You take games too seriously.

In Hot Shots Golf, Less is More

hot shots

Until this week, I had never played the Hot Shots Golf series. In fact, I never would have played it, if my girlfriend hadn’t taken control of my PS3. At first, I didn’t even notice. She asked me to download the small car game (PixelJunk Racers) then that cute game (LocoRoco). She may forget their names, but I think she’s just amused by my need to translate her handful of words into a particular title

Her: It’s a Nintendo game. And the bad guys are mean.
Me: Mario Galaxy.
Her: No, meaner.
Me: Are you sure it’s Nintendo?
Her: Yeah, you really bash people.
Me: Have I been playing it a lot lately?
Her: Uh-huh.
Me: River City Ransom.
Her: No, it’s a war.
Me: Advanced Wars?
Her: What’s that?
Me: Is it Call of Duty 4
Her: Is that the loud one?
Me: Yes.
Her: Jump-Jump-Shoot?
(She calls it Jump-Jump-Shoot, because when she plays multiplayer I jump around while she tries to shoot me. A match can last upwards an hour.)
Me: Yes.
Her: That’s it.
Me: That’s not a Nintendo game.
Her: I was testing you.

Plenty of girls have a deep catalog of video game knowledge. My girlfriend is not one of them. If you want to discuss cinema before 1950, she can go on for days. She’s also developed a passing interest in children’s television and even comic books. But video games? Her interest starts and ends on their cute-factor. In the case of Hot Shots Golf, our discussion went something like this.

Our deep, thought provoking convo and the Advanced Shot Technique after the jump…

Her: Buy that cute game.
Me: We already have LocoRoco.
Her: No, the other one. With that awkward man on the cover.
Me: I think I’m going to just put some money down for Haze.
Her: What’s that?
Me: You shoot people and use drugs.
Her: You have enough of those. Buy this.

She makes a valid point. I do have “enough of those.” So I picked up Hot Shots Golf: Out of Bounds, and prepared to enjoy it for awhile, and once she grew bored of it, say, two weeks, return it.

But the more I want to returns HSG:OB for a Metal Gear reservation, the more I like it. I’ve never been a fan of its sugar-sweet style, yet, even that has grown on me. At its best, it’s just a golf game. I thought I hated golf. So why-oh why-can’t I free myself from Hot Shots?

The Advanced Shot System.

Every so often, I try a new game mechanic and it seems so simple and so obvious I can’t believe it wasn’t in every game of its ilk before it. The gravity gun in Half-Life, the option in NCAA 07 – sometimes they’re new because next-gen consoles finally make them possible, but in the case of Hot Shots golf the innovation feels less reliant on the system’s power than on the designers’ creativity.

In HSG:OB, you’re given two play options:

1.) The Traditional: You use a power bar to precisely gauge your shots. It’s effective, but boring. You’ve seen it in nearly every golf game since God created golf on the eight day – His grumpiest day.

2.) The Advanced Shot: No power bars. As your character swings you see a transparent club at his maximum range. Half-way up the arc, your club glints a yellow light. To hit the ball you must guess the amount of power you want to apply. Say your 100 yards from the hole, and your club hits 125 yards. You’ll want to hit “X” somewhere between the yellow glint and your club reaching the transparent club that represents your maximum power, the full 125 yards.

But that just sets the power of your swing. To hit the ball, a large circle quickly shrinks around the ball, until it wraps the ball perfectly. You want to hit “X” the moment it wraps the ball. If you’re having trouble, think Elite Beat Agents or just check out this video.

If you’re still confused, I’ll let the paid professional explain.

The mechanic feels too simple at first. Often, your shots go way off target, sputter off the tee, or shoot straight up into the air, but once you focus on the swing of the club shots get easier and feel more rewarding. The reward comes from the lack of precision a power bar provides. When you chip in, you feel like it was your skill, not your ability to work out the math on the power bar. Before, the player consciously or sub-consciously divided the distance by the power of the club. 100 yard shot, 125 yard club, hit the power bar at 80%. You still work out this math in some form, but now you have no specific mark that represents an 80% power shot. You think, “Symmetrical with my chest is 50%, so when the clubs at my shoulder, I’ll probably get 75%-85% power”. As you play, you eventually lose the numbers and go off instinct.

I can’t say which technique’s more effective for competitive players, but the advanced shot’s ideal for the player that wants to put in a relaxed and enjoyable 9-holes. I’ll admit it, if I hit par, I’m a bit impressed with myself. Somehow, a simple mechanic makes the game feel less like a set of digitized rules, and more like a real game of golf.

And it’s not just Hot Shots Golf that’s making big steps like this. We’ll see more of these mechanics as advanced graphics allow designers to abandon complicated HUDs. A perfect example of this is Call of Duty’s health system. Even the “loud game” has its plus sides.

Any Hot Shots Golf fans out there? How did they tackle swinging in the past? While we’re on the topic of our girlfriends playing video games, Sam must convince his girlfriend to write a post about how much she hates the harpoon gun in Crackdown. Please!


Image Source: PlayStation Blog


Filed under: Commentary, , , , ,

9 Responses

  1. Sam Ryan says:

    For anyone who’s curious, Chris’s girlfriend is actually an extremely intelligent person.

    Who just happens to act a lot like a 3 year old. And who really sucks at jump-jump-shoot – I’ve seen it.

  2. ctplante says:

    She’s getting better. I need to find a game with heat-seeking rockets.

  3. Larke says:

    Since you can’t tell which of you has written the piece until the end of the post I was wondering which girlfriend this was. And then we got to “jump jump shoot” and I was like “hello chris’s girlfriend.”
    Let her join the blog. I want to know what she has to say about Halo or whatever.

  4. Larke says:

    oh and nice icon pictures by the way.

  5. Hey, man. I read hardcasual to FORGET how lonely I am.

  6. margot says:

    no. i knew who it was from “small car game.”

    i too would like to see the nameless girlfriend join this blog. although i get the whole “we need credibility thing”

  7. Leigh says:

    I wonder if this isn’t a chick thing? I mean, one could never accuse me of being unfamiliar with games, and yet. There are some games that my resident boy plays that I do not — CoD4, for example. Or that I play for maybe ten hours but he grinds for literally years, like Devil May Cry or Vice City or the Dragonball games.

    I find myself giving cute nicknames to all of the game mechanics too: “get the big gun. No, the big fat one.” “What happened to all your little dudes?” “Can you go ask that ugly chick?”

    Maybe girls are socially conditioned to act cute when we feel intimidated.

  8. stephie says:

    ok ok, i am said adorable girlfriend in question here.

    leigh makes a point, but i think these kids know by now that i don’t act cute because i feel intimidated; i act cute because THERE’S NOTHING LEFT FOR ME TO TURN TO. cute is my go-to.

    basically, it keeps me in the game. if it were not for chris and sam specially designing a call of duty (look! i even got the name right!) challenge simple enough for even me to play, i would remain confined to the sidelines, sitting rather lamely while that “hunky” guy of mine crashes his helicopter into the statute of liberty, or whatever it’s called on happiness island. and then i would cry myself to sleep. and that now how i play. is that intimidation? mm, it’s more like “i need attention now please.”

    i do not understand video games. but i can understand them on my terms, and whether or not those are the same terms as a three-year-old…fuck it bitches. i’m getting my bfa next week!

  9. Lunette says:

    You write very well.

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this is a blog about video games by chris plante, sam ryan and chris littler.

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