Rugby World Cup 2011 - HB Studios Q&A

As the Rugby World Cup approaches, it seemed the ideal time to put some questions to Alastair Jarvis, general manager of HB Studios, producers of the officially licenced Rugby World Cup 2011 console title. Famous for their excellent work with EA and one of the biggest ever selling Wii titles, Big Beach Sports, Rugby World Cup 2011 marks new ground for HB Studios, being their first fully self funded release.

For those who have been living in a cave, the Rugby World Cup is due to start this September and is being hosted in glorious New Zealand, current tournament favourites. The majority of rugby nations from around the world will compete for the coveted honour of being number one in the world.

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On to the questions....

What game time and match weather options are available?
The stadiums in this game are really spectacular, and as you've already seen they are quite beautiful. There's a real cross section of lighting conditions and weather conditions available in the game. Not every stadium has every lighting condition or weather condition. I anticipate the selections of stadia and weather conditions will expand as time goes on. For instance there's no snow in RWC2011.

Is it possible to play daytime, evening and night games?
All of these options are available.

What weather options are available?
Sunny, overcast, showers and heavy rain are available.

Is wind treated as a separate weather variable and if so, what are the variables?
We have added light wind, blustery and strong winds as the options for these variables.

If present in the game, does wind strength affect open play or just for the goal kicking elements?
In our testing of this very question we've found that wind in goal kicking presents a challenge, while wind in open play is frustrating.

When players receive the ball do they run angles and lines? Not just straight at defenders.
You'll find there's been a lot of work done on the lines a player can run while receiving an offload. They no longer have to be running straight down the field to be candidates for these passes out of the tackle. I think you'll find it has greatly improved the flow of gameplay.

From my perspective, this is an example of why we prioritize something like this over new sidestep animations. I've said this many times, but we have prioritized gameplay over presentation.

Is there any way to control a player in attack that doesn't have the ball? For example, if you are arcing across and want your Fullback to come in and pick a line, could you use the second stick to select his angle and control him, or using another similar method before you've pressed the pass button?
This is something we’ve been investigating recently and that may feature in future versions of our game. It's a feature that relies somewhat on the return of the radar or a different gameplay camera that offers a wider perspective on the backline.

A note on gameplay cameras: We've had all sorts of experience with almost every camera angle you could wish to include in the game. Often times we've simply included them because we could. Frankly many of them were unplayable and shouldn't have been included. This year we've focused on the views that are most often used: Side on and End on.

How does the new guard defending work?
RWC2011's producer Glen Gavin gave his take on this new feature:

Guard control is done by holding down L2/Left Trigger, similar to what you might find in the other sports titles when trying to mark or pressure a player on defense.

It is used for defense primarily and is a very important tactic to employ, particularly on hard difficulty. Guard control allows you to hold the defensive line with your controlled player more easily to avoid going offside while also allowing you to face the opposition in preparation to make a tackle. You can even keep the button held and shuffle your controlled player up the defensive line. So you no longer need to have that run up to press on defence, it is easier to stay onside now.

Where this feature comes into its own though is when you take control of a deep winger or fullback. In the past you were better off letting the CPU make the tackle for you at fullback, but with Guard Control you can now line yourself up better with the fullback to make a tackle on a player on the breakaway. One of those features I can no longer do without, when I pick up Rugby 08 I always pull that L2 button and am disappointed that we didn’t do it sooner. Big positive improvement for defensive play in RWC 2011.

(to me this is one of the greatest improvements to our game this year, I can’t live without it now)

What levels of injuries exist (if any)... could a player play on during a game or be selected for the next game if carrying a light injury or slight knock, could a player be injured badly enough in a pool match to miss the rest of the tournament?
Light injuries can occur in game that do not necessitate a substitution. More severe injuries require taking the player off before proceeding.

What can you tell us about online play? How will the matchmaking work? Will there be an online leaderboard/some sort of ranking system?
We feature 1 v 1 online play. (Incidentally, we still feature up to 4 players in local multiplayer) You can invite a friend to a game with the settings of your choice, or you can look for the game to make a match with players who are also currently online looking for matches. We favour better connection strengths and those strengths are made clear in the interface.
We have not included online leaderboards or ranking systems for this title.

Published by 505 Games, available on Xbox 360 and Playstation 3, Rugby World Cup 2011 is scheduled for release on August 26th 2011. Download the Rugby World Cup 2011 Demo now from the Xbox Marketplace and be sure to check back for our full review.

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A big thank you to the teams at HB Studios and Bastion PR respectively for the opportunity to run this feature and we look forward to tackling (oh lord) the game later in the week.

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