We recently got a chance to sit down with ESPN Game's Craig Howe, Brand Manager of ESPN games, to see how Konami's ESPN International Track & Field was coming along.
GameSpot: Tell us about the game: how far along the development is and how it compares with the old Konami Track & Field games - besides being on the PS2, of course?
Craig Howe: We are so excited about this title. I think coming out of E3, a lot of people had reviewed us [and listed us] in the top ten sports games of the show. So that said, we're ecstatic that it's being received so well. The big thing about the old Konami series was the button-mashing fun, you know? Everyone just loved the fast-paced, emotion-draining gameplay. That's going to be the same; you're going to see the same thing. And I think it works even better now, because not only will the motions be more detailed, but the player actions are so much more intense.
The thing we're most proud of with this title is that we've got more than 750 motion-captured animations from real Olympic athletes. So we team up with a group out of LA called HIS, and they represent Maurice Greene, who's the fastest man in the world, and Ato Boldon, who is a three-time Olympic medallist. So they did most of our speed events - all of the running for the 100 [meter dash], and Ato has won medals in both the 100 and 200 at the Atlanta Games. And there's Jeff Hartwig, he is the US pole-vaulting champion. This is so cool, actually. We rented out the LA Sports Arena, which has been vacated, and we brought in a track and field set - we even trucked in sand for the long jump. And these guys replicated exactly how they'd do it in real life, and I think the big payoff is when you take a look at the running motions and all of the animations of sand kicking up when you do the long jump, for example - everything is so authentic because of the fact that we were actually able to do this in real life. It's mind-blowing how amazing this game looks.
GS: And certainly where people may be able to instantly identify what could be exciting about say, a basketball game, it's track and field, so the realism would probably help draw people in, right?
CH: Exactly. Especially in an Olympic year. This game is coming out on the Dreamcast in conjunction with the Sydney Olympics, which are in September this year because Australia's summer starts later than ours here. So it's a perfect year for a track and field game.
GS: What other track and field stars are involved?
CH: Avery Andersen, who is a decathlete, so he was able to do the high jump and long jump and a lot of the events you see in a decathlon. All in all, this is the first track and field game that ever has gone to this level of detail to bring you that experience, so it's kind of cool.
GS: So, what are the events, there's high jump, long jump...
CH: There are 12 in total for both the Dreamcast and the PlayStation 2. We also have Game Boy Color.
GS: But that's like the old Track & Field, right?
CH: Exactly! We've got everything from the 100 to skeet shooting, which is awesome. There's such a variety of events: There's gymnastics, there's women's swimming, which is outstanding - the camera angles, they go underwater, it's beautiful. There's javelin, there's hammer throw - there's just a wide variety of events and they'll all be covered.
GS: Will there be a multiplayer?
CH: Yes. That's the ultimate head-to-head racing title. It's two-player right now, but there's no better game to go head-to-head in than one where you can just mash buttons. And some of the events are more timing-based than button mashing, too.
GS: So how will the multiplayer work out? You'll play as different athletes for different events?
CH: There are different ways that you can play. You can just play random events, so if we just wanted to sit down and play, we could play whatever we wanted to. Or you could go through the entire event list as a certain athlete. And all the athletes that we used for motion capture will be in the game. So if you want to race the hundred as Maurice Greene, you can. Or if you want to race it against Maurice Greene, you can do that as well. So it's really cool. All the guys that were in motion capture are so interested in video games that they wanted to be a part, which is really cool. You'll see Maurice, Ato, and Jeff Hartwig, which is a really great thing.
GS: When you're playing multiplayer, is it turn-based or split-screen, dependent upon the event?
CH: In a lot of the events, you don't even have to do split-screen in one-player or two-player - like in the hundred, you race head-to-head and the camera angle covers it as such. There's no real need for split-screen in events like these, which is why it works so great.
GS: So then in the javelin, for example, it's turn-based.
GS: What's the release date?
CH: It's a launch title for the PlayStation 2, and it's coming out in conjunction with the Olympics on the Dreamcast and Game Boy Color. So we're in really good shape with this title.
GS: Thanks again, Craig.
CH: No problem. Thank you.