IncGamers Network

Top Spin 4 Q&A w/ Francois Guintini

IncGamers recently has the pleasure of posing some questions to Francois Guintini, Execution Producer on the rather wonderful Top Spin 4 (see our review here). Read on to find about the motion capture process, staying ‘true’ to the franchise and how difficult it is to implement motion control support.
IncGamers: How was the player response to the demo? Any issues crop up that you hadn’t planned for?
Francois Guintini: The player response on the demo has been very positive. We are happy to see that one of the key goals of Top Spin 4 – making it easier to pick up and enjoy – was felt by the vast majority of players.
There were no specific issues that caught us by surprise; but we are still monitoring the feedback closely.
IG: With Virtua Tennis 4 also coming this year, what have you done to make sure players are enticed by Top Spin 4?
FG: We’re basically trying to stay true to the Top Spin franchise. In other words, we always try to provide a very authentic representation of tennis that is now even more fun and enjoyable than ever. By working on a complete revamp of the gameplay, improved presentation and ambiance and new original game modes we are confident we’re offering the best tennis experience out there.
IG: You may be aware of a feature in EA’s Tiger Woods series that allows you to play tournaments that happening in real-life, with your score being added to the leader board as though you’re playing against the pros. Is this something you’ve ever thought about implementing in Top Spin for the likes of Wimbledon and the US Open?
FG: We don’t have such feature in Top Spin 4; but we are investigating ideas in that direction. But that would be for future discussions.
IG: Top Spin has always been seen as a tennis ‘sim’ rather than an ‘arcade’ title. For a sport that, as far as videogames are concerned, has been characterised by arcade-style titles (going all the way back to Pong and Tennis For Two) is the ‘sim’ label a help or a hindrance?
FG: To be honest, internally we don’t really like those labels of Simulation and Arcade, just because it most surely means something completely different for everybody. Most of the time a ‘Sim’ is described as being serious, hard and tedious while an ‘Arcade’ game is seen as fun but unrealistic. What we’re trying to achieve with Top Spin 4 is a game that is realistic, easy to pick up and play, fun and with a challenging learning curve. So it doesn’t really fit those ‘labels’. What really matters is that players who are looking for a lot of fun time with an authentic Tennis title would be happily served with Top Spin 4.
IG: Tell us a little about the process of capturing animations. How time-consuming, expensive and difficult a process is it? Is it worth it?
FG: The Motion Capture technology keeps on progressing and the process gets easier each year. On the other hand the expectations and requirements in animations (in quantity and quality) are really high these days so it is still a tough process.
 A lot of time is spent on planning and defining all the necessary animations, casting the right talent (it’s not easy to find talented tennis players who can sometimes act as well), and then capturing the animations. But the process doesn’t stop here as all this vast amount of data then needs to be tweaked, adapted to the game requirements and implemented. Is it worth it? Well more than that, it is actually a requirement. We couldn’t do such a faithful representation of tennis (or any sports actually) without capturing thousands of top quality animations from professional athletes.
IG: Is there any sharing of resources between the 2K Sports teams?
FG: Yes, there is resource sharing, but we can’t go into any details. The game is being done by 2K Czech, but of course we’re taking advantage of our worldwide resources to make the best game possible. It’s great to be part of a team that makes such great sports games. 
IG: How difficult has it been to implement motion control support?
FG: The implementation of Motion Control support was a bit tricky as we wanted to provide the same gameplay controls and options as with your standard controller. So we defined sets of gestures to be used and ran a lot of user testing to find the best combination. What is key is that whatever the controller you use you will get the same true/complete Top Spin 4 experience. But the immersion and new feeling brought by using the PS Move Controller on the PS3 is very interesting.
IG: Post-game support seems to be an ever-present element to videogame production nowadays, what post-launch plans have you got in the works?
FG: We don’t have any plan that we can reveal as of now. However, and to refer back to the first question on user feedback on the demo, with the new server and gameplay architecture we implemented for TS4 we will be able to quickly provide balancing patches if/when needed. That’s why we are monitoring closely the users’ feedback and that we will keep on doing it.



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