With the 2022 World Cup just around the corner, Graeme Mason talks to Sensible Software’s John Hare about the biggest football series of all time, Sensible Soccer.
You can virtually guarantee that whenever the latest iteration of FIFA (or whatever is going to happen from now on) is discussed online, at least one person can’t help but mention Sensible Soccer Is. 30 years later, this great arcade-style football game is still thrilling fans, its simplicity and fun providing equal amounts of fun and excitement.
As big soccer fans, a videogame from Sensible Software based on the sport was inevitable. After watching the 1971 cup final aged five, Sensible Software co-founder John Hare fell in love with Arsenal and their bright yellow strip, unaware that it was their away kit. By the time he was 11, he had realized his mistake, having shifted his allegiance to a true yellow club: Norwich.
To trace the origins of Sensible Soccer, you have to go back to 1988 and the release of its progenitor, MicroProse Soccer. “The initial name for Microporous Soccer was Sensible Soccer,” says John. “We bought it around here, and Microprose said they would take it on the condition that it be renamed Microprose Soccer.” A handsome advance from the American publisher convinced Sensible to rename their game, with the original moniker being filed for future use.
The main influence for MicroProse Soccer was an arcade game by Tehkan. John recalls, “We used to think all football matches were a bit slow except for the Tehkan World Cup.” The action-packed arcade game presented an overhead view, usually within a cocktail-style table cabinet, as players sat opposite each other. Tehkan World Cup had a beautifully simple and exhilarating style, with most of the technical aspects of the game being omitted. “MicroProse Soccer was modeled on the TEHCAN World Cup – the visuals were similar, and even we could bend the ball.”
intelligent software MicroProse found its touch during Soccer’s development, adding innovations such as action replays; Still, the team was not completely satisfied with its freshman football effort. “Looking back, it’s a bit slow and doesn’t give you the feeling of being under pressure,” notes John. In the early nineties, after the great strategy game Mega-Lo-Mania was created, it was time to give football simulations another shot. Unfortunately, events out of Sensible’s control caught them in reverse. On 5 November 1991, Robert Maxwell, owner of the Mirror Group, fell from his yacht. After his death, irregularities in the Mirror Group’s finances, coupled with a lack of trust from its creditors following the incident, led to the collapse of the group.
intelligent software Four games were signed to the group’s sports division. John says, “We lost 75% of our turnover and needed a solution. So we went to the bank manager and said we’re not worried because we have these two games and they’re good enough.” There were cannon fodder and sensible footballs on floppy disks – but the manager was unimpressed. Undaunted, Sensible pitched Sensible Soccer to various publishers. Finally, a new company, Renegade, signed on the game, and Sensible Soccer was ready to kick off.
sensible football Life began at the end of development on Mega-Lo-Mania. John revealed, “I just took the faves from Mega-Lo-Mania and dressed them up in a football kit, a Norwich kit.” “That’s how it started, and the MLM perspective really worked as a zoomed-out pitch — so we kept at it.” In addition to MicroProse Soccer (and by default, the TEHCAN World Cup), Sensible had another influence on the next footy extravaganza. “We played [Anco’s] Kick off the games and enjoy them,” recalls John. “But we thought we could improve on them in some ways.”
As in Dino Dini’s legendary series, sensible football The player loses control of his soccer players, running with the ball – dribbling – a skill to be learned, just as in real life. “It bothers me that people nowadays expect to be great at a game within a minute of playing it,” says John. Released in the summer of 1992, Sensible Soccer: European Champions received universal acclaim. “Sensible Soccer looks, looks, plays, feels and – yes! – is better than Kick Off 2 – and just about everything else on the market for that matter,” 16-bit magazine The One raved. Gave. The sensible decision to include customizable league and cup competitions with 168 total teams led to unprecedented fan participation, and tournaments are still held today. With remarkable discretion, The One concluded that ‘I think this is a two-player singleplayer game that will outlast the more long-winded options – it’s a game that deserves to be pulled out of the cupboard for a quick bash’ It is decided to go. Good years ahead.
Optimization and competitions aside, just how sensible football Appeal to gamers? “I think it was the urgency of the controls—they just worked,” John says. “It kinda came together like magic, and we didn’t know exactly how we achieved it – but we didn’t let ourselves touch that piece of code!” Additionally, the game’s zoomed-out view enabled the player to plan, pass, and strategize, and the level of research behind each team attracted players. [research],” John smiles. Relative was the best game of the market, in this it was the X-factor.
The success of Sensible Football meant that a follow-up was inevitable and, amongst his other commitments, Sensible had to work on the next game in the series. “We thought, how can we make it bigger?” John says. “So we added more strategy, a career management game and a world of football.” The result was Sensible World of Soccer, known colloquially as SWOS, and considered by many, including John, to be the pinnacle of the series. “We had this magic football game,” he says, “and we added this amazingly big football world around it that people still play in today, nearly thirty years later. It’s the best I’ve ever made.” It’s a game.”
You can play Sensible Soccer for free on Enstream Arcade, with both the Commodore Amiga and Sega Mega Drive versions available now. We also host its follow-up, the wonderful Sensible World of Soccer, on the Amiga, and with Save States, you can chart your management career throughout the season.
If you want to test your footy skills against other members of Antstream Arcade, be sure to enroll in smart soccer tournament, Starting 22 November. If you want to chat with other discerning soccer fans, visit Antstream Arcade discord To talk Sensi, SWOS and much more!