Just found this at http://www.stuff.co.nz/stuff/0,2106,3203313a1899,00.html, not a bad read:
Originally posted by www.stuff.co.nz@ 1st March
Rugby 2005 breaks new ground
01 March 2005Â
Finally a game that is like 'watching rugby on TV', writes Gerard Campbell.
"The inherrent difficulties with the collision that we have and the flowing gameplay intertwined with collision in rugby makes it an extremely challenging game to make."
Andrew Wilson A brief video presentation showing bumbling and fumbling American football players was enough to convince powerhouse games publisher Electronic Arts (EA) that it was worth investing heavily in Rugby 2005.
The publisher had already made Rugby 2004, but it fared poorly against its already established sports brands, Madden (American) football and Fifa soccer â€“ and received a drubbing from gamers and reviewers alike.
Rugby 2004 producer Andrew Wilson knew the company could do better, but he would need more resources and â€“ more importantly â€“ more money. He told EA executives so when he made the pitch for the 2005 version.
"I told them I'd need 10 times the budget and would have to move to EA Canada. I thought'd they'd say no, but they didn't," he said.
The video that swayed the executives showed the bumbling, fumbling American football players then cut into the crunching, hard-hitting action of Super 12 and international rugby. As well as the bigger budget, EA gave Wilson and his development team complete access to EA's Canada studio, which has the world's biggest motion- capture studio.
At the launch of Rugby 2005 in Auckland late last month, Wilson told me that when Rugby 2004 was released, gamers said "thanks for the game, but you're going to have to do better than that next time".
A playtest of the game showed they certainly have. The first thing that is instantly noticeable is the character models. Gone are the blocky and angular rugby players from the 2004 version. The rugby players are now more realistic, and many â€“ although not all â€“ bear a resemblance to their Super 12, Tri Nations and international counterparts.
Wilson said the ability to use EA Canada meant that for the first time they were able to use the same graphics engine used in the Fifa soccer games, and extensive use of motion capture â€“ where people wear a special suit dotted with photosensitive balls â€“ made for more life-like models and more fluid motion.
Wilson is the first to admit that Rugby 2004 had a slow graphics engine, which hindered gameplay. With the faster Fifa engine, programmers were able to speed up the action, facilitating faster passes and implementing hits and tackles.
To make the 2005 version more realistic than the last, Wilson and his team used members of the Canadian national rugby team for the motion- capture work. The team spent four days "tackling, tackling, tackling", says Wilson.
The New Zealand Maori rugby team, who toured Canada during the production of the game, recorded the sound for the All Blacks haka. It was a stirring rendition, Wilson said.
"They were in the sound booth, doing the haka, then suddenly the players took off their shirts and shorts, and were just standing in their underwear. I said `what are you doing?' and they said they were not getting the authentic `slapping' on their skin when they had the clothes on that is crucial for the haka. When they left they had red marks on their chests and thighs. This is an authentic haka."
Last year, Wilson said he wanted to get the Rugby franchise to the same level that the Madden series was now at. Has he achieved that with Rugby 2005?
"I think we are so much closer than we've ever been before. We have an ongoing challenge with rugby and that is we've got 30 players on the pitch, and when it comes to a television screen, the most simple way I can do it is that there are only so many dots on the screen, so much resolution. So for Madden, who kinda have helmets on everyone, they load in the same head for every single player, and for Fifa, they only have 22 people on the pitch, but we have 30 people on the pitch and we have to load faces and heads for all those separate guys, so it's a much bigger task. I think that certainly the engine quality, the technology behind it and overall gameplay experience is every bit as fun as Madden and Fifa is."
Wilson believes that the jump from Rugby 2004 to Rugby 2005 is "probably, hands down, the biggest step that's been seen in any EA Sports product since the beginning of the brand".
"Y'know, it's kinda like when products went from PSOne to PS2, and now going from Xbox to Xbox 2 â€“ that's the kind of jump in product quality that we've seen."
Wilson says the biggest challenge for Rugby 2005 was getting the core rendering engine to work with the physics of a rugby product. "Building any game is difficult, no game is easy to make. Fifa is a fairly linear game, Madden is made up of set pieces. Rugby is 30 guys running at each other for 80 minutes. They pile on top of each other, they get back up, so the inherent difficulties with the collision that we have and the flowing gameplay intertwined with collision in rugby makes it an extremely challenging game to make.
"That's something that I think a lot of people discount when they play it and think, `oh, well, y'know, why doesn't it look like Madden or Fifa', when the reality is that it is so much more challenging to make. What I do think, though, is that when people see Rugby 2005 they're gonna go `wow, it finally looks like Madden or Fifa', which is pretty cool."
Wilson said Rugby 2004 sold more than 500,000 copies and he wanted the rugby franchise to be a must-have product each year.
"The goal was to deliver a Madden for the Southern Hemisphere â€“ I believe we have achieved that."
All Black and Auckland Blues wing Joe Rokocoko is the face of Rugby 2005, and he said he was honoured to be a part of it â€“ although seeing lifesize cardboard standups of himself, used to promote the game, was a bit freaky.
Rokocoko said he was amazed at the realism of the gameplay. "It has improved heaps on 2004. It seems like you're watching rugby on TV, it's more realistic. You actually see the emotion on a player, in the haka, if he's tackled or penalised."
Rugby 2005, from EA Sports, will hit store shelves this month.