Rollerdrome creative director Q&A - Devs giving us time before they "destroy those scoreboards"

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The brilliant Rollerdrome launched a couple of weeks ago to bundles of acclaim. We called it "challenging, fun, bursting with style, and perfect for the score-chasing competitor in all of us" but I had some questions about how the ingenious idea came together, among a few other things.

Shortly after release, I had the chance to pose some of my questions to Paul Rabbitte, Rollerdrome's Creative Director. He spoke about the inception of Rollerdrome's core idea, how excited he is about the competitive side of the game, and what we can expect in the future.

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If you haven't read our review yet, be sure to check it out.

Rollerdrome Q&A with Paul Rabbitte

Tom Hopkins (TH): How did the idea of Rollerdrome come about? Was it an adaptation of OlliOlli’s gameplay loop or an older idea?

Paul Rabbitte (PR): I developed the initial concept for Rollerdrome before I started working with Roll7 - they saw clips of my prototype on Twitter and loved it, and that's how we ended up working together. So my initial idea for Rollerdrome's core gameplay loop wasn't inspired by OlliOlli - it actually came about during a game jam focused on ‘dual purpose design’. Dual purpose design revolves around using one mechanic for two purposes, and that’s what inspired the idea of a game where doing skate tricks would allow you to regain ammo for your gun.

TH: While the action is hectic and challenging, the trick controls are quite simple and there are only four weapons. How tricky was it to get that balance right?

PR: It was very tricky! Working to balance skating and shooting in a way that was satisfying and responsive was the core challenge that we faced making this game. We spent pretty much the whole production period iterating and working out exactly how to make each mechanic and control make sense and feel awesome to play.

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TH: The skating feels tight and responsive. How did you approach mastering the feel of it?

PR: One of the tough things about making a skating game is that the bar has been set super high by games like Tony Hawk’s – it’s a tough act to follow. On top of that, we needed to balance skating with shooting, and it was also important to work on setting the levels up in a way that makes skating feel fluid and enjoyable. We spent a lot of time iterating on things like jump height, speed, and arena size to make the skating in the game as satisfying as possible.

TH: How much did other skating/sports games influence Rollerdrome?

PR: We were influenced by lots of other games – not just skaters and sports games, but also games like the new Doom with complex strategic combat. That definitely helped inspire that idea for each enemy to have a unique attack.

TH: The boss fights test players in different ways to the standard levels. Were boss fights something you considered adding more of?

Our main focus was on core gameplay – bosses were something we wanted to add as an occasional spectacle. We wanted bosses to be a memorable moment that would mark progress in the campaign and feel really special, and I think we definitely achieved that.

TH: Rollerdrome is a challenging game, but there are certain things you’d expect from a traditional shooter or skating game that aren’t included, such as needing to land tricks correctly and weapon recoil. How did you go about deciding what to include and balancing the difficulty so well?

PR: It was a long process – when we started developing the game, we included a lot of mechanics like grind meters, the possibility of failing a landing, and all weapons being free aim. As we began working on the game, we realised that it was simply too much, so we began to pare back non-essentials until we found a nice balance between giving players plenty to do without overloading them.

TH: Was an upgrade system something you ever considered including? Unlocking the ability to do more damage, replenish ammo faster, or start with higher max health, for example.

PR: We wanted the gameplay to be really pure – when you start the game, you can already do all of the tricks off the bat, you don’t unlock them as you go. The idea is that the player skills themselves up rather than skilling the character up. That way as you learn and improve you can always return to the start and improve on your previous scores.

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TH: Similarly, were different difficulty modes something you ever considered adding?

PR: Again, we wanted to focus on balancing the campaign so that new players could learn and get better while more experienced players would still have plenty to sink their teeth into improving their previous scores. Instead of a hard mode, we have a New Game + which gives people who want a really steep challenge a chance to test their skills!

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TH: Score-chasing is a huge part of Rollerdrome’s replayability. How excited are you about the game’s potential competitive side?

PR: Yes, it’s going to be great – I’m really looking forward to seeing people’s scores and ranks as they start rolling in. Me and the rest of the dev team are holding off on playing for a few weeks to give you all a chance to get ahead… and then we’re going to come in and destroy those scoreboards – consider that a challenge!

TH: Rollerdrome has a very unique visual style and tone, what influenced that?

PR: Rollerdrome was very much influenced by French/Belgian comic books – artists like Mobius and Hergé. There’s a very clean art style in these comics that works really well in an action game where you need to be able to easily ‘read’ the space around you. We were also inspired by 70’s sci-fi movies, and the combination of these aesthetics has led us to the art style you see in Rollerdrome today.

TH: Did you ever consider including a multiplayer mode in Rollerdrome, or have any ideas about how that may work?

PR: Rollerdrome was intended to be a single-player experience from the beginning – because it’s a brand-new genre hybrid, we wanted to focus on getting this gameplay experience spot on.

TH: Finally, I’m sure you can't delve into the details, but are there plans for Rollerdrome expansions or additional levels?

PR: We can’t really get into details – but we’re all really excited to see how people react to the game now that it’s out in the world.

If you're interested in more of Roll7's games, check out our review of OlliOlli World's Void Riders expansion.