The first time we got wind of Ghetto Golf was back in April of 09. Since then it has been making its way around rumor mills and review boards. However, no one's really gotten enough information to really know anything concrete. You wanted the info, So we got it!
Shogungamer tracked down Illfonic --The creators of Ghetto Golf-- and got an exclusive interview along with some exclusive pre E3 screenshots. Enjoy!
Michael: First off, who are you and what do you do at Illfonic?
Kedhrin: My name is Kedhrin Gonzalez, Lead Designer and Co-Founder of IllFonic. I handle directing production on Ghetto Golf, designing future games, working with partners, making levels, and artwork.
Michael: We understand that the game play will be arcade style but still deliver some depth, with some holes taking up to an hour to complete. How did you make sure that each hole will be challenging, yet fun? In other words, Balance the appeal between that "easy pick up and go game" and a more in depth experience.
Kedhrin: There definitely are different game modes in Ghetto Golf. One of the modes is Adventure Mode, which follows Vonte (the main protagonist) through a Mature Comedy Satire storyline (we cannot stress ‘comedy’ enough). In this mode, Vonte will have to communicate with people in the neighborhood, fight people, investigate and discover things to be able to golf the hole. Someone in the neighborhood knows where the hole is and you gotta get them to tell you where it is before Vonte can progress. There is also the Enemy Golfer-- who’s a constant aggressor in the game. So yeah, in Adventure Mode a hole could take an hour to start from the ‘mission’ to the end of the ‘hole’. Be aware though, golfing is always present, even in the missions… as golfing is a weapon itself. You could get your spiked ball and aim it at some guys head… stab him with it and watch all of his buddies come at you with guns and all that.
Holes can be simple, like the window of a person’s house, to something more ridiculous like the window a moving car. We want to take full advantage of the fact you are rebounding the ball with different balls and power ups. We have it all put in our prototype and its pretty dope. The level of strategy for golfing is something completely fresh-- no one has done anything like it before. We also have ‘Just Golf’, another game mode where its none of the fighting/adventure… just straight golf mechanics using a ton of different courses…. When you have an open area, you have so much limitless possibilities for how many golf courses you can have… so we’ll throw in a ton for our casual players who just want to play with the mechanics. I think the Adventure mode is going to put a smile on our audiences face. It’s a hard thing to wrap people’s minds around – because it hasn’t been done before, but we got it in... dude is it fun.
Michael: With Ghetto Golf being loosely based around Raphael Saadiq's youth, we are all wondering what type of environment the player will be thrown into. Is it going to be an open sandbox like environment where one can walk around and discover the new courses in the streets of Oakland? Or a closed course selection that unlocks with better advancement?
Kedhrin: We’ve discussed how much we want to bring Oakland and Raphael’s past with the sport into the game. We aren’t saying Ghetto Golf is in ‘Oakland’ --- out of respect for Oakland. We do call it the ‘Bay Area’ or ‘The Town’… use clear landmarks from there, etc. However, we use it as influence for us to build a fictional story/world on. I took Raphael’s vision and past from golfing in his youth and transformed it into a completely new sport. Ghetto Golf is more of an ‘adaptation’ of golf. We knew the concept left room for some funny story, so we put in Adventure Mode. In Adventure mode, players will interact with residents of the neighborhood, more like Yakuza/Shenmue/Zelda styled. We want the player to get sucked into a comedy environment (We are in discussions with a known writer to aid us in making sure it’s hilarious). Then you play the course right there in the neighborhood you’ve been exploring. The neighborhood is a huge part of the game. I mean, what would you expect if you went into an area known for its mean streets… dropped the ball and started playing golf? You better have a weapon on you or are able to run like a cheetah… that’s for damn sure.
Vonte will be making friends… there’ll be the neighborhood bully… the crackhead who won’t leave you alone and all that. The thing is, we are not a sandbox environment like GTA. We have open environments, but it isn’t super big like GTA. We are similar to GTA really only in Urban Theme and the fact you can run around and beat people’s ass. We’ve been compared to them a lot, which is cool I got mad respect for those guys. We decided to constrain our game play area so we can put a ton of detail into a smaller area. In Just Golf, the player will be able to choose multiple courses and we are even thinking about letting players create their own courses.
Michael: Explain how gangsters, cops, and the like will be involved with every hole? If I slice my ball into the local gangs territory will I have to fight to get it back?
Kedhrin: So in the beginning of the game the player starts off in the more industrial area and moves across some lower income areas, into upper income areas. Gangs are more present in the industrial and lower income areas. Cops are more present in the upper income areas. When you’re exploring a neighborhood, you’ll encounter yards where people will give you a chance to leave without a fight… but it won’t be friendly. You’ll most likely run into conflict with the gangs if you’re being a dumb ass (which I encourage). There’ll be unavoidable conflicts in high mission areas where I’m climaxing a story, etc. When you’re golfing, the mini-map literally turns into a ‘board game’. You’ll be able to see if you’re golfing into a ‘red yard’, which basically means its high risk. Yellow yards are a neutral risk… meaning don’t start stuff. Sometimes you can avoid conflict while golfing all together, depending on how careful you are with aiming your ball. You get more points for fighting, breaking stuff, etc. while golfing. Points aren’t just based off your Par. In turn you can spend your points on upgrading your weapons, golfing mechanics, golf cart, etc. Cops are similar…. when you’re in the upper class areas, they’ll mess with you on average… if they see you breaking stuff, hurting people or golfing - they’ll attack. Did I mention you get to beat up hippies?
Michael: After I beat the mean streets of Oakland with Vonte will I be able to unlock additional characters or create my own?
Kedhrin: Just Golf and the multiplayer modes allow for character selection. We aren’t planning for any character creation right now. The Adventure Mode is strictly a storyline surrounding Vonte. We believe it’s critical to have a protagonist in this mode… it’s a story about him, his past and his involvement with Ghetto Golf…. And with that you won’t get the weird stuff where the voice just doesn’t match your character.
Michael: Are their any down loadable content packages planned, such as character patches or additional holes? Or perhaps, coming from your programming roots, an Unreal Tournament style playoff hole? ha-ha.
Kedhrin: We’d love to release additional courses for Just Golf and the multiplayer modes... funny, artsy, or even super sci-fi maps. Yeah, why not do some theme maps? If it’s not in the Adventure mode and you just want to play with the mechanics… we can easily throw on a ‘reason’ for you being there… I was on the corner of a 711 pounding a 40 when all the sudden the ground sucked me down below and now I’m golfing in hell…. And bam, you got a golfing level in hell. I like it! We’ll see though… first we’re going to make sure the game people buy is awesome, haha.
Michael: Will the game contain any online play modes?
Kedhrin: Oh yeah. First off there is Golf Gangs. Golf Gangs is a mode where you got 2 teams golfing across a short 3-hole course. Each team has 1 golfer and a group of fighters. Fighters must choose to fight the other teams golfer, defend their golfer, or collect items in the environment. Each hole is considered a round, with a countdown timer and all that. It’s going to be pretty sick. We’ll have it up and running for E3. Next up there is the obligatory ‘Team Death match’… However, in this Team Death match you can use the golfing mechanics as a weapon. And it is oh so satisfying to hit people with golf balls. In Golf Gangs and Team Death match we want to take some of the levelling up systems we have planned for Adventure Mode and attach them to player profiles… so you’ll have something to advance as you play. And of course, “Just Golf” can be played online as well.
Michael: What platforms will the game release for? Are you focusing on any specific console right now?
Kedhrin: We would really like to see Ghetto Golf released on XBLA, PSN and Steam. Things could change as we solidify development. We really feel this is a game people could appreciate spending a small amount of change on for a good, solid entertaining experience. We don’t want to charge people too much. Since we are using Unreal Engine 3, it really is one of those - we focus on all (no Wii) release platforms at once. Epic Games has made a bad ass engine that makes our lives much easier.
Michael: I know you've been on the hunt for a distributor as of late. Are you still in negotiations or can we expect an announcement soon? With that, when can we expect to see Ghetto Golf hit retail?
Kedhrin: We’re still in negotiations with potential partners and hopefully will be able to announce something soon. Since we did the prototype as a mod for Unreal Tournament 3, we are able to pretty much able to move all of that to full production pretty quickly. We’re looking to release in 2010 some time. Since we got the core of the golfing mechanics already in, as well as Golf Gangs almost ready, we’re looking at a comfortable development cycle that is polish, polish, and polish some more.
Michael: How do you think companies like Sony and Microsoft have done in terms of supporting indie developers and publishing titles? We have seen Sony put forth a good job so far with titles like "Everyday Shooter" and "Flower" and Microsoft with the "XNA". But do you still think there could be some room for improvement in this regard? Perhaps with a console future that has developers easily putting up games on the network, almost like iTunes Apps.
Kedhrin: To be honest, from my point of view, Sony and Microsoft have really let out a huge helping hand for Indies to get out there. It takes a lot of guts and it’s a huge risk for them. When you’ve been doing things one way for a long time, changing has got to be done in careful baby steps. You can’t just open the flood gates and say everyone is welcome… I completely understand that. With everything, there is always room to improve. I’m not going to doubt things will eventually turn into an AppStore type system. I think it’s a no brainer that downloadable distribution is going to take over. It did for music and it is happening to movies right now. Raphael and Charles saw it happen in the music industry first hand. I remember I had just bought Half-Life 2: Episode 1 and within the first day the CD snapped in half. Thankfully, Steam was there to grace me with its awesomeness. Something like that will take time. Who knows? Maybe they’ll do it tomorrow.
Michael: After the release of Ghetto Golf, where does IllFonic go from here? Will we continue to see unique urban themed titles like Ghetto Golf, or perhaps you'll take a swing at a rhythm based music game. Especially since we think that genre is begging for some of those R&B rhythm buttery beats that Raphael Saadiq is known for.
Kedhrin: We got a few game ideas on the back burner right now. Our focus is all on Ghetto Golf right now. But, as a team we gotta look ahead every now and then. I wish I could tell you what we have planned because it’s going to be pretty sick. We want to really explore different themes, different genres and grow ourselves as a respectable brand in the industry. I can say we aren’t going to be doing just urban games. I can’t say anything about doing a rhythm based music game right now either… But I can say you’ll definitely be hearing Raphael’s talents throughout Ghetto Golf. Raphael has worked on many genres of music, not just R&B. With that he is friends with a lot of really dope, varied sounding artists within the music industry. He’ll be tossing the right variety in there and make sure it is awesome. Raphael was nominated for 3 Grammies last year, including iTunes album of the year for 2008. Ghetto Golf will definitely be fresh on the music side. So, you better expect killer awesome tunes in the game!
Michael: We would like to thank Kedhrin and the boys and girls at Illfonic for the time they took out of their busy pre-E3 week, in order to do our interview. As well as hooking us up with some epic Shogungamer exclusive screenshots. If you'd like to see more of Ghetto Golf check them out at E3, and try out their multiplayer mode. As well, you can check out the illfonic website for updates.
Disclaimer: The pictures provided to us by Illfonic are still of the game in development. So please remember that characters as well as any other game details will be of higher quality in the finished product