Net Points: Top Spin 4 Developer Diary Begins

by: Peter Skeritt -
More On: Top Spin 4
As the release date for Top Spin 4 gradually approaches, the game's executive producer, François Giuntini, has begun to log a series of Developer Diary entries to discuss the upcoming title and fill readers in on what to expect. The first entry sheds some light on Top Spin 4's roster of tennis pros, some of the 42 different venues that players will get to experience, and how the game will replicate an authentic tennis atmosphere. 

Top Spin 4 does boast an impressive roster of tennis players, as we learned earlier this month. The "old school" is well-represented with the likes of Bjorn Borg, Ivan Lendl, Boris Becker, Pete Sampras, and Andre Agassi. Today's class of players is recognizable with Roger Federer, Rafael Nadal, Novak Djokovic (who just beat Federer in the Australian Open semifinals), Andy Murray, and James Blake. The roster allows for a variety of different matchups, ranging from historic (Agassi v. Sampras) to fantasy (Borg v. Federer). The diary, in fact, mentions a couple of other historic moments that can be replayed (and maybe altered) with Top Spin 4's class of players. 

Adding to the realism factor in Top Spin 4, 2K Sports has managed to secure the rights to use some of the most recognizable venues to stage tennis events in. Three of the four Grand Slam event venues will be in Top Spin 4; Rod Laver Arena (site of the Australian Open), Court Phillipe Chatrier (site of the French Open), and Arthur Ashe Stadium (site of the US Open). Wimbledon is absent, but that's not a surprise as only a few tennis titles have had the rights to use the famous grass courts to date. Grand Slam venues aren't the only places that players will be hitting the net, as sites including the O2 Arena in London and the Indian Wells Tennis Garden will also be in the game. In all, 42 different tennis venues will be included in Top Spin 4, ranging from playground courts to some of the most important tennis arenas in the world. 

The diary also discusses the importance of and improvement in authenticity of the game and overall presentation in Top Spin 4. After rather lackluster presentation values in the first three games, Giuntini promises improvements with player entrances, pertinent stat overlays, and crowd reactions. 2K Sports titles have been gradually improving in terms of presentation value, so it will certainly be a positive to see Top Spin 4 make the same strides. Sound has also been improved, with cleaner sounds from rackets, player reactions, and more. Top Spin 4 still seems to be without any sort of commentary, which makes it one of the few sports not to have this feature. Granted, there usually isn't much discussion during play, but there is plenty of post-point analysis and reaction in televised matches and all recent tennis video games have lacked this. 

There's certainly a lot to like about Top Spin 4, based on early information. The roster is solid, the visuals seem impressive, and there's an apparent commitment to quality here. After a mixed effort with Top Spin 3-- a more realistic tennis game with a punishing learning curve and little accessibility for novice players-- it will be interesting to see what gameplay tweaks are made here, if any. The rest of Giuntini's maiden Developer Diary entry is after the jump, in its entirety. Stay tuned to Gaming Nexus for continuing coverage of this upcoming tennis title as we count down to the launch date of March 15th.

Developer Diary 1 – The Real Tennis Experience
Hello everyone. I’m François Giuntini, Executive Producer on Top Spin 4.
These past couple years have been quite interesting for the Top Spin development team. Development moved from Paris to lovely Prague while strengthening the team with dedicated and talented people. We have also taken the time to analyze Top Spin 3, gathering great feedback from our dedicated fan base, to define what tweaks, updates, and complete reworks we needed to do.
And here we are now. The brand new Top Spin 4 is releasing March, 15th 2011 in the US and March, 18th 2011 internationally, packed with revolutionary, exciting tennis goodness! Today I will talk about some of the cool content that makes Top Spin 4 THE Real Tennis Experience.
We focused a lot of effort and energy to ensure that every aspect of TS4 delivers the best of what makes tennis so thrilling and exciting. Let me present some of these elements to you:
All-Star Cast of Modern and Legend Players

TS4 features the who’s who of current and legendary tennis players: Andre Agassi, Bjorn Borg, Roger Federer, Jim Courier, Rafael Nadal, Boris Becker, Serena Williams, Patrick Rafter, Michael Chang, Dinara Safina, Andy Murray, Novak Djokovic, Ana Ivanovic, Ivan Lendl, Pete Sampras, Andy Roddick, James Blake, Caroline Wozniacki, Nikolay Davydenko, Gilles Simon, Bernard Tomic, Eugenie Bouchard, Stanislas Wawrinka, Vera Zvonareva, and Jelena Jankovic are available in TS4. At the end of the day, 2K has secured five of the top 10 on the ATP rankings, as well as four of the top 10 on the WTA rankings.All these great Pros have been faithfully implemented in the game with even more Signature Style; every detail from their look, attitude, attributes, strengths & weaknesses and play style. Each player has signature animations for their own swings and attitude, making every person more unique and exciting to play with.
This extensive list will allow you to re-enact some of the most exciting matchups in tennis history. Play as Nadal with his “lasso-whip” forehands or watch Djokovic pump his chest when celebrating a great point. Replay epic historic moments, such as Sampras’ last grand slam final against Agassi at the US Open or the 2010 Barclays ATP World Tour Finals between Nadal and Federer at the O2 Arena in London. Speaking of arenas…
The Best Venues Just Got Better

In TS4 you can play on the courts of no less than 42 different venues, ranging from playgrounds to the most prestigious arenas including:
  • Rod Laver Arena (Australian Open)
  • Court Philippe Chatrier (Roland Garros)
  • The Arthur Ashe Stadium (US Open)
  • Indian Wells Tennis Garden (BNP Paribas Open)
  • Sony Ericsson Open in Miami
  • BNP Paribas Masters of Paris
  • The O2 Arena in London (Barclays ATP World Tour Finals)
The same extreme attention to detail that we put into creating the Pro players is put in the venues. We made sure to accurately reproduce those mythical tennis temples.
The Real Tennis Atmosphere

To bring the most realistic tennis simulation to the market, it is important to provide the most accurate tennis atmosphere we can. In order to do so, we put a lot of attention into faithfully reproducing the ‘sound’ of tennis.
More than ever before, the crowd will react to what happens on court during and after each point, giving instant feedback to what players do and adding to the thrill of the most spectacular rallies. From the playground to the Grand Slam tournament, you will hear the crowd cheer for their favorite player, explode on the most impressive points, or even hold their breath during the tense moments that set tennis apart.

Racket swings, ball impacts, slides on clay and all player efforts and grunt sounds have been implemented to further immerse users into a realistic professional tennis match.
Tennis Authenticity

Of course, the most important aspect may be in the in-game animations. All the movements and swings in TS4 have been motion captured (more than 8000 animations in all), after watching and analyzing hundreds of matches, to gather the best animations behind what makes tennis such an exciting and spectacular sport. All the situations occurring during a tennis rally have been implemented. This mass of data insures every shot, move, and reaction is perfectly suited for what is happening on the court.
As far as the arsenal of shots and actions, well you basically get it all! All the shots and spins are faithfully reproduced, whether you choose a devastating power shot down the line or a cross-court top-spin shot. More cool actions have been implemented or revamped: let shots, drop shots, smashes, returning a lob, diving for a difficult passing shot, sliding on clay, performing inside-out shots, slowly preparing a powerful winner when receiving a weak shot, and many more. We will go into more details on the gameplay in a future Diary.
The match presentation has also been updated: players wait in the tunnel and enter the court while the speaker announces the matchup, cameras are placed around the courts as they would be for a television broadcast, on screen statistics appear at key moments… everything is there to make the user feel like they’re playing a live tennis match.
Lots more to talk about but that’s it for today guys; stay tuned for more info in the upcoming Diaries.
- François Giuntini
Top Spin 4 Producer