Ashes to ashes

What might be one of the worst video games ever released has now been withdrawn

November 29, 2013
November 29, 2013

Cricket is often accused of being rather dull. Not so if you played Ashes 2013, a video game so bad it makes the sport entertaining even for those who don’t know how it works. Produced by 505 Games in time for the biennial England-Australia bilateral series known as “the Ashes,” the game has achieved what John Walker, a games blogger, says “must be a first in gaming“—being cancelled by its makers after its release.

The official reason, according to a statement from 505 Games republished by Walker, is that the game “couldn’t meet the quality benchmarks” (which raises the question of why it was let out into the wild in the first place). In less mealy-mouthed words, it was terrible. Videos from the game uploaded by amused players, such as the one above, show why. Team members fall over at the merest excuse, throw the ball at each other randomly, and start and stop running for no reason. What it portrays isn’t so much a game of cricket, as a group of men pretending to play cricket after apparently having been trained by the Keystone Cops.

A few bugs can be expected in even the best video games. But what happened with Ashes 2013 is a reminder of just how much goes into making even a half-decent game. Any game is made with a games engine, something analogous to the programming language used for making software. Part of the game engine is typically a physics engine, essentially a set of rules that describe how the laws of physics work in the game: gravity, reaction to force and so on. In this case however, said the statement from 505 Games, the choice of the games engine didn’t fit with what the developers were trying to do, leading to a situation where the game simply refuses to follow its rules. Ashes 2013 has now been withdrawn and those who bought will have their money returned.

Done well and used wisely, these engines are what give games their incredible realism. Done badly, they produce the farce seen in these videos. Still, at least Ashes 2012 may not be the worst game tie-up ever. That honor goes to a 1982 game produced for the film ET, which was such a flop that unused cartridges were dumped in a landfill in New Mexico.

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