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Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam

Interview: Producer explains Hawk's new direction and gives Wii his verdict

Tony Hawk's Downhill Jam takes the Hawk's series in a brand new direction, ditching the usual free-roaming environments and throwing players into huge downhill courses through various towns and cities.

What we thought would be a watered-down departure for the series has actually turned out to be a surprisingly deep game with huge courses and some great gameplay mechanics.

CVG caught up with producer, Alex Ness, about the new direction for the series and all things Wii. Here's what he had to say...

Why did you decide to take Tony Hawks in a new direction on Wii and DS?

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Ness: Activision conducted research on the franchise and found that downhill racing seemed to be very popular. But it was probably too different of a direction to just add in to the main TH titles.

So they decided to make it kind of an offshoot. We were really into all of the snowboarding games and thought it would be awesome to do something like that but with skating, using the tried-and-true Tony Hawk mechanics.

Is Downhill Jam aimed at players that have never played Tony before?

Ness: Bringing in new players to the Tony Hawk series was one of our main goals and we didn't want to do it at the expense of angering all of the hardcore fans. We wanted to make it easy for anyone to pick up and play without making it a watered-down version that lacked the depth people have come to appreciate.

I think we achieved this and I've watched people who've never played a Tony Hawk game before pick up Downhill Jam and get into it right away. And I've seen a total Tony Hawk veteran pick the game up and have a lot of fun with it.

Did you have any plans for the Wii Remote (like a motion trick system) that you eventually decided didn't work/wasn't possible?

Ness: The only thing that might fall into that category, was when we were first experimenting with the Wii Remote, we had a configuration going that actually involved taping it to a real live skateboard. Then the player could stand on the skateboard and if he leaned back on the board, his skater in the game turned left. Leaning forward made him turn right, just like it would in real life.

Tricks and combat were controlled with the Wii's Nunchuk. It was fun but eventually we decided against it because we couldn't imagine the masses wanting to tape their remote to a skateboard.

Can we hope to see a more traditional Tony Hawk's game for Wii in the future?

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Ness: All I can say is that I like the Wii a lot. I'm not just saying that to be a corporate honk, I really am excited about the system.

Have you thought about proposing a new attachment for the Wii controller (as Ubisoft has with their wheel) to enhance your games?

Ness: We thought about including a skateboard if we had gone with the configuration I mentioned earlier. But other than that, the Wii Remote fits our game perfectly.

The game doesn't give players the option to play the game using the classic controller or Nunchuk analogue to steer. Was this your decision or is use of the motion sensors a strict instruction from Nintendo?

Ness: We feel that the control scheme we decided on fits the game perfectly. Everything was tuned for that configuration. And tuning is an even bigger deal on a game like Downhill Jam where everything has to be laid out super-precisely.

Will there be any downloadable content made available through the Wii Connect 24 service?

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