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Dark Souls publisher's next game is a golf MMO

With in-game social hubs, custom guilds, and plenty of upgradable gear, golf simulator Winning Putt turns the world's most elegant/aggravating sport into a full-fledged MMO.

Bandai Namco

At a recent press event, publisher Bandai Namco unveiled a nearly completed project from Korean developer Webzen Onnet. Winning Putt is a free-to-play PC golf game loaded with MMO-esque progression and social features. Though the game has no official release date, it's scheduled to enter an indefinite beta phase later today.

According to Webzen, Winning Putt is, at its core, a grounded, nuanced golf simulator. Players select clubs, survey fairways, account for wind and judge sloping greens, all in vibrant, custom-designed courses. The basic swing mechanic uses a standard three-click system: the first click initiates the swing, the second sets the power, and the third determines the accuracy. With precise timing and a little real-world know-how, players can avoid slicing their shots into the woods -- or colliding with any other hazards that happen to be nearby.

Winning Putt does bend reality with a few arcadey touches, though. Players get experience points for every swing, and they earn in-game currency for every completed hole. Both of these can be used to improve characters' innate skills like drive distance and the size of the "sweet spots" on the swing meter. But XP also allows players to purchase "skills". Some of these skills simply increase the power of specific swings, but others allow players to bend their shots around objects that would otherwise be in the way. And when a character hits a perfect shot, the ball sprouts a bright glowing tail as it sails down the course.

Outside of the larger-than-life skills, currency can also be spent on upgradeable golf gear, from clubs to visors to shoes. While some items are purely cosmetic, others offer stat boosts and specific gameplay perks. If new equipment proves insufficient, players can also pay for skill-boosting training or even have their clubs "enchanted" with special abilities. Though Webzen has not yet partnered with any real-world manufacturers, the developer did express interest in bringing authentic gear to Winning Putt in the future.

The development team also plans to add more items and courses as the open beta progresses. At launch, Winning Putt will contain seven full 18-hole courses in a variety of settings and difficulty levels. Matches can also be played day or night, rain or shine. In between matches, players can socialize in a playable country club area, populated by other human players and by helpful NPCs who act as a living, breathing menu system. If you want to start a ranked match, for example, there's a specific character you must approach and speak with.

While the country club hub promises to provide ample opportunity for socializing, players can also start their own golf guilds. Webzen didn't detail the exact nature and structure of these guilds, but it indicated that players will enjoy added perks such as exclusive access to guild lounge areas.

As for Winning Putt's monetization strategy, Webzen issued this statement in a press release: "There is a broad range of items provided in the in-game item shop that change your appearance, accelerate your progression and make your play experience better. Items can be purchased with either earned currency or Platinum, the Bandai Namco F2P purchasable currency." Basically, players can pay with time or pay with cash -- though the ratio between those two commodities isn't clear yet.

The game's official website is currently bare, but according to Webzen, players will be able to find more information about the beta there shortly.