February 20, 2014 12:12 PM | Staff
Sometimes developers want to explore a specific theme: they want to simulate something, or explore the depth of a high-level idea or concept. And sometimes the inspirations for games come from finding a theme that fits a specific design space. Perfect Stride is much the latter -- but it's not nearly that simple, as the following interview reveals.
The indie skateboarding game comes at a time when the genre -- which once dominated the console space -- has hit the nadir of its popularity. But between Perfect Stride and OlliOlli -- two games with an entirely different creative ethos -- in 2014, it's the clear domain of independent developers.
Continuing the Road to the IGF series of interviews with nominees, sister site Gamasutra speaks to Perfect Stride developers Russell Honor and Ben Esposito, who answered the questions below in a "kind of singular voice."
What's your background in making games?
We were part of a DIY music club in college, and thought it would be fun to have games in our basement venue for shows, so we started making them. Turns out it was really hard to make a fun game in an afternoon so we made ones that we thought were funny instead.
Since then Ben worked at Giant Sparrow on The Unfinished Swan and Russell made Zineth, last year's IGF best student game, and now works at thatgamecompany.
What development tools did you use to build Perfect Stride?
The regular shit that everyone else is using.
How much time have you spent working on the game?
About a year. However, between the two of us it's never been more than a secondary project, sometimes tertiary.
How did you come up with the concept?
Open up Half-Life 2
Enable developer console in settings
Open console in game
Type "sv_friction 0"
Type "sv_aircontrol 255"
That's basically Perfect Stride. In 2008 we built a HL2 mod around that with levels that explored that type of movement. This game is an evolution of that.
It seems interesting that themes that used to be hugely mainstream (in this case, skateboarding) are abandoned by the mainstream industry and become the subject of indie games -- we see this happen a lot. What are your thoughts on that?
We gotta remember that skateboarding was exploited by the mainstream to make $$$. Skateboarding is a way of engaging with and subverting architecture. It's about exploiting capitalist structures so really the proper way to play Perfect Stride is to follow the directions above and try to skate in HL2 levels. I hope modding doesn't die. We live in a post-Tony Hawk world. Skateboarding is getting reappropriated.
I notice that you say the game mechanics in Perfect Stride are inspired by FPS movement exploit mechanics. Are mainstream devs too unwilling to explore their own design possibility spaces, do you think?
I don't think they are dumb enough to make a whole game about it. The only reason exploits are cool is because they are outside the space explored by the devs, leaving it to the players. Which is the whole spirit of skateboarding, as outlined above.
Did the skateboard theme come from the movement exploit mechanics or the other way around?
Skateboarding was a layer put on top of the movement mechanic. Ultimately we aren't trying to simulate anything closely, we are more concerned with giving the player the same types of feelings and stimulation you get from actually skateboarding -- a sense of flow.
Have you played any of the other IGF finalists? Any games you've particularly enjoyed?
We usually only play mobile / casual games so we only got to try a few. I got a perfect score in Device 6. We also played Corrypt, I didn't know that guy was still alive, so that's cool.
What do you think of the current state of the indie scene?
[Christian Nutt wrote this article for sister site Gamasutra]