Since I'm about ready to *stab* *stab* the skills challenge I figured I'd take a break and list the top 10 things that I think need to be improved upon, modified or added to the game or experience. There are certain things that have been mentioned 30+ times over. More courses, more equipment, draw/fade, more avatar options, the friends list etc. That's some of the more obvious things that can be improved upon, so I've left them off my list. Please keep in mind these are my opinions, and you may disagree with them. :) These are in no particular order.
1.) Improve the Core Community Experience
I often get the feeling that I'm the only person on the website. I know that's most likely never true, but the game experience tends to feel solitary and disconnected at times. This is never more evident than when you're plugging away at the Skills Challenge for an hour or two. Multiplayer does ok when it's not being terribly slow, but the inability to communicate with golfers outside of the game really makes it feel disconnected too. Sometimes your playing partners aren't interested in chatting at all and if you're in a large group that's another 60-90 minutes of solitary. Forums are fine, but like in most cases only 30-40% of the userbase will read them and less than 10% actively participate.
There are also little things that can be done to increase the sociability aspect, such as messages for important events. For example, if someone gets a Hole-In-One or a Double Eagle, announce it to everybody playing at that moment with a little text at the top of the screen. When someone takes a tournament lead, throw that out there for everyone to see as well.
I'd also like to see some sort of integrated chat option on the homepage. Anybody on the site could join at any time, while playing or not. I believe there are quite a few flash chat programs out there that could be integrated rather easily, even if it is a stop-gap measure until something broader comes along to replace it.
2.) Improved Green Image Dynamics
I'd like to see more photos taken on and around the green including direct close-up aerial overheads of the greens. Off the green, there are instances where you'll be 18 yards away and you 'Zoom In' to 120 yards back and 30 feet in the air. That's not conducive to precision aiming.
On the green, there are too many times when my avatar is up to 35 degrees left or right of center. This creates very awkward putts that are difficult to read because of the angle. Every effort should be made to put us directly in front of/behind the hole with as little angle as possible. In instances of severe elevation change (#3 green/Kiawah), a putt from the left edge may be given a flat view of the green rendering the front view completely useless because you unable to see the grid.
3.) More Flagstick Locations/Tee Locations
This might border on the more obvious side of things, but truth be told, until someone else had mentioned it I'd never really given it much thought. It seems to me that changing flagstick locations would be a relatively simple improvement that would yield tremendous replayability. The hole is just a point on a grid. Can't that point be re-assigned randomly each day? Switching the tees around would be nice too.
4.) Longer Tournaments (Free & Pay)
I hate tie-breakers. Admittedly, this is probably because I'm on the losing side of every tie-breaker I'm currently involved in, save for one. There is a good sized pool of players that are very good at this game. Since we're only playing 9 holes, tie-breakers are becoming a little too commonplace. I doubt that a playoff is possible, so the solution here is longer tournaments. More holes likely would result in less ties. I'd very much like to see 18 or 36 hole tournaments even if it means playing the front 9 four times and having to back out and start new after each nine. Hopefully the addition of the new courses will make this a reality. Soon, right Alex? :D
5.) Ground Conditions
Ground topography is already in place because that's what determines which way the ball bounces and rolls after each shot. I'd like to see the implementation of 'ball-above-feet' and 'ball-below-feet' lies that cause the ball to fly left and right respectively. Downhill lies should have lower trajectories while uphill lies should create more loft and spin. Related to that, we should be able to see the grid on the putting green when approaching.
6.) Atmospheric Conditions/Weather/Elevation
I don't think we'll ever see a rainy day here on the WGT. I imagine it's just too hard to super-impose rain and a darky cloudy sky without slowing almost all of us down to crawl. Temperature conditions could be added to the game. Balls tend to fly farther in hot weather and shorter in cold weather. The ground can be hard or soft and that can add or subtract roll respectively. The greens can be slow, normal or fast.
Elevation above sea-level should also be taken into account for club distances. Kiawah is nearly sea-level where the air is thick and moist, so the ball should not travel as far as it normally would. Consequently, if I'm playing Mile High Country Club in Denver where the air is much thinner, then the ball should travel farther than it normally would. These little details would vastly improve the realism of the experience.
7.) Varied Skill Challenges & Multiplayer
Some variation in the Skill Challenges would be nice. Each month should be a new set of 9 challenges from different locations. There could also be themed skill challenges, such as the Short Game Skill Challenge where all shots are inside of 100 yards. Or the Putting Skill Challenge where you take 9 putts from various spots on different greens. You see what I'm driving at here. Add in a non-tournament multiplayer aspect and give me the ability to challenge tibbets to a 9-hole putting challenge. :D Give us win/loss records for these multiplayer challenges so they mean something. Disconnect = Loss of course.
8.) Restart on Scorecard (Skill Challenge Only)
Put a restart button to the left of the view replay button on the scorecard in the skills challenge. Anyone who competes in these for score knows you restart over and over again when something goes wrong. Currently, we have to click Continue on the scorecard, load the next hole, click the menu and then restart. That's time consuming after 100 restarts so having a shortcut would be nice.
9.) Exhibition Tournaments (No Prizes)
Create seperate tournaments and let the rest of the world in on the fun, even if you can't give them prizes yet. With the amount of red tape involved in dealing with every country's prize laws, it may be a while for some folks and they shouldn't be left out. Competing for bragging rights is better than nothing at all. I'm sure many of us would like to see where we stack up on a truely international leaderboard as I'm sure a lot of international players want to see how they rank amongst us.
10.) Status: Available
In our profiles (and on the friends list), being available means we're online and nothing more. I'd like to see this expanded upon. When players are in a stroke play round or a skills challenge, their dot should be red and the status on their profile should read 'Busy. When a player is actively looking for a multiplayer game, their dot should be blue and their profile status should read 'Available'. When a player is online, but not in game then their dot should be green and their profile should read 'Online.' You should also be able to manually change to 'Unavailable' when you don't feel like being bothered. When we hover over a friends picture on our profiles, a small text box pops up that contains their name. This box should have their name and their dot color/profile status so we aren't sending invites to people that are busy and/or don't wish to be bothered.
Best post ever? :D
Thanks for reading! Comments are welcome & appreciated.
Have a safe & happy New Year!! :D