Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland - Neversoft Website

Get Ready for Unlimited Skating and BMX Biking in the Vast Wasteland of Skate Culture - Los Angeles!

No levels. No load times. Just never-ending action that doesn't stop until you leave the game! Tony Hawk's American Wasteland™ gives you - for the first time ever in a Hawk game - the freedom to skate, or bike, throughout a rich, expansive open environment. Once you arrive in Los Angeles, the vast city that gave birth to skate culture, the sky's the limit as you progress through the Wasteland story and choose missions that will have you immersed in the action without ever skating the same line twice!

You now have the Freedom To Ride Forever: No load times. No level-based gameplay. In American Wasteland, you travel throughout the vast urban terrain of Los Angeles including Hollywood, East L.A., and other landmark areas without restrictions or repetition. Ultimate Player Control means more tricks and expanded controls than ever before with new on the board tricks include the Bert slides, Natas spins handstands, and one-footed grinds and manuals and new off the board tricks include wall runs, wall flips, and charged jumps.

For the first time, you can choose to ride BMX bikes throughout the entire game, with all-new physics, a BMX specific control system and several BMX-specific goals.

Enter and explore dozens of shops in-game to customize your gear and your look! Check out skate shops, barbershops, tattoo parlors, and clothing stores as you accomplish goals and earn cash then take that new look online with expanded online and multiplayer including, for the first time ever, Xbox Live, as well as new two-player co-op play available in Classic Mode, in which you can complete classic THPS goals alongside your friends.

Game Chronicles sits down with Jennifer Oneal for an in-depth tour of American Wasteland.

GCM: Thank you for your time! Please get us started by introducing yourself and telling us about the team responsible for Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland.
Jennifer Oneal: I’m Jennifer Oneal. The Tony Hawk American Wasteland team is all from Neversoft, definitely veterans from the previous Tony Hawk Games, but the game is so huge we’ve had to staff up to at least 60, although this varies at different times during development.

GCM: How involved is Tony Hawk with this franchise and how much input did he have with American Wasteland? Could you give a specific idea of Tony’s that we will see in the final game?
Jennifer Oneal: Every year Tony participates fully in the game, especially when he comes in and talks about the moves he wants to put in. He really was a proponent of bringing the game back to the roots of skating this year. This year the tricks are more skate oriented, based on traditional moves. He also gets regular builds that he plays and comments on.

GCM: American Wasteland is basically reinventing the Tony Hawk franchise with a massive free-roaming city. Can you give our readers a brief synopsis of the story that will motivate the player to explore L.A.?
Jennifer Oneal: You basically play as this guy from the middle of nowhere and you come out to L.A. because your girlfriend has just dumped you for some jock, and your parents don’t understand you, and you just want to skate. It made sense for the kid to come to L.A. since this is the birthplace of “skate”, and this goes with the fact that this is a big streaming city, so you get to explore this whole area; L.A. actually becomes a character of the story.

GCM: The story mode of Tony Hawk’s American Wasteland only allows for male character selection. Is there a reason female characters weren’t offered or is this just dictated by the story?
Jennifer Oneal: It is story-driven. When you get here you don’t really know anybody so one of the first people you meet is Mindy who starts off as your tour guide but in the end becomes your love interest.

GCM: Can you explain how you managed to stream the entire city of L.A. with virtually no discernable load times, especially on systems without a hard drive? Are there really “no load times” or are you just hiding them really well?
Jennifer Oneal: We are streaming, so it streams into memory. As you move into different areas, sections will drop out and others will load in. So you won’t see load screens, even on the PS2 or Nintendo platforms.

GCM: Adding a BMX bike to the game will certainly attract some new BMX gamers, but don’t you think it might add some confusion or take away from the purity of what has traditionally been a “skateboarding” franchise?
Jennifer Oneal: I don’t think we will. Skating is still the prominent vehicle or method to play the game. The bike just gives a cool new alternate for somebody if they just want to try something new they can just hop on a bike and accomplish a few goals if they want to. The bike isn’t something that would prohibit them from getting through the game. I think people will really be surprised how cool and intuitive the controls are.

GCM: Can the bike and skateboard modes be teamed up for multiplayer? For instance, could one player ride the bike and another skitch on a board?
Jennifer Oneal: You know, that’s a great idea. We thought about that but we weren’t able to do that this year. For now it is just the skate in multiplayer.

GCM: How many new moves are being added to the trick library and what are some of your favorites?
Jennifer Oneal: There are so many I can’t really tell you. I have a few of my favorites like the “rail stall”; it’s kind of like a grind but you are pressing a trigger or shoulder button to stop into a stall, and what’s cool about it is you’ll be grinding along and you’ll stall and you can switch the camera around and switch direction and continue your combo line another way. It’s a simple maneuver but when people really “get it” they love it.

Also, what we consider our new manual this year is the new “bert slide”, which is kind of like surfing; it’s a nod to the old Dogtown Z-boys, back in the day when the waves were gone and they decided they would get on these skateboards and pretend that they were surfing down these big hills.

We’ve added double flips and double rolls, extensions off the Natas spin that was introduced last year. This year you can do a Natas spin then do handstands, sit down, or L-spin, or a one-footed.

We’ve added a bunch of technical tricks that expanded the vocabulary of all the skating tricks we have out there…just great ways to link up your tricks and keep on going.

GCM: The “on-foot” element of the gameplay has been expanded upon, even leading into some new tricks. Can you elaborate on how walking and running around L.A. complements the gameplay?
Jennifer Oneal: As it’s been in the past, once you get off your board there is a timer for how long you can stay off your board. This is still the case but we have a lot more. You just don’t get off your board and run around. Now you can actually run and do double-tucks, front tucks, back flips, and wall runs so you can run up a wall, cling to it, and then scale it. It’s a great way to get around the city because the city is so big you want to be able to explore it all and you can’t get everywhere on skates, so this is a new way to explore it.

There are ladders and places you’ll want to climb to reach the start of extended trick lines. For me, I like to get to the very top so I can get the full view of the land before I figure out what my combo or trick line is going to be.

GCM: There are some skate challenges that must be performed during a certain “day period”. Is this based on a real-time clock, a virtual clock within the game, or event flags within the story?
Jennifer Oneal: It’s a virtual clock within the game. We figured people don’t want to wait 24-hours to get their stats up so it’s a game clock, and if you want to speed it up there are areas scattered about the city where you can take a nap. This speeds up the clock and you can then go back and do more of the sponsor challenges.

GCM: The story mode has the “Skate Ranch”. Are we still going to have the “Create-a-Park” for messing around, and will any of the 40 pieces from the Ranch be available?
Jennifer Oneal: Yes, but you won’t be using the Ranch pieces; just the more traditional pieces.

GCM: Will you have any creative license over the creation of the Skate Ranch in the story mode, or do all the pieces fit into a predetermined slot?
Jennifer Oneal: It is predetermined. The Skate Ranch is an elaborate design and it would be pretty hard to customize. We wanted to allow for every line to feel great…to feel comfortable. There is some customization in that you can accomplish the goals in a different order, so my ranch might look different than my friend’s even though we are both halfway through the game. You’ll still have great lines even though they are completely different and those lines will continue to change and expand as you add new pieces.

GCM: The “create a skater” is now integrated right into the city as a series of stores and specialty shops. How elaborate is the customization process going to be, and are the stores and their inventory themed to the area of town you find them in?
Jennifer Oneal: There are different types of shops in every area and they are themed to a certain extent, so for example, if you go to East L.A. the tattoos are going to be a certain way, and if you go to Santa Monica they’ll be slightly different, and you won’t find tattoo shops in Beverly Hills. In addition to clothing and tattoos and hair and all the stuff we’ve had previously, we now have accessories, so you can go get watchbands, headphones, and more equipment. There’s a ton of stores all around the city.

GCM: Does your appearance affect the way in which NPC’s will interact with you?
Jennifer Oneal: Not necessarily but it does play a role in the story, so for example there might be some missions where you have to change up your look to fit in with a certain group, or put on a funny costume to fool your way through something. So your look definitely has an impact on the story.

GCM: With the PS2 EyeToy and Xbox 360 Camera, will we be able to digitize ourselves into American Wasteland?
Jennifer Oneal: Yes. Face-in-game is still in, but you won’t be able to use it for story mode, only multiplayer and classic mode.

GCM: You’ve made a few million gamers very happy by finally including Xbox Live. What special plans do you have for multiplayer in American Wasteland?
Jennifer Oneal: We’re definitely excited about being on Xbox Live for the first time this year. We felt we had gotten the multiplayer to a point where it was in good shape and we could put it on Live and just go with it. As far as special and unique for this year, we’ve added a couple of new game modes; Pot of Gold, whoever has the pot of gold the longest wins based on how well you trick and combo while you have the pot.

Also, any of the traditional modes, you can now set it to graffiti, so instead of playing for points you now play for tags off the various pieces you are tricking off of.

GCM: Will people playing on Xbox Live be able to interact or play with people on the new Xbox 360 Live and will characters and accomplishments started on Xbox be portable to Xbox 360?
Jennifer Oneal: No, they will not be able to. You’ll have to start over on the Xbox 360.

GCM: With the awesome power of the Xbox 360 what can you do with Tony Hawk that you couldn’t have done last year, and just how advanced or different will the Xbox 360 version be?
Jennifer Oneal: Graphically, the game looks amazing. There is “normal mapping” on all the clothing and the props, so if you see a duffle bag you can see the texture like corduroy or denim, and wrinkles in the clothing. We’re running at 60fps and 720p so it’s crystal clear and smooth as silk.

We’ll also be supporting all of the Xbox 360 Live functionality that is unique to the 360 like achievements where it tracks what you’ve done in the game and keeps that with your profile. We also have leader boards so you can see who the best Tony Hawk player is in the world.

We also have something called “rich presence” so say my friend is playing another game and I’m playing Tony Hawk she’ll be able to see that I’ve just finished a certain level or a goal and she can track my progress in the game. It’s a lot more information that just “my buddy’s online”.

GCM: Speaking of graphics, the art design is phenomenal with the various splash screens and cinematics. Who was the artist?
Jennifer Oneal: He is this legendary skateboard artist, Jimbo Phillips. He does skateboards, surfboards, concert posters. We really wanted to bring in an authentic, almost traditional 80’s punk feel to the look, and that’s why we incorporated his art.

GCM: Did he do any of the graffiti art for the game?
Jennifer Oneal: He did not. We actually found local graffiti artists in Los Angles to do the graffiti art, basically using existing art they had, we licensed it for the game.

GCM: What about that soundtrack. There are some really good songs in there. About how many tracks will be in the final game?
Jennifer Oneal: Roughly about 70 at last count. It’s huge and so varied and diverse. Anybody who plays this game is going to find plenty of music that they like, and the great thing is they can pick and choose. They can go in and pick the songs and create their own play list, even by genre. Custom soundtrack support is also offered for the Xbox.

GCM: Thank you again for your time! Do you have any last impressions or thoughts for our readers?
Jennifer Oneal: One thing, in classic mode you can now play in co-op mode so one person can now collect the SKATE letters while somebody else does the combo line. It’s now possible to get all of the objectives completed within the time limit. Classic mode will also have original levels as well as classic favorites remastered for the new technology.