On A Roll: The Full Story
In 2014 the blade world’s imagination was captured when news broke of something long-promised and not fully delivered: a very good and carefully made rollerblading video game. Piling up thousands of Likes and hundreds of shares, the initial response to On A Roll was viral at its purest form. It was clear: people want a video game they can relate to. Now twelve months later and Jelle Van den Audenaeren has come forward as the one man army that has poured four years of his life into getting his vision within striking distance of completion. But to make the game release faster, better, and on the most platforms possible he needs your help, now, and we’ve got all the reasons and more below so read along to learn more about On A Roll.
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Jelle, it’s nice to start an interview and know who we’re addressing! Over the past year you kept a low profile while getting the game up and running — why was that? What did anonymity allow that going public would have prevented?
Well, it’s not so much the anonymity as it is the fact that I am developing this project pretty much by myself. I had a feeling that not everyone would have taken me seriously if I would’ve just made that information public right off the bat. So I kinda pretended that I was a small company of several people. I feel a little embarrassed about it now, though I still think it helped in building confidence in the project. In the end all that matters is that I deliver an awesome rollerblading game and I don’t think anyone will care whether it was built by a big studio of 50 people or a single individual with the help of some of his friends and other professionals.
First off, let us congratulate you on getting everything this far. You’ve managed to capture the imaginations of a lot of bladers (and now gamers) with your vision. How does it feel to be at this point in the process, right now?
It’s a relief because it took me quite a while to get the game to a point where I was more or less okay with revealing it to the public. It’s still far from perfect though, there are so many little things in the game where I literally cringe when I see them, because I have in my head the perfect version of it and it’s just a matter of time before I get it right.
At the same time it’s super exciting to see the encouraging responses I get on the Facebook page and from the Steam community. I had put a lot of effort in creating a certain atmosphere with the lighting, I didn’t want the game to just have this flat look. When reading some of the comments on these places I see a lot of people have picked up on that and they actually appreciate the look of the game, so that’s nice.
A year ago when you started to gain momentum, did you imagine that today you’d have almost $30,000 committed to the project from bladers all around the globe?
The Kickstarter has always been part of the plan in getting the game out there, I just wasn’t exactly sure when the game would be at a stage where it was presentable. Did I imagine it being a success? I knew that if I could make the game just as good as I imagined it in my head, it would be a hit. Whether I got close enough to that ideal, let’s find out.
You’ve covered a lot of the game’s background on the Kickstarter page (link HERE) and we got some good info in our first interview (link HERE). But speaking in practical terms, what have you learned during the game’s development: not only about game dev, but also about rollerblading and the many desires and conflicting interests of our core community?
The funny thing is that people in our community have incredibly high standards and expectations, which I’m obviously going to try and meet. Some of them even think it might put rollerblading back on “the map,” which would be awesome if it did, but the game is not going to get there without the support of our tight community. Looking at the number of people who have voted for their favorite pro skater (2000+) vs the amount of people who actually backed the project (600+) it’s clear that not everyone understands the need for this support. Then again, everyone obviously spends their money on whatever is their first priority. I’m just saying $20 is usually not going to make a difference for one person, but it could make a huge difference to the On a Roll crowdfunding campaign.
As for what I learned about game development, I learn new stuff everyday… small things here and there. You have to keep progressing when you’re developing a game, because there is always a new and better/more efficient way of doing the same thing. So you gotta keep up. One thing that was very new to me though was the PR part, so I had to learn that as I went along. But as with all things: as long as you keep having fun you’ll find a way.
Speaking of which, what are the most oft-repeated comments/questions you’ve been getting? Care to answer them again?
I guess the ones I read the most would be which pro riders will be in the game and for what platforms will the game be released. The answer is: I don’t know yet. I would love to have every single pro rider in there, but the reality is that the technologies I use to get those riders in the game are very expensive. To give you an idea, an average motion capture session of one day (which is barely enough to capture one rider) will set you back about 3000 euros ($3,374 US), a decent full color 3D scan will cost about 1500 euros ($1,687 US). This does not even include the costs of processing all this data. So you can imagine that if I wanted to effectively put everyone’s favorite pro rider in the game it would cost a fortune. So a lot of it will again depend on the size of the budget which I manage to raise with Kickstarter.
About the platforms, that’s another tricky one. Obviously I want as many people as possible to be able to enjoy the game. So I decided to go for the most popular ones: PS3 / PS4 / Xbox360 / Xbox One / PC / Mac / Linux. Now that’s quite a handful. Almost all of these platforms require certain platform specific modifications, some big, some small. In short: porting the game to all those platforms will take up lots of extra time or require extra people, either way it will cost more money. So that’s why I can only guarantee the release of On a Roll for certain platforms on the condition that we manage to raise more money on top of the minimum funding goal of $50k. So for the people looking to support the campaign by pre-ordering their copy of On a Roll, there is a $30 reward which covers any version of the game you would like, but unfortunately only on the condition that we make these stretch goals. I wish this could have gone differently, but these are the limitations I have to work with. I could make false promises and say I can deliver the game on any platform for those $50k, but I just don’t want to risk not being able to deliver what I promise.
What have been the hardest challenges to overcome so far?
I guess the most difficult thing about this whole project has been managing time while working a day job and trying to spend enough time with my wife and two kids. Typically I would come home from work, eat, spend some time with my family, tuck my oldest son into bed and then start working on the game. There have been many occasions when I wondered if I could keep doing this, but On a Roll has been my dream project for so long, I just want to do this — this game needs to get made and it needs to be the best it can possibly be!
How about your largest success to date?
One of the most rewarding things happened to me while I was giving a demo of the game at the Winterclash Tradeshow last February (2015). I was basically sessioning this steep curved rail which you’ve probably seen numerous times in the screenshots and demo footage. Now while I was doing that, a crowd of about eight or ten guys (from the UK I believe) had gathered behind me and they just started cheering and applauding loudly at every single grind I threw at that rail. It almost felt as if I was on the Winterclash street course participating in the pro finals. That was an amazing feeling to me! Hearing these guys being so excited about this thing which I had invested so many hours and hours into is definitely one of the more satisfying moments. If you’re out there reading this guys, thanks for the support!
How many hours have you invested into the project through today?
Well like I said this has been a spare time project up until now, but one that I’ve taken very seriously. Now, because my spare time was fairly limited and the project I’ve taken upon me of quite a complex nature, it has taken me about four years to get to the point where I am now. But that was after office hours, on week nights, weekends and holidays, so if you were to convert that to full time, it would be about two years or 5000 hours. :)
Creating anything from scratch is difficult, but if you do it alone it becomes exponentially more difficult once more people get involved. How has that transition worked for you, and how about moving forward when you secure funding and grow your team?
The people I’ll be working with once the funding is raised successfully are all people I either know very well or have worked with before, so I know pretty well what I’m getting into and I don’t foresee too much trouble there.
Changing gears a bit, let’s talk about Kickstarter and crowdsourcing. Infamously, Create Original raised $30k and has not been able to bring their product to market — not picking on them at all because they are hardly the only company to have delivery problems after getting funded. It’s way more common than it should be. But let’s say you come up short — what’s the plan then?
I made a pretty accurate production plan for On a Roll which has about a 30% safety margin built in. I’d say it’s very unlikely that we’ll come up short. But in the unlikely case that we would there are always other routes, like private investors, government funding or worst case scenario I go back to a regular job and finish the game in my spare time… I mean I’ve done it before. :)
Related to this is something some friends pointed out to me: bladers will commit more than $30k to a video game but a vast majority of bladers complain about the cost of their blade goods, some even resistant to $4 and $5 video content. If On A Roll succeeds as we all hope it will, what plans do you have to contribute to the improvement of the core blading community?
In a way I’m already doing something for the blading community and all of its big and small companies. First of all, I’m exposing rollerblading to a much wider audience of gamers and other sports fans, even people who are feeling a bit nostalgic about our sport. Chances are that if the game succeeds as planned and gets released for all major consoles, etc., that it will bring more people and thus more money back into it. I’m not saying On a Roll will have as big an impact as the Tony Hawk’s Pro Skater series had back in the day, but any increase would be greatly appreciated I assume. Other then that I’m also offering ads in the game starting as cheap as $500, which to me seems pretty affordable. This way I’m giving all of blading’s clothing and other brands a chance of exposure to this broader audience. Believe me, $500 for a huge billboard with your ad on it in a major location of the game is practically free compared to what this would cost on big budget productions.
As a non-gamer, the gaming news I hear most often is about mobile and how that’s dominating the market and stealing shares from consoles and computers. Reading the comments about On A Roll, a lot of people really want a console game. What are the pros/cons of going to dedicated platforms as opposed to something more open source that you could easily/quickly distribute, update as needed, and speed up your monetization?
There’s a few things that are really great about developing for consoles. Such as you know exactly what kind of hardware you’re developing for, whereas mobile devices all have very different hardware, and performance does vary between these different devices. So it’s very comforting to know that each and every Playstation 3 out there is going to perform exactly as well as the one on which you tested the game yourself. Updates are not really a problem anymore these days for consoles. As long as you have an internet connection you can have your game run an update automatically when the player launches it. One of the main reasons I didn’t want to go to mobile with On a Roll is that I felt a touch interface would become really frustrating to control the game. There’s only so many taps and swipes you can do and I didn’t want to have an onscreen controller displayed all the time.
Joking but not joking — you thought about re-skinning the game with scooters and making that Tony Hawk money?
Hehehe, well believe it or not this is a thought that has actually popped into my head at one point, but I never gave it any serious attention. The thing is I’m a rollerblader, I’ve been doing this for over 17 years and I’ve loved every minute of it. I’m just not sure if I would have the same dedication towards a sport which I’m fairly unfamiliar with. I mean sure, I could probably make a fair amount of money off of it, but I’ve learned from past experiences that you have to follow your heart and if you’re gonna try to do something which you’re not entirely passionate about just for the money, you’re shooting yourself in the foot.
Getting ready to wrap this up, walk us through some of the complex trick combos that will be available in the game.
I’m trying to keep away from those unrealistically long/arcade style tricks, so doing massive combos will probably not be a thing in On a Roll. Of course you will be able to do toe/heel rolls, cess slides into grinds, etc., so if you’re ready to get creative, you will be able to link up some pretty sweet tricks.
What’s the most far-out communication you’ve had from a blader or gamer since announcing the On A Roll Kickstarter?
Well actually the most far-out message would have to be from a French guy, who plainly wrote to tell me that he had the entire budget for the game – meaning $50k – and he was willing to invest in the game. However, before he would give me any info, he wanted to meet face to face. Now of course he got my attention, so I e-mailed back and forth with him for a bit, but it turned out there were strings attached to this deal and in general I really didn’t feel very comfortable about the whole situation. I didn’t entirely trust the guy. There was just something about the way he communicated that felt off to me. Who knows, he might have been a perfectly nice guy, but usually when I have a feeling about these things it turns out to be correct.
What was a bigger surprise, the Kotaku story or Steam accepting the game onto the platform?
I’d have to say the Kotaku story, because I had no idea they would pick up the game. It was also one of the first articles from a non-rollerblading source, so I was pleasantly surprised that they liked it and of course it brought a few extra Backers to the Kickstarter, so that was great too. I wasn’t foreseeing too much trouble getting greenlit on Steam, although I did not expect it to go that fast. I mean four days, that’s pretty cool.
When you’re done answering these questions, what tasks are waiting?
More interviews, doing everything I can to promote the hell out of this Kickstarter campaign. During these crowdfundings you really don’t find much time to do anything else really. You have to constantly reach out to press/online magazines to try and reach as wide an audience as possible.
Well, we imagine that’s the case. Best of luck with the final stretch of funding… and with wrapping up development. We can’t wait to play our copy!
Support On A Roll and visit their Kickstarter page now to order your copy of the game and make blade-game dreams come true.
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i dont want to support this game all characters i’ve seen look like fags.
comon, rollerblading didnt allways look like that take it into cosideration
@Jaggernaught WTF? really. I guess with comments like that, this community will succeed. So stupid.
I came, I read this article, I coueqernd.