Ahead of the EA Sports PGA Tour release date on Friday, 24 March 2023, we had the great opportunity to chat with Producer Ben Ramsour and Gameplay Designer Craig Penner to talk about the incredible courses in store.
The latest technology has helped create super realistic courses that will transport you to some of the best fairways in the world, letting you live out the dream of being a tour pro.
So, how did they achieve such lifelike environments, what will influence your shot and ball behaviour, and what things should we look out for upon release? Read on to find out.
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The Latest Tech
To make the best game, you need to use the best technology, which is exactly what has happened in the creation of courses in EA Sports PGA Tour.
Photogrammetry scanning, drone technology, survey-grade GPS and custom LiDAR helicopter flights have all played their part in the process.
As Ben explains, "The first step is we get LiDAR scan data. We attached this laser to a helicopter that's designed to find gold mines and oil reserves. The data that we can get, it's 30 times more dense than you could even get from the government! We looked at government data, and it just wasn't the quality that we wanted, from an accuracy standpoint.
"Then we get a bunch of panoramic photo shots and fly a drone for video and camera so that our artists can see the lighting. So, for example, where the sun is positioned at Augusta is completely different than St Andrews.
"The third piece of it is actually meeting with the superintendents at these courses, and actually going through and looking, playing the game, feeling what the different grass types are like."
Getting such realism isn't just going to affect the game from a visual point of view, but it will also influence how users progress their character.
Ben points out that users could be a character that is really good at stinger shots and the texas wedge to suit the windy conditions of St Andrews or a bomber with really good putting to do well at Augusta.
Using the latest tech and visiting the actual courses has helped create a beautiful game, but were there any issues the team came up against?
"Making the roughs at the different courses feel accurate, the weather, and flying golf balls!"
Take Your Medicine
"We have 30 different courses and it would be weird for them to bounce all in the same way, it would be bad gameplay," says Craig. "So by having 30 different courses, having every type of terrain uniquely tuned on them creates a challenge of complexity."
Getting out and actually playing the courses proved to be a great help in designing gameplay.
Ben tells us about playing a round at Bay Hill with Arnold Palmer's son-in-law, where he ended up in the rough on the eighteenth and wanted to go for a shot to make the green.
"He's like, 'No way, just grab your eight iron and take your medicine. I don't care if you're Tony Finau, you don't have the strength to get that out of the rough there!'"
This has influenced what type of shots you will be able to pull off in certain situations, depending on the lie of the ball, so the realism of the course is mimicked by the realism of the shot type you are able to play.
The Bermuda rough at Bay Hill feels completely different than in Florida at Sawgrass, Ben says, so it is important to see that represented within the game.
Craig takes us through some of the nitty-gritty details of how different terrain will impact the gameplay.
"It's going to affect your ability to execute on that shot slightly, so it'll be slightly tougher in rough or heavy rough and it's going to be a little less forgiving.
"But the bigger way that it affects it is in the velocity and spin penalties. So terrain like rough and heavy rough, depending on which course it is, will show in the UI a velocity penalty. Instead of saying 100% as it does on the fairway, it's going to say 80 or 90%.
Once again, the details in the gameplay can be seen, as Craig tells us that these penalties will change from course to course.
Augusta is used as the example, where it has very light rough, so even if you are in the second cut you may be able to hit at 100% because it doesn't affect your velocity.
"What we're not showing you is that it affects your spin. That's one that you have to intuit for trial and error to figure out," teases Craig.
As well as that, you won't be able to shot shape or inflate spin control as much, depending on the lie.
It all depends on which course you're on and if you are playing from sand, dirt, mulch, pine straw, rough or heavy rough, so there will be many factors to it.
Feel Like a Pro
Part of the game Ben is really happy about is putting you in the position of a professional golfer.
"The actual swing itself, taking the stick back and pushing it forward, is not necessarily difficult. Which is good, right? My four-year-old can pick it up and play and have fun.
"We want people thinking like a professional golfer. Golfers know how to swing the club already. It's the decision-making that they have to do. The real challenge is the environment and the course you're playing on and not necessarily the tools in your toolbelt."
This means to excel at the EA Sports PGA Tour it will be very important to know the different courses, understand the terrain and how the ball will behave in different circumstances, which will be influenced by real-world knowledge and learned through experimentation in-game.
When we asked Craig and Ben what their favourite courses were in the game, they each came at it from a different angle.
"I think the fast and firm courses are really going to be the standout stars in the game," Craig tells us.
"St Andrews and Chambers Bay are probably the ones that stick out to me. The ball is just going to run on the fairway and around the green, so playing short game shots or anything around there is just an absolute blast. I think that's what when golf is at its peak!"
"For me, it's more of the immersion," says Ben.
"I would say Chambers Bay, but for a different reason. It has large dunes, it makes you feel really claustrophobic. So we design the course and set the camera so you can really feel that."
Ben says that you often hear people say they didn't realise how hilly Augusta is, so part of his takeaway is letting people know the feeling of being on these iconic courses, such as feeling the wind coming off the ocean at Whistling Straits.
A Caddy's Dream
Something that came up when talking about how the greens will play on EA Sports PGA Tour was their accuracy.
Craig tells us, "The precision and the data we're able to get with the LiDAR scans has really been amazing to work with. We've basically rewritten the ball-rolling physics from scratch for this game to get more realistic putting behaviour."
At Augusta, they showed off the game to one of the pros and their caddy, turned the green grid reading system off and has the caddy read the puts based on their memory and knowledge of the course.
"I think the comment was that we nailed it!" says Ben. "They're talking about having it in their caddy house so that they can practice and help them with their reading. It was very satisfying to get that feedback."
"It was just playing exactly how they were expecting it," continues Craig, "We were really blown away. So that was a huge validation for us getting their professional feedback and we knew we were on the right track when we heard that, so that was really exciting!"
It's not just the team behind the game that is excited about it, we can't wait to take to the tee box and experience the world-famous courses ourselves.
The release date for EA Sports PGA Tour is Friday, 24 March, with Early Access for Pre-Orders of the Digital Deluxe Edition starting on Tuesday, 16 March, so there isn't much longer to wait!