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Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2002 (PC) Interview

1/31/02

Our own Leeman recently had a chance to interview Vance Cook and Orlando Guzman of the Tiger Woods 2002 team. (Click here for new screen shots)

Vance Cook – Headgate Studios Director/Founder – Working on golf simulations 15+ years, Started Headgate Studios in 1992. Products include: Links 386, Front Page Sports Golf, and PGA Championship Golf.

Orlando Guzman – EA SPORTS Sr. Producer - Working in games 10+ years, Golf Simulations since 1998. Product contributions include: Deluxe Paint, Road Rash 3D and the Tiger Woods PGA TOUR series.

1) With so many human resources available - between the original Headgate team and EA Sports - how many people were actually involved in the design of TW 2002?

    Orlando: The number of people fluctuates with where we are in the project. The core design, production and development team numbered about 20 people. This doesn't count all the people involved with a variety of other production tasks though (the motion capture crew, the commentary crew, the media assets crew, etc.) When you add up everyone who contributed something to the product it's over 60 people.

2) Is the game engine a completely new design, or is it more of an improvement over the basic PGA Championship Golf 2000 engine?

    Orlando: The game rendering engine is completely new. Other portions are based on Headgate Studios' previous technologies (physics, swing mechanism for example).

3) The version I played had a strong emphasis on 3D objects and made use of transparencies. Will a 3D graphics card be a requirement and, if so, what will be the minimum specs?

    Orlando: A good 3D graphics card is strongly recommended to take full advantage of the 3D technology and new game play and visuals, but it is not required. The product will ship with a software renderer as well so people on the lower end systems can have a satisfying game play experience. Here are the current requirements (subject to change by final):

      Tiger Woods PGA TOUR 2002 System Requirements
      Windows XP/2000/ME/98 (Windows 95 and NT not supported); 400Mhz Intel Pentium II or AMD K6-2 processor; 64 MB RAM; (128MB RAM if using Windows 2000 and Windows XP); 8X CD/DVD-ROM drive; 400MB free hard disk space plus space for saved games, Windows Swap-File, and DirectX8.0a installation; 8MB supported Direct3D capable video card (Hardware 3D Accelerated mode requires 32MB Direct3D video card) with DirectX8.0a compatible driver;DirectX8.0a compatible sound card; Mouse; Keyboard. SUPPORTED 3D CHIPSETS: NVIDIA GeForce 4, NVIDIA GeForce 3, NVIDIA GeForce 2, NVIDIA GeForce 256, NVIDIA Riva TNT2, ATI Radeon

      Recommended System Requirements
      733Mhz or faster Intel Pentium III or AMD K7 Athlon Processor; 128MB RAM; 64MB Supported Direct3D video card; 1GB free hard disk space plus space for saved games;

      Required For Online Multiplayer (2 to 4 players)*
      28.8Kbps or faster connection via Internet or TCP/IP Network (1 Disc per system). Up to 4 players can play on a single system.

      Additional Requirements For EA SPORTS Course Architect
      500Mhz or faster Intel Pentium III or AMD K7 Athlon Processor; 128 MB RAM; 500MB free hard disk space plus space for saved course files;

4) Fans of PGA Championship Golf 2000 have grown to love TrueSwing™. Could you explain the differences between how it worked in PGA Championship Golf 2000 and how it will work in TW 2002?

    Vance: TW2002 emphasizes swing velocity more and tempo less than PGA 2000. It's also designed to encourage shot shaping (drawing, fading). Tempo is calculated differently in TW2002 than it was in PGA 2000. The different equipment types also have an affect on TrueSwing depending on the individual's play style.

5) The golfer models in TW2002 are now fully 3D. Could you explain what was involved in making them look so much like their real-life counterparts?

    Orlando: The process is as follows: we motion capture golfers, we photograph them in various poses, we gather as much reference on the golfer as possible, the artists then start building models of the bodies and heads, creating the textures for the faces and clothes, then bind everything together with the motion skeleton. The Headgate guys did an awesome job of recreating the look and personality of the various professional golfers.

6) With such a heavy emphasis on 3D in the game, some users/course designers have expressed concerns about the ability to create their own 3D objects. Will users be able to create their own 3D objects from within the Course Architect? If not, will users be able to use 2D objects until such a utility becomes available?

    Orlando: Users will not be able to use 2D objects with the new course format. See reply #7 below for additional information.

7) Initially, how many 3D objects will be at the user's disposal for course creation?

    Vance: Total unique trees and objects number between 80 and 100. When we release the library creator utility, this will give designers the ability to attach their own bark and leaf textures to these models enabling the designers to create a much wider variety of tree and object types for their own original designs.

8) Are there any features that you would have liked to implement but that are likely not to make it into this version of the game?

    Orlando: Now that would be like tipping your hand in Poker. We are already in the planning phases of 2003, so no comment! J Once you see the final 2002, I think you will see where we can go with the technology for the next step.

9) The interface for the Course Architect in the version I played looked very similar to the Architect for PGA. Is this essentially the same Architect? What enhancements or improvements might users find?

    Orlando: We wanted to focus on the game before completely upgrading the Course Architect, but there are some significant changes. The ability to deal with 3D objects, a new course creation wizard process that greatly simplifies the initial creation phase of a course to some really basic steps. This will make it so that aspiring designers get the opportunity to quickly and easily sketch up their creations and remove the somewhat tedious process for the advanced designers of sketching and laying out their courses. For the next version of the Course Architect we plan on addressing some of the advanced features that designers have been asking for as well as continue to make the process of creation as simple as possible. I believe we can build a very user friendly polished tool (EA SPORTS's strength) with a very powerful and deep feature set for our design community (Headgate's strength). I'd like to take this opportunity to thank Farrell Edwards for his great work on the Course Architect™ this year and Ken McHale for his great hole design templates.

10) Will a course converter be available and what types of courses will they convert? It seems logical to assume they could convert PGA courses. If so, will it convert "compiled" or "uncompiled" courses, and what will happen to the 2D objects that are on the existing courses?

    Orlando: With TW2002 we will be publishing a Course Utilities application (formally Course Manager) that can be used for managing user created courses. 2 new features of the Course Utilities program is the ability to convert most Tiger Woods PGA TOUR® 2000 and 2001 courses (EA and user created courses) as well as PGA Championship Golf™ 2000 user created courses. With all the great user created designs out there in both the TW and PGA design communities, our product will be compatible with hundreds of existing courses currently available online. Using the course converters, the courses will retain their 2D objects. The Course Architect™ will allow designers to import their “uncompiled” .ach files and remap their 2D objects to our library of 3D objects.

11) Will it convert older TW courses? And, if so, how will it handle converting a single hole onto a full-course land-plot?

    Orlando: The technologies are completely different, but the engineers at Headgate have done a great job at tackling all the issues. Because of the way the TW courses were put together there's no simple way to stitch the courses into one full land plot. They still remain single hole courses, but we thought that the tradeoff was a good one. We figured it was a better to provide an upgrade path than to just allow all those great older courses to just gather dust 'til either we re-created them or the designers did with the new full land-plot Course Architect.

12) Will users be able to create their own 3D objects using third party software and import them into the game?

    Orlando: No, not easily. See the Library Creator comment above.

13) Can you tell us about what Multiplayer features will be available?

    Orlando: Online play, if you've every tried previous Tiger Woods PGA TOUR games, you'll know that we believe the online experience should be as simple and easy to get into. We've tried to embody that with the new design. The lobby will have features that both the EA SPORTS and Headgate customers have come to appreciate and enjoy. Many of the enhancements and feature upgrade may not be visibly noticeable when the product comes out, but our online users will see the benefits of those upgrades over the course of the year.

14) Which of the new features do you think current fans of the TW and PGA series will enjoy the most?

    Orlando: The look and feel is what I believe is going to make the fans just go WOW! Everyone who tries it for the first time, gets into the new swing mechanic really quickly. The most common feedback we get is: This looks great, it's so immersive, the golfers look great, and the swing has such a gratifying feel to it.

15) I was very impressed with the versatility of the cameras in TW 2002. Could you tell us a little about them?

    Orlando: One of the key features that has differentiated the Tiger Woods PGA TOUR series from our competitors over the years are our full screen cameras. We believe this feature really immerses the player into the environment and makes for a much more exciting and enjoyable game. The cameras in TW2002 are incredible because of rendering engine and the high resolution textures. Moving around the courses in 360 degrees of freedom takes some getting used to but the visual feedback they provide is unparalleled in PC golf games.

16) Being a fully 3D game, I'm expecting system requirements to be a bit high. Can you tell us what the minimum specs will be and what will be required to run the game with all the bells and whistles turned on?

    Orlando: See #3 above

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17) Is there anything else you want the readers of The Sports Gaming Network to know?

    Orlando: We're taking PC golf simulations to a completely new level of realism, game play and immersion. We want to give everyone a great experience and expect that new and experienced PC Golf simulation fans will really enjoy it once they've tried it. Thank you.

We would like to thank Vance and Orlando for their time in answering a few of our questions. Be sure to check out our hands-on preview of Tiger Woods 2002.



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