Grind a Line, Change the WorldS

Shaun White Skateboarding isn't just about shaping the world into a skate park, it's also about anarchy and rebellion, fighting the power and overthrowing government.

That's a tall order for an snowboarding Olympian's first skateboarding game, but developers Ubisoft aren't worried.

"We created this game world where you're in a city where it's controlled by something called the Ministry," said developer Alexis Jolis-Desautels. The Ministry is basically just a government that (the people) put their for their own good and they went overboard. So they did everything they could for safety and regulation and a good society – no fun, no weird stuff, and that's the world in which you start.

"That represents, in a sense, the way a lot of skaters see the world that is often hostile to them."

In this autocratic, grey world of generic coffee shops, strip malls and people in suits, the skateboarder, you, are a rebel. By skateboarding, expressing yourself through 360 flips and grinds, the player can change the world.

"It's like, I have this passion and I can do this thing that if you allow me to show it to you, you will see things differently and maybe you'll stop thinking that I'm just some bum hanging around a statue, I might actually be trying something beautiful but you don't see that.," Jolis-Desautels explained.

Whenever the skater in the game does a trick they create influence. The better the trick, the more influence, which can than be used to transform the world. People lose their suits, stores become colorful and different, the city comes to life.

And your skater can also literally shape the world around them.

I watched as Jolis-Desautels hopped his character onto a rail. Instead of just riding along the rail passively, Jolis-Desautels was able to control the shape of the rail with a thumbstick, bending it up into the air as he grinded along it, creating a swooping metal beam.

"I'm grinding on it and with the left stick I can control exactly how that object is gonna be drawn, now that it's drawn it has become a regular object as if we put that in the game, but you put it there," he said.

Jolis-Desautels managed to connect that rail to another higher up on the map, shaping that one to a third. Eventually he had an almost rollercoaster-like series of rails he could use to ride up to the roofs of nearby buildings, all created by his skateboarder on the fly.

"Now that it's a regular object I can do all my tricking on it," he said. "So I've just created this crazy thing here and this has nothing to do with the quest that I'm doing right now but I don't care I just want to do this."

And players can just as easily reset or reshape their rails. You can do the same thing with chunks of the street as well, creating ramps and bowls.

And it's through this shaping, this ability to turn the world into a skatepark, that players can eventually overthrow the Ministry.

"This is the sort of key moment... you're transforming the city, getting rid of all that boring crap so we start to see like a bit of red graffiti or street art and stuff like that," he said.

The idea of transforming the world is one that Jolis-Desautels thinks is integral to the way real skateboarders view the world around them.

When the team was getting started on the game they went to Shaun White and asked the famed snowboarder why he also skateboards.

The answer seemed to be that White and skateboarders like him saw the world around them differently.

"When you walk down a street and see a boring statue or bench where you are going to sit down or just walk right by, he's going to look and visualize a sort of cool skate line," Jolis-Desautels said. "And that's going to be the essence of their sport, can I actually skate this line. In one single swoop, motion am I able to conjure the flow to be able to do that without killing myself and do it with style.

"So we figured we need to build a game about that... a game that will purvey that experience to any player, and especially non-skaters. People who can't understand the hardships of doing a 360 flip on a sidewalk."