EA Canada originally intended avalanches in the new SSX to be "big, awesome scripted experiences", but later opted for a more complicated, dynamic "snow system" for greater replay value.
"Our original thought for avalanches was to create a big, awesome, scripted experience: player drops onto a certain mountain, player rides through invisible trigger volume and the game spawns an avalanche in a place where if the player takes the correct path or rides fast enough he narrowly escapes disaster," producer Todd Batty explains in an interview published in the latest issue of OXM, on sale now.
"With this type of scripted experience we can trigger different cameras and really pay off the big moment in a cinematic manner, and I'm certain it would have been very cool," he told us. "The problem here is that this sort of design is not scalable, and there is very little replayability for the player.
"It takes a tremendous amount of effort to create a single 'moment' that the player then experiences only once, on a single level. So, we instead opted to create a snow 'system' whereby on any level in the game, every time the player carves a turn in deep enough snow, we are spawning a volume of physics particles proportional to the force that the rider is exerting on the terrain."
"We then release those physics particles and they start to flow down the mountain, analyzing the terrain they are rolling over. Depending on how stable or unstable that terrain is, they either die off or start to grow and trigger even more snow particles.
"So, depending on where they started from and where they go, the snow can grow into anything ranging from a small slough slide to a full-blown category one avalanche. This creates some spectacularly unexpected moments, particularly when you unknowingly trigger an avalanche down a different section of the mountain and then meet up with it further down the drop.
"It's far more work up front," Batty admitted. "But the best part of this type of design is that it becomes instantly scalable (the 'snow' feature exists on every single drop in the game) and is never the same result twice."
For more from Batty and more on SSX, pick up issue 74. Watch out for thoughts and quotes from our time with the game at E3, too.