From Game Jam to Release
Published 2 years ago
The Development of Party Golf
My name is Aran, and I'm a developer for Giant Margarita, a small development company based in picturesque Hobart, Australia.
We're a somewhat unusual team, comprised entirely of PhD candidates (including myself) and our two PhD supervisors. By day, we research the positive effects video games can have on behavior, learning, and emotion; by night, we develop couchplay games.
But let’s start the story at the start. At Giant Margarita, we’re huge fans of 48 hour game jams.
The crunch. The free-flowing ideas. The bleary eyed debugging at 4am. The cold pizza. A perfect environment for game development. Unity suits these scenarios perfectly.
Ian Lewis, the founder of Giant Margarita came up in secret with the perfect idea for a game that could be completed in a 48 hour game jam, scheduled for the Easter break of this year. At the end of the jam, we were going to host a party, where our friends could come and play the game we had just made. We were pumped. We assembled at Ian’s house, and the 6pm start rolled around.
The stopwatch was started.
Ian revealed his secret idea.
Some of you may be familiar with a little mobile game called Desert Golfing by Captain Games. You shoot a little ball from one side of the screen, across procedurally generated terrain, to the hole. The game is so addictive. It’s pure in its simplicity.
Ian’s idea was this: Multiplayer Desert Golfing… in real-time. No waiting for your turn. A simple race to the hole, all at the same time. Chaos was the aim of the game.
The idea was perfect for a game jam. 12 hours in, the core game was complete. It was fun. We shouted at each other as we played. We jostled for first position. It was already a great party game. But then someone suggested that we should have different balls sizes.
We all agreed that would be neat.
And then someone else suggested we should have different ball shapes.
That too, was a great idea.
These suggestions kept rolling in, and we kept adding these small features as the game jam progressed. We added bananas, wind, low gravity, power-ups, you name it.
What we realised was that the core game was awesome, but the customization was the icing on the cake.
We realised that Party Golf, as it came to be called was a game of duality.
It was foremost a simple physics sandbox. You’re moving your ball to the hole. But when you add three more people moving their ball, competing with you, new and emergent strategies arose. Our core art style reflected this simplicity. The core visuals are composed of only simple geometric terrain. Our backgrounds are simple two tone mountain-scapes, with a few pine trees peeking over the hills.
But the game was also a physically exciting game to play, and we wanted to reflect that nature visually and aurally too. Our final style was almost like applying a filter, or double exposing the graphics.
Simple sprite graphics, with a crazy brush painting all over it.
The extravagant Party swirling around the pure Golf.
We added lurid fireworks, crowds cheering as your ball rolls towards the hole, terrain that explodes and pulsates in color as it struck by everyone’s balls. A menu that contains hundreds of game modifiers that can create trillions of game combinations.
48 hours elapsed. We had made this weird, multiplayer golf hybrid and we were attached to the idea. We felt like we had made something really unique. But the party with our friends was the true test. Had we made a game that sucked in other people’s eyes? Would everyone play for a few minutes, shrug their shoulders and say: “Maybe next time you’ll make something fun.”
What happened blew us away. People stayed for match after match. People fiddled with the game modifiers to get the perfect combination that they wanted to play. They screamed as their ball rolled toward the hole. They booed when a well-timed mid-air collision with another player ruined their hole-in-one. We knew we were on a winner.
Jump forward to October/November of this year, and we were presenting Party Golf at PAX Australia on the Indie Rising floor. Strangers and friends played together. Some people won, some people lost. Everyone had a blast. We had made a true party couchplay game. A game that we could have played in our childhoods, in our friend’s bedrooms, with four controllers cords snaking toward a 19” CRT TV. But instead of four friends, it was a crowd of 60,000 people. And it worked flawlessly. People understood where we were coming from. Toddlers to septuagenarians, all played the game, and all had a chance to win.
The future is good for Party Golf. We’re expecting a June 2016 release of the game on PS4, with a Steam release not long after.
Our Kickstarter trailer sums up our journey, and Party Golf perfectly.
If you’re interested in trying out Party Golf, there is a PC Demo on our Kickstarter page, free of charge.
As for Giant Margarita? We’re going to keep making party games, keep drinking margaritas, and hopefully keep making games into the distant future.
Giant Margarita