This month’s IGN First is a bit different than usual. Rather than highlighting a single game — we’ll get back to that next month — we’re highlighting the Japanese game industry as a whole. We visited some of the biggest studios in Japan to focus on their games and creative processes. Check back all month for interviews, gameplay reveals, and more!
Everybody’s Golf has been around for a long time. Known until now as Hot Shots Golf in the U.S., Everybody’s Golf joins Gran Turismo as one of Sony’s longest-running franchises, with installments on every piece of PlayStation hardware dating back to the original PlayStation.
For its big debut on PS4, Sony is giving the franchise a makeover, with major additions like fishing, a truly open online lobby, and much more.
IGN visited Sony’s Japan Studio to find out what makes Everybody’s Golf more than just another sequel and how its new features “will redefine the Everybody’s Golf experience as a whole,” according to franchise producer Yasuhide Kobayashi.
From the moment you start, Everybody’s Golf offers a major new change: a character creator. Rather than unlocking a series of premade golfers, this time players will be able to make their own avatar.
“Obviously you start with your character’s gender, and then you can select things like body type and facial features and manipulate the angle and placement of those features,” senior producer Kentaro Motomura told IGN. “So you can customize even the finer details of your character’s appearance.”
Additional parts for character customization will be unlocked as you progress, and you can pause the game to customize any time you’re outside of a match. Players will also be able to select their character’s voice and even swing motion from the menu. Motomura described this as adding a strong RPG element to the series that was missing in the past.
Courses in Everybody’s Golf are huge, and rather than automatically warping from hole to hole, the course is one big open area that players are free to walk around and explore before they tee up. This exploration is aided by the use of golf carts that will help you travel a little more quickly, but you might want to take some time to park near the water.
This time around, you’ll be able to stop at ponds and other bodies of water and catch some fish, inspired by some real-life golf courses that offer fishing according to the team. More than just a light mini game to play between holes, players will be able to level up their fishing as an entirely separate system that can actually be pretty challenging.
“The fishing rod and lure controls are totally different from the golf controls,” Motomura told us. “First, you decide where to drop the lure, and once you do so, you wait until you get a bite. When you get a bite, press a button to hook the fish. The fish will start struggling, so the player has to watch the fish gauge while tapping the button or resting to prevent the line from breaking. If the player pays attention to the tension gauge as they let the line go taut or loose, they’ll be able to reel the fish all the way in.”
Aside from fishing, you’ll also be able to explore in your cart for a few other side activities, including searching for hidden items to aid in customizing your character or coins that you can spend in the shop.
As you’re running across those new large courses, you may also encounter other players. Online, you’ll see other players teeing up and playing, giving the series its most robust multiplayer to date.
“With regards to multiplayer, we still have the conventional offline multiplayer mode from earlier titles in the series that pits four players with four controllers against each other on a single screen. In addition to that, all players are together on the open courses,” Motomura explained. “In earlier titles, players started in lobbies and would then be transferred to a new space to play golf, but this time the open course is itself the lobby. So dozens of players can chat and communicate at the same time as they are playing golf.”
While hunting for hidden items on the course, players will also be able to share the location of where they’ve found things, adding a social element to exploration. Everybody’s Golf is also the first game in the series to offer worldwide matchmaking with a single server for every region, so you can play with golfers from multiple different countries.
“I believe Everybody’s Golf is most fun when playing with real people,” Kobayashi told us. “No matter how much AI improves, nothing beats playing with real people. And this time, you’ll be playing multiplayer in an environment that feels more like real golf. That’s a difference we haven’t seen in Everybody’s Golf multiplayer before.”
As for the name change from Hot Shots to Everybody’s Golf, Kobayashi explained that the team felt it was time to unify the title across regions because the original intent behind separate titles no longer applies.
“We came up with the name Everybody’s Golf (Minna no Golf) here in Japan. We never thought about whether this name would be suitable for North America or Europe, though content-wise we always wanted a game that everybody from around the world could play,” he explained. “Japan left the naming up to each region, and the European region took the meaning of the Japanese title, translated it into English, and then used that. On the other hand, North America wanted to distinguish the game from other, more simulator-like golf games, so they went with Hot Shots Golf. So the game’s name in Europe and North America was different.”
We added flavor and made this game more than just another golf simulator.
“But that was 20 years ago,” he continued, “before the Internet and the web was popular and marketing and PR were done in each region separately. And both these names were well known in their respective regions, so that was good. 20 years have passed since then, and the world has changed. We do global PR activities now. As such, we thought it preferable to unify the title to avoid confusion and then use that name in all regions going forward.”
Everybody’s Golf also represents the team’s entire philosophy as far as this new entry in the franchise, making a golf game that is accessible for truly anyone and learning lessons from the long legacy of the series.
“When you play the new Everybody’s Golf, you immediately feel, ‘ah, yeah, this is the Hot Shots series.’ It feels so good and makes you feel like you are great at golf when you play,” Sony Worldwide Studios president Shuhei Yoshida added. “This one was made intentionally to be more accessible. You see other people, other characters, and there are other activities. You don’t even necessarily have to competitively play golf. If you like, you can do fishing or something else, so there’s activities that you can just hang out there.”
“I can’t tell you exactly why Everybody’s Golf has remained so popular, but if I had to guess, it would be that we added flavor and made this game more than just another golf simulator,” Kobayashi concluded. “The rules of golf are already fun, so any game that uses them should be fun as well. But we added aspects that aren’t simulator-like, other fun things. For example, when a character feels disappointed, they will look really disappointed, and when a character makes a great shot, they will get so happy that they might do things you probably shouldn’t do while playing real golf. I think that might be the reason behind the longevity of Everybody’s Golf.”
Andrew is IGN’s executive editor of news and can’t wait to make golfers that look like all the characters from Persona 5. You can find him rambling about Spelunky and cute animals on Twitter.