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Following the successful (and critically acclaimed) launch of OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood, we were able to catch up with the fine folks over at Roll7 to have a brief discussion about their games and their studio.

First, let me say congratulations on the launch of OlliOlli2 and thanks for having this chat with us.
Glad to be here!

For those who might not be familiar with Roll7, could you briefly introduce yourselves? Tell us a bit about your studio and how you guys got into making games.
Of course, man!

We were making games for clients for a while and although we were enjoying it, we were getting tired of working for other people. So, we had a light-bulb moment and realized…Wait?! We could do this for ourselves!

John, our Creative Director, has always had some game prototypes already kicking around, so when we had a meeting with PlayStation, they really liked the look of OlliOlli… and so they asked us to make it for them!

OlliOlli

OlliOlli was a surprise hit for many when it launched last year. What made you want to do a skateboarding game?
We’re all massive skaters, and John used to be a sponsored skater. We really wanted to combine our love of arcade-y, combo-multiplying retro games with the real experience of skating. Skating is all about tricking out, looking rad and landing with perfection – and we tried to capture that the best we could with OlliOlli.

When it launched, it was a PlayStation Vita exclusive. It has since been brought to a number of other platforms, but what made you decide to make it a Vita game when it seems so many other developers are making games for smartphones?
It was definitely a whole mix of things. First, of course, PlayStation was interested in OlliOlli as a Vita-Exclusive, and we were happy to do it. Once it was agreed, we got to work in designing and evolving the game from its original mobile touch-screen prototype. We started to learn all about the PlayStation Vita and it helped us work out and design our infamous control-scheme, the menu layout and of course the rad, pixelated visual style. If PlayStation didn’t want OlliOlli on the PlayStation Vita, it would have been a totally different game!

What was your reaction to the critical success of the game?
We couldn’t believe it. We set up and got our Twitter working around a similar time, so to see critics and importantly, players starting to rave and compare scores was freaking surreal. It was SO cool. We made a really weird, really hard game, with an unusual control scheme in a genre that hasn’t been around in a long time – so we had no idea how it was going to do. It went so well…

OlliOlli wasn’t a flawless launch however. Many people complained about game breaking bugs and crashes that kept them from playing it. What was your reaction when all this came to light? Were you surprised this was happening?
It was terrifying, you know?! It basically threw us back into reality. After the reviews came in, and they were 7s, 8s and 9s, we were over the moon – so when people started sending us screenshots of the game crashing… we realized that the work is far from over!

OlliOlli

You now have OlliOlli2: Welcome to Olliwood out. When did you decide you were going to make a sequel and why?
With OlliOlli, it was our first PlayStation game so we tried to have a realistic set of expectations. And we learnt A LOT. We tried a lot of things – such as getting manuals in there – but we never could do it. So when we finished the game – and we had the blueprint of what OlliOlli is – John sat us down, and excitedly told us the focus of what OlliOlli2 is. We were SUPER ambitious. We wanted it to be everything we couldn’t do the first time! Manuals, Revert-Manuals, Grind-Switches, All-New Look, Split-Level Routes and more!

It seems like a relatively short amount of time between the launch of both games. Did you learn a lot in making the first game that helped you develop the sequel so quickly?
It was still actually a lengthy amount of time for us! We finished on the core of OlliOlli around October 2013 – and we started work on OlliOlli2 in a full capacity in February 2014. We love that it feels like a quick turnover for most people, but it secretly wasn’t so speedy for us!

Now that OlliOlli2 has launched, what is the mood like in the studio? Is there time to celebrate or is it business as usual focusing on the next game?
Between the stellar reviews (thanks guys!) AND winning a BAFTA, we’ve definitely had some time to celebrate! Never enough time though, because we’re all looking ahead on getting Not A Hero out in the best shape possible!

Speaking of Not a Hero, it seems a lot of people are very excited about it. The tone of this game is very different from OlliOlli. How long have you been working on it?
Not A Hero, in some form, has been hanging around since at least 2012. John has always wanted to do a 2D, action-film inspired cover shooter and that’s where the fundamental mechanics for Not A Hero come from. You slide, shoot, excute, slide, shoot, execute. Throw our Purple Rabbit, BunnyLord in there, and you have a colourful world of pixelated, bloody glory.

Not a Hero currently has a release date of “later this year” for the PS Vita. Want to be a little more specific? Or even more vague? Soonish? Maybe?
We announced the date a few weeks back – Not A Hero will be hitting Steam May 7th. We will start working on the PlayStation 4 and Vita versions straight after! Unfortunately, we can’t confirm any more than that but it WILL be hitting in 2015!

Event: British Academy Games Awards Date: Thurs 12 March 2015 Venue: Tobacco Docks, East London Host: Rufus Hound - Area: PRESS ROOM

 

Is there anything else you want to tell the Vita audience (or any audience, I guess)? Anything they should know about your studio or games?
We’re all big fans of the PS Vita here. Between it’s kickass screen and bodacious controls, it’s the perfect place to play our types of twitchy, score-attack games. Thanks to the Vita fans for being the best (and playing our games!).

Thanks again for agreeing to this chat and congratulations on OlliOlli2 (as well as that spiffy looking BAFTA award you now have).
Thanks so much!

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When Kick and Fennick released as a free game on PS+, I’m sure that not many people had this game on their radar as a “must-play” title. However, after spending several hours (OK, days actually) of playing this charming game, I’ve discovered just how surprising it is. The debut title from the two-man team at Jaywalkers Interactive is so well polished that it’s hard to believe it was done by such a small studio.

Recently I was able to catch up with the two responsible for the game, Laurens Bruins and Vincent Bonefaas, and ask them a few questions about their studio, their game, and what the future holds for Jaywalkers Interactive.

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People’s perceptions of “indie” games definitely falls into Marmite territory. Just like the ‘love it or hate it’ slogan from the famous yeast spread, it either invokes positive feelings from those that actually have given the given the titles a fair chance, or negative emotions from those think the Vita was made for something greater. What is clear to all is that this genre has presented Vita owners with many different games to choose from and Curve Studios were right at the front of it all.

Thomas 1If you don’t know what they have been involved with, we will give you a brief re-cap. It all started with a port of Mike Bithell’s amazing Thomas was Alone, and Curve followed this up with a conversion of their own Stealth Bastard – which was stylised as Stealth Inc: A Clone in the Dark. Next up for the team was Jasper Byrne’s epic survival-horror masterpiece, Lone Survivor whilst their final Vita efforts in 2013 were to bring Ed Key and David Kanaga’s exploration title Proteus to PlayStation.

That’s four very good games that they brought to PlayStation last year, and rather than resting on their laurels, their approach to 2014 appears to be the same as 2013. I recently got some hands-on time with Titan Attacks, The Swapper and MouseCraft and caught up with Rob Clarke, Marketing and PR guru from Curve and he answered a few questions for us.

Thanks for talking to us Rob! How would you sum up the last year for Curve Studios?
Well the last year was also my first year, so I can’t comment on any previous activity, but I can say it’s been incredibly busy but also very rewarding. One of the cool things about being one of the first publishers to really get involved with the whole PlayStation indies thing, we’ve had a lot to learn but it’s been very exciting and rewarding being able to bring so many games out as such a small team.

Proteus 2Do you have a favourite out of the games you have done so far? Or a little bit of everything?
My personal favourite would be Thomas Was Alone – I’m really into games with a really big story component and I had originally played it years ago at the very first Rezzed down in Brighton, so it had been on my radar for a long time before Curve picked it up. My favourite to work on though was Proteus. Just a really interesting challenge bringing a game like Proteus to the PlayStation audience, and one that I think we ended up doing really well.

The titles released so far have been well received. Was there anything that you weren’t happy with?
In terms of our games, no, I’m really lucky we have such an amazing team and amazing technology backing up what we do. If I’m being honest, I’d like to have seen a greater degree of coverage on the PS3 store, as it’s a very busy place and easy to get lost in, but that’s something that’s getting better all the time.

By the summer you will have released 7 PlayStation titles as well as porting Velocity Ultra to the PS3 in the space of the last year or so. With Stealth Inc. 2 a Wii U project, will we see anything else on PlayStation in 2014?
I hope so! We started out this year hoping to launch six games, and between 3 on PlayStation, 2 more on PC and 1 on Wii U we’ve already achieved that target. That’s not to say we’re just going to go take a long break though – we’re always looking for new titles to work on and talking to developers about working with PlayStation. I can’t talk about any until all the contracts have been signed of course, but I wouldn’t be shocked if we squeezed in a few more PlayStation games this year.

2013-05-30-092139You are really making your mark at porting exciting indie titles onto consoles, but many gamers might not know that you have produced your own titles too. Can you tell us if you are working on your own things currently? Or are you happy with helping other studios for now?
It’s really important for Curve as a company we don’t just become a publisher, or just become developers porting other people’s games. A good portion of the staff here is always working on something original. Right now, that’s Stealth Inc 2!

The plight of the Vita has been well documented, but what are your thoughts on the sales performance of your games and did they meet expectations? Does cross-buy help with this, or have you found the bigger portion of purchases actually being on the Vita?
We mentioned to IGN last week that the Vita is better for us in terms of sales and it really surprised them, but when you think about it, I don’t think it’s actually that shocking. People who are buying the Vita are buying it exactly for the sort of games Curve offers – digital only indie titles. Sure, there’s ten PS3s sold for every Vita, but how many of those are purchased by people who only want to play retail boxed copies of games like FIFA and Killzone?

We don’t have any hard statistics to share about Cross-Buy, but I think it helps. Right now it’s especially good for people who own PS3s, because they can pick up one of our games and still be able to play it when they eventually get a PS4. That’s a pretty big deal as obviously there’s no trade-in with digital games, once you’ve bought something, that’s it.

Swapper4With the games being Cross-Buy, how difficult has it been to get the experience as fluent on console as it is on the Vita?
Very easy, until The Swapper, and then very hard! The Swapper took a lot of work and tweaking to get working well on the Vita, but I’m proud to say that the team working on it did an amazing job. I love the Vita, I really do, but it’s not a powerful system and sometimes when you’re trying to port these fairly complex PC games over, it’s all about tweaking and refining without losing that detail. We’ve literally gone through that game scene by scene, all manually, to pick out bits of the graphics code and lighting that we could remove without actually removing any graphics the player sees. It’s hard work, but I think when people actually go to pick up The Swapper on Vita this summer, it will be worth it.

Why do you think the Vita hasn’t been as successful as expected?
Once again, I’ll point out I’ll love the Vita, but no, I don’t think many people outside of Sony would honestly try to defend the idea that the Vita has don’t as well as Sony hoped. The good news is that Sony realized that it was struggling in terms of content and have spent a lot of time, resources and money sorting that out. Whether or not you appreciate all the indie games on the system, the one thing you can say about Sony with the Vita is that they haven’t given up on it. I think it has a lot of life left, we just need to re-evaluate what it is we wanted from a handheld, because I don’t think the future of portable gaming is just clones of the big mainstream titles.

You obviously spend your time working on other peoples titles, is there anything on PC right now that you would love to see on the PlayStation (Vita)?
Plenty, but I wouldn’t want to give anything away. One thing I would love to see is Tokyo Jungle released on PC! I’m a huge fan of that game, it’s one of the reasons I picked up a PS3, and I’d love to get it added to my Steam library.

What would you say to anyone interested in bringing their titles to PlayStation?
Do your research. Sony are pushing this idea that it’s really easy to make a game on PlayStation and it’s certainly much easier than it was a few years ago, which is a great thing. However – that doesn’t mean it’s a walk in the park. There’s a ton of work you need to do behind the scenes, and many people don’t realize just how much effort goes into publishing a game as well as developing one. For example, if you want to release your game worldwide you have to submit it through the whole process twice – once for America and once for Europe. There are different rules, timeframes, stores and people in each region, so instantly you’ve doubled your work just from that. It’s really rewarding to make a console game, so don’t let that put you off, but everyone should go into it with their eyes wide open.

Thanks for your time answering our questions, Rob!

Titan Attacks is out now, and MouseCraft and The Swapper will be out before the Summer. We can’t wait to see what else Curve Studios have lined up for the Vita. What Curve titles have you played? What did you think of them and are you looking forward to this year’s offerings?

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Living life in pixels.

OrangePixel have set their sights on PlayStation Vita, and their like willing to miss. Merging the roguelike nature of Spelunky with the intense action of a side-scrolling shooter, the quality of budget-priced title Gunslugs took many a Vita owner by surprise when it made the jump from mobile earlier this month, firmly placing the Dutch developer on the metaphorical map. Next up, the studio has already planned to bring over yet another one of their games to Sony’s handheld, a Gauntlet style dunge0n-crawler by the name of Heroes of Loot.

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A look at the unique collaboration that spawned one of gaming's most unique soundtracks.

It may be the understatement of the year to say that Tearaway is a great game. In any given year many great games are released, which is what makes nominating titles for various “best of lists” so inherently difficult. Year in, and year out, great games sprawl across a multitude of genres and a vast landscape of platforms, delivered to us by creative minds and passionate hearts. However every so often a truly wonderful game is released, a game that transcends definition and utilizes the its platform not as a stage, but as an extension of the experience itself.

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Recently I got the chance to have a talk with Sharan Balani, the founder of Quickfire Games. Their studio recently introduced an interesting Kickstarter for a game called Wild Season, which Sharan and I talk a bit about as well as touching on other gaming (and Vita) aspects.

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Indie developer reveals details about newly announced title.

The PlayStation Vita stands one the great beacons for indie developers, playing host to some of unique and creative titles available on the market. Whether games are ports of existing properties or naively designed, Sony’s handheld seems to attract some of the most talented independent developers in the world. In fact, fostering strong and long-lasting relationships with creators has been the main focus for the PlayStation brand for some time now, and it continues to be moving forward.