A single demo station for OlliOlli, a minimalist side-scrolling skateboarder with surprisingly deep systems at its core, was tucked in the corner of PlayStation's massive presence in E3's West Hall. The PS Vita game melds arcade-style gameplay with just a tinge of true skateboarding physics – not as ridiculous as the Tony Hawk's Pro Skater series, and not as much a simulation as the Skate series.
Thomas Hegarty, company director at developer Roll7, gave me a quick primer before my demo. "We're a small team in London, UK – there's about seven of us. We've got a team of about four working on this game," Hegarty said. OlliOlli, though being funded by Sony, isn't a Pub Fund game, and Roll7 will publish and retain all rights.
"It's funded, but not published, which is an awesome deal for us because we retain the IP." OlliOlli is the studio's second game, after launching an iOS game that "sank in the ocean of the 50 billion app downloads or whatever." Hegarty then explained that it was the positive reviews for this app that helped facilitate the approach to Sony.
Even though Sony turned down a few initial ideas from the developer, OlliOlli stood out. Originally, the game was set to have procedurally generated levels with a kind of infinite-skater theme. Only recently had the developer decided to shift its focus away from that style of play.
"In the last three weeks, quite a lot has changed. We've moved away from the infinite-runner mode. What we realized is the best part of the game is tricking, learning the combos – so we're actually building levels out so people could understand it, learn it, get the replay value and the trick system. We're not sure how many tricks there are at the moment; there are so many combos and ways to vary them."
Though the original plan was to launch OlliOlli in November, Hegarty said Roll7 is "thinking releasing when the PS4 and Xbox One comes out is the more sensible option." As for pricing, the game will be £4 in the UK; US pricing hasn't been nailed down yet, though Hagerty thinks it'll be somewhere around $6 or $7.
What I played felt great. OlliOlli uses the left analog to initiate ollies and nollies, much like the system seen in the Skate series – just not as complex. When landing, pressing the X button at the right time will make for a smoother landing, and different grinds are accomplished based on the direction of the left analog stick. Pressing X also pushes off, so using just a few buttons I was able to pull off more complex combo chains.
My most impressive run in OlliOlli was, appropriately enough, on a custom level called "Joy Town." It's a massive chain of grinds broken up by small patches of grass and chasms, then an ice cream truck followed by more patches of grass and chasms. Timing was paramount in what little bit of score I was able to accumulate.
Hegarty ended our time discussing a coming "daily grind mode" in OlliOlli that will be updated every 24 hours. "We've also got the daily grind mode, which is a spot from the game, a couple of grinds, jump, land – something like that. It's open for 24 hours, you can practice as many times as you want, but you get one live go. if you slam on your face, then that's your go for the day. We'll open different spots for 24 hours and so we'll have a leaderboard for it and, of course, the rest of the game."