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Thread: In praise of Desert Golfing

  1. #1
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland

    In praise of Desert Golfing

    2016 is over. Lists have been made and discussed. Now, let me talk about the game I actually played the most in 2016. Let's talk about Desert Golfing, procedural generation, and mobile gaming in general.


    The game

    Desert Golfing is a game by Justin Smith, aka Captain Games, aka @manbearcar. Most famous, probably, as the developer of Enviro-Bear 2010. In 2014 he released Desert Golfing, a mobile game that, according to my calculations, I’ve spent somewhere in the vicinity of 120 hours playing.

    It’s a 2D golfing game, much in the style of Super Stickman Golfing(which you know I love), but with anything distracting from the pure 2D golfing experience removed. The core gameplay loop is that you launch your ball towards the hole, watch as it flies through the air, maybe putt a bit, watch as it goes into the hole, and then? The screen scrolls to the right, and the next hole reveals itself. The game goes on forever. No ending. No highscore board. No failstate. Just eternal golfing. Actually, that’s not true. Recently someone found out that apparently the game does end eventually, at hole 64 465, but I’m only on hole 14 251 yet, so I’m ok for a while longer. The scenery doesn’t change for the first 1000 holes, but then it starts shifting color, every 1000 holes or so looping back to regular desert-brown. Occasionally there’s a water hazard, and I think I’ve seen 1 or 2 cacti appear in the background as well. Once I saw a rock lying on the ground.

    The game is built on simple rules. Angle and power determines your trajectory, just like in everything from the old QBasic Gorillas to Angry Birds. If your ball is rolling uphill it will stop on a slope when momentum stops, but if it’s bouncing even slightly it will roll back down. If the ball goes offscreen, it will reset on the tee.

    The core gameplay loop here is so good. First you survey the landscape, figuring out how much power and which angle to shoot at, and how the various landscape features will help or impede your goal. Then you fire off your shot, and watch as the ball flies through the air, trying to estimate where it’s going to land, and - this is a big deal - even as you’re watching it fly through the air, the game lets you start dragging out the angle and power of your next shot. When your ball has landed and come to a standstill, you can execute your next shot. I'm 14251 holes in now, but every time I manage to pull off a hole-in-one by doing a fancy bounce off a slope, there's still that jolt of satisfaction.

    If you still don't have a clear image of what the game is like, here's me playing through 450 holes of it.



    Procedural generation done right

    No Man’s Sky got a lot of flack for it’s procedural generation being pointless, and that’s because it just, simply, didn’t have good underlying gameplay systems. But Desert Golfing proves that if your core gameplay is satisfying, the game can literally go on forever, and that’s perfectly fine. It doesn’t have to have an ending, or a failstate, it can just keep going. And people will keep playing, not because they wanna get to the ending, but because it’s fun to play!

    My own experiments in this type of endless gameplay go no further than the Endless Mode in Trajectory, but because of Desert Golfing, I’m a big believer in the power of procedural generation.


    Why it’s such a great mobile game

    Some PC and console gamers look down their nose at mobile gamers for enjoying such simple things. But it’s not that we don’t like complex games, many of us do, but we’d rather play them on PC or console than on a tiny screen. Mobile games exist in an entirely different space. And that space is whenever you’ve got a couple of minutes to kill. Waiting for something, taking a dump, waiting for your computer to restart, etc. This is the space mobile gaming occupies, and as such, the requirements of a good mobile game often run counter to what makes a good PC or console game.

    These are a few things that make for a good mobile game:

    -Minimal load-times. When I click the icon for Desert Golfing it takes roughly half a second for the game to start up and I’m ready to play. No load-screen, no menu. I don’t even have to click a Load or Continue button, I’m immediately in the game and ready to start golfing. Perfect. This is why I reach for Desert Golfing instead of several other Android games. Hoplite's load time? 2 seconds, and then there's a menu. Anything made with Unity? At least 4 seconds. Super Stickman Golfing 2 HD? 7 seconds! Who knows if I’ll even WANT to 2D golf by the time that thing is done loading! And then it doesn’t even take you straight into the game, instead there’s another 5-10 seconds of navigating menus and loadtimes before you’re in-game. No sir, keep the time between me clicking the icon and me playing the game to a minimum. As a result, the best mobile games are often quite simple things.

    -No story, nothing you need to remember. It might be a few minutes, or months between play sessions, so if game progress relies on me having to remember anything important, it’s not gonna work out.

    -Don't make me have to pay attention to what I'm doing. I wanna be able to put the phone down at a moments notice, without necessarily pressing a pause button, and go check on my pasta which is boiling over, and then come back to the game minutes later without any averse effect to my game progress.

    -Minimal exit-time. Similarly, when my delivery arrives or the boss pops his head into my office, I need to be able to quit this thing instantly. No Save button, no quitting through a menu. I can literally just close the phone to quit Desert Golfing and save my progress.


    THE END (I'm sorry, I don't know how to end this post)

  2. #2
    Member
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Melbourne, Australia
    Best Golfing game was the golf mini-game at the end of every level in Dark Chronicle (aka Dark Cloud 2). Yet to play a better golf game than that .

  3. #3
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland
    I haven't played that one, but I gotta say I've never really been into any 3D golfing games, and I haven't found the one's I've played to be as satisfying as 2D golf games. I think it's a case where making the thing less realistic, by stripping out one dimension, actually leads to something that works better as a videogame. You still have the challenge of how much power, and at what angle, your shot goes, but it being 2D sideview means the environment is easier to read, making the thing more playable.

  4. #4
    Southquarter.com/fms
    Registered: Apr 2000
    Location: The Akkala Highlands
    I get the whole simplistic approach idea, but I don't know, I would think it would just get boring after a while. Especially if you're a fan of golf games and are used to something more sophisticated. I can't see playing hundreds of holes of this, but I could be wrong.

    I've been playing a bit of golf myself lately - just picked up The Golf Club on Steam, and went back to a couple of my all-time favorites, Mario Golf and Wii U Sports Club Golf.

  5. #5
    verbose douchebag
    Registered: Apr 2002
    Location: Lyon, France
    Quote Originally Posted by henke View Post
    I've never really been into any 3D golfing games
    Avoid actual golf then. It's really 3D.

  6. #6
    It's like they say -- 3D golf games are a good walk, spoiled, simulated.

    (BOCG is actually fun, mind you :)

    I can see the appeal of Desert Golfing.

  7. #7
    Level 10,000 achieved
    Registered: Mar 2001
    Location: Finland

    Keep on rolling, baby. You know what time it is.


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