Dev Diary - 2015 Review
2016 Here We Come
It only seems a like a few months ago that I was announcing the release of Update 2 and the introduction of the Handicap System, Boreal Theme and all the other goodies that came with it.
Since then we’ve released 5 major updates adding
- 7 new themes
- Delta Theme
- Highlands Theme
- Swiss Theme
- Tropical Theme
- Winter Theme
- Rustic Theme
- GNCD Tools
- New Fairway and Bunker Shapes
- Clear Generated Trees Brush
- Heavy Rough Slider
- Backdrop variations
- Green and Fairway Sliders
- Cart Paths
- Sliders to reduce generated objects
- More Global Plants
- Distance Measuring Tool
- New Surfaces – Pine Needles, Mulch
- Red, Blue, Yellow Stakes
- Different Texture Types for Fairways, Rough, Green’s
- GNCD Objects
- Wooden Steps
- Retainer Walls
- More Flag Types
- More Trees
- Gameplay Features
- Drop Ball
- Stableford Rules
- Better Colliders on Stones and Rocks
- Tournament Wind Syncing
- Swing Improvements
- Lots and lots of fine tuning
- 4 Ball and Match Play Multi-player Modes
- Yellow Ball for winter theme
- New Clothing
- Season Mode
- UI Improvements
- Player Home Screens – So you can view other players stats
- Replay Favouriting – so you can store your favourite shots
- Metric and Imperial measurement options
- Advanced Search
That’s just from the top of my head, there was a lot more including over 500 bug fixes and minor improvements that I didn’t even write down. Apart from the Collector’s Edition DLC, all that was free, we must be mad!!
Looking back at the build a year ago, the game has moved on considerably. It’s a very tight experience now and I’m quite happy with where it is.
Greg Norman Course Designer
My belief is we have the No. 1 tool for designing golf courses within a video game. The GNCD is very easy to pick up and use and with a bit of practice people have come up with some amazing stuff. There is a pocket of people that would like more flexibility within the tool and we strive to improve that with each update. We do have to work within some constraints though, the course files need to be small enough that they can be passed between the three different platforms easily and not require huge download times.
My award for WOW!! moment of the year goes to Pyates for Links@ University Place. The effort that went into the train tracks had the whole team amazed.
The game play has improved a lot over the last year. It’s a very delicate task to make large changes in this area. As we saw with Swing Gate, changing anything can cause a real issue with the way people play and the way they’ve learnt to play the game. Personally I’d like to address the issues with club lofting, I’d like to add more of a tempo mechanic to the swing, muddy up the yardage a little. I want to make it harder for the Pro’s without losing the ability to be able to pick up and play. This leads me to….
This is quite a contentious issue as everyone always wants options, including myself when I’m playing other games. The easy out here is for us to give you an option for everything and let you guys create the experience you “think” you want. My problem with that last sentence is that having it so open ended like that means we have no way of perfecting and balancing that experience. If we have one style of play, it gives us the ability to understand the experience you’ll have and make it as good as we can.
My other big thing with gameplay options is that I hate the idea of a different set of leaderboards for each play combination. Jordan Spieth is the World No 1 at the moment playing the same golf as I do. There is no question that he’s better than me. I want to look at the Leaderboards and see who the best is, not who is the best with green grids off and a forgiving swing mode on. The game should be enough of a challenge, as golf is, for all levels of player to enjoy it. The course need to reflect that. My goal is that we tune the game so that beginners enjoy Little Brook Manor and find Magnolia National way too challenging. Whereas the top/elite players find Little Brook Manor too easy and prefer to play the tighter longer courses.
We’ve made huge advances in this area over the last year. I’ve never been against live play but I’m against the work needed to go into live lobbies, the inconsistent experience it gives the user and the need for Xbox Live and PS+ accounts to have it. It’s not a cheap feature to develop and although people are very vocal about it, it’s a minority of people that actually play it. Golf games aren’t like other video games. Live multi-player golf is a couple of hours of investment, people quit out or don’t have a solid connection and as soon as that connection is lost everyone else’s round is ruined. What we developed with our asynchronous system was a way play against people without a constant connection and to be able to play against them when they weren’t even live anymore. I still love playing against my mates in England a few hours after they’ve gone to bed. Or playing around against myself from months ago, when I was at the peak of my game.
Putting the Faux Lobby system in, that we did for 4Ball and Match-Play I think shows that we can still get a happy medium with what we want from multi-player. Our next task is to design out a clean way of inviting non-friends.
Course discovery is very much an issue now, in hindsight we most probably shouldn’t have had an achievement/trophy for publishing a course. It’s buried some real gems amongst the 90,000 courses out there. Matt and Jordan are working on ways to push the cream of the crop to the top, courses that suit your ability and match your preferred style. It shouldn’t be an effort to play new courses that offer just the right amount of challenge and look special.
Collector’s Edition DLC
The chance to get The Golf Club onto a disc and out into big shops like Walmart, Game, Asda, Best Buy, GameStop and EB Games was a huge opportunity for us. For the distributors to do this though, they rightly wanted something a bit extra that wasn’t in the digital versions. They looked at the reviews and said was there anything we could do to add the progression that reviewers were saying was missing so we came up with the Season Mode. It definitely wasn’t 100% of what we wanted to do with progression, those plans are still tucked away nicely for the expansion of the franchise, but it gave us something that would tick the boxes when we were re-reviewed and improve our overall Metacritic score. We didn’t want to make the guys who had the digital versions, buy the disc version as well, so we added the Collector’s Edition extras for a small fee. Which we agreed was reasonable and the distributor was happy that this wouldn’t impact their sales. We were also very sure not to ruin the experience for anyone who didn’t want to purchase it. It’s a balancing act, most loyal users saw the value that had been offered in the game over the months since release, and the value in the DLC, but there is always a minority that felt it was a rip off. Minor investigating found majority that felt that way had bought the game in a sale, hadn’t really put too many hours in anyway. The problem is that in the current era where it’s easy to be negative without having to back up your point, a lot of non-positive reviews started appearing from users which leads to the uneducated/twitch customers deciding to stay away from the product. It didn’t hurt us but our plan for releasing paid DLC in yearly chunks with major feature updates needed to be reviewed after that. This is something we’ll be looking at again in the early part of 2016.
Last but not least, you guys. The community has continued to grow over the last 12 months. The fact that it’s so vibrant with heated discussions but on the whole pleasant, is a great reflection on the Golf Video Game Community. Keith and myself have been working away over the last month on ways we can continue to grow the community, so it continues to be vibrant and a place continue to visit daily. You guys have massively helped us with the direction of the game, we trust your opinions and we’ve moulded the game within our core pillars with your ideas. Thank you. One last request, if you haven’t reviewed the game yet on your preferred platform, please do also take some time to read other people’s reviews and let others know if it was a helpful or unhelpful review. These little things do make a difference to the small guys like us.
As I said above, the year has flown by. The game has improved and community has grown. Thanks for being part of it and 2016 is going to be another huge year for TGC so keep visiting and keep posting and help us continue to make the best most rounded golf experience on the market.
Merry Christmas from Anthony & the rest of The Golf Club Team