When it comes to golf games, course terrain is as important to nail as Tiger's swing if you want to truly represent the authenticity of the sport.
That's why the "Tiger Woods" team spent seven to ten days at each of the 16 courses in the game, utilizing a laser scanner to help map the terrain of every hole, from the cut of the grass to the placement of trees.
"We're using a 3D laser scanner made by a professional photography company called Leica," explains "Tiger 10's" art and environments producer Reza Elghazi. "We take the equipment to every single hole, place it, then we do a 360-degrees scan of the entire terrain. What this gives us is detail down to two millimeters, and the benefit is that when we transfer this into the game, you're playing the hole and the course exactly like you'd play it in real life.
"People who have seen the new game who have played these courses are shocked to see that the slopes are just like they are on the course for real. We even had Tiger playing the game and he was really impressed by the details we put into the terrain."
Producer Mike DeVault, like Tiger, can't believe the graphical upgrade that has taken place over the course of the last year.
"One of the things that really struck me about the game this year are some of the irregularities that were added to the grass," says DeVault. "It really adds to a sense of realism. In the past, all of the courses were cut to look almost like a carpet, but this year, you'll see a lot more variation. And the taller the grass, the more detail you'll notice."
When it comes down to it, the terrain is the game. There isn't another sports game where the environment is more important than in golf, and in 'Tiger,' the terrain is your opponent.
”-- Art and environments producer
Adds Elghazi: "We took all of the courses from last year and revamped them like crazy. The textures, the lighting, the terrain, everything looks so much better. We looked at last year's game and thought that was the best we could do, but then we sat down and decided that it just wasn't good enough, that we could do better. So this year we really outdid ourselves. When you look at 09 compared to "Tiger 10," they look like two different games running on two different engines.
"In scanning the courses and taking hundreds and hundreds of pictures, what we realized is that no course is perfect. Even on some of the greens, you'll notice small irregularities that we really wanted to reproduce in the game. Even after we scanned them, we then went back to the course and talked to people who worked there, and they helped us out with the smallest details, like changing the height of certain trees in the game. And the results helped us be very, very accurate."
But the terrain isn't the only huge upgrade to the visuals as the game also introduces dynamic weather into the mix, including overcast skies and rain that updates to the real weather conditions on the course while you're playing on a per-hole basis thanks to online input from The Weather Channel.
"When you're playing the course and it's raining it feels like it," says DeVault. "The soak level on the ground will accumulate over time, and even when it stops raining, it takes a while for the soak to disseminate. That's where the gameplay comes in as it will change the speed of how your ball's roll, so you'll need to adjust your game to the weather, and not just the wind. And with the online updates, your weather will change as you play. So if it stops raining in real life, it will stop raining in your game."
Adds Elghazi: "Contrary to any other sports game where the environment is always moving, in Tiger, you might be staring at the same environment for a couple of minutes, so we needed to make sure our direction heading into this year was to make the course and the terrain and the weather look as dynamic as possible. To add to this, we've also added three times the amount of people to the gallery, really pushing the machine to the limits of what it can render. This year, when you're playing as Tiger and you're putting, you're surrounded by people, and it really adds to the atmosphere of the tournament.
"But when it comes down to it, the terrain is the game. There isn't another sports game where the environment is more important than in golf, and in 'Tiger,' the terrain is your opponent."
In other words, play the terrain, don't let the terrain play you.
For more information on Tiger Woods PGA Tour 10, check out the EA Sports blog.