision detection. When we watched the trailer yesterday, there seemed to be a lot of characters in quite close proximity, and he worries that the collision detection didn’t seem to be there, and the characters didn’t seem to react realistically. Is that something you plan on fixing before release?

TB: Yeah, we’re still working on that stuff. Obviously, when you’re going down a typical SSX campaign track – you against AI characters and whatnot – you’re bumping and bashing into them. We didn’t invest in combat, because… well, people said they wanted big mountains, people said they wanted open mountains, people said they wanted tons of different ways to get down the mountain, and if you look at the evolution from SSX Tricky to SSX 3… Tricky had super-close proximity, confined courses, heavy catch-up logic – you were literally going down a mountain with a pack of people around you at all times. It makes perfect sense in that game that they then said ‘It’s all about knocking people over, maxing out your boost meter, rivalries – “I hate you!” “I like you!”’ – very cool, awesome mechanics…

PB: Quickly following on from that, will there be any similar voice acting in SSX?

TB: Yeah, actually a bunch of people have been asking that. You can say that we are having character vocalisations, so the characters will be speaking and saying things while they’re going down the mountain. We’re going to try to keep that under control, though! Some of those things have gotten a little crazy in SSX in the past… but it’s really cool, actually. We’ve started getting some of that stuff in the game already, and hearing Kaori speak as she’s going down the mountain, hearing Elise and whatnot… it’s pretty cool stuff.

PB: Awesome! Our final question comes from Woozwah. He wants to know: When you unlock board artwork, will you be able to apply to any board? Say you have a really great board, statistically – it’s got great boost, great turning ability, great speed, etc – but it has a design that he doesn’t like, will he able to apply a new skin to that board?

TB: Don’t know the answer to that yet. It’s something we’re looking at right now. As we figured out that we wanted to have lots and lots of boards, with lots of different attributes, along with tons of different gear for you to be able to purchase, we then had to think ‘Wow, how are we going to get art for all this?!’
So, as you probably know, we engaged our community. We have people right now creating board art for me – by the way, huge shoutout to our community – I have seen some STUNNING artwork, and AMAZINGLY beautiful-looking boards coming in from them, and when we started seeing that, the next question was exactly yours. You know, ‘Wow! Some of these boards are so beautiful that once I get them, I’m going to want to hang onto that board forever!’
In the system that we had put together, we thought ‘No, there’s going to be tons of different boards and you’ll be buying/selling boards all the time.’ We then immediately recognised that as a potential issue, so we’re problem-solving that right now. Not sure where we’re going to end up.

PB: And that’s it! Thank you very much for you time man, I thoroughly enjoyed that.

TB: Alright! Thank you!


Connor Dugan Interview

Click to reveal hidden content: show
While at gamescom a couple weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to spend time with a number of amazing people. Conor Dugan, Producer on the upcoming SSX, was one of them. Enjoy.



Conor Dugan: Hey there, I’m Conor Dugan and I’m one of the producers on SSX.

Phillipe Bosher: Ok, so you’re a ‘Producer’ – but what exactly does that entail?

CD: In production, in our game development at EA, the Producer job-family is primarily about design, and some of the business side. In SSX, we have different producers responsible for different things! I’m responsible for gameplay, which I’m really excited about.

PB: Well, gameplay is obviously a really important part of games…

CD: *Laughs* Yes!

PB: So which games have you worked on before?

CD: I’ve worked on all different types of sports games, but I’m really excited to work on SSX because I’m a big snowboarder, love skateboarding, love board-sports; I guess, for lack of a better term, [I love] extreme sports and I’m really excited to be working on something I’m so passionate about finally! Not that I didn’t love the Sports games I’ve worked on in the past, but I love the [SSX] franchise, and I love the space that we’re in.

PB: When I was chatting with Todd [Batty, Creative Director on SSX] the other day, he mentioned that he once worked on NBA Street; were you there with him for that?

CD: No. Actually, you know what? One of my first jobs I worked with Todd. Back in the day, we actually worked in QA together, testing games.

PB: Oh really?

CD: Yeah, and then we worked on NBA Live, back in the day when it was really good.

PB: So, how did your experience as a tester shape you into the producer you are today? Do you remember thinking, as a QA tester, ‘Oh man, I wish they changed this one thing, then I’d be so much happier’, and now you think ‘I can fix that thing!’?

CD: Exactly. I mean, it’s all about developing an eye for quality, and when your job is to sit down and look at software that’s unfinished… you know, when software is unfinished, it’s got a lot of problems and a lot of frustration! There’s a lot of bugs, and it really hones your skills for identifying quality issues. Then, in my job now, you can know what to fix from a priority standpoint to make the game more fun, more polished, and that much better.

PB: In terms of polish, I’m sure everybody already knows about Mountain Man, so we don’t need to go into too many details about that; you say you have around 140 tracks at the moment, but how do you use the NASA data to make a track that’s fun? Because, at the end of the day, if you take too many creative liberties with the mountain terrain, it’s just a track. What’s the point in saying ‘We’re riding down Alaska Drop Number Two’, if you guys have made it your own thing?

CD: It’s a tough balance. For us, our priority is always the fun. Really, the NASA stuff mostly helps us from a time perspective as it can help us create a huge amount of content. But [to your question], this might be the wrong wording, but we don’t care. We just want to make the best, most fun game. A true representation of any mountain is not going to give you the great SSX gameplay that you know and love, so it’s not really a concern for us.
You’re right though, and you bring up a really interesting point. You know, if you’re looking at a level, when you’re building a level, you can’t do too much to it – make it too crazy, give the player too many options – so you’ve got to know when it’s time to say ‘Ok, we’ve done enough! Let’s just take a step back and play it for a few weeks.’ You really don’t get the vibe of a level until you play it for a while.

PB: Staying with the NASA stuff momentarily, I understand that some of your team were speaking with the White House…

CD: *Laughs* Yeah! We were at E3 – I think it was the second or third day – and someone’s like ‘Conor, you’ve got to do a presentation early in the morning’, and we’re all really tired, wondering who we’ve got to give it to…

PB: ‘Mr. Obama’s on the phone…’

CD: *Laughs* Yeah! So we actually gave the presentation to… who was it, Duke? Because I don’t want to get it wrong for the interview.

Duke, EA PR: It was the Chief Technology Officer, working at the White House. He was Obama’s representative who released the NASA data in order to spur innovation within all industries.

CD: So it was the CTO for the White House… and he was a huge SSX fan, which was really cool! Obviously we do a lot of presentations to people. Some of those people are huge fans of SSX, some of them… you know, just want to see the product, and probably aren’t as invested in the franchise. But this guy was totally into it, and it was cool because to see him smile and to see that the initiative of getting the data sourced to public, which was Obama’s initiative, it helped build some cool creative content… they don’t always get the opportunity to see their initiatives come to life in such a meaningful way, and it’s a different way!

PB: Do you think then, that that particular aspect will be recognisable to the player? Do you think that, specifically American players, will think ‘Actually, this information came from NASA – to some extent’ and feel a part of that initiative, or is it more of a backroom thing?

CD: I think it’s more of a backroom thing; I don’t think they’re going to say ‘Oh wow, look at that! NASA obviously helped them build this.’ For us, it’s just a cool story first, and a great way to create a large amount of content. I guess if anyone has ever climbed to the top of Mount Everest and looked around, it would be very similar but I mean…. How many people have done that?

PB: I guess you’re right.

CD: Although it wouldn’t be super similar, because we’re going to put in kickers and rails and jumps! *Laughs*

PB: When I talked with Todd, he mentioned how you guys are just starting to put in the man-made elements and you’re beginning to see a lot more vibrancy in the colours. When you’re looking over colours for SSX, how do you decide what is too dull, and what is too vibrant?

CD: You know, it’s a tough balance. We all remember SSX Tricky, and that looks like a pinball machine! There’s glowing lights and colours, which was cool for that time, but with the reinvention, where we finally got a chance to bring it back to HD consoles, we didn’t really feel like we should go all the way in that direction, but we still had to remain true to the product, and do something that’s vibrant and colourful.
And then what’s really cool is that all of our different regions have a different lighting style to them. So there’s still a lot of colours, and a lot of variety, all over the world. Just don’t ask me which one is which! To give you an example, some have a lot more weather effects – perhaps more fog – there’s dusk lighting which is really cool with more saturated colours, and the light glowing after it hits the snow is really pretty. It’s all over the place, but in a good way!

PB: One thing I’d like to pick up on is your reference to the new SSX as a ‘reinvention’. You’re reinventing the franchise, effectively.

CD: Yes.

PB: But would you say that this is more of a reinvention, or more of a reboot? I believe there is a very subtle distinction between the two…

CD: Tell me what you think.

PB: I think that a reinvention is when a developer goes back to the original in a franchise and says ‘Ok, so this particular aspect was fun, so we’re going to bring that into the new HD era and modernise everything.’ On the other hand, a reboot is what a lot of people thought ‘Deadly Descents’ would be after it was premiered at the VGAs.

CD: Right.

PB: You know, ‘We’re taking the SSX name, and we’re taking the snowboarding idea…’

CD: And throwing the rest of it away. Right, got you! Well, in your terms then, it’s somewhere in the middle. There’s a lot of elements that are from the original games – if you look at our Trick system, it’s over the top, it’s like the old SSX games, just better and a little bit different. Our physics system is really cool and really sophisticated – so it’s reinventing the franchise for this generation of consoles. But when you look at it from a ‘reboot’ standpoint, the survival aspect of the game didn’t exist. I think there are different parts that are true to the franchise from the past, but I think that there’s a lot new, and we wanted to bring something new.
We have a rule: it’s one-third similar, one-third improved, and one-third brand new. That’s what we’re aiming for.

PB: When we recently saw one of the Deadly Descents, it was shown that the gameplay was quite heavily changed. You’re not behind the character anymore, but way out in front, and, well, how does it work? Because there are points in that gameplay footage where you simply can’t see the character anymore. To me, that seemed… wrong.

CD: *Laughs* You’re completely right. You’re looking at software that’s not done yet. When you look at that particular experience, we delivered it from an Avalanche standpoint, and that’s just one of the experiences. Not all of our survival experiences are going to be from the reverse-camera, so we look at that game aspect as more ‘exciters-and-delighters’. If you played Call of Duty back in the day, you were used to playing shooters and shooting lots of people in the face, but then you’d get taken to this new level and…

PB: Like Gillies in the Mist.

CD: Yeah, exactly. Or the AC-130 gunship mission. In SSX, we’re not going to have avalanches happening everywhere, and we’re not always going to be in that reverse-camera. That was just one new, and one unique, experience that’s going to be in SSX.

PB: Looking forward a moment for the franchise: obviously you guys are going to have plans for DLC, and you might be thinking about where a potential sequel could be headed… Because the new aspect is the survival stuff, do you think that that is an aspect you’re more likely to focus on in the future?

CD: I think when we talk about DLC, it’s tough. Did Todd tell you about the Year of SSX?

PB: Yes, similar to the Year of Paradise.

CD: Right. The greatest opportunity that we have, with the Year of SSX, is to really engage with our consumer. We have telemetry data, we can really talk to the consumer, and if we get to do the Year of SSX – which would be awesome – we’re going to have so much opportunity to talk to our fans, to talk to our community, and you know what? If the Survival aspects really resonate with the fans, then we can push more into the game. If something else resonates that we don’t know about, then we’ll build more and push more of that into the game.
If I were a betting man, I think that the survival aspect might be something that would really resonate with the fans, but we’re not really going to know until the game ships. That’s when we can see what people are really doing, and what people are spending the most time on.

PB: I understand you’re busy, so one last question to wrap up: You mentioned just now the SSX community. You’re a designer. You’re designing this game. You want to make the thing that you want to make. But at the same time, there are these guys who love the franchise, who love all things SSX – I personally love Tokyo Megaplex and would love to see a lot more of the crazy pipes and wind elevators, but some people just don’t like that – How do you balance your creative vision against what the community says they want?

CD: For me, my personal view is that you take what you think is going to be cool, try to put that in the game, but you’ve always got to listen to the community. For us, the community is very important, but they’re not the entire population of who’s going to play SSX and buy SSX. Don’t get me wrong: I love what the community provides us, in terms of feedback and we wouldn’t be doing what we’re doing without them, but we also have to be careful in terms of accessibility – you want to bring new people to the game to have a great experience. The community cares about things that…

PB: Not necessarily everybody cares about.

CD: Yeah.

PB: Say, for example, the Kaori redesign that the community seems to be pushing for.

CD: Right, right! But you know what? In the same vein, one feature that was a great suggestion by the community was signature tricks. ‘I want to see Simon’s guillotine trick!’ So we thought ‘Yeah, you’re right. We should do that.’ So what was really cool in that particular case was that we actually took old animations from SSX Tricky, and we had our animators change it up, switch it up, but maintain a similar look and feel. Now it just fits with our own animation style! So yeah, I love the community, I just recognise that they are not the entire demographic of who is going to buy SSX.

PB: They’re a very vocal minority.

CD: Yeah. Right, you put it better. *Laughs*

PB: Ok Conor, thanks for your time!


Phillipe's First Impressions of SSX

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Early last week, I was invited up to EA HQ in Guildford in order to check out the new SSX. I wrote this post, and although it isn’t yet live on the EA site, it should be going up soon. In the meantime, check it:



“SSX is all about flow.”

It’s a phrase I heard over and over while I was at gamescom. Todd the Creative Director, Conor the Producer, even Duke the PR guy – they all said the same thing: SSX is all about preserving momentum, gathering speed, and looking cool whilst riding down a mountain.
So when previewing SSX, the question that needs answering is obvious: how well has the EA Canada team succeeded in their goal? Is SSX reminiscent of the old games, in their awesome sense of speed and amazing, death-defying tricks? How does it feel to ride down the mountain? Fortunately, even in this pre-Alpha stage (meaning they still have many aspects to refine, bugs to squash, and kinks to iron out) SSX New feels… just like SSX Past.

And that’s really the best praise I can throw at this game. As a huge fan of SSX Tricky and SSX 3, I was more than a little nervous when ‘Deadly Descents’ was first shown at the Spike VGAs. “What on Earth have they done to my beloved franchise?!” I cried in tandem with the rest of the internet. What was shown didn’t interest me at all – I wanted bright lights, vivid colours and outrageous stunts. To use a term I heard from Todd Batty himself, ‘Deadly Descents’ looked a lot more like ‘Modern Snowfare’ rather than traditional SSX; this was incredibly bad news.

Then, a couple of months after ‘Deadly Descents’ was first shown, things took an about turn. Although it would have been impossible for the development team to have completely discarded everything I disliked and started building the game I wanted, that’s exactly what seemed to happen. The ‘Deadly Descents’ subtitle was dropped; The marketing and PR for the game started to focus on the return of favourite characters, and on the new core physics engine the team had built; Most importantly, we started to see something that looked a little bit like fun.

So when I was offered the opportunity to get some hands-on time with the game as part of the #eaukgc2011 team, I jumped at the chance. Not only did I want to meet the people responsible behind the return of one of my favourite franchises, I really wanted to check out the game and set my fears to rest.

Now, having spent an hour or so riding down Mount Silverthrone in Alaska, I feel pretty assured in saying that EA Canada is making something very special. As soon as Elise jumped out of the helicopter, controlling her movements felt… right. It’s a feeling that’s hard to explain, but everything felt natural. If I wanted her to go to a specific spot, I didn’t even have to think about it – it just happened. Suddenly, she was there. There’s only one other game where I’ve made the same fluidity of motion, and that’s Criterion’s ‘Burnout Paradise’. Nothing else has ever come close.
The ease of motion seems clearly down to the studio’s near-perfected new physics engine. Designed to allow you to ride on almost any surface in-game (including ridiculous vertical half-pipes), the new engine gives a sense of weight to the characters that wasn’t quite there before. Although clearly hyper-realistic, it makes sense in the SSX world that the characters would be able to use any surface to ride on – the earlier messaging of ‘Go anywhere, ride anything’ seems to very well implemented.

That being said, SSX isn’t yet perfect. Before I go any further, it must be reiterated: this is still pre-Alpha. The team still has 5 months until their tentative release date of January 2012, and many, many chances to tighten up all the niggling flaws that currently exist. However, as an unbiased writer, I feel like I should mention them at this point.

The grinding isn’t quite good enough yet. Even when approaching a grind-able surface straight on, the hit detection isn’t always there, and very occasionally you’ll miss the grind. When you start to approach it from an angle, the chances of you hitting the grind rapidly reduce, and it all begins to feel very un-SSX. Fortunately however, I wasn’t the only person to pick up on this. Even Conor Dugan, Gameplay Producer on the game, said “We realise that people want to be able to hit the pipe at a 90 degree angle and still grind. That’s SSX!” So although this was one of my largest concerns with the build we were playing, I felt reassured that the team knew about it, and were working to fix it for release.

Next, and possibly more important for some people, is one that’s a little harder to define. When playing SSX, you want to feel like the coolest dude on the planet; you want to feel like you’re defying reality. However, that feeling can only really be achieved if there’s something to counter-balance that. Something to make you feel like a complete dimwit. You can’t get the incredible high unless there is some sort of low from which you can climb. Right now in SSX, there just isn’t enough punishment.

And I know, it sounds like a truly odd complaint. But when pulling off the incredible Ubers, kickflips, 1080s and whathaveyou, I never felt truly punished for failing to complete them properly. Even if Elise landed headfirst in the snow, she kept most of her momentum and kept moving forward. Within a few seconds, there was another big jump, and another chance to perfect the trick. Although it certainly looked cool on screen, it didn’t feel like it worked for me emotionally. Again, this is something I overheard the designers talking about (perfecting collision detection, implementing trick-failure punishments, etc.) and, for me, this was the game’s single biggest flaw. After I’d gotten over the initial excitement of ‘Oh man, I’m playing SSX and it looks totally sweet!’ I never felt a huge thrill again. This may have been down to the track chosen and its heavy reliance on grinding, or down to the environment in which we were playing, or any other multitude of tiny reasons, but if there’s one thing that a game like SSX needs, it’s this: excitement.

All in all, there’s really only one thing you need to know about SSX. Right now, even though it’s still pre-Alpha, even though it’s got 5 months until release, it feels completely solid. Having chatted with Todd and Conor, it was immediately clear that they both feel passionately about the franchise, and really want to do it justice. Here’s hoping they don’t disappoint.

This first-impressions piece focused mainly on the single-player experience of SSX, and chose to sidestep the RiderNet features. For a more in-depth look at RiderNet, you can check out my interview with Todd Batty, where we discussed the system at length, or at Mat Jones’ RiderNet preview.


Last edited by CharmyDweeng on Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:10 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:09 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Thanks guy! Sorry for the lack of formatting and the pure text wall, but I hope the content more than makes up for it.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:23 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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The Batty interview said a fair amount of stuff but still left a lot unanswered. Stupid PR people making him keep quiet. :lol

Good to see...

That they are trying to figure out the board stats issue.

That Fuji is a timed exclusive which I've been saying since day one when it was announced.

That collision detection is being worked on.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:37 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Thanks Phillipe and Phillip (lol) for posting this up. A lot of stuff was answered, still looking for more though. Wish they'd confirm more and "Uhh, I can't tell you" less though.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:38 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Yeah, I can imagine a few of these questions will be asked again regardless of this interview. Such is life.

P.S. One L for me. ;)


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:17 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Hey Speedy, do you mind if we reprint the Todd Batty interview as a news article? I can add some extra formatting to it to make it a little easier on the eyes as well. :)

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:22 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Great work! Loved it. Nothing more to add. Just... wow

Also, was this the first time "Year of SSX" was announced or have I missed something

I'm pretty bad at "nothing more to add"


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:43 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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So each drop is a track. Dayum. Now we'll just have to see how it translates to gameplay value. Will be spectacular if they can pull it off.

Regarding the frame rate, I'm not sure how to feel about the motion blur. I'd initially have dismissed it in favor of a higher frame rate but it does have its appeal. It makes things look smoother and to some extent more real, but you lose the crispness. Is that something that could just be toggled on and off in the options, so you can switch between the two if you feel like it? That would be pretty optimal.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 2:46 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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So each drop is a track. Dayum. Now we'll just have to see how it translates to gameplay value. Will be spectacular if they can pull it off.

Yeah, this is hard to wrap my mind around. 150 tracks on a game that's only been in development for a year or so? I just have a hard time picturing them as 'standard' 3-5 minute tracks. We won't find out until the game ships if my hunch is right.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 3:13 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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gondee wrote:
Hey Speedy, do you mind if we reprint the Todd Batty interview as a news article? I can add some extra formatting to it to make it a little easier on the eyes as well. :)


Please, go for it! As long as I have a credit in the last little bit, I'm happy for you guys to use it :)



As for the 140 drops/tracks bit, think of it like:

[----------------------------------------------------------------------------------------] The Mountain
[-----------------------------] Tricky Drop
[---------------------------------------------------] Race Track
[---------------------------------------------------------------------------------] Another race

As you can see, there's a lot of overlap. They just build the mountain and then drop you onto it from different starting points :)

Also, the game has been in development for around 3 years, so it's not that crazy :)

EDIT: Imagine those lines starting from different points, rather than just ending at different points. silly formatting :)

EDIT AGAIN: LePierre, I think this was the first time. I hadn't heard it before, and the way Todd spoke about it, it seemed pretty much like new news. :)


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:28 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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gondee wrote:
Quote:
So each drop is a track. Dayum. Now we'll just have to see how it translates to gameplay value. Will be spectacular if they can pull it off.

Yeah, this is hard to wrap my mind around. 150 tracks on a game that's only been in development for a year or so? I just have a hard time picturing them as 'standard' 3-5 minute tracks. We won't find out until the game ships if my hunch is right.


He said some of them are used as both race and trick tracks. I'd say 100 unique tracks at least.

The number is staggering, but I'm sad they cut down on 12-17 ranges to 9 (actually 10 with Fuji).

Right now they're pushing for 30fps with motion blur. He gave a very good explanation about framerates and I'm sure I'll be welcoming the added detail of going at only half the framerate, because the game will still feel smooth. They seem to know their stuff very well. While some 30fps games feel choppy, stutter, etc, these guys seem to know how to keep everything fluid, and the end result should be great.

Love the idea of the year of SSX. This games needs to sell well, period.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:29 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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PB: Not necessarily everybody cares about.

CD: Yeah.

PB: Say, for example, the Kaori redesign that the community seems to be pushing for.
Darn. Well, I'll probably end up playing as her anyways, hopefully the character developers have any minor redesign in store for Kaori.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:47 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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I'm so grateful Fuji will be DLC. Otherwise, according to what we just learned, Xbox players would have not only been robbed of a mountain range, but of 10-12 tracks/drop points as well.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:48 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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I don't mind tracks being used for both racing and showoff, that's how it used to be anyway. Though, I guess if a place is built exclusively for showoff, you can do more with it as you don't have to consider the racing aspect. And vice versa. No qualms about it in any case.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 5:56 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Also, the game has been in development for around 3 years, so it's not that crazy :)

Don't let them fool you with that PR speak, Speedy. :no We saw first-hand what they were working on in the exploratory 3 years of development, and it was NOT the tracks. :no Most of that time was spent revamping the physics system and searching for a hook to sell the game. We saw builds that were from June of 2010, and they were still using repurposed SSX 3 and On Tour tracks.

The Drop points don't equate to actual 3-5 minute tracks. My best guess from the Community event was 50-60 tracks, but that was a best guess.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:08 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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So it's kinda like On Tour where multiple tracks share some parts? I really didn't like that part of OT. Hmm.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:17 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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The only thing that worried me is they were talking about toning down the character sayings/interactions and also the "pinball machine" colors. Two of the best parts that make SSX, imo. Hopefully the high points of the mountain can be back country, while at the bottom of the mountain is the cheering crowds/fireworks, etc. It can be done, and then everyone is happy.

Also, if Gondee is right and its only been a year in development, then my expectations suddenly just dropped.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:32 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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It's been in formal Development, with a full team attributed to normal games, since sometime between June-October of 2010. The previous few years were spent with just a very small team (probably less than 10 people) searching for the unique hook to sell the game. The physics system is quite the feat, as you'll see when you play it, and the mountains will be amazing. But this 'drops' thing, I'm just not sure what to make of it.

The reason why it doesn't equate to tracks as we think of it is that previous proposals for a new SSX (two that I know of) were nixed because it would take too much manpower to build tracks the standard way. Todd Batty has mentioned this a few times - in the EGM article he says something like "we looked at 20 tracks, then 16, then 12" or something like that when they build tracks the "traditional way". If they nixed games if 20 'standard' tracks were too many, how is 150 tracks even remotely feasible? It rings hollow to me, PR speak, and I'm sure it'll be more than standard tracks, but not as many as they're touting.

Also - just apply what EA has actually shown vs. what they're talking about. We've seen, what, 3-5 actual tracks IN ACTION? If they had 150 to get done, and they were only four months from release, wouldn't it make sense that we'd be seeing waaaaay more tracks than we are?

Quote:
Also, if Gondee is right and its only been a year in development, then my expectations suddenly just dropped.

Your expectations can be sky-high, and they should be. If my estimate of 50-60 tracks as we know it is correct, that's still more by half than any previous SSX game! SSX On Tour had 30-something tracks, and that was a LOT, so even if it's what my senses are telling me, that's still a TON of content to race. I just don't want you guys to think that this 150-tracks thing is completely pound-for-pound the same as the previous games - because my brain tells me that's just not possible. We'd have 3-times the world builders on the team at least, even with topography generated from Google Earth. Because we saw sections of the tracks that hadn't been reformed to make it gameplay-ready and they looked quite a bit like Untracked - long, flat and honestly pretty boring (no 'an action every 3 seconds' on those).

So if they are looking at 150 tracks that all need to be massaged as much as the Himalayas track was, then it will still be a lot, but not nearly as many as they're touting. Just seems to echo of 'PR galore', like the 100,000 users on a track (when in reality it's probably no more than 15 when you're racing, and the 100,000 corresponds to the people on the scoreboard). Apply some common sense to it and you'll see it will be less than they are saying, but it should definitely be more than any previous SSX game.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:58 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Is there any way we can get a developer confirmation either way? What you're saying makes a lot of sense from what I understand of it.


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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:05 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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I've tried Charmy - I asked a few times at the Community Event. All they gave me was what you heard, the spiel about Drops. I want to know how many events there are because it equates to how much work it's going to be to set up the SSX 2012 Scoreboard, as well as the Master Runs. But all they gave me was ballpark stuff. 9 Ranges, 3-5 mountains per range, so that's about 30-45 different mountains. If there are a few unique tracks per mountain, then it could be 60-90 tracks in the game. That still rings high to me -- but even if it's 60 unique tracks in the game, that's still phenomenal and FAR MORE than even SSX On Tour, which had more events than any other SSX.

There's some confusion here too. Look what baka mentioned:
baka wrote:
He said some of them are used as both race and trick tracks. I'd say 100 unique tracks at least.

Batty isn't talking about tracks when he says this - he means EVENTS. SSX 1 has 8 tracks, but it has 16 EVENTS, since each track is used twice. So there's no real way to tell exactly how many unique tracks there are in the game.

For example, take the Kilimanjaro (volcano level). We've seen a race on this (1 event), we've also seen a Deadly Descent of Darkness on this track (2 events) - it wouldn't surprise me if there was a Trick-It track on this as well (3 events.) Now, if you take the fact that each TRACK could have 3 different 'drops' (ie. events) on it, you're looking at 50-60 TRACKS. Still a buttload of content - but 150 tracks is not true, and shouldn't be touted as such. :no

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 7:25 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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IMO what I was thinking they had was something along the lines of having the entire mountain as a single themed race track, and the drop points add some versatility to what you're racing. For example. if you start at drop point 2, you go down it, and depending on where you go, you could end up at drop point 5 or drop point 7. In a sense, somewhat like it was for OT, except shorter/less tracks-in-a-row and there were multiple mountains, not just one.

What I envision is the drop points are scattered around the entire mountain (so it's not just you going down one side of the mountain, but the entire 360 of the mountain has drop points on it), then you multiply this by however many mountains they have in all the mountain ranges, and you'll get 150-180 drop points. I also figure each drop point would be about 1-2 minutes apart of each other.

Just to get an even clearer idea of what I mean, think of the Kilimanjaro race track we saw back in E3 with Kaori/Mac/Elise. Say where you started was Drop Point 1 of Kilimanjaro. As you race down, you make it all the way to the part with the helicopter, which is actually drop point 3. Based on how the races are customized, you can go down the entire mountain, and they could make custom race tracks so that every event is different. In the same way in OT you could either go left or right and end up having a customized run, it'd be the same with the new SSX. I hope that made sense.

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PostPosted: Wed Aug 31, 2011 9:40 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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But guuuuys... A Year of SSX! This is insane, as long as they don't go all activision releasing 30$ DLC this is the most awesome news ever. If you played Burnout Paradise during the Year of Paradise you should know what I'm talking about.

We'll probably just have to wait and see for the 150 drops = 150 tracks, but it doesn't make a lot of sense to have a whole mountain and not any overlapping as that would either make each run incomplete or going down the whole mountain. Not any overlapping would also mean that you can't really race down the whole mountain (if not of course each track end at the next drop point, but then there would be no "Whole Mountain" tracks)

One thing thought that worries me; in OT one thing I didn't like about Freeriding was the mountain was so big and I just followed paths, but without any sense of direction and so I never got any feelings for the mountain either. They should really bring a good map feature or something that tells you where you are while riding. (not too obvious of course, but just so it gives you some sense of direction to go if you wish to go somewhere else on the mountain side)


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 1:06 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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well, the only problem i can see with THAT, pierre, is that these mountains aren't really supposed to be resorts. they're supposed to be some crazy mountains that you get dropped into via helicopter. having signs saying 'Alaskan Pipeline this way' doesn't make sense, considering no one actually rides down Denali or Everest (at least not regularly). OT's mountain was definitely SUPPOSED to be something that people skied. i.e. ski patrol, chair lifts, other people skiing, etc.

also, i really think we shouldn't count on the tracks connecting. i'm pretty sure it's already been confirmed that there isn't gonna be a 30 minute track option, like in 3 or OT. which would hint to me that if there are 3 or 4 drop points on each mountain that are let's just pretend about 3 minute's average length, at most it would be 10 minutes, IF they connected.

i don't know where they said it, but i'm pretty sure Batty mentioned in a Q&A that there won't be any super long runs (please correct me if i'm wrong).

but yeah i agree, we'll just have to wait and see what exactly this 150 drop points things means.

and year of SSX? that would be sweet. i've never really bought DLC before, so my ideas of prices and stuff is totally skewed, but for SSX? how can i NOT buy DLC? i'll probably get it all regardless of price (unless it's ridiculous). and a year of it would be epic. imagine how awesomely complete this game would be.

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PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 2:02 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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Yey! My question was answered...

Lots of info in the Batty interview, good read. Nice work Speedy! :cheers
I'm also very intrigued at the DLC possibilities. I hope that Big Mountain & Garibaldi make an appearance! :woot
I'm all for DLC as long it's not overpriced *cough* activision *cough*


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PostPosted: Thu Sep 01, 2011 2:40 pm  Post subject: Re: Batty Interview Part 2, Connor Dugan Interview, and more  
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My worry isn't so much about it not having 150 tracks. My worry is that the real true development time is just a little over a year. I was thinking 3 years this entire time. I just don't think one year is long enough to put out a true polished product. I've never seen a game that took one year to make that didn't have a cheap feel to it. I was hoping for something GRAND and EPIC in stature, something with lots of polish and sheen. Mario Galaxy is an example of this. It was new and different, but still felt like Mario, but had amazing little touches and you could tell it was a work of art. I bet you a million dollars this game gets delayed until Spring. :cry

And about the tracks not connecting...to me it would seem like such a waste of Mountain Mans powers to have the ability to ride down a whole mountain but only let people ride down 3 different "tracks" that don't connect on that mountain.

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