TGB Goes Gaming: True Swing Golf for the Nintendo DS (Part 4)

mulligan, 09 February 2006, Comments Off on TGB Goes Gaming: True Swing Golf for the Nintendo DS (Part 4)
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Monday, I introduced readers to True Swing Golf for the Nintendo DS.
Tuesday, I discussed some of True Swing Golf’s features and some of the features of the Nintendo DS True Swing Golf uses.
Yesterday, I discussed the game modes on True Swing Golf.

Today, I am posting an interview I conducted on Tuesday with Nate Bihldorff, a localization producer for Nintendo. As Nate described, he “worked on this game, typically what we do is we translate a game from directly from Japanese and turn them into English. What we did on this particular game is that it had already be localized for Europe, so we just had to localize their version, which in this case meant taking out a lot of British spellings, they tend to put a lot of U’s in places that we don’t believe they belong. When you localize a product, you take it through the entire debug process fixing bugs in the text, so I have a lot of experience with it.”

Some general thoughts Nate had on True Swing Golf’s swing mechanic:

“One of the great things about the swing mechanic is that that is what keeps it fresh, it is not something that you can get the muscle memory to do perfectly every time. I have found with a lot of golf games, where you just push the button and press the button again to swing, you get so dialed in that you can just do it and it is rarely challenging. Where this game, I’ve noticed that if I play it right after I have a cup of coffee I physically have to mellow out a little bit, otherwise I just jerk it all over the course.”

The following are the questions that I asked him.

Q: Most golf video games that I have played usually use a series of button presses to control each shot (i.e. hitting “A” starts the swing, then you hit “A” again to control the power, and then you hit “A” again to control the spin and/or accuracy of the shot), how does True Swing Golf utilize the abilities of the Nintendo DS system to allow players to play the game?

A: One of the biggest problems, I think with those games, and believe me I have worked on games like that, Mario Golf had a similar mechanic * * * where you would press the “A” button and time the presses for the rest of those things like spin and everything. The problem is that it is not intuitive. Having to think about those certain things, I have to let the bar go over this particular spot so that I can slice is a disconnect for a game, where with True Swing, for one thing, you are using your stylus entirely to set up your shot. If you want a bigger club, you poke the club icon and then hitting the up arrow so you go up in club length or down in club length. But, once you get your shot set up, it is very, very simple. You say, I want to alter the contact point on the ball, you touch the ball and physically drag the contact point lower or higher, if you want to top it and run it along the fairway or if you want to hit some loft and hit it out of some deep rough, you are going to move the contact point down. That is very intuitive in and of itself. And then, as far as the actual swing goes, it is just like an ordinary golf shot, if you have the muscle mastery to swing it straight through you are going to hit it perfectly straight, if you physically want to slice it, * * * you are going to line your hand up so that you come across the ball, so the club head is going across it a little bit on the left side of the ball (I’m a righty) so that it will peel off over to the right. It is just a more intuitive way of doing everything, and not only that, but it is a much more visceral way of doing things. I don’t know how you play, whether or not you are very, very delicate in that there is a way of doing it with precision, but I tend to kind of spaz out on it. If I want to do a big drive, I’ll just wing my hand across the touch screen, I really get into it. I have a visceral response to it. I think it is much more interactive than any previous set up.

Q: What are some of the unique characteristics of True Swing Golf, which have not been utilized by other “golf” video games?

A: I think that’s (the stylus control) is one of the main ones. Not having a whole lot of experience with golf video games that are outside the Nintendo sphere, just because I pretty much play exclusively Nintendo systems. I cannot say exactly what other people have done. That being said, one of the other things I really like about this game is wireless multi-play. Where you and I can be playing together, and not only that, but you and I could be playing together if I only had a card (game pack), which is something that I know other people are not doing. Downloadable content is just awesome. And, also being able to talk smack with one another by typing in messages and then hitting the button to send them over to another’s screen just as they are about to swing. I think is pretty cool. But other than that, it really comes back to the interface. Like I said, the visceral response and the ease with which you can play this game are unparalleled. I have played other golf games with my girlfriend and she just didn’t get it. There were too many button presses. Trying to explain that meter, ok, hit the “A” button, the meter is going to go up, and then hit it at the end, and then it is going to come back down and hit it again. You just get lost in it. This game, you can pretty much stick it in anyone’s hand, give them the stylus and say here is what you are going to do, you are going to grab that club head, pull it back and swing through the ball. They can get through the whole round that way, and they can actually play really well. So you can get amateurs into the game. But then there is also a level of mastery that true veterans of golf games are still going to find enough depth to this game that they can really control the ball, really control their game, really plan out their game, and play it like a real golf course. I really think the control is what distinguishes it from most.

Q: I noticed that True Swing Golf does not have any license agreements with for instance the PGA Tour, do you find that not being able to be Tiger or Phil detracts from the enjoyment of the game?

A: Not me particularly, but I’m not one of those gamers that buys a lot of licensed products. To be honest, most of the time I have had more fun with games like Mario Golf than I have with others, because I don’t tend to identify all that much with particular golfers. I follow golf and I like golf, but it is not the same sort of thing as me playing a football game * * * where I can play as my favorite team. I don’t feel that same connection to “I have to play as this golfer” and “I’m going to follow this golfers career”, when I play golf, I want it to be me. This is a sport that I actually play myself and feel pretty good about playing. When I play it, I am more thinking of myself as a golfer. So it is not as important to me. Plus, the game features 4 different males and 4 different females, and you can assign a personality to each one, so you can at least approximate someone sort of like what you want to be. For me it is plenty, and to be honest, I don’t miss licensed courses either. The courses are so well thought out and well laid out that I really have a good time playing them.

Q: You mentioned that you play golf yourself, what is your handicap?

A: I don’t even know, I haven’t had an official handicap for quite some time. Let me put it this way, when I play golf what I’m aiming for is to break 100. * * * Typically, I come in around 101 or 102. Almost invariably. * * * I hit 93 once and that was my best round, but I don’t know what that translates into as a handicap.

Q: And, do you believe True Swing Golf allows you to experience many of the actual dilemmas that occur in an actual round of golf, if so, how?

A: Oh yeah. For one thing, the courses are laid out really well and really realistically. You’ll get a lot of golf games especially in the Mario series or more cartoony series that just have really bizarre stuff. They’re hitting off of pyramids and there are flying birds going by that you are bouncing off and really wildly laid out courses, which are fun. These ones I think really feel like real courses, they have traps and hazards laid in places that you would expect to see them, and that really complicate your golf game. So that, if you hit that fairway bunker, you need to think about what you are doing. Whether or not you are going to play safe and lay up or just try to clip it totally clean and try to wail it all the way up, which I always do in real life, and it never works out, but that is beside the point. Also, the level of control as far as when you are buried in the rough, being able to move the contact point and dig it out, being able to do a little bump and run if that’s the way you like chipping. Typically, I’m a pretty poor chipper, so whenever I’m on the fairway, if I have a clear shot at the green I’ll take out a 7-iron and top it, giving it a little top spin to roll it up onto the green. True Swing Golf gives you the control to do all those things.

Q: Having played the game, it sometimes takes me a hole or two to “warm up”; otherwise, I tend to whiff or shank a few shots. Do you have any suggestions on how to insure the player makes good contact with the ball?

A: First and foremost, the more often you do it, the more it is going to become natural. A real basic thing you can do that maybe not everybody will notice if you don’t read the manual is if you don’t feel comfortable pushing forward, you can actually swing sideways instead. For some people this motion feels more natural. * * * I personally, like it vertically. That’s one easy thing to do. You can try it out and see if that helps you out on your swing.

And other than that, its the same things you do in golf. It is all about finding a serene state of mind while you are playing. As I was saying earlier, it is just like golf in that if you are in the wrong emotional state or if you have had too much coffee or something like that, the tiniest little motion can translate into total disaster in both real golf and True Swing. But then on the flip side of that, if you are in the right frame of mind all of a sudden you’ll tear off five holes where you are in the zone. Finding your “happy place” (a slight Happy Gilmore reference) is really important.

Q: I know with True Swing Golf, the more you play in the Championship mode, you unlock different courses. Are there any secret codes to unlock extra portions of the game, does True Swing Golf include any of these “codes”?

A: There is nothing to punch in at the beginning that will unlock everything. There are plenty of unlockable courses and is plenty of unlockable clothing that improves your golf game. But, you are going to have to earn it all. That is one of the reasons to keep playing through tournaments is not only are you going to open new courses, but you’ll earn enough money to buy golf balls that you can put more spin on or golf clubs that have more power. You can level up your character by purchasing new items.

Q: Does the clothing actually have any benefit other than the clubs and the shoes?

A: Clubs and the shoes do, but the clothing is just esthetic choice.

Q: I am sure that this game will become a hit amongst golf fans, I know that I’m personally a fan of it, are there any ideas or plans to create a True Swing Golf 2?

A: Not that I know of, but then again, I’m pretty low on the totum pole as far as executive decisions on which games come out. So, as far as I know it is a bit too early to speculate on a sequeal.

Check back tomorrow for my concluding thoughts on this great game.


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