Q&A: ProStroke Golf producer Struan Robertson

ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007 is set to launch in a few short months. We sat down with the game's producer to talk about this hyperrealistic golf sim.

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The self-professed 'Pro Evolution Soccer' of golf games, ProStroke Golf: World Tour 2007 emphasises the art of the perfect swing above all else. The game lets you alter all aspects of your shot, from your position on the ball to the path of the club, allowing you to play shots exactly as you would in real life.

The game is nearing completion on the PlayStation 2, Xbox, and PC, with a PlayStation Portable version following in a few months' time. Offering real-life players such as Ian Woosnam, Sergio Garcia, and Mark O'Meara, and a total of 18 courses (two of which are based on real locations), the game looks to be aimed directly at golfers who are looking for a realistic depiction of the sport.

We have a hands-on previewof Pro Stroke Golf, but we also sat down with Struan Robertson, producer on the game, to talk about the direction the developers have chosen to take.

GameSpot UK: Why did you choose to place the emphasis on the golf swing in ProStroke Golf?

Struan Robertson: What we were interested in doing was accurately modelling the golf swing, something that hasn't been done before and that we found to be quite a difficult challenge. This was the most important thing to get right, to make the actual act of playing golf a video game in itself. Around this, we developed a complicated physics engine and the ProStroke swing system. This system allows players to have complete control over the shot, from the position of the player in relation to the ball through to the trajectory and power of the shot itself.

The system will reflect each shot as if it were played in real life, so if your balance is on your back foot, you're more likely to have a steeper swing and put more spin on the ball. When you're playing multiplayer, the game really comes into its own, as different people often approach the same shot in different ways. While you can get by just using the onscreen guides, the game really rewards experienced players who approach the game as if it were a real shot.

GSUK: You've been working with professional golfers to capture this realism and put it in the game. What lengths have you gone to in order to achieve this?

SR: Well it all started when we were down at the driving range with a guy called Mark McGeehan, who's a local pro around the Oxfordshire area. He was the guy that we motion-captured for the game itself and he also helped us out in the early stages in understanding how real golfers play.

In order to program the physics model, we studied a book on the subject. In fact, it's the only book dedicated to the physics of the game, and it grew out of a PhD research paper. It includes the obvious things like wind resistance, but it goes right down to the friction placed on the ball by the blades of grass.

You can ask a pro how they make certain shots, and they won't be able to explain it on a physical level; they just know what they're doing from experience. The physics model in the game, though, should reflect individual styles of play with realistic results.

GSUK: The commentary in the game comes from Sam Torrance, Alan Green, and Ian Baker-Finch. What input have they had on the game?

SR: Well, when we were recording the commentary, Sam Torrance (professional European golfer) would read what we'd scripted and say, "Well, I know what you mean there, but it's going to be better if I say it like this." We took Sam, and also Alan Green and Ian Baker-Finch, because they'd worked on the BBC and Sky doing commentating, and of course Sam has considerable experience in the game itself.

GSUK: One of the big features of the game is its course editor. What will it let you do in the game?

SR: We've actually aimed to create all the courses in the main game using the in-game editor. We've had a PC version of this editor up and running for a long time, and it's possible for all the courses in the game to be built again by players. We expect that a lot of people will take time to build other famous courses, and because of the small file sizes needed to store them, people will be able to hold many on a PS2 memory card, or even e-mail them from the PC version.

The course editor allows you to create a course in a matter of minutes, and you can quickly place trees and other obstacles around the course before zooming in and playing a round on your creation. You can also alter the terrain to make each course as difficult or as easy as you like.

GSUK: Are there any differences between the various versions of the game?

SR: Not really. The Xbox version isn't online, unfortunately, which was something we hoped would go in but we couldn't this time around. All versions of the game will include four-player multiplayer modes, though, including the PSP version over ad hoc wireless. Also, if you've created a map and want to play it with your friend, the PSP will stream the map over to them so that they can try out your designs.

GSUK: Let's talk a little about the courses in the game...

SR: Yeah, there are two real courses in the game. There's the Brabazon course at the Belfry, which is kind of the Ryder Cup course of Britain, and the other is the Lake Nona course in Florida, which is Sergio Garcia's home. It's a very nice course and living area in suburban America, and the guys over at the course walked round it and took photography for us, and we walked round the Brabazon. Unfortunately, none of us are good enough golfers to play on the Brabazon, as you need to have an 18 handicap, and Lake Nona boasts quite an exclusive membership. Hopefully the game will offer golf fans a chance to try courses which they may never be able to in real life.

There are 16 other courses in the game, encompassing the European countryside, Southern America, two in North America, one in Australia, and then a couple set in Asia. The course designer will also allow people to design their own courses from scratch and save them as a relatively small file.

GSUK: Thanks, Struan.

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