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Bad Golf: Community Edition Interview
While Pendleton Ward’s involvement has been one of the big draws for Double Fine’s Amnesia Fortnight game jam this year, it was the way that the community picked up Patrick Hackett’s twice-pitched-twice-dropped Bad Golf 2 that really surprised me.
For those who haven’t been heard of it, Bad Golf is a game that Hackett has pitched in the last two Amnesia Fortnights. Originally pitched as “PGA Golf meets a demolition derby”, the game looks like a truckload of fun and it’s exciting to see the community follow up on the idea with Double Fine’s blessing. Leviathyn got in contact with the coordinator of Bad Golf: Community Edition to talk about the project.
Hi, thanks for doing the interview. So who are you and what is your role in the Bad Golf: Community Edition team?
My name is Cheese (some people call me Josh, but not many these days), and for Bad Golf: Community Edition, I’m filling something close to a project management type role. I create task lists, point people towards tasks that need doing, keep track of what everybody’s up to, keep morale up, facilitate communication, and post regular status updates in our forum thread. I’m also in touch with people from Double Fine to work through any issues that we might need their input on.
Can you give us an idea of how many people are involved in the project and how did it all come together?
The number fluctuates pretty wildly, and our contributor roster tends to get out of date quickly. So far, I think we’ve had around thirty people making contributions, whether that be concept art, 3D models, 2D textures, music, sound effects, or code.
Our core team consists of around six to eight people, who have taken on some of the larger systems within the game to get those portions up to a point where smaller contributions can be of value.
The Amnesia Fortnight pitches this year were all tremendously strong, and it was inevitable that there would be people who were personally invested in some that wouldn’t be successful in the voting process. Patrick Hackett’s re-pitching of Bad Golf in a way that was specifically targeted at people who were aware of the original pitch seemed to resonate really well with those who were already keen on the idea, and when Patrick appeared in one of Double Fine’s live streams wearing a “Bad Golf 3 2015” shirt, excitement seemed to rise.
Several people in the stream chat suggested that it might be fun to try and make a Bad Golf game. The initial response from Lasd’s forum thread made it clear that there was the critical mass needed to get something off the ground, but not quite the focus to get things started, I offered some of my project management and Free/Open Source Software development experience to help out with coordination.
What drew you to Bad Golf over the other great game ideas that have been pitched this year?
Whilst I thought that Bad Golf definitely had the most potential for rampant fun of all the AF2014 pitches, it was the community’s enthusiasm (not to mention Patrick’s personal passion) for it that really got me paying attention.
Bad Golf is a combination of the right kind of elements for this sort of community project (and for a great multiplayer game in general). It’s a fun, irreverent pitch with a lot of room for movement and creativity in style, but with fairly simple mechanics that are easy to communicate and shouldn’t require huge amounts of tuning and iteration to be enjoyable.
Speaking of Amnesia Fortnight, any particular thoughts on this year’s teams? Do you have a favorite team or prototype that you think is turning out particularly well?
This is the downside of being so active! I’ve been so busy coordinating Bad Golf: Community Edition that I’ve managed to see less than an hour worth of streaming all up. With Patrick and Dave Gardner hanging out in our development IRC channel, Little Pink Best Buds is definitely the project I’ve gotten to hear the most about. It looks like it’s going to be heaps of fun from what I’ve seen. Derek Brand’s concept for Mnemonic concept sounds really compelling, and he’s got some good people supporting him on his first Project Lead experience. I can’t wait to play this when the prototype builds become available.
Dear Leader looks great too. Anna Kipnis’ vision seems well thought out, and her cultural grounding should help give weight to the game’s satire. Anna’s team has some great talent in it as well and is sure to deliver a good game. I think that out of all of them though, that John Bernhelm’s Steed is the one I have a real soft spot for. John’s pitch was as charming as Emily’s art, and his natural energy is inspiring (inspiring enough to get me to carve some cheese anyway).
Is the goal to create a game that matches the original pitch for Bad Golf or are you adding new features and ideas that build upon the original pitch to be it’s own thing?
For now, yes. Patrick’s shared some initial design notes with us, making some suggestions on what approach he would have taken with an Amnesia Fortnight pitch. This has been a huge benefit to us in that it’s help us lock down our scope to something manageable and give the project solid direction before we have to deal with ideas that may not have consensus or may blow out development time beyond our ability to achieve.
I’m confident that the game has already veered away from Patrick’s original vision, and it’s certainly departed from where I was expecting it to go. That’s one of the great aspects of collaborating though, different people bring different energies and perspectives, and the combined outcome becomes something richer.
I was under the impression that the rights to the games pitched during Amnesia Fortnight are held by Double Fine, how did you go about getting their approval for the project?
As soon as I spotted that people were interested in doing something, I shot an email off to Double Fine’s Brand Manager, Greg Rice (who is a super nice guy who has been a pleasure to interact in the year and a half since he handed coordination of the Double Fine Game Club over to me) letting him know what the situation was and asking for some kind of official reaction.
In the meantime, Patrick had discovered the thread, offered his personal encouragement and gone off to seek approval. The necessary people (notably Tim Schafer and Justin Bailey) bumped heads together, and came back with a thumbs up on the proviso that the project would be licensed under CC NC-BY and not be branded as a Double Fine product.
The legalities are sort of grey. The name was definitely copyrighted, but the community probably could have looked towards similar gameplay but with enough distinguishing difference to work outside IP ownership constraints. That said, if there really had have been some kind of legal confrontation, that would have stopped the project dead. No fan has time, enthusiasm or money enough to deal with something like that.
I think the key thing to note here is that Double Fine has a positive and progressive relationship with its fans. From crowdfunding to opening up Amnesia Fortnight, the past several years have seen Double Fine take some interesting and innovative approaches to community engagement. All of the people I get to talk to from Double Fine are approachable, genuine and wonderful individuals, and that seems to be something that permeates the studio from end to end.
Has the community response been all positive or has there been some negative feedback?
I haven’t seen an ounce of negativity. Everybody’s been really supportive, and whilst some of our contributors might have disagreements about how something should be approached, that’s generally been very civil and respectful.
How ambitious is the team behind Bad Golf: Community Edition? Do you plan to stop at the prototyping stage or continue on to release something more substantial?
We’re inviting everybody with ideas that exceed our target scope to jot their thoughts down in our “Longer Term Ideas” wiki page so that they don’t get lost. Once we reach the milestone of realizing something that fulfills the design notes that Patrick donated to us, we’ll have a playable game that has a small level of polish in which we can test and try different ideas and concepts for the game’s future – allowing us to assess what works and what doesn’t in a way that’s not possible when a game’s still a concept.
It is my hope that Bad Golf: Community Edition will continue to grow over time, with contributors coming and going, polishing, tweaking and extending long after those of us who started the project have moved on.
Thanks again for agreeing to the interview! Any final thoughts on the project or shoutouts you’d like to share?
Really I’d like to highlight that this is a community effort. I think to date I’ve written less than 10 lines of code and have managed to hold off on contributing any art or music myself (which has been a bit of a challenge!) – all of this is being done by the wonderfully talented and creative community that Double Fine has surrounded itself with.
I’ve been really impressed by the faith that everybody has shown in this project – Bad Gold: Community Edition has attracted many people who’re exploring new horizons, whether that be discovering source control management and Git, showing their unfinished work be seen by others for the first time, working on a project with an “open contribution” model, or letting others modify and adapt their work. Almost every single contributor has handled their learning experiences with grace and humility, and I am as impressed with their work as I am proud to be involved with the project!
I’ve never been one for gratuitous shoutouts, but so far as tenuously relevant mentions go, the Double Fine Game Club’s weekly focused chat (think of it as a book club, but for games) is good fun. We’re on hiatus at the moment, but will be returning mid next month to make a start on Act 1 of Broken Age, and will be joined by some special guests. SteamLUG, the Steam Linux User Group’s March calendar isn’t nailed down yet, but I may try to slip in a Bad Golf: Community Edition event if there’s room. The SteamLUG community is lovely and welcoming if any Linux gamers are looking for people to play and chat with. We also recently were joined by Double Fine’s Oliver Franzke for SteamLUG Cast Season 2, Episode 2, who is currently working on the Mnemonic Amnesia Fortnight prototype.