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OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition – Simon Bennett interview

As OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition lands at retail we speak to Roll7 director, Simon Bennett.

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As OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition lands at retail we speak to Roll7 director, Simon Bennett.

Since OlliOlli was released on PlayStation Vita in 2014 the series has seen ports on PC, PS3, PS4, Xbox One, Android, Wii and 3DS. It has also spawned a sequel, OlliOlli: Welcome to Olliwood, and has been in the hands of multiple publishers including Devolver Digital, Team17 and Roll7 themselves. Now BadLand Games joins the list by bringing the BAFTA winning skateboarding game to retail in the shape of OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition.

The beautifully assembled package features both OlliOlli games on disc, a new combo rush mode, plus exclusive making of videos and booklet and an extended OlliOlli: Welcome to Olliwood soundtrackIt’s quite the celebration for the unassuming and deceptively simple game that has earned a legion of fans with its in-depth gameplay and daily challenges.

We caught up with Simon Bennet, direct of developer Roll7 just as the combo edition was hitting his doormat.

Thumbsticks: What was the inspiration for OlliOlli? Did any games influence yo,u or was it born from a desire to capture the spirit and feel of skateboarding?

Simon Bennett, Director, Roll7: Well, John (Creative Director) and I skated for years, in fact John was a sponsored skater back in the day. We both grew up on Tony Hawk and Skate, John made a little prototype to capture the magic of landing tricks and 2 years later we had OlliOlli!

The series is notable for having simple controls but deep gameplay create a variety of combinations. How did you refine and tweak the various combos to make them feel natural? 

Originally the prototype was on mobile, with touch controls but then we signed with PlayStation. Initially it took a long while to get the feel right but eventually we worked a system that took practice, but felt super natural after a little while playing.

What can you say about the two different graphical approaches to the OlliOlli games? Were you inspired by any particular titles?

I think that with OlliOlli we were inspired by the Hotline Miami vibe, dirty pixel magic. With OlliOlli2, we went with something smoother and more refined – to stand out.

OlliOlli

Did the success of OlliOlli enable to you to push the envelope and expand the game in its sequel? 

Totally, it gave us confidence that what we were doing was actually wanted! We added a couple of team members and threw in Manuals and a bunch more tricks, which totally changed up the game. Then we added Combo Rush, which gives people the chance to play local multiplayer split screen.

You have worked with different publishers across the various editions of the game. How did you start working with Badlands Games and how did the idea for the Epic Combo Edition come about? 

We have indeed, I think OlliOlli is probably the most pimped out IP in indie game history (5 publishers or so now). Badlands initially approached us, and after some conversations over email, we talked to Felipe – their Business Development Manager – he had grand plans for a stunning box, with a special edition studio booklet, soundtrack and awesome box art. We totally went for it on all fronts, and the final box – which arrived at my house today – looks like nothing else, it’s all shiny, gold and rammed with content. We couldn’t be happier.

Was a retail edition always part of the plan? Does it make a difference to you as a developer to see your game exist on store shelves in addition to digital marketplaces?

Retail was never part of the plan to be honest, it was an opportunity that came along! If only we had considered it from the off… We’ve seen massive pre-orders, and, financially, it represents (already) a very serious chunk of the overall revenue we’ve seen on digital. Ultimately most indies think digital is the only route to market, but digital is still smaller than retail – so it’s worth looking at all routes to market really.

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The Epic Combo Edition comes with an extended soundtrack featuring Bobby Tank, Parkinson White & Kyle Cook and FaltyDL among others. It’s an eclectic mix and not the most obvious soundtrack to a skateboarding game. What made you choose those particular artists and tracks?

We initially had a rock and punk OST planned for OlliOlli, but the game can be quite stressful, so we decided on a more chill OST – based more on the kinda jazzy, swazzy, independent electronica that I like. This seemed to really work with the flow of the game and so it stuck. With OlliOlli2, we went all out and found the best music we could – very proud of that soundtrack still.

There are some fantastic Let’s Play videos online. Have you been pleased by the response of the community in how they have embraced the games?

Absolutely. The fan response to OlliOlli has been off the charts, to know that millions of people have played the game is something that gets us up in the morning to keep making games.

Some of the challenges are devious. Do you have a particular favorite?

Finding the Golden Skateboard in OlliOlli, it’s hidden somewhere, which is frustrating!

Roll7 are a small team who all work remotely, how do you manage the development process given that set up?

Well, we work just like a normal studio but use tools like Dropbox, Slack and Skype to communicate – so far so good, we like the flexibility it offers the team. It means people can just get on with their job and enjoy their lives without the hassle of travelling to work, or dealing with office politics. We meet once a month and have a big meal and drinks, which people seem to enjoy.

Finally, with the OlliOlli series and Not a Hero you have had a very busy and successful few years. What’s next for the studio?

Well, we have signed a game deal for an exciting online multiplayer game we have been working on for over 3 years, it is nothing like what you would expect from us – so watch this space!

OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition


You can pick up OlliOlli: Epic Combo Edition on PlayStation 4 from Amazon.

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Thumbsticks editor, and connoisseur of Belgian buns. Currently playing: Okami HD, Hollow Knight, and WarioWare Gold.

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