Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online: Continuity Counts

Here's the real appeal of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, EA Sports' upcoming online-only PC golf game: Your golfer is your golfer, and he or she will linger for as long as you play the game, and as long as the game's servers are running. That's a significant difference from how the...

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Here's the real appeal of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, EA Sports' upcoming online-only PC golf game: Your golfer is your golfer, and he or she will linger for as long as you play the game, and as long as the game's servers are running. That's a significant difference from how the long-running Tiger Woods PGA Tour console games handle things--where every year, you have to start your golfer from scratch, knowing that a year or so down the line you'll be scrapping him for a brand-new model.

Back in the '90s, I played the PC version of Links for years, and by the time I finally gave up on the game, I had a golfer who had accumulated hundreds of rounds of virtual golf. It sounds preposterous, I suppose, but the connection I had to that pixelated little duffer was stronger than any created character since. Tiger Online has that same potential--after all, the golfers you create in the game will persist as long as you keep paying the subscription fee, and it's that continuity that has me excited about the game's potential.

When EA Sports' Greg Rinaldi came by GameSpot HQ to give us a look at Tiger Online, I asked him about the subscription prices, and while he wasn't able to comment on exact pricing yet, he did tell me that it wouldn't be "anywhere close" to the monthly fee for a game like World of Warcraft, and the game would have different subscription packages available (three-month, six-month, etc.). For that subscription, you'll get six playable courses at the outset, and Rinaldi said the goal would be to add a new course each month, as well as other upgrades and features as the game continues. As to the possibility of microtransactions for things like new golf gear, Rinaldi admitted it was a possibility for the future, but no concrete plans have been announced. Considering the rampant microtransactions in other EA Sports games, however, it seems like more a question of "when" and not "if" they'll make their way into Tiger Woods Online.

What could some of those upgrades be? I asked about two console-specific features--namely support for the photo GameFace feature (which lets you import a digital photo to serve as the face of your golfer) and support for the Xbox 360 controller, which would give you a control option other than the default three-click swing that you'd expect in a PC golf game. Rinaldi said that both features are a possibility down the road but didn't give a timeline on when to expect them.

The game has gone through several private betas over the past few months, and developers at EA Tiburon are prepping the game for its upcoming public beta (though the date for that open beta is still under wraps for now). We saw the game for the first time in May just before E3 2009, and it has come a long way, evident in things like the new swing trainer, which EA first showed back in July.

The swing trainer requires you to upgrade specific areas of your shot by spending money you've earned playing the game. You can alter the attributes of any of six shot types: full, punch, pitch, flop, chip, and putt. Within the "full shot" type, you can upgrade any of the following attributes--swing plane, tempo, balance, swing speed, timing, and touch--and any upgrade you make will have a beneficial impact on your game. However, I'm curious to see how obvious those improvements are; for example, how will a maxed-out tempo rating affect a shot, as opposed to focusing on swing speed or touch? Also, as Rinaldi pointed out to me, you're not required to upgrade shots you don't use. If you never use a flop shot, for example, there's no point in sinking money into upgrading it.

Another aspect of Tiger Online is the idea of course mastery. Essentially an achievements system, each course in the game will have a series of objectives you need to complete in order to move up the rankings from course member, through course pro, and finally up to course master. These objectives can be $5,000 on a certain course, or sinking a 10-foot putt on a hole, and will gradually get more difficult as you go. Once you've obtained "master" status on a course, you'll be able to enter special tournaments available only to other players who've mastered that course.

It's those tournaments, and the idea of playing golf with others, that is at the heart of Tiger Woods Online. Even jumping into a single-player round, you'll be able to chat with other players on that course and even watch the arcs of other players' shots as they play on the same hole as you (though, it should be noted, you can turn these off if you find them distracting). You'll also be able to play in tournaments and in online foursomes with friends. As of now, the game will only support stroke play, though Rinaldi did say that other game types, like match play, will be added in the future.

The game runs in a Web browser, and with multiple graphical settings, it seems prepped to run on modest PC and Mac setups as well as high-end PCs. You'll be able to save your game at any point as well and return to your round the next time you log in, a feature that will sit well with someone who has only a few minutes at a time to devote to his virtual golf swing.

I'm looking forward to Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, but I'll admit to a certain level of puzzlement regarding its future. In a perfect scenario, the game turns out to be affordable, always updated with new content, and playable on a huge variety of PCs--from modest netbooks to full-fledged gaming rigs. If that best-case scenario does happen, what does that mean for the console versions of Tiger? At least in the short term, the console series will have a huge head start in terms of content and refinement. What happens, however, after Tiger Woods Online has been out for a couple of years (assuming it lasts that long) and the content of both games is more or less on even footing? I've only got the budget for one golf game per year, and I'm probably not alone there.

Am I overly optimistic in thinking this could signal the return of my Links-style love affair with PC golf? What do you think of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online?

Discussion

20 comments
mailman95
mailman95

sounds like battlefied heros heard of it? ea made it free but u have 2 pay 4 ungrades and stuff

seabassman
seabassman

Does anyone else here think golf is the worst sport on the planet? One must ask themselves is it even a sport? I firmly belive golf is an activity played by old retired people and i wont budge on that for one minute.

EdC
EdC

I've been involved since 3rd beta - wait until you have a chance to try it - it's fantastic!!

flybynite73
flybynite73

I have been playing the TWOL Beta for the past couple of weeks. I have submitted several bug reports that need to be ironed out as well as suggestions to improve the game.I will say that it is quite different in control & difficulty from the old TW PC games. I found this out first when putting with my old stroke & watched the ball either lip or bounce out of the cup.The graphics aren't bad & I have been distracted by the flocks of seabirds flying over Pebble.Connecting has been no problem until now,as the program doesn't come on when I hit the Tee Off Button. I have reported this so will wait until its corrected.This game means that a lot of us old PConly types will be back on to beat the console types.

doneill13
doneill13

I agree completely with hamitime. I am a BFH fan and love being able to play for free online. I wasn't overly impressed with the game's mechanics when I participated in the last beta. The graphics looked pretty good but I found other aspects lacking. The ball would land the same just about every time, regardless of where it landed. I would get two bounces and stop in the deep rough. And when it hit the fairway it was two bounces and stop. I also got stuck on one hole where it wouldn't let me clear a gap over the ocean. Landing in the rough at the edge of the cliff, it wouldn't let me hit it hard enough to clear or go anywhere to the side. Frustrating. World Tour Golf is an online (free) golf game that seems to play a lot more realistically. That game gets my vote.

hamitime
hamitime

why not make this play for free like battlefield heroes - you can pay if you want to so you can upgrade equipment and buy clothes or for all the cheapy's out there (me) use xp points to upgrade equipment and clothes. I love BFH and have never paid a dime and I can compete with the people who have paid to upgrade their weapons.

Joesocwork
Joesocwork

Speaking of TW08, my 11 y.o. autistic son was wanting to play with me on the beta. He loves rooting for me when I sink a putt and gets a kick out of sound effects. Since we couldn't do multiple personas and share on a network, I decided to buy Tiger Woods PGA Tour 08 and he seems happy with it. (However I like the graphics of the beta much better.) I'm sort of hoping that the mechanics will relax so that we could play as a team.

drg0nzo1
drg0nzo1

I am in the beta, played a few rounds. Not impressed really, I would take Tiger Woods 08 any day over it.

dmb34
dmb34

not liking this pay to play theme Im seeing lately, if this is the future of pc gaming I may be done. Consoles will probably be next......

hollyrock88
hollyrock88

well it seems all are jumping on the waggon. the pay as you go or pay to play. i dont know about this for pc golf. TW 2008 i think is hard to beat on the pc. i agree only six golf courses that is lame. they are gonna make ya pay for new clubs,new courses,upgrades ect..... i bet ya anything. thats were they are gonna get ya. so pull out your wallets and pay to play and pay to get all new courses and upgrades that they will bring out. sorry guy's but people will spend money on this stuff ya better get used to it. alot of games are going this way pay to play.

Joesocwork
Joesocwork

I was playing the beta last night and my wife looked at my character and asked me if I was Tiger Woods. I told her "Not a chance!" :P

ManTool
ManTool

Links style PC golf? How about the original PC golf game - Mean 18 !! I was a Beta tester recently for TW Online and really enjoyed the game. As a PC golfer for almost 30 years, I am completely burnt out on all versions of TW for the PC (the standalone games) but this one seemed different enough to keep my interest. Outstanding graphics for an online game if you have enough hardware horsepower. A few bugs, but no deal breakers. Looking forward to the official release.

Joesocwork
Joesocwork

I've been doing the Betas for the past few weeks. I'm surprised I've been asked back with my lesser abilities. I do try to give them feedback on the forums though. I remember Links also and it was my last time prior that I played a computer sim golf game. I have fond memories of their golf courses like their versions of Bar Harbour and Saw Grass. Back to this game, the money and swing trainer come across to me as a Sim Golf way of leveling up, which I'm cool with. But it definitely pays to beeline on improvements in certain strokes right off the bat though. It'd be cool to reward specialising on a variety of strokes and styles to allow for differing types of play. The tournaments are great. However I'm usually too much into the game to pay attention to groups or chat though. In the end, I think it will budget, however, that will determine the success of the online game.

ministerpaul
ministerpaul

Is this a consolation by EA sports for abandoning PC gamers? Good bye EA sports. I'm not buying!

mechberg
mechberg

@oaklandexplosio -- Yeah, how much content is available right away will be a big selling point and I don't think the excuse of "additional content down the line" will keep people satisfied for that long, especially since EA Sports has been known to pull the plug pretty quickly on projects these days (EA Sports GameShow, anyone?). That said, I'm optimistic about this and personally hope it does well, if only because it's time for a PC golf comeback.

oaklandexplosio
oaklandexplosio

im a graphics guy and i am very dissapointed so far at what ive seen. it seems very obvious to me that this is simply a port of the console versions...stripped of everything i loved about tiger woods on the pc. no inclusion of gameface annoys me...only 6 courses to start? unless i can get this game for under 4 or 5 dollars a month with a year subscription it just isnt worth it. they need to do a LOT more upgrading on this before ill sign on. with that being said... it isnt out yet and ea is the best when it comes to sports to me, so ill pass judgement until then. im hoping itll be great

erodaland
erodaland

[This message was deleted at the request of the original poster]

mechberg
mechberg

Here's the real appeal of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, EA Sports' upcoming online-only PC golf game: Your golfer is your golfer, and he or she will linger for as long as you play the game, and as long as the game's servers are running. That's a significant difference from how the long-running Tiger Woods PGA Tour console games handle things--where every year, you have to start your golfer from scratch, knowing that a year or so down the line you'll be scrapping him for a brand-new model.

Back in the '90s, I played the PC version of Links for years, and by the time I finally gave up on the game, I had a golfer who had accumulated hundreds of rounds of virtual golf. It sounds preposterous, I suppose, but the connection I had to that pixelated little duffer was stronger than any created character since. Tiger Online has that same potential--after all, the golfers you create in the game will persist as long as you keep paying the subscription fee, and it's that continuity that has me excited about the game's potential.

When EA Sports' Greg Rinaldi came by GameSpot HQ to give us a look at Tiger Online, I asked him about the subscription prices, and while he wasn't able to comment on exact pricing yet, he did tell me that it wouldn't be "anywhere close" to the monthly fee for a game like World of Warcraft, and the game would have different subscription packages available (three-month, six-month, etc.). For that subscription, you'll get six playable courses at the outset, and Rinaldi said the goal would be to add a new course each month, as well as other upgrades and features as the game continues. As to the possibility of microtransactions for things like new golf gear, Rinaldi admitted it was a possibility for the future, but no concrete plans have been announced. Considering the rampant microtransactions in other EA Sports games, however, it seems like more a question of "when" and not "if" they'll make their way into Tiger Woods Online.

What could some of those upgrades be? I asked about two console-specific features--namely support for the photo GameFace feature (which lets you import a digital photo to serve as the face of your golfer) and support for the Xbox 360 controller, which would give you a control option other than the default three-click swing that you'd expect in a PC golf game. Rinaldi said that both features are a possibility down the road but didn't give a timeline on when to expect them.

The game has gone through several private betas over the past few months, and developers at EA Tiburon are prepping the game for its upcoming public beta (though the date for that open beta is still under wraps for now). We saw the game for the first time in May just before E3 2009, and it has come a long way, evident in things like the new swing trainer, which EA first showed back in July.

The swing trainer requires you to upgrade specific areas of your shot by spending money you've earned playing the game. You can alter the attributes of any of six shot types: full, punch, pitch, flop, chip, and putt. Within the "full shot" type, you can upgrade any of the following attributes--swing plane, tempo, balance, swing speed, timing, and touch--and any upgrade you make will have a beneficial impact on your game. However, I'm curious to see how obvious those improvements are; for example, how will a maxed-out tempo rating affect a shot, as opposed to focusing on swing speed or touch? Also, as Rinaldi pointed out to me, you're not required to upgrade shots you don't use. If you never use a flop shot, for example, there's no point in sinking money into upgrading it.

Another aspect of Tiger Online is the idea of course mastery. Essentially an achievements system, each course in the game will have a series of objectives you need to complete in order to move up the rankings from course member, through course pro, and finally up to course master. These objectives can be $5,000 on a certain course, or sinking a 10-foot putt on a hole, and will gradually get more difficult as you go. Once you've obtained "master" status on a course, you'll be able to enter special tournaments available only to other players who've mastered that course.

It's those tournaments, and the idea of playing golf with others, that is at the heart of Tiger Woods Online. Even jumping into a single-player round, you'll be able to chat with other players on that course and even watch the arcs of other players' shots as they play on the same hole as you (though, it should be noted, you can turn these off if you find them distracting). You'll also be able to play in tournaments and in online foursomes with friends. As of now, the game will only support stroke play, though Rinaldi did say that other game types, like match play, will be added in the future.

The game runs in a Web browser, and with multiple graphical settings, it seems prepped to run on modest PC and Mac setups as well as high-end PCs. You'll be able to save your game at any point as well and return to your round the next time you log in, a feature that will sit well with someone who has only a few minutes at a time to devote to his virtual golf swing.

I'm looking forward to Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, but I'll admit to a certain level of puzzlement regarding its future. In a perfect scenario, the game turns out to be affordable, always updated with new content, and playable on a huge variety of PCs--from modest netbooks to full-fledged gaming rigs. If that best-case scenario does happen, what does that mean for the console versions of Tiger? At least in the short term, the console series will have a huge head start in terms of content and refinement. What happens, however, after Tiger Woods Online has been out for a couple of years (assuming it lasts that long) and the content of both games is more or less on even footing? I've only got the budget for one golf game per year, and I'm probably not alone there.

Am I overly optimistic in thinking this could signal the return of my Links-style love affair with PC golf? What do you think of Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online?