November 30, 2013

How to make a proper cricket video game

It's not easy to capture the essence of playing at a rubbish level

Video game makers have spared no efforts, going to the most remote villages to find games of children's cricket to model their products on Hamish Blair / © Getty Images

Cricket has not been well served by video games down the years, with the qualified exception of Brian Lara Cricket, but Ashes Cricket 2013 has lowered the bar with effortless incompetence. The game is so bad that it has been pulled from the shelves, with purchasers receiving a refund.

But gaming cricket fans may, at long last, be getting the game they deserve.

Recognising the difficulties of capturing top-level cricket's complexity on a console, developers for @ListerProd Studios are instead working on a release they believe will revolutionise sports gaming: Amateur Cricket Captain 2013.

Early beta versions of the game leaked on Twitter suggest that it will be a magnificently in-depth simulation allowing players to immerse themselves completely in the experience of captaining a low-level recreational side.

Following a compelling narrative journey format like Grand Theft Auto V, you play as Keith, captain of a 2nd XI pub side in an unidentified region of England.

Starting in the off season, players must spend hours at a time drinking in the incredibly realistic pub, gradually building up points with discussions about how it is all going to be different next year, and reliving career highlights (such as a battling 1* on a spicy deck in Catford and that time Keith took a blinder at slip).

Once a player has talked himself up a few levels, it's time to enter the winter nets mini-game. This is one of the hardest gameplay sections of ACC 2013, with the player having to hammer randomly on buttons in a vain attempt to hit the ball in an ice-cold sports hall. Almost any combination of commands will result in a serious muscle injury to Keith, so it may be best to retire back to the pub (button X + Y together) for the rest of the winter.

By the time the cricket season rolls around, your Keith character should by now be hugely fat and immobile, but will have built up a fearsome reputation (Rep point meter) due to off-season anecdotes about his prowess.

Now it's time to turn to the other aspect of the game, which is more of a multiplayer adventure as Keith tries to recruit friends of friends and distant work acquaintances to join the team.

Be it an Indian guy in accounts who is presumed to be a devilish wily spinner, a barman from Melbourne over on a working holiday, with suspiciously vague anecdotes about his time in grade cricket, or a friend's brother-in-law who is assumed to be a terrifying quick purely on the basis of his being black, Keith will have to woo and persuade a series of ringers to join the outfit.

An elaborate adventure section may see these all turn out to be unavailable, or hopeless, leaving Keith with just the "crew" he assembled every year for the past 14 years.

By the time the first match rolls around in a sub-zero mid-April, players will be gripped with excitement by the lifelike blend of incompetence, recrimination and crushing disillusionment (press button A+B for special move, hurl controller at TV).

But before he can take the field, Keith must defeat the toughest level boss of all: the fraught, tense battle against the clock as he attempts the Friday-night ring-around with only seven lads confirmed as definite and a stag-do competing for attention.

Suitable for ages 35 and up, RRP unconfirmed, probably some sort of whip-round for the teas

Read an extract from Alan's new book Tutenkhamen's Tracksuit: The History of Sport in 100ish Objects, here

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