NFL Gameday 2003 (PS2) Interview
1. Can you explain your role with NFL GameDay 2003 and how long you have been
My name is Chris Gill; I am one of the Producers on GameDay 2003, and I've been with 989 Sports for four years.
2. Do you have any explanations on why you think GameDay has been so poorly received by fans the past few years? Last year's game seemed to have made some strides in the right direction, but how long will it take for GameDay to be back up there with the Madden or NFL 2K franchise?
With sports, every team has winning and losing seasons. Year one on the PS2 was a difficult season for us, but we made some major adjustments in year two and felt we were beginning to see marked improvement. The third season is now upon us, and we are ready to compete for the Super Bowl. Who would have picked Patriots to win the Super Bowl last year? We have competed with, and beat, Madden in the past so it shouldn't be a shock to anyone when we get there again.
3. What will be different in this year's game versus the previous couple of years where the game lagged way behind EA Sports' and Sega Sports' football games?
- Completely re-tooled animation system (see below regarding animation)
- New voice talent comprising a 4-person team of announcers. This was accomplished by adding a third announcer to the booth and an on-field voice talent used for interviews with the Coaches from the sideline perspective.
- The offensive line logic has been completely renovated to more depict real life situations.
- We further dissected the lighting scheme and found that by pre-lighting the textures on the players at a 12 noon type scenario as well as apply a direct light from the side, say about 4 o'clock p.m. during real time. In essence our shadows have a light source of their own which is separate from the other lights. This allows the shadows to be lengthened as the game progresses without changing the optimal look of our characters.
- There is a completely revamped menu system whereby the user can easily and intelligently navigate throughout the front end with the "common themed" fascia combined with the stadium graphically displayed in the background.
- We have over saturated the player textures to achieve that shiny, new car look. We also built our fields and stadiums with very little saturation as opposed to the player characters. This is what really makes the players pop off the screen.
- In order to achieve a truly "3-D" look and feel, it was decided to run at 60 frames per second.
- There is a new play call screen where the user will be able to view the actual field position from this menu. They will be able to choose their plays according to how each play should relate to field positioning.
- There is a new "fly-in" where by the user as they are being greeted prior to the start of the game, the user will be entertained by numerous scenarios all being executed at one time. (a QB throwing to his WR as the PK practices kicking field goals)
- Game play – New for this year, the QB "scramble". This feature will allow the user, with their QB, to run like a running back all the while still being able to throw to his WR (assuming he hasn't passed the line of scrimmage).
- Hot routes – Enables the user to change the route of the wr at the line of scrimmage. Not an audible, but a sight adjustment for the quarterback and the wide receiver.
4. How much of an overhaul will the AI undergo? Last year's game, the
defensive players seemed to be at a disadvantage. Will we see smarter DBs and LBs this year?
I believe you will see tremendous improvement on the defensive side of the ball. Our man and zone coverage has been completely rewritten. You will notice right away DB's and LB's are reacting and driving to make plays on the ball.
5. What about the CPU play calling? Of course it is always important to have a game that has realistic play calling.
Fortunately for us, we have a full time consultant on board to help build realistic play calling. Our scriptwriter played quarterback in the NFL for two seasons. He was a backup to Elway and Kubiak in Denver and his offensive coordinator was Mike Shanahan. His insight has provided depth and realism to our play calling.
6. The ability to move players over from the college level over to the NFL has always been appreciated by gamers. The Gamebreaker and GameDay franchises have had this feature for some years now. Has there been any improvements, or anything modified to this feature?
If it ain't broke don't fix it.
7. NFL GameDay 2003 will be playable online with up to 8 people according to the fact sheet. Will the game be playable with 8 people from different parts of the country, all with dial-up connection?
No, 4 coming out of one PS2 and 4 coming out of the other—2 sites 8 people total.
Can you explain a little more about some of the key features of the online mode?
It has all the same features as the off line version and more. A player will earn a rank (rookie, veteran, pro and legend) by ranking points that are earned by record (wins-losses), points scored, points allowed and disconnects. Also tracked are games played, average points scored, average points allowed, average rushing yards and average passing yards. You can customize your profile by stating your NFL affiliation (favorite team), what city, state and country you're from and a quote that others can read. The leader boards will show your ranking versus everyone else who has played plus how you rank with all other people with the same affiliation (favorite team). There is also a ranking by affiliation so you can back your favorite team versus all the other teams in the NFL.
We have both a front-end chat room and the ability to chose pre set smack calls with button presses in game. If you want to spend the time and get creative with your smack talk, you can type in your own (also in game) using a USB keyboard. You will also be able to update your rosters throughout a season to get the most current NFL rosters by downloading a file to your memory card. We also have a screen displaying promotional events so you always know what's going on with SCEA and 989 sports.
Will there be some sort of stat that tracks a sore loser who quits on people at the end of games without getting a L on their record?
Yes, this is a great feature, and we keep track of it calling it disconnects. This way we'll know if you're a true gamer or not. You may be 13-0 but have 22 disconnects. By displaying this, you can avoid playing that individual.
Will there be a moderator in the online lobby at certain time to ensure no one is just flooding the chatroom?
We've added an ignore feature that you click on in the lobby so if you don't want to talk with that person, you don't have to.
8. What new additions to the franchise mode were made?
Slight enhancements to make it more intuitive
9. How much testing will GameDay 2003 go through this year to prevent the shipping of a buggy product? Everyone understands that no product can go bug free, but some of the bugs present in last year's game were a bit too much for anyone to be able to enjoy the game. Will the Q&A team be given more time or whatever they need to help uncover the bugs?
The advantage we have over last year is that GameDay was completely playable much earlier. This allowed us to enter test several months earlier—hence, more bug fixes. Fixing bugs takes time and we are confident that this will be the cleanest GameDay ever.
By the end of the project we will have had more than 10,000 hours logged.
10. Has the simulation engine been improved? In GameDay 2002, simulating games often gives you QBs throwing for 600 or maybe even 700 yards in the air.
This was a bug from last year. The first thing we did on this rev was go through the bugs from the last year and fix them.
11. The game controls were a bit sluggish in GameDay 2002. Has that been worked on at all?
We spent a lot of time working on player responsiveness. We at 989 Sports want to put the control in the user hands. We want the user to dictate the outcome of a big play, not the CPU.
12. Did you noticed any problems with the animations last year, in particular,
the animation where a guy would tackle someone on the ground and all of a sudden he would get up and start running?
We completely re-tooled the animation system utilizing 2-man motion capture sessions for tackling, blocking, catching and defending. For instance all types of tackles were motion captured from 12 angles (GD 2002 and Madden both use 8 angles). This allows the game to choose the proper animation according to the specific situation.
A very large number of new animations, with an emphasis placed on in-game situational accuracy, have been implemented for this year. By this, it is implied that the proper animation will be executed at the correct time according to numerous variables including the specific players involved, the current momentum (direction of movement), and the move or animation desired.
Currently we have roughly 200 new tackles in the game with plans for adding in upwards of 75 more. This is also evident in the new "catch situations" where there are over 300 currently in the game. Catch situations include catches, drops and bobbles. Add to this a choreographed defensive response, and you have a consistent passing game play.
13. Has the frame rate problems been improved?
In order to achieve a truly "3-D" look and feel it was decided to run at 60 fps. The game is running silky smooth.
14. Will GameDay 2003 have both an arcade and a simulation mode that actually play different?
What we try and do in Arcade Mode is give the less experienced gamer a chance to compete. We do more things for the user so they don't get frustrated and can learn how the game should be played. We simplify the controls, have more on field celebrations, camera fluff, and we let the CPU control special moves for the user. The more advanced football gamers don't want to deal with all that; they just want to get right down to playing, and this way everyone is happy.
15. Will the new jerseys introduced this off-season be present in the game?
All the new uniforms will be in the game.
16. What other sports games do you play besides GameDay?
I play all the sports games and often play competitive product to see how to exploit them and/or see what has been successful.
17. Anything not touched upon you wish to add?
Our goal here at 989 Sports is to put the most realistic and authentic sports games on the shelf. We pride ourselves in that. We may have fallen behind that goal the last couple years, but that's just made us hungrier. We don't make any excuses; we just keep plugging away and when this game, along with our other sports titles come out, you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Great teams always come back.
Thanks a lot for your time.
Click here for the fact sheet and screen shots.