Today we bring you an exclusive to XCN Q&A with Jon Hare (Creator of Sensible Soccer), Tim Hodges (Marketing Executive, Codemasters), Jim Brown (Director of MMOs and Online Gaming, Codemasters) and Roger Godfrey (from developer Kuju). SWOS is soon to be releasing before Christmas on Xbox LIVE Arcade and we cannot wait for its release, so without any more babbling lets get down to the nitty gritty!
What’s your fondest memory from developing the first Sensi?
JH: It was all fun! The game was brilliant from start to finish and development was very short for the first version, less than 9 months. The subsequent versions were all developed in the Sensi heyday so they were fun too. I particularly enjoyed making the videos for the songs…. Now that was fun!
When did you realise that Sensi was going to become a phenomenon, and how did it feel?
JH: We realised it was great after about 2 months from start of development. The game just had it. It felt like a Eureka moment, everyone who played it loved it and we were spoilt for choice with publishers. And not a page of game design…
Why do you think Xbox Live Arcade is a great way to bring SWOS back for both veterans of the series and total newcomers?
JH: I think it can support a very faithful version of the game without the demand for modern niceties that jack up the development cost and mutate the game away from its original state. Old timers will love it and it will be interesting to see how newcomers take to it. They will either love it or hate it, that is for sure.
Do you play modern football games like PES and FIFA, and what do you think they could learn from Sensi?
JH: I play PES more than FIFA although not for a while. I think they could learn about immediacy of reaction, intuitive control, direction of shooting and field of vision, also about depth of leagues and the world of football; other than that there is little Sensi can teach them
Do you think Sensi’s unique sense of humour was an important part of its success, and does it still live on in the XBLA version?
JH: Its unique and dated sense of humour is there for all to see, I think actually what is noticeable is that it is a British game, with British humour.
First of all, why has it taken so long for Sensible World of Soccer to hit XBLA?
JB: The title has been close to release for some time now in terms of number of outstanding blocking issues; however we’ve been unhappy with the quality of the network performance and have rewritten significant proportions of the network code.
Sensible Soccer is a brand that’s very important to us and a game that’s close to our hearts. Most of the team here in the Online division are lifetime gamers, and we strongly believe the title has to enjoy first-class performance over the internet if it’s to retain it’s position as the best football game ever. The very nature of SWOS’ seminal twitch gameplay simply demands it.
We have that now, the current build in our Internet test lab is flying along – we’re now re-debugging the network rewrite to cure de-synchronisation and disconnect issues (already fixed once on the old netcode) caused by the rewrite, which isn’t easy when working in Amiga code from the early 90s.
We took the decision very early on to work with that code and unaltered gameplay, and we still feel it was the right choice. It’s been frustrating, but we genuinely believe SWOS is a winner and want the title to play as we originally intended when we started this project.
The Xbox 360 has loads of football games – why is the time right for Sensible World of Soccer?
TH: The 360 is massively expanding the gaming player base that currently exists, and its gone from being a hardcore gamers console to enticing the more casual gamer; largely through the Xbox Live Arcade games. SWOS is a perfect fit for the Xbox Live Arcade marketplace it’s a great pick up and play game, but it also has fantastic depth. SWOS will be the only football game to feature on Xbox Live Arcade when it launches, we think this is the perfect time for those that want a great pick up and play football game.
There were quite a few different versions of SWOS on Amiga, ST and PC – how does the XBLA version amalgamate the features of all the games?
RG: The new Xbox360 version of SWOS uses both the Amiga code and the PC code to provide the most authentic SWOS experience we can! In the SWOS online community the feeling is that the Amiga version played better than its PC cousin. However the PC version ran at 60 Hz rather than the Amiga’s 50 Hz which made the game update smoother. We have gone to great lengths when converting the code to ensure that the game plays identically to the original Amiga version but with the screen updating at 60 Hz. Also we are including the slightly better PC game audio and original PC front-end graphics. So the players should have the best of all worlds with the Xbox 360 version!
How does SWOS on XBLA differ from the Xbox V1 remake that was released last year?
RG: Sensible Soccer 2006 was a brand new game that tried to recapture the frenetic pace and outright fun of the original games. It was all done in 3D with toon-shaded players to recapture the feel of the older Sensible games. SWOS on the other hand is actually the original SWOS program ported to Xbox 360 and then brought bang up to date with new 2D visuals, Xbox Live play and additional Xbox 360 loveliness.
There were a few ‘bonus’ Sensi games that made their way on to magazine cover discs back in the nineties. Will we be seeing Unsensible Soccer, Cannon Soccer or Sensible Soccer Meets Bulldog Blighty in the XBLA version?
RG: Alas no – but who knows what the future will bring for future Sensible Soccer games on Xbox Live Arcade?
Is Goal Scoring Superstar Hero in the game? Is it remixed? And are there any other nostalgic touches that Sensi veterans may have forgotten but will recognise as soon as they play the XBLA version?
RG: It would not be a true Sensible Soccer game without Jon Hare’s and Richard Joseph’s Goal Scoring Superstar Hero music! We are expecting to include the original Amiga music and the remixed music from Sensible Soccer 2006.
How do you think SWOS’s gameplay stands up against modern footie games like Pro Evo and FIFA?
RG: Despite only needing one button to play – SWOS is a surprisingly deep game. And that’s before you start playing with the life absorbing SWOS career mode. For the potential number of hours of sheer soccer management and playing pleasure SWOS is very hard to beat!
Will players be able to customise their teams, and which custom teams are already in the game? Which one is your favourite?
RG: As with the original game on the Amiga, players can customise any team they like and change them as they see fit. We also have a raft of preset silly custom teams which have been put together (which many suggested by the SWOS internet community). Our favourite has to be the ‘Old Kujonians’ which is based around our own company five-a-side team.
Could you tell us about SWOS’s Xbox Live modes and why they’ll be so much fun?
RG: When we started the project we aimed to be able to make as much of the original multiplayer fun of the SWOS game accessible over Xbox Live as possible. In this new version you can play friendly and ranked matches, and we expect many old rivalries to be resurrected once SWOS comes out!
What kinds of single-player game modes can we play in SWOS? Is the legendary 20 season mode in there?
RG: Every single one of the original SWOS game modes from the 97 game is in this new version. We have everything from the simple Friendly match through to the 20 season behemoth known as Career. You can even design your own competition using the DIY mode and then play with a friend on Xbox in your competition.
What kind of Achievements have you put into SWOS, and how did you enjoy that experience?
RG: Coming up with achievements to implement in a game is good fun – its certainly an enjoyable job when developing for the Xbox360. We started off with about 50 which we then had to whittle down to the 12 we are allowed for an Xbox Live game. Most of our achievements involve doing cool things when playing soccer itself. My personal favourite is Flying Header Hero which you get for scoring a goal with a flying header, it’s very difficult. Our external producer Simon Humphreys at Codemasters came up with that one – so far neither of us has been able to unlock it yet.
How do the enhanced visuals differ from the original, classic graphics?
RG: The whole of the original Amiga game was done in 2D with 16 colours and each player was only 15 pixels high! Knowing that SWOS was going to be compared to modern soccer games we decided to provide all new 2D graphics that would make the game look friendly, cool and colourful on the Xbox360. The first thing we did was to track down Stoo Cambridge, one of the artists who did the visuals for the original game back in the day, and we got him to update all the players. The new players are all in 32 bit colour and each one is 30 pixels high. It might not sound like much but you would be amazed how much characterisation they have! Also this new Xbox 360 version of the game now supports widescreen and now has a degrading pitch which gets muddier over time.
What would you say to someone who has never played Sensi to convince them that they should give it a go?
RG: One of the great things about SWOS is how easy it is to play. Everything in the game can be done by using the D-Pad and pushing a single button. It’s wonderfully intuitive and easy to pick up. However when you start getting competitive with your friends it gets quite difficult to put down!
Should we expect any SWOS DLC?
RG: Currently no SWOS download content is planned.
Do you have plans to bring any of Codemasters’ other classic games to Xbox Live Arcade?
TH: Never say never! SWOS will be our first Xbox Live Arcade and a great test case for us. We have really I hopes for this title, and I can’t wait to see players reactions to it. Codemasters have a rich back catalogue of games that would fit the Arcade model really well. We’ll certainly look to go through the catalogue once we’ve seen how SWOS does and may well bring any one of our old titles back for players to play. It’s always great to hear from players as well, so I’ll be keeping my eye on the various forums that our there to see what games players are suggesting we bring back.
Finally, what do you see in the future for the Sensible Soccer series?
TH: Obviously the Sensible series has a huge amount of pedigree and history and we fully expect SWOS for Xbox Live Arcade to become a big feature in that history. The game has amazing longevity courtesy of its unique and lovable graphics as well as its simple yet engaging gameplay. We really see a long term future in the Sensible Series and we hope to be able to work with Microsoft on further down the line. But for now we are all really looking forward to getting SWOS onto Xbox Live Arcade and letting everyone loose on it, should make for some classic match ups!
Thanks for your time guys and we’re looking forward to getting our hands on SWOS!