EA Sports' PGA Tour more than just 'the next Tiger Woods game without Tiger Woods'
If you watched EA's E3 press conference in June, then you're probably aware there are some big changes coming to PGA Tour -- and I'm not just talking about dropping the name "Tiger Woods" from it. No, EA is making meaningful changes that actually change the way you play the game.
"When we set out to design and what we wanted to see in a Gen 4 golf game, and whether it was going to be with Tiger or without Tiger, we wanted to reinvent the game that would literally change the way you play the game," Executive Producer Brent Nielsen told us.
"There are a lot of things where we said, we expect a next-gen golf game to have this and this. We also quickly realized that porting the last version of Tiger wasn't going to get us where we wanted to," he explained. "So we started to look at the engine and things like that. There was Ignite for sports games and Frostbite 3, and as we started to dissect it. We looked at hockey and basketball as fixed arena games. And Golf is where the environment is the game, so we quickly realized that Frostbite 3 made a lot of sense for Golf."
"What was game changing for us, was the ability to stream the environments. That means in previous games you had to load up one hole at a time, which meant to wait for 30 to 45 seconds for every subsequent hole to load, so right off the bat, we're going to shave off like 15 to 20 minutes," Nielsen continued.
It's not just speeding up the rate of the game though. Another improvement is the open-world aspect. No longer are you limited to only the current hold you are playing on.
"You can literally play the ball anywhere," he added. "Before, if you strayed the ball off the beaten path, the game would tell you that it's out of bounds and back on the tee. But in real life, you could play it from the trees or another fairway, so now you can play the ball from anywhere."
The open-world nature of PGA Tour also allowed for the dev team to take some creative liberties. As you might've seen in the PGA Tour E3 trailer, the game now offers players the chance to play on fantasy courses, like one of the maps from Battlefield.
"And the other cool thing, as far as the fantasy courses are concerned, it gives users a sandbox to explore, "Is this the obvious path I'm looking at to the green, the best path to take?" Or in case of the trailer, "What happens if I see the green and all of a sudden there is something in my way (like the battleship), do I need to go around it or can I hit off of it?" It's creating a sandbox for gamers to explore and have some fun with it, so that was huge for us."
"When we decided to use Frostbite 3 to build the game on, we started thinking about -- and at it's core, it's still an authentic game with authentic championship courses, but we thought, "You know what? We have some pretty cool games at EA that use the Frostbite engine, you know if we could import some of their environments and use it in our game, and see what it's like." So we looked at Battlefield and we thought about what's the coolest location to play Golf on; Paracel Storm, with the Islands, and the tropical setting. So our engineers imported it pretty quick, and our designers started building greens and stuff and before we knew it, we were playing Golf on Paracel Storm. For us it was an 'awe' moment, because, it's still Golf, but thinking how much fun players can have on these unique environments. And again, it sort of changes the game especially in these fantasy courses, there could maybe be shortcuts or different ways to get to the holes."
"So getting back to the original question, this is a new game and a new experience," Nielsen said. "It's still golf at its core, but we want to cast a wide net. We've done research, and the core golf fans have an expectation of what it is, physics and stuff, but we also looked back and broke it down to features that they liked, and they love playing on fantasy courses. Our most popular DLC courses were fantasy courses. The core, in addition to playing the career, love to explore and play these fun things."
EA has made so many improvements to the series that Nielsen actually considers the new PGA Tour a reboot of the long-standing golf franchise.
"With Frostbite and the environments and the load times, to me it's a reboot," he concluded. "Literally there are so many things that have change the way the game is played fundamentally, that's not just the next Tiger Woords without Tiger Woods. It goes well beyond that."