Article From Operation Sports & Writer Glenn Wigmore
One of the more inventive aspects in Tiger Woods PGA Tour 13is the country club mode, which allows users to team up for cooperative and competitive challenges, participate in tournaments, raise club status and add members in a meaningful way.
It’s a pretty clever feature in a lot of ways, and it’s something I didn’t credit the game enough for when I reviewed it. However, what’s struck me about country clubs is that they actually solve a lot of common problems with team modes in other sports games. Grouping up in hockey or soccer often results in lots of fun, but it doesn’t always seems to justify some of the core conceits of team play:
Why should I be online all the time?
Why do we really need so many people on our team?
What if I’m not very good at the game?
The country clubs mitigate these questions by nesting the reasons right into the design. Users of all skill levels are actually encouraged to participate, thanks to a club progression system that values your time and commitment just as it does your skill. Since a club gains status by ranking up its overall level, it’s important that everybody plays games. The smart thing is that users just have to participate; they don’t necessarily have to win. Loyalty bonuses are doled out for playing on consecutive days, and coins are given out to all users, no matter how much or how little they play.
OS user “kickingguru” sums up the value of having players that are persistent, regardless of their skill: “Do not worry about playing poorly and getting dropped. If you play a lot, you are a highly valued member. A couple of the guys in the TOP CC are not the best players but put more time in. We would never in a million years consider dropping them.”
Social gaming mixed with a social sport, looks like an ideal match.
What also works well for country clubs is having a team with lots of players. There have already been many thriving country clubs on the OS boards — Wolf Pack CC, Pinedale, Operation Sports (PS3), just to name a few — and users seem to be joining up at a good pace. The benefit to having a good deal of players on your club is that your club can then have a proper hierarchy of members, amateurs, assistant pros, clubs pros and a club champion.So while casual users are served well in terms of getting into and enjoying the club, more competitive users can still attain a unique standing in the group, be eligible for greater coin rewards and participate in club champion tournaments. The prerequisite of a certain player amount to “unlock” the ability to have a club champion actually encourages the acquisition of more players, since the club is then able to attain greater heights and better rewards.Of course, the standard suite of club management and team stat-tracking options allow the club leaders and hardcores to really dig into their team’s achievements and compare individual members, and the ability to go online and set up tournaments and schedules for your team works very well.
That said, EA knows that there are plenty of dedicated users out there to handle the heavy lifting. These deeper features are there for them, and they will help keep things rolling once the clubs get bigger, where the casual users can be buoyed by the smart design choices for the progression and rewards.
OS user “thedudedominick” puts it like this: “Everyone has different skill levels, and the beauty of the club system in this game is no matter how good or bad a player is they can help the club advance.”
The ability to use motion controls is a huge bonus for Country Clubs.
The even crazier thing about country clubs is that players are able to use the PS3’s Move controls or Kinect on the 360 for any of the events, which further cements the concept that the country club feature supports all comers. Some OS clubs even seem to be setting up tournaments with exclusively motion controls and some with a hybrid of normal and motion control — a fun way to level the playing field, it seems.About the only issue I can see with country clubs working in the fashion I’ve described is that EA still doesn’t do the best job of pitching these modes in a meaningful way to casual and novice users. They certainly put splashy menus and notifications in menus to help guide users, but they might be well-served to get out in front of a feature like this even more, using their “tutorial” front-ends to use less abstracted language. They need to tell users why this feature matters to them and then demonstrate how this can jive with their normal gameplay patterns.
If EA wants the online audience for these games to grow, they’ll need to make the idea compelling right when a game is put in the tray. They’ve done a great job of making the mode accessible; now they need to get more people in the front door.It will be interesting to see how country clubs grow in their design as well as their popularity in the coming years, especially in terms of how the design actually fixes some nagging issues that team modes often have in other games. It’s great to have meaningful goals that push clubs to be online whenever they can and work together, and it’s refreshing to have a proper reason to try and attract more people to your group.