“Apple’s Message Hit the Right Notes for Us” an Interview With Clap Hanz About ‘Clap Hanz Golf’, Apple Arcade, Mobile Hardware, and More

With Clap Hanz Golf getting a surprise reveal and release on Apple Arcade alongside Apple’s big update to the service, I had a chance to chat with Mr. Masashi Muramori (CEO/Producer and Director), Mr. Toshiyuki Kuwabara (Lead Programmer), Mr. Keisuke Futami (Lead Artist), and Mr. Shunsuke Takashima (Lead UI Artist) of Clap Hanz about Clap Hanz Golf () being the company’s first game outside PlayStation, mobile games, subscription services, working with Apple, and more. Having played the Hot Shots Golf (Everybody’s Golf) games on the original PlayStation and then playing the PS Vita and PS4 entries, it has been interesting to see how Clap Hanz has continued to try to make each entry stand out.

TouchArcade (TA: Having worked on the Everybody’s Golf / Hot Shot’s Golf series since the original PlayStation and released a new entry even on PlayStation VR, what made you want to release a mobile game?

Mr. Masashi Muramori (MM): We got in touch with Apple at just the right time, and we felt something click.
Another aspect is that since Apple Arcade is a subscription service, we did not have to worry about lootbox (“gacha”) style microtransactions. We felt this would allow us to continue developing a game along the same lines as what we had been doing.

TA: Clap Hanz Golf is the first game from the studio to not release on PlayStation hardware and it is the first game with a new analog control system. What made you change the tried and tested three button shot system to this analog system?

MM: The three button shot system has been used for over 20 years now, and we had been searching for a shot system that is new, yet true to the real golf shot experience, and a system that would become a standard for future golf games. We finally found a system that meets these goals.

TA: Will the three button system come back in an update since many fans of Everybody’s Golf will be used to that.

MM: Clap Hanz Golf is a completely different title from Everybody’s Golf. Although both titles share the same genre, we believe the core of the game (the shot system) should be different for each title. We are extremely happy that our fans enjoy Everybody’s Golf, but we hope gamers will try out our new shot system.

TA: How was it working with Apple hardware across different devices for Clap Hanz Golf?

Mr. Toshiyuki Kuwabara (TK): The graphic resolutions and chip-sets are unique to each device, so it was a challenge to test the game across all the supported devices to make sure there were no performance issues. It’s all worth it though, considering the game will reach a larger number of gamers.

Mr. Shunsuke Takashima (ST): The challenge was to create an UI that is shared across various input devices, and to support the various aspect ratios for each device. The merit of supporting the various Apple hardware is that we can expect a larger number of gamers to play our game.

TA: Was Clap Hanz Golf always planned for mobile or did you have other platforms in mind?

MM: Yes, Clap Hanz Golf was planned for mobile from the start. We had always wanted to develop a game for mobile, and that opportunity came our way with Clap Hanz Golf.

TA: How did Clap Hanz come into contact with Apple for an Apple Arcade release?

MM: We cannot go into detail, but we had the great privilege of getting in touch, and having a meeting with Apple. This was when Apple explained how Apple Arcade is structured. Apple’s message hit the right notes for us, and after a year and a half of development, we’ve been able to launch Clap Hanz Golf.

TA: What do you think of the state of console and mobile gaming in Japan right now?

MM: Regarding console games, I get the impression that the market has shrunken. As far as mobile is concerned, I am interested in what will become of lootbox (“gacha”) type monetization models.

ST: I think console and mobile aren’t necessarily competing in the domestic market, but looking at the products itself, because the specs of mobile devices are improving, the quality of mobile games are getting close to console games. For developers, I feel there are more options to consider.

TA: How long has Clap Hanz Golf been in the works?

MM: From prototype to launch, it has been one year and a half.

TA: How has it been working on modern iOS devices for a portable experience compared to PSP and PS Vita consoles?

MM: Even back in the days of the PSP and PS Vita, we ended up using the buttons for controls, so the biggest difference is taking advantage of the touch screen for the analog, flick controls. Also, I’m very excited that Clap Hanz Golf can be played on hardware that everyone carries with them on a daily basis.

ST: Since touch is the basis for the controls, I believe the game has become faster to access because gamers no longer have to move the cursor to select elements on the screen.

TA: What are your update plans for Clap Hanz Golf on Apple Arcade. Will we see new modes?

MM: I cannot share details with you yet, but please do look forward to updates. It is our hope that gamers will enjoy Clap Hanz Golf for a long time.

TA: How was it working on a game for not just mobile devices with touch screens but also Apple TV and macOS systems?

TK: We were careful to make sure that certain devices or certain controls did not have an unfair advantage over other devices. We’ve balanced the game so that everyone has a fair chance at this game.

ST: This goes back to my response for Question 4, but it was a challenging experience for me to design a control scheme that is compatible across various devices.

TA: Did the same team that worked on prior entries work on Clap Hanz Golf or did you have help from external teams or Apple?

MM: The core team is mostly the same. We were supported by external partners on localization, voice over recording, QA, and sound design. Also, Apple was very responsive in supporting us through the way during development.

TA: Clap Hanz Golf is as much fun as Hot Shot’s Golf 1 and 2 on PS1 that I enjoyed playing back in the day. What do you think of the current state of golf games on consoles and PC?

MM: Thank you so much for your kind words! Besides the touch controls, we also support controls using analog sticks on gamepads, as well as mouse controls on Mac. We’re looking forward to how the gamers respond to Clap Hanz Golf. We ultimately want to search for other ways to deliver an entertaining experience to the gamers.

TA: Discuss how you worked on audio and music for Clap Hanz Golf compared to prior games.

MM: From the aspect of voice overs, the biggest difference is that the playable characters do not speak. Also, the voice overs were all designed to be in English to reach the global audience.

In addition to that, since Clap Hanz Golf is a separate game from Everybody’s Golf, we tried our best to not be influenced by music used in Everybody’s Golf.

ST: With the Everybody’s Golf franchise, the core design was to use sound assets plentifully. This is shown in the fact that there is always music playing in the background, and that characters speak. Since Clap Hanz Golf is a new IP, we wanted to start from scratch and decide where music should be playing, and how voice overs should be used. From there we fleshed out the details.

TA: How has it been working in a global pandemic and how has that affected the team’s workflow.

TK: Apple Arcade supports numerous devices, and the biggest difference was the difficulty of sharing devices among our staff. Working remotely had benefits like ease to maintain concentration, but I felt efficiency of communication is much better when done face to face.

Mr. Keisuke Futami (KF): Firstly, I would like to extend my gratitude to our external partners that supported us through the remote work experience. When we first shifted to remote work, we struggled to communicate with one another, but since have taken advantage of chat tools and video conference tools. Because of that, I believe the latter half of development went smoothly. But personally, from a development efficiency standpoint, I still think everyone working at the same office has higher efficiency.

TA: What do you think of subscription services like Apple Arcade and Xbox Game Pass changing how people consume games?

MM: I believe the advantage of subscription services over lootbox (“gacha”) is that gamers can enjoy content for extended periods of time for less money. At the same time, it’s difficult to encourage people to subscribe with the appeal of one title. In this sense, I believe the true value of a platform comes from multiple major titles becoming available on a subscription service.

ST: I believe there is a larger opportunity for subscription services once the entry opportunity to develop for subscription services expands. In terms of gamers being able to pay for the pure value of games, I expect subscription services to contribute to the formation of a healthy game market.

TA: What games are you playing right now on mobile or consoles?

KF: Gardenscapes on mobile. Monster Hunter Rise on console.
ST: Monster Hunter Rise on Nintendo Switch.

We’d like to thank Mr. Masashi Muramori, Mr. Toshiyuki Kuwabara, Mr. Keisuke Futami, and Mr. Shunsuke Takashima for their time here.