One of the surprises at last summer's Leipzig Games Convention was the announcement of an all-new tennis game for the Wii from EA Sports. An even bigger surprise: It would be the first tennis game to feature Wimbledon in all its Grand Slam glory. The game, known as Grand Slam Tennis, will be one of the first games to use the more precise Wii MotionPlus controls. Will the new control scheme make you feel like a virtual Rafael Nadal on the virtual court? Read on...
GameSpot: For those who have played a competing tennis game on the Wii, how noticeably different will the Wii MotionPlus controls be in Grand Slam Tennis? What do the new controls allow you to do in the game that you couldn't do otherwise?
Thomas Singleton: We are very happy with our Grand Slam Tennis controls with and without Wii MotionPlus and definitely feel they are a step forward for tennis on the Wii platform. Having said that, Wii MotionPlus certainly possesses great fidelity, and with that it gives users an even more authentic one-to-one motion that maps to your in-game player. To play Grand Slam Tennis is to truly perform authentic sports motions. The tennis experience also grows with added shot depth and pinpoint ball placement, as the game now recognizes racket roll and end stroke position. Much like myself, one of the first things people do when they pick up a tennis racket is they spin it--that is, after all, what the pros do. We're really just giving birth to pro tennis stars around the globe with this new ability.
GS: Will the Wii MotionPlus add-on be packaged with Grand Slam Tennis? Will you be able to play the game without the add-on?
TS: Grand Slam Tennis is one of the first titles to be compatible with the Wii MotionPlus. We feel like this game will offer the deepest and richest tennis experience ever for the Wii, with or without Wii MotionPlus. It adds depth and grows the experience but is not dependent on it.
GS: Grand Slam's refined controls seem like they could offer more challenging play for skilled players. How are you tuning things like opponent AI, player styles, and control sensitivity to suit a wide range of player skills?
TS: The game offers a lot for a wide range of people, from those who want a really deep experience to those who just want to pick up and play. It can be as accessible or complex as people want it to be. To accommodate a wide range of player skills, the game supports multiple difficulty levels also, and the opponent AI will act accordingly based on those levels. The default play for Grand Slam Tennis is to put the racket in the palm of your hand and master your player's ball placement and shot selection while the assisted locomotion keeps you in the action and ready for your next shot. If players desire a greater sense of control and wish to move their player for themselves, we're utilizing the Nunchuk in this way. Player styles are authentic to the licensed players in the game and the sport of tennis. You will experience different games when playing a serve and volley player like Pete Sampras, opposed to a match against a defensive baseliner like Rafael Nadal. The beauty of our system is your play style is determined by how you play the game.
GS: What's the tutorial like? Will there be a practice mode?
TS: There are several practice courts for players to perfect their tennis skills on, with a variety of ground stroke and serving options. There's a practice court for every court surface because for the first time in a tennis game it actually makes a difference when playing on grass versus clay. Practice is a great place for people to get themselves familiar with the game and its control abilities. But if people can swing a racket, they can play this game, as it truly does put the racket in the palm of your hand.
GS: Obviously the game has a focus on the Grand Slam tennis championships. Is there a career mode? Will you need to work your way up to the US Open, Wimbledon, and so on, or will those big events be available to you right away?
TS: Pro tennis really is all about the Grand Slams--ask any pro and that's what they'll tell you. Their focus is on winning the slams and Grand Slam Tennis is no different. You can take your created player on a quest to grow and win the four slams in Grand Slam's career mode. Or for those who don't want to delve into career mode, they can start playing at the slams immediately. We'll be talking about career mode more as we move closer to launch, so stay tuned for details!
GS: How will player progression work?
TS: Players develop in the game as they would in real life. The more you work on your game and the more you play, the quicker you grow and the more likely you are to beat other players and progress deep into Grand Slams. Again, we will go into more details on player progression as we get closer to launch.
GS: What can you tell us about the tutorial and/or skills challenges in the game?
TS: There will be several authentic skill challenges that will add to your enjoyment and help add to your player's growth along your experience. We are not getting into a lot of the depth behind the skill challenges at this point but look forward to sharing information on these at a future date.
GS: What about the game's visual style? Are you going for a more realistic look to the characters or something more akin to the Wii Sports look?
TS: We've designed Grand Slam Tennis specifically for the Wii and with the Wii consumers in mind. For us this means authentic to the sport of tennis yet a fun and stylized presentation at the same time, for the Grand Slams and the players. Characters appear as they should on the Wii, the big-name tennis stars are recognizable, and their personality and signature elements (animations included) are very present.
GS: Which real-life tennis players will be in the game?
TS: We're really proud of the player lineup in Grand Slam Tennis. Among them are some of the most accomplished and recognizable tennis players of all time, with a mix of past legends and today's stars. Ones that we can tell you about right now are current world number one Rafael Nadal, seven-time Wimbledon champion Pete Sampras, former world number one Andy Roddick, and 13-time Grand Slam champion Roger Federer.
GS: Beyond the career mode, what else will you be able to do in this game? Will there be a "fitness" aspect to this game?
TS: There are some other cool features to this game that we are really excited about, like the music, the social aspect of tennis, and others, but we'll be going more in-depth with those later on.
GS: What can you tell us about the online aspects of the game? Will you be able to play mixed doubles online? Any odd online-only modes?
TS: There will be online support for the game for as many as four players, and users will be able to connect with others online for new opponents. But again, we'll discuss more about online capability a little later on.
GS: Thanks for your time.