A remake (or, rather, a “spiritual successor”) to the classic top-game football title Sensible Soccer is seeking £300,000 on Kickstarter to make a glorious return to consoles.
The Sensible Soccer series was first released in the early 1990s, and made an impact instantly; the game was unusual both for its top-down graphics, which stood in contrast to the more usual side-on view still used by most soccer games today, and for its insistence on simplicity — even as FIFA and other sports franchises were already making bids for greater realism.
Sensible Soccer was notable too for featuring literally hundreds of professional football teams from around the globe, which could be played in a connected 20 season career campaign.
Developer Jon Hare, who was the lead designer on the Sensible franchise, is now seeking the funds to bring the game back — in the form of Sociable Soccer — and release it for PC, PS4 and Xbox One in 2016.
Hare told Eurogamer that after he sold Sensible Software in 1999 the franchise has languished in relative obscurity, but that the tools and market were now in place to make a return feasible. Hare said that he is currently developing the title in Finland, where a more-or-less playable build is already running.
The game will feature 500 national, club and custom teams, Hare said, with 10,000 player names. Without the funds to acquire official licenses to most of the globe’s soccer brands (sorry, ‘teams’) Hare will instead be using the time-honoured method of approximating colours, names and kits to be as similar as possible to the real thing, without incurring legal action.
Sociable Soccer will — of course — feature the top-down bird’s-eye view familiar to fans of the old games, but Hare said it will also offer “a wide variety of camera viewpoints” with versions of “the dynamic pitchside cameras familiar to fans of FIFA and Pro Evolution Soccer“.
“Competing with FIFA and PES requires much more than just a remake,” Hare said. “It needs a different take on football games altogether, blending the instant playability of yesteryear with the power of modern technology.”
What the new game isn’t is Sensible Soccer — at least not in name. That license is still owned by Codemasters, and there is no prospect of Hare getting it back, it would appear.
“Codemasters is entitled to do what they like with Sensible Soccer,” Hare told Eurogamer. “It’s their license now. I understand why people associate me with it, because I designed it. But I can’t control that license any more. And I’ve not been able to for 16 years. So, I think now is the time to say, okay, I made Microprose Soccer. That was the best football game on Commodore 64. I made Sensible Soccer and Sensible World of Soccer. They were the best football games on Amiga certainly, Atari ST maybe, Mega Drive for a time. It’s time to do it again with a digital game. Just set up a new franchise and go from scratch.”
Early backers can pick up the game for a pledge of £12, with rewards offered all the way up to a full holiday at the development team’s base in Finland, featuring ice lakes and reindeer feasts, for a heft £5,000. So far 460 have taken the plunge, for a total of just under £10,000 with 29 days left to go in the project.
Even funding the campaign is ambitious, let alone actually managing to compete on a relatively level playing field with the world’s biggest sports video game franchises. But all the same indie upstarts like New Star Soccer have shown that there is an audience for simplified, playable titles with the flavour of retro classics.