We chat to a few of the guys behind Rugby World Cup 2011 to find out what it's like releasing a sports game without the EA Sports logo, their thoughts on the competition, and more.
There are just a few weeks left until New Zealand is turned into the battlefield for the Web Ellis Cup--the prestigious award that awaits the winner of the 2011 Rugby World Cup in New Zealand. The last rugby union video game was released back in '08, and the drought officially ends with the release of not one, but two rugby union titles over the next few weeks. Previously, we caught up with Sidhe Interactive to talk all things Rugby Challenge, but now it's HB Studios' turn to explain what Rugby World Cup 2011 brings to the table. GameSpot AU managed to catch up with producer Glen Gavin, game designer Matt Lane, and HB Studios' general manager Alastair Jarvis to talk a little bit about what it's like releasing a sports game without EA Sports' support, licensing issues, and the likelihood of any future rugby union games.
GameSpot AU: Does the fact that you don't have the official All Blacks and Wallabies teams in the game hold your product back at all?
Alastair Jarvis: While it is obviously disappointing for fans of our game that the All Blacks and Wallabies are not licensed in the game, it hasn't held the game back. As the official game of Rugby World Cup, the attention of the world is on rugby, and theres been a fantastic response to Rugby World Cup 2011.
The team have focused on delivering a fast and flowing and exiting brand of rugby gameplay that is a reflection of the way the sport is being played. Fast ball from the breakdown and creative playmaking has really been a characteristic of rugby as it's played in the Southern hemisphere, and we feel confident that even with generic versions of the Australian and New Zealand sides, fans of the sport will find many hours of fun and fist-pumping moments of gameplay in this title.
GS AU: Are you worried about the competition from Sidhe's Rugby Challenge?
AJ: Not at all. Its a great year for rugby gamers, and we've been watching the development of Rugby Challenge with great interest. I have great respect for Sidhe and the work they do, and especially for what they have accomplished with Rugby Challenge to date. It should be recognised that they've introduced some very interesting innovations to rugby gaming, and their contribution to the genre will have been significant with the launch of the title. We have a lot of experience from Rugby 2004 through Rugby '08 that shows us that the focus of the world is on rugby during a World Cup year, and this is the reason why we've had such a strong focus on our position as the official video game of the tournament.
GS AU: Is it scary releasing an international sports game without the backing of EA Sports?
AJ: We maintain a great relationship with EA, and continue to work with them on other projects, but we felt that the only way that we were going to be able to make a rugby game again was to fund the entire development and secure all of the licences ourselves--both significant differences from our previous games developed for EA. It has certainly been a challenging yet rewarding experience to create this game as an independent title, and we have learned a great deal. We have a fantastic partner in 505 Games, and there is a great deal of passion for rugby at 505 Games, which has made a great difference to us.
GS AU: The last rugby game you worked on was for the PS2; how's it been working on next-gen hardware?
Glen Gavin: Eye opening. Rugby World Cup 2011 has been built entirely on our own technology, and is actually the first title that we will be releasing on the PlayStation 3 platform using that tech. We have learnt a lot as we go. There are definitely more possibilities on the next-gen platforms when we were pushing the limits of what we could do on the PS2. We look to expand on what we do with the technology moving forward, but the look of our environments and dynamic lighting on the players are simply things we wouldn't have been able to achieve with Rugby on PS2.
GS AU: Was it difficult settling on a control scheme that you were happy with?
GG: Ultimately, we stuck primarily to what had worked well for us in the past. But with some of the new gameplay mechanics, you do need to prototype to see what is going to feel and work the best, then try arrive at something that suits gameplay in the grand scheme and doesn't upset the balance.
GS AU: Do you have any plans to release DLC post-release?
AJ: There are no plans for DLC for Rugby World Cup 2011.
GS AU: What sort of feedback have you received from the demo? Will you be taking any feedback on-board?
GG: We are on The Rugby Forum every day looking at feedback. We have been working on some of the issues in order to patch some of the bugs that people have been noticing. We most definitely are listening and taking that feedback on-board.
GS AU: Given that it's been a good few years since the last rugby union game, can you see HB Studios spinning it off into a yearly franchise?
GG: We hope that Rugby World Cup 2011 will be a big success for us, and we also hope that we can deliver Rugby titles more frequently than one every four years. We have nothing to announce at this time, though.
AJ: I think it unlikely that we'll see a return to the yearly titles at retail of the PS2-era, but we have a love of rugby and we will look to find other ways to bring fun and compelling rugby gameplay experiences to fans of our games over the coming years.
GS AU: What are your tips for the Rugby World Cup?
GG: Well, Matt and I would both be clearly biased and tip Australia to win the thing. It's in our blood.
Matt Lane: I would be very surprised if New Zealand did not walk it in "this" time, but I also wouldn't write off England or Australia from taking the honours.
AJ: I'd love to see either England or South Africa re-gain the Webb Ellis, Ireland are my dark horse for this years tournament.