If there is any series that can be termed as the pinnacle of Test cricket, it is the Ashes. For more than a century, the historic competition pitting England against Australia has managed to generate a buzz that few other rivalries in the sport can match.
The latest edition of this series is proving to be no different, despite what is turning out to be a punishing tour for Joe Root and his England team so far. For fans of the sport around the world, there is an opportunity to truly feel the spirit of the Ashes and more with Big Ants Studio’s latest offering.
Cricket 22 – the official video game of the 2021-22 Ashes series – was launched earlier this month. The game is Big Ants Studio’s second major cricket product, following the success of the previous edition named Cricket 19. Despite being one of the more popular sports internationally, cricket continued to suffer from a lack of major video games conceptualised around it.
Cricket 22 aims to fill some of that void, with the added inclusion of major T20 leagues such as the Caribbean Premier League, The Hundred and the Big Bash League. Sport360 recently sat down with Big Ants Studio CEO Ross Symons to get a more in-depth look into the game’s development.
Cricket 22 will feature The Big Bash League, the Caribbean Premier League and The Hundred. Was a focus on the shorter formats a high priority when developing the game?
Ideally, we always want to represent the full extent of the game as it exists in the real world today. The various short-form versions of cricket currently command a great deal of media attention and are loved by fans globally, and are a must inclusion. Of course, we remain true to Cricket 22 also features long-form contest licenses, including The Ashes itself and Australia’s Sheffield Shield domestic competition, and we will continue to build on those licenses as those opportunities arise.
Is it fair to say The Ashes is still the highlight of the game’s latest edition? How do you think the game best captures The Ashes experience?
The Ashes is the oldest rivalry and contest in Cricket, so it does occupy a particularly special place to us. We go out of our way to make sure the stadia and players are as you would see them in a televised broadcast, and that the game’s mechanics fully support the intensity of a closely-fought 5-day test match.
There appears to be a deep narrative-driven career mode. How much does that contribute to the overall gaming experience?
From previous cricket games, we know that people can spend hundreds of hours in our career modes. Cricket 22 adds a narrative and greater sense of character and off-field drama helping players become even more invested, taking ownership of their players as they progress through all the stages of their careers. We hope that people will enjoy this greater depth and nuance as they play.
What are the main improvements made to the gameplay and animation? Any notable changes to the AI?
We’re constantly building on and improving every element of our games, and Cricket 22 is no different. We’ve added a deeper range of animations to give people more control over everything from bowling to shot-making and further enhanced AI. Loading times are faster, getting you into matches more quickly, and we’ve deepened the “broadcast quality” of the game. Already we’ve seen people make clips that seamlessly transition between in-game and real-life cricket. That’s how authentic to the sport we’ve been able to make Cricket 22.
What would you say makes this series so successful? How does it stand up to the competition?
Cricket is a difficult sport to develop – there are many different ways to play, and the action on the field is unique, meaning that the approach that you need to take is totally different from every other kind of sports title out there. It’s our passion for the sport and unwavering commitment to provide cricket fans with an authentic, premium cricket experience that has meant that we’ve been fortunate to get such a large following for our titles.
Licencing of the game has been expanded to include New Zealand, West Indies and Ireland. Are there plans to extend that to more teams in future editions?
We’re always exploring new licensing opportunities, and while we can’t comment on what is going on behind the scenes right now, we would say “watch this space”.