Hello and welcome once again to Patch Notes fresh from a nice Summer break.
In this week's column I'll be talking about the recent revival of the Tony Hawk Pro Skater series and why it's important to learn from your mistakes.
Earlier this week Gamasutra reported that due to the recent success of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD the game's developer Robomodo is again looking at bringing the game back to its full-fledged retail roots. This speculation is coming from quotes made by Robomodo CEO John Tsui who spoke about the game's success which came in the form of 120, 000 downloads during its first week on the Xbox Live Market Place. Now, while those numbers are nothing to sneeze at I still think it's a far cry from a “smash hit.” Also, according to the piece from Gamasutra this entire endeavor was pitched to Activision as a test case. “The idea was to use a downloadable title to test the waters with how a reboot of the series would go down with consumers.” Tsui goes on to say: “By making it 'lower risk' we were allowed to take some chances, which benefits both developer and publisher." Congratulations, but how does it benefit gamers? Lending more to my point Tsui goes on to say that “the prospect of a fuller game is definitely on the table -- it's just a matter of when and how.”
No, no, no, a thousand times no! Personally I do not think that's a good idea at all. THPSHD was hugely assisted by gamer nostalgia and while the game invokes memories of late night high school skate sessions it's hardly a renaissance for the series. In fact there's a few omissions which set the game back. Mediocre visuals and the lack of local split-screen play are a few of the red flags that went up in my head while working on my review. Also, there's the lack of content. The game only contains seven stages and you've played them all before. This downloadable title should be treated as a platform. Get the game as tight as possible and then release more stages as DLC. I'd be happy to pay some extra money for my favorite stages but I sure as hell am not ready to shell out 50-60 bucks for a full retail release. Just because you shipped a few units doesn't mean it's time to ask your publisher for a bigger budget. The game hasn't even been released on PC or PS3 yet and already Robomodo is talking like this title heralds a new dawn in skateboarding games. What happens when EA gets wise and decides to do another Skate game? While I wouldn't say that Skate killed the Tony Hawk franchise—annualization and lack of focus did most of that work—but Skate, being a more innovative experience, definitely expedited the process.
The game hasn't even been out for a month and already Robomodo has dollar signs in their eyes. I think it's rather arrogant that Robomodo thinks they can bring this series back to AAA status when all they did was perform some slight improvements on Neversofts original title.
If Activision really wants this hawk to land on its feet they need to do the following:
A: Give gamers some credit. Gamers will only play and pay for the same thing so many times. At only 1200 MS points it's forgivable that THPSHD only has seven stages and they are good stages at that but no one would pay $59.99 for this game even if it had split-screen play.
B: Don't bank on nostalgia. Why do you think that it was so important that THPSHD bring back most of the original's soundtrack? It was in order to invoke those same feelings you had back in 1999 it's fine for a small title but is not something you should invest millions of dollars into.
C: Give the series back to Neversoft. It's still too early to forget that Robomodo made some of the worst entries in the series Tony Hawk: Ride and Tony Hawk: Shred. If only Neversoft wasn't so busy with the Guitar Hero franchise... oh wait.
As I mentioned earlier the best way to handle this renewed interest in the Tony Hawk series is to make it a platform like Rock Band. Get the game tighter than tight and release new modes, skaters and stages as DLC. It’s an idea that is at least worth consideration before banking on a full retail release. I don't blame Tsui for being proud of what Robomodo has done but let's be honest Tony Hawk's Pro Skater HD is nothing more than a prettier looking version of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 1 and it's not even that pretty. George Santayana once said “Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it.” With the Tony Hawk series I see history repeating itself all over again.
Tim loves history but hates repeating it.