Old School Gamer Magazine chats with Megan Fox, Lead Developer, Glass Bottom Games, who discusses the fun behind the developer’s newest game, SkateBIRD.
Shred bird-sized skateparks with an intuitive and accessible control scheme that makes linking together lines and combos a breeze. Complete missions to unlock new levels, ranging from a messy bedroom to a secret rooftop full of ramps and rails. Select from more than 30 species of birds and dozens of accessories to create-a-birb that’s as unique as your skating style.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Megan Fox: I saw a GIF. Like, a GIF of a real bird skateboarding. They can be trained to ride boards down ramps and such, and often they enjoy it. In this case, the bird was clearly getting into it. That was the lightbulb moment.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Megan: Well, I’m the project lead, the main programmer, the only designer, and prior to the last year I was the only non-character 3D artist on the team full time, so um. A lot? SkateBIRD pre-Kickstarter started as a project that I thought I could do on my own, with Nathan doing music. It of course then grew significantly from there.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Megan: Generally, quite uneventful. It’s been wild to watch the community and its awareness grow, to be part of the first VGAs #GameFestival, to sort of “win” E3 the one year, and all that, but like the actual dev? Just, nice. We’ve churned along, haven’t hit any major budget crunches where we had to drastically alter plans. There’s been some stress here at the end caused by the nature of shipping a multi-platform game across 2 consoles, 1 cloud service, 3 desktop stores, etc, but even that’s not resulted in a ton of crunch.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Megan: Love. (but you gotta imagine me saying that in the saccharine fairy-grandmother way)
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Megan: SkateBIRD is kind of straight down the middle between the Tony Hawk series, and the EA Skate series.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Megan: Nothing’s really gone wrong, but the experience of being emailed by Geoff Keighley just to casually ask “hey you wanna be in this big event” was weird. You assume it’s a troll email first, but then it’s not, and- huh. It’s very odd to suddenly be invited to things, and not just have your emails ghosted.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Megan: Don’t bother trying to make gluten-free sourdough. It works, sort of, but you have to add yeast as well, so I’m not really sure it’s worth the added effort. Oh, that and NEVER EVER EVER MAKE A FULLY PHYSICAL SKATEBOARDING GAME WITH ACTUAL JOINTED WHEELS.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Megan: Nope. We’re only leveraging THPS-style controls because they’re easier to use than EA Skate-style stick waggling. The actual gameplay mechanics aren’t as close, but function more as homages than recreations. It’s more a question of what audiences exist, what games are they looking for, and is anyone making those right now. If older games still have audiences hanging around going “hey I wish I had a game”, it absolutely makes sense to make a game for them- but you usually need to make a game that feels like they remember, not a game that is a literal recreation of what the game is. That means you have to change it a lot and smooth off a lot of rough corners. The only time you tend to find yourself making an accurate recreation of an old game is when you’re making it for active fans of that old game who constantly replay it, and that’s a far more demanding, niche audience with far more specific expectations. Not really my scene.
Old School Gamer Magazine: The marketplace is crowded. How do you think you stand out?
Megan: Crowded, yes. Crowded with games about birds that try their best? Not as much.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How have your previous experiences in the industry helped this game?
Megan: I’ve learned thousands of ways to not make a functional and fun game. This makes me marginally more likely to be able to make a functional and fun game.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?
Megan: I haven’t really thought about it. Games tend to have a short cultural shelf life, and those who do remember games tend to create bonds with the subject matter that have little to do with the authorial intent. I expect we’ll see how it’ll be remembered at launch. Hopefully well?
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Megan: Birds. Something with birds!
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Megan: Black Lives Matter. Oh and please don’t buy a parrot on a lark- tons of them get abandoned every year. They’re like toddlers, with all the challenge that implies. Consider getting into fostering or volunteering around birds, or making friends who have birds, before taking that leap.