Everyone needs to unwind sometimes – apparently even homicidal worms enjoy their downtime. And according to Team 17, their iconic Worms characters like to take their unchecked aggression out on the golf course.
I spoke with Paul Dunstan, the Lead Designer on Team 17’s upcoming Worms: Crazy Golf, to find out what’s so crazy about worms using sheep to play golf.
The combination of Worms™ gameplay with golf is an intriguing concept. How did it come about?
Worms™ Crazy Golf is indeed an irreverent concept, being a mash-up of our own turn-based strategy game “Worms™” and everyone’s favourite turn-based game of ‘hitting little balls with sticks’ (golf!). We started with the fact Worms™ is a pretty crazy and surreal game anyway, so we felt it may be ideally suited for a combination with ‘crazy golf’. Couple that with the fact that both Worms™ and golf are turn-based games that share a love of hitting balls (or throwing grenades at things!), well it seemed only natural to us the two games should be married together!
What challenges did the team face in developing a Worms™ game that didn’t involve blowing each other to bits?
One of the largest challenges we encountered was ensuring the game felt quintessentially like a “Worms™” game, even though it follows the overall outline of a game of golf in how it plays. The initial concepts for Worms™ Crazy Golf were closer to a purist’s golf game, but it quickly became apparent that these early ideas were really missing that “Worms™” magic spark that is synonymous with the brand. The team then worked extremely hard to reimagine the concept, adding just the right flavouring of the Worms™ universe to give it that potent mix of Worms™ and crazy golf.
Can you take us through how a match would play out?
Anyone expecting a straight golf game will be in for a bit of a shock… it’s got many of the favourites from “Worms™”, including explosive sheep, grumpy old women, moles, magnets, mines and crazy chain reactions. It is set across three surreal 18-hole golf courses, plus a diverse range of skill-based challenge modes, with each hole being more like a puzzle than those found on traditional golf courses. Completing each hole in par or under unlocks the next one, but there’s a bunch of things standing in your way, including increasingly puzzling hole design and an array of obstacles; from castles that teleport your ball, cannons that shoot it across the landscape and even obstructive comedy bats!
The game is based on the “Worms™” gameplay mechanic of choosing shot power and trajectory, although “Worms™ Crazy Golf” is a completely new entity in itself. It’s neither a traditional golf game nor is it a traditional “Worms™” game. It’s the absolute best of both worlds and it’s truly compelling.
When taking a shot each golfer has special utilities they can call on such as the parachute ball, the ability to reverse gravity, or the ability to slow time down to maximise the effects of top-spin or back-spin. It’s pretty funny, and with four-player social multiplayer support, it has all the hallmarks of the “Worms™” brand: the trash-talking, pressure to make the shot, terribly unhelpful ‘advice’ from opponents, and often hilarious consequences when that risky shot that could have won the game goes terribly wrong.
In the trailers released so far, you seem to get bonuses for just about everything. How does the scoring system work? Are we aiming for a high or low score?
As well as the traditional par score there is a skill points objective. The bonuses are points awarded for skilful gameplay such as long shots, blowing up sheep and bats and other things. The more of these you do within the par score the higher the overall skill points total will be. But the ultimate skill points award is for achieving a hole-in-one, and with some of the cunning hole designs that is a challenge within itself.
Throughout all of the courses there are also many coins and crates to collect. Coins give you in-game money to buy items and crates unlock items to use on your golfer in the customisation menu. Collecting all the coins is a game objective and counts towards the overall completion of each hole.
It’s possible to play through the entire career mode and unlock all the courses and the holes. But unless you’ve completed all the objectives on every hole there is still much to do. Even when you’ve conquered all of those there are still plenty of challenges and leader-boards to top as well as endless amounts of multiplayer hot-seat fun in which to compete.
Are there classic Worms™ strategies that can be adapted for use in this type of game?
A lot of the same skills that make a good Worms™ player also come into Worms™ Crazy Golf, as to master the game you need accuracy, a steady nerve, take wind into account on key shots, the ability to withstand banter and peer pressure from your mates in the social multi-player, whilst experience in navigating explosive sheep is also useful!
We have also got two different control methods in the game, to make the game as accessible as we can. Worms™ Crazy Golf is a “Worms™” game yet it is also a golf game. So there was much debate about the control method and which to use. Should it control like a golf game (the “tap-tap” controls) or a Worms™ game (classic Worms™ controls, where you press down and hold to play the shot)? In the end it came down to making the game as accessible as possible, so some bright-spark logically suggested we include both systems and let the player decide which they wish to use. It seems to make sense to me, and it works really well offering the player the choice.
Elements like mines, sheep, old women, etc seem to dot the landscape. Are they in fixed positions, or can players place them to hinder opponents/help themselves?
These elements you describe are game hazards (although occasionally that moniker is undeserved). They are strategically placed as part of the hole design, although not always fixed. Some of the more autonomous elements such as the sheep, bats and old woman have a tendency to roam, expressing their dislike for the game of golf. Whilst it’s true they are sometimes a hazard to avoid, it’s fair to say they can be used to your advantage too. Poor Fluffy the sheep and her woolly friends make excellent platforms onto which to bounce the ball (when they don’t eat it first of course). Even the old woman, traditionally loathing of golf, can be coaxed to strike the ball with her handbag and further your cause and get you nearer the green if you are lucky. The ones to watch for though are the underground menace; the mole has a tendency to pinch the ball and redistribute it elsewhere, which isn’t always as unhelpful as you might imagine. They are very much their own characters, and it is up to the player to avoid them if they can!
Will sabotaging opponent’s efforts play as important a part as trying to sink your own ball?
We did look at this as we understand gamers would think that this could be fun, but having done an examination of what could work, our design team ultimately decided that it was just too unfair and spoiled the balance of the game far too much. Essentially, whoever went first had far too much of an unfair advantage, so we shelved this idea.
What are some of the classic weapons and tools that will make an appearance? How have their regular functions been appropriated for this less combative game?
The traditional “Worms” tools of destruction aren’t employed by the wormy golfer largely because they need to use a club to strike the ball, but they do have equally crazy utilities at their disposal. The parachute is one such utility you may recognise from the classic “Worms” games. In addition, a few other familiar means of destruction do indeed litter the golf courses with all manner of crazy hazards. Each hazard has its own unique behaviour: you’ll have to contend with the likes of greens-keeper worms (who can be destroyed when hit with a shot), old women, moles, bats, sheep, mines, balloons and explosive TNT barrels, so beware!
Another factor that links back to a traditional game of Worms™ is the consideration of the wind when judging your shot. It can cause your shots to bend in the air: the stronger the wind is, the more effect it has on your shot. The strength and direction of the wind is indicated in the top right hand corner of the screen.
Quite a few of the holes also include a magnet, again familiar from some of the more traditional Worms™ games. Magnets come in two ‘flavours’; red ones which attract your ball, and blue ones which repel it. Some magnets are on timers, turning themselves on and off, while others can be turned on and off via a switch found somewhere in the environment. Simply hitting the ball into a switch turns a magnet on or off. These can sometimes be the key to achieving a good score on a hole by the way.
What new weapons/tools can players use?
We’ve given the players what we believe give this golf game some real depth and replayability, in the form of different utilities. Utilities allow you to manipulate the ball while it is in the air with sometimes surprising results. Utilities have either a limited amount of time or limited number of uses per hole:
Slow Time – You can slow time for up to 10 seconds per hole. This utility reduces the passage of time by half, giving extra time to apply more spin control to the ball for added accuracy.
Blast Shot – You have 5 blasts available. When activated, the Blast Shot utility applies a force that propels your ball into the air, rather like a boost to go further.
Parachute – You can use the Parachute for up to 10 seconds per hole. Activate the Parachute to harmlessly drift back down to earth. Spin the ball to steer its fall into the hole.
Reverse Gravity – You can reverse gravity for up to 10 seconds per hole. This clever utility turns gravity on its head. What goes up no longer comes down!
Heavy Ball – You can use Heavy Ball for up to 10 seconds per hole. When active your golf ball is heavy as a cannonball. Clever use can land your ball in some tight spots.
It is also possible to control the ball even after you’ve hit it by applying spin to the ball when it is in flight. The direction of spin affects both the ball’s flight path and how it rolls when it hits the ground.
Is the terrain in any way deformable, as in most Worms™ games?
In a word – yes. Anything that can be destroyed creates an explosion which can, as it does in any Worms™ game, deform the land. So blowing up a sheep, greenskeeper worm or mine will invariably carve out a portion of the course, with the added insult of leaving a rather unhelpful bunker behind. Multiplayer proved a different proposition though, as we quickly found there was far too much of an advantage to be gained by going first and littering a hole with deformed land. An advantage we came to the conclusion unbalanced the game far too much to be enjoyable, so in the end, we made the deformable landscapes present only in the single player career mode.
A lot of the fun associated with the game is figuring the best way to get to the hole in as little a number of shots as possible, and not about destruction of the landscape. In fact each hole can be completed in just one shot if you can work out how to do it.
Do you have a release date for us yet?
October 2011, final date still to be confirmed.
Have other sports or game genres been explored for potential Worms™ titles? Are there any others we could see on the horizon?
Hmm not really to be honest, golf seemed a really good fit due to its turn-based nature and being a really good fit with the Worms™ universe as we said earlier………..I know some of the guys here would never consider a Worms™ football (soccer) game as they point out that “worms don’t have feet” (not that they have hands others argue, and they seem pretty adept and throwing things like grenades and launching bazookas in the games, but we digress!). But no, no plans for any other sports genres at the moment!
I know we asked this last time, but how’s that merchandise line coming along now? Any new developments or images you can tease us with?
The merchandise lines are coming along quite nicely thanks; we have had some of our offices turned into a bit of an Aladdin’s Cave at the moment, with prototypes of Worms™ plushes, different sizes and designs of cute and cuddly Super Sheep plushes, various t-shirt designs and some really cool posters around! We will keep fans updated when these will start becoming available in stores for sure.
This sounds like a fascinating diversion from the main Worms series, and I’m keen to see how it plays. We’ll keep you posted on any Worms and/or Crazy Golf news, and watch out for our review of the game soon.