Continuing Gamasutra’s ‘Road to the IGF’ feature, which profiles and interviews Independent Games Festival 2007
entrants, today’s interview is with Simon Read of New Star Games, developer of New Star Soccer 3
Read developed the game, which won GameTunnel's 2005 Sports Game of the Year, on his own over a period of 18 months, making additions to the engine he had used with previous games in the series. He describes New Star Soccer 3
as a “football career game that lets you
be the star”, allowing players to choose the position they wish to play, and giving them the chance to train and rise up through the ranks.
Along the way, players can also choose to pick up drug and alcohol habits, enter into relationships with money-hungry women, and alienate their family and fans. “There will be difficult situations to deal with and every decision made will affect the game and the relationships within it,” says Read.
We spoke to Read about the game, its entry into the IGF, and where the series is heading in the future.
What is your background in the games industry?
New Star Soccer 3
allowed me to go full time as an independent but prior to that programming was just a hobby whilst I went from one mind-numbing job to another.
When was New Star Games formed, and what previous titles have you released?
I completed New Star Soccer 1
back in 2003 I decided to set up New Star Games. Before that I had released World Cup Manager
What inspired the game, and why did you decide to make it?
As a kid I used to program football manager games in BASIC, which is why my first game was a straight forward management sim. I wanted New Star Soccer
to be something totally different, a kind of “David Beckham Simulator”. It was meant to be a really simple game where you try to get a pop-star wife, have arguments with your manager and basically try to maintain a footballer's lifestyle. I guess the inspiration came from Footballer Of The Year
, an old Gremlin game that I played to death on the Spectrum.
How has the series evolved over time?
I think the experience is getting deeper with each version. Most football management games seem intent on recreating the incredibly boring side of football. Ok, it's important to have a realistic game world but football isn't just about stats and rules, you need to recreate some of the passion and drama that goes with it. I try to pick up on what real footballers get up to in their spare time, which is why you can go to the casino, buy race horses and so on. I get an enormous amount of feedback from the players too so I just filter out the bad or unfeasible ideas and concentrate on the good ones.
What were your expectations from your game, and do you feel the end product lives up to those expectations?
I don't think I had any expectations for NSS1
. I just made it because I thought it was a good idea and it turned out that a few hundred other people agreed with me. That inspired me to go on and improve it. I had no idea that one day it would allow me to work full time making my own games. Expectations for NSS4
are very high. Not just from the fans of the series but from myself also. I really want the next version to blow people away.
What do you think the most interesting thing about your game is?
I think the interaction between the different elements of the game. You have to try to keep your relationships healthy but spending time with your family and friends will detract from your skills training. Similarly, if your confidence is low then a few drinks will lift your spirits and help you to play better but on the downside it takes longer to recover your energy and you may even fall over whilst playing. There are always two sides of the coin and life is all about making choices like this.
Why did you decide to include elements like the relationships, and alcohol problems?
It's all part of life for a real footballer, or for anyone I guess. Ok, only a handful of footballers actually become alcoholics or drug addicts but the temptation to find a quick fix in times of need is there for everyone. Essentially, it also has a real effect in the game, otherwise I wouldn't include it. I think the relationships are vital as it gives meaning to the incidents that occur and helps to paint a picture of a real life in the mind of the player.
How long did development take?
took about 1 year to make in my spare time. NSS2
arrived 8 months later. NSS3
took 18 months to complete, mainly due to the 2D match engine which was a major addition to the previous text-only versions. Each version is basically an extension of the previous one, but for NSS4
I'm starting over. It's time to get the foundations right.
What was the development process like?
For the most part I was working on an IT helpdesk doing 12 hour night shifts. The job was actually a godsend because there were often long periods during the night where the phones stopped ringing and I could whip out my laptop and do some coding. It was tiring but at the same time I loved what I was creating so I kept going. After the success of NSS3
I decided to work fulltime as an indie, so life has changed a great deal. It's much better!
What do you think of the state of independent development, and how do you think independent games fit into the industry?
I think the scene is pretty healthy in terms of bringing creative people out of the shadows. It's a shame that so many people feel compelled to simply clone existing games but the truly original ideas rise to the top. People talk about "bedroom coders" as if they are a dying breed but I think the opposite is true.
You just have to pop your head into a BlitzBasic or Torque forum to see that we are alive and well, and I'm sure that there will be more and more success stories in the future.
Have you checked out any of the other IGF games?
I must admit that I haven't played many on the list but there are a few that stand out.
Which ones are you particularly impressed with, and why?
Two in particular are Motorama
and Armadillo Run
. I love anything with realistic physics. The idea of programming that kind of stuff blows my mind. Golf?
is also very good. Kudos
is very interesting and I like what Cliffski's doing with relationships and lifestyle. I might have to borrow some of his ideas for NSS4
Which recent indie games do you admire, and which recent mainstream titles do you admire, and why?
is coming along nicely and I really appreciate what those guys are trying to do. An MMO football game will be huge some day. Not much mainstream has gripped me lately. The last great game I played was probably Shadow of the Colossus
. Crazy stuff like that floats my boat.
Do you have any messages for your fellow contestants or fans of the IGF?
May the best football game win!