The Golf Club 2 is set to tee off on June 27 for PlayStation 4, PC and Xbox One. However, there are still plenty of questions that fans want answered before they grab their clubs and head to the course for some fun.
In an exclusive interview with Sports Gamers Online, game designer Jordan Ault and lead animator Joel Thompson of HB Studios talked about the game’s updated course designer, favorite fan designs, getting life-like animations without the benefit of motion capture and more.
Check it out below, and be sure to check back for our full review of The Golf Club 2 after the game’s launch.
With the incredible depth of the original course designer, how difficult was it to find new features to add to the designer?
Jordan Ault: The difficult part was picking which features on our wish list we wanted to tackle for The Golf Club 2. In the end we went with a mix of big-impact features like multi-level water with waterfalls, quality-of-life features, like object-snapping or enabling the spline tool for all surfaces, new & expanded content like new objects including skyscrapers and other buildings, features that will facilitate further growth in the Course Designer like the UI redesign, and features that meshed directly with additions elsewhere in TGC2 like crowd placement for Society and Career events, or Multi-Tee and Multi-Pin placement.
What are the major differences that fans will notice right away with course designer?
Jordan Ault: The first thing you’ll notice is that the flow you go through when creating a new course has been updated to give you more control out of the gate—we’ve also added the often-requested profile setting to default all new courses to generate zero holes. Or, if you have a favorite creation that you’ve published in TGC you’ll be able to import that course into TGC2’s Course Designer for sprucing-up before republishing.
Once you’re in the Course Designer itself, you’ll notice that the UI has gotten a facelift. It’s now laid out in a way that will make it easier for newcomers to get their bearings, and for veterans to find the new tools and features they want to try out. You’ll see all the available options in a menu at once, rather than having to scroll through 3 buttons at a time. This is also more extensible than the old layout.
As you dig into the new features of the Course Designer you’ll uncover things like multi-level water; water features including waterfalls; multiple tee boxes and pin placements per hole; a wider variety of objects, with more control over the placement of those objects; updated surface-painting tools; more control over the clouds, atmosphere and lighting; and the ability to designate locations for crowds to stand during tournaments.
You’ll also have access to an in-depth Help Glossary that covers every aspect of the Course Designer, in addition to the rest of the game. The game will offer recommended topics as you check out new areas of the course designer and game, or you can access the Help Glossary at any time from the Profile Menu.
What limitations/struggles did the team deal with when trying to implement new course designer features?
Jordan Ault: One of the biggest struggles was maintaining a balance of complexity and flexibility, with usability and user-friendliness. On one hand, we have a community of extremely talented course designers that know the tools in TGC from front to back; those folks want more complex tools, or tools for very specific things to bring their creations to the next level.
On the other hand, we also realized that the designer in TGC was quite daunting for a lot of players. For that reason, we needed to ensure that everything we were adding, as well as everything we’d started with was that much more inviting, and intuitive to use. I think we’ve achieved that balance nicely, and I can’t wait to see what is created by veteran designers and newcomers-alike.
What were your favorite fan designs from TGC?
Jordan Ault: When I polled the team here I got quite a few responses. Here are just a few of the courses mentioned:
- Harbor Island Black
- Ballyntyne National Golf Club
- The Shakespeare
- Lunenburg National Golf Club
- Scarpacci Creek
I think my personal favorite from TGC is still Athena Academy Golf Course. I just love the creative use of the course designer to build the set-dressings of the soccer pitch, baseball diamond, and running track, with the snow-peaked mountains in the background. I heard the designer of that course did another similarly themed course called Oceanic Athletic Club, but I haven’t had a chance to check that one out yet.
We hope to see the designers of these courses, and others, bring them all over to TGC2.
Will custom courses be available to use in the new Career Mode?
Jordan Ault: Yes! You have full control over the event schedule in the single-player Career Mode, or in online Societies (if you’re the admin). Courses that have earned a handicap rating will work best in Career Mode—they will be played more accurately by the simulated opponents, and will earn you the most money—but you can use any published courses.
Switching topics to general gameplay. I know from the first game and when I spoke with the team, we discussed the difficulty of getting great animations with no motion capture. Now that you’ve done it once, does it feel easier to animate swings and movements this time around? What are the biggest challenges?
Joel Thompson: “Interesting question. We did have motion capture the first time around but the challenge there was that we didn’t send anyone to the capture shoot to direct it. We sent [the capture studio] a shot list, tried to remote view it via Skype, and prayed we’d have the data we need in the end. Obviously not an ideal situation. So, not picking our own talent and not being on set to direct the shoot was a rough start toward getting quality capture data. The 2nd part to this when it comes to the actual swing animation is that it had to be tied to the analog stick, so you’re not actually seeing a fluid motion as you would if the animation was just triggered and played in its entirety.”
Things were a bit more structured this time around, as Joel continued to explain…
Joel Thompson: “Most importantly; this time around we were able to choose our own golf talent for the shoot and we had a director on set for the entirety of the shoot. This helped to ensure we were getting golfers who didn’t have any overly ‘unique’ characteristics to their swings—we wanted as textbook form as we could find. Again, with the backswing and tempo [in the game] being user-driven, this always creates a big challenge to try and make the swings look as natural as possible—especially when users are taking 1/4 or 1/2 swings—and making the blends in and out of the full arcs look as fluid as possible. Since the user decides when to stop their back swing a lot of tuning goes into those blend points to get them as seamless as we can. The better control you have of your analog stick and your tempo the better your swing is going to look overall.
I wouldn’t say it was any easier this time around but we were more confident with the data we were working with and the end result is a cleaner look and feel than what was in TGC1.”
What major changes to Multiplayer is there? Will live online gameplay be available with friends as opposed to just ghost ball?
Jordan Ault: We have changed the flow of setting up a round to help streamline the process and simplify setting up a match with friends. On the setup screen, you will have the option to add up to 3 other players to your round. These include the ability to add your local guest, ghosts and rivals.
As in The Golf Club, rivals are friends who are playing the selected course, live. In addition to this for The Golf Club 2 we now show all live users, not just friends. Adding the ability to play with any live player was a big step for us and helps add to the depth and enjoyment players will be able to get from general gameplay and Society events. With the enhancement of live rivals and the addition of Societies, we are opening up a social and interactive aspect for the TGC community that was not there before.
Just like in TGC, you can join friends who are already on in a round, or send them a notification while you’re mid-round to have them join you on the same course. This is made easier by the ever-present Profile Menu, which contains access to your friends list. Each player is in control over their own multiplayer experience. They can enable or disable Turn Order individually, have different people, guests, or ghosts in their group, or even come and leave the course as they please—If you need to leave, your friend can continue and finish their round now and you can return to finish your round against their ghost at a later time.