How EA Sports built the courses of its PGA Tour gameHow EA Sports built the courses of its PGA Tour gameGiphy GIFGiphy GIF

How EA Sports built the courses of its PGA Tour game

Planes, drones, and LIDAR
What most impresses Craig Penner, a gameplay designer on EA Sports PGA Tour, isn’t the game’s butter-like rendering of the middle of the fairway, or the slight harassment of the first cut lining it, or even the anything-goes tangle of the second cut.
“The Country Club comes to mind,” Penner said, of the course in Brookline, Massachusetts, scene of the 2022 U.S. Open.
“We have certain areas that are kind of mixed, rough, heavy rough and dirt together. It’s kind of uneven terrain. And the artists mapped in the terrain to that. It’s all over the place, because you’re going through these different materials, which actually makes it true to real life.
“But then it has this interesting effect of giving you a situation where you don’t really know, until you get up to your ball, if it’s a good lie or a bad lie,” Penner said.
“It’s better now, because we would have to bring these really heavy tripod things, and set them up, and it would take a week to do a course,” Ramsour said. Even then, “in my pitch to the courses” to get their ...
...participation in the game, “it’s always, ‘It’s business as usual.’ Some of these places that are super private, they don’t want to see a guy in an EA Sports shirt with a camera running around,” Ramsour said.
The developers show up early, plan around the watering schedules, and try to be invisible.
“We’ve had people hit by golf balls,” he laughed. That one was very hard to get into the game because they don’t need the publicity of being in a video game.
Penner described multiple meetings with course superintendents to discuss the terrain and how the ball should play, specific to each hole there.
But having that open dialogue, to make sure we’re representing it exactly, it’s in all of our best interests to be doing that.”