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EA's Blackwood: Text-Based Prototype Perfected Skate's Control Scheme

Talking to Gamasutra as part of an in-depth interview posted today, Skate producer Scott Blackwood has revealed that the team used a text-based prototype
Talking to Gamasutra as part of an in-depth interview posted today, Skate producer Scott Blackwood has revealed that the team used a text-based prototype to 'dial in' its evolutionary 'Flick It!' control scheme, and that the title reads the controller input 120 times a second for exacting control response. Though EA Black Box realized that it was risky to go against eight years of convention in skateboard games, the studio defenestrated the control schemes set popularized by Skate's predecessor and rival Tony Hawk, developing its own on whiteboards and paper. Blackwood likens his team's approach to a developer tinkering with a driving game's controls, reversing steering and putting acceleration o a different control scheme layout: "But we really liked it on paper. We worked with our lead programmer at the time, and really, in about two or three days, he built a prototype, and it was great. We actually were up and playing the game -- no rendering, no game, and no animations. But what we did was that we were reading the stick, and we could start to dial in different gestures and motions. We could put in any different gesture and say, 'We're going to call that a kickflip. That's going to be starting in the middle, going down to six o'clock, and then up to one of the sides.' And it would spit that out and say, 'You did a kickflip.' It would measure it based on how accurate you were, and we would rate that from one to five. So one was like, 'Okay, you weren't really accurate, but you sort of did the kickflip.' Five was, 'You did it perfect.' The other one would give you a rating based on the speed with which you did it. So one was like, 'You were kind of slow,' and five was, 'You were fast.' So if you could be five and five, you did it fast, and you did it perfectly accurate." The team learned a number of lessons through its prototyping, one of them being that the game would need to read controls at 120 hertz, instead of 60: "It was funny, it was just a little text-based game with flick-it controls, that turned into us grabbing the controller from each other going, "'Oh, I can do better than that.' And we dialed in... how we imagined flips, ollies, and inward heels and all that. We were playing the game a year before we ever had to care about graphics... If you look at the Xbox 360 or the PS3 controller, there's not a lot of give there. When you go down and up, it's fast -- it's less than a second. Reading at 60 hertz did not give us enough information to build the profile into exactly what you did. So we redid it and were like, 'Okay, we need to read it at 120 to get all that information on how fast you were and how accurate you were.' Then we built that into the physics, and it was on and on from there." You can now read the full feature, which discusses EA Black Box's "three-game plan" for Skate and the process the studio uses to decide which tech solutions to outsource or build from the ground up registration required, please feel free to link to this feature from other websites).

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