Skateboarding video games are becoming popular once again. And after a long hiatus from one release to the next, there’s now multiple skateboarding games out there to cater to any person’s needs. But while most of today’s games do a fantastic job of capturing the sim representation of the sport, very few continue to cater to the die-hard skateboard fans quite like the folks at Easy Day Studios with Skater XL. This is continuing now with the Skater XL multiplayer beta.
Back in August, I reviewed Skater XL for PS4. It was a fun experience, but it was not the same one those on PC were experiencing due to lacking a lot of the community content.
There’s a lot to like about Skater XL’s console debut. And while the game is not perfect and won’t benefit from PC’s ever-evolving mods, the future of skateboarding video games is bright. No, Easy Day Studios’ skateboarding simulation might never be as big as EA’s Skate series, but that’s okay.
I’m on PC now, and watching Skater XL evolve over the last year has been impressive. Fortunately for Skater XL fans, there does not seem to be an end in sight. But before I get to my interview with Easy Day Studios’ production manager Ian Smith and what the crew at EDS is working on, I wanted to give you some of my early online multiplayer impressions. Again, I must remind you this is only the beta and there is still a lot left to do here.
Skater XL Online Multiplayer Impressions
You can find all the details on how to download the beta HERE.
Before I ever had the chance to dive in to the Skater XL online multiplayer beta, I was already told that the community had modified things to allow up to 50 skaters on a map at one time. This may sound like a cluster, but rest assured the game runs as well as your gaming rig and internet will allow. It also helps that fellow skateboarders can’t physically interfere with one another’s lines or tricks. This could change over time, but for now, you won’t have to worry about an insane line getting interrupted by Joe from Utah because he was having a bad day at work.
After you properly install the beta, the game will start as it always does — with you drifting towards the staircase at Easy Day High School. Select your character and then hold on tight because you will enter Skater XL‘s online servers where I really feel like all-new life awaits this series. Here, players can choose to skate with their friends or join a room with a completely random group of skaters. Heck, create your own session if you’d like. There are many different ways to link up with your friends or skate around (freely) with other enthusiastic gamers.
Skater XL’s Multiplayer Experience Is Everything I Love About Skateboarding
When I first heard how many skaters would be shredding around a map at any single time, my jaw dropped. I really wasn’t sure how this would work. But it does play exceptionally well. The best comparison would be to close your eyes and picture your perfect skateboard. Can you see it? Mine is a Baker OG deck with Venture trucks, Spitfire wheels, and obviously Bones Swiss Bearings. Translation: It plays great. Sure, now and then, you might see the level bug out or a wall disappears (maybe players levitate), but that’s expected in any video game, let alone one currently in beta.
However, my favorite part about the online multiplayer is not setting up insane lines and doing the stuff I could before while others skate aimlessly around me. No, my favorite part is being able to see what the other skaters are doing. Seeing what sick lines they are creating or what flip tricks they are doing down a staircase becomes real-time inspiration. This pushed me to try and one-up the other skaters, and it allowed me to see the different levels in ways I had not before. It was different but felt familiar.
Like any skateboarding game, you can find yourself getting lost on a sick line or trick that you almost landed — only to find that an hour has passed and the original trick has now become something so much more. This has always been a “problem” for me in every skateboarding game. But now, I find getting lost watching other users skate around the open world, trying various lines, and other big tricks. They even tweaked the replay editor to give users the option to record their own lines and tricks with their friends. In short, you and your friends can now create sick highlights together. That’s right, you and your friends can now make your own skate videos.
And Yet, The Best Of Skater XL Is Still To come
As I keep saying, there’s a lot to like about the current state of Skater XL‘s multiplayer, even if the only game mode currently accessible is free skate. Now, I can’t say that I know what the plan is for future add-ons, but rest assured, this is only the beginning of Easy Day Studio’s online multiplayer mode. There will inevitably be different game modes and objectives for you and your friends. Maybe different game modes like capture the flag and downhill racing will emerge as well. The possibilities are endless. Best of all, you and your friends not only get access to Easy Day’s vast array of skate parks and levels, but the user-created content as well.
In the end, my early Skater XL online multiplayer experience was better than I expected, and I already expected it to be solid. The game was smooth and played every bit as well online as it does offline. I’d go one step further and say it was a better online experience than I remember from other skateboarding video games — including EA’s classic. Sure, there are plenty of minor tweaks and fixes to be made. Regardless, with it already playing this well with this many people in one spot, it means I could not be more excited for the future of Skater XL.
If you like skateboarding video games, you must check out Skater XL‘s online multiplayer. It really can be best summed up with these words:
The ability to just kick back and skate with the homies is a much needed escape from the tumultuous times we might find ourselves in, and the ability to connect with other people and skate is more important than ever.
Q&A With Easy Day Studios’ Production Manager Ian Smith
Q: What was the most difficult thing you dealt with when developing Skater XL?
Ian Smith: When we started development, there had been no serious entries into the skateboarding genre in a decade, so there was really no playbook to follow for what a modern skateboarding game looks like. Along with that, we are really trying to evolve the genre and move it forward rather than just repackaging old game mechanics differently. So there were and continue to be lots of questions to ask ourselves about how to best design the game to be a socially interactive place for skateboarding in the digital world, along with the technical hurdles of designing a completely new physics-based core gameplay system.
I think it’s a real testament to the team we’ve put together and had that rare blend of passion for skateboarding and technical expertise. Skater XL has developed such a large, active player community around it. Connecting players is absolutely something that is at the center of our ongoing design decisions as we continue to create and implement new features. Our support and facilitation of player-created mods through the in-game Mod Browser was one move in this direction, with features like multiplayer being the next big step. We’ve just released a beta of Multiplayer – Free Skate on Steam to test at scale and get player feedback, and we plan to roll that out cross-platform in the coming months. We think that, especially in today’s socially distant world, the ability for people to jump online into a skate session with a few friends will add a ton of value to players.
Q: What was it like re-creating some of the iconic skate spots? Which was the most fun to develop?
Smith: Yeah, there is definitely an interesting process that goes into re-creating real spots in a way that stays true to the original but is really fun for gameplay. With maps like the West LA Courthouse, Downtown LA, and Easy Day High School, many of the spots were in our own backyard. So, we were actually able to go to them, take reference photos, see the surroundings, and get more of the overall vibe. Some spots like Embarcadero Plaza, which we recently released, have been very well documented over the years, so we have some pretty good references to go off. It’s always cool to re-create a spot that no longer exists and create a digital record of it that people can continue to enjoy.
The most important thing is that we do the original spot justice but tweak it in ways that make it play well with the game’s physics. We do a lot of testing to make sure the scale of different features is optimized for the game, things are the right distance apart, there are multiple lines linking each feature, and we adjust them accordingly. It’s always fun to “test” in the office on a Friday afternoon with a few beverages.
Q: Were there any obstacles you dealt with when trying to re-create the famous Embarcadero Plaza map? How important was it to you and your staff to include this in Skater XL?
Smith: Embarcadero is such a landmark in skateboarding history that we always thought it would be awesome to include it as a map. We decided to pay homage to the OG configuration that was destroyed and remodeled a while back to give players that piece of skate history that is really only accessible now in Skater XL. We are really stoked about the finished product and think it’s an enjoyable environment with some unique features.
The biggest challenge in re-creating this spot, in particular, is the amount of empty space that the plaza has in real life. These areas are not made for skateboarding, so morphing the real spot into a spot that will be fun in the game can be challenging. We always want to stay true to the original vibe and aesthetic of the spot but add additional elements that make it fun to play. We struck a good balance in Embarcadero and added some DIY-style elements that add gameplay for different play styles but fit the environment’s aesthetic.
Q: Do you have a favorite trick (real-life) at Embarcadero? What about in the game?
Smith: Jamie Thomas ollieing the Gonz barefoot has to be at the top of the list. Along with Mark Gonzales kickflipping it for the first time in 1993. The way he did it so mob, with so much style. Nobody does kickflips like that.
In Skater XL, I have a really good time just putting together different lines on the cement blocks. Do a trick down the three stairs, hit the C block ledge, flatground trick, and end on a taller ledge. You can really just zone out for an hour trying to get every trick perfect.
Q: Are there any other iconic skate spots you hope to replicate in the coming months?
Smith: We definitely plan to continue to release maps, either our own creations or those created by players. I can’t say for sure what the mix of real spots vs. imagined ones will be, but I’m sure there will be a solid mix of both.
Q: Is there anyone in the office who is the unquestioned “King of Skater XL”?
Smith: We definitely all have our own different styles and skate in different ways, so we haven’t really crowned a ‘King.’ While we’ve been testing the multiplayer beta, we have challenged each other to some impromptu games of S.K.A.T.E. But as in real life, there is usually a different winner every game. Just depends on whose thumbs are in peak performance mode that day.
Q: What is your favorite sports video game of all time?
Smith: If you ask around the studio you’ll find a mix of the EA’s Skate Series (with some arguments between 2 versus 3) and Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater 1-3. In other board sports, there have been a lot of games that moved things forward in different ways, from the smaller studio franchise Amped to Ubisoft’s more recent Steep. Then many of the usual suspects, Rocket League, FIFA, I could go on. Overall I’d say Skate tops the list though.
Q: What can fans expect from Easy Day Studios in the coming weeks and months?
Smith: With the release of the Multiplayer – Free Skate mode in beta on Steam, we are committed to fully testing and polishing that feature and rolling it out on Xbox and PlayStation. I think we’ll learn a lot from seeing how players use multiplayer and how that interaction works, that will help us further build out the social side of Skater XL.