Though games like FIFA 14 have given us a glimpse of what’s possible with the next generation of gaming consoles, it’s perhaps efforts like HB Studios’ The Golf Club that showcase what the PS4 and Xbox One are capable at a more nuanced level. Releasing exclusively for next gen consoles and PC, The Golf Club will serve to leverage the social features of both consoles and immediately create a spanning course for play in no time at all. It’s aspects like these which Sony and Microsoft can use to tout the overall superiority of next gen and The Golf Club is giving it to them.
GamingBolt spoke to executive producer Peter Garcin about the game including the studio’s focus on next gen, it’s powerful course editor, the social features it will implement and how the development team is achieving such detail using the power of Unity.
"It was about innovation and a re-imagining of what a golf game could be so that we could develop an experience that was completely new for people and hopefully a fresh take on the genre."
Rashid Sayed: The Golf Club is due on the PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. What kind of benefits has this bought to the development of the game?
Peter Garcin: One of the big ones that we’ve been talking about a lot is zero load times. Having a lot of extra memory means that we can keep the entire course loaded at once rather than individual holes – and this means no loading between holes. The other has been computer shaders which really allowed us to push the course creation aspect much further than we would have been able to otherwise – we can do a lot of really complex calculation in almost realtime taking advantage of that aspect.
Rashid Sayed: Given that EA already has a strong pedigree with the Tiger Woods PGA Tour series, does it bother you that have you have lot of ground to cover in regards to creating the best Golf game out there?
Peter Garcin: Not at all! In fact, I think for us we don’t even necessarily see it as going toe-to-toe with those guys. We don’t have the scale to be able to do that and so for us, it was about innovation and a re-imagining of what a golf game could be so that we could develop an experience that was completely new for people and hopefully a fresh take on the genre. So for us, we see that The Golf Club is something totally new for players in this space.
Rashid Sayed: What was the inspiration to keep the game exclusive to next gen consoles and PC. There are over 150 million PS3 and Xbox 360s’ out there. Business wise, you guys should have made it cross generation, right?
Peter Garcin: Well we’ve definitely not ruled it out – we’ve never said “no” to PS3/360 – but at the same time, when we started out we knew that to really achieve what we were after and to push the boundaries we needed to be on the next-gen machines and PC. Now that the game is nearly done we can look at how we can bring the experience to a wider audience and include as many people as possible.
Feature parity and “experience parity” is really important for us, so we need to work out how we can deliver that to people on those platforms in a way that makes sense for everyone – because yeah, there are a lot of people on those platforms and we want them to have access to the game.
Rashid Sayed: Tell us a bit about the course editor? At the moment players can craft based on current available course templates. Do you plan to include a feature where players can craft courses from the scratch?
Peter Garcin: Absolutely. You can definitely start from a blank slate and edit in as much detail as you want. And I think rather than describing them as “templates” – I think I’d describe it as parameters and then the algorithm will create a course based on those parameters – so there won’t be a templated feel to the courses that are generated – each one will be unique. We worked really hard to make sure that nothing felt cookie-cutter.
Rashid Sayed: Are there any plans to bring real courses to the game and what is the golfer roster looking like for the final version?
Peter Garcin: In terms of real courses – there’s nothing really to announce there. We haven’t ruled out real-life courses, but at the moment the game is planning to ship with courses created by the dev team here only – a good kind of cross-section to demonstrate what’s possible within the editor.
For golfers – we found that in Golf, most people want to play as themselves and that because our game is mostly focused on user competition that having a roster of licensed golfers wasn’t something that was a priority for us. So at the moment – we’re not planning to have a roster of licensed pro golfers in the game.
"We did talk a lot about what level of a “career” mode we were going to have – but in the end – we shelved the idea of a traditional career mode for launch. "
Rashid Sayed: Talk us through the physics engine used in The Golf Club Game. What kind of things have you implemented which makes it unique from other golf games?
Peter Garcin: I think one of the neat effects of having the course be a complete seamless world is that wind is consistent across the course. You don’t have a situation where you’ve got conflicting wind readings going all over the place as you move from hole-to-hole – it’s got a global wind model so the wind behaves as it would in the real world and is consistent between holes. And then in terms of ball spin, rolling physics – everything that you’d expect to be there in the game is covered and behaves in a manner that is consistent with the real world.
Rashid Sayed: Are you pushing the game to be 60 fps and 1080p resolution on both the PS4 and Xbox One?
Peter Garcin: Yes – we’re targeting as high of a framerate as is sustainable – and for us, we want experience parity on all consoles, so yes 60fps is our target.
Rashid Sayed: Are you developing the PC version scalable in terms of visuals for high end rigs?
Peter Garcin: PC will have a wide array of options to customize effects and detail level depending on your rig. The PC version already runs above 60fps even at max detail on a rig that is comparable to the consoles – so those with super-high-end rigs will have a really slick experience.
Rashid Sayed: What can you tell us about the single player mode? Do you have any career or tournament modes planned?
Peter Garcin: This is one of those elements where the essence of what a single-player mode is in a largely user-generated game starts to break down. We did talk a lot about what level of a “career” mode we were going to have – but in the end – we shelved the idea of a traditional career mode for launch. We wanted to be able to do it justice and build it out in a way that makes sense for a game like this. That being said, we do have tours and tournaments in the game in the form of user-created tours and tournaments.
Without a preset array of courses or competitions – the only way tournaments or tours make sense is to have them be user-created. So users can generate their own “playlist” of courses which you can then compete in. Stats are and scorecards are all saved so there is a long-term progression in the game – but the traditional “season” cycle, attribute-building aspect is not present in the game. Another reason being that we wanted to focus on multiplayer competition and for all users to have a level-playing field attribute-wise so that you could not grind your way to the top of the leaderboards. It’s a really complex issue and one that we’ll continually developing even after launch.
Rashid Sayed: Sharing is an important feature in The Golf Club Game. How will the community know some of the best made courses out there?
Peter Garcin: At the simplest level – users can rate courses so that the best courses bubble to the top. But we’ve also been spending a lot of time building a suite of filtering tools to make it easy to find courses made by your friends, particular authors, by type, etc. So discoverability is something that we thought about right from the start. We’ve also built in the ability to feature courses so that if there is really cool content we can curate that to give it some visibility.
"For sure finding ways to parallelize tasks is the key to getting performance out of these boxes – and we were aware of that from the beginning so have built the game accordingly."
Rashid Sayed: Is sharing only limited to custom courses?
Peter Garcin: Well – everything in the game is custom courses – and everything is shareable! We wanted to make sharing as easy as possible and not put limitations on what people could or couldn’t do with the creation tools.
Rashid Sayed: The PlayStation 4 is obviously a bit more powerful specs wise, at least on paper. Are you using that extra push on the PS4 to make the game better?
Peter Garcin: For us – experience and feature parity is the goal because we want everyone to be able to have the same gameplay experience and to be able to share content so a level-playing field is really important.
Rashid Sayed: Talking about the Xbox One, have you faced any issues with working on the eSRAM? There are conflicting reports regarding eSRAM. Some developers said to us that it’s a bottleneck whereas some believe it can be advantageous if used in the right manner. What are your thoughts on this and how is the team handling Xbox One’s complex architecture?
Peter Garcin: We use Unity so a lot of that stuff is hidden away from us. Some of the differences might rear their head when it comes time for final optimization – but up to this point – no problems on any of the platforms.
I think really for both questions [above]– that the fact that we’re using Unity, and the fact that we’re not yet at that last-mile optimization stage means that we haven’t run into any problems or situations where we have to squeeze performance out of hardware.
Rashid Sayed: What are your thoughts on PS4 and Xbox One’s GPU? Have you used the GPUGPU capability of both consoles to push the visuals further?
Peter Garcin: We’ve definitely taken advantage of the GPGPU capabilities – but mostly in the realm of course creation to help drive the terrain generation and that sort of thing. We do also use it for realtime atmospheric light scattering and clouds as well which generates some of the fantastic atmosphere that you can see in the game. So it’s definitely been an advantage.
"Motion controls or platform specific features we definitely always keep on our roadmap but we would never do it just for the sake of it."
Rashid Sayed: Compared to the Xbox One, have you faced any development issues on the PS4? Is the single core speed resulting into thread management issues?
Peter Garcin: Again – at this stage, we haven’t run into issues but as we push the game through to final completion, that last-mile optimization stuff is where some of these things might become issues that we need to deal with. For sure finding ways to parallelize tasks is the key to getting performance out of these boxes – and we were aware of that from the beginning so have built the game accordingly.
Rashid Sayed: Are there any plans to include Kinect or DualShock 4’s touch pad support?
Peter Garcin: Motion controls or platform specific features we definitely always keep on our roadmap but we would never do it just for the sake of it – it has to make sense in the game and actually be good. We’ve done a lot of motion gaming here – Kinect especially – and we know what it takes for it to be good, so we want to be sure that if we do add motion controls to the game that it is really compelling.