Just…one…more! This month 360Monster was invited as part of the Microsoft Xbox Community Network (XCN) to submit a selection of questions, which would be answered in a Q&A session with the developers of the latest tennis title, Virtua Tennis 3. We put this to our community via our forum and in return we received some pressing questions from our members. The most interesting and inventive questions were selected and submitted towards the Q&A interview.
What follows an in-depth Q&A exclusive to XCN members with Toby Allen, Assistant Producer at SUMO Digital and Mie Kumagai, Director of AM3.
How difficult has been the experience of creating one of the first two games with 1080p resolution for Xbox 360 and PS3?
Toby Allen: From a 360 perspective we didn’t have any real issues and it was all quite straight forward.
Mie Kumagai: To tell the truth, there it was not such a great trouble. In the sense of a multi-platform title, we started the development of VT3 by building the arcade system board. We adopted pixel shader technologies we can set up flexibly at the early stage of the development, assuming the hardware specs of PS3 and Xbox 360 to the best of our knowledge. As a result, we could secure 1080p resolution within a load range of a certain degree.
What are the primary differences between the Xbox 360 and the arcade versions of the game?
Toby Allen: The arcade version of the game has been improved on the PS3 by AM3, we took this latter version and added a few extra features. You can expect a new world tour mode, character customisation, mini-games and 1080p quality graphics. Specifically on the 360 version we have taken the Virtua Tennis 3 experience to a new high with the addition of Xbox Live support; this include tournaments, game higlights, VT.TV and spectator mode. You can play up to 8 players online with doubles in a tournament – all playing at 60fps and in superb 1080p quality.
What are the biggest changes between VT2 and VT3, excluding graphics?
Mie Kumagai: I suppose it would be variation of game modes. With new multiplayer mini-games added, the singleplayer “World Tour” mode was also added with more depth and a story nature.
The Dreamcast Version of Virtua Tennis was incredible! What have you learnt from that day till this?
Toby Allen: In terms of graphics, we have learned pixel shader technologies and new animation techniques. Moreover, we re-analyzed the the sport of tennis, and we studied again what “heated match development” or “breathtaking rallys” were composed of.
Did you think about including features for the Xbox-Live Vision Cam, like face mapping? Toby Allen: These are all brilliant features but would have required a significant amount of work and elements such as face mapping would be tricky with VT3’s custom characters. However it is something we may look at in the future.
What game modes will be playable via Xbox-Live? Will there be online doubles settings or just single multiplayer features?
Toby Allen: The online side of VT3 will be powered by 4 different features; tournaments, friendly, VT.TV and game highlights – you will be able to play doubles.
Do you feel you maximized the potential of the 360 with VT3?
Toby Allen: We certainly tried, and the addition of VT online simply allows all the VT fans to finally play against each other in a true tennis environment!
Will there be secret Players to unlock?
Toby Allen: Now that would be telling! I’m sure VT fans will soon figure this out 🙂
Will there be some totally crazy Tennis Rackets?
Toby Allen: Coming from a japanese developer, you can expect a high level of crazy content in the game – a lot of tongue and cheek.
Is it possible to create more than one Player Profile?
Toby Allen: You will have to ability to create up to 4 different profiles for World tour.
Is it possible to play with two Xbox live gold accounts on one console against other players?
Toby Allen: Yes, it is possible to play with two Xbox Live gold accounts on one console. They can participate in player (unranked) matches, ranked matches and tournaments. However, they must be on the same doubles team for tournaments and ranked matches.
In addition VT3 also supports doubles teams where the players are on different consoles. This feature behaves very similarly to when two players are on the same console and was mainly added to enable players on two different consoles to play ranked doubles matches together. We also have ranked leaderboards for when two players play together, including: Mixed Doubles TrueSkill, Men’s Doubles TrueSkill, Women’s Doubles TrueSkill.
Can Xbox 360 gamers expect some exclusive stuff with their version?
Toby Allen: You’ll just have to wait and see, we might have some suprises!
We know that Virtua Tennis 3 will give us the possibility to organize online tournaments over Xbox Live. Can you explain us how this feature exactly works?
Toby Allen: The online tournament feature works by first grouping together the players in a lobby and once the required number of players have joined and/or everyone is ready the tournament can begin. For player (unranked) tournaments COM players are added to make up the numbers but for ranked tournaments a player will automatically get through to the next round if they are short of an opponent. Whenever someone is waiting for their next opponent who is still playing their last match they will be able to spectate the remainder of that match, also players that have been knocked out can remain to spectate the remainder of the tournament. The tournaments only have 2-3 rounds of play and you will play through your matches one by one until you are either the winner or are knocked out. The tournaments themselves do not have any leaderboards, but each match within a ranked tournament will still count towards their overall ranking. The tournament feature does not allow play to be suspended and resumed at a later date, once a tournament has started it must be played until the end.
Will be able to download some new mini-games or other content?
Toby Allen: We have no plans for this right now.
Talking about Virtua Tennis 3 mini-games, what’s your favourite one and why?
Toby Allen: My personal favouite is Drum Topple as you get an immense amount of satisfaction from knocking down piles of barrels.
Mie Kumagai: I love “Count Mania” in Training of the World Tour mode, and “Avalanche” in the Multiplayer mode in Court Games.
Does the 360 version play any different to the “Sega coded” PS3 version? Did you tweak the gameplay a little to stamp your mark on the 360 version?
Toby Allen: Our aim with this conversion is to bring the PS3’s VT experience onto the Xbox 360. Taking account of the technical requirements, we are using a different physics engine, which does affect the gameplay slightly in a few of the mini-games. However, we’ve been told that this really feels right and plays nicely.
Why does the 360 version have an online modes and PS3 not?
Mie Kumagai: The priority for the Virtua Tennis 3 development team on PlayStation 3 console has been to maximise the known strengths of the console. We wanted to ensure players experience the quality they have come to expect from a Virtua Tennis title.
Is it possible to bring your created player to Xbox Live matches and tournaments?
Toby Allen: Custom players can be used online for all Xbox Live features.
How complex is your Create-A-Player mode?
Mie Kumagai: The “World Tour (Raise-Your-Own-Player)” mode has communications with real players that occur in various situations. “Familiarity” is gradually achieved by playing a match against a real player or choosing him/her as your doubles partner. If Familiarity gets high, you will start to be offered practice matches, or receive encouraging mails. Moreover, the game’s attractions also lie in the player making intellectual decisions like occurrence of injuries and accidents due to radical training, or a time frame set for retirement.
Is there going to be a fully licensed selection of players, tournaments and locations featured?
Mie Kumagai: A team of 20 players from all over the world including Federer, Nadal, Sharapova, or Mauresmo are featured under their own names and likenesses in VT3. Although in-game tournaments and locations are fictious, since we obtained collaborations from global brand companies we were able to decorate stadiums with their logos, the user can develop an illusion as if those stadiums were real.
Tell us more about the VT:TV feature. Will it be a simple case of drop-in drop-out, will there be a maximum spectator limit and can anyone host a VT:TV enabled game?
Toby Allen: There is 9 slots online, which can be filled between players and spectators. There is no restriction as to who can host VT:TV games. If you see your friends online or having played a recent game, click on their gamercard and see the last 5 minutes highlight of their game.
How far along the development process did you make the decision to have the Xbox 360 version output at 1080p?
Toby Allen: It was about the time when Microsoft added support to the Xbox 360, quite a way in to development.
Did it take long to implement the 1080p support? Why do you think other developers skip it?
Toby Allen: Getting the game into 1080p resolution was pretty easy, where the guys had to put in some extra work was tweaking the quality and fullscreen effects. You will be able to see the game really shines at this resolution.
To what effect does Virtua Tennis differentiate itself from the big competitor TopSpin 2?
With VT3, we had never been conscious of differentiation from other tennis titles, but always been thinking about what we should do for a new title of the VT series.
The franchise seems to take a more arcade approach in bringing the tennis sport to gamers instead of the deeper tennis simulation of its competitors. such as TopSpin, is this still apparent in Virtua Tennis 3?
Mie Kumagai: One of the VT series’ concepts, “Super play with Simple control”, is inherited in VT3.
Experience and new ideas are necessary to strike a balance between simple controls and the depth of tennis gameplay. As a result, we could re-create the best parts unique to genuine tennis, such as putting the opponent off balance back and forth and around on the court, or flexible expansions of matches. One of the professional tennis players who cooperated with this title, said that “VT can provide image training for actual matches”, so VT3 can be described as “designed for professionals” in a sense.
What have the developers done in this game to make it different from the rest of the tennis games? Top spin 2 and Table tennis were both enjoyable for 5 minutes then the whole knocking the ball back and forth got tedious. Does this title provide anything different from those two titles that will want me coming back for more and more?
Mie Kumagai: An abundance of game new modes and contents give the user pleasure. In the new “World Tour ” mode you create your own player and watch him rise through the ranks, you can compete with your fiends and family in various mini-games, and become friends with, for instance, Federer or Nadal. You get encouragement and gifts from the stars and your coach, Training (mini-games) that offers as many as 72 variations and practice in a new mission style, you will never get bored.
Thank you for your time Toby and Mie
Virtua Tennis 3 is available to buy online or at your local retail outlets now. A demo of the game is also available on the Xbox Live Marketplace.