SkateBIRD is an upcoming game about – you guessed it – skateboarding birds! You can grind on bendy straws, kickflip over staplers, and carve killer lines through cardboard and sticky tape parks. I found this game during the Xbox Summer Games Fest Demo Event and I was able to ask programmer and designer Megan Fox some questions. Let’s jump in and find out more about the game!
What experience in game development did the team have before starting Skatebird?
‘As an indie studio, this is our fourth released game after almost a decade of operation. Before that, I worked on a AAA game called LEGO Universe. Given that we’re a team of freelancers, everyone else has their own experience too. For example, Xalavier Nelson is working on Dog Airport Game (google it! it’s great!) and has a ton of titles to his name.’
It’s clear that the game was inspired by other Skateboarding games, which have had a big resurgence this year with the announcements of Skate 4 and Tony Hawks Pro Skater Remasters. Are you looking to appeal to this audience or bring a new audience to skateboarding games?
‘We’re likely to bring in more of a new audience. There’s a lot of kids who grew up playing Tony Hawk games, or EA Skate games, but then kind of spun out into other interests as those communities grew more and more hardcore. There’s also a ton of gamers with a casual interest in skateboarding, but who never felt comfortable actually hitting the park because of general social anxiety or not being in the In crowd for that kind of thing. That group, the folks who enjoy the idea of skate games or the culture of skate, but don’t fit into the hardcore mold that Skater XL and the like appeal to? That’s our target audience.’
The game says all story missions have been removed for the summer game fest event. Can you talk more about what we could expect from this content when the game launches next year? Examples of objectives?
‘We didn’t remove all the missions, just the story-focused ones. The objectives will be like the missions in the demo – collect B-I-R-D-Y, get X points, go find me 10 popcorns, trick this gap, etc – just strung into more of a narrative. So instead of just “get me 10,000 points”, the main line mission might be more like “the pigeons refuse to hack this control panel for us, but could be swayed with 10 POPCORNS” or the like.’
The Kickstarter page got a lot of support and reached all it’s stretch goals. How was that experience for the team?
‘Fun! Didn’t really expect to nail every single stretch goal like that. The only other one we had in the wings was console support, and since we actually scored a Game Pass deal mid-Kickstarter anyways? Console support was already a given, so we actually had to quietly hide that stretch goal and stay mum on console support until Xbox announced that whole thing a few months later.’
The kickstarter page eludes to a storyline, but says it’s only there if you want it and it can be ignored. Can you talk more about this? Is it something you’re excited for players to explore?
‘It’ll be a fun story mode wherein you and your friends help Big Friend fix their life. How much attention you pay to that, though, is up to you. Ultimately you can ignore the story and just treat the goals like arbitrary targets to complete and unlock the next level, and if that’s as far as you want to take it, cool. We’re trying to avoid locking you into lengthy cutscenes, no arch nemesis are going to ruin your flow by suddenly making you escape a sewer level, nothing like that.’
The Steam description mentions a ‘gaining bird friends’ mechanic. Can you talk more about how that will work? Have you worked on giving the birds their own funny personalities? With the release of Animal Crossing this year, that seems to be something that people connect with, do you want to see your fanbase grow attached to the different Skatebirds?
‘I expect players will attach to the other birds, yes. Like the most designed character right now is Jodie, your lifelong friend, who uses they/them pronouns and wears a spinny propeller hat and a hipsack. I desperately want to hug Jodie whenever I skate by them, and I suspect others will too.’
In the Summer Game Fest demo we see one map, but the Steam description says we will find more parks. Can you give us any information about what other locations we will get to skate around in? How many different parks will there be?
‘Bedroom, Office, Rooftop, plus a few others.’
The game was announced a while ago back in 2018. With a release date of 2021, can you share some of the difficulties the team has faced and the lessons you’ve learned?
‘Just that games take a long time to polish. If we’d tried to launch in late 2020, I mean you’ve seen the janky physics occasionally pop up in the demo right? We’ve since done a ton of work to fix that, and even the demo itself had a pass of fixing-the-jank, and… nothing of that would have happened. A launch in 2020 would have meant we needed to be making levels by early this year, not reworking game physics yet again, and – woof.’
On the Kickstarter page you spoke about different Skateboards which will give “weird powers”. Can you give us an example of these powers and how they affect the gameplay?
‘Mostly goofy things that are interesting but likely not useful. I want to try giving the player a board with rocket boosters that go off every time they scream (whether they’re skating or in mid-air). Stuff like that.’
What plans do you have for the future after Skatebirds release? The kickstarter page says there’ll be a post-launch update adding a photo mode. Will there be other post-launch content you want to do or has the team got other ideas for games they want to explore?
‘Yep, there will be other post-launch content. Create-a-park is the one that’s most requested, and there’s a few other Kickstarter stretch goals (like Skate Heaven) that will either be entirely post-launch content additions, or expanded upon in post-launch.’
SkateBIRD will launch on PC, Xbox One and Nintendo Switch in 2021. In the meantime you can check out the trailer below and follow Glass Bottom Games on Twitter here!
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