It was a meeting last year between company President Jeremy Wellard, Peter Garcin and other members of the HB Studios development team that started it all.
The team that had previously worked with EA Sports in the past on games like Madden NFL, FIFA Soccer and Tiger Woods PGA Tour was ready to get started working on the next Tiger Woods PGA title when they received word from Electronic Arts that the company wasn’t going to release a golf title in 2014. So, Wellard, Garcin and the rest of the Nova Scotia-based studio, filled with the urge to build a golf game, knew that the time was now to make a mark of their own in the sports gaming market. It was time to make a brand new, never-before-seen golf game for the, at the time, upcoming next-gen game consoles.
That’s when The Golf Club was born.
“We knew that there was an opportunity there do something a little different,” Garcin, the executive producer of The Golf Club, told Gamesided. “We were like, ‘well, you know, if we’re not going to be working on a golf game, and we’ve got some really cool ideas that we want to be able to explore, let’s do it ourselves’.”
Players will start the game by selecting one character from a set to customize as their own unique looking avatar. The game won’t incorporate a roster of unique golfers for use or a highly detail character creator at launch, but Garcin did say that it’s something the team is looking at adding in an update after the game’s launch.
Releasing on the PC, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One this spring,
The Golf Club
is being built using the Unity Engine that has seen an increase in popularity due to its ease of use for designers. Also heralded for its ease to design for are the next-gen systems from Microsoft and Sony which, Garcin says, allows the team to implement features that they couldn’t have on last-gen systems.
“We have a lot more room to have a pretty detailed environment,” he said. “There is a lot more computing power and memory, so that helps us to realize some of the goals that we had – no loading times and a lot of procedurally-generated content.”
When he says a lot of procedurally-generated content, Garcin means a lot. Imagine the classic PC game Sim Golf, and inject it with the best steroid a game could receive. That is what The Golf Club is. A game where players design the courses in the exact way, shape and form they please, and then play the course with whomever they chose. It could be by themselves or with hundreds of their closest friends. More on that part later.
The game is being funded by the company itself which allows them to not have to work under a set production schedule aside from, as Garcin put it, a “get the game in a reasonable amount of time” schedule. They also have no affiliations or external stakeholders – at this time — of any kind to answer to in terms of what’s in the game, or how it’s developed.
With no official affiliation with the PGA or any of the world’s golf courses and links, The Golf Club was able to be created without any major restrictions placed on the development team which allowed them to flex their creative muscles. In turn, that flexibility will allow the game to let the players flex their muscles as well in the form of one of the game’s biggest features, the course creator.
Users will be able to create picturesque courses in any way they please.
As mentioned before, the game is going to include a first of its kind course creator that will allow users to generate a random course ranging from one to 18 holes that will then be fully customizable. Everything from the number of trees on the course to the height of the greens can be adjust to your liking.
The courses players create can then be uploaded and shared online for the world to play. And while many would expect only users on the same consoles to be able to play courses designed on that device, Garcin says the team wants to have cross-platform sharing so no one is left out in the cold.
“There’s no technical reason that that’s not possible,” he said. “We’ve been designing around the idea that we should be able to do that. There are sometimes platform requirements that prohibit it, and it might not be as completely open, but I’d say that’s a goal we have. We will work as hard as we can to make that a reality.”
The game will thrive on its user-created content as it will allow for unlimited, never repeating golfing experiences that will, hopefully, keep fans coming back months and months after the game’s launch.
Another way the team at HB Studios plans on making sure that fans never get tired of what the game offers is by continually updating the game. By continually, Garcin doesn’t mean every eight to 12 months, he means within a few months after the game hits retail, HB wants to have an update out for the game.
“It’s been kind of fire and forget, and you’ll get the next update next year (in the past) whereas we’re trying to basically completely change that model,” he said in regards to post release updates. “(We want to) move towards a more frequent update (schedule).
“We’ve got a lot of stuff that we can’t necessarily get into version 1.0, but we will continually push updates into the community. That means adding new content to the course creator or even adding an entire mode into the game.”
With the talk of post release updates, the obvious next question is whether or not the game will implement the ever controversial microtransactions. Garcin did say that the team doesn’t have any plans in place to charge users anything other than the original price of the game, but he left the door open to charging for updates should the update warrant it.
HB Studios is determined to give players the most re-playable golf game ever released
“There could be some really, really big update that seems like it’s a logical paid update,” he said before admitting the issue with paid updates. “There’s a problem with that when you have user-generated content where not everybody is out on the same playing field. So we want to try and maintain that playing field as much as we can.”
The team hasn’t decided yet whether or not the game will be available via disc, digital or both as they are currently exploring both options to see what would be best. Despite that indecision, the current plan is to have early access testing for users before the release in order to work out the game’s kinks, and garner feedback from those who matter most: the players.
“We’re looking at sort of a smaller controlled test just to kind of iron out some of the kinks and get the system in place so we can do a wider early access testing ahead of the release,” Garcin said.
The plan is that with users getting some time in with the game before its release that there will be plenty of user-created courses available on day one of retail. However, in case the plans don’t work out that way, The Golf Club will ship with plenty of courses – upwards of 30 or more — already built so players can just jump right in.
Of course, a sports title, especially a golf game, is nothing without the ability to play with friends. Well, HB Studios thought that through and will allow hundreds of players to play on the same course, at the same time.
How is this possible? The Golf Club’s multiplayer mode runs asynchronously which allows players to just hop right in to a multiplayer game, and start teeing off.
“You no longer have to wait for people to take their turns. You can start, then you can invite people to play and they can play with you live,” Garcin said. “You can actually see them teeing off at a different part of the course in the distance, and you can wait for them to catch up.”
Players will be able to play with as many friends as they so choose in an no-waiting multiplayer tour or tournament.
As far as how many players appear on the same scorecard, Garcin said that it’s limited simply by the amount of screen space for the names.
Another unique aspect to the multiplayer facet of The Golf Club is the player’s ability to create his own tour.
Due to the game’s lack of a “static set of courses” for people to play through, the 10 person development team came up with the idea that players can create their own golf tours, share them online, allow other players to join and play in their own tour. It’s a custom playlist of custom designed courses, so to speak.
And don’t worry about multiplayer if you can’t connect to the internet, The Golf Club will support up to four players simultaneously on the same console or PC.
While the team hasn’t decided on an actual launch date or price for the game, Garcin assures players that it is close to completion, and that the price, when decided on, will be “very attractive to people”.