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Rugby Canada Article



I found an interesting article on the Rugby Canada website regarding Rugby2006, though it seems to be aimed at people who don't have a ton of rugby experience.

Link to article.


February 24, 2006

EA Sports Rugby 06 www.easports.com
EA Sports Rugby 06

Toronto, ON

By Neil Davidson,
Courtesy of The Canadian Press

A former Canadian national team captain worked on the game. And the storied New Zealand Maori lent a hand by performing the famed haka ceremony so the video game version is authentic.

EA Sports' Rugby 06, available for PlayStation 2 and Xbox, comes with some top-flight credentials.

That will be welcomed by rugby fans around the globe, who probably won't realize the game they're playing was created in Lunenburg, N.S., and Burnaby, B.C.

The game was developed by Nova Scotia's HB Studios in conjunction with EA Canada in Burnaby.

Ryan Banks, former national team captain and pro player, helped add authenticity. He recruited players for motion-capture sessions for the game at EA Burnaby. EA then hired Banks as development manager in its quality assurance section, which tests ***les for bugs and game play.

Banks's rugby knowledge has been "a huge addition" to the game team, said EA Canada producer Tristan Jackson, who used to play with Banks on the B.C. under-17 and other teams.

EA also brought the touring New Zealand Maori team into its motion capture studio to ensure the haka - New Zealand's menacing pre-game ceremony - was authentic. The Maori were in Canada for the Churchill Cup.

A 2004 version of the rugby game was developed in Australia, but EA Canada then assumed responsibility for the ***le, using technology from its FIFA soccer game to improve the graphics.

HB was handed development reins for the 2005 version, with a group of five producers helping work on the 2006 ***le at EA Canada. The Nova Scotia studio also is responsible for EA's cricket game, which is not sold in North America.

EA Canada's prowess at such world sports is not surprising, given the world success of its made-in-Burnaby FIFA soccer ***le.

"HB Studios, as well as EA, it really is almost a mini-UN. You get the best people from all over the world," said Jackson.

The 2003 Rugby World Cup in Australia prompted a spike in interest in the 2004 version of the game. That led to EA Canada becoming involved.

"We wanted to spend a little more time, a little more money on it," Jackson said. "And it has been doing quite well since then. The sport itself is growing, which also helps our product."

The No. 1 market for the game is Britain, followed by France and then Australia and New Zealand with North America pulling up the rear.

The competition comes from England where rugby has a far higher profile. Swordfish Studios in Birmingham is the developer behind Ubisoft's Rugby Challenge 2006, formerly known as World Championship Rugby.

A French developer makes Pro Rugby Manager, more of a management simulation.

After improving the visuals, EA and HB Studios looked to upgrade game play this time around.

Options include the off-load, which allows a player to pass out of the tackle, allowing an attack to continue. The set plays have also been boosted.

England's Guinness Premiership has been added to league options, which include the Super 14 circuit.

Jackson's future wish list includes the Heineken Cup European knockout competition and the World Cup.

Rugby is a tough sport to capture in a video game. There are 30 players on the field compared to 22 for soccer. There's so much going on that developers have yet to squeeze a referee into game play.

And since the gamer can only control one player, developers have to make sure the other 14 on the team respond accordingly.

"It has been a challenge," Jackson acknowledged. "When you look at rugby as a product, it is a bit of a Pandora's Box because there's just so much going on at any given time. It's a busy field, you can go into contact, you can kick the ball, you can pass the ball."

The 06 game captures the sport nicely. As in real life, you can pound away at your opponent, moving from one phase to another, until the defence is exposed. A speedy back can then slice his way through.

But run at the defence too often and you risk losing the ball via turnover.

High tackles are an option. The big hit can help turn game momentum, but it can also lead to a player being sent to the sin-bin, meaning you have to play a man down.

The game's cutscene graphics are impressive. Individual players like hard-hitting All Blacks forward Jerry Collins are easy to pick out.

Rugby 06 is enjoyable but it is not easy to master. Even managing the tutorial takes time and using the twin analogue sticks to pull off shoulder charges, sidesteps and straight-arms can be frustrating.

"We don't want the consumer to be able to beat their man one on one every single time," said Jackson. "Because that's no fun. ... There is a bit of a learning curve there and it's not going to work every time."

Still the drop-goal section of the tutorial goes from tough to torture - it's seemingly impossible to figure out where you are kicking.

Jackson, a Vancouver native who at 32 still plays rugby for one of the UBC Old Boys' teams, says developers want gamers to work for their on-field success.

So you cannot just pass the ball across the field and then expect their wing to run hell for leather down the sideline for a score.

"If you do that in real rugby, you just get hammered time and time again. We're forcing the user, especially on the higher difficulty levels, to be a little more creative in their rugby."

Hence, tactical kicking is a bigger part of the 06 version.

Jackson says those who give the game some time will be rewarded. "Then the payoff is huge. It's a lot of fun to play."

Gamers with a choice of PS2 or Xbox may be better served with the PlayStation 2 version, with the top set of shoulder buttons well placed for controlling passing left or right.

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