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The Golf Club | July 29, 2016

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DEV DIARY: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GOLF CLUB

DEV DIARY: A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE GOLF CLUB
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Development Diary: Anthony Kyne, Producer

Well, it’s been a little over two weeks since we officially announced the game and I think everyone at HB has been taken aback by the reception we’ve had so far. The excitement in the camp has risen along with the pressure of expectation – but it’s a challenge we’re up for! Over the coming weeks leading up until release, we’ll be posting a dev diary containing updates on where we are and what we’ve been working on as well as an in-depth look at certain aspects of the game. To start the first entry, I’ll take you through the development and concept of the game up until now.

Defining the Pillars

Last spring, we had a spare team in the studio made up of golf nuts and a tonne of original ideas for a golf game. After a few meetings we decided that a golf title was worth exploring. Before we started, we set about creating the pillars of the game. These pillars helped us form goals for the project and were the basis for the core of the game. These overarching pillars are:

  • Zero Loading Times (or as close to zero as possible)
  • Dynamic Course Generation
  • Realistic Control System
  • In-Depth Social Integration/User Generated Content (creating and supporting a vibrant community)
  • HD, atmospheric courses that make the user feel like they’re on the course
  • Presentation that represents a golfers experience of golf – not broadcast style

As new members joined the team they were made aware of the pillars so they all knew what we were aiming to create. Along the way, every member of the team has had input – and ideas were evaluated based on whether they fell within these core game pillars. If they didn’t, they were added to the backlog to be potentially revisited in the future.

Course Generation and Procedural Generation

Within a month we had the course generator creating courses, all within a debug environment and although not perfect they were decent courses. Although more work was needed, we were still way ahead of where we thought we’d be. What was important was that we had a fairly fun, although basic golf game playing that could generate courses – and even though it was rough, we knew we had the seed of something special. Because we were able to very rapidly create a usable course generator, we set our sights on the stretch goal of a more in-depth editor that would give us the ability to create any course we wanted. To read more about how we do the procedural generation, have a read of this article.

Control System

While we were 100% behind having a realistic control system, we weren’t always sold on the idea of not having a power meter. We didn’t want it to be too hard for the newcomer, but also wanted to move away from the focus on meters, pins, and the disconnected feel they brought to gameplay. The initial spark of removing the power bar completely came from a bug that disabled it one Friday night. After playing it on over the weekend without the power bar we realized the game was way more fun without it. This meant that we had to really fine tune the controls so you really do get the feel of the ball since you now relied more on the feel of the controls than a meter on-screen. This has been one of the most challenging parts of development so far – and getting this wrong would mean that all the nice features around the game were for nothing. It was critical the game felt like playing golf!

Development – Play, Play and Play

One important thing we set out to do at the start was to get the team playing the game regularly. It’s very hard to make a great game if you haven’t played it. It’s not something you simply can paint by numbers. So we set up a weekly playthrough at the start of development. It was great to see each person on the team scrambling to get their part of the game as tuned as possible to avoid the ribbing from other team members if it wasn’t up to scratch! As the game became more fun, we couldn’t get enough and we’d start playing it in our lunch hours and after work. This is when the tours and tournaments idea came together. It developed naturally out of us playing the game, rather than something that was just tacked on the side for the sake of a feature to add to the back of the box. The development of The Golf Club has been very organic and each feature is something that we’ve added because we thought it would improve the experiences that we were having while playing the game.

What’s to Come

Over the coming weeks we’ll be updating you with what we’ve worked on and the directions we’re taking while also expanding on some of the features within the games, each written by the developer in-charge of that area of the game. Next up: David McFarland talks us through the Atmospheric Light Scattering technique we use to light the worlds we’ve created. Stay tuned!