Tony Hawk's Pro Skater
|Tony Hawk's Pro Skater|
North American PlayStation cover art
|Designer(s)||Aaron Cammarata (PlayStation)
Chris Rausch (PlayStation)
Manabu Hatata (Game Boy Color)
Adrian Sack (N-Gage)
|Platform(s)||PlayStation, Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color, Dreamcast, N-Gage|
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater, released as Tony Hawk's Skateboarding in the UK, Australia, New Zealand and parts of Europe, is a skateboarding-simulation video game developed by Neversoft and published by Activision. It was released for the PlayStation on August 31, 1999, and was later ported to the Nintendo 64, Game Boy Color, Dreamcast, and N-Gage.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater takes place in a three-dimensional environment permeated by an ambience of rock and hip-hop music. The player takes control of a variety of famous skateboarders and must complete missions by performing skateboarding tricks and collecting objects. The game offers several modes of gameplay, including a career mode in which the player must complete objectives and evolve their character's attributes, a free-play mode in which the player may skate without any given objective, and a multi-player mode that features a number of competitive games.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was met with critical acclaim for all versions but the Game Boy Color version, which had a more mixed reception. The game resulted in a successful franchise, receiving eight annualized sequels developed by Neversoft from 2000's Pro Skater 2 to 2007's Proving Ground.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater puts the player in control of a famous skateboarder and takes place in a third-person view with a fixed camera. The goal of the game is to perform tricks and combinations thereof in an effort to increase the player's score. Movement can be altered using the d-pad, and ollies, grabs, flips and slides are each assigned to individual buttons. Each skateboarder has eight grabs, eight slides and eight flips. The amount of points earned from a successful trick sequence is dependent on the amount of time spent in the air, the degree of rotation, and the amount and variety of tricks performed; the more a single trick is performed in a sequence, the less points it will earn. When the player succeeds in performing tricks, a special gauge increases. When this gauge is full and flashing, the player is capable of performing a special trick that is worth much more points than ordinary tricks. If the player botches a landing and falls off their skateboard, any potential points that may have been earned from the immediately-preceding tricks are negated, and the special gauge is emptied.
In the game's "Career Mode", the player must complete five objectives (represented by videotapes) in each level within a period of two minutes. The player is not obligated to complete all the objectives within a single run; any completed objective is committed to the game's memory, which allows other objectives to be completed within multiple playthroughs of a level. Two common objectives in each level are achieved by accumulating two defined scores, while one other common objective is to collect letters of the word "SKATE", and another common objective is to destroy five of a certain object within each level. The fifth objective is more varied, but is often oriented around a specific element found in each level. Completing objectives unlocks additional levels and equipment for use. Three of the mode's levels take place in a competition in which the player perform for judges and accumulate the highest score within three one-minute rounds. The player receives a bronze, silver or gold medal depending on the final score they are given. Other single-player modes include the "Simple Session", in which the player can freely accumulate a high score within two minutes using any previously-obtained levels and characters, and the "Free Skate", in which there is no time limit imposed.
The multiplayer mode is played by two players in a split screen view and offers three games: "Graffiti", "Trick Attack", and "HORSE". In "Graffiti", players must accumulate the highest score by changing level elements into their own color via the use of tricks. If a player performs a higher-scoring trick on an element that has already been marked, the element will change to that player's color. "Trick Attack" is a mode in which players must accumulate the highest score by chaining tricks together. "HORSE" is a game that is played intermittently between two players, who must compete in rounds lasting either eight seconds or until a trick has been made. The player with the lower score on any given turn receives a letter in the word "HORSE" or whatever word the players had generated prior to the game's start. The first player to accumulate the entire word loses.
Following the releases of Sega's Top Skater and Electronic Arts' Street Sk8er, Activision identified skateboarding-simulation games as a growing market in the gaming industry and concluded that such a title would resonate with a young audience. Preceding Neversoft's involvement in the project, the task of developing a skateboarding title for Activision was given to another studio. This studio's attempt did not impress Activision and didn't move past the concept stage. The publisher then decided to entrust the project to Neversoft, which had recently completed the third-person shooter game Apocalypse within nine months. Although Neversoft had never developed a sports video game before, the development team was confident in its ability to accomplish the task before its given deadline of the 1999 Christmas season.
During development, the Neversoft team would spend its lunch breaks at a bowling alley near the studio, where they would play and study from Sega's Top Skater in the arcade. The game's design served as a strong basic influence, along with observances of real skaters performing in the X Games. Although the team decided that Top Skater's linearity lacked the sense of fun they aimed for, the "racetrack" element was retained in two of the game's levels. Contrariwise to subsequent titles in the series, Neversoft did not use existing locations as reference for the game's level design, but simply envisioned potential skating areas such as a school or a city and incorporated elements such as ramps and rails to benefit the gameplay. The team consciously prioritized fun over realism in the approach to the game's level design and physics.
The game's engine is a modified version of that of Neversoft's previous title Apocalypse, and the game's prototype used Bruce Willis's character from that game as the player character. Once the prototype reached a functional and demonstrable state, the Neversoft team realized that they would require a professional skateboarder to aid in the remainder of production. At the time, Tony Hawk had been a popular figure within skateboarding. In September 1998, Activision established contact with Hawk and arranged a meeting between him and Neversoft. Hawk was impressed by the design team members' devotion to skateboarding and the controls and engine of their game's early build and thus agreed to lend his name and involvement to the production. Subsequently, Hawk would turn down Activision's offer of a one-time buyout for the permanent use of his name and likeness on the game in favor of a royalty deal in which Hawk would earn a percentage for every copy sold. As a result of the series' eventual success, Hawk would earn ten times Activision's initial offer within two years. On January 14, 1999, Activision publicly announced their agreement with Hawk to include him in the game. Activision senior vice president Mitch Lasky, in an interview with GameSpot, stated that the character was meant "to reflect Tony's signature style – an intense mix of acrobatics and hard-core technical skating". Hawk remarked that "[he had] always wanted to help create a video game that represented the reality and excitement of professional skateboarding".
Hawk would spend the development time periodically playing through the game's builds and providing feedback. He would also select a group of other professional skaters to include as playable characters based on their skills, personalities and diversity; each skater received a cut of the royalties and got to select their own attire and special trick for the game. In animating the skaters, the design team largely depended on using video footage as reference. The incorporation of motion capture was attempted to aid in the realism of the animation, but due to the technology's infancy, the result was ultimately determined to have not translated as well as what had already been animated. The 900 featured in the game was itself drawn from footage of Hawk's famed performance of the feat in the X Games that summer, and was a relatively late addition as a result.
The collection of videotapes was directly inspired by the collection of stars in Super Mario 64. In designing the objectives, the team would gather at a table, draw a level and then ask what could be done within the said level, upon which the team members would provide ideas. Rejected concepts arising from these sessions include levels taking place on a highway and a jetty, and a scenario in which the player would lose a wheel and have to skate on three wheels. Manuals were intended to be implemented into the game, but were omitted due to time constraints; manuals would subsequently be included in Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2.
Promotion and release
On August 26, 1999, Elissa Steamer's inclusion in the game, along with the game's final release date of September 29, was announced. A playable demonstration with only two available skaters was integrated into the Jampack Summer '99 compilation CD released by PlayStation Underground. The game was made available for pre-order for the two weeks prior to the game's release; those who pre-ordered the game at Electronics Boutique or Funcoland respectively received a miniature replica of Tony Hawk's Birdhouse skateboard and a sticker sheet featuring the game's ten professional skaters and a game tip on the back of each sticker. A second playable demonstration was included on a promotional compilation disc released by Pizza Hut on November 14, 1999.
Because Neversoft would begin development of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 shortly before the release of the first game, Activision would entrust the game's Nintendo 64 port to Edge of Reality, which had recently ported Monster Truck Madness 2 to the same system. The Nintendo 64 port was announced on August 18, 1999 with an expected release date of March 2000 announced on February. The Nintendo 64 version, as well as the Game Boy Color version, received an intense multi-million dollar advertising campaign on several major youth-targeted channels in the United States for the first two weeks of April 2000. Customers who purchased the Game Boy Color version at Toys "R" Us or Funcoland received a special-edition miniature skateboard.
As a result of the disappointing sales of Blue Stinger, Activision was discouraged from publishing further titles for the Dreamcast and relinquished the distribution of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater on the console to Crave Entertainment. Following online speculation and teasing comments from company insiders, a port for the Dreamcast developed by Treyarch was officially announced on December 14, 1999 for a release in the second quarter of 2000. The N-Gage version was slated for an October 2003 release on May 16, 2003. The game came bundled with the N-Gage QD released in 2004.
The Nintendo 64 port of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was developed by Edge of Reality and released on March 15, 2000. While the port is largely faithful to the original version and retains all game modes, characters and levels, the soundtrack had been truncated and the voices were removed to accommodate the lessened space in the cartridge format. The blood effects had also been removed. The Dreamcast version was developed by Treyarch, published by Crave Entertainment and released on May 24, 2000. The graphics and animations in the Dreamcast version are improved from those in the PlayStation version.
The Game Boy Color version was developed by Natsume and released on March 30, 2000. The Game Boy Color version is an adaptation rather than a true port of the PlayStation version due to the limited capacity of the platform. The game offers two different gameplay styles: an overhead view with vertical scrolling, and a side-scrolling view in which there is a ramp on each side. There are four gameplay modes in which the player can only perform a few tricks. In "Half Pipe Mode", the player must attempt to achieve the highest score possible. "Tournament Mode" is a five-level vertical-scrolling game in which the player must race against three computer-controlled skaters and achieve the highest rank. Jumps are made automatically when the player maneuvers onto ramps, and tricks are displayed as a brief static image. "Versus Mode" and "Rival Mode" are identical to "Tournament Mode", except the player plays in a single level against a single opponent; the opponent in "Rival Mode" is computer-controlled, while the opponent in "Versus Mode" is human, which necessitates the use of a Game Link Cable.
The N-Gage version was developed by Ideaworks3D and released on October 13, 2003, a week following the launch of the N-Gage. The game is a faithful port of the PlayStation version and retains most of the characters, levels, control scheme and original music while adding levels from Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2 and two multiplayer games. The game's multiplayer functions via the N-Gage's Bluetooth feature.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was met with critical acclaim. Doug Perry of IGN praised the game's "imaginative, deep, and amazingly addictive" gameplay, "steady and consistent" learning curve, "intuitive and natural" controls, large and complex levels, "jaw-dropping" physics and "perfect" soundtrack. Perry concluded that the game had "captured the pure grit and radical feel of skateboarding, delivering it in near perfect form onto the PlayStation with a mastery and sense of programming finesse beyond anyone's imagination", and described the game as "that rare gem of a game that defies what other developers say can't be done." Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot commended the game's graphics, framerate, camera and sound effects, and declared the game to be "a worthy addition to anyone's PlayStation collection", though he was not personally fond of the soundtrack and wished that there was more variety in the game's tricks. He additionally noted that the Dreamcast version used the console's hardware to its advantage by displaying clearer textures and a smoother framerate "that may very well cause longtime fans of the game to weep". Chris Carle of IGN also praised the Dreamcast version's improved textures.
Matt Casamassina of IGN praised the Nintendo 64 version's visuals as "very impressive" in spite of the reduced quality of the textures and the omitted full-motion video effects, and the audio as "surprisingly clear", albeit compressed and "dumbed down" to accommodate the cartridge format. Martin Taylor of Eurogamer cited the game's graphics as "crisp, smooth and very, very hard to fault", but noted that the game's soundtrack suffered from the compression process and that the looping music "quickly becomes incredibly annoying"; the latter sentiment was mirrored by Dr. Moo of Game Revolution.
In reviewing the Game Boy Color version, Craig Harris of IGN decided that while the half-pipe portion of the game "isn't half-bad", the overhead portion is "absolutely stupid"; he criticized the representation of tricks as static images as "completely destroy[ing] the flow of the game", and noted that the issue is exacerbated in the "Versus" mode by having both parties' game pause when either one performs a trick. Frank Provo of GameSpot cited the game's lack of level variety and "borderline mediocre" audio, but felt that it was the best skateboarding title to be made for a portable console. Both Chadd Chambers of IGN and Jeff Gerstmann of GameSpot considered the N-Gage version to be the best game available on the system and were relatively impressed by the game's graphics, but noted the less comfortable control scheme and reduced sound quality.
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was the third highest-selling PlayStation title of November 1999 in the United States. From its release date to late-December 1999, the game shipped in excess of 350,000 units and was available in over 10,000 retailers nationwide. The PlayStation version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater received a "Platinum" sales award from the Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association (ELSPA), indicating sales of at least 300,000 copies in the United Kingdom. The PlayStation versions of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater and its successor were respectively the third and second highest-selling console games of 2000. The Nintendo 64 version was the sixth highest-selling Nintendo 64 title in the United States during the week of November 19-26, 2000.
Awards and accolades
Tony Hawk's Pro Skater was ranked #36 in Game Informer's "Top 100 Games of All Time" in its 100th issue on August 2001. The game was nominated for "Console Game of the Year" and "Console Sports Game of the Year" in the 2000 D.I.C.E. Awards, but lost to Soulcalibur and Knockout Kings 2000 respectively.
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