PlanetCricket Ashes Cricket 2009 second Q&A


Retired Administrator
Mar 12, 2003
Exclusive to PlanetCricket again, we bring you a second 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.

AG - Andy Gray, Communications Manager, Codemasters.

Think the bloke on the left in both photos must be Heath Smith...

Based on the screenshots and videos, much was made about the AI selection of front/back foot shots. How is this done in Ashes Cricket 2009 and has this been revisited since the initial shots were released? And closely related to this, how realistic are the levels of bounce, not only in the delivery but across the field?

HS: First off, I want to say that our number one priority for 2009 was the game-play. All our decisions stemmed from what was best to improve the playing experience, and make it feel more dynamic and reactive. Previously, cricket games would often feel like they 'locked' the player into certain shots to certain areas, with pre-determined outcomes - it felt more like you were picking from a variety of pre-canned possibilities, rather than actually batting/bowling and having a dynamic experience. What we're most proud of is, we believe, you should get a lot of variation in your play experience, since we've really tried to set this up as a cricket –simulation: not as a series of pre-canned events. That's something that's hard to get across in words, but we believe the game feels more dynamic to play than previous cricket titles, and the feedback we've been getting from your PC community seems to indicate we're on the right path.
Now, in answer to your question. The AI batsmen will attempt to choose the best footwork for the delivery bowled at them, based on their judgement skill. So a better batsman will more likely get on the back foot for a short pitched delivery, and on the front foot for the fuller deliveries. The initial screenshots were taken quite a long time ago, and the shot selection AI has definitely been revisited since then. Any anomalies in those screenshots wouldn't be in the build anymore. Playing the game at the moment, I can see the AI batsmen playing both front and back foot shots, as described above.
Levels of bounce are related to the speed of the ball. On easier difficulty levels this is slower (to allow the batsman more time to react). On hard you are basically at real life delivery speed. Bounce is also related to the weather conditions, the day, and the particular pitch you are bowling at.

We know there are additional deliveries available to full confidence bowlers, is there anything like that in regards to shots for batsmen?

HS: Confidence and stamina affect a batsman's skills. As the batsman's skills increase, and wider variety of shots are available to him, and vice versa. You do not have to press a button to activate these shots - the shots you play when picking a direction and footwork will be stronger and more appropriate shots the better your skill is.

Do the statistics in game update as you play? If so, are they dependent on the difficulty level (as in would playing on easy and upping a average impact playing on hard)?

HS: The in-game statistics update as you play i.e. team scores, run rates, economy, etc. Individual player statistics update at the end of the match. Your performance in one difficulty level does not affect how hard the other difficulty levels are. While that's a great idea for future iterations, we really wanted to focus on getting the core game-play experience balanced, satisfying and enjoyable for all difficulty levels. This goal would be affected by having this sort of dynamic system, but it's definitely something to think about for future titles!

JF: We had a shocker of a moment this week when we were playing it with Kevin Pietersen and he pointed out that the statistics were wrong in the game: He said that one of the players hadn’t scored as many runs as the game said. We had a nervous few seconds before I realised that we’d already played 4 of the Ashes tests, and so the in-game version of the player had now scored more runs than in real life… It’s pretty nerve-wracking when you think for a second that you got something wrong in front of someone who really knows Cricket inside out! And I should know: a slip of the tongue like calling Freddie Flintoff a Yorkshireman could really get you into trouble. J

Do events in other matches shape the other matches in a series? For example would getting out for a duck in the first match of an ODI tournament see reduced confidence for that player when they come out for the next match?

HS: Once again, I want to stress our goal was the get the core game-play right. Confidence and stamina are per-match based at the moment. Just the other day we were talking about having confidence/stamina carry over in a tournament/series of matches, so it's on our radar. Finding a satisfying way to implement it so it's not detrimental to the player's experience (i.e. they're not penalized for past mistakes) is always the challenge, so we'll see how we go.

JF: It’s difficult to do this with licensed players as you can never be accurate as to how they would react to a mistake from one test to another. But the idea of having matches affect your career player, and maybe even influence his stats (if you lose three consecutive wickets to spin, or maybe even a particular player, then maybe his stats are updated to reflect this: his ability to face spin would degrade?) is a very appealing one! Thanks!

What if any major changes have been made to the game in the last few months? Did any of these result in the apparent delayed release, with the initial July date from the press release announcing it now missed?

HS: We've fixed tonnes of bugs since the play tests. There is a lot of 'plumbing' work when making a cross-platform title like this, so a lot of the work in the last few months isn't glamorous, but is required to ship a game. Just generally final bugs with the game to get it out the door to you guys!

Are specific PC system requirements available, so users don't end up preordering a game they can't play? Any information on a Demo?

AG: Here you go:

Minimum Requirements
-Windows XP/Vista. (if running Windows Vista SP1 or above is recommended)
-DirectX 9.0c
-2 Ghz Pentium or AMD™ equivalent
-Graphics Card: GeForce 6800 / Radeon X1600 or above Shader 3.0 256MB RAM card
-DirectX Compatible Sound Card
-Dual layer DVD-ROM Drive
-2.5 GB Hard Drive Space

Recommended Requirements
-Windows XP/Vista. (if running Windows Vista SP1 or above is recommended)
-DirectX 9.0c
-3 GHz Pentium 4 or AMD™ equivalent and above
-1.5GB RAM
-Graphics card: GeForce 8800GS & above, or Radeon X1900 series & above
-Sound Card: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Sound Card.
-Dual Layer Compatible DVD-ROM Drive
-3 GB Hard Drive Space

Supported Graphics cards
ATI Radeon x1600, x1650, x1800, x1900, x1950, HD2400, HD2600, HD2900, HD3450, HD3470, HD3650, HD3850, HD3870, HD3870X2, HD4850, HD4870, HD4870X2, HD4890
NVIDIA Geforce 6800, 7600, 7800, 7900, 7950, 8400, 8500, 8600, 8800, 9600, 9800, 9800GX2, GTX260, GTX280, GTX285, GTX295

Other Requirements
Not compatible with all integrated sound/graphics solutions (inc.Laptops)

DEMO: An Xbox 360 demo is going up on Marketplace today (23rd July), and a PC one will be released next week.

Will there be any official release in North America? Specifically will there be an NTSC version on Xbox 360 and Wii?

AG: This is something that we are currently discussing internally. Obviously the two major markets for Ashes Cricket 2009 (England and Australia) are both PAL regions so that has been the focus. However, we are aware that there is significant interest from certain areas for an NTSC version.

A lot of speculation around the lack of promotion for Ashes Cricket 2009 has been made, is this all part of some great conspiracy to reduce sales?

AG: And they say sarcasm doesn’t print J The most important thing for me to state is that “lack of promotion” is in no way related to the game’s quality. We are extremely pleased with it and have just sent out review code to all of the specialist games press in time for it to be featured in their magazines on sale in early August to coincide with release. Also we were more than happy to provide you guys with the chance to get your hands on the game which I feel shows our confidence in the title. Don’t forget how positive those impressions were – and no we didn’t poison the paninis, although I’ll keep that in mind for the future ;)
There are a multitude of reasons for us being quieter than usual up to this stage, mainly related to the licenses involved in the game. It is a very complex area and the guy in charge of our licensing department has worked absolute wonders.
For example, we could not release any screenshots until all of the player heads had been approved by the relevant board, the players’ union and, in some cases, the players themselves. These restrictions still apply to anything we put out, whether it is a press release, screenshot or a video. The approval process is pretty rigorous and takes weeks rather than days. When you consider that we had to wait for the Ashes squads to be somewhere near finalised you can see our problem.
I actually don’t agree with the PC perception that we have done that bad a PR job on this (after all, I want to keep my job as I really like it). As I type this I am watching Kevin Pietersen play the game against a member of the press as part of a promotional day and we have a signing event with Shane Warne at HMV on Oxford Street on 28th July followed by a press call for a couple of hours. These are huge events that will create a lot of buzz around the game in mainstream press.
In our opinion Ashes Cricket 2009 is not the kind of game that requires a protracted marketing campaign such as we are seeing for games such as Modern Warfare 2 (plus we don’t have their budgets). Our campaign has to be more intense and targeted around the actual series and the game’s release date. We want people to be able to see it, think “wow that looks cool”, and then be able to pick it up from a shop straight away.
We are now extremely close to release so expect to see a significant advertising presence online, in print and on radio and TV.

Finally, why should the PlanetCricket community go out and buy the game? What are the main things about the game to win over a generally cynical cricket gaming community?

HS: I understand where the cynicism is coming from - cricket games probably haven't been flying quite as high as other sporting games in recent times. A lot of the cynicism seems to come from looking at videos/screenshots and criticizing our choice to re-use a few of the animations, and thinking this means that somehow the game is the same as 2007. I want to stress that animations do not equal game-play. Sure, they are an important piece of the puzzle, but it's how you use those animations in the game that affects what your play experience is like.
I also want to stress that this is the first game of what we hope will be a successful series - like a Pro Evolution Soccer. If you look at where they started, it was with the game-play. Game-play for us was king. We've started to replace the animations in the game, and you'll see that when you play it - a lot of them have been replaced with new mo-cap. Obviously the goal for us is to revisit all those assets and improve, but for this first outing the goal was game-play. That's hard to judge when you're watching a video of someone playing - it's something you can only really experience by picking up the controller and having a go yourself!
So, as a result of this focus, we think the game feels a lot more dynamic. The aspect I enjoy most about the game is that something different happens every ball. By that I don't mean the batsman is stupid and plays a different shot over and over again. I mean because we're attempting an actual simulation of the sport, the ball bounces a little differently, comes off the bat a little differently, which might mean a catch opportunity, or the ball just passing the fielder... in essence, it feels more like a dynamic experience, which I guess is why we still enjoy playing it even after two years of developing it! This is the reason we built the code from the ground up, to try to achieve an increased sense of interactivity and dynamism.
Secondly, we feel the bowling is more rewarding than it used to be. As a bowler I know that if I bowl well, I am pressuring the batsman. So a perfect ball won't always result in a wicket, but it will definitely increase my chances. Bowling, especially in multiplayer, feels more fun to us that it used to in the old games. I would say it doesn't feel like you're firing balls down randomly and hoping your mate makes a mistake, having to 'endure' bowling until it was your time to bat: It's much more of a tit-for-tat game now. A better ball will be harder for your opponent to hit - they can still hit it, but it will be harder. Same goes for vs the AI.
We've really tried to up the atmosphere of the game as well. This includes the crowd audio, the stadia, the cameras, the music (ODIs/20 Overs) and announcements playing through the speakers... cricket is a blast to play and watch, so we've tried to up the excitement and atmosphere over previous titles.
Finally, it's the real guys from England and Australia, the real uniforms, and you can create a player and add yourself into the Ashes sides, and play alongside your heroes. I love that aspect as well.
There are a lot more things in there, but once again, the only way to see them is to check it out for yourself ;)

AG: My advice would be to go and read the impressions of the guys who attended the play tests both in the UK and Australia. They are hugely positive and I believe they speak much louder to your membership than anything I can say. After all, I work in PR so no-one believes a word I say.

JF: Amen. J

AG: But if you want my two cents: Ashes Cricket 2009 is the most comprehensive recreation of the sport to date. I’m not saying it is perfect, but it is certainly better than anything else out there. The most pleasing aspect for me is when you play a Test match. I grew up with the five day game and it’s by far my favourite variant of the sport. The advent of Twenty20 has been great for opening up the sport to a new audience and at the same time has given us a game mode that allows the more “casual” players to have a pre/post pub slog fest. In turn this has allowed us to create a more authentic, “hardcore” Test match experience where, on the harder difficulty settings, you have to take your time, play safe and get your eye in before you can play the more expansive shots and start to up the run rate.

JF: As for the “cynical” gaming community (J) I don’t think of PlanetCricket as cynical: you guys are the real hardcore and it’s difficult for you to accept anything but the best. That doesn’t mean I think you should stop asking for it!
I’m always reminded of the old Star Trek joke: I’m paraphrasing, but basically “How many Star Trek fans does it take to change a lightbulb? … It’s a hundred and one: One to change the bulb, and the others to argue that the new one isn’t as good as the old one”.
It’s not that you guys are unreasonable (most of the time!): you’re PASSIONATE about the game. And that sort of feedback is absolutely invaluable. You’re cynical because maybe you have been let down a bit in the past. I’m trying to put that right, and your passion and ideas have been, and continue to be, the cornerstones of many design discussions more often than you could possibly imagine, I promise you.
I do think in the past our games have shot down the middle of two very different audiences: trying to appeal to both hardcore and casual players. What we’ve done this year is to offer BOTH audiences something that they’ll really enjoy, for those different reasons, in the same product. Hopefully you’ll see that come 7/8/9.

Once again, thank you all for your time and especially thanks to the developers who took quite a bit of time to respond to many comments in the forum, I'm sure that was a very challenging job at times.

JF: It’s been incredibly challenging, but it’s incredibly rewarding now we have the finished product to play with. To be honest, that’s the key reason that you should go out and buy the game: because a LOT of people have worked incredibly hard to make it, and I think it clearly shows in the high quality of the product.

HS: No worries. Once again thanks to all the PC community for being so patient. We're looking forward to your feedback after the game's release, so we can continue to make this series the best we can. Cheers.

The first Q&A can be found here
Well done Colin.

The_gas added 11 Minutes and 17 Seconds later...

Ok i have to say these guys have won me over, i will now be buying this game. My pre-order will remain un-cancelled.

I eagerly await the game and hope i am not disappointed.
Great read, thanks PC for bringing this up, the Question why we should buy the game is very well answered by the developer.

PC Demo coming next week :D
great interview there colin...good stuff.

but actions speak louder than words.(atleast for me).
i'll be buying the game for sure.....and if they've managed to pull it off,
then it will effectively shut me up for good ! ;)

am purposely being cynical and pessimistic so as to not build up any hopes as previous titles have disappointed beyond imagination.

at the same time i want this game to fare well..for all the cricket lovers and cricket gaming in general ! :)
Very good Q&A
So does that mean that there is a big chance for an NTSC version for 360 and Wii?
No news on PS3 Demo?

Great interview guys, well done PC.

You lucky X360 owning buggers - the demo is already out! No mention of the PS3 demo. Can anyone confirm if that's because of procedural hiccups with Sony in terms of publishing it? Should I still be looking forward to one!?
AG: This is something that we are currently discussing internally. Obviously the two major markets for Ashes Cricket 2009 (England and Australia) are both PAL regions so that has been the focus. However, we are aware that there is significant interest from certain areas for an NTSC version.

Jesus Christ, You can never get a straight answer regarding this issue. Lets just face the fact boys, If you live in Canada or the US, the cricketing community does not give a ████ about you. Lets just give in and start watching baseball. At least those games are class.
Good interview but I am a bit warey about the lack of detail given here...

Levels of bounce are related to the speed of the ball. On easier difficulty levels this is slower (to allow the batsman more time to react). On hard you are basically at real life delivery speed. Bounce is also related to the weather conditions, the day, and the particular pitch you are bowling at.

There were some serious issues after the playtest and people were basically saying that you could only play on the NZ pitch if you wanted realistic bounce.
Cheers! I think that interview has made me feel more positive about the game :cheers
It is a great interview, i think demo should make feel better (if the game is good though :D)
Jesus Christ, You can never get a straight answer regarding this issue. Lets just face the fact boys, If you live in Canada or the US, the cricketing community does not give a ████ about you. Lets just give in and start watching baseball. At least those games are class.

I think you're under-estimating the various channels associated with a world wide product like a computer game. It's never a case of "We want to do it, so we will", in any business, let alone one which has to incorporate different technical demands of different platforms. I'm sure Heath and the guys would love to meet every single demand of every single customer, but it isn't plausible. NTSC is a massive market, the sheer size of the NTSC zone is as big as Europe if not bigger (testing my geography here...) but yet how many of the NTSC gaming community would actually want a cricket based computer game? I doubt it would even reach 0.1%. In business, that's not a practical market to target. But give them their dues, they've said they're discussing it and they'll continue to read further comments by us gamers who want an NTSC version.

Nice interview and wish the boys a lot of luck in releasing a successful and enjoyable game.

I wish someone would have asked if the PS3 version will be in Full HD...would look quite nice on my TV...*cough* HINT *cough*

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