On A Roll – developing an extreme rollerblading game
the time felt right and I told him that I was leaving the studio
Hello dear developers and game fanatics! My name is Jelle Van den Audenaeren, creator of the game On A Roll and here's our story about how it all started and what it took to get us where we are now.
Two years ago I walked up to my supervisor after debating for months whether or not I should. But the time felt right and I told him that I was leaving the studio. After ten years of working on animation movies I couldn’t resist the call anymore. I had been working on an inline skating game in my spare time and wanted to go further down this road. So I quit my job and started finishing up my prototype for what would become ‘On A Roll’, I enjoyed every minute of it. About a year later the game got Greenlit on Steam in matter of 4 days and I launched a Kickstarter which finished successfully thanks to our amazing social media community. Another six months later our production funding application for the Flemish Audiovisual Fund got approved, I hired my cousin–an experienced programmer–and that right there was the start of our two man show.
The game we are developing is an extreme rollerblading game that is characterized by it's visual style, organic controls and a huge range of possibilities. Gamers have a vast open world at their disposal where they can test their skills and let their imagination roam free. It's a life style simulation game that can be played as Explorer or Entrepreneur (where your main goal is to build, run and expand your own skatepark), this makes for endless possibilities. I’m an avid rollerblader myself and I want my passion for the sport to be reflected in every aspect of the game: characters, environments, lighting, sound... everything! We're striving to have it all look, feel and sound as authentic as it possibly can.
Because we 3D-scanned a lot of well known professional rollerbladers and motion captured all of their unique movements, fans of the sport will be able to play as their favorite pro rollerblader–or create a unique avatar that combines the styles of different skaters. Working with these rollerbladers was a great experience and it’s amazing to see them come alive on the screen as playable avatars. Using some of the best riders in the industry enforces the authenticity of the game, the same goes for the sound effects. We recorded all sounds using small wireless microphones taped to each skate and we did so at actual skate spots on as many different surfaces as we could think of. So when players skate on a metal ramp it will have that typical sound, as it would in real life.
As for the lighting, we try to emphasize a more atmospheric moody lighting which seems to be atypical for extreme sports games. This is an important aspect to us, because we want the player to be able to just cruise around and soak up the atmosphere. We were very happy when Unity eventually came out with their realtime Global Illumination system, that helped us a lot to improve our lighting.
I was just playing around, not really thinking this game would ever go anywhere
Ever since I started skating about 18 years ago, I'd been pondering the idea of a rollerblading game where you could do any trick you could think of and not be restricted by whether you actually had the guts to try it. At the time although I knew how to code a bit in C and I had some 3D Studio Max experience I didn't quite know how to put the two together. Fast Forward to 2011 my cousin told me about this game engine called Unity which he said was really intuitive to use. So I gave it a shot not really expecting much of it. But the ease of just being able to drop a script onto a 3D object in your scene and it just doing exactly what you expected, just blew me away. It literally put the art and the coding together for me. At first I was just playing around, not really thinking this game would ever go anywhere, but in that playful attitude the game started developing pretty fast and it soon became a lot more serious.
Our main challenge was that the inline skating sport has so many different grind variations, so we had to come up with an intuitive way to memorize them all
We just finished a tutorial for On A Roll, something that is extremely vital for our game, because the controls–even though they are very intuitive–can be a bit difficult to grasp at first if you don't quite understand the logic behind them. Like a lot of games they just take some time to get used to. The first time I played one of the EA SKATE games for example, the game asked me to go to the tutorial section before diving into it. I kind of dismissed it with a cocky attitude, thinking “man I've played lots of extreme sports games, I'm sure I'll get it in no time.” Of course SKATE's control scheme was so unique that it didn't resemble any of those games I'd played before. Like a child who finally realized he was being a little overconfident, I went back to the tutorial section and discovered that once you understand the mechanics behind the controls they're actually super intuitive and beautifully thought out. Those intuitive controls really were a source of inspiration for On a Roll's control scheme.
Our main challenge was that the inline skating sport has so many different grind variations (over 80 different ways to position the feet and body), so we had to come up with an intuitive way to memorize them all. I eventually came up with a system where basically each analog stick of your modern day controller influences a separate foot. By pulling the stick in a certain direction you will also aim the avatar’s corresponding foot in that direction. When combining the two analog sticks the player is able to have a 100% control over the positioning of each of the avatar’s feet while grinding. We basically tried to apply the same logic for every trick or stunt in the game.
It's been a crazy ride so far, but I really feel blessed that I was able to combine all of my passions into this project and still make a decent living out of it. We recently finished the alpha master of our game and are working hard to iron out all the kinks for the beta version, which should be finished some time after the summer. After that we will continue to work on the visual aspects and animations of the game, getting rid of any remaining bugs–with the help of dedicated beta testers–and of course start porting the game to consoles.
If you like our project and want to receive more development updates or news about the game, be sure to follow us at facebook.com/onarollstudio or Twitter: twitter.com/OnARollStudio