Interview Geek: Roll7 on reducing the excesses that make “Rollerdrome” an essential genre hybrid
In an industry that has seemingly catered to all sorts of interests and tastes, it’s always a wonderful feeling to see something truly exceed our expectations when it comes to gameplay and design. Skating and shooting don’t seem like things that could go together, but with Roll7it is rollerdromethe pairing is a heavenly marriage we didn’t know we needed.
Obviously that means we had to find out more about what made this game possible, and what the team at Roll7 had thought during the development period, and we had the pleasure of choosing the brains of Creative Director Paul Rabbitte.
Know how rollerdrome popped up was a key question we needed answered, and for Rabbitte, it all came to him during a “‘dual-purpose design’ game jam” where the crux was to have a dual-purpose mechanism .
“That’s when I had the idea of a game where doing skateboard tricks allowed you to recover ammunition, and from this idea, rollerdrome was born.”
And what a wonderful way to keep the player engaged throughout the many arena escapades. On top of that, Roll7 recognized the need for players to be actively involved, whether that’s skating, shooting, or just staying alive, and it all naturally led to the gameplay loop at the heart of rollerdrome.
“A lot of our design mechanics are aimed at encouraging players to really engage with both sides of the game – skating and shooting. Connecting the two together was very important to us and we really wanted it to feel like a fit. natural,” Rabbitte explained.
“So doing towers gives you ammo that connects towers to combat. All the enemies also push you to move in different ways (if you stop moving, you’ll die very quickly!), and when you kill an enemy, they lose health, so you have to skate to get them back. It was a very iterative process, slowly refining that feeling and removing any excess, and we think the result is hopefully something very natural.
However, it wasn’t always so smooth and polished. Before the team arrived at the final solution, there were many ideas on the table that needed to be refined or eliminated. One example was that the playable character, Kara, could fall over if a landing wasn’t perfect, which didn’t do much for the gameplay and made things harder than it should be for rollerdrome.
The constant “shrinking” of the mechanic allows for “focus on a smaller set of key moves that players could work to really master”, and this sets the stage for the perfect blend of fun and depth.
Speaking of Kara, she plays an important role in the narrative, which is a nice surprise for a game that places a heavy emphasis on skating and shooting. To that end, she was designed to be “an avenue” for players to “discover the world alongside her”. Even then, the choice is up to the player if they want to interact more with the story by deepening the story or just enjoying the “flow and focus” of arcade gameplay.
rollerdrome also uses a unique aesthetic that isn’t all that common, using color and a sense of style to deliver a game that feels, looks and sounds great.
“We were inspired by science fiction films from the 70s, which were often low budget. So we liked the idea of a setting that reuses existing places, like the mall. There’s a lot of brutalist architecture, which would have looked quite modern and maybe even futuristic in the 70s. Different arenas also have a different gameplay feel – for example; there are crevices in the mountain arenas which add environmental hazard, whereas the canyon levels are very smooth and flowing. This gives players a chance to try out new styles of play and improve their skills,” added Rabbitte.
Just like the other recent studio release, OlliOlli Worldthe idea of chasing a high score and showing your mastery is at the forefront of rollerdrome, which makes perfect sense since the teams working on the games shared ideas on how to improve things. But for those who think this skater-shooter hybrid will be at home as a multiplayer experience, that’s unlikely to happen.
“rollerdrome was always intended to be a single-player experience – we were creating a whole new hybrid genre, so we wanted to focus on perfecting the mechanics and playstyle for players,” added Rabbitte.
At the very least, Roll7 has certainly made it based on the extended time we’ve had with the game, and suffice it to say; we’ll be skating and shooting for a while.
rollerdrome will launch on PS4, PS5 and PC on August 16th.
Jake is a full-time trophy hunter and collector of console achievements, and part-time victim of the Steam Sale. He has a thing for Batman and impressive statues, and lacks space for both. Send help.
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