June 16, 2009

Lacrosse Fans Clamor for New Video Game

by Matt DaSilva | Lacrosse Magazine Online Staff

College Lacrosse 2010 is targeted for a September 2009 release on the Xbox Live Community Games platform.

Duke attackman Ned Crotty dodges behind the cage. He splits to his left hand, then to his right. There's no outlet.

North Carolina defenseman Ryan Flanagan waits for his opening. Crotty rolls back to his left hand -- or tries to, anyway. Flanagan slaps up on Crotty's stick and sends it propelling into the air.

Quint Kessenich barks through the console speakers, "Yard sale!"


...

Lacrosse fans have craved this kind of virtual reality in their living rooms for decades: a big-budget video game dedicated to their sport. Thanks to the social networking phenomenon, the clamor has reached fever pitch.

Karl Brummer, a rising high school senior at Trinity School in Minnesota, started a Facebook group three months ago lobbying EA Sports, a brand most recognized for perennial hits like NHL and Madden NFL, to produce a lacrosse video game.

"I felt like making a Facebook group and seeing how big it would become," Brummer said. "I didn't expect it to have any influence."

The Official EA Sports Lacrosse Video Game Petition Group now boasts nearly 157,000 members, 3,500 wall posts and 160 discussion topics.

"The group is having a big influence on the lacrosse community. Most of the petitioners are lacrosse players, so this group unifies them. The group also raises awareness to Facebookers who have never heard of the sport," Brummer said. "It is actually getting noticed by video game designers."

One member of the group, Carlo Sunseri, has decided to do something about it. A Pittsburgh native and former three-time captain of the Robert Morris men's lacrosse team, Sunseri left a 2007 Major League Lacrosse tryout for the Washington Bayhawks disillusioned with how he played compared to others there. He would not get signed.

"My parents asked me what I'd do if I had a million dollars," Sunseri said, "and I said build a lacrosse video game."

Sunseri tracked down a Scottish video game developer through Microsoft's Xbox Live Community Games -- a virtual console for user-generated content. It's the perfect third-party community for someone like Sunseri with limited funding and contacts. He had never built a video game before, but found a developer who could fashion a lacrosse game from a soccer game recently released on the same platform.

Sunseri, a self-proclaimed entrepreneur and assistant coach at Robert Morris, provides project management and lacrosse know-how.

College Lacrosse 2010 has been in development for nearly three months and will be available for download through the Xbox Community Games channel in September, Sunseri said.

"Once on Xbox, it will be available to 20 million people in 26 different countries. The potential to spread the game of lacrosse is unparalleled to anything that's been released on the market," he said. "I've played lacrosse my whole life. I've always played video games, as well. I've always dreamed of playing lacrosse the video game just like we play Madden, NHL and FIFA."

Sunseri recently provided a virtual demo of the game for Lacrosse Magazine. Although the graphics remain under development, he said, the game's strengths are its customization and lacrosse-specific movements. For instance, Sunseri circumvented the NCAA's steep licensing fee by allowing users to customize team names, jerseys, colors and rankings. They can unlock the game in NCAA tournament mode or pro mode -- with versions planned for both indoor and outdoor.

Game-play features include:

  • College lacrosse rules, such as 10 seconds to advance.
  • Offensive formations, such as 2-3-1 and circle.
  • Six different camera angles.
  • Networking, with the ability to play friends online.
  • Various dodges, including swim, split and spin moves.
  • Training mode for passing, shooting and one-on-ones.
  • Defensive control for stick checks (with same planned for offense and cradling).

With its low-budget workarounds and limited availability, College Lacrosse 2010 might not satisfy the lacrosse community's growing hunger for a mainstream video game. Others have ventured into this territory before (see below), but with limited scope.

"But if the first game is successful," Brummer said, "then bigger companies such as EA will have to make a game eventually, as well."

Public relations contacts for EA Sports did not immediately return e-mails seeking comment for this story.

It's in the Game

Though mainstream brands such as EA Sports have yet to venture a lacrosse video game into the market, previous efforts by smaller companies have found varying degrees of success.

* Blast Lacrosse was licensed by the National Lacrosse League and Professional Lacrosse Players Association, produced by Aklaim Sports and released in May 2001 for Sony's PlayStation. It features the NLL's nine teams at the time and fast-paced play mirroring the comic book-like movements of NBA Jam and NFL Blitz.

Here's a YouTube clip of the game in action:



* On Feb. 15, 2005, the NLL announced that its partner, Activision, would produce a new video game to be released for the 2007 season. Former commissioner Jim Jennings, who resigned before the 2009 season, told NLL.com that the game would be released in 2009.

* Brine Lacrosse, a video game for mobile phones published by the equipment manufacturer of the same name, was released in March 2006. Produced by wireless entertainment provider SkyZone Entertainment, it features Mikey Powell on its title screen and regionally-based teams from Baltimore, Long Island, Upstate New York, New England, the Midwest and the West Coast.

* Activision included lacrosse among its offerings in Big League Sports for Nintendo Wii, released in December 2008. It features 22 events in six sports, including a one-on-one situational game for lacrosse. Big League Sports has "a singular focus on putting players in the most thrilling situations while competing in their favorite sports," the press release stated.

* Virtual Wall-Ball was released in February 2009 as part of the US Lacrosse Widget, powered by Lacrosse Magazine. The computer game allows users to rack up points while playing wall ball on their desktops, with a highest scores platform and varying degrees of difficulty.


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