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Tony Hawk's is a skateboarding video game series published by Activision and endorsed by the American professional skateboarder of the same name. The series was primarily developed for home consoles by Neversoft from launch to 2007, until Activision transferred the franchise to Robomodo in 2008, who developed the franchise until 2015 when Activision and Hawk's license expired, leaving the future of the series uncertain. In 2020, the series returned under Activision with a remake of the original two games in the series, with development handled by Vicarious Visions. The series has spawned a total of 20 games.
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Starting out with the initial Tony Hawk's Pro Skater in 1999, the series proved to be one of the most popular and best-selling video game franchises of the early 2000s. Three more Pro Skater games were released from 2000 to 2002, after which the developers took a more story-oriented approach with the releases of Underground, Underground 2 and American Wasteland from 2002 to 2005. Project 8 in 2006 and Proving Ground in 2007 were the last games in the series developed by Neversoft. After that, developer Robomodo took the franchise in a different direction by developing the peripheral supported spin-offs Ride and Shred, released in 2009 and 2010, respectively. Both were commercial and critical failures. Robomodo tried unsuccessfully to revive the series with the back to the roots-oriented releases of Pro Skater HD and Pro Skater 5 in 2012 and 2015. The series spawned several other spin-offs, such as Downhill Jam in 2006, Motion in 2008, and Shred Session in 2014, along with several ports and re-releases.
The Tony Hawk's series was originally developed as a classic arcade game. The goal of most modes of the game is to achieve a high score. To do this, the player has to successfully perform and combine aerials, flips, grinds, lips, and manuals, with successful executions adding to the player's score. The point value of the trick is based on time maintained, degrees rotated, number of tricks performed in sequence, performing tricks on specific landmarks on the map, and the number of times the tricks have been used. Successful tricks also add to the player's special meter, which, once full, allows for the execution of special tricks which are worth a great deal more than normal tricks. Bails (falling off the skateboard due to poor landing) cause no points to be awarded for the attempted trick and reset the special bar to empty. The controls of the game developed further the more the series progressed. While the original Tony Hawk's Pro Skater featured a fairly limited set of moves, later entries allowed the player to switch between moves during the same grind or manual sequence, perform transfers, hold on to and drive various vehicles, walk on foot and scale walls, slowing time, or performing more advanced tricks by pressing buttons repeatedly, for example a double or triple kickflip instead of a normal one. Later entries, such as American Wasteland, allowed the player to also use a BMX, whereas Motion and Shred featured snowboarding.
The first three Pro Skater games centered around an arcade mode, in which the player is tasked with achieving a high score, perform certain tasks and collect a number of objects in a limited amount of time. If the player completes enough of these objectives in one level, they unlock other levels and acquires currency, with which they can improve their character. Also, there are competition levels, in which the player does not have to collect any objects, but perform an excellent score with minimal bails in order to progress. Starting with Pro Skater 2, it was also possible to create a custom character and design individual skateparks. Furthermore, all games until Pro Skater 5 featured local multiplayer, while it was possible to compete in online multiplayer since Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 3. From the first Pro Skater onward, it was possible to access all levels without having to perform tasks and without a time limit. This concept was later used in career mode from Pro Skater 4 onwards. Non-player characters give tasks to the player, who could otherwise freely explore the levels without time constraints. Starting with Underground, the series replaced the career mode with a proper story mode. In Underground, Project 8, and Proving Ground, the story centered around the player character turning into a professional skateboarder. In Underground 2, the only direct sequel in the series, on the other hand, the player embarks on a destruction tour around the world, orchestrated by Tony Hawk and Bam Margera. In American Wasteland, which was the first entry to feature one consecutive open world instead of separate levels, the player character intends to rebuild an old skatepark in Los Angeles.
After Activision moved the series from Neversoft to Robomodo, the developer significantly changed the general outlet and gameplay of the franchise. Tony Hawk: Ride and its successor, Tony Hawk: Shred introduced a peripheral skateboard which replaced the controller. Aiming to provide a realistic skateboarding experience, turning, leaning, hopping, and other actions on the peripheral device were directly translated into the movements of the in-game character via infrared sensors. However, this resulted in the abandonment of open levels, which were replaced by linear levels that had the character skate on pre-set paths. A similar attempt was made with the Nintendo DS game Tony Hawk's Motion, which used a peripheral device that recognized the leaning of the DS system and had the skater move accordingly.
The below table includes all playable professional skateboarders from the main series of games. It does not include playable characters such as Officer Dick, Darth Maul and Gene Simmons who are either fictional characters or based on real people who are not professional skateboarders.
In early 1998, Activision approached by developer Neversoft to develop a skateboarding racing game, in order to capitalize on the growing popularity of the sport. The idea of a racing game was abandoned in development after Neversoft showed the adaptability of the control engine to various maneuvers. Members of the team were fans of Sega's Top Skater, which they played at a local arcade, and that served as a basic influence on the game's original concept. However, Top Skater had a racing element, which the team moved away from as they began studying real-life skaters. To make the gameplay seem as real as possible, company founder Joel Jewett had a halfpipe built in his backyard and started skateboarding with his coworkers. Also, motion capture was used to make the skateboarding moves seem as realistic as possible. To distance the franchise from other games, the developers opted for licensing modern rock songs, in contrast to the classic music usual for video games at that time. The first game was developed within a year by a 12-person team, and Tony Hawk was added as the face of the franchise late in development. A month before the release of Tony Hawk's Pro Skater for PlayStation in 1999, Hawk successfully performed a 900 at that year's X Games, which resulted in huge press coverage of the sport and helped boost sales. Also, the inclusion of the game on the Jampack demo for the PlayStation generated further hype, as players were overwhelmed by the unique gameplay. The huge success of the game prompted Neversoft to vastly expand its production staff in order to be able to release Tony Hawk's games on a yearly basis. Neversoft held true to that ambition and released Pro Skater 2 and Pro Skater 3 in 2000 and 2001, respectively. Both games retained mostly the same gameplay as their predecessor, along with some improvements. The two games were the most critically acclaimed games for their respective consoles and still rank among the highest rated games of all time. Furthermore, Pro Skater 3 was the first PlayStation 2 game to feature online gameplay. Also, Tony Hawk's Pro Skater 2x, a compilation of the first two games, was released as a launch title for the Xbox in 2001. 2002 saw the release of Pro Skater 4, and by this time, the franchise was among the best-selling video game franchises in the world. This was reflected in the manpower Activision and Neversoft invested in the franchise, as the employees working on the game had grown from 12 for the first entry to 150 and there were significantly more skaters featured, all of which received considerable royalties.
With the 2003 release of the fifth entry in the series, Underground, the developers used storytelling and exploration to distance their product from the plotless, task-based format of the previous Tony Hawk's games, which led Neversoft president Joel Jewett to describe Underground as an adventure game. It follows the player character and their treacherous friend, Eric Sparrow, on their quest to become professional skateboarders. The game was created with a theme of individuality: it stars an amateur skater in a true story mode, whereas each previous Tony Hawk's game had starred professional skaters and had lacked a plot. One reason for only allowing the player to use a custom character was that certain criminal acts completed in the plot would not reflect well on real-world skaters. Previous games in the series had included character-creation features as well, but Neversoft heavily expanded customization in Underground by implementing face-scanning for the PlayStation 2 version. Regarding the customization options, especially the park editor, producer Stacey Drellishak stated that Neversoft was "trying to create the most customizable game ever". Levels in the console versions of Underground were significantly larger than those of earlier Tony Hawk's games. Neversoft expanded each level until it ceased to run correctly, then shrunk it slightly. Most of the levels were modeled closely after real-world locations; the designers traveled to locales representative of each city in the game and took photographs and videos as reference. Neversoft wanted the player to become familiar with the basic game mechanics quickly and to notice Underground's differences from previous Tony Hawk's games, who all stuck to roughly the same pattern, immediately. To accomplish this, they introduced the player to foot travel and the ability to climb along ledges in the first few missions of the game. While Neversoft wanted to keep Underground realistic and relatable for the most part, they added driving missions as an enjoyable diversion and to push the boundaries of freedom in skateboarding games. However, these missions were intended not to take away from the main experience of skateboarding. Because Pro Skater 4 had received criticism for its difficulty, Neversoft added four difficulty settings to Underground's story mode.