In entrance of 275,000 individuals, June 27, 1999, at the San Francisco X Video games, Tony Hawk tried eleven occasions to efficiently land a 900 diploma spin. On his twelfth try, he stored the skateboard beneath his ft and made historical past. A number of months later, Activision launched the online game, Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater, and the world grabbed maintain of this beforehand fringe sport eagerly.
Activision approached Tony Hawk the yr earlier than, in 1998. “We heard you’re working on a game, we’re working on a skate game and would like you to see what we’re doing,” Hawk remembers the writer saying at the time. Hawk had already been trying to convey a skate recreation into the world for years earlier than that assembly. “A PC developer wanted to pitch a skate game to different publishers,” he explains. “We went to a couple of different meetings, he had a crude engine for a game – it wasn’t very involved or very exciting, but it was a start.”
Hawk and the PC developer parted methods after the developer turned discouraged by executives who believed skating didn’t match video video games. Take Two reached out to Hawk and they bandied round some concepts, however it didn’t click on. To Hawk, Activision should have appeared like a final ditch try. “I went to Santa Monica and they showed me their very early version of what would become Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater,” Hawk recollects. “I thought it had the most intuitive controls and a lot of free roaming capabilities.” The deal was signed and the tiny staff at Neversoft took the reins in the hopes they might flip this area of interest sport right into a blockbuster franchise.
“The mission statement was basically ‘make a fun game about skateboarding’, but the first stage was ‘figure out what’s fun’,” Neversoft co-founder Mick West explains. West was working with Joel Jewett to supervise the challenge because it turned the sole property the studio was creating. Activision wanted this to be a hit – the writer had lately halted recreation improvement for the console market, cautious of its future. West added to the mission assertion: “Get as much fun stuff into the game as possible and ship before the holidays.” Producer of the first recreation, Ralph D’Amato, smiles as he displays on the unofficial tagline for the firm: “Work hard, party hard, Neversoft!”
This motto sums up the improvement course of. Each D’Amato and West say improvement was like “shooting from the hip” and the manufacturing was “chaotic”, that are each phrases that could possibly be used for describing the sport itself. Reflecting on the early days, D’Amato mentions a close-by arcade the group visited so they might play Prime Skater. Doing so made them realise that they didn’t need to make a racing recreation – Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater wanted to revolve round tips in an “open-world style”.
The group at Neversoft threw themselves into the sport each voluntarily and with encouragement from Joel Jewett, who had constructed a vert ramp in his personal yard. “About a year or so after it was built, Joel moved so a few of us went over to his house, disassembled the ramp, and moved it to my house instead,” D’Amato recollects. “We used the ramp for employee skate nights.” When that is introduced up, Hawk laughs: “Joel Jewett is eccentric, to say the least, and he basically demanded that everyone on the team try to learn how to skate. He would take weekly trips to the skate parks and just go out and do it. He had a kickflip competition at one point… in the office.” Neversoft developed a ardour and an actual, sensible information of skateboarding, which allowed them to switch the really feel of doing it in actual life into the recreation.
“We really tried to immerse ourselves into skate culture,” says West, “We watched a lot of videos and got a lot of input from skaters”. Clearly, this was a Tony Hawk recreation, so the man himself was not ignored. “Neversoft were calling me constantly”, Hawk admits. A lot of the info got here from the professional skater, and he would actively check out new builds of the recreation a number of occasions every week. “I was embedded with Neversoft from the get-go. I was driving up there all of the time, they were sending me discs a couple of times a week,” Hawk explains. “I had a modified PlayStation so I could use burned discs, and they’d send me new developments and we’d go back and forth.” Tony laughs to himself when requested if different skaters have been enjoying the builds – “I’d let people play it, people that I trust. At one point, I felt it was getting so far along that I started to sneak out copies for those same people – these people had modded PlayStations. As subversive as that was, it started to create a buzz in the industry, because they were key players in the skating industry and they were also hardcore gamers.”
D’Amato is visibly enthusiastic about working with Hawk and different skaters. “Part of my production duties were to schedule the skaters in for their character design and special tricks review,” he says. “It was fun because the skaters all had different personalities and were as excited as us.” His ardour stayed with him, and he’s nonetheless an enormous fan of skateboarding as we speak.
It wasn’t all enjoyable, although. “The most pressure would come from crazy deadlines,” D’Amato says. “It was like being on a sports team. Everyone was 100% dedicated to the project. Staff didn’t take vacations until the game was finished and our lives revolved around it.” Whereas D’Amato is clearly proud of what his staff created, it’s clear that it was a hectic setting. Nevertheless, he describes his time engaged on the collection with an enormous fondness. “The biggest highlight was working with the small team of people on the first few titles,” D’Amato continues. “I’m still friends with a lot of them, they will be lifelong friendships, and that’s invaluable”.
In all, it took round a yr to place the preliminary recreation collectively. Analysis was the foremost focus, not only for tips and skaters, however for the tradition that surrounded the sport and the places during which skating was born and thrived. The group would decide actual world skate spots and in the event that they have been missing on supply materials, they might head out throughout the United States to movie extra reference footage. Hawk himself, once more, was the font of information. “I pointed out a lot of locations, a lot of the genuine skate spots and parks,” he says. “Jamie Thomas was also involved and very vocal.”
As a result of of Hawk’s enter, skating got here first and recreation mechanics got here second. It was about transferring the sport, not reimagining it, and that’s finally why it was so profitable. “Neversoft was so open to my ideas, there was never a ‘we’re not going to do that because that’s not what video games are’,” Hawk says. “They liked that it was a canvas to explore what we wanted, and capture what we do, in the best way.”
In fact, it was a online game, and it wanted to be managed like one for gamers to have the ability to entry the huge quantity of tips and potential mixtures. “Once we nailed down the basics – ollie, grind, flip, and grab – everything else came naturally,” D’Amato explains. “The control scheme was changed up a fair bit at the beginning though.” At one level, the system meant hitting buttons in a combo whereas mimicking motion on the D-Pad, just like a preventing recreation. In the finish, the workforce selected utilizing a extra easy technique of holding instructions and button mixtures to carry out tips.
Hawk reminisces about the freedom he and Neversoft had: “There wasn’t something to live up to, it was liberating and we were free to try whatever.” In fact, they weren’t combatting something besides Prime Skater and Thrasher’s Skate and Destroy, however there was strain, not simply on Neversoft, but in addition on Hawk, as a result of this was his recreation, it will maintain his identify. When it lastly launched, the success got here as a bit of a shock to the skater. “The idea that we created a genre of video games was unexpected,” Hawk says. “Action sports as a genre was something I never imagined.”
Mick West knew the strain nicely. “It meant everything to Neversoft for financial stability,” he recollects. The sport turned an enormous success, promoting over 350,000 models between the November 1999 launch to Christmas that yr, in America alone; lifetime gross sales have been 300,000 for the UK.
The sport’s reputation additionally helped to determine an entire new fanbase for the sport and launch Tony Hawk to stardom – it was performed by anybody and everybody. Someone in a friendship group would personal a replica of the recreation and everybody would bundle spherical to their home to ‘out trick’ one another. “The game raised my profile in terms of promotion and opportunities,” Hawk admits. “I was getting asked to do mainstream talk shows and cameos in movies. I never imagined being able to do these things.”
The Pro Skater video games have been a landmark in in style tradition and launched the careers of many, from Hawk himself to Johnny Knoxville and the Jackass crew, who embodied the tradition of skating. Speak to anybody about the video games and all of them have favorite moments, skaters, or tips. Nevertheless, regardless of who you speak to, they may point out the soundtrack, with out which the recreation wouldn’t have held as a lot of the pleasure and type that was so wanted to create the sense of enjoyable that West, D’Amato, and the workforce initially got down to seize. “The music, for me, it was important to represent the culture authentically and that meant the early days of skate punk; Dead Kennedy’s, Circle Jerks, Primus,” Hawk says. “But it was the music guys at Activision who brought in the newer punk bands.”
From talking with the key gamers behind the video games, everyone seems to be extremely fond of the legacy they created. There have been issues Neversoft and Hawk needed to realize in the starting which couldn’t be captured till the change to PlayStation 2 – for Tony, it was skating the loop; for others, it was stepping up the loopy tips and places. “Each dev cycle presented new hurdles,” D’Amato says as he remembers a second of misery throughout improvement of the third recreation. “When 9/11 happened, we were almost finished with Pro Skater 3. We had an airport level where the goal was to stop terrorists bombing the plane. We had to scramble and change it to stopping pickpockets.”
So many childhoods have been formed round video video games and the Pro Skater collection is fondly remembered by most gamers of a sure era. The video games arrange many careers and left an impression on West, Hawk, and D’Amato – the latter went on to go away Neversoft and work instantly with Hawk as his director of media. He’s presently engaged on a documentary about the creation of the Pro Skater collection.
“I was proud, in general, of how it raised skating’s profile,” Hawk says. “A shocking moment, one that gave me most validation, was when we released the fourth game, the first three titles were still in the top ten for sales. That seemed unreal. Beyond any fantasy. Just the idea that we got to do one sequel, and we did four, and the first three were still top selling. I’m proud of what we created and the legacy of those games – I never imagined it would become what I’m known for, more than my actual skating,” he laughs. “It’s been crazy, it still resonates. Some of the things I get to do, in a lot of ways, are connected to that awareness that came from the video games.”