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In-Depth: How Developer ‘Perfect Parallel’ is Changing the Game of Golf

In this feature we talk to Andrew Jones, COO of Perfect Parallel, a leading-edge software developer with a range of inter-related golf design, gaming, visualization, and broadcast suite technologies. What makes this company so fascinating goes beyond its tech and into its relationships and aspirations. Relationships with firms like Nicklaus Design, as well as the professional golf networks in the United States and abroad, have Perfect Parallel poised to shake up the game of golf. 

It All Started in Scotland

The discovery of Perfect Parallel is something of a twist. While we cover news involving game development and engines regularly at Architosh, particularly Unity, this story about Perfect Parallel would have never truly happened if I had not traveled to northern Scotland for a celebratory/pilgrimage of sorts for my half-century birthday.

The location was Royal Dornoch, the highlands birthplace of legendary golf course architect Donald Ross, and my ambition for this trip wasn’t singularly focused on just the playing of golf as much as to relish one of the world’s most celebrated well-springs of golf architectural creativity. It was in Dornoch, a small town far to the north in Scotland, that my mind began to rekindle an obsession with the design of courses that commenced in my early teens. I wondered, as I was playing those fabled links…what is state-of-the-art in golf course architecture today and what software tools are involved?

That question was it.

And it brought something back from my past to my present. Once back in Boston, I immediately started researching software used in the process of golf course design. I wasn’t searching for the software that I correctly assumed was utilized, things like AutoCAD and Microstation, but the novel and more task-specific variety of digital tools. Did they even exist? They had to, I pondered…

This led me to Perfect Parallel.

Perfect Parallel: The Who, the Why and the Now

Perfect Parallel is a software company specializing in virtual sports gaming, broadcast television, visualization and simulation. Andrew Jones is president and chief operating officer. I asked him how this all got started.

“Some of us, including myself, come from a background associated with the old Links LS golf game,” he stated. Jones went on to explain that he was involved in a group and website focused on golf courses for Links that were developed by that company’s gaming community, using the Links 2001 Course Designer and Course Converter, parts of an expansion pack for the Codie Award-winning golf game, Links LS, originally developed by Access and later acquired by Microsoft.

While much of gaming’s recent past has swung over to the consoles, Perfect Parallel stayed connected to the technology that led the world of digital golf gaming on the PC. Over time Jones built a team and software group focused on bringing the best of golf gaming back to the personal computer. “We are focused on the most realistic golf gaming experience possible,” Jones said, “and this isn’t just about how good the game looks.”

At the present, Perfect Parallel has its maiden golf game set for launch this coming fall, but the game is in early release on Steam for Windows and Mac now.

Yet the game is just one small but important aspect that makes up Perfect Parallel. There also is a suite of professional tools being used by broadcast golf channels and, of course, the design tools—the part that is really exciting and interesting to those who are involved in their strategic vision and with the evolution of their technology.

Perfect Parallel: The Partnership with Nicklaus Design

Back in late 2014 Perfect Parallel and Nicklaus Design, the world leader in golf course design and the global firm founded by golf icon Jack Nicklaus, announced a joint strategic initiative. For Nicklaus Design the goal was to adapt three-dimensional (3D) modeling techniques developed in gaming and entertainment and bring them to professional golf course design, using Perfect Parallel’s technology stack. (see image 01)

01 - An image capturing Perfect Parallel's home page, branding and a stunning sample of their PerfectEngine based graphics and physics engine. (image: screen capture from Perfect Parallel website)

01 – An image capturing Perfect Parallel’s home page, branding and a stunning sample of their PerfectEngine based graphics and physics engine. (image: screen capture from Perfect Parallel website)

In a nutshell, the partnership was about merging gaming technology with professional computer-aided design (CAD) and 3D visualization workflows.

The parts of the puzzle consist of Perfect Parallel’s software arsenal:

  • TerrainForge™ — a set of software tools that can import terrain data, mapping and survey data, and photographic imagery to create fully geo-referenced 3D digital models.
  • CourseForge™ — a professional suite of 3D golf course design tools and outdoor terrain and vegetation modeling software that dramatically shortens the time to produce a realistic 3D model of a complete course (see image 02).
  • Broadcast Suite — a fully networked broadcast television application that allows a user to select and record still and animated views of a 3D golf course model created in the CourseForge tool, and then distribute that content to a variety of platforms purposeful to broadcast TV, gaming and visualization services.
  • Perfect Golf — the PC golf game and simulator software, which when used by professional clients, allows those clients to play digital prototypes of new and renovated courses.

Technically, all of these software tools have some common component, perhaps the most important being PerfectEngine™, which is Perfect Parallel’s proprietary software core.

I asked Andrew Jones what makes PerfectEngine™ stand out from other physics engines—like Bullet—used in gaming and many pro 3D applications. “At first we looked at common physics engines like Bullet,” Jones noted, “but in the end, we knew we had to write our own engine from scratch.”

01 - Perfect Parallel's CourseForge software runs inside of the popular Unity game engine environment. (image: Perfect Parallel)

02 – Perfect Parallel’s CourseForge software runs inside of the popular Unity game engine environment. From this image you can see the  (image: Perfect Parallel)

“Our engine brings the true physics of golf to our products and game, such that the golf ball reacts to turf conditions in a way that no other golf game or simulator has achieved before.” Jones said. “Also, all of our physics are calculated in real time and deal with randomized weather conditions.”

To test out Jones’ claims, I did something I’ve never done before—review a game as part of a core technology for a professional workflow.

next page: PerfectEngine™ and Perfect Golf: Their Many Uses

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