We are surfers, so for us it was always vital to focus on capturing a genuine feel and understanding of our sport as well as the surfing lifestyle.
As an indie shop we love the PS2 era surfing games – Transworld, Sunny Garcia and Kelly Slater – and we wanted to bring that feel back to consoles. So we set out to create a retro art style for the PS3 and then we focused on creating gameplay depth; still building on the past but aiming to be as innovative as we could be in our game design.
So after years of R&D our unique Pump control emerged, a method that centres on the player using the physics of the wave to generate speed in order to combo.
You can’t just button mash; there’s a real skill to surfing that you pick up through the control. The sport of surfing is all about using the power of a wave to score in a flowing fashion. It’s very much a combination of a surfer’s individual style aesthetic and controlled aggression. We use our physics and scoring mechanic to emphasise this, so the focus is about the position on the wave + momentum performed in tandem.
Another cool feature is our tactile button input; the longer you hold your button in for wave moves, the harder you carve; you 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 because you can use the energy of the wave to generate your speed, you can also power-slide on the wave in a similar fashion to a power-slide in a car.
One of the criticisms we’ve received along the way is that a physics based surfing game is too difficult to just pick up and play when compared to skating or snowboarding.
We listened. It is, however, fair to point out that in video games, skate and snowboarding have natural advantages over surfing. In general, you can jump on a skate or snowboard, move in a forward direction and perform a basic trick.
You can also interact with an environment. Surfing on the other hand, has natural impediments: paddling, duck-diving, reading the ocean and to boot, we only interact with waves. But, the cool thing about Pump is that utilizes the same mechanics integral to both snowboarding and skateboarding, namely, speed and tricks; however, we apply it to waves that change randomly by rolling or tubing in genuinely differing locations and swell conditions.
Suddenly you have a new way of thinking of how a surfing game could play.
We’re also focusing largely on how the equipment affects gameplay. If you don’t choose the right board and / or suit combination per the wave conditions, it’s going to impact your performance.
You can select a board, repair a board when it snaps, ride your jetski to tow into hard to paddle into waves, select a range of 3rd to 1st person cameras whenever it suits. We’re also returning to traditional local split screen gameplay (online is coming later).
Non-surfers have quite correctly pointed to a lack of “depth” in the surfing genre, but we hope that in a small way we’ve addressed some of those concerns. Alternatively if you do surf and you like the old games, we think you might like The Surfer. We live for surfing… and there’s much more to come.