This is (not) a golf game

Find out how a shared loathing of golf in­spired Triband to cre­ate one of 2019’s most bizarre games, What The Golf?

Games TM - - CONTENTS - Rune K Drewsen of Triband Talks us Through The cre­ation of This Gen­er­a­tion’s strangest sports Game, WHAT The Golf?

there’s a grow­ing band of in­die game mak­ers who are look­ing to break free of the con­straints of genre con­ven­tion, free of the pres­sures of hard­ware op­ti­mi­sa­tion and, most im­por­tantly, free of the shack­les of any kind of nat­u­ral law of logic. These are de­vel­op­ers who want to cre­ate some­thing silly. Some­thing ab­surd. Some­thing strange. And at the fore­front of that push right now is Triband from Den­mark with What The Golf? sched­uled for re­lease in 2019.

“Our goal from the be­gin­ning was al­ways to make some­thing that was out there and to push the bar­rier in what com­put­ers games could do,” Triband co-founder and COO Rune K Drewsen tells us. “When we start on a project, we strive to make peo­ple who play it feel like ‘why didn’t I come up with that?’”

Triband’s story is a pe­cu­liar one in some re­spects, but per­haps not so un­fa­mil­iar. It was founded by Drewsen along with Peter Bruun and Tim Gar­bos. Drewsen comes from an ad­ver­tis­ing back­ground, and met de­vel­op­ers Bruun and Gar­bos while work­ing in an old school in the heart of Copen­hagen run by a fem­i­nist art col­lec­tive. It was see­ing how the game de­vel­op­ers were in­ter­act­ing with each other and shar­ing ex­per­tise that drew Drewsen in. “I’ve only been in the game busi­ness for three years, and one of the things that got me ex­cited about this busi­ness in the first place was ac­tu­ally the shared sense of com­mu­nity that we es­pe­cially have here in the Scan­di­na­vian coun­tries,” he ex­plains. “When I first saw this I was very ex­cited be­cause I have a back­ground in ad­ver­tis­ing, and in ad­ver­tis­ing ev­ery­one is com­pet­ing with ev­ery­body, even within the of­fice. Ev­ery­body is the best at ev­ery­thing. When you leave the com­pany you try and get so many of the clients to fol­low you over to a new com­pany, and ev­ery­body is claim­ing that they’re the best at ev­ery­thing. And it’s kind of tir­ing. When I saw this hospi­tal­ity or shared com­mu­nity feel­ing or what­ever you would call it, I was re­ally ex­cited and thought ‘Wow, I need to switch now, be­cause this is just amaz­ing’.”

And so, as Drewsen ex­plained at the start, the mis­sion was put in place to try to sur­prise and push be­yond the con­ven­tional think­ing. This was cer­tainly ev­i­dent in Triband’s de­but game Key­board Sports. This mix­ture of sports and point and click con­trol used the en­tirety of the key­board with it all dis­played on screen, and with your char­ac­ter mov­ing to what­ever key you pressed. It was a pretty in­no­va­tive take on us­ing the key­board as a con­troller. “We felt it was a shame that ev­ery­body had this awe­some game con­troller in front of them and ev­ery­body was only us­ing like four keys,” Drewsen tells us. “We re­ally wanted to make a game that used all of the keys, even the ‘taboo’ keys like Home and Es­cape, those keys that you never get to press. The idea was re­ally that when peo­ple sat down in front of Key­board Sports they should have that feel­ing that you have as a kid when you see a key­board for the first time and

when we start on a project we strive to make peo­ple who play it feel like ‘why DIDN’T i come up with that?’

you just press all of the but­tons and the type­writer or com­puter or what­ever it is, makes in­puts and you’re amazed by it.”

It holds up very well, and cap­tures the spirit of what Triband is try­ing to achieve, turn­ing con­ven­tions on their head, re­think­ing norms, but also work­ing within recog­nis­able fields, so as not to scare too many peo­ple away. “I think the good thing about both Key­board Sports and What The Golf? is that you don’t need to be a hard­core gamer to en­joy the game,” Drewsen adds. “They’re fairly easy to pick up, and I think I could even get my mum to play it. A lot of the ref­er­ences in What The Golf? she won’t get at all be­cause she’s not into videogames, but I don’t think that’s a prob­lem be­cause I see the whole project like a Pixar movie where it needs to work on two lev­els. It needs to be fun to play, and if you get the ref­er­ences and all that then you will en­joy it even more, but it’s not nec­es­sary that you get the ref­er­ences.”

So what is What The Golf? Well, on the sur­face it’s a golf game, not sur­pris­ingly, but when you ac­tu­ally play it and see it in ac­tion you’ll come to un­der­stand that it’s re­ally only a golf game me­chan­i­cally. While hit­ting a ball with a club to­wards a hole is where things be­gin, mov­ing ob­jects to­wards an end point by any means nec­es­sary be­comes the real mis­sion. It begs the ques­tion, how did all of this get started? “We were sit­ting around dis­cussing games, and I can’t remember which games we were dis­cussing, but it turned out that no­body in the of­fice liked golf or golf games,” Drewsen tells us, but that just seemed to spur them on. “So we thought that it would be ob­vi­ous to make a golf game. Can we make a golf game that we would find fun? Can we make some­thing that’s funny? How come it has to be this bor­ing? Can we change that?”

There was, how­ever, one small snag in that plan. “Un­for­tu­nately, no­body who works here knows any­thing about golf,” Drewsen con­tin­ues. “We’re good at mak­ing games, but we’re not good at golf, so we just started mak­ing what we thought was a golf game.” What fol­lowed sounds like a free-wheel­ing jour­ney through dif­fer­ent con­cepts and cre­ative direc­tions that al­lowed the team to ex­per­i­ment and test out what kind of feel and chal­lenge it wanted to take on with its in­ter­pre­ta­tion of a golf game for peo­ple who hate golf.

“It was orig­i­nally some­thing com­pletely dif­fer­ent and was much darker and more com­plex, in a way. The work­ing ti­tle at the time was Golf Ver­sus Evil be­cause we wanted to have a golf game with boss fights, so it kind of had this Dark Souls feel to it, in a way.” But that di­rec­tion didn’t seem to chime with Triband’s aes­thetic and mis­sion of fun, ir­rev­er­ent and ac­ces­si­ble gam­ing, so it had to pivot. “We said, ‘It’s not work­ing. It’s not fun to make and it’s too gloomy and too dark. We need to spice it up’. Then we re­booted the whole project three times, and in the end we came up with What The Golf? and at this time we had so many dif­fer­ent golf me­chan­ics that we thought, ‘Can’t we just put all of them in a game?’. Then we just started de­vel­op­ing this crazy pro­to­type that we put in the game.”

That might sound like it would cre­ate a rather an­ar­chic or dis­jointed gam­ing ex­pe­ri­ence, but What The Golf? holds it­self to­gether with its sin­gu­lar com­mit­ment to ab­stract think­ing and art style. The for­mer makes a virtue of con­stantly chang­ing, evolv­ing and sur­pris­ing. The later cre­ates a wel­com­ing at­mos­phere that plays well against the physics en­gine, help­ing to soften the edges that might oth­er­wise emerge.

i think when flash Died i feel that a lot of cre­ativ­ity also Died. Now, with unity, that cre­ativ­ity is blos­som­ing again

“Ba­si­cally we used the same artist as we did with Key­board Sports,” says Drewsen. “He’s a Swedish guy called Si­mon Post, and he lives in a cabin in the woods. He just has this cre­ative en­ergy and this awe­some art style, and he’s very quick, so when you tell him to do some­thing he’ll do it fast, which is im­por­tant I think. So the art of the game is based upon his art style, and then it’s su­per in­ter­est­ing when you do that kind of art style with a physics-based game, be­cause you get some­thing that’s not ‘out there’ as much, but it plays with peo­ple’s ex­pec­ta­tions, and if you have bright and solid colours they ex­pect some­thing that’s not so se­ri­ous, which What The Golf? def­i­nitely isn’t, and they’ll ex­pect some­thing silly and safe, and they might even ex­plore more and do more crazy things that they wouldn’t do in some­thing more pol­ished.”

A great ex­am­ple of this is one of the ear­li­est events that lets you know What The Golf? is not go­ing to be like your typ­i­cal golf­ing ex­pe­ri­ence. Hav­ing been in­tro­duced to some­thing that looks pretty eas­ily iden­ti­fi­able as a mini golf course, you drag back from the ball, an ar­row ap­pears that grows as you drag fur­ther, you re­lease, and the ball moves in the di­rec­tion of the ar­row, hope­fully to­wards the hole. The ball goes in and you move on. So far, so golf. But then on an­other at­tempt a golfer is now on screen. He wasn’t there be­fore. You drag back from the ball once more and re­lease… but it’s the golfer that goes fly­ing. Do the same again to­wards the hole, and the mo­ment he hits the flag you’ve com­pleted the course. Our de­scrip­tion re­ally doesn’t do it jus­tice, but that one hole has proven to be a real lit­mus test of play­ers for Triband.

“It’s in­ter­est­ing be­cause with that level, when we show­case that, five per cent of peo­ple think they’ve done some­thing wrong and bro­ken the game, and the rest will just laugh and have fun and play around,” Drewsen re­veals. “I find that su­per in­ter­est­ing. How come they think they’ve bro­ken it? I think it’s a bal­ance. We don’t want to lose them and we don’t want them to think they’re bad. We want to en­cour­age them that they’re do­ing good.”

That’s now the chal­lenge for the team; mak­ing sure that peo­ple don’t have those mo­ments of con­fu­sion and feel in­vited to ex­per­i­ment and ex­plore with the me­chan­ics. “I think there should be stuff

Rib­bit King 2003 On the sur­face of things this is a golf game, ex­cept you’re hit­ting a cat­a­pult with a mal­let to fire a frog around a level to in­ter­act with as many ob­jects as pos­si­ble and put up the big­gest score. But other than that, clearly golf. goof­ball goals 2014 We like to think of this one as the QWOP of foot­ball games, as two sides of play­ers who are an­i­mated a lot like they have their shoelaces tied to­gether at­tempt to knock a ball into the op­po­si­tion goal. Be­yond that, the rules of the game do not ap­ply. sports­friends 2013 A fan­tas­tic mul­ti­player ex­pe­ri­ence, es­pe­cially when you can get four play­ers on the go at once and prefer­ably lo­cally, this PS4 and PC ti­tle has all of the trap­pings of great sport­ing com­pe­ti­tion, but noth­ing we could eas­ily iden­tify as a real-world sport. be­hold the Kick­men 2017 Cre­ated by a team that ad­mits it doesn’t re­ally know much about the rules of foot­ball, never the less man­ages to har­ness some of the me­chan­ics of with a satire of the beau­ti­ful game rather well. Be­hold The Kick­men Sen­si­ble World Of Soc­cer blood bowl 2 2015 A great ex­am­ple of real sport turned into some­thing com­pletely orig­i­nal, Blood Bowl has tran­si­tioned nicely from the world of table­top gam­ing to videogames and the crazy tac­ti­cal bat­tle and vi­o­lence, on of­fer here can be quite en­gross­ing.

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