For some the word "Tony Hawk" resonates with late nights, baggy sweat pants and crazy fun video games. All this nostalgia is for very good reason. The 1990's gave birth to some of the most recognised popular culture and creative work still known today.
The idea that good design can stand the test of time is being shown to be true. Now that we have progressed past the birth of technology that has allowed us to push creative boundaries, we can see which design projects and work still remains in the public eye. Even if only slightly. The Tony Hawks Pro Skater series was announced this week to be planned for a remaster that will come to PlayStation Xbox and PC.
The original Tony Hawks Pro Skater was released on the 31st August 1999 which is over 20 years ago today, made by Activision the great minds behind games such as Spyro Reignited and the Call Of Duty franchise. The fact that a game from over a decade ago is being remastered now, goes to show there were a few great design ingredients that made the formula stand the test of time.
Before we look at the formula it is important to realise that a lot of design has become cheap and throwaway in the modern landscape. This means companies are less likely to take time on a project to make the results greater than they used to. We believe that now there is evidence to buck this trend there is a way to get companies and brands to value good design and spend more time on projects once again.
Why is a game like Tony Hawks still around?
1. Soundtrack - Video games and soundtracks go hand in hand. In fact some games are only popular for the soundtrack, Tony Hawks was one of the first games to feature a real soundtrack from music artists and paved way for a new generation in gaming. Being able to game and listen to great music all at the same time. As well as this, the soundtrack also spoke greatly of the time with a mixture of punk, Rock and Hip Hop which all fitted together perfectly, by the tone of high energy and funky progressive beats. Listen to the original Pro Skater Soundtrack on Spotify Here.
2. Graphic Design - Design has always played a huge part in video games. How do you get people to visually engage with a game? Through design of course! The Tony Hawk Pro Skater games were full of great design. The styles matched the games ethos and tone perfectly. Loading screens, menus, stats and character selection all designed in a way to shout Skateboarding is Street and cool.
In fact for kids in the 90's these games were life, pure escapism, the design and style was so influential for players that people would start wearing what the pros were wearing in the game, because of the inclusion of real life brands such as: Volcom, Birdhouse, Circa and many more. This at a time way before the word "infulencer" was even heard of. Including real brands in a video game was not normal and in doing so the Tony Hawk franchise opened up a new world and way to give brand awareness through experience design.
3. Considered Extras - The best selling Tony Hawks games were always designed with fun in mind. The first game had goals like picking up the letters "S-K-A-T-E" to get a tape and there were also "Hidden Tapes" dotted around levels to find. There were also fun characters like Spider Man as an unlock-able playable character. To help promote Activision's other game Spider Man on the PlayStation one. The way extras and fun additions were considered is such a huge part to the games design it made what could have been a boring skateboarding game, a goal driven fun challenge. The graphics back then were far off being realistic so utilising the game in this direction to use design to capture the audience into completing all challenges and enjoying the feel of the game was the best move by far.
Looking at these 3 main elements that added up to a perfect "Best Selling Formula" for the Pro Skater franchise. It's clear that design needs more than just the design to sell and beat the test of time. Much like these games, considering extras that consumers will interact with in your design will elevate them further.
Maybe you will design a business card. But don't just design a card, think about where someones thumb might go to hold it. How can you make that interaction more engaging so the design has purpose and thought? If you breakdown other popular culture designed games and elements there are similar formulas to the design that makes it so strong.
It is also clear to tell when designs have had time spend on them for full projects such as a game, campaign or advert. Quick, cheaper designs can be strong but they don't seem to have a design life. They seem to come and go until the next one is pushed out.
But good design, that takes time, planning, trial and error to get it right. the process will always be the same and looking at a game like this being remastered in all it's glory but with better graphics. Really goes to show that they created a game that only needs better graphics to resell 20+ years later. The brands are there, the games goals and tasks are there. It's amazing to think a design like this can still be relevant and exciting today.
The team behind Tony Hawks Pro Skater 1-2 and on wards should be super proud of the work they put into designing the graphics and experience. It couldn't be improved any other way (apart from graphics of course).
Interested in the new game, IGN have broken down the best ways and how to pre-order here: https://www.ign.com/articles/tony-hawks
Keep up to date with No more Pixels: