Approximate Release Date: September 15, 1991
Genre: Golf simulation
Developer: HAL Laboratory
Publisher: HAL Laboratory
I think I’m going to be okay if I never have to play a golf game like HAL’s Hole in One Golf again.
This isn’t a slam against HAL’s Hole in One Golf. It’s fine. It’s a golf game. You know what to expect with a golf video game, and that’s the problem. I can’t think of an entire subgenre that has stagnated as much as golf simulations have. But that makes sense, if you think about it. Golf has fewer “moving parts” in terms of game design than most other sports.
What’s required to make a golf simulator? Well, it needs to have a golfer or some other visual representation of the player. A ball that bounces and rolls. A hole on the far end of the course. A flag in that hole. Courses to play on, preferably based on real places. The fairway. Rough. The green. Static obstacles like bunkers, trees, and ponds. A swinging system. A putting system. Wind. Once you have all those things, what’s really left?
I’m being reductive, I know. But try to think about football in the same way. That one golfer is equal to 22 players on a football field. And those 22 players are all doing different things; designing the mechanics behind a quarterback and a running back and a cornerback and a kicker are all wildly different, not to mention linemen. AI needs to be developed. Playbooks designed. Collisions between every character and the ball need to occur and look natural. Don’t forget the announcers. And there needs to be a usable and effective control scheme for every single position. It goes on and on.
As of this most recent Madden game, we still don’t have tackling quite down pat yet. Yet almost every golf game is using the same metered swing system that has been in existence for about 30 years.
Oh, HAL’s Hole in One Golf? It’s a golf game. Whatever.
Tomorrow: The godfather of god games hits the Super Nintendo in Populous.