In May of 2006, I formed my own PC game development company, Wolverine Studios. I was 27 years old, and my game development background consisted of three titles, all sports text-simulation games, all developed in my spare time. I released my first game as Wolverine Studios in August of ‘06 –Total Pro Golf. It was a golf simulation—no fancy 3D graphics, but a detailed career mode that focused on role-playing aspects as well as golf.
Less than a year later, after finishing up the second Wolverine Studios title, Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball, I began to consider my next project. I felt that Total Pro Golf still had untapped potential, so I decided to develop a second version, named Total Pro Golf 2, with a significant list of new features.
1. The first thing that went right with TPG2 is what went wrong with the first game. We released the original in August of 2006, and we had a decent customer response. Reviews were generally positive, but our forums weren’t buzzing in the months after release.
So we asked questions.
We found out that there were two main areas we needed to improve. Some people didn’t like the fact that the game was designed to be a strict simulation of golf –during a round, all they could do was choose a club, the shot type, and an aiming point. So we decided to implement a tri-click system in TPG2 (in addition to the one-click version, which we retained).
That way, people could play the game either as a straight sim or with a stronger arcade element. The second big complaint was that there just wasn’t enough to do during a round of golf. We added more shot selection options, like draws and fades, and focused on giving the player more tactical decisions during a round.
2. The second thing that went right was the addition of features that gave the game a more international flavor. We added three European tours in addition to the three American tours included in the original TPG, and also added the ability to travel between tours in different seasons. We also added a points race for the championship, emulating the changes on the American PGA tour.
We also worked on making the player creation feature easier to use, as well as integrating downloaded (user-created) courses into the game. Adding a feature that automatically incorporates all available courses into the tour schedules was particularly well received.
3. Third on our list of things that went right would be that we got lucky. What would a golf game be without golf courses? Selling the idea of a 2D golf game is hard enough – we would need amazing courses to make it work. The course designer we created had the ability to import images into a grid and simply map where everything was on the image. This was considered an alternate, secondary method of creating courses, but it turned out to be far superior to our original, primary method.
The course designer/mapper is available as a free download and people quickly took to the mapping method – except that they weren’t spending hours and hours meticulously drawing out holes in their favorite graphics program – the community had a better idea. Many golf courses have hole layouts on their website, and many courses can be viewed overhead with satellite images found by using a service like Google’s.
The game plays out in a top down 2D format, so that’s the only kind of picture they needed to recreate courses. Unlike most golf games where a recreation of a course takes 6 months or more of dedicated work, new courses were being mapped and released in days.
The community quickly mapped a number of the world’s greatest courses for use in the game, and a community website was created at www.tpgcommunity.net where these courses are available for download. The rapidly growing, user-created course database became a huge “fun factor”.