How skateboarding game OlliOlli skipped over iOS, and onto Vita

When Roll7 first put together the prototype for what would become hard-as-nails skateboarding game OlliOlli, it was destined for the iOS App Store -- but ended up on Vita.
When Southeast London game studio Roll7 first put together the prototype for what would become hard-as-nails skateboarding game OlliOlli, it was destined for the iOS App Store -- and it was far more difficult, thanks in part to the touch-screen controls. The team, first founded in 2008 as a gun-for-hire studio, first made its splash into original properties with Get to the Exit on mobile in 2012. With iOS experience under its belt, it perhaps made sense to stick with iOS again for the next title. But when Roll7's John Ribbins bumped into Futurlab's James Marsden at a games conference and showed him the prototype in motion, Marsden's immediate reaction was "You should show this to the guys at Sony." Marsden was in the midst of bringing his innovate shoot-'em-up Velocity to the PS Vita, and the moment he played OlliOlli and recognized that physical buttons would be far better for a twitch title like this, he knew that firing off an email to Sony's Shahid Ahmad was the next best step for the game. Understandably Ahmad was rather interested in checking the game out, and a meeting was set up. "We went in and showed them the game, and they were really into it," says Ribbins. "They gave us a shot, asking if we wanted to bring it to Vita instead of iOS." Adds the Roll7 dev, "As soon as we started thinking about physical controls, what it meant for doing tricks and stuff like that, it certainly made sense."

The transition from iOS to Vita

With the move from touch-screen to physical controls, there were other grand-scale changes that the Roll7 team decided to make the core gameplay of OlliOlli. "When we first made the game for the iOS version, and actually right up until first playable of OlliOlli on the Vita, there were no sloppy landings - now there's this mechanic where, when doing tricks on the analog stick, you've also got to hit X to land your trick." The way it works is that if you time your "X" press perfectly as your skater lands, you'll achieve a perfect score and a small boost of speed. If you time it badly, you'll land "sloppy", receive barely any points, and be unable to jump for a second.

"In the original game, if you messed up the timing, you just slammed, and that was the end of your run," says Ribbins. "But we realized that was maybe a bit inaccessible when you start the game." And yet there was still something really satisfying to being forced to stick to a perfect run. As development progressed, it became clear that including the super-taxing angle in some form would be beneficial for some players -- and hence, the unlockable RAD mode was born. "We thought if you've beaten the whole game and done all the challenges, and you want to play it the way we were originally intending it before we realized it was probably a bit too harsh, you can try RAD mode," laughs Ribbins.

Why go Vita exclusive?

OlliOlli is now a PS Vita exclusive. I asked Ribbins why it isn't coming to the PS3 as well -- why focus on just the Vita? "I guess it was partly a suggestion on Sony's part," he answers. "We're not being published by Sony, but they are funding it." "But I think from our point of view, in terms of a weird marketing angle -- there's something quite nice about being an exclusive," he continues. "We've done iOS and PC games before, but this is the first console title we've worked on. So it's quite nice to be dedicated to this platform." Notably, Roll7 didn't use any middleware to build the game, meaning that the game was built specifically for the PS Vita. "Perhaps stupidly, we built everything from scratch in C++ and with Sony's SDK," the Roll7 man muses. But this wasn't without hiccups. Since this was Roll7's first console game, it was a far different experience from working with iOS, and the team was forced to delay the game by several weeks due to unforeseen diligence. "It's a different world from submitting a game to Apple, to submitting it to Sony QA," Ribbins says. "There's a lot of diligence there. As a studio it's been really good. It's helped us grow, and we learned a heck of a lot from that, and having to think about stuff I don't think we would have ever thought of if we were just self-publishing onto PC." OlliOlli is due for release on PS Vita on January 21. Make sure you check out the full video interview with Ribbins above.

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