Category Archives: Gamedev Flavoured Waffle

Granny Bait – The Making Of “Skateboard Joust”

Granny Bait: A term used back in the day to describe a game that had virtually no redeeming features but, because it had something ostensibly ‘youth’ in the title (and was cheap), would be bought in droves by clueless older folk as gifts for their disappointed grandchildren.

A while ago I wrote a post about ‘Subterranean Nightmare‘, my first commercial release for the ZX Spectrum. Whereas ‘Subterranean Nightmare‘ was something of a labour of love and represented a genuine attempt to create a decent game, my next title (I am somewhat ashamed to admit) was executed in a rather more mercenary manner. I can’t remember exactly what age I was when I started work on ‘Skateboard Joust’ but I was heading into my late teens. I was losing interest in videogames and starting to become far more interested in guitars, girls and beer. Guitars, girls and beer cost money though – and the best way I knew of to make a quick buck was to churn out another budget Spectrum title.

I never had the slightest interest in skateboarding but tying the game in with something that was relatively fashionable seemed like a good idea. I’d also never played ‘Joust‘, but I’d seen screenshots and knew it was made by the some people that made ‘Defender‘ (which I still rate as one of the finest videogames of all time) so it was bound to be pretty cool.

The central mechanic of the game involves destroying enemies with your skateboard which you can only do if you are mid-jump (not actually riding the board) and I still think this is a pretty sound gameplay concept. It’s not executed very well however and is extremely difficult to get the hang of (‘totally unplayable’ might be a better description). Then there’s the fact that, aside from a few pretty unimaginative powerups, this central mechanic is pretty much all there is to the game making it a fairly tedious experience.

The worst thing about the game though is that what appear to be the level backgrounds are actually in the foreground and serve no purpose other than to obstruct your view of a game that’s hard enough to play as it is. Making gameplay harder by simply obscuring what’s going on must surely be one of the most laughably bad game design ideas ever!

I remember borrowing chunks of code from my brother Tim (of I-Ball fame) who was always a much better coder than me, and recycling some of the graphics from ‘Subterranean Nightmare‘. I also added some of the most embarrassingly ‘wrong’ skate slang between the levels. Not my finest hour but I was paid a £2.5k advance by Silverbird which paid for a lot of beer.

The game was justifiably slated by Crash Magazine at the time, though in recent years some people have been rather kinder to it, notably the vg-junk blog. There’s also some drunk guy on YouTube who plays the game for around five minutes without realising that you can jump off your skateboard!

Bizarrely though the game had some devoted fans despite its awfulness – in the comments for this video there’s someone who seems to take great offence when people suggest that it might be a tad shit! I also ‘met’ the person who did the C64 version in this thread, turns out they got paid considerably more than I did for writing the original!

And no, I have no idea what I was thinking of when I designed those ‘extra’ life icons! They do look like some kind of demented frog!

World Of Spectrum entry here.

30 years later I’m now working on a sequel, ‘Jetboard Joust’, in order to balance out my karma for forcing such a terrible game onto the unsuspecting public. ‘Jetboard Joust’ builds on the central ‘Jetboard of Death’ mechanic and adds a whole lot more besides – you can wishlist it on Steam here and read about the development here.

30 years Later – The Sequel…
Read the instructions you fool!

The C64 Version (With At Least One Devoted Fan)!

Recycled Graphics on Skateboards

Yes, All That Shit Just Gets In The Way!

Attack of The Roast Chickens