With the release of SSX – the latest addition to the most critically acclaimed snowboarding franchise of all-time – just around the corner, we chat to EA Sports’ producer Connor Dougan about updating the beloved series, creating the perfect run and digitising our very own Travis Rice…
The new SSX marks a major revitalisation of the series, what were the biggest challenges you faced when making it?
I’d have to say bringing back a popular franchise that stays true to what made the SSX series great, but also innovates for the future. This was a challenge we’ve addressed for sure. Fans of the series will recognize the over-the-top gameplay with an emphasis on big arcade tricks, but will also appreciate the massive world we’re now able to give gamers and the new online features that put friends at the core of the experience.
It's been five years since the last SSX title, Blur, how have things changed since then?
We were able to do so much more with the game now than we were in the past. Bringing the franchise back today has given us the ability to make everything we did before bigger and better. Virtually every element has been updated to match what you would expect in today’s console generation.
With the technology we had at our disposal, we have over 150 drops for you to ride down. The 3-D physics engine also gives you the opportunity to ride anything. Then there are also things like avalanches, and wingsuits – which are fun!
The online design that puts friends at the core of the experience was also not possible before. Being able to see what all your friends are up to with activity feeds is something that drives you to keep playing. We definitely had the capacity to be much more creative today than we were in the past.
Previous entries in the series have featured over-the-top and cartoonish characters. For this release, you feature real-life snowboarder Travis Rice, what was the decision behind that move?
Travis is the first real-life snowboarder to ever be included in the SSX series. He has pushed the sport forward in such an incredible way that we couldn’t think of a rider who better represented what SSX is all about. He is like a real-life videogame character, and although he probably won’t ever use a wingsuit to fly from one part of the mountain to the next like he can in SSX, he is certainly the closest guy to trying that.
One important facet that makes the series so well loved is the soundtrack. In the new SSX, how do the tunes enhance the gameplay?
Music has always been big in SSX. Not only do we have a great soundtrack with established artists and some up-and-comers, we’ve also licensed a Pretty Lights remix of Run DMC’s It’s Tricky - a big hit that people associate with SSX which we’ve brought right up to date. Another cool part is our music engine that remixes your music in real time based on what you do in the game. If I do a really big air, the music levels may drop. If I do a really big flip and spin, the music may remix or loop based on what I did. We also have the ability to custom import your own music and remix it based on your performance.
How did you go about designing the amazing courses in the new game?
In past versions of SSX, we were only able to get to just under 10 tracks that we would meticulously design. In order to make a massive world for riders to explore, we sourced NASA topographical data as the starting point, and literally mapped the entire globe. From there, we used a proprietary tool we called Mountain Man to build these into more fun, rideable mountain regions. For example, you can grind the Alaskan Pipleline or the Great Wall of China in the Himalayas. It also allowed us to get up to nine mountain regions and over 150 drop points, which gives the game a lot of replayability.
With such detailed research having gone into the new courses, how realistic are the finished articles?
None of the tracks are real per se – it wouldn’t be much fun to ride them as is! We added a lot of areas for riders to use for tricks and did things like allowing riders to ride inside the volcano of Mount Kilamanjaro. This game is not about reality but about making it better and more fun. Our fans aren’t expecting realism, so that really isn’t something we are after.
What can we expect from the online gameplay?
We like to say we’re redefining what online competition is really all about. The heart of our online features is a mode called Explore. Basically, this gives gamers the freedom to choose their own adventure by giving them recommendations of what their friends are doing and what scores they can take down. We give a wall of recommendations and an activity feed that shows you where in the world your friends are and gives you the chance to beat them. It’s pretty cool and very addictive.
If you had to choose one thing, what is your proudest achievement in the new SSX?
To me, I’m really proud of the physics engine that allows riders to make the mountain their playground. Virtually everything can be conquered. That is just not something we could do five years ago.
- Check out the official SSX site
- More on EA Sports here
- Check out Travis Rice’s profile page
- Travis creates his own perfect run with Red Bull Supernatural
- More Red Bull gaming