Shredders devs explain how they created the Game Pass snowboarding hit
The first thing you’ll notice while playing Grinders that’s how real it is. When you descend its slopes, you do not turn. You prune. You don’t jump. You pop. In fact, the new snowboarding game looks so realistic that its creators say players who snowboard in real life have a much easier time learning it than those who don’t.
“Boarders really get it right away,” said Dirk Van Welden, one of the game’s designers. Kotaku in a recent video chat. “They know they have to get into a specific jump…and I think you have to understand, or watch extreme sports, to know that’s important.”
Grinderswhich hit Xbox Series X and PC earlier this month as is part of the Game Pass library, is the debut album from FoamPunch, an independent studio based in Sweden and Belgium. Since launch, Grinders has earned a reputation for Skate of snowboarding, a reference to EA’s long-running skateboard series, which has withstood the reality-sensitivity of juggernauts like Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater at the end of the 2000s. In this sense, Grinders is poised to unleash a similar hit among winter action sports games, its grounded physics engine contrasting sharply with other arcade games like Soak Where Republic of Horsemen.
“[Players are] so used to doing a 540º rodeo while standing still and just using those buttons, it might feel like a step back,” Van Welden, who said he was a fan of games like Republic of HorsemenRecount Kotaku. “People need to invest time in [the controls]. We knew this in advance, but that’s why we might get straight reactions like “How?” The controls are weird! »
If you had any doubts about Grinders‘ Bona fide slopestyle, don’t: its creators are legitimate snowboarders. Van Welden has been riding since he was 10 years old. (“I broke a lot of bones,” he said.) Marcus Forsmoo, another designer from GrindersRecount Kotaku he’s also an avid snowboarder, although he hasn’t had much time to ride since switching to indie game development. (Now that the game is out, he said, “Looks like I’ll be able to snowboard again.”)
This knowledge directly influenced how FoamPunch designed the player character, a faceless and nameless snowboarder who rides through Grinders with the grace – and bottomless book of tricks – of Rice Travis. To turn more than 360º (one full rotation), you must pre-wrap your arms in the opposite direction. For bite spins (an inversion performed in tandem with a spin), you tuck your shoulder in, much like you would in the real world.
According to Forsmoo, FoamPunch tweaked the physics to base it on tricks real-world pros were pulling in real-world competitions. During development, the “snowboard pros were even better, crazier than our game,” Forsmoo said, but that’s since reached parity.
In my experimentation, I exploited the 2160º rotation, or what is known in the freestyle skiing community as a “future rotation“- where the calculated count of your total rotation is a number greater than the current year (i.e. 2160º would count as a future rotation for the next 138 years, at which point you would need ‘a 2340º to count.) So far, at least in terms of the snowboard tricks that have been filmed, no one has turned beyond a 2160º or stomped anything more than a quad flip But even if I pulled off the mythical quint 23, which apparently only exists in the workout space of trampoline gyms and the swaggering cesspool of message boards, Grinders wouldn’t have counted my score.
“We tried not to put any restrictions,” Forsmoo said. “But the tip categorizer stops at a certain number of turnarounds.”
Maybe nothing in Grinders looks more real than the mountain you’re shredding, Frozen Wood, which even looks like a real mountain (if distinctly Coloradian). Van Welden said the base layer of terrain was procedurally generated, but highlighted how it was meticulously populated, by hand, with locations inspired by real-world snowboard spots.
The “Scary Dairy” spawn point, for example, is a recreation of spooky cherrya backcountry park bald face, several hours northeast of Vancouver. The “Corvo” area is directly inspired by a segment seen in the short film “As the crow flies”, which features professional snowboarders Elias Elhardt (who appears in Grinders) and Gigi Rüf (who doesn’t) are carving out backcountry lines around the world. “Kings”, a collection of massive jumps in the starting area, is based on The Nine, an annual marquee celebration of skiing and snowboarding formerly known as the Nine Knights. A mission called “No Grab is the New Grab” is a direct corollary to a video with the same name with Sebbe De Buck, a Belgian professional top rider who is an integral part of the myth behind Grinders (which we’ll get to in a moment).
Even terrain parks – freewheeling mountain segments in which the trail is populated with a collection of jumps, boxes, rails, knuckles, kickers, booters, side kicks and other features – were handcrafted by someone who actually designed parks for a real-world mountain, Van Welden said.
“Somewhere in Canada,” Van Welden said. “Whistle.”
(Whistler, for those who don’t know, is arguably the winter sports capital. the 2010 Winter Olympics, serves as a permanent filming location for ski and snowboard movies, and is one of the few world-class ski resorts that offers rideable terrain 11 months a year. What Monaco is to Formula 1, Whistler is to snowboarding.)
“You can really make a difference,” Forsmoo said.
You won’t see the kind of 1,000 foot rails that litter the games like SSX. On the contrary, the parks have double knots, S-tracks, A-frames, and other totally manageable features that you might slip into in real life. (The longest grind in the world, a record set in 2015, recorded at just under 276 feet.) The jumps follow one another with a natural cadence. I say this as someone who has spent many long, cold Saturdays doing a spinal transfer, usually on skis but sometimes on a snowboard: Frozen Wood’s parks feel like home.
Yes Grinders veers into the uncanny valley in any way it is, ironically, because of the only part of the game that exists in the real world: the professional racers who make up the majority of its cast. Some critics, including this website, pointed to the particularly lo-fi nature of the game’s writing and delivery. Professional racers, none of whom are professional actors, read their lines with a flat effect. In some cases, the dialogue sounds like it was recorded on the side of a mountain, the wind and all. None of the riders – some of the best and most prominent snowboarders on the planet, mind you – show their face, and instead all are covered in a buff, a thick fabric mask meant to protect your face from biting winds and temperatures below the freezing point.
Grinders acknowledges all of this upfront, through brazenly self-aware dialogue from wunderkind and X Games gold medal Zeb Powell, who remarks that the developers couldn’t return his face because they wasted all their money on “parties and snowmobiles”. Yeah, about that…
“Animating faces can be super weird if you don’t have a huge budget. We’re still a small studio,” Van Welden said, but pointed out that the limitations lead to an inadvertent case of realism. , most people wear a chamois anyway.… Unfortunately, [we didn’t blow our money] on parties and snowmobiles.
Thing is, the pros weren’t even part of the game’s original concept. But that all changed when Sebbe De Buck, a 2018 Winter Olympian and mainstay on the Winter X Games circuit, played an early build in 2020. .
“Sebbe is a Belgian, and our head office is in Belgium, and [in development] we thought, “Maybe we should find a real pro,” Van Welden said. “We loved his style, and we just asked him, ‘Can you come into the office and just play and see if you feel is it realistic?’ And he played it for half an hour and he was like, ‘This is crazy, this is so cool’. Can I be in?
Of course, an action sports game can’t have just one pro; that would be weird. So Sebbe texted a few friends, asking if they wanted to be in the game too. In the end, a line of world-class racer assassins – Zeb Powell, Jaime Anderson, Elias Elhardt, Kevin Backstrom, Jake Blauvelt, Tor Lundström, Marcus Kleveland, Leanne Pelosi, Jill Perkins, Gimbal God, Arthur Longo and Rene Rinnekangas, and, of course, De Buck himself – signed on board for Grinders.
Most of the recording was done remotely, due to production constraints (Grinders was made by a 10-person team on an indie game’s budget) and the difficulties surrounding the ongoing pandemic (Van Welden said the team bought mics from Amazon and mailed them to the pros with registration instructions). So, of course, some dialogue may sound silly. For some players, it may even sound like a phone call. But, to me, it’s telling that Grinders captured perhaps the most crucial aspect of snowboarding culture: a stubborn refusal to take itself too seriously.
As Van Welden said, “We just wanted to make a cool game.”