Road to Sunday Interview

Article

posted 6/30/2005 by The GN Staff
other articles by The GN Staff
With Electronic Arts acquiring the exclusive rights to develop NFL football games last year, companies that once produced NFL based football games where forced to either abandon developing football games or find a new way to package their football title. 989 sports has gone the latter route with their new game Road to Sunday. We were fortunate enough to get some of Craig Ostrander’s time and he answered some of our questions about the upcoming game.

GamingNexus: Can you introduce yourself and describe what role you played in the development of the game?
My name is Craig Ostrander, the Senior Designer on Road to Sunday. I work closely with our Design team and Production staff on the design of the game.

GamingNexus: How did the concept of this hybrid game come about?
Craig Ostrander: Well, it’s like this… we are dedicated to producing the most technologically superior and realistic sports titles available and we are continuing to redefine the entertainment lifestyle by producing authentic and immersive sports titles for the PlayStation 2 and PSP across an array of sports.

And honestly, we just took a step to the side in order to see outside the box… and then we decided to rewind and take a look back at all the fun gameplay experiences we’ve had over the years, which included all types of genres. Then we said wouldn’t it be cool if you could do this, and this, and this and so on… This really delivered on our strategic objective, which was to deliver a unique gameplay experience.

GamingNexus: Would you have considered doing this type of game if there wasn't an NFL exclusive license with EA?
Craig Ostrander: SCEA has always championed competition and diversity on our platforms. We were surprised and dismayed by the NFL and NFL Players Inc's decision and the long-term implications of that decision for console platforms. We believe that healthy competition leads to better games and ultimately better choices for our consumer base.

That being said, football is an exciting sport, with many varied characteristics… and without the constraints of an NFL license we’ve had the creative freedom to make some decisions that put the gameplay experience #1… Ultimately, decisions that were/are in the best interest of making the game fun to play for both football fans and gamers alike.

With Road To Sunday, we've focused on capturing the depth of the game of football, but have also added in an off-the-field aspect of the game to give gamers something new and fresh.

If you look at the football category, the gameplay really hasn’t progressed as much as I would have liked see it… and it seems that recently, football sims that have been successful, well, they don’t seem to take many risks, innovate or make any jaw dropping advances. One school of thought is that if it’s not broke don’t fix it -- but that type of thinking leads to complacency and is not conducive to innovation or creation. Road to Sunday blazes new trails by combining some really fun styles of gameplay (Football, Fighting, Player Development and Betting) and we tie them all together to deliver a new and fun gameplay experience -- ultimately we are introducing an all-new genre in video gaming -- sports entertainment action.


GamingNexus: How deep are the RPG elements?
Craig Ostrander: Road to Sunday’s RPG elements are extremely deep for a sports game. Road to Sunday introduces, for the first time in a football videogame, a focus on the individual position battles that happen every single play – like in a real game – with our Position Specific Gameplay™ (PSG), where the users have objectives they have to complete in any given game. Every play becomes a mini-game, so to speak, where gamer select one player on the field and try to achieve football related objectives on the field. When gamers play in PSG, they also have advanced controls that help successfully reach the player’s game objectives. There are seven different positions that gamers can select and control on any given play including the QB, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Defensive End, Linebacker and Defensive Back

Gamers can level up their players by doing well in rhythm-based workouts. These games include bench press, agility drills and running and are really quite challenging and fun. They’re done to licensed music and have great replay value. Additionally, gamers will fight against other players in the league and based upon whether they win or lose, they can level up the characters. Also, by doing well in practice gamers can level up players by achieving missions outlined for each of player on Sunday. There are four different levels a character progress through and each level represents a significant upgrade in performance. Not only will they increase the player attributes, which improves the player’s chances of being successful in the football game, but they’ll unlock signature moves for each position. The signature moves are more effective than your basic football moves. Gamers can also get unlock special abilities on the field that will allow them to get a sense of what the opponent is doing on any given play. Gamers can use these abilities to exploit their opponent. It’s some pretty cool stuff.

GamingNexus: How much control do you have in editing team and player names?
Craig Ostrander: Road to Sunday does not offer the ability to edit teams and player names.
That really doesn’t fit with the style of game we’re creating. We chose to focus on a solid gameplay experience in our story mode rather than creating a game that includes features that have been in games for years.

Road To Sunday presents a unique, sequential, episodic storyline that will provide both sports and entertainment videogame fans with the first ever sports entertainment drama. Blending on-and off-the-field action, Road To Sunday delivers a unique cinematic football experience where gamers must complete various missions, moving from setting to setting and character to character as dictated by the story.

GamingNexus: Will you be able to just play a season or multiple seasons rather than going through the story mode?
Craig Ostrander: Again, Road To Sunday will deliver an all-new sports gameplay experience with its sequential, episodic storyline. We chose to focus on one solid story mode rather than trying to be everything to everyone and thus the game is played just like an action style game. However, we will support and exhibition style head-to-head gameplay experience.

GamingNexus: How deep are the RPG elements?
Craig Ostrander: Road to Sunday’s RPG elements are extremely deep for a sports game. Road to Sunday introduces, for the first time in a football videogame, a focus on the individual position battles that happen every single play – like in a real game – with our Position Specific Gameplay™ (PSG), where the users have objectives they have to complete in any given game. Every play becomes a mini-game, so to speak, where gamer select one player on the field and try to achieve football related objectives on the field. When gamers play in PSG, they also have advanced controls that help successfully reach the player’s game objectives. There are seven different positions that gamers can select and control on any given play including the QB, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Defensive End, Linebacker and Defensive Back

Gamers can level up their players by doing well in rhythm-based workouts.
These games include bench press, agility drills and running and are really quite challenging and fun. They’re done to licensed music and have great replay value. Additionally, gamers will fight against other players in the league and based upon whether they win or lose, they can level up the characters. Also, by doing well in practice gamers can level up players by achieving missions outlined for each of player on Sunday. There are four different levels a character progress through and each level represents a significant upgrade in performance. Not only will they increase the player attributes, which improves the player’s chances of being successful in the football game, but they’ll unlock signature moves for each position. The signature moves are more effective than your basic football moves. Gamers can also get unlock special abilities on the field that will allow them to get a sense of what the opponent is doing on any given play. Gamers can use these abilities to exploit their opponent. It’s some pretty cool stuff.

GamingNexus: How much control do you have in editing team and player names?
Craig Ostrander: Road to Sunday does not offer the ability to edit teams and player names.
That really doesn’t fit with the style of game we’re creating. We chose to focus on a solid gameplay experience in our story mode rather than creating a game that includes features that have been in games for years.

Road To Sunday presents a unique, sequential, episodic storyline that will provide both sports and entertainment videogame fans with the first ever sports entertainment drama. Blending on-and off-the-field action, Road To Sunday delivers a unique cinematic football experience where gamers must complete various missions, moving from setting to setting and character to character as dictated by the story.

GamingNexus: Will you be able to just play a season or multiple seasons rather than going through the story mode?
Craig Ostrander: Again, Road To Sunday will deliver an all-new sports gameplay experience with its sequential, episodic storyline. We chose to focus on one solid story mode rather than trying to be everything to everyone and thus the game is played just like an action style game. However, we will support and exhibition style head-to-head gameplay experience.


GamingNexus: How is the football league setup? Does it mimic the divisions of the NFL?
Craig Ostrander: Road to Sunday features 12 teams with four teams in 3 different divisions. There’s a 14-game season and there’s a playoff game and a Championship game. With each game that the gamer plays throughout the season, the challenge becomes increasingly more difficult.

GamingNexus: Talk a little but more about the position specific gameplay. What benefits do you have in playing the game this way?
Craig Ostrander: For the first time in a football videogame, Road to Sunday introduces a focus on the individual position battles that happen every single play – like in a real game – with our Position Specific Gameplay™ (PSG).

Every play becomes a mini-game, so to speak, where gamer select one player on the field and try to achieve football related objectives on the field. When gamers play in PSG, they also have advanced controls that help successfully reach the player’s game objectives. There are seven different positions that gamers can select and control on any given play including the QB, Running Back, Wide Receiver, Defensive End, Linebacker and Defensive Back.

PSG will give gamers more position specific abilities and control then any other football experience ever before. From powering up the running back into a power runner and then hitting the hole with authority, to making the cornerback into a shut down corner and forcing a quarterback into making costly mistakes. PSG delivers the ultimate in football control to get through the season.

GamingNexus: Is this a brand new engine or an update of the engine from Gameday 2004?
Craig Ostrander: Road to Sunday is an entirely new game engine that was built from the ground up in order to provide a unique gaming experience that will provide both sports and entertainment videogame fans with the first ever sports entertainment drama that blends together football and action style gameplay. The engine uses a new graphics engine, new AI engine, new animation system and new cinematics engine. Additionally, the “control scheme” builds upon simulation football game standards and adds new innovative controls never seen before in a football video game. It has a totally different feel and look from previous football games.

GamingNexus: Is this a single player only or are there multiplayer/online components?
Craig Ostrander: We focused on delivering a solid game similar to an action style game.
However, we will have a head-to-head exhibition mode that gamers can play.
Road To Sunday presents a unique, sequential, episodic storyline – it’s the first ever sports entertainment drama. Blending on-and off-the-field action, Road To Sunday delivers a unique cinematic football experience where gamers must complete various missions, moving from setting to setting and character to character as dictated by the story.


We’d like to thank Craig for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Paul for helping to coordinate the interview.