According to game designer and thinker Daniel Cook, the basic risk and reward schedules that the player partakes in, forms the fundamental basis of gameplay. Mr Cook asserts that in general, a player will spend 80% or more of their time performing simple, repetitive core game mechanics. In THE SURFER®, our core game mechanic “PUMP”, revolves around players gaining speed from the physics of the wave and then scoring. Another important feature of the control is that aside from the wave physics driving the momentum in the surfing, the moves are pressure sensitive. What this means then, is that if you press a button on the controller and hold a wave move in, then you will slide sideways before eventually wiping-out, as indicated by the surfer’s animation. An animation indicating near death isn’t anything new in games of course, but it’s a cool feature because what players are now able to do is to use the energy of the wave to generate their speed, but then they can also power-slide on the wave in a similar fashion to a power-slide break move in a car. So now moves such as re-entries and tail-slides aren’t canned animations as we have seen before with earlier surfing games, rather, they are animations that take genuine skill in regards to where they are performed on the wave and how you look, all the while “feeling” really awesome when the moves are pulled off successfully. So players can snap or slide on the wave, or they can use PUMP to get big air and use the shoulder buttons to hold in grabs. Rotations and air landing is controlled by the player and there is no major auto landing assist which can, at times, be pretty lame in extreme games. Two things can happen to the player when they first set out in The Surfer®: one is that they can end up looking like a rock star when they first get their heads around the basic skill set, but if our design isn’t carefully laid out, then we can also make the player look really clumsy – which to some extent is a by-product of a novel skill based system. When we first launched our PC demo a couple of years ago, this became really evident to us quite quickly. Players could get to the wave and surf along okay, but they couldn’t readily convert this basic movement into PUMP, a combo and then higher scoring. One of the major criticisms we received was that at times the physics based system was a little too real, a bit too difficult to just pick up and play in comparison to skating or snowboarding games. Skateboarding and snowboarding have a natural advantage over surfing in that players can simply jump on a board and move in a forward direction, perform a basic trick and score quite easily, whereas surfing has all the other elements of paddling, duck-diving, reading the ocean, creating believable waves and water physics and so on. So our challenge now as it was then, is to invite players in by making the PUMP mechanic accessible, whilst encouraging the player to develop their new found skills in a reasonably short space of time. Learning curves aside (a topic for another post), players must earn their ability to combination score and maintain their ability to combo via wave physics + player driven momentum (i.e. PUMP) – this as opposed to arbitrarily button mashing in order to link moves and score. This control method is unique.