While I’ve long been someone who doesn’t enjoy sports — playing them, watching them, seeing them on my TV when The Simpsons should be on instead — I’ve also long been someone who doesn’t enjoy sports video games. Unless, of course, the game takes a less serious, arcade-ish approach. Such is the case with 3on3 Freestyle, a PlayStation 4-exclusive street basketball from Joycity, who previously made the street ball games Freestyle and Freestyle2 for PC. Though to figure out if I’d actually like it as much as enjoyed such similar games as One On One: Dr. J Vs Larry Bird and NBA Jam, I spoke to Chan Hyun Kim, the game’s executive producer to get the lowdown on this free-to-play game.
3on3 Freestyle is an arcade-style, three-on-three, street basketball game. Why did you decide to go the arcade route with it?
Well, at first glance, people will find that 3on3 Freestyle is an arcade-like, colorful, exaggerated, hip-hop themed, and easy to pick up street basketball game. But it’s not entirely arcade-like. We’re trying to be more realistic through its online team play aspect. Well, street realistic, I should say. With its team-based strategy and position-based roles, players will find much deeper team play and strategic choices that allows them to realistically replicate actual play of a real top tier street pick-up game.
So, basically, it looks and controls like an arcade game, but its strategy and physics are more realistic and deep.
Oh, okay. So why did you go with this approach?
Street pick-up basketball is a great sport like no other. You team up with the people you’ve just met, and have to employ teamwork and strategy in an instant. And then, next game, you’re with new people. It is really a freestyle sport. But there is no comparable video game featuring this aspect of the sport. We want to bring this vibe into an online multiplayer experience, and at the same to pay a tribute to the very special atmosphere of the courts.
Basketball, including street ball, is typically played with teams of five. But in your game, you can play one-on-one or three-on-three, and when you play three-on-three, you can actually team up with two other people and form a team of three that plays against another team of three people. Why did you feel this would work best for 3on3 Freestyle?
We found that three-on-three is the best balance for most players to figure out how to make their team work, and to enjoy the strategy in rather short game sessions. It’s not too complex but also not too shallow. We experimented with other team sizes, a lot and in depth. Other combinations worked better with fixed teams who practiced together or have better communication with each other. Also five-on-five takes more time for matching up. We might add other modes later, when the community matures, or if it evolves into something more esports-esque, but at the moment, three-on-three works best.
The courts that I’ve seen in 3on3 Freestyle all look like they’re in New York City. Did you go to N.Y.C. to get a sense of how street basketball courts should look?
We sent out developers and artists to the most iconic courts, and New York City was obviously one of the cities we visited. We have also talked to a lot of the people, both players and public, in order to get the game right.
So how much pizza did you guys eat when they went to New York? because there’s a really good pizzeria on 6th in The Village right near the basketball court.
Oh yeah, we had great pizza and a lot of hotdogs too. It was an intense trip to cover as many courts as we can, and in New York City it was on foot. So we usually grab a slice and hit the road.
Befitting an arcade basketball game, 3on3 Freestyle has some crazy characters. Did you ever go overboard with them, like maybe have a rapping octopus or an alien in an Kangol hat or a middle-aged guy from New Jersey in a Metallica shirt?
That is actually a great suggestion. We should consider that as a special costume in the game.
Just spell my name right.
We had a lot of overboard ideas in the beginning. But we want to have some unified yet unconfined theme for the character design. The search was long, but we quickly decided when we started visiting the real courts. We met and interviewed a lot of people, and that’s where our artists got the inspiration.
Aside from 3on3 Freestyle, you’re also working on your first VR game, Gunship Battle 2 VR. I can’t imagine 3on3 Freestyle working in VR, but did you ever consider it?
Yes, we are developing Gunship Battle 2 VR for different platforms, including PSVR. We have been developing VR games from 2013, and did a lot of research and development on how to make a comfortable yet immersive action VR gaming experience.
Naturally, we did consider VR features for 3on3 Freestyle, and did some experiments. VR sports experiences is an interesting subject. The key is how you place the perspective. But it would probably have to be an entirely new game.
Finally, if 3on3 Freestyle does well, what other sport would you like to see get this kind of video game treatment?
Well, we already did a soccer game, Freestyle Football Z, for PCs, so for consoles I’d say soccer, American football, and Rugby would be my interest.