TGC Retrospective : Greg Norman Course Designer
The evolution of the Greg Norman Course Designer for The Golf Club is probably one of the more wild rides that we had from what we started to where we finished and defiantly one of the best experiences in my nine and a half years in game development. From our original design, which called for three settings that you could adjust (hills, water, trees) to procedurally generate a different course each time you played, to where we are now. Initially, you could take that plot and lay out your holes and adjust some settings per hole (fairway width, green size etc.) and maybe add a bunker or two of your own. It quickly became apparent that we had to do more to make this stand out so the GNCD grew and grew and grew some more and its now the beast that we have now.
As we kept adding new features to the game our internal wish list kept growing. When we added custom green shapes into the game we knew right away that this would have to be expanded to all the surface types in the game. Once those were added, we knew we would have to address some of the decorative surfaces that were missing. Cart paths, mulch, pine straw were needed to help the users create unique courses.
One of the challenges that we had was getting the GNCD to work on the PS4 and Xbox One especially when we got word that we would be allowed to share courses across platform. That meant the hardware on each console would have to generate the course the same way. It sounds simple but the differences in video cards made for some variations in course design that we would have to account for. Not to mention the goal of making the GNCD useable on the consoles as well as PC. We don’t want to limit what people can or cannot do in the designer because of the platform in which you bought the game.
By far the best resources that we had for the GNCD was the community. Once the game was released into early access we had lots of feedback on how things worked and what else people wanted to be able to change. I don’t know how many suggestions people have made on the forums or in a twitch stream of a small tweak that has gone into the game to make their experience better. In addition to the feedback, just seeing the courses that people have developed really inspired us to expand on our existing tools and add more. For example, seeing Tastegw’s Harbour Island Black for the first time really stressed the need for a good retaining wall solution in the game. Seeing the amazing and creative designs that users have churned out has made working on the GNCD a real pleasure all this time and has kept us moving forward. In addition to that the fantastic tutorials that have been produced by Crazycanuck and others have increased the quality of the courses people are creating and sharing.
Speaking of moving forward, our upcoming plans for the GNCD within The Golf Club Franchise are to continue to do what we’ve been doing all along. As anyone who reads our forums knows we still have lots to add. I have two main goals in mind going forward with the design, the first is to come up with solutions to make some of the tools and objects in the GNCD easier to use. When we added walls to the game they helped to fill in a huge hole that was opened to course designers, but I was never really happy with how they were placed, so some new tools and adjustments to existing features are being worked on to make this easier for the user.
The second goal is to add new features to help address some gaps in the course designer. One thing that stands out are our bridges, currently snapping the bridges to the water level is very limiting. Maybe there is a small canyon on a hole that needs a bridge across it, maybe a marsh or swamp at a higher level on the course needs a raised path through it to get from the tee to the fairway. So new features like setting the height of props are high on the to do list going forward.
With over 100,000 courses now published to our server and many great new courses being released (http://www.hb-studios.com/forum/index.php?board=22.0) the work on the GNCD continues to be a big step in The Golf Club going forward. For as far as we’ve come in the 2 years since early access I feel there are lots of great additions still to come. Please keep letting us know what you’d like to see, our vision for what we want work best when we have input from the people who use it and can let us know what they need to make their course design visions a reality.