There were exactly 189 days between the launch of OlliOlli World on 8th February 2022, and then Rollerdrome on 16th August 2022. This means little without context, so what if the two titles were made by the same dev? What about if that studio isn't exactly the biggest in the world, without the budgets of a big AAA publisher? This is exactly what Roll7 achieved in 2022, releasing two of the PS5's best-feeling titles just six months apart. To learn more about how and why the team did this, we posed them a couple of questions.
Unfortunately, Roll7 was unable to get back to us before the Christmas break to say who on the team actually answered our questions. Therefore, the interview is credited to the studio as a whole.
Push Square: When did the ideas to develop OlliOlli World and Rollerdrome come about? Did you begin development of both at the same time?
Roll7: OlliOlli World was the third instalment in the OlliOlli series — after releasing the first two games, we’d had ideas bubbling away for a long time about what we'd want to do with the third. So, when we sat down to make it in 2019, we already had a pretty strong idea of what we wanted to do, how we wanted to improve on the earlier games, and the ways in which we could broaden the ambition and appeal of the title. Of course, we discovered new ideas during the prototyping phase, too, but a lot of the initial concepts had been floating around for some time.
With Rollerdrome, the game actually came to us externally — we were approached by a few publishers with this concept from Paul Rabbitte, who at the time was the solo dev on Rollerdrome. We loved the idea, we got on well with Paul, and we had funding to put a team together — so it really all just fell into place. That was also in 2019, so, yes, development for both games started at a very similar time!
Did you always plan on releasing both games within six months of one another? Was there a time when they could have been further apart or even closer together?
Initially, Rollerdrome was planned to come out quite a long time before OlliOlli, but as production went on that changed. There were a lot of design elements in earlier iterations of Rollerdrome that we really enjoyed as a team, but when we took them to user testing we found that the big open environments made it harder for players to really pull off all the cool stunts and set piece moments that we wanted them to be able to enjoy.
So we stopped and made several design changes which affected the schedule and pushed the release dates closer together — at one point they were even going to come out in the same week! In the end, they didn't come out quite that close together, but Rollerdrome did release after OlliOlli World.
How did you approach making both games at the same time? Were there two entirely separate teams or was there some collaboration?
So, for the most part, we did set up two completely different teams for the two games — that was a very deliberate decision. We wanted each team to be able to focus their full creativity and attention on one game. Some people — for example, Tech Art and QA — did cross over and work on both projects. There were pros and cons to this. Jumping from the headspace of 'cute fuzzy bees in a fantasy forest' to 'make a gun' can be a little jarring! However, having this crossover did allow for the cross-pollination of ideas and processes, which had a really positive impact as the teams were able to learn from each other's successes. If we did this again, I think we'd probably still have a few people working cross-project, but we'd work more on ensuring that process was structured to allow them to settle for longer periods in each team and not have to ping back and forth so much.
Do OlliOlli World and Rollerdrome share much tech under the hood? Are there elements or features you were able to incorporate into both games?
They both have quite different code bases and different lead coders — the teams really followed their own paths, and we didn't want to disrupt their processes by forcing them to do things a certain way. However, the NoComply renderer — which is what we use to create the comic-book/cartoon-style outlines — was shared by both teams. That being said, it was actually quite extensively altered for use on each project, so the end result is still quite different.
Were you ever concerned the two games were releasing too close together?
Yeah, as I mentioned we did have one point where they were going to release in the same week, and that really did feel like it was too close! But in the end, them both releasing in the same year worked out pretty well — I think that the hype for OlliOlli helped feed the hype for Rollerdrome, and visa versa.
How do you make your games feel so good whilst playing them? What's the secret?
At Roll7, we're all about finding the fun — we start with an addictive gameplay loop, something that feels really good to play, and then we build from there. For us, gameplay has always come first, and as we grow as a studio we've been able to build our ambition and include more art, more narrative — but gameplay is still where we start. We do a lot of user testing. It's really important to us that players are able to really get into a state of flow where one action leads naturally into the next.
One way we enable that is by focusing on telegraphing feedback to players — we want to make sure that they know what they just did, and if it was good or bad, as that helps reinforce the best and most engaging ways to play. On top of all of that, we're super meticulous about level design, and our levels go through a lot of iteration before the final product. Again, it's all about creating an environment where players have the best opportunity possible to really enter that state of flow.
Do you believe launching two games within six months was a success for the studio? Would you take the same approach again in the future?
I think it turned out well, but in future we would probably aim to have a slightly longer period of time between game releases. I've heard it said that the last five months are the hardest part of making a game and I think it's very true — this is the moment where you have to make a lot of final decisions and really hone in on that end goal. During this period and into launch is also an especially busy moment for QA, and I think having a team roll off one high-intensity end-of-project situation into another isn't ideal.
So we really want to ensure that we make more space for cross-project members of the team to have a breather between these busier moments in production. We'd definitely be more than happy to continue the two-team model — it's really just the release windows we’d want to push a little further apart.
Can we expect OlliOlli World 2 and Rollerdrome 2 to also launch within six months of each other?
I'm afraid I have to 'no comment' that one — we're working on some really exciting things, but nothing that we're ready to announce just yet.
We would like to thank Roll7 for taking the time to answer our questions. Are you a fan of OlliOlli World, Rollerdrome, or both? Let us know in the comments below.