February 2022 was a great month for gaming, seeing tons of great releases from AAAs and indies alike. While big names like Dying Light 2 and Elden Ring, among others, took the initial spotlight, one of the most surprising releases from the indie space was OlliOlli World.
The title managed to stand on its own and gain recognition for its brilliant arcade-skateboarding experience.
However, one might wonder about the amount of work that goes into ensuring a pleasant experience like that. In a quest to put my curiosity to rest, I went out of my way to question someone from Roll7 on making a game like OlliOlli World.
John Ribbins, creative director of OlliOlli World, on creating the game
Naturally, after wrapping up the review for the game (which was a whole other pleasant experience in itself), I reached out to the PR to help me contact someone from Roll7. Not only were the conversations positive, but they landed my questions right in front of the creative director of the game, John Ribbins.
Q) Firstly, congratulations on getting such a warm reception and rave reviews for the game. How does it feel that it is finally done and that everyone out there is excited to try the game out?
Ribbins: Thank you! Yeah, it feels great. Obviously, we've been working hard for a long time behind closed doors, so there's something really special about finally being able to see people enjoy the game.
Of course, the OlliOlli gameplay style has been something players have loved in the past, but this was our first OlliOlli game to include elements like the customization system and lots of NPC characters. So it's been amazing seeing all the fanart and streams and reviews.
We wanted to make this title really welcoming to players, and I think we've achieved that.
Q) Near the end of 2019 and throughout the next two years, all of us had to experience the unfortunate pandemic. Like every working sector got hit, the video game industry was also affected quite a lot during this phase. How did the developers and everyone involved adapt to the situations back then?
Ribbins: Roll7 has been a remote studio since 2015, so we already had some pretty good systems in place for working from home; ways to make sure that people can socialize online and keep up with each other while we work.
However, the lockdown obviously meant that lots of the benefits of working from home were gone. It's one thing to choose to work from home, but it's another to be stuck there.
We made sure to give people more flexible hours so that they could look after children if needed, and we stepped up the online events we were doing for fun to try and give people a bit more space to socialize.
It was a tough time for everyone, but we made the best of it!
Q) Roll7 has worked on quite a few games before this, such as the first two OlliOlli games and my personal favorite, Not a Hero. How much have those titles helped in terms of experience and ideas to make this game?
Ribbins: OlliOlli 1 and 2 informed the game design a lot; we wanted to take the core of what we'd learned from those titles, refine the formula, and polish off the rough edges.
One thing that we took from Not a Hero is the sense of character and heart. People didn't make much fanart of the first two OlliOlli games, but when it came to Not a Hero, there were loads of people drawing Bunnylord and sort of engaging with that story side of it.
Our aim for OlliOlli World was to combine its mechanical strength with the offbeat vibrant world of Not a Hero.
Q) If we look at past OlliOlli games, the newest entry seems strikingly different from its roots, following a pretty pastel cel-shaded art style instead of the previous pixel graphics that OlliOlli and OlliOlli 2 followed. How did the team decide on it, and were there any inspirations you people followed while deciding on the art style?
Ribbins: OlliOlli 1 and 2 represented the best art we could do with the budget we had. We had a great art director, and we leaned into that vector/pixel style.
It was great, but we had always wanted to do something with a bit more depth and fidelity of animation.
After Laser League, we were pretty keen to try something 3D, so that's how we ended up with the 2.5D style that you see today. The illustration style we developed for OlliOlli World draws references from various places — the work of Michael DeForge, old skate graphics from companies like World Industries, Blind, and Santacruz, and, of course, the fabulous minds of the artists here on the Roll7 team!
Q) Speaking of the visuals, I noticed a fascinating thing while playing the game. It did not have a single graphical setting apart from the resolution changes and the ability to toggle Vsync. Why is it like that?
Ribbins: With the illustrative art style we've gone for, our vision is that the game should look the same whatever platform you play on. Having options to increase the level of detail or 'improve' textures would make it look a little strange.
It's been designed with this one style and setting in mind. That's part of the artistic vision for the title!
Q) When I played the game, I got this hit of nostalgia from past arcade skateboarding games that have come out, and I give that credit to the beautiful controls this game has. Tell us a little bit about the controls and how the tricktionary for the game was decided and created.
Ribbins: The controls are based on the previous two OlliOlli games, although the original button press-to-land concept was based on a game mode you could unlock when you finished Thrasher Skate and Destroy on PS1.
Having to press to stick the landing seemed to capture how landings really feel when you skate. That idea of capturing the authentic feeling of skating also influenced how we created the trick system.
Having tricks based on joystick movements (rather than just pressing a direction and a button) felt like it really captured the feeling of balancing and pulling tricks on an actual board.
Q) Speaking of controls, accessibility in video games has always been an important topic. OlliOlli World's control scheme has been made such that newcomers can just pick it up and play. At the same time, if someone wants to go at it, they can do so by performing complex moves. How did the team find the balance between both, as generally, other titles like to keep two control modes that users can toggle between?
Ribbins: It's a key tenet of Roll7 games that we don't lock you out of mechanics — we teach you slowly as and when you need them to complete levels, but you can technically do any of them from the start. That allows gamers to dig as deeply or as shallowly into the mechanics as they like.
The difficulty in OlliOlli World comes mostly from you challenging yourself. If you want to up the challenge level, you have to decide how and when to really try and push yourself to the next level.
It's like in real life — you can just skate down the street if you like. Nobody is making you do tricks. But if you want to learn some tricks, you can challenge yourself and pick up more skills!
Q) Before I ask my final question, I want to ask this as a fan. Does Roll7 plan to ever revisit the Not a Hero universe in some shape or form someday? Maybe an OlliOlli World treatment is given to Mr. Steve?
Ribbins: We'd never say never. We definitely took a lot of what we learned about making wacky, quirky characters and worlds from Not A Hero to help create OlliOlli World. So I think that influence is definitely still being felt!
Q) Finally, what are the plans for Roll7 after work on the expansions for OlliOlli World is wrapped up? What is the team looking forward to doing?
Ribbins: Right now, everyone is working super hard on the DLC for OlliOlli World, but once that's done, we're excited to get back into prototyping and working on new ideas. Watch this space!
Curious what the team at Roll7 is currently doing? Head over to their Twitter account to see what awesome things they have been working on!
OlliOlli World is currently out on PC via Steam, PlayStation 4, PlayStation 5, Xbox One, Xbox Series X/S, and Nintendo Switch.