Can Bradman Cricket live up to the legend's name?

By Cameron McMillan

Can Don Bradman Cricket 14 live up to the batting legend's name? Cameron McMillan talks to game lead Mike Merren.
Making bowling more exciting was a big challenge for Don Bradman 14 makers.
Making bowling more exciting was a big challenge for Don Bradman 14 makers.

Shane Warne, Brian Lara, Ricky Ponting and Graham Gooch have all had their names to cricket games. So why not Don Bradman - the greatest batsman of all time?

With Rugby League Live and AFL Live under their belt, Melbourne based company Big Ant Studio have taken on Australia's biggest sporting passion: cricket.

With the disastrous release of Ashes Cricket 2013 last year, which was quickly pulled from the shelves, the cricket gaming community has been screaming out for a new release.

Development director and game lead of Don Bradman 14 Mike Merren said it was a the perfect move for Big Ant Studio to fill the cricket void.

"It was almost a natural thing for us to move into in terms of the type of sports products we want to do," he told the Herald.

"We were looking at it in terms of which sports are there that in an Australian development point of few are not being done by the likes of EA? Because going into a soccer realm you're going to get trounced. It's a sport that fits Australians and English."

Big Ant Studio began working on a smaller cricket game called Table Top Cricket, which will be released as a download later this year. But with many of the cricket grounds already created for their AFL game it was an easy move to make the bigger step up to a full scale cricket game.

It wasn't long before they were seeking a player's name to attach to the game, something that has happened with many cricket games in the past. After considering a number of current players, they settled on Bradman.

"We were thinking it would be nice to put a name on the box. We were joking saying it would be awesome to have Don Bradman and everyone was like, 'That's not going to happen'. We asked and the Bradman Foundation said they could put the name to it.

"They [Bradman Foundation Bowral NSW] were keen to have the Bradman name with an audience that may not have heard of him so much. I think it works for them as much as it works for us.

"It's massive from an Australian stand-point but he kind of transcends nationalities to a degree and there are a couple of players that you'd use and they might not work elsewhere. I think if we had Mitch Johnson Cricket that may have killed it in England."

You won't be hitting sixes off every ball in Don Bradman 14 like past cricket games.
You won't be hitting sixes off every ball in Don Bradman 14 like past cricket games.

The biggest issue for Big Ant Studio going into the project was the lack of licensing. Games without official licensing are a big turn off for gamers. It means you can't play as your favourites players - with the exception in this case of Bradman.

But the developers created a clever workaround by having the gaming community create the players for them through a PC app. Before the game's release on April 3 there are already more than 25,000 players that can be downloaded by users as soon as they log on.

Having the community do the hard work filled in a lot of man-hours that Big Ant didn't have a budget for, while users have also gained an attachment and ownership to the game.

"It was really a case that we knew people wanted to create players. We had a big player creator in Rugby League 2 and we got a big response from that. That was well received and we took on an expansion from that really," Merren said.

"It's covered a lot of people - let's put it that way. Because of budgets there's no way we could have. There's a lot of people out there and they take immense enjoyment from it. It's obviously a great buy-in from the community and again good word of mouth."

The Big Ant team went into the project forgetting everything that had come before in cricket games and looked to change what has been the weakest part of the genre - bowling.

In past games such as Shane Warne's Cricket for the Playstation One, hitting 30 off every over was manageable once you'd played the game over a few overs. That's not the case for Bradman.

"That was the primary thing - how to make bowling as exciting as batting. We tried to make it so the information was provided to the batsman more akin to how he would have it when you're properly playing. Any information the batsman gets is all about him staring at the ball. He has to look at the ball coming out of the hand.

"By making the bowling more exciting we've made the batting more realistic. Hopefully we feel it balances things out. It does make it more fun."

But can a player make a 17-ball ton like on the Shane Warne title?

"I would say with the amount of testing we've done it's not possible but there are people out there who are amazing at these things. I think for the vast majority of people it's going to be a big challenge."

Don Bradman Cricket 14
Release date: April 3
Platforms: PS3 and Xbox 360

- nzherald.co.nz

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