The skateboarding sub-genre of sports game has been on a steady decline for years, but Skate spiritual successor Session hopes to change that. As we reported recently, Session takes inspiration from the core gameplay of the Skate series - including its signature flick control feature - and implements it into a lively, open-world New York City setting.
Even though there is a demo already out, Crea-ture Studios isn't done. With a Kickstarter for Session set to launch next week on November 21st, we had the chance to sit down with Marc-Andre Houde, Creative/Artistic Director and co-founder of Crea-ture Studio for his thoughts on the skateboarding genre, Kickstarter, Nintendo Switch and games-as-service.
GR: When did you guys get started working on Session?
Marc-Andre Houde: We started the project in 2015 when we posted our first teaser video. We began to run out of money and were forced to go back to full-time work in order to get funds. We applied to this thing called Canadian Media Funds to help video game and TV companies to do innovative content. We got a chunk of the development money from there.
After some time passed by, we scrapped everything we did in the past and started over in Unreal Engine 4. Previously, the build was made in Unity. Because of Unreal's multiplayer engine, it made sense to move over. We saved and reused some of our assets, such as controlling with the dual sticks; one for each foot.
GR: Obviously, it's been a while since we've had a quality skateboarding game. Were you inspired to create Session because of the lack of them?
Houde: It was actually a good coincidence. It was good timing to just put Session out there. The concept for Session was born in 2008. I was already scratching the concept of the dual sticks on paper. We tried a 2.5D build to test out the controls.
Skate came out and we put the project on the shelf for several years. It always came back to the surface once or twice a year. What was originally meant to be a small game has now turned into a huge open-world, games-as-service project.
GR: You mentioned the Canadian Media Fund organization as helping with the development funds. What was your reason for going to Kickstarter as a source of funding for Session?
Houde: The Canadian Media Fund allowed us to fund a small portion of the game, just enough to bring the bare-bone minimum into early access later. We decided to go onto Kickstarter to bring this solid, fun core to the community, and it's for some other core features. The missing thing is really the ability to make your own videos and share them.
GR: Can you elaborate some more on the video sharing concept?
Houde: The reason we have brought an entire video editor in-game is for uploading like YouTube. We also want to bring a filmer mode so you can do it with your friends and film your friends in real-time as they do tricks and stuff. There's a large portion of this that can be real fun. It's not just the tricks you do, but it's working on a really cool angle and having an awesome interactive experience with friends.
GR: How far along would you say development is on Session so far? When can potential backers hope to see the final result of Session?
Houde: We target to have an early access Q2 2018. We just have to make sure the experience is fine and fun on Steam and Xbox Early Access Program.
GR: I read your previous interview with The Berrics. In it, you note that at the time a story mode was not the main focus of Session. Has that changed at all? Or will going to Kickstarter give the chance for a story mode to be possible through stretch goals and the like?
Houde: Yes. We have tons of ideas for the story mode like adding really cool mechanics. It is part of the stretch goals, but pretty far into it. Story is something that if done really well, it can be awesome but if not, it'd be pointless.
We don't want to get into repetitive, doing the same thing over-and-over with a different color type of challenges. We want a story-driven experience that is great. It is currently pretty far away and we want to make sure the core is fun skating.
GR: While on the topic of stretch goals, there's this little system called Nintendo Switch that released earlier this year. You might've heard of it. Is that a platform your studio has considered for Session? Maybe even as a stretch goal?
Houde: (Laughs) I think that'd be really cool. From a creative standpoint, I'm already thinking of cool ways to implement it. We'd like to, but from a technical standpoint, that would be far off. Once the game is ready to launch out of early access, we'll see.
GR: How important is online support for Session? You brought up that the game has shifted from a small project to a games-as-service. How will that model work for Session?
Houde: From day one, we've been working with an online mindset. Right now, it's singleplayer but it's all made under the hood for multiplayer. We do not see it being a success without these two things: sharing videos and the online multiplayer. From there, the games-as-service concept is something that we want to build and make grow.
In the city, we are starting with a small New York City hub. From there, we will add new streets, areas, and real life locations. Once we've built a new part, we want to keep on track with the community and hear their feedback on each new area. Development tools that keep track of things like where players spend the most amount of time will help us to understand patterns and what pleases the players.
GR: As we close out this interview, what are some final words you'd like to say regarding Session and its upcoming Kickstarter to our readers?
Houde: We really feel like Session is this game that the community can really get involved with. This is the case already, but we want the community to share their opinions with us. Anything at all; we are always open to these things. This is a game made by skaters for skaters, and even if you don't skate, you will be able to enjoy it. We want you to have the chance to affect the development.