Sometimes, even the most challenging games have something to gain by sitting back and just taking it easy. That’s certainly the approach to OlliOlli World, where they’ve gone and made a game that’s just as welcoming for newcomers as it is rewarding for old guard fans.
We spoke to Tom Hegarty, Co-CEO of Roll7, as well as John Ribbins, Chief Creative Officer about all that’s new and staying the same with OlliOlli World, the newest entry in the skate adventure series.
Welcome, New Skaters
Considering World isn’t numbered like OlliOlli 2 was, it’s easy to get confused about where OlliOlli World would sit in the franchise. However, thankfully, John was very succinct in telling us whether this was a sequel to OlliOlli or just a spinoff that got a bit big.
“It’s the third OlliOlli game, so yeah”, John laughs.
Tom also elaborated more on the decision to drop the number, saying that the new title allowed them to explore the core concept of the game more, letting them offer a newer experience to players.
“It’s not like we’re taking the second one and going right ahead and build this”, Tom explains. “We kinda really have you know, strip to all back and rebuild it back up. We look at we want to take from the first two and kinda kept that, also look all the areas that we felt missed out really and if we take the first two game they pretty hardcore, pretty difficult and they really kinda lean into that idea of a hard gameplay”.
“With OlliOlli World, we want it to be a lot more welcoming. We do wanna cater for the people who are coming back and there’s a lot of places to test your skill, but for new people coming in it was really important that we could allow them to experience the flow so that in itself is kind of quite big change from what we’ve done in the past and part of that is kind of adopting the new art style”, he says.
Non Linear Adventure
John also added his own thoughts on the new approach, which adds a mix of accessibility and approachability to the otherwise definitive level of difficulty fans come to expect from OlliOlli World.
“So the idea is in the previous games have been tied to linear progression, you beat the level you get to the next level, sort of traditional platform game progression”, he says.
“What we wanted to do with OlliOlli World is give you more options of what you want to do next, and so within the levels themselves as we made it 3D so you’ve got this branching path and different routes to get through the level, all of the parts are always set up to be relatively straightforward to navigate, so if you just play the game and see the story and get to the end of adventure then you can take the kind of main path through the levels”, he adds.
While that may sound like a recipe for an easier game, John says that’s far from the case. Harder content is still in the game, and completionists will need to bring their A-game to find everything Radlandia has to offer.
“It still going to require some skills, but it’s not gonna be as twitchy and hardcore unless you decide to go off beaten tracks and do all the challenges and do everything else with the NPCs adding out in the world”, he says.
He also explained that there would be rewards for certain branching paths, with some content only being available to players who braved a particular path over another. Of course, though, it comes at a price:
“Some part is gonna take a lot more skills, maybe a lot more dedication to mastering the mechanics and within the game world itself because you kind of have this road across the island, there are points in the game where you may have two or three different things you can do in order to progress so you’re not always gonna have to beat previous levels to get to the next level, sometimes you can branch the path and beat levels in different order or choose one of three different levels to do next”.
The Jump Into Kickflip Into 3D
Aside from being the third OlliOlli game, World also presents the series jump to 3D. Very few games go on to dramatically change their identity like this, so the two said the team was very nevous about announcing the big change to the skate series.
“I mean sure it’s been really nice so it’s kinda scary cause we change our style between the previous version of the game,”, John says. “Like, between one and two, we went pixel art and from two to this one we’re going 3D and create a whole world with these characters in it so it’s that scary moment when you push the button and show everyone what you’ve been working for a while. So yeah, it’s been really cool and hugely positive reception from fans and people who haven’t seen it before or for the first time. We received so many many nice comments that people are so hyped for the world and characters that we’ve made”
“We got a lot of tweets saying, ‘where’s OlliOlli 3, what about this, what about that?’ and we’ve had said gotta keep real quiet. But yeah it was so nice to see people asking where’s kind of this excited as we hope they would be”, Tom adds.
John also sighed excitedly, talking about all the new possibilities with OlliOlli World’s new 3D tools.
“I wish i could get to skate in the level that we made in OlliOlli World”, he laughs. “That’s been an interesting challenge moving to 3D and having this new freedom to go sort of forwards and backwards in the scene and have levels with multiple parts in each other. That was actually a huge chunk of what we did in early pre-production and learning ourselves how we can push that, that’s the kind of evolution of the game being able to have all of these levels layered on top of each other and how densely we do that and how complex it becomes,
“That’s actually has been the biggest challenge for us i think in terms of level design and getting our heads around how we actually build the levels that are the evolution of previous OlliOlli games, how we make it interesting in 3D while having the same soul of the previous games, also like some of the stuff that we build in the later game is really interesting and really unique”
Of course, the jump to 3D didn’t just help the players. According to John, the new 3D presentation for OlliOlli World allowed the artists way more freedom in designing how you could do tricks and combos.
This is the easiest to do if i compared it to previous games which in 2D, and talents who work on it had to sit there and draw every single frame in every single trick in 2D for those tricks to exist, so if we didn’t animate it you couldn’t do in the game. Moving to 3D gave us a lot more freedom because we can rotate the character, you don’t have to draw every frame since you can rotate the 3D model.
This game obviously has a lot more mechanics, so this ability to rotate the character gives you way more freedom to grind and way more freedom with flip tricks, to combine what we’ve had before which is the stick interaction to rotate your character in different directions as well.
So it’s interesting because in the previous games i could just look at the list of animations and say there’s a hundred tricks in the game, whereas now you got a lot more freedom and how you can rotate and combine grabs and flips and stuff like that. There’s just way more combination of tricks you can do at once so it’s kind of like express yourself in different ways in the combo.
John also preemptively rebutted any possible accusations that making the game accessible would hurt combo expression, saying he’s seen high level play with his own eyes.
“Watching some of our QA guys, certainly the guys who are testing the high scores and stuff like that is like, ‘I can’t play like that, that’s just craz, like crazy number of tricks per amount of time you spend in the air’ “, he says.
Vibing Through A Level
Meanwhile, Tom also reminded players that just because you could do all these intense combos in the game, they weren’t necessary to get to the end, and there was always an easier alternative.
“I think what was nice though is you got that like space to put a lot of tricks, and you also play more like myself just enjoy this kind of feeling of traversing the level using alternative paths. It’s like this far more chill way to play as well, and part of it is just kind of vibe through a level rather than struggle through it”.
John also mentioned that easier tricks were important to make sure that newer players had a stepping stone to do more than just vibe their way through the game.
” I feel like we concentrate to have a lot more mechanics, not necessarily on the lower end of scale, but slightly easier to do so there’s a lot more stuff that you can combine as a new player to do interesting stuff in combos, as opposed to adding really high level difficulty to execute mechanics. So when you’re coming into the game there’s just a lot more stuff that you can do or feels cool to do and build into your combos early on”, he says
Tom also clarified exactly how the game would be balanced to accommodate both new and old players, mixing the difficulty in with a thirst for exploration.
“Providing the opportunities for new players to come in as well so that’s really kind of born out in a few ways, the clearest way is the alternate path or branching path which you may come across in the end of the demo and so what we’re able to do is have a critical or golden path to beat the level”, he says.
“So if you’re struggling you can get through this, but if you want to test yourself like that kind of finger bleeding experience from the first two games then you choose these alternate paths with the game that progressively harder”, he adds.
“So that kind of makes sure to cater for the previous fans, but also make sure that new players get that kind of welcoming experience and also kind of like upscale themselves fast slower pace. I think what we’re trying from previous games, a lot of people loved it but in a whole in terms of difficulty we feel like this one hopefully remove that wall and players can upscale it at their own level, where previously you have to come with us, whereas now you can really do it at your own pace”, he notes. “It was really important to us that people who previously couldn’t get to that scale experience the flow, and I think it’s unique what we provide in OlliOlli so it’s important for us that more people can experience that”.
All’s Rad in Radlandia
John also talked about the more ensemble setting of OlliOlli World, which was another big addition to the series. Radlandia is more than just skinny white skate-hipsters, presenting as diverse a cast of humans as they have other races like buff seagulls and sentient ice cream.
“So we really wanted it less that you just this lone skateboarder that going around and skating these levels from start to finish and much more like you’re kind of like going on adventure with your friends, and making new friends along the way or meeting new characters”, he says.
“We really enjoyed when creating this world and creating weird, interesting characters and kind of having fun with that element of game development process and so by creating Radlandia, this kind of fantastical island where everything is based on skating, that kind of give us this opportunity to have this really cool diverse cast of people that you meet, like diverse in human characters that you meet and also this weird things like talking frogs and fortune teller fish in a glass jar stuff like that, so it’s just really fun, interesting and kind of gives the world so much vibrant and interesting stuff to find along the way, which i really think really adds the OlliOlli experience”, he says.
Of course, your crew is more than just some shiny background characters. John also talked about how many of them had specific gameplay functions, some of which would be revealed at a later date.
“So each of the characters represent the different part of some elements in the game, so obviously Chiffon is like respawning and saving you, Mike is there to provide you challenges, and Suze is there for high scores and stuff, and then Dad is kind of like your initial guide. A bit later on where we working on the customization and stuff like that, that’s where the game will make a lot more sense”, he says.
Despite a lot of skating games being more realistic sports games, skate culture itself has its own visual flair to it. John says they tapped more into that side of the subculture, as part of how they created OlliOlli World’s more distinct look.
“Obviously we’re not doing a skate game that realistically modeled downtown LA and have every skate brand”, John laughs. “So the idea is to have sort of a flavor of skate culture, so I kind of look it at this sort of general style of popular skate brands, and also taking this sort of large sub culture within skateboarding right, whether it’s like rocket kids or hip-hop kids or the one with sports wear and all that, or even kind of like more nation-based things like what French skateboarding look like in the late 90s”, he explains.
They also put a lot into making the world of Radlandia. While at first glance it might just look like a mishmash of quirky random energies, he says that a lot of thought went into making the world what it is now.
“In terms of environments themselves, we wrote a lot more about Radlandia that you probably even see from all of the game like the reason why Cloverbrook exist and the reason why there’s this giant tree people and stuff like that, and how these tree people become the skateboard like how their goal in life is to be turned into a radical skateboard and getting skated to destruction. So we came with a lot of that kind of stuff and it was like a reason behind each environment and the crew that lives in the environment”, he says.
John says that for as much time as they spend at the drawing board though, a lot of the best ideas come to fruition when they try making it work as a game”
“To be honest, a lot of the weirdest stuff often comes out of the balance between design building these crazy levels that are architecturally impossible and having to figure out how to make that crazy winding intersecting structure into a space that makes sense and so obviously having this giant forest with big trees, or having a desert with flying rocks and things like that gives us a lot of freedom to have the crazy architecture in the game and so that kind of like hint of fantastical stuff gives us the freedom to build this spaces which we’re skating in”.
Tom was also quick to credit the entire team as a whole, saying it was definitely a team effort to get OlliOlli World looking and feeling as good as it does.
“It’s been great to kind of see the team take that on, kind of you know how Radlandia would shaped and like kind of set out some broad ideas of what we wanted it to be, but the team really kind of developed its own legs and its own law and its own place and people are able to run with that which is really nice to see you know”, he says. “Like we’re not being scripted about certain things and people got the creative of freedom to do what they want in context of Radlandia.
OlliOlli World releases in Winter of this year on Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, Xbox Series X|S, Playstation 4, Playstation 5 as well as PC. While the game already made a powerful first impression on its own, it was still really cool to talk more about the ideas that went into the game with Tom and John.