We at Stealthy Box love our sports games. I’ve played so many games of all kinds, but the ones that keep me coming back for more time and again are the sports games that deliver an engaging and sustainable experience, both online and off. I’ve also always enjoyed the Tiger Woods PGA Tour franchise. The characters, the career progression, the gear and clubs – it’s always a good experience. But, it’s never had much competition in the way of simulations of the sport. Besides Tiger Woods, the best golf games have consisted of mainly arcade experiences such as the Hot Shots Golf franchise. These are excellent titles, of course, but tough to put into the same category as a simulation.
So, when we stumbled across an upcoming golf sim called The Golf Club, we were intrigued. It’s being developed by HB Studios, a Nova Scotia-based outfit founded in 2000 by Jeremy Wellard, and is set to launch this Spring. The Golf Club aims to create a visceral, authentic golf experience centered on the feel of the game, accessible and limitless course creation, and seamless social interaction. It’s a recipe for a game that we haven’t recently encountered, and it hooked us more than enough to reach out to Pete Garcin, Executive Producer on the project, to ask him a few questions as the game’s launch looms in the not-too-distant future.
Enjoy the interview and new screens from the game below, and be sure to check back at Stealthy Box for more information on The Golf Club.
Stealthy Box: First, what is The Golf Club, and what was the inspiration for the game?
Peter Garcin: The Golf Club is at its heart a realistic golf sim but differentiates itself with what we feel are fresh features like procedurally generated courses, deep social interaction and a persistent online golf “world”. I think the core inspiration for the game was largely focused around these innovative features that we felt driven to explore – so for instance, the course creator – we knew that it was something we all wanted to see in a golf game, but that it had to be fun in and of itself, and exploring these challenges and opportunity to do something new and exciting in the genre was really the driving force behind The Golf Club.
SBX: For the virtual golfer who has known only Tiger Woods golf games in recent years – what does this game bring to the table that sets it apart?
PG: We really hope people feel that the game is a fresh take on golf games, and there are a number of elements that support this. First off, the course creator allows you to either generate a completely new and playable course in a few clicks or to delve into highly detailed editing to create any course you can imagine. But then, we’ve deeply integrated a social element to the game; you can very easily upload that course and share it with all your friends, rate and favourite courses, and then compete constantly with your friends and rivals on those courses. And while the game is a realistic sim in the form of the gameplay which will definitely appeal to the core audience, and the graphics are ultra-realistic, it’s not a game that seeks to replicate the broadcast television experience. That frees it up to have a different overall “feel” to the game that we hope resonates with people.
SBX: Would you consider this a niche game? To whom will this game appeal most?
PG: I wouldn’t say it’s a niche game. We think that it’s got the potential for wide appeal. On the one hand, the game is very accessible. There’s not a lot of overhead to get into the actual game and start playing golf, and there isn’t a really complex UI to decipher; we spent a lot of time working on the game controls and ensuring it felt right and very intuitive. But at the same time, there is a lot of depth and expression on offer in the game, so it can really appeal to the core sports audience who wants a game that is challenging, competitive, and has endless expressive capability in the form of the course creator. So our hope is that the game can find a wide audience because there are multiple levels of engagement here.
SBX: The endless course creation is perhaps the most intriguing aspect of the game. How easy or quick can it be to create a custom course? How deep can you go if you have the time?
PG: Following on from the previous question, you can go as deep as you want. We designed the course creator to have multiple levels of interaction so [that] at the highest level, you can create a course in like 4 button presses just by selecting a few high level attributes: theme, [number] of holes, etc. The game will then generate a course based on those selections that at that point is totally playable and ready to share. If you want, you can then delve deeper and fine tune individual elements of the course – still without ever entering a 3D editing mode. Finally, for those people who want the most creative freedom, we have a fully featured 3D editor where you can edit just about any aspect of the course. You can sculpt terrain, place objects, move holes and waypoints, resize and place individual bunkers. Just about anything you can imagine is possible at this level. And even then, it’s all super accessible and feasible using a gamepad. We knew that for the course creation to be a success it had to be fun – so we’ve kept that in mind from the beginning and I think we’ve managed to achieve that.
SBX: Tell us a bit about the online/social components of the game. How will courses be shared, and how will online competitive multiplayer work for two or more people?
PG: Sharing is designed to be as seamless and simple as possible. Once you’ve created a course, you can hit the ‘Publish’ button and your course will be posted to the server and available for others to play. And to make sharing a large number of courses feasible, we only upload the “DNA” of the course, so the amount of data that it transfers is extremely small –- downloading and browsing new courses online is essentially invisible compared to local courses.
In terms of competition we’ve moved to an asynchronous model of gameplay, so you’re almost always competing against your friends and rivals. No matter whether your friends are online or not, you can always choose to play against their best balls in the form of “ghost balls.” If they are online, you can invite them to join a round and play together in real time, but there’s no waiting; if you don’t want to sit in a lobby waiting for your friend to join, you can send them the request, start your round, and then eventually your friend will catch up. And if they do join mid-round, because our course is all one big world, you can turn around and see them teeing off in the distance. It’s really super cool when that happens.