Earlier this week, we had the chance to speak to Ross Symons, the CEO of Big Ant about the newly announced Ashes game, improvements that have been made to mechanics in the cricket franchise and what it means for Big Ant to now be developing and publishing games.
The Don Bradman career is one that many hardcore cricket fans get into. What are some of the changes that we see in Ashes?
RS: We still have a career mode, but one of the big differences between the Don Bradman series and the Ashes Cricket game is that your character can get selected and go and play amongst your cricketing heroes; you could be opening with (David) Warner, bowling with (Mitchell) Starc, and we didn’t have the license in the previous games to do that, so obviously that helps to add some authenticity to the career mode that you can actually get selected for your country in a more licensed way.
Ultimately, if you play cricket you want to be selected for your nation and to play in an Ashes test, and now you can get that opportunity.
Have any more changes been made to stadium editor/player creator. More cusomisation?
RS: We’ve revamped the editor – but the thing is, we have all of the licensed stadia from both the men’s and women’s Ashes, so you can actually take to the MCG on Boxing Day. There’s less reliance on the editor, but the editor is still there, and you can share any of your creations with others across PC, Xbox One and PS4.
We had the SCG before, but you’ll have the MCG, the Gabba, the Day-Night test at the Adelaide Oval – all of the stadia are the real deal and licensed.
What can we expect from commentary?
RS: At this stage, we’ve increased the commentary team and we think players will be very happy with the choices we’ve got. We’ll announce it soon, but there will be two men and a woman on the team.
Is there anything else that you’re really proud of in Ashes Cricket? It’s clear that both Cricket Australia and England Cricket are getting around it in a big way.
RS: There’s a lot, but possibly one of the best things – and you will see this if anyone looks at Glenn Maxwell’s video and Steve Smith’s videos – probably the biggest improvement in the game apart from the realism of likenesses and the licensed stadia, is the actual motion capture of Test Cricketers. Getting Maxwell and Smith and all these guys in suits and into our studio and our new mocap facilities and motion-capturing it so that when you play as Smith you’re actually playing as Smith; when you bowl as Starc you’re actually bowling as Starc. This is exactly what they’re like as it’s how we’ve recorded it in the mocap.
Is it just the men’s team, or does this extent branch out to the women’s team as well?
RS: Amazingly enough, we have. The women are not just an addendum – this is the men’s Ashes and the women’s Ashes, and the women’s teams have been mocapped as well. We’ve gone around the world and photographed them; we went to the Women’s World Cup, went all the way to Bristol, photographed the women there, had a number of sessions around Australia. So all of the the women’s teams are recorded to the same fidelity as the men’s.
It’s the right thing to do. More and more people are seeing that – I mean you look at the WBBL and the numbers for that are phenomenal, and it’ll be a bigger season this year, and even the Women’s Ashes is going to be spectacular.
How did the feedback from the Don Bradman games shape this one?
RS: Well certainly we took on board what people liked and what people didn’t like. We’ve made it so that the game is a lot easier to pick up and play – so I think anyone could probably play the game. We’ve sort of targeted that the lower difficulty levels are really easy to play, but the higher levels are obviously more difficult to play. I guess it goes back to that “It’s easy to play, but hard to master” – and one of the biggest feedback concerns we got from Bradman was that it was too difficult and too technical, and it was somewhat a simulation.
What we’ve done with this is brought an arcade feel to the lower levels of difficulty, and simulation to the higher levels of difficulty. We want kids to be able to play the game as well.
It’s clear that Big Ant have been spending a lot on new technology, What does Photogrammetry mean for Ashes cricket and what the team is able to achieve?
RS: Photogrammetry is basically where we put a number of high-definition cameras in a 360-degree rig, and then we put a player inside the rig and then we fire all the cameras at the same time, kinda like Matrix-style. That enables us to import really high-resolution 3D textured models of the players into the game so that what you see is what you get – essentially we have photo-likenesses of these players in three dimensions in the game. It makes the licensed players really pop; and we’ve travelled around the world, even myself personally, from London to everywhere following these players and putting this rig together, taking their photos wherever they might be.