Unity Focus: The Golf Club

The HB Studios team discusses how Unity helped them create the authentic and social golf club of their dreams
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Why choose Unity for The Golf Club?
Anthony Kyne, producer: It was a toss-up at the time between Unity or our own engine. We’d just finished working on a couple of MLB.com games – Home Run Derby and Franchise MVP, both in Unity – and had a great experience with it. It gave us was a quick route to getting the game playable early on and iterating on that, rather than blindly coding and hoping it’s going to be fun at the end.

The other thing is, when taking on a big project like The Golf Club, you want your most talented programmers actually working on the game rather than engine development, so Unity was a bit of a no brainer really. Our top guys could get straight into working on the course generation AI rather than having to write a terrain editor first.

Rami Alia, senior technical lead: When you compare the speed of start-up in Unity and the fact you can get prototypes up and running within hours instead of weeks, the robustness of the engine, and the ability to run on almost all platforms to other engines, it really does win hands down.

What makes The Golf Club stand out from other golfing titles?
Kyne: Golf is one of the most popular sports in the world. What people love about it is the challenge of beating themselves and their friends, and getting out of the house to walk the environments the courses are set in.
We felt it wasn’t a sport that would be held back by not having all the big licences and famous courses. People want to be able to play their local course as much as they want to play Augusta or St. Andrews. Creating the visual and audio experiences of being out of those courses was important. We wanted the ambiance to be as relaxing as getting out on the course in real life.

We also didn’t want loading times between holes. We wanted to be able to jump out of a round easily and jump into a round with your friends, creating that whole vibe an actual golf club has. We even created the Ghost Ball system that lets you compete against friends’ previous rounds or your own.

The stand out feature is the Course Designer. The player can decide how blank they want their canvas before they start creating.

What features of Unity were most helpful?
Alia: Hands down, Unity’s editor. The robustness of the tool, and ease of development within it are the reason why so many developers come to Unity.

For The Golf Club, the Terrain Editor was a major help. We had a solid base to start the course generator tool from, which became the Course Designer. If we hadn’t had that base, we’d have spent a good piece of time just on something like that alone. Platform porting is also a lot easier.

What advice would you give new Unity devs?
Kyne: Using Unity is something that’s a little bit different from just writing something in C++ from scratch. In some aspects, it’s a different way of thinking. Unity has solved a lot of the problems for you, so if you feel that it’s making you do something the long way round, you’re most probably doing it wrong.

Alia: It gives you the ability to have prototypes up and running quickly, which gives the team confidence in the game. But the time made up at the beginning of the project doesn’t mean that the ‘creative’ people on the team can start expanding the scope of the project. What you gain at the beginning of development you lose a little at the end as some of the simple stuff like front-end and optimisation is a little more fiddly than normal.

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