OlliOlli World is not just the first 3D title in the OlliOlli series, it also marks a broader departure from the simplistic pixel styles of the first two OlliOlli games into a world of vibrant colour and wild new characters.
The journey to develop this style has been a labour of love by the Roll7 art team. We spoke to Concept Artist Germán Reina Carmona, and Lead Environment Artist Laura Dilloway about their artistic process, and the path from initial concepts to finished game.
“When I’m drawing concepts – either for a character or for environments – I begin by looking at any descriptions that Lizz Lunney (Narrative Designer) has written up for the team,” explains Concept Artist Germán Reina Carmona, “and then I’ll take a look at the mural boards that the art and narrative teams put together for some image inspiration.”
“In the early days I had a lot of input also from Paul Abbott (former Lead Artist), who had often done some images or visual research of his own to get me started in the right direction. Once I’ve got my references together, it’s time to make some rough sketches, and then I check in with the team to see if I’m on the right track. After that, I’ll work on refining a particular image into a finished piece of concept art.”
“Chiffon is probably the character who went through the most iterations before we reached her final design – and I’m glad we took the time to really develop her properly as you see her not only at the start or end of levels, but also at every checkpoint through the game.”
“In some of the really early concepts, Chiffon was actually a guy called Charon – that changed when Lizz (Lunney) came on board, but the character was far from finished at this point. You can see a sense of her personality and style begin to shape up in some of these concepts I worked on – she’s definitely been on a journey design-wise!”
“The bubble pipe was definitely one of the big breakthroughs with her character design – it’s super whimsical and magical, and Dickie (McCarthy) and Theo’s (Droulez) amazing work on VFX make sure it looks fantastic in-game. I think it really gives this sense of her as somebody who’s definitely magical and quite strange, but also pretty laid-back and chill in her attitude to life.”
“Suze was called Sophie when I first started working on her, but personality and outfit-wise, she’s not changed too much. Her hair is a lot shorter than some of our early concepts, which I imagine the 3D art folk are pleased about!”
“The big change for Suze has been her camera – it’s always been there, but at some point Lizz mentioned this idea of giving it its own little face and personality. And so Cammy (it’s short for Cameron) was born – their peppy smile is just a really fun contrast to the less easily pleased Suze.”
“In a lot of ways, environment is harder to design concepts for than characters – there’s a lot of creative freedom and a lot of detail to get right, so I tend to start with props to get a feel for what an environment might look like. Then I’ll look at background NPCs – in Cloverbrook, which is a super forested area, I wanted to focus on a big variety of organic shapes and creatures, so everything from bees, to bears, to tree people made of stumps of wood. But the environment art team definitely have a huge role here in taking my ideas from 2D concept to in-game models, and they have a lot of creative freedom to change things or workshop my ideas. It’s really cool.”
“I look for shapes first when I’m breaking down concept art into what potential assets we need,” says Laura Dilloway, Lead Environment Artist. “Germán has been really, really busy this year so we don’t get many big environment concepts from him, but when we do they’re always a pivotal moment! From an image like the one below, we’re able to extrapolate most of the information we need to get started, and then the art is free to evolve from there. The first thing I look at is, what do we need for the gameplay-related elements – the paths and the grinds? The art for these is based on splines and has to work with very specific tools, so I’m already mentally breaking down how that might be done in order to work out what is feasible. Next, I’ll look at what main assets we need to really sell the main flavour of the zone, for example trees, rocks, or buildings, and how many variants of those we might need in order to give a good sense of variety, while at the same time making it feel like there’s a lot more content than there is!”
“Sometimes the narrative for a level will call for something a lot more bespoke, and on occasion there will be objects such as a giant skateable tree, or a massive bridge, that a whole level will need to be themed around. There’s a ridiculous number of levels in the game, so there’s a constant balancing process going on between making new assets that keep things fresh and exciting and support the narrative, and making sure we actually have time to build the levels themselves. We get some designs for individual props from Germán, so we’ll start with those, and at the same time I’m reading the level synopses and figuring out what key features we’ll need to support the main landscaping elements, along with some general ‘nice-to-haves’ which will generally flesh out the world.”
“At some point in the project, Lizz actually started making a note of these things directly in the narrative docs, which really sped up the process and allowed us to concentrate on coming up with things like inflatable pianos or giant stacks of waffles. This last part is something the whole environment team gets involved with! The artists are now at the stage where they generally just know what type and style of assets will be suitable, and after a quick check with me they go off and make what they need. It’s an absolute joy to go through and review the levels and see what weird and wonderful things they have come up with, (plus all the little scenarios they have set up with the background NPC characters), and I really hope that players will feel that joy too.”
OlliOlli World is available for pre-order now, and will be out on PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, and PC on February 8th. You can read our review of the game by clicking here.