Can you please introduce yourself, and talk about your past history in developing video games?
My name is Ian Flatt and I am the Project Manager on World Championship Rugby - the follow up to Jonah Lomu Rugby. I have been developing sports titles for Swordfish for just under 5 years - working on titles such as UEFA Striker, Microsoft International Football 2001 and … gulp … David Beckham Soccer.
After academically studying technology & sports analysis, I was brought into the studio because of the passion I have for sports - it fitted in very well with the other guys. Our studio has been producing sports titles for over 9 years - including the likes of Jonah Lomu Rugby.
It’s been quite some time since Jonah Lomu Rugby was released, why do you think its time for another game?
To be honest, we have been itching to produce a follow up for years now, pretty much ever since we finished the first one. JLR was such a big success it seemed pretty obvious.
At the time we were known as Rage Birmingham and worked as an internal dev studio. We were unable to convince the ‘powers that be’ that we should work on a sequel and ended up concentrating on football - even though our heart was in Rugby.
As soon as Swordfish became independent, it was an obvious and immediate decision for us and we started work on a new generation game. We have always been very proud of Jonah Lomu Rugby and aware of how it is still revered by the gaming public.
When we came to look at our core technology base, everyone became excited at the prospect of going back to JLR’s roots and producing a worthy successor that would not only have the original’s playability - but would now also be matched with state-of-the-art graphics.
And at the end of the day - there still isn’t a quality rugby title out for the new generation consoles. As sport gaming fans ourselves this is something we wanted to address.
What modes can we expect in WCR? Will you have the licences for Tri-Nations, World Cup, Six Nations etc? And licences for the domestic competitions such as the Super 12?
Although I’m not in a position to divulge all of World Championship Rugby’s licenses at this stage I can guarantee that you will be able to play in all the familiar top international tournaments - as well as special single player modes and the JLR favourite ‘classic matches’. Once again, you will be able to recreate some of those special moments from the recent world cup and further back in history.
Can we expect real strips, player likeness and names? Have you motion captured any famous players for the game?
All the players from the top rugby playing nations have been individually modeled to produce the most realistic looking rugby game to date.
As for motion capture, we spent quite a lot of time in the studio with 2 fantastic guys. The great thing about Rugby is that everyone is so down to earth. They gave us loads of advice about the game and Rugby at the highest levels … on top of pulling off some great mo-cap moves.
Is there any chance of online play for the game on both PC and console?
Not in the current version I’m afraid - but watch this space for the future.
With the Rugby World Cup just completed do you feel you may have missed the boat or do you think that it offers more opportunity as players won’t be looking for a World Cup 2003 licence?
We didn’t want to rush out a licensed product for the world cup. We realised that we had 2 windowed opportunities - the World Cup or the Six Nations. By aiming for the later of the two, we have had time to make sure we got the game right. It not only looks great … but it plays really well too. This game had a lot to live up to with the JLR heritage - the gameplay was enormously important.
I also think there has been huge interest in rugby generated from the world cup. I read a poll in a recent newspaper, where 65% of the people they interviewed thought that Rugby would take over from football. Whilst I think that is perhaps a bit reactionary and is caused by the current euphoria - I do think the world cup has converted lots of people to the oval ball.
That all bodes well for our game. And let’s be honest, the timing is going to be great, with the World Champions competing in our own European tournament.
What did you learn from developing Jonah Lomu Rugby that will help with the development of World Championship Rugby?
We learnt what we believe gamers fundamentally wanted from a rugby game. It is the sheer fun, fast-paced arcade style action that still draws people to JLR now. The game does not take itself too seriously. It was always meant to be fun. Rugby is a fun sport - it’s hard out there on the pitch, but at the end of the day it’s about enjoying yourself.
We wanted JLR and subsequently WCR to reflect that. We want the player to spend his time punching holes in his opponents defense or spinning the ball out wide. Fast re-cycling of the ball and back on the hoof. We wanted to avoid the usual pitfall ie. making the game an English version of Madden. Tactically, Rugby is nothing like American Football!
We knew that people were crying out for us to recreate that whole JLR experience - and that has been our blueprint from day one.
Can we expect to be able to take a management role in WCR such as player signings, multiple seasons/tournaments and other management tasks?
You can expect to be able to take up a management role during games to decide whether your kicker has succumbed to the pressure of the big game and you need to pass on the kicking duties - or to manually plan how you want your line-outs setting up - either as a tactic for the length of the game or to vary it each time to keep the opposition on their toes. And of course you can make a substitution of that player who is showing the after effects of being torn in half by the “big” charging tackle.
We have avoided the management style game elements though eg. player signings - we wanted to concentrate on the arcade action.
How many players will the PS2 and Xbox versions support?
Both the PS2 & Xbox versions will support up to 4 players per match - and upto 8 players involved in a single tournament.
Can we expect real stadiums such as Twickenham to be included? If so which ones and how many?
The one stadium that I can exclusively reveal to you at this stage will be featured in game is Twickenham. Keep a look out over the next series of screenshots for a sight of the home of rugby
Will there be new technologies such as video referees included and can players be sent off?
We thought long and hard over what place such advances in the sport should take in the sequel to Jonah Lomu Rugby - because of it’s fast paced all-action style. Game elements like the video referees didn’t really fit into the Jonah Lomu Rugby world and so have been left on the sidelines in favour of the gaming experience.
Finally is there anything you want to say to people anticipating the March 2004 release?
Get ready. The wait is nearly over. For everyone who has been waiting for the follow up to Jonah Lomu Rugby, it’s here. World Championship Rugby.
Thanks for your time.
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