Sociable Soccer Q&A With Jon Hare

It's one of those Q&A things! This time it's with gaming legend Jon Hare who answers some questions about the upcoming Sociable Soccer '22.

If you ask anyone what their favourite football game is (soccer, international friends), it’s most likely going to be FIFA or PES. That doesn’t apply to everyone though, myself included. In the (g)olden days of floppies and jumpers for goalposts, the benchmark was set by Sensible Soccer – one of the greatest football games of all time.

Punting Kick Off! in the nuts, it became the staple for all household scraps, sniffing out the Man Utd glory hunters – for they typically had the best team. But let’s push nostalgia to the side, and move forward with one of the legends behind the classic, Jon Hare of Tower Studios. 

To my delight, Jon kindly provided answers to the questions I had about Sociable Soccer ’22, detailed below. I’m genuinely excited about the upcoming release, more so after this response. If you enjoy football games as much as I do, please share this post and spread the word, not for my ego, but as a thank you for Jon’s time for the fans (well, a little for my ego, but I didn’t do anything here). 

Sociable Soccer ’22 Q&A

VK: Some fans might be expecting an updated version of Sensible Soccer, which this is not. Of course, this has a lot to do with those involved, but what makes Sociable Soccer different from everything else?

JH: Sociable Soccer uses the fast, fun gameplay style of Sensible Soccer as a base. It also uses the in depth football knowledge of over 1,000 teams and 30,000 players worldwide. However Sociable Soccer on PC and console is about to being released into the market almost exactly 30 years after the release of the original Sensible Soccer. Sensible Soccer and more particularly SWOS is, in my biased opinion, the best 2D football game that ever existed.

There is no desire or intention from us to replicate what SWOS was 30 years on, that window closed years ago and technology and gamers have moved on.

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Sociable Soccer is neither a light retro game, nor a $100,000,000 budget football simulation like FIFA, it’s aim is to claim the middle ground as a fun, fast cross-platform football game for online and offline play, an addictive footballing snack to be consumed alone, with friends on the couch or while battling rivals abroad. The game focuses on squad building with the aim of your team climbing the online leagues as you represent the club you love in 800 club based clans fighting every day to bring glory to the team they love.

The graphical style is fast and fun with crazy looking referees and manager characters sending emojis to their opponents during matches. The action is tense and fast paced and with each game lasting just 3 minutes you really need to stay on your toes at all times.

VK: With that in mind, what’s the hardest thing about making a football game: the flow of play, AI, meeting gamer expectations, or something else?

JH: Speaking as a game designer the hardest thing about making a modern football game is actually making the game itself amidst the demands and limitations of numerous external elements such as engines like Unity, server considerations, platform holder protocols (Sociable Soccer is currently being developed for 10 platforms), anti-cheat measures, data privacy, licensing issues, different monetisation systems etc, etc. Somewhere in the middle of all this you also need to find the time to make a great playing football game and a compelling metagame around it.

VK: With 1000 teams on offer with 30,000 players proposed, what kind of difficulties have you faced in providing accurate data, given the nature of transfer windows and available stats? Are players and teams actual names or fictionalised?

JH: We were lucky enough to meet a guy called David White very early on in the development of the game. David was the man who was keeping the SWOS player database in touch with the real world for the diehard SWOS fans by keeping the entire World’s player database up to date every season. Sociable Soccer uses the same basic player data format as Sensible Soccer did, so we offered David the job of doing all of the football data updating for Sociable too. He updates this twice a year in line with the real world transfer windows.

We also need to create a badge for each team in the game using a simple component based tool of shields and symbols with 3 colours each. Once we have the data in place we then cross reference it against the list of National Leagues etc that we actually have the licenses to use the real names etc. Any leagues where we do have the license player and/or team names, badges etc can be real, any players/teams that we do not have the licenses for we deliberately mess up the badges and names to avoid legal issues. Over time we are looking to acquire more and more licenses, but currently the only license we have is with the CSL (Chinese Super League)

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VK: Adding to that, will there be any scope for player/team customisation in the 2022 release?

JH: We very much have it in our plans to add player/team customisation at some point, but it is very unlikely to make it into the first release, there are too many other things to wrap up on too many platforms right now, but watch this space for customisation options in future releases.

VK: The Steam and Discord communities have helped shape many titles through feedback, but does that differ with Apple Arcade and mobile gamers? Has there been any unexpected feedback?

JH: Apple Arcade has been a pretty unusual environment into which to launch a football game. The users are 80% from the US and 50% female neither of which are avid football game consumers (FIFA’s customers are approximately 98.5% male for example). Nevertheless the game has done pretty well there and reached number one on Apple Arcade back in December 2019. Overall however the sense of community is not as strong as some other more traditional platforms.

VK: For the Early Access adopters (who will receive a free update if they backed on Steam) should they expect an entirely different game to the last time they visited it?

JH: Yes the game has moved on a lot since those days, it was nearly 4 years ago now so there have been a lot of changes in all areas of the game, too many for me to remember to be honest. One of the slightly annoying things about the modern world of online news articles is a tendency for sites to use whatever old images they have on file in relation to new articles that fall under the same brand heading. So if you see a recent news article and look at the pictures and think, “Oh my God they didn’t touch the graphics in 4 years!” rest assured you are looking at a very old picture that a lazy editor didn’t bother to update with more recent images.

VK: How will Sociable Soccer appeal to the modern gamer? What stand out features does it have that could pull them away from their go-to franchise?

JH: Fast, fun online gameplay, 3 minutes per game, great couch multiplayer, adrenaline fuelled arcade style action with real world football depth IF you want it.

The ability to represent the real world team you love in a clan of like minded supporters of your club, playing against the fans of other teams every day in a champions league group like format. A huge career mode where you can slowly build and upgrade your squad from a set of 30,000 player cards, some of our top Apple Arcade players have been hooked for 2 years now.

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VK: Is there much scope for solo players and local multiplayer, or is the game more geared towards online play? Will there be cross-platform play?

JH: The game is particularly strong at supporting online, real time one on one matches, couch multiplayer and single player play vs AI, these are supported in many different game modes. The game has the technically ability to have total cross platform play between all platforms, as to whether or not we are allowed to enable this will be the decision of the platform holders themselves.

VK: You said that the team have always thought of Sociable Soccer as an organic football franchise. Besides annual updates, are there any plans for DLC or World Cup editions?

JH: We are still yet to decide upon the precise, long term publishing plan with Kiss, our publishing partners on PC and console platforms, however the lose plan is to build our long term strategy around the two transfer windows that occur every season in the real football world.

VK: Are you able to divulge any further details on the battle pass system? What can players expect?

JH: I can divulge that this feature is not intended for the first release, however I absolutely cannot wait to get it implemented once we get around to it. We already have a huge football world in Sociable Soccer and a Battle Pass system is the perfect mechanic to integrate all of these elements tightly together into a more contemporary game design architecture of titles like Fortnite, Clash of Clans, Rocket League etc..

VK: Besides football, have any games influenced the development process, such as game modes, mechanics, online play?

JH: Yes very much so, the card collection element was developed quite closely with our Chinese partners Crazysports so it features a number of Chinese card collection features such as the coloured player grades, Online play was very much influenced by Rocket League, our online league system was partly influenced by League of Legends, although we are currently modifying it a bit, the emoji sending was taken from Clash of Clans, the Tutorial is constructed a bit like our old Tower title Speedball 2 Evolution etc etc. There are so many influences form other games it is hard to recollect all of them at once.

VK: And finally, who would feature in your dream XI – past or present players (if it doesn’t feature Batistuta or Bergkamp in some way, I’ll be upset)

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** Don’t overthink the accuracy in the image above – I made this to break up the text. **

JH: This team is made up of players that I really love and Daniel Farke (ex Norwich) is the manager. The centre of their midfield is a bit soft, but their defence is rock hard, going forward there is a balance of speed, control and genius and when it comes to freekicks this team is the best.

Thank you to both Jon and Gustav for their time with this Q&A.

Sociable Soccer ’22 is coming to PC and consoles in… 2022. You can follow Sociable Soccer on Twitter for updates, too. You’d then know about this behind the scenes video:

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