David Baker interview

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Lead Producer, EA Sports PGA TOUR
Posted on
January 27, 2023
by
M. James Ward in
Estimated reading time: 8 minutes

The Baker background

A 20+ year game industry veteran, David Baker knows the ins and outs of making video games. He has worked at many game companies over the years, developing different styles of games, from Role Playing games to First Person Shooters and Golf simulation games.

An avid golf fan, David was the QA Lead on the Jack Nicklaus: Golden Bear Games in 1997 and is now the Lead Producer for EA SPORTS PGA TOUR.

David Baker interview

The Baker Story

It has been eight years since EA has had a golf game, so with a new console generation we wanted to recreate golf's most iconic courses and deliver players the most beautiful golf game ever.

Augusta National is a great example of this. Creating imagery as has never been seen before. Bringing the course to the next generation hardware and allow users to see the course in all its beauty and grandeur - and we are excited about what players will experience.

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When did EA come into existence and what was the rationale for its creation?

We actually just had our 40-year anniversary last year, so we obviously have been doing this a long time. I wasn't at EA at the time so I won't speak for the founders, but I can say our mission today is to inspire the world to play.

EA SPORTS PGA TOUR will be the premiere golf game on the market with all four majors and incredibly realistic visuals and gameplay.

What differentiates EA from any other competitors?

We put the players' needs at the center of what we do, with so many different game experiences that are made for the player community.

For EA SPORTS PGA TOUR, player feedback was at the center of what drove our key features in the game. We knew being true to the real-life sport was important to them, and being the exclusive home of Augusta National and all four majors is something we can uniquely provide.

EA SPORTS PGA TOUR

What was the genesis of the connection between EA and the PGA TOUR?

I wasn't at EA during the beginning of the relationship, but we have had a long-standing partnership with the PGA TOUR and are excited to be working with them again for this year's game.

What makes golf an interesting sport to connect with?

Golf is a game that is played globally and probably a sport I could see myself playing forever. I think golf is as much, if not more, of a mental game than a physical game and that’s what keeps golfers like me coming back for more.

Golf is booming right now with a surge of new players during the pandemic with over 75 million rounds played last year alone.

We certainly hope some of those new golfers can also discover additional ways to get involved with the sport when they’re not actually on the course and that’s a reason why we’re incredibly proud of the things we’ve done in our game; to ensure its authenticity towards how the sport is played by both pros and amateurs.

How has gaming evolved and where do you see things headed in the next 5-10 years via EA's involvement?

More people are playing games than ever before, and we truly believe what consumers want is interactive entertainment, and the future of sports will continue to blur the lines between live sports and immersive and engaging new experiences.

As far as EA SPORTS PGA TOUR, our vigorous methods of capturing each course is one example, in addition to the way we’re utilizing both ShotLink and Trackman to understand all of the tendencies of each course and the pro golfers that have played them over the years.

EA SPORTS PGA TOUR is the first golf game in seven years and we’re happy to continue building upon a diverse portfolio of sports games that still continues to grow.

Who is your customer?

In terms of EA SPORTS PGA TOUR, this game really provides a level of depth that a number of players can enjoy. Obviously, golf and sports fans are a key market for this, and they should love the authenticity this game provides - it truly is the closest you can get to being on the PGA TOUR without actually being on the tour.

But golf has been growing in popularity the past few years, and we think there is something in this game for many players of all ages to enjoy, whether they are looking to just play a quick round with friends and family or live out their PGA TOUR or LPGA TOUR dreams.

We have incredible games for all players, across sports, games, mobile and more, and we are very excited about what we are bringing to players with EA SPORTS PGA TOUR which we think will be the premiere golf game on the market with all four majors and incredibly realistic visuals and games.

In what specific ways are you looking to expand your overall footprint in the industry?

We have seen a lot of expansion in just the last few years in adding Codemasters (UK publisher of racing games) and titles such as Super Mega Baseball from Metalhead Software and Tap Sports Baseball from Glu Mobile - it's a really fun time to be at EA SPORTS. We have the most diverse sports gaming lineup in the world, and over 250 million people engaged with our games and content last year. It’s amazing that so many people love our games.

With EA SPORTS PGA TOUR and our game having all four of the majors in men’s golf and content highlighting the LPGA tour, we can’t wait for our audience to be further exposed to golf’s biggest moments that occur every year.

Companies routinely tout the importance of customer service and customer feedback. Define each and how EA's future actions are influenced by them.

We welcome community feedback on improving our games and ensuring that we’re making upgrades and changes that are in line with their expectations. We’ve also built a couple of internal groups that are helping us to develop a game such as EA SPORTS PGA TOUR to be as authentic to the real-life sport as possible while maintaining the fun that comes with golf video games.

The first group that we’ve built is the Creative Council which is a diverse group of golf experts engaging on all aspects of game development, from design to audio, visuals, golf trends, and production. The second group is our Design Council which is a trusted group of gamers who provide good representation from our core community to help identify what our players actually want and expect from a great golf game.

If you could change one thing about golf unilaterally -- what would it be and why?

Distance off the tee -- even when playing golf video games you can see where the distance numbers are going and how the courses will be affected by greater length off the tee. Most courses are limited on space and will have a difficult time with increased length off the tee.

How many courses will PGA TOUR launch with?

At launch, we’ll have 30 courses available including some of the world’s most exclusive venues such as Augusta National Golf Club, Pebble Beach Golf Links, Southern Hills Country Club, The Old Course at St Andrews Links, The Country Club, Kiawah Island Golf Resort’s Ocean Course, Torrey Pines, Evian Resort Golf Club in Evian-les-Bains, France, East Lake Golf Club, TPC Southwind, The Los Angeles Country Club, and Wilmington Country Club and more.

David Baker interview

Outline the process followed for authentically capturing each course?

It’s a multi-step process: First, capturing terrain via drone, helicopter, or plane. Second, on-ground GPS mapping and photography. Third, meeting with Superintendents and often playing each course to gather information for ball behavior/physics tuning.

The team worked with former geologists to map each course with CUTTING EDGE LiDAR, Photogrammetry, and GPS mapping Tech utilizing helicopters, airplanes and drones

We also conducted on-ground mapping and photography at every course to capture the most minute slopes and features. The photogrammetry and scanners were also applied to create precise renderings of clubhouses, slopes, iconic vegetation, bridges, tee markers, rock formations, and other on-course elements offering players life-like visual experiences of their favorite courses.

Lastly, we also got feedback from caddies who are experts on some of these courses and they validated ball movement during specific moments of the course. That was a true achievement moment for our team who have worked very hard to get all of it right.

Biggest short-and long-term challenges that lie ahead for EA SPORTS PGA TOUR are what and how do you see each being handled effectively?

In the short term, I hope our game can bring newcomers to the real-life sport. Golf is much easier to play in a video game than the actual thing, but hopefully we can entice many people on the fence to actually give the real thing a try once they better understand the rules and feel confident about strategically making decisions on a golf course. In the long-term, we hope there can be more emphasis on women’s golf as it continues to grow and reach young girls on the beauty of the sport regardless of age or gender.

EA SPORTS PGA TOUR is our first golf game in 7 years. We’re so excited for players to finally check out the game when it releases on March 24th and look forward to their feedback on additional things, they’d want in our game post-launch. There’s so much golf to be discovered.

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For more info go to:

EA SPORTS PGA TOUR - Home of the Majors

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About M. James Ward

A GWAA and MGWA member, the 66-year-old from the USA has covered golf in all facets since 1980, notably the major championships and other high level events. He has played over 2,000 courses globally and has competed in USGA Championships.

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