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Cricket 07

Platform(s): PC, PlayStation 2
Genre: Sports
Publisher: EA
Developer: EA

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'Cricket 07' (PS2/PC) Developer Diary #1

by Rainier on Nov. 2, 2006 @ 12:14 a.m. PST

With its fully licensed squads, groundbreaking Century Stick control system and more natural camera perspective, Cricket 07 will bring players the most immersive gameplay experience to date.

Cricket 07 also features a new Quickplay cricket setting that lets players crank up the game speed, ease back the difficulty setting and join the excitement of Limited Overs or fully-licensed Twenty20 extravaganzas by playing a fast-blast match of hard-hitting sixes – or slow the pace down, slide the difficulty up and steel yourself for a five day Test. For a sustained challenge, gamers can choose from a complete schedule of Australian State and English County tournaments or lead the charge in this year’s eagerly anticipated Ashes campaign in the 3-mobile Series Down Under.

For the first time in a cricket game, players can enjoy full control over foot choice, shot, direction, power and timing, all governed through the use of both analog sticks. A back or front foot stroke is selected with the left stick, then shot timing and direction are judged with the right stick. Power is determined by how far the stick is moved – a slight tap can nudge the ball for a quick single or a firm push can send the ball fizzing away to the boundary. Allied to new cameras that deliver a more natural behind-the-stumps batting perspective and a wider view of the field, cricket has never been so easily accessible. With embellished gameplay, a wealth of tournaments, genuine equipment and authoritative new commentary from Mark Nicholas and Richie Benaud, you won't experience cricket this authentic without donning whites and walking down the pavilion steps yourself.

‘Precision Batting Control’ – The Century Stick:

Cricket games have been crying out for a mechanism that allows the user to employ greater control and finesse over batting. The key to this is to create a control method that feels natural, is accessible, and replicates the skills required when actually wielding the willow.

Batting is a very technically demanding skill in the real world, relying on good judgement of shot selection, shot direction, foot movement, timing, and power, and is also affected by psychological elements such as confidence. These components are all reflected in the new ‘Precision Batting Control’ that features in EA Sports Cricket ’07. To ensure that the experience isn’t lost on the new user, the default control system gives the user the ability to select their shot, the direction of the shot, and the timing of the shot. This is all done with a single press on the Right Analog Stick … a very simple action that feels very natural and is instantly accessible. The more hardcore cricket fans can then move to the more advanced controls and have more simulation control over their batsman including manual selection of foot movement for Front-foot and Back-foot shots.

So, as an overall comment about the new ‘Precision Batting Control’ … the core of the feature is to simplify the system to reduce the actual control inputs required to perform a basic batting action. Swing the Stick – swing the bat!

Changing the basic control system in a game is not generally enough to really change the end user experience, unless this is supplemented with new mechanics that support and enhance the new control system and improve the overall game experience. One of the key changes to the batting controls that is seen in EA Sports Cricket ’07 is the ability to have much more control over shot direction than in previous EA Cricket titles. This works extremely well with the new analog stick control, as the direction that you press defines the direction that the ball will move. The better the timing of the shot, the more precise the direction of the shot will be. This makes for a much more satisfying batting experience as placing the ball into the gaps is a key component of cricket and this is now reflected in the title. Varying shot power is also an underlying mechanic that has been added to the title, and this is again controlled through the extent of the press on the analog stick. This now allows the user to place the ball into a gap and run the 1s and 2s when the field is set back. This can be a very useful technique when trying to increase the confidence level of a particular batsman.

One consistent complaint about EA Cricket 2005 was the general accessibility of the batting system. Most users struggled to score runs as the batting was very demanding, and required a high level of understanding of correct batting technique. A fundamental element of ‘Precision Batting Control’ was to address this accessibility issue and make the game easier to play on the easier difficulty levels, whilst retaining the simulation approach for the higher difficulty levels. This meant a great deal of time was placed on tuning the timing windows and default confidence levels of the batsmen. On the easiest settings, the batting timing windows are large enough to smash the ball to the boundary on a consistent basis. There is also a very tangible difference in the default confidence levels of batsmen of different skill levels … with players like Flintoff having a much higher starting level of batting confidence than tailend batsmen. Not only does this add authenticity to the game, but also gives the end user a good chance of scoring runs with the higher rated batsmen, and requires a change in batting tactics when batting with the lower ranked players.

When breaking down the control system into basic component parts, the left stick controls player movement around the crease and foot selection (on the advanced controls option). The right stick controls shot selection, shot placement, shot power, and shot timing. The control mapping for lofted shots and coming down the track are placed on the triggers, which work very well in tandem with the new analog stick controls. Hold in R1 whilst playing a shot to loft the ball, L1 whilst playing a shot to advance down the track, and L1 and R1 together whilst playing a shot to advance down the track and loft the ball.

I am very confident that the move away from default face button control to the new stick controls will appeal to both hardcore and casual cricket gamers alike. I would be amazed if there is a reversion back to the traditional batting controls seen in previous EA Cricket titles, as the new ‘Precision Batting Control’ has everything the end user will need to smash the ball to all areas of the park. I have played cricket throughout my life as a batsman and part time legspin bowler, and have been a compulsive cricket gamer for years, and in my opinion the new ‘Precision Batting Control’ system is the most intuitive and accurate representation of batting yet seen in a cricket game.

Cricket ’07 Producer Justin Forrest

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