Tucked away in an apartment down the road from New Cross station is a computer game development studio awaiting the launch of a new high-speed skateboarding game which promises to have a big impact on the gaming world.
The Roll7 team, led by directors Thomas Hegarty, John Ribbins and Simon Bennett, are among the army of small studios at the forefront of the independent game movement which has been making waves recently in the videogame industry. In their case they are using the urban landscape of New Cross and a shared background at Goldsmiths College as part of their springboard for success.
Their latest title, OlliOlli, has been picked up by Sony for the PlayStation Vita, a hand-held gaming platform. “We wanted to make a game that was challenging with deep gameplay and it isn’t necessary for it to be a blockbuster title to be able to do that,” said Hegarty.
The studio was founded 5 years ago and has deep roots in South East London. “Simon and I have known each other since we were about 4 years old and went to school together around Blackheath,” said Hegarty.
The team at Roll7 have not always been pure game developers as Hegarty explained that they started out as a digital agency as a means to make money before realising their dream of becoming a pure video game development studio.
Hegarty said, “When we first started we were looking for somewhere near to home so no commute, also cheaper rent.”
A great deal of creative agencies can now be found in Shoreditch, and New Cross is one of the more unlikely places to find a game development studio but Hegarty said that they “were looking at moving to Shoreditch a couple of years ago.”
He explained that to be able to run an office in Shoreditch they would have to take on an entire new project just to cover the extra rent and that is the point where it is being done for the sake of it.
Hegarty went on to say that it doesn’t matter where they are because it means they only have to focus on the product that they are creating instead of being accessible to clients.
On the back of their skateboard themed runner, Roll7 made their debut at this year’s Electronic Entertainment Expo (E3) in Los Angeles. For the uninitiated, E3 is the videogame world’s equivalent to Cannes as a spectacle.
When asked what inspired them to take up skateboarding as a theme, Hegarty gave a glimpse into their childhoods. “John and I were quite influenced by the skate culture, growing up. In fact, we did take a few skateboards with us to L.A.”
Some influences from the surrounding New Cross area even made it into OlliOlli. “A lot of the buildings you go past in the background are actual buildings that are around our office here,” said Hegarty.
“It was brilliant for us to receive feedback from a gaming community as varied as it is at E3,” said Hegarty, recollecting the best takeaways from their trip to America.
Reflecting on how their appreciation of videogames has changed over time Ribbins said, “I’m slightly more forgiving of games once you make stuff, you can look at it and see what they are trying to do with the mechanics that they are using.”
Most of the team at Roll7 are also current or graduate students from Goldsmiths University with one of them currently a part of the “Creative Computing” degree programme. They have also signed a contract with Goldsmiths to use audio processing technology which can analyse music files in real time to develop a new mobile game that adapts gameplay based on the tracks currently being played.
OlliOlli may look simple, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. With over 100 moves that the small side scrolling character can pull in and more difficulty modes to come in the future, Roll7 promises to be New Cross’ home grown success story in the world of handheld indie games.