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Copenhagen-based Triband is the studio behind what is easily one of the funniest, most joyful games of the year in What the Golf?
The team answered...most of our questions.
Who are you, and what the heck is What the Golf?
We are Tim Garbos, Peter Bruun, Lasse Astrup, Morten Skouboe, Felix Nordanåker, Simon Post and Rune K. Drewsen and we made a silly golf game, that’s not really a golf game. It’s the golf game for people who hate golf.
What the Golf? is the end product of a crowdfunding campaign. How did that go for you?
When you do a crowdfunding campaign everyone thinks it’s about hitting the hole, but it’s much better to hit the lake or the sand bunker. You need to please the crowd and put up a show to create awareness and build an army of lovers. In other words, don’t do a crowdfunding campaign solely to generate funds. If you get money out of it, that’s nice, but it’s all about hype -- we were so lucky that we got both.
How did you manage to get the comedy of the premise right? Was there a lot of iteration? How did you decide what order to present all the little ideas in?
We did what all standup comedians do, we took the game on the road. We showed it on conferences, tested it and noted what people found funny, and kept banging on it to see if we could make it better.
If you test any game with a game tester they rarely say what they dislike. They sit there in your office, eating and drinking whatever you gave them, and they really want to please you. So they won’t tell you if your game sucks. On the show floor, you just to stand back and watch if they laugh, and if they come back with a friend you know you got something.
What the Golf? contains a great many variations upon the theme of golf. How on earth did you come up with them all, construct them and decide on what order to present them? Did you have any you had to cut, and regret leaving out?
Golf is known all around the world and is mostly played by rich people, so it seemed like a safe target to ridicule. Terry Pratchett once said “Satire is meant to ridicule power. If you are laughing at people who are hurting, it's not satire, it's bullying.” which is true and one of the reasons that we picked those blockbuster games we make fun of in What the Golf?
The levels in the game are short, so if we bombard the player with jokes, hopefully, some stick. Doing comedy for a global audience is hard since comedy is very different around the world, jokes can hit and miss. Slapstick, on the other hand, seems to be popular everywhere, so we knew we were going to make a physics game.
A lot of the physics games from the past were funny because they were so hard to control (Octodad, Surgeon and Goat Simulator), so we wanted to make a physics game that was easy to control.
The catch with a game that’s easy to play and filled with slapstick is that people will write it off as stupid, so it needs to be spiced up with some “clever” fun. If you look at a Marx Brothers movie it’s filled with slap sick but it also has all this wordplay and puns, which is genius because everyone can laugh when someone slips in a banana and the people that find banana slipping a bit below them can laugh of the puns and smart dialog. Pixar is also very good at this in their movies, they always have a “kid” layer and “adult” layer, and What the Golf? has a similar thing. It’s a fun game to play for both gamers and nongamers alike. Everyone can understand that we are making fun of golf, but if you been around the block you will get all the references to other games and pop culture.
I have to ask...how has your experience been with being an Epic Games exclusive for a while?
Here is the recipe for our favorite banana cake.
150g caster sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 egg, beaten
2 very ripe bananas, mashed
190g self-raising flour
Prep: 10 min › Cook: 35 min › Ready in: 45 min
Grease and line a 2lb loaf tin. Melt butter, sugar and vanilla in a saucepan over a medium heat. Remove from heat and add the mashed bananas, mix well. Add the egg, mix well.
Stir in the flour and the milk.
Pour into the prepared tin and bake at 170 C / Fan 150 C / Gas 3 for 35 minutes, or until a skewer comes out clean.
Ed note: Pictured banana cake not necessarliy representative of preceding recipe.
About the gameplay, it is nice that each basic "hole" is fairly laid back in terms of difficulty, but also that golfing with all these different objects is different. Like the monitor-and-keyboard, the arrow, the ragdoll golfer, the carpet, and the many many other things, they're not just funny, but they also play differently. How did you do your physics, and were there any implementation issues in development?
We motion-captured everything and got a top-notch science team to analyze the data. Looked at it and translated everything to 0’s and 1’s and put it into Unity.
I love how the game introduces the bonus crown tasks, just as players start to wonder if they can go back to a particular favorite hole, the game reveals they not only can, but there's little trophy-like objects for doing so. Was there a temptation to have "bigger" rewards in the game?
The crowns are primarily there to make you revisit some of your favorite levels and secondly for the completionists. We tried a lot of different objects but ended up with the crowns since they seemed to communicate the sense of reward best. We have talked about the player unlocking different skins for the golf ball, but it didn’t feel right, so we canned it.
It takes a while before the game's little kindnesses become evident, like how time slows down when you make a shot while the ball is in motion. The UI is very simple and effective. Did it take a lot of tries to get it right? How about with special cases like multiple "balls?"
We never wanted the game to be hard, and we really wanted it to be so simple and easy that you could get your father to play it. The slow-mo feature was first made for the soccer level, but it turned out so good that we just used it everywhere. Wind is normally a big thing in golf games so we knew we had to do something with that, so adding fans to the levels seemed like the way to go, so there are there to make the level harder but they are also there to show you that times slows down when you aim.
How well has the game done for you? Were you worried that it might not sell well?
We always wanted the game to either flop big time or be a massive success. If we just got an okay sale, it would be much harder to use it. Then we had to sit down and find out what was good and what was bad. You don’t have that problem if it flops, then you know everything is rubbish. Right now it looks like it’s going to be a big hit.
This is for my personal satisfaction mostly, but might be interesting to people... have you played the ridiculous and wonderful Ribbit King, aka kerokeroking?
No, we never played that. But yes the Frog King is inspired by that game.