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Submitted by Derek dela Fuente on February 15 2005 - 13:14

Ball in hand, TVG's answer to Mr Wilkinson chats to the Producer...

As Rugbyâ??s popularity continues to grow, EA return once again, with their own Rugby presentation and take on this ever increasing global sport that is sure to please the gaming community who are chopping at the bit for any Rugby title. With EA expertise, and past experience this is sure to be one class act.

Our man in the know, and a rugby fanatic, Derek dela Fuente spoke with the producer of Rugby, Andrew Wilson.

TVG: Please tell us about the team developing the game and what they have worked on before and their expertise?

EA Sports is proud to once again partner with HB Studios. HB Studios has developed several titles published by EA including EA SPORTSâ?¢ Cricket 2002, EA SPORTSâ?¢ Cricket 2004 and, of course, EA SPORTSâ?¢ Rugby 2004. Their substantial experience in the development of Rugby games, combined with some newly adopted EA Sports technology, has allowed us to make huge strides in this yearâ??s product in a relatively short amount of time.

TVG: Why do you believe there have been so few Rugby games? Of course the fan base is smaller but it is still disproportionate. In terms of creating a game â?“ movements and strategies it is not that far removed from football?

The fan base for Rugby definitely exists. It is growing very quickly as a sport and is acquiring new fans all the time. Rugby as a video game, however, can be a very tricky to get right. Even compared to football, there are such a large amount of options that are available to the user. We have made Rugby 2005 easy to pick up and play but we have also given an incredible depth of game play options. From set-plays on the fly to mastering the kicking game, the more time you spend with the game, the more you are able to explore the vast number of options available to you.

TVG: To continue on from the last question what are some of the harder elements to create in a Rugby game that still present problems for the team and also what kind of detailed research do you do on the movements of the players?

The animation of the players can presents huge challenges. Rugby is a very fast paced fluid game of constant collision. Depending what the player chooses to do in any given situation, the game needs to have the appropriate animation ready. Add to this the fact that there are 30 players on the field (the most in any EA Sports game) that need to be rendered at once and the technological constraints begin to add up. With the ability to use and adapt the technology developed for other EA Sports titles, we were able to overcome these obstacles and make a tremendous amount of progress in a very short time. Combined with days of new motion capture all this technology has enabled us to come up with the most realistic and visually stunning Rugby game ever.

TVG: One of the toughest aspects to master when playing a Rugby game is trying to come to terms with long periodâ??s of play when the player does NOT have control. It can be frustrating early on when the opposition is in control, so how do you deal with this important gameplay element so the player is not put off early on?

I truly believe that in Rugby 2005 many users will have as much fun on defence as offence. With 30 people, it can sometimes be tough to feel as though you are making a difference. We have completely eliminated that feeling. We have captured a ton of new tackles and, combined with the intuitive player selection, the player can really feel like they are in control. With the variety of tackles and the force of the hits, you look forward to the next time you get to â??smokeâ?? your opponent. If you keep pounding them, you will eventually get that turnover.

TVG: With the weight of the pack, and some huge players centrifugal force â?“ physics - must play a big part of the game but unseen to the player. How much focus is placed on this area of the game and what are some of the unseen elements going on?

The physics is very important to help maintain realism. The scrums, mauls and tackles all need to feel and look like they would in real life. This also extends to the movement of the ball. A Rugby ball has a very unique movement which needs to be realistic or it wonâ??t feel right from the beginning. There is an incredible amount going on behind the scenes that allows us to maintain these physics. We know when we have the right mix when the player doesnâ??t even notice the physics; it just feels natural and realistic.

TVG: Tell us about the training mode and creative zone modes and the kind of parameters to work with?

Rugby is a surprisingly complex sport for those that are new to it. With the training mode this year we really wanted to cater to those that are new to the sport of Rugby as well as those new to EA Sports Rugby products. Rugby 101 caters more to newcomers to the sport giving a background in the rules and game play of Rugby itself. The practice area, on the other hand, allows the user to learn the elements that make up Rugby 2005 and further hone their skills for use on the pitch.

The Create Player allows the user to fashion a player to their own liking. From their facial characteristics to their individual skills they are completely customizable. These players can then be added to the roster of any team. Itâ??s possible to create a dream team complete with 15 of your (virtual) best mates.

TVG: If you had to pin point one aspect of the game where you feel you have been either innovative or pushed the envelope what would it be?

The visual improvements to in Rugby 2005 have taken Rugby video games to a place they have never been before. With over nearly 2000 individually modelled players, incredibly detailed kits and stadiums, and realistic player physics, the user can really feel like they are playing the game with their favourite squad. When you add to this the incredibly detailed player animation, we truly have a revolutionary product for the Rugby market.

TVG: Injuries play a big part in Rugby so how is this incorporated in game?

Injuries are definitely a part of Rugby 2005. The effects are two-fold, your player is not only taken out of play till the next stoppage but you will also be required to slot in a replacement to fill in the gap in your line-up. During tournament play, these injuries can even span over several matches. These injuries bring the added element of strategic squad management. On a similar note, players can be booked and sent to the sin-bin forcing the team to forage on with 14 players.

TVG: What kind of weather and pitch conditions is on offer and has research into the conditions and the stadia played a big part in the creation of the game?

Our stadiums are truly top notch. Not only are they extremely realistic representations of actual stadiums, they now have dynamic lighting and shadows allowing for very atmospheric playing environments. Players will also encounter a host of weather conditions from dry and sunny to raining and muddy depending on the weather of those particular grounds. The kits will even become dirtier throughout the match as the players get mixed up in the muck. Add in the team anthems and chanting crowds and it really feels like you are on the pitch at Twickenham or Millennium Stadium.

TVG: Many games include top stars and top teams but when it comes down to it is it really up to the skill level and aptitude of the player. Is this the case in Rugby 2005 and would it not be nice to have options where you can have a certain amount of skill assist from players?

Rugby 2005 features several skill levels so that a broad range of players will find a very enjoyable gaming experience. We have also done a lot of work on the AI so that someone who is not as experienced will not be hung out to dry on defence. The offence will also adjust so that you will always have multiple attacking options.

Killer presentation - oodles of features and precise control and a wealth of superb ideas marks this down as a game not to miss!

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