Skate 3 – PAX East Preview

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Perhaps one of the most surprising sights at the inaugural PAX East was EA’s Skate 3 booth. Situated near the front of the expo floor, their booth was one of the busiest at the show. Sure, this was partly due to the contests they were running, but that only ignited the palpable energy fans had for this third iteration of the Skate series.

It feels like only yesterday that we were talking about a new EA game that would go up against the aging dinosaur that was Tony Hawk. And yet, only three and a half years later, it’s common knowledge that Skate is the better series. I know it, you know it, and a suspicious, black-hooded man at PAX knew it.

Funny story: I had an appointment to speak with someone from the Skate 3 team, but I wasn’t really sure who. Arriving at the booth early, I decided I’d give the game a go before jumping straight into an interview. As I played, I couldn’t help but notice the older man at the kiosk next to mine. Not only did he know what he was doing (more than I did), but he was decked out in a black hoodie, hood up and all. This was either some kid’s coolest dad ever, or Chris Perry, producer on Skate 3. As he leaned in to give me some tips and show me around the game, the answer became clear.

PhotobucketFor all I know he’s still someone’s coolest dad ever, but at the very least he was one of the coolest dudes I talked to at PAX. Throughout my chat with him he was constantly monitoring the kiosks, making sure everyone was having a good time while simultaneously answering my burning questions.

Seeing as this is the third game in the series, in a genre plagued by stagnation, I wanted to know what Skate 3 was doing different from its predecessors. I’m no Skate expert, but I couldn’t help noticing it looked like the same basic game. Perry was all too happy to set me straight though, explaining two elements the team has put much of their focus on: better teaching and better community.

He uses the word “teaching” because Skate 3 offers more than the rote tutorial – it features an entire skate school designed to help players more deeply understand the fundamentals of this notoriously tricky series. There to help will be Coach Frank, voiced by Jason Lee (of pro skateboarding and My Name is Earl fame), providing a mix of tips and comedy that will hopefully spice up what’s usually the most annoying part of any video game.

PhotobucketThey’ve also added a unique take on difficulty levels that will give casual players a good starting point. Rather than mess with the difficulty of individual challenges in the game, Chris Perry and his team have rebalanced the entire physics system. “Everything in Skate 3 has a slider we can adjust,” he explains. Whether it’s the magnetism to rails when grinding or the angles you can land without falling, it’s all been tweaked to fit into one of three difficulty levels. The easy level is tuned to be significantly more forgiving, normal is essentially the same game as usual, and hardcore will make you cry. “When people try hardcore mode they’ll be surprised by how much the game was helping them normally.”

When our conversation jumps to the game’s other major focus, community, Perry knows just the title to name-drop: “Burnout Paradise”. While not a direct influence, he did site Criterion’s work on that game’s online modes as an inspiration for Skate 3. A major goal was to ensure no one gets the short end of the stick when playing online. No matter what mode you’re playing, whether you’re hosting or just along for the ride, the game tracks full credit of everything you do. And while the game’s 6-player online doesn’t give you free reign of the entire city, Perry assured me that the game’s free-skate areas are huge.

PhotobucketBeyond the basic online skateboarding, the game expands on the series’ suite of community features. Skate.Feed will allow players to share recorded videos, skateboard graphics, and custom-built skate parks. Much like Forza 3, players with a penchant for graphic design can progress through much of the game simply by selling the best decals online.

Maybe Skate 3 doesn’t look or play too differently from its predecessors, but Perry was able to prove to me that what’s under the hood can make all the difference. If you’re a fan, you’re probably already on board, but if you’re a newcomer, Skate 3 may be the best entry to jump into yet.

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Written by Joe D

Inspired by a love for obscure Sega Saturn games in the 90s, Joe is pretty much open to anything gaming has to offer. What he looks for in a game: creativity and strong design, or sometimes just an overwhelming sense of style.

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