Does the putting system remain the same?
Amy Bartlett: No. You'll no longer just get a caddy tip. You'll have to look at the green and read the putt for yourself - we're not holding your hand any more. We've overlayed a grid onto the green that tells you whether you're shooting up or down hill and if the green slopes off to either side. Then you need to measure the power of your swing and shape it to the contours of the green. So all-in-all you'll have to work a little harder to become an expert at reading the greens. It's not just an aiming game any more.
Why was the decision taken to change the putting system so drastically?
Amy Bartlett: We talk to a lot of our fans and a lot of media and we do a lot of research every year, and we keep an eye on the scores that get posted online every time a new Tiger comes out. We've been seeing consistent scores in the fifties only a month after the game comes out. That's just not real golf. It was obvious to us that people were getting too good, too quickly. It used to be 'aim here and the ball will drop'. But you don't always one-putt, right? So now you have to take in all the information we're giving you and play your own shot.
We wanted to implement something that required a little more feel, a little more fine touch, and reflected the real sport of golf better. True golf fans will appreciate that, but we think gamers will too because it requires them to up their skills even further.
Is reacting to the opinions and desires of the Tiger fans an important aspect of the development process?
Amy Bartlett: Definitely. We look a lot at the forums and message boards to keep an eye on what the hardcore fans are saying. We can't respond to everything but when we see consistencies among complaints or requests we strongly consider making changes or additions. We make games because we love games but we also make games for our fans. People like knowing that they are being listened to and we want them to enjoy the game as much as is possible. There's nothing better than picking up a new version of your favourite game and seeing that new feature you've always wanted.
Any other changes to the control system?
Amy Bartlett: That's all we're talking about in terms of gameplay at the moment, but we do have lots of other new features. We'll have 23 licensed golfers, four of which are new. We've announced Chris De Marco and Mike Weir, and we have another two that we'll announce in July. We also have 15 courses in the game, a mixture of licensed courses and fantasy courses, nine of which are new.
What about online play?
Amy Bartlett: Yeah, Xbox Live and Online for PS2. New for this year are foursomes, so you'll be able to get out there with three other friends. Also new this year is PAL/NTSC compatibility so we'll be able to set up some Ryder Cup-style transatlantic competitions.
Amy Bartlett: Well, most of it is still under wraps at the moment. We're going to reveal more about how you'll be levelling your character up and progressing through the game in July
What input has Tiger had - is he involved in the development of the game?
Amy Bartlett: He's really involved with the development. It's great because he's around our age, he's grown up playing videogames - he's currently in love with the PSP - and he really understands how games should work.
So, last year the big story was that Tiger was in a slump and that he was struggling with his swing. He knew all along what he was doing - he was improving his game, just like we improve his game every year. Now he's got his new swing and it's working well for him he wanted us to do all new motion capture, and in the next-gen versions we'll have facial motion capture too. He likes to be number one at everything he does, so he's always very interested in being part of the development process. In fact, he recently told me that he wants to sell more than FIFA and Madden, so that's our next target!