Games: Grand Slam Tennis 2
Thomas Singleton, producer of groundbreaking EA Sports title Grand Slam Tennis 2, reveals what went into making the tennis video game that's set for release on February 10
A quick glance at the screen immediately tells me that I’ve just walked in on the beginning of the Wimbledon final.
Dusty brown patches interrupt the parallel columns of pristine grass at the service box and baseline to indicate a fortnight of wear and tear. Above the playing surface, Centre Court’s distinctive white retractable roof casts a slight shadow above a sea of expectant heads inside the hushed arena, while photographers in the courtside pit train their lenses at the figure with ball in hand, preparing to launch the first serve of the day.
The camera pans to the man at the centre of attention, from his glistening white socks and shoes, each emblazoned with a gold Nike tick, up his hairy legs to the iconic Wilson BLX racket in his hand that confirms, if there was any doubt, that the man in question is Roger Federer.
But as lifelike as everything seems, a closer look reveals that the events on screen are, in fact, animated. It’s not the media centre at the All England Club that I’ve just walked in on, but a room packed with games consoles at the Guildford base of Electronic Arts, the publisher of EA Sports video games.
I’m here to meet Thomas Singleton, the Line Producer of Grand Slam Tennis 2, for an exclusive look at the making of the game, set for release in early 2012.
Now, I’m not much of a gamer, but I will readily confess to being a little obsessive when it comes to tennis and I’m fascinated to discover whether the makers of the software have been either meticulous in their efforts to bring the sport to life in electronic form, or somewhat careless. The authentic grass court scene on screen immediately suggests the former.
Exclusive to EA Sports, Wimbledon’s inclusion means it’s the first time all four Grand Slam tournaments have been put together in a next generation game. Not only that, smaller courts as well as the main arenas are featured at each of the four majors, including court nine at the US Open and the new Court Three at Wimbledon.
“For a player of the sport, it’s all about the journey from the outer courts to the Centre Court,” explains Singleton, who evidently understands his target market. “The main court at each of the Grand Slams is a massive spectacle and without the presence of those outer courts, you would wonder why a player ranked at 150 in the world would be playing on Centre Court at Wimbledon. It’d be like, ‘Who did I pay off to get here?’” he chuckles. “In the game, you have to earn the right to play on the biggest courts.”
During the 18-month development process, Singleton not only took tennis lessons himself but also travelled to all the Grand Slams and captured a huge amount of photos in order to accurately replicate the environment at each. The detail extends to the unique sounds and feel of the biggest events on the calendar and, as you would expect in real life, the game is full of French voices at Roland Garros, commotion in New York, cheering Aussies in Melbourne and polite chatter at Wimbledon.
The players receive the same detailed treatment and, interestingly, it was the influence of Novak Djokovic that helped the development team recreate the unique movements, habits and characteristics of the game’s leading stars...
The Grand Slam Tennis 2 demo is available to download now on XBOX Live and Playstation Network.