Taking Tony Hawk one-thumb

IOMO Studio on its moves to rejig the famous skateboarding brand for mobile

Taking Tony Hawk one-thumb
| Tony Hawk's Project 8

As you'll know if you read our review, we're big fans of Tony Hawk's Project 8 on mobile, not least for the way it junks fiddly controls and complex combos in favour of rhythmic one-thumb gameplay. Oh, and the fact that the visuals look like the Grateful Dead exploding in a paint factory.

What was the brief for the game?

We had a fairly aggressive timeline for development and, with this being our first Tony Hawk game, we needed to make sure it was really fun and accessible for everyone. We wanted something that would be a good introduction to the whole Tony Hawk universe, even if you'd never played a skateboarding game before.

We also wanted to make our game look as amazing as possible. This was a crucial challenge, as the console versions of Project 8 have raised the bar with some amazing visuals. Of course, we can't recreate the Xbox 360 graphics on mobile, but we were determined to do something that had the same 'Ooh, that's cool' factor.

We had some new animation technology we'd been prototyping, and very quickly it became clear that this would be a good fit with the Tony Hawk game concept. The technology gives us scalable visuals, and really efficient storage that enables us to put much more animation into a game than with traditional sprite systems. Which is how we make it look so good!

Why did you decide to make it a one-thumb game?

In some skateboarding games, you're looking at fairly complicated gameplay, with a lot of combos to sit and learn. It's not really suited to the way people play on mobile and can become frustrating, especially on handsets with small keys.

The one-thumb approach gives you a way of interacting with a fast and frenetic game across a range of handsets, and it scales pretty well according to people's abilities. Everybody can complete the early levels, where the pace is nice and easy, but then it steadily ramps up. We wanted to make the game accessible to ordinary casual players, not just hardcore gamers.

Did Activision take some convincing?

They've worked closely with us, and have been very good, really embracing our approach to development. Our philosophy was pretty unusual – most people would have expected us to take the existing console game and cut it down until it fitted on mobile, but we didn't want to do that. We wanted to capture the spirit of Project 8, but in a game that was first and foremost a great mobile title. Activision understood this and they've been fantastic to work with.

What inspired the psychedelic visuals?

As you mentioned in your review, we may have been influenced by the Apple iPod adverts! When you have a strong silhouetted figure against a lighter coloured background, it really accentuates the character movement. Also, you often play mobile games in places with a lot of daylight, and on a small screen, so anything that makes it easier to see what you're doing and the movement of the character is important.

This look also works so well with skateboarding, which is all about a person's interaction with a board and their environment. So the visual style we chose means we can do those key elements in a very powerful, fluid way, and then have some real fun with the backgrounds!

We think it shows off the animation, so when you see Tony jump off a grind rail and land, you can really sense the weight and energy in his moves. A skateboarding game has to feel like it's all about balance, speed and skill: you want to see him wobble, or strain to nail a difficult trick. That way, when you do get it right, it feels so much more rewarding.

Thanks Fergus!

Readers, do also check out our review of Tony Hawk's Project 8.

Chris James
Chris James
A footy game fanatic and experienced editor of numerous computing and game titles, bossman Chris is up for anything – including running Steel Media (the madman).