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BLIC 2007 Q&A
23 Mar 2007
By: James Nixon


Brian Lara International Cricket 2007 Q&A with the Codemasters Community Manager Peer Lawther on the XBox version of the game.

1. The last Brian Lara game became the first cricket title to get to number one in the all-formats chart. Do you hope that you can achieve the same success with BL 2007?

We certainly do! Brian Lara International Cricket 2005 got to number one for four weeks throughout summer 2005 and we're proud that it was the first cricket title ever to do so.

And we think that Brian Lara International Cricket 2007 is a worthy follow-up to the 2005 game and also the well-remembered games of the late 1990s. All are both fun but a challenge - something we like to put into every game we release.

2. That success also coincided with the England team's victory in the Ashes - to what extent do you think the success of BL depends on the success of the national team?

Of course England's success in the 2005 Ashes helped with the last game (and we'll be supporting England to go all the way in the ICC Cricket World Cup 2007!) but we hope that every Brian Lara game does well on its own merits, as it's always cracking fun to play them.

It's certainly got the potential and while success on the field does help, the fact that the game is accessible and not too hardcore means casual fans of the sport can play, take wickets easily and emulate their heroes. Having the sport in the news certainly does help, but you could say the same about any game!

The game's release ties in with the end of the first round of matches in the ICC Cricket World Cup and the start of the Super Eights (when the seeded teams - bar Pakistan of course - all start playing each other in earnest) so hopefully the momentum of cricket news in the media and some good review scores will help spur sales upwards and upwards.

3. What edge does the Xbox 360's advanced power give to this new version on BL?

The Xbox 360 gives us so much more than we ever had before in terms of graphical power and advanced AI - we're proud to lead on with the platform as it means the game is way more complex from a programming point of view than any other Brian Lara game previously.

Most noticeably it means the graphics are so much more advanced from the off, with recognisable players taking the field, and all in lovely HDTV widescreen. We can certainly say that it's the best-looking cricket game ever, and that's down to the Xbox 360's power!

The lighting and shadows are now perfectly-recreated so from looking around the field you know whether it's morning, midday or afternoon and for the day/night matches the lighting means an excellent re-creation of playing at night. It also means that the pitch (for example) breaks up more naturally (and you can see it happening) which means you can aim for the cracks with your bowling and try and grab some bounce out of the ball.

It also helps in other ways having the Xbox 360's power to hand - AI is more developed than previous games meaning it'll take a more tactical approach to playing the game, and the game runs significantly quicker than it used to, meaning you'll not get bogged down waiting for the game to start.

4. How does BL2007 capture the atmosphere of televised cricket coverage?

It captures it perfectly. As we've got the ICC (International Cricket Council) licence we've worked with them extensively so the main World Cup mode of the game recreates overlays, fonts and graphics that you would see in TV coverage.

Obviously we've also got the rights to use Hawk-Eye as well, which adds to the TV feel immensely, and the fact that we've got David Gower, Jonathan Agnew and a host of other commentators in the game means it'll feel like it's you out there at the crease!

5. What Xbox Live options are you offering in BL2007?

Brian Lara 2007 is the first major cricket game that fans can play online, and we've tried to push the boat out when it comes to tournaments and competitions.

So for Xbox Live BLIC07 will see tournaments for up to 16 players, so everyone can play in their own ICC Cricket World Cup 2007 competition along with up to 15 of their friends. Baggsy Scotland!

Obviously you can also play 1v1 games, from a limited overs international all the way up to a full five day test. Although if you're going to do that, I'd suggest drinks and toilet breaks every so often!

The Xbox 360 version also boasts some fantastic online leaderboards that use the official ICC ODI points calculation system to establish ranking, rather than just a traditional high score table.

6. Are there any Xbox 360-specific features in BL2007?

Apart from the excellent online gaming and tournament play over Xbox Live we've also got the introduction of fully 3D crowds, all-new beautiful lighting for the stadiums and we've harnessed the speed of the Xbox 360 for loading times - so if you want the game that's got it all, go for the Xbox 360 version.

And also, play through the game and gain Xbox Live achievement gamerpoints for winning games, scoring well, bowling line and length, success in tournaments and much more.

7. You've added sweep shots and subtle edges to BL2007 - what do these shots add to the game?

It adds to the intensity of the game and the immersion. It means a wider shot selection so you can try and sweep a loose ball away for four or edge it past the slips if you want. You can also advance down the pitch to play more aggressively in this new version of the game as well. This leads to a much more realistic gameplay and also a lot more shots to show off with against your mates or online!

8. What feedback from the BL community have you incorporated into the game, and how important is that feedback to the dev team?

The feedback is vital - straight after the launch of the 2005 game we convened to go over what the fans has told us via email, at launch events and on the official Brian Lara International Cricket forum (http://community.codemasters.com/forum/forumdisplay.php?f=246). We poured over what they liked, what they didn't like and their suggestions for improvements and new features and made a 'hitlist' of what we could include as a result in the timescale we had set ourselves.

Such things as sweep and reverse sweep shots were implemented because of feedback, as was amends the bowling speeds (they tended to be on the slower side last time out - they're much more realistic now) and throwing to both wickets if you're fielding.

Also the biggest shout was to take the game online, especially through Xbox Live - and we were more than happy to deliver that!

9. What other new gameplay options have you added?

Brian Lara International Cricket 2007 builds on the 2005 game with the addition of sweep shots, the ability to advance down the wicket, bowler's end run outs, manual slips and close-field catches, edges, nicks and much more.

The highly-acclaimed bowling has been upgraded to allow for an improved set of delivery types, thanks largely in part to the changes in the way the ball swings in the air and reacts off the pitch. This means we can showcase a huge variation of spinning deliveries, pace bowling and even reverse swing later in innings. And in response to feedback, the speed of deliveries has been more accurately mapped to produce a much more realistic experience.

In fielding, there's a new reflex-testing catch system that means, as in real-life, your instincts are key to grabbing a major wicket. And for ease of use (so you can get on with playing the game) field placements are now controlled in-game with a radar system meaning you can control your slips and outfielders at the touch of a button.

And the game's AI has been substantially ramped up to allow for more shot variation and selection and better innings pacing - so no matter whether you're trying to bowl out an opponent or batting to save a match, you'll have a battle hard.

10. What are some of your favourite Achievements in the game and how much fun was it planning what those Achievements would be?

We planned that the Achievements would be in keeping with the game's accessibility, so some are easy (completing parts of the coaching modes for example) through batting and bowling all the way up to ones that will be a great target to reach (score over 500 runs in a test match, for example) to ones that'll take quite a while to achieve (play and win at least one test match with every team in the game will be a killer!).

So as your skill builds up as you learn the game you've got this great grading in achievements to accompany you.

And for us, it was a lot of fun to try and get the 'King Pair' - getting a batsman out twice first ball for nought in the same match. It led to quite a few arguments in the office when a certain 'world-class' batsman was skittled for a duck two innings in a row!

11. Do you think BL2007 remains accessible to casual players - or even gamers who have never played cricket before?

That's what we try to do and that's an explicit part of the philosophy of the game from the start. Cricket can be a complete nightmare for the layperson to understand - Fine leg? Googly? Chinamen?! All this terminology can put off a lot of people that would otherwise be interested in the game.

So we want to bring them in to the fold and show them how good cricket can be, so for the 2007 we've got a full coaching mode available for batting, bowling and fielding, along with a huge cricket glossary, so if David Gower or Jonathan Agnew mentions a term in-game or on the telly, you can have a check and see what's the heck they're going on about!

In the match engine we don't want to confuse beginners either, so there's not as many buttons or combos that need to be learned at first - Brian Lara is an accessible and fun game. It may be intense staring down a Brett Lee fast ball but we'll make sure it's fun as well!

12. How have you captured the unique traits of some of the world's most well-known cricketers?

It's great to say, but we've watched the cricket as much as we could over the past few years to see how they bowl, how they bat and how they field. All three are vitally important to the game. It's better to see cricket stars in a live arena out in the field and then replay the action again and again.

Allied to this we got cricket pros to come in and talk through the action with us so we understood the mindset and tactics behind the game - it's amazing how much we learnt from this! Talking with pros such as Shaun Udal, John Crawley along with commentators and former cricket heroes such as Jonathan Agnew and David Gower really helped expand our knowledge of the game beyond the norm. I mean - we can all imagine what it's like to face a fast ball from a world-class bowler or stare down a batsman such as Brian Lara, but these people have done it, and know and remember exactly their feelings of concentration, tactical knowledge and intensity at the time. We wanted to tap into this with the game.

And finally, we added the best stats around, from the world-renowned team at Wisden, so every intricacy of the players could be put into the game - thousands upon thousands of stats were crunched for this game. This all means we've got a game where you can the difference between the players to a greater degree than ever before.

13. Brian Lara is a truly international game, with different cover stars gracing the box in different areas. How satisfying is it to know you've created such a game with such global appeal?

In the UK we focus on Brian Lara; in Australia, we've got Ricky Ponting; and then in India, with our Yuvraj Singh version, it's part of the line up for the Xbox 360 launch there (and one that gained a standing ovation at an Xbox presentation when it was announced!).

So it's not a surprise to see, especially in emails and on forums and websites across the world, that we get so much press about the game. Cricket has a huge fanbase across the world (and rightly so), encompassing nearly a third of the world's population, so it's no surprise that there's such a clamour for the game.

We get daily emails and forum posts from the smallest cricketing nations to the largest - from Bermuda to India - asking for information and advice on the game, and we're always happy to provide as it's for a fan of the game and a fan of cricket - and they're our kind of people!

14. With the cricket World Cup approaching, have you simulated the tournament on BL 2007 - and who won?

Yep, we did several times, and used one feature that I've not mentioned previously to our advantage - the realistic v balanced game stats.

In the game you can play with two different sets of stats - either the realistic ones, so Australia will whip a team like Scotland 9 out of 10 times (sadly!), or balanced stats, which will give a much more level playing field when it comes to playing between two teams with differing strengths, With balanced stats Glenn McGrath (for example) will still be a great bowler, but the stats are used in such a way that Australia v the Netherlands isn't such a walkover for the Aussies and both teams can compete equally.

Really, this'll be most noticeable on Xbox Live as there'll be no rush for the best teams (like football games I could mention, when everyone wants to be Brazil!) and so everyone can be in with a chance when it comes to competing for the World Cup.

With this in mind, we played two World Cup tournaments in the office recently. Firstly we used realistic stats - the final was won by Australia, boringly - followed by a tournament using the more balanced stats. And God bless 'em, it was Bermuda who ended up winning the World Cup! Much more exciting than the usual Aussie whitewash!

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