Interviews// EA Sports' Oliver Hughes

Posted 27 Mar 2009 17:37 by
Summer's around the corner! The footy season's going to wind down soon and it's time to start looking to other, more fair weather sports.

With Grand Slam Tennis and Tiger Woods 10, EA Sports is getting ready to do just that. With the early use of the Wii Remote MotionPlus peripheral, EA's looking to emulate summer pastimes more closely than ever. Who needs to go outside, anyway? Hopefully EA will rescue our sporting escapades from what may well be another rainy summer.

SPOnG recently went down to EA's offices to see what Grand Slam Tennis and Tiger Woods 10 on the Wii (complete with MotionPlus functionality) have to offer (see our hands on preview here) and catch up with senior product manager Oliver Hughes.

We sat down with Oliver to discuss more on EA Sports, the Wii and the two games in greater detail.

SPOnG: Oliver Hughes, thanks for joining me today. First off, could you just give me a brief account of your history in the games industry?

Oliver: Okay, well I'm relatively new to the industry actually. I joined EA about 16 months ago, so I've not been around a very long time. I used to work in the telecommunications industry for V-Music, which involves digital music downloads and the business surrounding that, so as the games industry is evolving into the online digital space, I kind of have some knowledge in the business field there.

I've always been a gamer though; ever since I was a kid I had a Super Nintendo, N64, Gamecube… I had a PSone, PS2 and I have all the current generation consoles, so I've always been able to play my favourite sports games, which leads me quite nicely to my position with EA Sports.

SPOnG: The graphics of Grand Slam Tennis remind me of a Super Nintendo tennis game in 3D for some reason. Just the style of it… Why did EA Sports not go for the 'realistic' angle with this title, as it does with many of its other games?

Oliver: What we've done with Grand Slam Tennis is redesign the game from the ground up, so we took a look at the most important things in the game. The first is that it's got to play well. So we made an engine that made it play authentically to tennis and in a manner that made sense on the Wii. The next was to make it authentic to EA Sports, so we licensed great legends and great current players along with the biggest brand names.

The biggest thing we asked ourselves was 'how do we bring these two elements together as a great experience for the Wii?' and I think - although we have been really authentic with the way we have presented it, despite it not being photo-realistic - it's easy to see that Nadal looks like Nadal, as does Federer, for example. And it comes with certain familiarities we've [created] such as animations and playing styles that match their real-life counterparts.

The only thing that's not authentic about Grand Slam Tennis is the fact you can't see sweat or clothes textures. And I think it's a case of prioritising what players would rather have - either the ultra-realism, or a game that plays really nicely. We've gone with the latter option here, but you're right, it's not exactly as you'd see it in real life, but it's representative of the players and environments involved and it's a stylistic choice that we felt worked on the Wii, which is why we went for it.
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