PlanetCricket Ashes Cricket 2009 Q&A


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Jan 12, 2006
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Exclusive to PlanetCricket, we bring you a Q&A session on Ashes Cricket 2009 with,

HS - Heath Smith, Lead Designer, Ashes Cricket 2009, Transmission Games.
JF - Jamie Firth, Producer, Ashes Cricket 2009, Codemasters.

Q1: Hi Jamie, Heath, thanks for your time in talking to PlanetCricket. First of all, how did you judge the reaction to Brian Lara Cricket 2007 and what was the first thing that the development team decided needed changing from it when starting work on Ashes Cricket 2009?

HS: The first thing we decided needed changing was the user feedback loop. BLIC 07 was a great game, but it wasn't always clear what you were doing right (or wrong). We've totally redesigned the in-game feedback HUDs to be - we hope - much more intuitive to both the casual player, and the seasoned BLIC fan. With bowling in particular it seemed the was room for improvement in how the bowler could know if he's on the right track, or simply firing balls down the pitch and hoping for the best. I'll talk some more about bowling later on.

JF: Heath?s spot on for me: Although 07 was a good forward move from 05, for me there was still too much work for the casual fan to do. It still relied on a lot of cricket knowledge from the player, and this was always the key thing we wanted to do with 09: keep the nuances and skills of Cricket, but to make it so that the more casual fan could understand what they were doing.
Of course, the secondary challenge was to fix the things that the cricket fans didn?t like about 07: fix those annoying little bugs that we read about so much on Planet Cricket. ;-)

Q2: Speaking of BLIC 2007, how different is the base of Ashes Cricket 2009 to it, has there been work from scratch (at least in parts) and is there anything that is unchanged?

JF: Let me make one thing perfectly clear from minute one: The Wicket Keeper no longer takes the bails off every time he gets the ball. OK? ;-)
HS: We thought it was time for a re-write to take advantage of the next gen hardware, so it's a brand new code-base. Only one section of the code was initially used as a reference - the batting 'shot grids'. Over the course of development this has been completely replaced by what we hope is a much more dynamic batting system, so you should see a lot more variety of shots played in the game.

Q3: The PlanetCricket Forums had a very long thread titled ?Brian Lara Cricket 2007 Bugs?, has this been utilised as a guide to check against when working on the new game? Specifically, have the major AI issues such as the pacing of innings, the tactics utilised (field placements, batting/bowling strategy) and leaving the ball impacting confidence been fixed?

HS: We're often on the PlanetCricket forums looking at all the feedback on the previous cricket titles, and of course BLIC 07. One of the reasons for starting with a brand new code-base was to address a lot of these issues.
Innings pacing - we have run rate objectives for our AI batsmen, based on real cricket play theory. For example, in an ODI you will see the batsman start off quite conservative, and get more aggressive as the innings wears on. Our AI batsmen will also taken into account required run rates, and weigh up these 'game' factors against the quality of each delivery coming towards them. Smarter batsmen will make better choices about when to go for that big six, and when to play it safe.

Field placements are tied to AI bowling tactics. Our AI bowlers bowl real cricket tactics - we've even given a hint to some of these in the legends lessons (you'll have to play them to find out!). Our AI will also adjust their field settings dynamically based on where you're playing your shots. Try hitting a few shots to the same area and see what happens...

Q4: Has saving been implemented?
HS: You can save your match at the start of each delivery, on -any- delivery. You can also simulate an over, innings or whole match if you like, but you'll lose the chance to earn any more unlocks or rewards for that innings.

Q5: Have there been any major changes in control structures? Bowling has always been one of the major problems in any cricket game, does Ashes Cricket 2009 do anything different that will make bowling fun again?
HS: Right, so let's talk bowling.
We really wanted to get in there and make bowling the equal experience to batting. Both in pure fun, and depth.
We've kept the 'face button' bowling system as it's easy to pick up and play for the first timer: We liked the idea that left-moving and right-moving deliveries were mapped to the left and right buttons, and 'straight' ones to the middle buttons - it's easy for the user to understand. We've built on that by splitting up the face buttons into sets of specific deliveries. You can cycle between these sets, sort of like choosing your driver, iron or wedge in a golf game.
You can also review all of your available deliveries, and why some might be disabled. As your confidence and stamina increase/decrease, different deliveries become available/unavailable. Some, like the reverse swing deliveries, are also dependent on the age of the ball. They all have separate top speeds, spin/cut/swing amounts - it's a true representation of a bowler's arsenal, and a real incentive to skill up your bowler to unlock those special deliveries.
We've taken the aiming reticule and made it more important. Bowling is no longer just how well you time your bowling meter press, you also have to take into account how well you aim the ball. Spin and swing also play a factor in your aiming quality for those deliveries. All this is communicated through the reticule itself, which tints different shades of green to let you know how well you're doing. As you move the reticule around, you'll see poor aiming spots... good aiming spots... and 'hot spots'. These 'hot spots' are delivery specific, and represent ideal aimings to intimidate the batsman. There can also be more than one ideal aiming for a certain delivery, so don't just search near the batsman's feet...

JF: Just a quick one on the bowling meter - we've moved away from it being a 'power' meter: ?Power? never made any sense to me: bowlers generally only ever bowl 3 speeds: Stock (Metronomically the speed they?re most comfortable bowling), a quicker ball, and a slower ball. This made the ?Power? meter not make sense: if I want to bowl a slower ball, am I being penalized by the game if it perceives that I?ve hit the ?power? meter at the bottom? Does it just think I?ve poorly judged the meter?
So now you now have the choice of bowling fast, slow and medium paced deliveries through the different deliveries available to you in your sets: there was no need to duplicate this functionality.
So the meter now represents how well you executed your aimed delivery. The speed at which it travels is consistent with the quality of the type of delivery you're bowling i.e. a high quality pace ball will be faster than a low quality one, whereas a high quality spinner will be slower than a low quality one.
So you have your AIMING quality (line and length that you?ve set), then using the ?execution? meter you have your EXECUTION quality, or how well you release the ball. Both of these factors together determine your final DELIVERY quality, which has a direct impact on the batsman. Top quality deliveries are harder to hit, and are a sure fire way to intimidate the batsman, increasing your chances of an edge, and a wicket opportunity. It?s a much better, and clearer system, and we?re really happy with it: it makes sense to casual AND hardcore players.
HS: We've also moved the spin/swing adjust to the run-up period, as we felt that was a more realistic approach i.e. you can't adjust the spin of a delivery after you've released it in real life!
In addition to all of these changes, we've also given the bowler the ability to 'trick' the batsman in multiplayer. You can select one delivery to run up, and then press a different delivery button to bowl the ball - the ball that is bowled will be the final button you press! This opens up a range of tactics, especially when you consider different deliveries have different aiming 'hot spots'... I'll leave the rest up to you to discover. ;)

JF: We haven't ignored batting though. You can now specify your footwork - back foot or front foot. This can really give the advanced players the edge. Back foot shots give you more time to play the ball - perfect for those shorter pitched deliveries. By specifying your footwork, you increase your chance of hitting the ball accurately. You'll see your aiming wedge on the radar shrink - perfect for threading through those gaps. If you choose the wrong footwork it can backfire, and you wont hit the shot as well as if you'd left it up to the game to choose for you. The player will choose their own footwork (the higher-order batsmen will be better at this) so the casual player doesn?t HAVE to use the advanced controls: This is really for advanced players, you'll see what we mean!
HS: We've also tuned the batting to try and get away from it being the 'slog fest' of previous titles: A test match will be very different to a 20/20 game: confidence will have to be built before you can take the bigger shots with less risk. We really look forward to hearing what everyone thinks.

Q6: Is there an option for automatic fielding? I was always forgetting to press the button in time in BLIC 07 and always ended up with the keeper dropping the ball and then taking the bails off.
HS: We agree! Again, it?s about giving the user more control IF THEY WANT IT, or leaving it automatic. Fielding is automatic by default, or you override the fielder and specify which end you want to throw to, for example. In this way you can target a specific batsman you want to get run out.
JF: Catching is now a mini-game in itself with a fun real-time-event mechanism. Again, the player is just having influence over-riding the players stats: if he?s a great fielder he may catch it on his own, but the user can make sure of a catch with their skill. It?s hard to explain, but you?ll see!

Q7: How has the Ashes licence impacted the thinking behind the game design? Has there been a focus on getting a true Test Match experience?

HS: As the Ashes is our primary game mode, we've definitely focused on making Test matches feel like test matches, not ODIs in white uniforms! AI batting and bowling tactics are different for test matches, with the 'big picture' coming in to play as well as delivery-by-delivery factors as I mentioned above.

Q8: A PlanetCricket focused question here, how customisable is the game compared to previous versions?
HS: You can edit all the names of all the unlicensed (i.e. non Aus/Eng) players in the game, as well as their appearance, kit bag etc. You can also create your own player, and add him into the team of your choice. So yes, you can play in the Ashes side of your choice. :)
JF: Ahhh, I think you?re talking about patching our game non? Well, I realise that you guys are always tweaking and playing with our titles. We can?t set about sending out an ?open-source? version of the game, for reasons I?m sure you understand. Licensing and future titles depend on it. But you guys seem to always find a way? And I?m sure you will again!

Q9: Have the ECB and Cricket Australia licenses been leveraged beyond the Ashes mode, is there any domestic cricket for example? Secondly, any unlicensed modes that replicate other tournaments?
HS: There is no domestic cricket this time around. You can create your own custom ODI, Test and 20 Overs single matches and tournaments, if you want to replicate the World Cup, IPL etc.
JF: Certainly domestic cricket is very much part of our future plans? That?s all I can say at this point.

Q10: Is it possible to play an Ashes series in Australia? if so, are there also a range of Australian stadiums. On the topic of stadiums, has there been much of an increase in them over previous editions?
HS: You can create your own custom 5-test series in Australia, sure, but you won't be playing for the Ashes - that's reserved for the official English/Welsh stadia!
We've got eighteen stadia in the game, from all corners of the world. One thing we wanted to do this time around is allow the user to experience all the stadia straight up. So the stadia are initially bound to game mode i.e. the English stadia are always available in Ashes mode, and the rest are spread evenly across the other three game modes (ODI, Test, 20 Overs). Now when you unlock a stadium, you unlock it for playing in all modes. Our artists have gone to a LOT of trouble to re-create the stadia. I hope you'll be impressed with what we've come up with.
JF: Yeah, we really wanted to give the stadia character too: in previous versions we?ve had crumbly wickets at Lords and sticky wickets at Brisbane: you?d VERY rarely see that (if ever). So this year there will be specific conditions locked to location: if you want to play in blisteringly hot conditions on a rock solid wicket then you?ll have to play at a stadium that suits this. Possibly not Cardiff is what I?m saying. This gives people more reason to think about where they want to play: it changes the whole game! And don?t worry about your Australian stadia: they?ll feature much heavier in Ashes Cricket 2010!

Q11: There were quite a few complaints on the forum about the high PC system requirements on the previous version, with the improved graphics in Ashes Cricket 2009 will this mean more users will miss out, or have steps been taken to help the lower end systems play as well?
HS: You can scale the quality of the graphics and resolution, so it should be playable on most PCs without a worry.

Q12: A problem I?ve always had with cricket games was the seeming link with reaction times and difficulty levels. Is there more to difficulty than just hitting the perfect spot, or holding down the six-hit button and smashing each ball over the fence?
HS: As I was mentioning before, it's not just when you press the button, but where you aim your shot/delivery. These really factor in to the gameplay now. With the addition of footwork modifiers for batting, and spin/swing adjust for bowling, we think you'll find there's more going on to gameplay than just getting the button press timed right.

Q13: Getting the multiplayer aspect of the game right has always been fairly simple, BLIC has always been brilliant fun when playing against someone. Is the AI adaptable in this manner, as in does your play in multiplayer games (or against the CPU) shape how the CPU responds in future?
HS: Your play vs the CPU will definitely affect how the AI plays against you. For example, if you're restricting runs as a bowler, you can frustrate the AI batsmen into playing more aggressively towards you. There are a number of these sorts of decisions going on in the background, but I'm hesitant to mention them here as half the fun is experiencing them through the gameplay yourself.
JF: Yeah, Heath is being coy about this. We?ve actually got hundreds of layered tactics in this game: we?re just scared that the AI is too smart that very often you can?t see what it?s doing! Hopefully you?ll see that it?s a really deep and rich cricketing experience. It adapts to the situation and has a wealth of cricketing knowledge instructing it what to throw at you. Fingers crossed you?ll love what we?ve done with it!

Q14: I could go on forever here, but I?ll finish off the questions with a can of worms, do you think that Ashes Cricket 2009 is better than the game Codemasters released 10 years ago, and still generally regarded as the best, Brian Lara Cricket '99?
JF: For me, Lara 99 is the benchmark. I was never into Cricket per say as a kid, but at University we played Lara ?99 on PS1 religiously. It was our post-pub game, before PES took over in the early 00?s. It was madly accessible, but had loads of subtlety to it as well. For that reason, Lara ?99 is the design standard: If we can win non-Cricket people over the way that game won ME over, then we?ll have done a great job.

Q15: Thanks for your time, I know I took a huge chunk of it. I certainly look forward to playing the game and to speak to you again.

HS: Thanks Matt, it's been a pleasure. I hope everyone has a much fun playing the game as we had making it. We will be checking the forums so please get on there and let us know what you think.

JF: Heath?s right: we?ll be watching you. I know (I read it often enough) that you guys don?t think we watch the PlanetCricket forums, but I assure you we do. Your review of 2007 pretty much formed the backbone (as well as, obviously, commercial considerations) of the 2009 design ethos. I check them daily to see what?s on your minds. The last few months have been a lot of fun: the conspiracy theories, the speculations. I?m glad we?re out in the open now and able to talk about the game: I?m really hopeful that we?ll have brought all of you guys some justice! Roll on release day!

Any further questions? Ask them below, the top questions will be asked in a second Q&A coming closer to the release date.

Questions From Members ( Dated, May 13 2009 )

PC Members said:
You say you regularly check the PlanetCricket Forums. Do you look at what is being said about other cricket games, namely EA's efforts, or just at the feedback on Codemasters titles?

The first Q&A basically confirmed Ashes Cricket 2010. Is this a franchise you are now hoping will be a regular title from Codemasters? If domestic cricket is high on your agenda for a future release, will we see a move away from the Ashes branding?

Is there a Be A Pro mode like Fifa 09??

Can we create Custom Teams??

BLIC07 had different bowling styles for fast bowler, so is this the same in Ashes cricket?? Moreover, are their different batting styles and stances for batsmen in the game??

Do the player sledge in the game ? Coz Ashes atmosphers wont be complete without some heated moments. If their is sledging in the game then does this affects the concentration of bowler/batsman anyhow?

You have mentioned that we select the type of delivery before bowling, so can our opponent in co-op mode see what kinda delivery we are selecting or the deliveries are mapped to the keys and we'll have to remember that??

Are their Unlockable players and other stuff in the game??? Like unlocking classic kits for the teams,legends,music,etc

How deep is the stat system this time around? If i play with my career player, i would like to see his stats updated after every match, so does the player has such a system in place? Does the stat system tracks the stats of other players too??

Is their a ingame team/player ranking system in the game??

Does the players form and morale affects the players performance in the match like it does in FIFA 09...???

Bowlers have special deliveries last time around but batsman were restricted to the dancing down ability last time around. realistically, we should be able to dance down the track at will. Can we do this in AC09?? If yes then what are the special shots which would be unlocked on the max confidence of the batsman?? IT would be awesome to reverse slog like pieterson or slog sweep a fast bowler like yuvraj in the game...

Does players bat like their real life counterparts?? Like K.P dominating the bowlers no matter what the conditions are or Like Alasiter cook playing defensively..... It was sick in BLIC07 to see Rahul Dravid dance down the track to a fast bowler to hit him for six over deep mid wicket for 3 consecutive balls..

Will be there any official roster updates in the future from the developers? I know you can change the names but changing the players' attributes might not be possible. It'll only be possible if the developers themselves release a roster update, say every 2-3 months or so.

Will there be mistimed shots that go in the air in Ashes Cricket 2009?

Is there any skill and abilities of players going up and down as we play more?(something like a career mode in ICC games had)

Are there any more bowling actions and new batting shots in this game?

are there any stats tracking this time?

Shall we choose the batting powerplay inside the game or we've to choose it outside itself?

What about players celebrations?

Can we see the scorecard of 1st innings while playing 2nd innings or just the summary?

How about the tailenders?are they the same crap or they would survive the innings?

Third umpire decision animated? i.e players waiting for the on-screen about hotspots?

Review systems implemented?

Will we have a option to make the keeper to come up near the stumps,while medium pacers bowling?

Can we have a option to change between helmets and caps while batting?

How much advertising do you plan on doing for this game? I remember seeing quite a few adverts on TV for BLIC 07. Considering this is looking like it will be a lot better than it, I am guessing we will be seeing lots of Ashes 09 adverts floating around

will there be stats for ashes mode etc, offline and online?

will there be manual LBW appealing buttun?

Well, with the features mentioned, it is nice to know that 'A Positive Step ' had been taken in AC09. Also, with the mention of AC10 where further details on full Australian stadiums would be present,
a) what are the chances for your development team/project team to take up the challenge of covering the other stadiums like subcontinent ones especially Indian stadiums, West Indies stadiums etc? Its a known fact that cricket has been more than a religion here in nations like India.

b) Any chances of implementing season modes or manager modes in future release ( i.e in AC10 )? Lara99 version indeed had season mode.. Since it is a benchmark for other versions, how are the chances for the project team to implement such modes?

- Are controls editable like last time?

- Is their any change to camera angles or did it change this time and or have you added more to it?

- You have mentioned that stadia covers from all over the world. In that sense, does each stadia area differs from the other? For example, Australian grounds are much larger than any other grounds say, England or India.

- You have certainly seem to have improved bowling but, in batting you mentioned only about front foot and back foot selection. Well, when a batman mistime a shot using advaced hit shot would it also depend on how hard the batsman hits? This basically asks whether there is a "Power Gauge" implemented which depends on how hard it is hit rather than whether its an advaced shot or normal shot.

it says 2 players online and 4 players offline...but can we have 2 players online on the same team vs AI?

is they porting the game to pc from PS3 and XBOX360,if yes then from which one??

1. Is there any motion capture.?

2. Ball Physics. For me this was the biggest let down in some cricket games. Fast bowlers having loopy deliveries, spinners bowling so slow that it is physically impossible for a ball to travel the full length of the pitch.?
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Great post. The questions asked are perfect.
Thank you planet cricket . special thanks to whitehornmatt .
Now i got some clarity & can't wait to buy
Thats a really good interview.It answered almost all of my questions!

And finally i guess we have a game to cheer about! I think this might be the one all planet cricket members have been waiting for!!

This one is on the top of my buying list!!!:banana2
Blimey that seems almost too good to be true. If the game is anywhere near as good as it sounds then i will be happy!

I always felt with 07 that there was a really good game in there, but a few small things ruined it. I just hope batsmen run their bats in now and that you can leave a ball without losing confidence......

Heres hoping
Questions from me:

You say you regularly check the PlanetCricket Forums. Do you look at what is being said about other cricket games, namely EA's efforts, or just at the feedback on Codemasters titles?

The first Q&A basically confirmed Ashes Cricket 2010. Is this a franchise you are now hoping will be a regular title from Codemasters? If domestic cricket is high on your agenda for a future release, will we see a move away from the Ashes branding?
Well done Matt, covered most things there, looks very good. will be buying it. hmm hoping Modding is easier than they have let on
Well if he says you guys will find a way I'm positive should atleast support Baggie studios, or in other words the .bag format. If it doesn't, then there must be another popular format or maybe we can call up AbBh who can patch without those tools. :p
Would just like to thank Heath Smith and Jamie Firth on behalf of the members for taking the time out to answer those questions :)
This will be the great game I will ever play sure especially for AI feature. Good Questions matt but sad to hear we still can't mod all the things but good to know about player editor
Good Q+A that. I'd have liked to have known more about the batting system, more specifically if there's an option to leave the ball in this game, as there still wasn't that option, without losing confidence in the last one. Also would have liked to have known if there were more Autoplay options, like in the EA games, as opposed to just skipping 1 over or the entire innings. Only a couple of things missing though, overall I'm looking forward to this one alot, especially the fact that there's a focus on Test cricket!
Excellent interview. Covers most questions anyone would have had. I'm expecting this to be a really good game now. Hopefully my graphics card gets fixed before this releases.

Will Ashes 09 have the Champions Trophy and Cricket World Cup like on BLIC 07.

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