Studio Spotlight: Roll7

We catch up with the OlliOlli dev and Develop Awards 2015 winner
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Aside from winning the 2015 Develop Award for New Studio in July, what was the biggest development for Roll7 over the past year?
Tom Hegarty, Director: Developing and releasing two games simultaneously was the certainly the most difficult thing of the past year, if not in the company’s entire history. 

We had teams working on both OlliOlli 2 and Not A Hero – albeit a very small one on the latter – but myself, Simon and John had to stretch ourselves across both. That doesn’t sound so bad but when you combine that with long hours and lots of creative wrangling and arguing, switching between the two became very challenging. 

The fact that we managed to release them and both were successful is something we’re very proud of – although we probably won’t be doing it again any time soon. 

What are your goals and priorities for the year ahead?
Never make two games at the same time again. We’re spending the next few months prototyping a number of ideas internally, which we hope will form the basis of our next project. 

We also want to get out and about again, meet other people in the industry, and learn more about the latest developments in games and other creative industries. The last two and half years have been very insular and it’s really important for us to be connected to the world at large to make sure that what we’re doing is fresh and hopefully relevant. 

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What makes Roll7 different from other studios?
Myself, John and Simon have been running businesses together since 2003, many years prior to Roll7 starting. In doing so, we’ve been through so many creative, legal, project management and financial processes. All of those experiences have fed into the Roll7 of today. 

When we’re developing, the creativity always comes first but we also have to balance that against a realistic backdrop of funding and our platform holder’s needs. That makes us very focused on the core elements of the gameplay and ensures we only develop the key parts of the game. It’s so easy to get bogged down in minutiae: sometimes the smallest detail can be so important but it’s equally important to know when you need move on and look at the bigger picture.

We also tend to solely focus on mechanic. You might look at Not A Hero and disagree, but Bunnylord was a late addition to the party and it wasn’t until the mechanics were solid that he made his time-travelling appearance. If you have tight mechanics, the game should speak for itself. OlliOlli 1 is not the prettiest game but the controls are what made it a success. Not A Hero was an interesting avenue for us to explore as we’ve never touched narrative before. 

What did you learn from the success of OlliOlli and how did you apply that to its sequel and Not A Hero?
The key learning from OlliOlli was realising just how different and unique its control system was. Learning a new control scheme is akin to learning a new language and as you develop a game, you get very good at that language very quickly.

Your main task is then distilling that language down into a clear learning process for the user, helping them develop at an appropriate pace whilst feeling rewarded for beating challenging levels. We tried to apply this to both OlliOlli 2 and Not A Hero. You can see It to a degree, especially in the first two levels of Not A Hero and the skatepark mode in OllliOlli 2. However, we are still learning and see this as one of our main challenges moving forward. 

Are you planning to expand at all? 
It really depends on the next project. Right now there is just five member of Roll7. The three directors, our artist Jake and Sam, our QA and gameplay tester. That’s a good sized team to develop some good prototypes. 

In terms of new people, at this point we’re looking for very experienced people. We’ve spent too much time trying to solve problems that devs solved years ago. Working with these people will allow us to focus on the core creative and mechanical elements. Having said that we’re always looking for new talent with new ideas and a passion for their art. Jake and Sam are both young and recently out of education.

Tell us something no-one knows about your studio.
During the deepest darkest moments of crunch late last year and early this year, the one song which got everyone going and happy again was the Pina Colada Song by Rupert Holmes.

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