- Designing for the Needs of the Coin-Op Market
- Going Online All the Time in Real Time
- Restructuring the Tournament System
- Introducing Player Customizations and Other Options
- Offering a Helping Hand
- Animating the Golfer with Motion Capture Technology
- Making the Game a Little More Interesting with Hole-N-Win
- Selling the Idea Back Home
Restructuring the Tournament System
As soon as Larry and Jim decided that Golden Tee had to be online all the time, that choice raised the possibility of restructuring the tournament system, which had served IT well over the course of Golden Tee 3D and Fore!, but had three fundamental problems:
It discouraged new players from competing for prizes. A new player would see the scores needed to win a tournament, realize that there was no way he could compete, and simply choose not to kick in an extra buck to play for prizes.
It discouraged experienced players from competing more than once a month. If a highly skilled player shot a great score that would probably win him the tournament, he had little incentive to play again for prizes—he could win only once a month.
It encouraged cheating. A highly skilled player could win a tournament for himself and then shoot a great score for one of his pals. IT had no way of positively identifying the individual who was playing the game.
Jim and Larry also wanted to have player ratings so that players could experience a sense of accomplishment when they became more skilled. When Larry and Jim pitched their idea of player ratings to their colleagues back at IT, Randy Demsetz, a software engineer who had experience playing other games, mostly board games, suggested using the Elo system, which is commonly used for ranking chess players. Golden Tee LIVE eventually adopted a similar system, and now players are assigned a Golden Tee Rating, which indicates their skill level based on how successful they are at beating other players. The Golden Tee Rating also helps IT assign players to divisions.
Using divisions for prize play opened the system to cheating: Skilled players could pose as unskilled players and wipe the floor with the unskilled players.
The idea of restructuring the tournament system met with little resistance at IT. Everybody knew that tournament restructuring was long overdue. Discussions became a little more heated when they began talking about how the tournament system would be restructured. At first, Larry and Jim planned on using the rating system for all tournament placements, whether or not players were playing for money. Players would play against others who had comparable Golden Tee Ratings. Unfortunately, this opened the system to cheating: Skilled players could pose as unskilled players and wipe the floor with the unskilled players.
The designers and developers at IT spent four days discussing various ways to solve the problem until someone finally suggested that player ratings be used only when playing for glory. When playing for prizes, tournament assignments would be made on a first-come, first-served basis. Players of all skill levels would play against one another for prizes, 50 players per contest, and cash prizes would be paid out to the top 20 players in each tournament. With the new system, skilled players could play an unlimited number of "For Prizes" tournaments each month, and novice players would have a much better chance of winning something in any given tournament. Playing "For Glory" would be more fun because players would be competing on a more level playing field.
The relatively minor decision to add a female golfer to the game rippled through the development of Golden Tee LIVE, affecting changes that Larry and Jim hadn’t even considered at first.