Tiger Woods PGA Tour: Less Van Pelt, More Online

I've got some thoughts on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 and the upcoming browser-based Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online for PC and Mac. However, before I get to that, I've got to get this off my chest right now:Scott Van Pelt should not be in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. The commentary in this year's game is rife...

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I've got some thoughts on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10 and the upcoming browser-based Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online for PC and Mac. However, before I get to that, I've got to get this off my chest right now:

Scott Van Pelt should not be in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 11. The commentary in this year's game is rife with his flat-footed attempts at humor, his egg-headed wordplay, and his oily, winking delivery. Worst of all, a good chunk of the commentary is just plain wrong, having little to do with the action on screen. I'd sooner have a Greek chorus full of the shrieking harpy clones of David Feherty fill announcing duties in Tiger 11 than face the thought of SVP back in the booth for another season.

Okay. I feel better. Now, on to my real point.

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A good friend of mine, who hasn't played a console golf game since Tiger Woods PGA Tour 2005, has become obsessed with Tiger 10. It's been interesting hearing his viewpoint on the game as someone who (unlike me) doesn't follow Tiger closely from year to year. When compared to Tiger 2005--which was notoriously easy, even by Tiger Woods series standards--so much of this year's game is new to him: more powerful character customization, the club-tuning feature, and, especially, the online features like GamerNet and the online tournaments. A few weeks back, we had a great time tackling Bethpage Black during the U.S. Open Play With the Pros online tournament, struggling not just against disgusting weather but also with the impossible precision the course demands.

Still, as with any game, improvements are always on the horizon and, in this day of server-side online gaming, many of those improvements can come after the game has been released. In the case of Tiger 10, that means some changes to Tiger 10's live tournament feature. In a recent blog post over at the EA Sports blog, series producer Mike DeVault outlined some of the upcoming changes to live tournaments that look to improve what has been a well-received feature so far. You can read the post here, but here's the general gist of additions and changes:

New Tournament Payout Structure -- Designed to encourage live tournament participation, even for players who aren't top-tier, this new payout structure would base your tournament winnings directly on how many people are below you on the leaderboard.

Handicapped Tournaments -- A new style of tournaments that would dynamically adjust the tournament difficulty on a player-by-player basis. Low skill players would be able to use spin, boost, and putt preview and play against higher skill players who would be playing at Tour Pro difficulty (or somewhere in between).

Online PGA Tour Seasons -- Here's the one I'm most excited about and here's how DeVault describes it:

"We're looking to create a season structure within Live Tournaments and we need your help to set it up correctly. The basic idea here is to create a season's worth of tournaments that would last X amount of weeks. At the end of the season, we'd crown a winner they'd win some fabulous prizes and we'd start up another season right after that."

Personally, I'd love to be able to create friends-only tournaments--I've got more than a few buddies, including my newly minted Tiger 10 fan described above, who would like to compete in online tourneys just between us, without having to worry about the online freak who can hit -90 at Pebble Beach after two rounds.

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Of course, the other big golf news is the upcoming Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online, which we first saw back at EA in May. The online PC game has currently gone through a limited beta and is preparing for a second beta in the coming weeks (with another slated for the end of a summer and an open beta in early fall). According to game producer Greg Rinaldi in a recent blog post, some of the new additions in the next beta of Tiger Woods Online will be:

Career Progression -- Play as your own created character, earning money and improving your golfer as you go. Naturally, this is essential for any golf game these days but, arguably, it's the MOST important aspect of Tiger Woods Online. Unlike the console game, which has you restarting your career from scratch each year, you'll be living with your created golfer in Tiger Woods Online for a long time to come. Here's hoping the career and skill progression--which is so keyed to unnaturally rapid improvement in the console game--follows a longer, more realistic path in Tiger Woods Online. It would certainly help the game, from an authenticity standpoint.

Swing Trainer -- What's interesting with this feature is that apparently, you'll leveling up different aspects of your swing--swing plane, tempo, balance, swing speed, timing, and touch. It will be interesting to see how leveling these different aspects of your golfer's swing will change his or her play on the course.

Course Mastery -- Playing well on courses will unlock the ability to play those courses at a higher difficulty level. This is a bit reminiscent of the license system in games like iRacing, where you're rewarded with more challenge for playing well. Conversely, I wonder how (or, indeed, if) the game will punish you for a bad round or two?

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This being a second beta, there's still lots more work to be done in Tiger Woods PGA Tour Online and more features to add before the game is released later this year. With that in mind, I've got one suggestion that I'd humbly like to make: Don't let Scott Van Pelt within a hundred miles of this game. And if you need help getting together a Greek chorus of David Feherty clones, call me. I'll do what I can.

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