Published November 13, 2023
Hi Lane, thank you very much for taking the time to answer our questions. I know I can’t speak for everyone, but I’m just going to go ahead and speak for almost everyone when I say your presence and transparency in the PGA Tour community is greatly appreciated!
I’ll just take this moment to make a little aside to explain a detail about this transcript. After Owen Money gave me such a nice introduction here, I had the bad manners to fill this out over two months later! If any of the questions here seem off-base in any way, it is entirely on me. A majority of questions here were written before recent dust-ups with Facebook gaming and cloud saving, for example.
Jumping back to the intro… right back at you!! You and the Irrational Guys clubhouse have been an unbelievable source of motivation and advice for us.
Leading up to this interview, the last few months have been fairly low on content and high on bugs, so I’m hoping we can do you all proud this winter.
First, can you tell us a little bit about yourself? What is your background in the gaming industry, what is your job at Concrete and how long have you been there with them in that position? And, just for the sake of flashing your player rep card, what is your favorite game of all time, besides PGA Tour, of course.
I am a long-time indie game developer! My first complete game was Fingeance, a roguelike co-op shoot-em-up. These days I stay connected with the Minnesota indie scene through their wonderful IGDA chapter and through tinkering on my board game Final Strike.
During the time I’ve known Irrational Guys, I’ve been a software engineer, a game analyst, and as of Spring 2023 the Product Manager for PGA Tour Golf Shootout.
It is REALLY hard to pick just one game, but Warcraft III was really peak gaming.
It’s been kind of a big year for PGA Tour, with the addition of the Nautilus brand of the clubs, new pin placements, the new premium balls, lots of club tweaks, new tournament formats, a bunch of additional bag slots, a seemingly endless supply of saveable replay slots, removing the shot timer and overly-restrictive chat filter, plus some other really nice quality of life changes made to the game.
And Concrete has really upped its engagement game with the players on social media, more specifically on Discord. How has that interaction with the community effected the way Concrete has approached changes to the game in 2023 and how does it shape the direction of new content in the future?
We are now so much more informed about player sentiment. A key to that was our hiring of Eric Kotval as our Community Manager so that now we have the bandwidth for that community engagement. I don’t know how we ever designed without constant feedback from expert players, and I still don’t think we take in enough!
In the last few months, we’ve had a handful of setbacks — data loss; Facebook service depreciation — and I think all of these would have been much worse if it weren’t for both community feedback and the line of communication from us to you.
It’s also given us a much better idea of what kind of content is most sought-after. The feedback around clubhouses pushed us to do one of the biggest server-side undertakings of Concrete’s history. It’s not out yet, but we’re psyched. As a more immediate example, the Accuracy tournaments and Pin Placement changes were inspired directly from people in Irrational Guys and our Discord community.
Last month we got the news that Facebook had announced its decision to eliminate gaming apps on their platform and that resulted in the Facebook version of PGA Tour being shut down. I think there’s been some hints along the way that their support for PGA Tour has been waning, so it probably didn’t come as a huge shock to Concrete. I’m sure you guys weren’t happy to lose any percentage of your player base in one fell swoop like that and it seems like a logical solution to this would be to release a desktop version of the game. Is that something that Concrete has been exploring?
We actually don’t have the license to do that!
PGA Tour has been a great partner in many ways, and has been fantastically supportive of lots of things we want to do, but one of the bounds of our contract is — at least for the time being — to stay on mobile.
The premium balls are an interesting addition to the game and, I have to say, the visual effects for them are pretty amazing, especially Turbino. Now that they’ve been integrated into the game, we see that they’ll drop randomly in packs and are also available in the shop starting at 10 gold each.
Does Concrete have any concerns that many players could see the premium balls as taking the game even further away from a “real golf” game? How did you settle on the idea that the price goes up by 5 gold with each ball that you buy in the same day and why not make them available for purchase with silver rather than gold?
That concern is smart, and something we take seriously. We’ve actually been moving recently to feature more “magical” special effects in our ads and app stores in order to better inform new players about what they’re getting into. We don’t want to waste peoples’ time getting into what they think is a serious golf sim only to spring crazy card abilities on them down the road.
That said, we really love our club abilities, and we think that this game’s unique bag-building is something that keeps people interested long-term. This question also has a little tie-in to the previous question: PGA Tour also likes them. When we started working with them, they mentioned appreciating things like the Bomb Ball from our PBA Bowling game.
Premium balls are definitely a further step along that path. They’re rooted in a real-world concept, but amp it up to a supernatural degree.
Silver and gold would both be reasonable choices for premium balls. The important part with the pricing system is that people get a few cheap or free balls per day and the fun part is choosing when/how to use them.
I could see us trying out other pricing strategies or broadening ways to get balls in the future.