12-player mini-golf game Golf With Your Friends snuck out onto the Switch fairway for a cheeky few rounds towards the end of May and brought with it a dose of party-like levity to a sport that can get a teensy bit serious in real life.
We recently caught up with Kailan Clark, CEO of developer Blacklight Interactive, to discuss the game, the small team behind it, and how this craziest of crazy golf simulators has evolved after four years in Early Access on Steam.
For anybody that may be unfamiliar with the game, give us the elevator pitch for Golf with Your Friends and tell us what sets this apart from other golf games (or golf-type games) out there.
Kailan Clark: To put it simply, Golf With Your Friends is a fast paced, exciting, mini-golf game focused on fun with your friends! Golf With Your Friends stands apart from the rest, thanks to it featuring 12-player simultaneous games, various game modes and options to adjust to your liking, including changing your ball into different shapes and sizes, collision, and changing gravity or friction settings, all to increase the fun and keep your friends on their toes!
We understand Blacklight is a three-person team – can you tell us a little about who does what?
We are an all brother team from Brisbane, Australia. Alongside me are my two brothers, Brayden and Lachlan. Brayden is my older brother and art is his focus, digitally sculpting and painting his way through the game; Lachlan is my younger brother and he is an all-rounder, handling art, modelling and FX. My passion is game design and programming, we have spent the last four to five years growing our talents and learning new things!
What games influenced you when you were developing Golf with Your Friends?
We play such a variety of genres from simulators, indies, FPS games, and MMOs so we get inspiration from many different places, it’s hard to list just a few. We looked to Dungeon Defenders, World of Warcraft and Overwatch for our art inspiration as these games have such a beautiful and unique art style, we thought that our take on these would suit the game perfectly. We started work on Golf With Your Friends because we couldn’t find anything like it at the time, it’s been something I have wanted to play for a long time now and it turned out I would have to be the one to create it!
GWYF has been in Early Access on Steam for several years now. How has the game changed and evolved in that time?
We did not have any prior study or experience in developing games before starting our journey with Golf with Your Friends... so I think it’s fair to say the game changed as we gained more knowledge and experience.
From the very start our focus was integrating the community into the development of Golf With Your Friends, we listened to what the community wanted and slowly crafted the game into what it is today. For instance, the map ‘Twilight’ was entirely suggested by the community on our development streams; people would design the holes and send in designs for us to create live on stream for them.
We did not have any prior study or experience in developing games before starting our journey with Golf with Your Friends. Instead we learnt through YouTube videos and online articles during development, so I think it’s fair to say the game changed as we gained more knowledge and experience.
Blacklight partnered with Team17 at the start of 2019. Tell us a bit about how you came to that decision and effect of the partnership on the game and the team.
Our small team was just not equipped and lacked the knowledge to bring Golf With Your Friends to consoles; we needed the help from a third party, and we were super comfortable with Team17. Debbie and the team have been a blast to work with and have the same vision for the game as we do. The outcome really shows and it’s the best decision we made!
Anybody after a straight golf game definitely won’t be getting that with GWYF! When you’re designing a hole or course, what elements are needed to make a really good one?
Feedback would be the biggest but there are a few things that you need for each hole on one of our maps. The holes need to gradually get more intricate and harder but still need to flow and not confuse the user. The challenge of the hole needs to be obvious with some hidden shots or tricks sprinkled throughout the map for that extra flair!
Ultimately if we didn’t have fun playing the holes, we would make changes or scrap them entirely. We would then let the community play various builds of the game (prior to our 1.0 release) and listen to what they had to say. You as a single person can have some particularly good ideas, but imagine 100 people or more, they will come up with things you would have never thought of!
What was the biggest development challenge you faced in bringing the game to Switch?
Bringing the game to the Switch wouldn’t have been possible without Team17’s partnership and expertise.
The biggest challenge we faced was getting the game to run just as well on the console as it does on a desktop computer. This was quite the challenge, but I think the team have done an incredible job!
Will the game get the same updates as the PC version going forward? Will Switch players be able to make their own custom courses or have any exclusive features?
Every console version will get the updates coming to PC. We are working on a way to give console users the ability to access user created worlds to unlock a curated selection of maps! [We've amended this line to be more accurate after being contacted by the team - Ed.]
The game was updated with a level featuring Team17 stablemate Worms – is there any chance we’ll see other crossovers in the future?
The PC version of Golf with Your Friends already has another Team17 crossover, based on The Escapists. As for future crossovers, I’m not so sure – but wouldn’t it be fun to have one based on Alien Breed?
Every console version will get the updates coming to PC. We are working on a way to give console users the ability to access user created worlds to unlock almost unlimited maps!
Obviously, COVID-19 has been affecting people all around the world, game devs included. How has the situation changed your day-to-day over the past couple of months? Work-wise, has anything surprised you – positively or negatively – about the situation?
I think we as a gaming community have grown, we have seen a rise in people social distancing, staying home and getting stuck into some great games. Playing video games is a fantastic way to keep your mind active and keep up socially with your friends and family. Our studio has been working from home, which is pretty easy for us as our work life is entirely focused on our computers. We are very lucky in that respect and we feel for those who have lost their jobs or loved ones in these horrible times.
Do you have future plans or DLC in the works for GWYF?
We and Team17 are currently putting the finishing touches to the console versions of the course based on The Escapists franchise, so keep your eyes out for when that drops!
Finally, when you haven’t been working on Golf With Your Friends, are there any other games you’ve been enjoying recently, on Switch or elsewhere?
Slightly biased but Overcooked 2 and Moving Out are fantastic additions on the Switch, my girlfriend and I have had many laughs playing them. My go-to games recently are Risk of Rain 2, BeamNG.drive and Stormworks: Build and Rescue, the teams behind these games have done an incredible job and I cannot wait to see how they change in the future.
Our thanks to Kailan. Golf With Your Friends is out now on Switch eShop - check out what we thought in our review.