Game Design Talk: Gap It Up

I’m still playing (and for the most part) enjoying Skate, which I’m playing at a very leisurely pace. While it’s a lot of fun to just cruise around the world and bust tricks, there are some very awkward design choices that can annoy the heck out of you when you play Skate. The inability to walk can be infuriating due to the way the world is designed. Bystanders always seem to get in the way of your objectives, which leaves you skating into them more than you would like. But I wanted to talk about one very specific case of poor game design that drove me nuts.

Three things I need to tell you to set the scenario up for you:

1) Skate exists in one persistent open world. You can skate anywhere in the city seamlessly. However, should you want to warp to different parts of town, you can go to a subway station and use the train. When you do this, you’re faced with a loading time while the game loads in the new area.

2) Much of the Skate experience is trial and error. It gives you a challenge, and you try and try again until you get it. To make the process faster, the game allows you to mark your own starting points that you can instantly warp back to the point should you need to.

3) There is a challenge in the game called “Gap It Up”. In it, you have to skate over a bridge, hop onto a ramp, then jump over a huge gap. If you need to visualize it, I’ll put a video in below.

This is where the game design weirdness takes place. The game starts you off pretty far away from the actual jump. You can set your own marker closer to the jump, but you then won’t have enough speed to get past the first bump, which you can see in 0:04 of the video. At 0:06 of the video, you have to make and land that jump while scoring a certain number of points to complete the objective.

In the video, the player nailed it just fine. If you screw it up though, and you want to snap back to your starting position, the game actually takes you out of the game and drops you into a 15-second load time before you can retry the challenge. I don’t know if this is happening because I’m too far away from the starting marker, or because the starting point and the ending point are between seams of the world that need to be reloaded in when jumping from one place to the next.

In every other scenario that I have encountered in Skate so far, I can hold the left bumper and press up on the D-pad and instantly warp back to where I started. However, in this one instance, the game completely breaks its flow by forcing you to sit through load times every time you screw up that trick. The loading is actually longer than the time it would take for you to even attempt the trick and if you screw up a lot (like I did), then you’ll be watching a lot of seemingly pointless loading.

This is not a game-breaking flaw in Skate, but I think it was a poor design choice to let this happen. If you’re going to give the player the ability to snap back to their starting position from the beginning of the game, it should work that way always. Making me then sit through 15 seconds of loading to retry an 8-second trick is nothing short of infuriating, especially when I have to see this load screen 4-5 times in less than two minutes.

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