Dangerous Golf – Three Fields Entertainment Interview
A number of us enjoyed the recently released Dangerous Golf here at Console Obsession, and it was a remarkable achievement for Three Fields Entertainment, a small indie start up of just 11 people. We spoke with Creative Director Alex Ward about the challenges experienced during development as well as other aspects of the spectacularly destructive golf game.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and your company and as to how Dangerous Golf came about?
I’m Alex Ward and I’m Creative Director of Three Fields Entertainment. I co-founded Criterion Games in 2000 with Fiona Sperry, who is now CEO of TFE. We’ve been making video games together since 1999. We’ve directed games such as Burnout, Burnout 2, Burnout 3 Takedown, Burnout Revenge, BLACK, Burnout Paradise, Need for Speed Hot Pursuit and Need for Speed Most Wanted. We decided to leave Electronic Arts back in 2013 and form our own studio. We’re an 11 person team. Most of the team used to work with us at Criterion.
There’s only 11 of you at the moment, are you hoping to expand the company? Or keep things small and simple?
We’re a small independent development studio. We’re always looking to hire talented people who want to be part of something small. I think we will grow, but only slowly. Resumes to firstname.lastname@example.org!
I bet when you were brainstorming games for Three Fields Entertainment’s first release, a Burnout-style racing game was one of the suggestions? What about a Black-style FPS?
Actually, neither of those were ever on the table to be the first title. We’ve been making driving titles for thirteen years. We were happy with every single one of them, but we were itching to try something new. New ideas are the lifeblood of the industry. If we wanted to carry on doing the same sorts of games then we would have stayed at Electronic Arts. We want to do a driving title next. BLACK was an opportunistic title for the PlayStation 2 hardware in 2006.
What other titles were suggested for the game before deciding on Dangerous Golf?
We didn’t have any. We trademarked the name on the first day we all got together as the new Studio.
You are proving to be very much a player focused company, and the recently released update is proof that you are listening to feedback; will the game continue to evolve over time?
No. As we said earlier, we’re a small indie team. Tiny by comparison to almost all other teams operating on the platforms we develop for. We’ve always listened to feedback and our customers and we all take that really seriously. Whilst we’d love to be able to add more levels to the game – the reality is that we just can’t afford to do so.
I would have loved to have had a traditional English pub to smash up in the game, can you let us know if any planned environments didn’t appear in the final game? If so, what kind of environments were they?
You’re quite close. Sports Bar was a level we toyed with for a few weeks. Tables, chairs, bottles, glasses, taps, kegs, neon signs – that sort of thing. A cross between “Cheers” and something like a “Hard Rock Cafe.” Perfect setting for a golf game really.
I was completely in awe at the amount of destruction that you can cause in the game as well as the richly detailed environments, was it a complicated thing to get everything working together?
Yes. Thanks for noticing! It’s a game that had never been attempted before, on hardware none of us had ever worked on before, built using Unreal Engine 4 – which none of us had ever used! We were excited about making a physics based game where the player got to play with a dynamic environment. So far, most games have very static environments. That means that not much can move around, be knocked over or destroyed. If destruction does happen, it is often cleared away quickly for technical reasons. We wanted players to be able to make a mess, and then get to continue to play in that mess.
The game has removed a lot of real life golf rules, were the rules ever more similar to real golf during its development?
Not really. We figured that most golf games were pretty boring unless you really loved the sport itself. We much prefer to throw away the rule book. There’s no point, unless you’re trying to offer a true simulation of something. Dangerous Golf is about taking risks to earn big scores. So the whole golf concept of PAR and Stroke Play would not work within that premise. In real golf, you have to play it safe to avoid unnecessary Strokes. The lowest number of shots wins. In our game you play for Score not Strokes. We like to think about things purely in game terms and be freed from any restrictions. We created a new sport, and with that we got to create the Rules. Golf games are about precision and deliberation. Instead, our game set out to be a cross between the Crash Mode from Burnout 3:Takedown and Midway’s NBA Jam arcade game. (BOOMSHAKALAKA!)
During development, was there ever the inclination to make the game zanier and more cartoon-like than the finished product?
In short, yes and no. Yes to pushing the boundaries and putting in things that had never been tried. That gave us stuff like using Glue to stick to the walls and Bucket Blasts (which came from landing in a Mop Bucket one day). We also toyed with ceiling based Flags and being able to flip gravity around.
Replays would have been very welcome in the game, why weren’t they included?
Replays sound fun to everyone who hasn’t had to spend time implementing them and testing them for a videogame development. They were the final work that was completed on the penultimate night of development on the first Burnout title – and the bane of our lives on the second. Dangerous Golf runs a very intense physics simulation the whole time, and doing Replay work would have eaten up a huge chunk of our development time. We chose to focus on things we felt were more important – such as getting Friends and Global Leaderboards and Online Play running. Remember, we’re a tiny team with just three engineers!
Is there anything else that you would have loved to have in the game but, for one reason or another, weren’t able to?
We would have loved to have all three versions run at the same resolution. And we would have loved to have been able to run nVidia’s’ Flex liquid simulation work in the console versions. PC owners with high-end GPU’s can turn this feature on.
I found the online options quite disappointing, as I wasn’t able to properly see what my opponents were doing, I’m guessing that, in some ways, online multiplayer was difficult to implement for such a small team?
Team size wasn’t the constraint there. The constraint is that players are interacting with over 3500 dynamic objects in the Holes. Modern shooters mainly only network player positions of 24 people on consoles. Networking incredibly intensive physics simulations is a challenge for a massive development team – and even more so for a tiny indie like us. It is the same reason why games like “Just Cause 3” don’t have networked simulations. Throwing physics around online is incredibly tough.
Has the game met your expectations in terms of sales so far?
No, not yet. We pooled our life savings to start our studio and to start making games. We’re a 100% player supported Studio. Every copy sold directly supports our 11 person development team. The money goes to the people who actually make the game. So a big thank you to everyone who has bought our work so far!
Real life golf is so boring compared to Dangerous Golf, would you agree with this statement?
Well, we have heard some rumours that the PGA Tour might try a few Holes in the toilets at Augusta next year – so we’ll have to wait and see.
Who is the best Dangerous Golfer in the office?
It’s rumoured that one of our engineers was born in a secret government facility. He’s half man, half machine.
Any hints as to what you might be working on in the future?
It’s no secret that we’d like to get going on a driving title next.
I was surprised at the 3+ pegi rating, does this mean that impressionable youngsters might end up playing a real life version of Dangerous Golf in their living rooms and damaging everything from the TV to their mother’s finest China?
Well, it will serve her right for frittering away her money on tasteless tat, won’t it?
Thanks to Alex Ward for answering our questions.
Dangerous Golf is now available to purchase on PS4, Xbox One and PC. You can read my review here.