Skatebird’s cute skateboarding birds do, like all of us, just do their best
Some games are inspired by the personal and deep experiences of the developer. Others are triggered by real world events or by love of other media.
For Skatebird developer Megan Fox, it all started with a gif of a bird on a skateboard.
Fox is a seasoned developer, having worked in AAA on LEGO Universe before going independent and releasing games like Jones on Fire, Hot Tin Roof, and Spartan Fist. She started working on Skatebird in 2018 after, she says, the Spartan Fist “bombing” and she had to let her entire development team go. Whatever she did next, Fox at the time was certain that she would need to do it mostly on her own.
But this certainty did not last long. First, a fellow game developer named KevKev offered a physics-based skateboard codebase prototype to anyone who wanted it, after finding out that putting humans on skateboards was “inconsistent and weird “. Fox started playing with it, letting the inspiration from the gif she saw lead the way, and quickly discovered that it was much easier to put a bird on a skateboard than a human.
“You know what a human on a skateboard is supposed to look like,” says Fox. “The pros are supposed to look cool. There’s a particular look and a stance and so on. If you put a bird on a skateboard, well, nobody really knows how it’s supposed to stand on. skateboarding. And if they beat a lot and look awkward, well, it’s a bird on a skateboard. “
Skatebirds with a feather
Fox wasn’t the only one who thought birds on skateboards were fun. At E3 2019, Fox found a seat for Skatebird at the Kinda Funny Games Showcase and launched their Kickstarter simultaneously. The support was huge, enough for Fox to expand the game’s reach from a fun little skating gag to goals, story, and a lot more birds than originally intended. Although she expected this next project to be solo fun, Fox has returned to working with others to support the development of Skatebird. What started out as a kind of “anything” gag has turned into a complete and serious project.
“I think people think it’s a lot bigger than it is,” Fox says. “It takes about five to eight hours to beat. It’s not huge. But I guess it’s the size of most skateboarding games. So maybe it does.”
While the idea for Skatebird started out as a blunder, its expanded reach meant that Fox quickly had to become an expert on two things she didn’t know much about: birds and skateboarding. The first happened organically once she moved to the Seattle area and started feeding birds as a hobby, gradually learning names and how to identify different species.
If they beat a lot and look awkward, well, it’s a bird on a skateboard.
She also hired a skateboarding expert to teach her the different tricks and techniques, as she wanted Skatebird to truly reflect the sport rather than include a bunch of invented tricks. Having only briefly skateboarded in the past “in combat boots while wearing a trench coat,” Fox chose not to return to the board during development to avoid injury, but intends to resume the hobby now that the game is on.
Along with the research, Fox wanted their skateboarding game to be accessible in a way that the big names in skateboarding understood, but ultimately failed to achieve. To do this, she looked at the very clear button assignments of the Tony Hawk games (meaning they could easily be rearranged or mapped to a different controller if needed) and tried to combine them with elimination. more precise arcade aspects by EA’s Skate franchise.
“You can collapse almost all the buttons into one button, you can make just one button go around grinding and flipping,” she says. “And it’s not ideal, like you can’t do every turn of the game that way. But you can totally play the game that way.”
The finished Skatebird is cute and whimsical and full, as Fox intended, of birds “doing their best”. It is linked by the story of a bird whose “Big Friend” (a human, of course) gave up skateboarding, motivating the bird to try and inspire him to take it back as he skates on. tiny courses the size of a bird. There are objectives to discover and lots of customizations for the bird hero. While this is primarily a skateboarding game, there’s no denying Skatebird’s ability to meme, true to the gifs that inspired it.
Skatebird comes at a time when skateboarding games are experiencing a renaissance, from announcements of indie titles like Bomb Rush Cyberfunk and goofy riffs like Street Uni X (think Tony Hawk but a unicycle), to AAA efforts like the rebirth of the franchise. Skateboarding by EA and, of course, the return of Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1 + 2.
Whether or not the genre stays for good or skates until sundown, Fox says now has accidentally turned out to be the perfect time to release a skateboarding video game.
“There are tons and tons of indies starting to play in this genre,” says Fox. “And usually that’s a sign that the genre has blossomed and is really starting. And then when EA Skate comes out, it’s a sign that AAA is entering space again, because the indies have once again showed that this genre exists and it works and it makes money and AAA says, “I like the money. And then they come and after that I don’t know what’s going to happen. They might at new kill the genre, or maybe not. But at least right now, it’s pretty cool. “
Rebekah Valentine is a reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @canardvalentine.