Skate culture is a place for everyone

A chat with Jeremi Boutelet and Arthur Tubb about diversity and the OlliOlli World character creator

Just some of the incredibly diverse range of characters in OlliOlli World
Just some of the incredibly diverse range of characters in OlliOlli World

Taking Pride in our work

This Pride Month - while we work on new, exciting things that we’re not allowed to talk about just yet - the team here at Roll7 wanted to take a chance to look back at the OlliOlli World character creator.

Diversity, inclusion, and pride were all at the core of the character customisation system in OlliOlli World, just as they are at the studio as a whole.

I spoke to Arthur Tubb (Lead Character Artist and Animator), and Jeremi Boutelet (Character Artist) about how this labour of love came together.

"Skirts and dresses being some of the first things that went into the game"

Hi Arthur, Jeremi!

Arthur: Hi!

Jeremi: Hello!

Arthur, let’s start with you - would you mind sharing a little bit about what your involvement in this project looked like?

Arthur: So I’ve been at Roll7 for nearly four years now, meaning I came onboard pretty early in the development cycle of OlliOlli World, and was involved in designing the character customisation system from scratch - alongside Paul Abbott (Lead Artist) and John Ribbins (Creative Director). I also worked with Ev Amitay (Programmer) to get the system up and running from a technical perspective. A lot of the early work was focused on breaking down the character and thinking about how layering was going to work - we knew from the off that things like skirts were an important requirement, and that we wanted to have a range of body types available, so it was really key to figure out any potential clipping issues early on.

I remember skirts and dresses being some of the first things that went into the game, as well, which was pretty exciting - what was your process there?

Arthur: It was a case of trial and error and working at getting the skinning right so that everything looked good in motion. We didn’t want to just chuck skirts and dresses in without doing the work to make sure they looked great while the player is skating - and we didn’t have the tech overhead for a cloth sim, so, yeah, it was a case of putting the work in to get the skinning spot on.

It definitely paid off! There’s a lot of variety in there - and Jeremi, that variety is something you were quite involved in, right? Would you mind talking a little bit about your role on the project?

Jeremi: I’ve been here at Roll7 for around two and half years, so I actually joined during production for OlliOlli World - which was great because by that point a lot of the system and process had been set up and I could really jump straight in. Given the level of customisation that’s available, I was really impressed to see that mostly things were not too buggy even in the early stages. Of course there were some challenges, but overall the process was very smooth. I worked pretty closely with German Reina (Concept Artist) and Paul Abbott, taking concept designs and modelling them to be put in game - of course I also worked with Arthur on the more technical side of things. I worked on the character creator and on a lot of the NPCs.

"It's not the 80's anymore"

There’s a lot of overlap there, right?

Jeremi: Yes, many items that NPCs wear are also available in the character creator. There’s a lot of diversity in the game’s cast, and it made sense that that would be accessible to the player as well.

We’ve touched on this a bit, but that focus on diversity was something that I really noticed from the very first iteration of the character creator. Obviously during development we added heaps of new items, but I feel like inclusion has been a big focus since the start.

Arthur: Absolutely. It’s not just about wearing what you want, it’s about being who you want. So the aim isn’t just to make a character creator where you can look like yourself, it’s about feeling like yourself as well. I’m a skater - quite a few of the team are - and OlliOlli is so influenced by the culture of acceptance and inclusion you see in skateboarding. Skate culture is a place for everyone; for freaks, outcasts, and weirdos. We wanted anyone to be able to get in that character creator and make something that represents how they see themselves - and then get out there and get radical.

Jeremi: It was something that we thought about a lot as we continued to develop the customisation items, too. We were able to add quite a few new haircuts in the DLC, which we’d wanted to do from the beginning. Those really opened up more space for representation, so it was great to see those options finally make it into the game. 

"I personally love to experiment with different looks and styles"

Obviously the whole team was really delighted to see Montaigne talk about the OlliOlli World character creator and how it sort of spoke to them and played a role in their gender identity journey. That just feels like one of the most wonderful things to come out of this project. While you were working on the game, did you think a lot about what you were hoping players would be able to take from or enjoy about the character creator? How important do you think diversity is in games?

Jeremi: Honestly I was just enjoying the chance to make something that reflects how I see the world. You can dress how you want, look how you want - you’re not constrained to certain styles or locked out of wearing certain outfits because of gender or body shape or whatever. In a game like this, feeling represented isn’t only about making a character who looks like you - I personally love to experiment with different looks and styles in the character creator, and it’s such a breath of fresh air to play a game that isn’t all just white guys with stubble and guns. So the variety and the freedom to choose is what inspires me. But it’s different for everyone. Diversity means different things to all of us, and I want to make games that reflect that.

A skateboard fixed to the top of the rolly wheels from an office chair... looks safe
This particular board design never made it into the game... or past the Health & Safety inspectors I'd imagine!

Arthur: Games are such a wide-reaching medium in the modern world. If you think about all the people that gaming reaches now, it’s got to be easily as big as movies or TV, if not bigger. , at this point. With an audience that big, it doesn’t make sense for everything to be - as Jeremi says - a white guy with a gun.

Jeremi: It’s not the 80’s any more.

Arthur: Right. Games can’t just reflect what they were in the past. They should reflect the modern world. We didn’t want anyone to feel excluded. We did want people to feel seen and to have fun. The joy of character customisation is that you can really be inclusive in a way that maybe you can’t with just the one set character in a more linear game. But if you’re going to do it, I think you have to go all in and really make a system where anyone can be anything they want. Our biggest goal - our hope - was that players would feel welcome in our world. That was one of the pillars we set out right at the start of development.

"We didn’t want anyone to feel excluded"

I feel like you definitely achieved that! I know I have spoken at length about how much I love the character creator and the many, many options in it, so I won’t go into it again here other than to say that I do love it and I think it’s very cool. Thank you both so much for taking the time to give us all a bit of a behind the scenes view on how it all came together.

Happy Pride month from all of us at Roll7 - we would love to see what all of you have been making with the character creator, so please feel free to tag us in any screenshots or just to let us know in the replies what you’ve been making!