TopSpin 2K25 - Remi Ercolani Interview

Author
Ned Jordam
Date
3/12/2024
In Short
Talking TopSpin and tennis with Remi Ercolani, the Game Director for TopSpin 2K25.

If you’re thinking it’s been a while since you’ve seen a TopSpin game, you’re right. It’s been thirteen years and two console generations since the last game, TopSpin 4, but the long wait for the next game in the franchise is just about over - TopSpin 2K25 is coming to PC, PlayStation 5, and Xbox Series XS this spring. Why has it taken so long? What can gamers expect to see after the long hiatus? To find the answer to these questions and more, I spoke with Remi Ercolani, the Game Director for TopSpin 2K25. He has a lot of experience with TopSpin, having worked on TopSpin 2, 3, and 4.


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To begin with, I asked him why he thought it’s taken so long for the series to return:

“That's a really good question. Like it wasn't something intentional when we released Top Swing 4. We were not expecting to take like a 13-year break. But I think like tennis today is becoming maybe more popular than it was 10 years ago and it's bringing a new type of audience, new generation of players as well. I think it's really the perfect time to reboot the franchise and like resurface that wave of new interest for tennis in general.”

I then asked him what he thought were some of the reasons for the wane in interest in tennis games after the release of Top Spin 4:

“It's hard to tell. I think it was probably like the interest of players with tennis in general. I think it dipped a little bit at that time for whatever reason because they were like some of the best players ever playing at the time like Federer, Nadal, Djokovic. But I think like tennis games at that time maybe were not as popular and yeah today we're really hoping to get, again as I was saying, to surf on that wave of like new interest, new generations coming in and showing interest in tennis.”

Given his history with the game, I asked him what he felt when he heard that the franchise was finally making its return:

“The dev team and I personally was like super thrilled to have the chance because I'm a big tennis fan myself. I've always loved the Top Spin franchise - it's really like special in my heart.”

“So being able to have the opportunity like because thirteen years later it really brings new opportunities in terms of like new platforms, new consoles, like a huge visual improvement for like both how we model the players, the venues, do some improvements on gameplay.”

“So having the chance to like redo all the things that we wanted to do in Top Spin 4 that we couldn't do at the time, that was a huge opportunity so and I think it shows in the game the way like when you see a venue of the players for the first time you can really see the difference and the huge gap that it's taken.”

He touched upon something that I was already curious about, so I asked him to expand on what the team could do with TopSpin 2K25 that they couldn’t with TopSpin 4 due to the tech limitations of the time:

“Yeah, I mean the last game Top Spin 4 came out it was Xbox 360 and PS3 so even the resolution of those consoles was 720p, being able to bring it in full 4K, to where you can really see the details of the surfaces like clay or hard courts, where you can see like the foot marks all of those details - they weren't really that visible in Top Spin 4. So just being able to bring that back and having people who watched the game for the first time take a moment to think is it like a TV broadcast or is it like a tennis game. That's really something that we wanted to achieve from the very beginning.”


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Did he ever think about TopSpin in the years since the last game:

“I mean ideas just in case it came back. So a little bit in the back of my head, like I still have my Xbox 360 and like every two or three years maybe I just booted it and played the game a little bit just to remember how it felt. I sometimes watched some videos on YouTube and just seeing the reaction of people - even players who are still playing the game - having so much fun with it, I always knew there was room to bring it back and for players to have fun with it, but yeah the situation wasn't right until like very recently when those new players came in and you could really feel that new interest for tennis, so that was the perfect time to make it happen.

Since it’s been so long since the last TopSpin game, I was wondering if the game would provide any ways to ease new players into the game, or into tennis games in general:

“The main thing we try to do to address that is the Top Spin Academy, so that's really something that's front and center when you launch the game for the first time. We want players to go to the Top Spin Academy - you're going to be coached by John McEnroe. He's doing the voiceover for all those lessons and we really, really start with the very basic things that can seem obvious to tennis players, like where to stand on the court when you return the ball, we really don't assume that the game only caters to hardcore tennis fans or people who know tennis. If you've never played a tennis game, or if you don't really know anything about tennis, you're welcome to pick up the game and we're going to take you through the process of teaching you the core mechanics of not just the gameplay, but also tennis in general - like how to return a ball, how to aim - really step-by-step so that you don't feel overwhelmed right from the from the beginning. You're going to be able to learn all of that step-by-step and then experience that in a match in exhibition and really get familiar with the game. So that's our main answer to that - it's really the Top Spin Academy because we're trying to explain every concept, every mechanic, as clearly as possible and addressing players like they don't know tennis or they haven't played tennis ever.”

Sounds like the basics are covered, what about advance play:

“We have three categories of lessons, so with the basic lessons it's really like returning the ball – timing, aiming - so like the basic things you need to get a rally going. Then you get the advanced lesson so you learn about the different spins that you can put on the ball, like a slice or flat top spin, and why would you use those shots and in what situations. You can learn about the different categories of shots like the power shots versus the control shots, and again why to use one over the other one, and then even more advanced techniques - like we have inside out you can follow your shots to the net. The last category of lesson which we call “play styles” really speaks to and tries to explain the different play styles in tennis, like what's a serve and volley player, like what are their strengths and weaknesses so when you play against such a player online or in your career what can you do to disturb them and try to beat them. So we have those and we have four different play style lessons which are baseline offense, baseline defense, serve and volley, and all-arounder that cover all those core play styles, and we teach you what makes them unique, what makes them different, and how to play as one of those players or against a player using that play style.”


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I enjoyed speaking with Remi. He obviously has a passion both for TopSpin and the sport of tennis. I did have a chance to get a glimpse at how those passions will be realized in TopSpin 2K25, but we’ll have to wait until April 26th to see how it all comes together.


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Transmitted: 6/19/2024 9:24:35 PM