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Brent Nielsen goes over the details for EA Sports 'PGA Tour'

New golf game from EA PGA Tour
New golf game from EA PGA Tour
Photo courtesy of Electronic Arts, used with permission

We sat down at E3 with Brent Nielsen, Executive Producer for EA's new golf game PGA Tour. Dropping the Tiger Woods franchise name, EA is clearly out to reinvent and redefine the golf simulation. Starting with a new graphical and physics engine, the game is built for the new generation consoles. While a lot of features could not be announced, Nielsen did dive in to what the Frostbite engine will have to offer. Below is what he had to say and keep checking back for information on PGA Tour.

  1. What type of jump can be expected in graphical detail?

Just taking a step back for history and content, we started thinking about what was going on with the next generation consoles. For us, what kind of things do we want to deliver? We quickly realized with porting current gen 3 game wouldn’t let us do the things we want to do. We started looking at what engine we want to do. For sports titles, you’ve got hockey and basketball which are fixed arena environments, and football and soccer are fixed stadium environments. Golf is one of the sports games with a dynamic, more of an open world. Frostbite 3 is exactly that engine that renders beautiful environments. So when we dive into, it makes a lot of sense for golf. So we made that decision. Even early on, what we are seeing in the detail, we can even pause the video frame by frame, the foliage, the grass, the wildlife, you will actually see deer. All of this is running in-game, it’s no CGI, but there are details like butterflies and bugs. Literally, there is so much graphical detail and obviously the environments themselves.

Another thing to talk about, in terms of the environments, Frostbite 3 allows us, and this is one of things we wanted to get to on the next generation systems, it allows us to stream the environment. In the past, you would have to load up each whole. This means a couple of things. You would have to work 30-45 seconds for each to load. So this is now gone because the environment is initially loaded and streaming. When you play 18 holes, you’re talking 15-20 minutes shaved off a round of golf. That was a gamechanger for us. Another thing is it allowed us to, because we are streaming everything, you can play the ball from anywhere. Before, if you hit the ball off the beaten path, even if it was still in play in real life, like in the trees, we would just say it was out of bounds and put you in a drop spot. Now if you want to say “I wonder if there’s a way to get to the green or fairway from here in a different way” you can do it. Much like Bubba Watson in the playoff hole at the Masters, you can take any angle and we are not limiting your shots. This will give you advantages and this will truly make the game for the next generation.

  1. Will Night Golf return in PGA Tour 15?

There are no details about specific features because it is so early for us. It is still a year away for us with a release in Spring 2015. More to come on specific things.

  1. How will Frostbite 3 affect the swing mechanics?

Definitely more details to come in the future with the specifics. Things that you would kind of expect from a golf game. Even the way the game is playing right now, in terms of physics and the different types of shots we can have based on the loft and the club, and whatever balls, this revolves around the consoles and the push we can have. There’s so much more we can do than in the previous generation.

  1. Currently you can add your face in the game, will this transfer over to incorporate the cameras on both system?

More to come on this, again.

  1. With Frostbite 3, will there be a presentation transition or some sort of cut scenes between holes?

That is probably something that will be feature related as well, so more details to come.

  1. Will there be a change to the atmosphere of the game such as in playoff situations?

When you think about the environment, it’s everything. It’s the crowd, it’s the hazards, and it’s whatever is in the environment. All of those things are the leap from where we were at. The gen 3 game looked really well. But this will still be feature related, so expect more news on these in the future, but you can expect quite a bit of change where the crowd is concerned. The key thing we’re revealing is the trailer. You saw the transition with TPC Sawgrass and how stunning and gorgeous it looked, and you can play golf on a Battlefield map.

When we first made the decision we were going to use Frostbite 3, and one of the things the previous Tiger Woods franchise had a mix of authentic championship courses and fantasy courses, we haven’t done new fantasy courses in a number of years. They were always very popular and a top DLC performer. When we did that, EA has a lot of cool games that are done on the Frostbite engine, and we wondered how it would look on a fantasy course that’s an exotic location. Let’s take the Battlefield course for example. What would be the coolest environment we could think of? The islands and the tropical setting, we talked to the Battlefield guys, and we’re trying to import that island into the golf engine.

It took a couple weeks to start building golf holes on that map. Before you knew it, damned if you weren’t playing golf on this map. Seeing it for the first time, this was another thing that really was a gamechanger for me. I was staring down and I could see the green, and all of a sudden a ship comes, and now where is my shot and can I play it off of there. When it comes to fantasy courses and being able to stream the environment and play from anywhere, it’s almost like creating a sandbox for users to try and find the straightest path as necessary. It’s really cool because it changes the way you play. We didn’t want to have bookend, not just playing golf on a different location.

  1. Has any thought crossed your mind about designing and sharing courses?

Again, all I’ll say right now, the thought has been on our mind for the last ten to twelve years, but still no feature announcements.

  1. Will you see blades of grass pop up or dirt from sand pits when hitting the ball?

I will say yeah. The particle effects are part of the next leap as far as the sand and the grass when taking deep hits and different cuts, all of that.

  1. Will there be a current generation version of the game?

No there will not be. This is strictly next generation.

  1. Will there ever be a portable version of the game, like for example, for the Vita?

If you have a mobile device, a new game has launched called King of the Course. It’s very different, it’s not an authentic golf simulation, but it’s the only handheld version of the game.

  1. How long has this game been in development?

It’s been a small team since Tiger Woods 14 shipped. We’ve added more content creators since. The majority of the team who worked in the past is back. A lot were out helping with Madden and other titles. Really it’s been going, just as far as tech evaluation, since the last one shipped.