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Interview: Jon Hare (by Simone Bianchini)

a guest Jan 27th, 2014 130 Never
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  1. As some might know, couple weeks ago I sent out a message to SWOS creator himself, Mr. Jon Hare, through his facebook page (which was brought to my attention by a common friend), asking stuff about Sensible World of Soccer gameplay mechanics that, as far as I know, had never been discussed before.
  2.  
  3. Needless to say, I wasn't expecting any kind of reply (even moreso given the lenght of the message itself...over 20 questions + some blabbering about the online scene and Sensibleita Online Career mode) but whaddya know, at first I was asked to forward the whole thing to his personal e-mail address at towergames (apparently his new company) and later on, to my surprise, I received the mail with a full-fledged response!
  4.  
  5. Here's the integral quote of the whole Q&A session:
  6.  
  7. - - -
  8.  
  9. [NOW FINALLY, THEM QUESTIONS!]
  10.  
  11. TACTICS, PLAYERS' INTERACTIONS AND PERFORMANCES
  12.  
  13. speaking of tactics, stats and players' interactions, while tinkering with the Online Career mode we've come to the realization that in SWOS there's definitely more than meets the eye going on under the hood, probably simple interactions but elegant ones at that.
  14.  
  15. To keep it short, we've had seemingly pretty strong players (as in most skill at 7 or 15, like our database Didier Drogba, for instance) performing like total ass (as in, running slowly, not tackling properly unpon collison with other sprites hitboxes, etc.) depending on the team he was in, the area of the pitch the aforementioned actions took place and the tactic currently used and the game built-in tactics editor reinforces this by giving red x's all over for that specific player in that specific team under certain conditions.
  16.  
  17. So yeah, some players get bought for truckload of cash, suck their wages up from the club bank and then underperform, which is pretty cool and realistic and adds a little more depth and randomness to the Online Career mode but still makes you wonder.
  18.  
  19. questions:
  20. 1. Does ramping up the skill value from 7 to 15 affect the players' performances or does it just make him more expensive (most likely the latter from what I've seen but it's worth asking)?
  21.  
  22. JH: Yes I am pretty sure all skill changes statistically altered the performance ability of players
  23.  
  24.  
  25. 2. What in God's name is the logic behind the red "x"'s and the green ticks? I mean, I did read the manuals and I know what they're supposed to mean but how do they work? What determines them?
  26.  
  27. JH: X and ticks show you how the team perform under AI control and in result calculations (similar to how all AI teams are evaluated), if you selected a team in manage mode and watched the games only you would find by chasing ticks your team will perform better.
  28.  
  29.  
  30. 3. I get a red "x" on a player upon changing tactic in the pre-game menu, then I switch him with the reserve GK and switch him back to get a green tick...is this going to make a difference on the players' performances (this is like, a urban legend that's been debated for like 10 years, some people swear by it, some affirm it's just a placebo effect)?
  31.  
  32. JH: No this will do nothing.. all this tick means is that he is better than the reserve goalkeeper.. the X before meant he is not so well suited in the new position after you made the formation change and that he preferred the old formation.
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  34.  
  35. 4. Does the game temporarily modifies a player's skill depending on the position on the pitch (like, if I put a player with low Finishing and high Tackling in the front) and then reverts them back in real time during the game if the tactics brings him back to a zone of the pitch where he belongs, according to his skillset?
  36.  
  37. JH: Yes a player’s skills will change during the game if you change his position.
  38.  
  39.  
  40. 5. Does the overall strenght of a team (such as the sum of the entire roster's skill points...or just the starting eleven perhaps?) affect the performances of a single player within the team? We noticed that players generally tend to perform better in stronger teams.
  41.  
  42. JH: Don’t remember this precisely, but I don’t think so no... player’s points are all calculated individually
  43.  
  44.  
  45. 6. What are the natural roles for the 2 attacking wings in 5-2-3 tactic? Really, if we put "A" (forwards) we get red "x"'s, if we put RW and LW we get players underperforming anyway...so what? As far as I know no team in the game has 5-2-3 as default tactic so there's no reference either...
  46.  
  47. JH: A good question 5-2-3 is a rather eccentric additional formation a slightly more attacking variant of 541... remember with the Xs and ticks they are only computer guesses as to how you will perform if you were an AI team, of course if you can pick the passes to pushed up wingers then it can be of benefit to you.
  48.  
  49.  
  50. 7. What kind of modifiers are moved up and down by increasing/decreasing the value of a Goalkeeper? Really it seems like their skill increases only up to a point, after which it doesn't f***ing matter anymore cause they'll take some goals regardless (which is why we've mastered the "man on the line" header savings, to make up for it).
  51.  
  52. JH: As far as I remember goalkeeper skills are positioning, speed of vision and diving speed and range... these all go up as the goalies value increases.
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  54.  
  55. 8. Do strikers need Tackling skill? Does it have any side effect (I noticed that maxing out the Tackling skill on forwards can be detrimental for their performances and give red "x"'s, whereas giving them 6 instead of 7 brings em back to normal, although I could be mistaken).
  56.  
  57. JH: well a striker with a great tackling skill might be seen by the computer as a better attacking midfielder... this is because the game gives  greater value to certain skills depending on where on the pitch a player is positioned.
  58.  
  59.  
  60.  
  61. 9. Does the Finishing skill only affect shoots within the penalty box (pretty sure the answer here is yes and it doesn't affect heading either)?
  62.  
  63. JH: Finishing only affects shots (not headers) within the box (I think) It is used in relation to the calculation of the chance of the keeper saving shots.
  64.  
  65.  
  66. 10. Does Ball control skill affect the effectiveness of a "standing" tackle (as in, when 2 players collide while running into each other)?
  67.  
  68. JH: Yes it should do... ball control is the polar opposite of tackling in the game... it also affects the player’s ability to dribble.
  69.  
  70.  
  71. 11. What determines who's gonna win the ball if two players with maxed out Tackling skill run against each other? The other skills? The player's overall ratings (assuming there's any)? The distance of the ball from the ball carrier's hitboxes?
  72.  
  73. JH: Ball control (attacker) v Tackling (defender) then we also factor in the angle at which the tackle was made, tackling from directly in front is always most successful, sides is a bit random.. back is usually fatal.
  74.  
  75.  
  76. 12. Passing skill: does this skill only affect the lenght of the passage or also the probability of falling into the target's control? I'm sure higher passing skill means greater swerve/aftertouch and also means that the target will move further away and faster to go and catch the ball and perhaps even chase whoever might intercept the ball...is this correct?
  77.  
  78. JH: Passing skill opens up the length of the pass and also the width of the passing cone... meaning more players can be found.
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  80.  
  81. 13. is there a hidden "form" modifier for players? I've recently seen screenshots (from Amiga One magazine previews) of some tiny charts with red bars near each player, did that thing make it to the released game? How does it work if it's there? Is it present in Friendlies and DIY competitions as well (would be funny if it was, besides, datamining confirmed something like that being in the game, just we aren't sure wether it is active or not)?
  82.  
  83. JH: I think form did go into some of the versions of the game (not sure which).
  84.  
  85.  
  86. 14. I believe that the original database was carefully tweaked to best suit the gameplay, do you think that modifying it (mods such as roster updates and stuff) might edulcorate the game experience as it was originally intended?
  87.  
  88. As long as the minimums and maximums used by the original data are not exceeded database modifications should be fine.
  89.  
  90.  
  91.  
  92. GAMEPLAY AND CONTROLS
  93.  
  94. questions:
  95. 15. SWOS control system is time-dependant, right? What's the smallest detected time-unit? Don't you think that once online, if the latency is too high and the controls delay gets too big as a result, the game stops being fully playable (adding aftertouch for instance becomes quite tricky and some goals seem to achieve a higher success rate which IMHO dumbs down the gameplay - I personally tried to get the Amiga emu for PC and/or Kaillera a better netcode by involving GGPO ( http://ggpo.net/) and Supercade (http://damdai.com/supercade/) developers but no one's willing to write new Amiga drivers these days, Amiga emulation is just too much of a pain in the ass, apparently)?
  96.  
  97. JH: The frame rate is what makes it impossible to create a great version of SWOS Online... SWOS is a 60 frames per second game... that is why it is so responsive... I can’t stand the problems with latency induced delay when I play and it is very hard to avoid this.
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  100. 16. Due to the aforementioned reason (time-dependant controls), Keyboard are seemingly overpowered as controller for this game (next to none engage distance, throw = engage, they go back to neutral instantly, you can input very fast by using different fingers almost simultaneously), which is why I had to build my own dual-joystick arcade stick (pictures: http://i293.photobucket.com/albums/mm60/Retrievingsensi/QSX001BBfinal.png) to lower the delay of my inputs in order to keep up with the best keyboard players online, is this the reason why you couldn't play with keyboard on Amiga?
  101.  
  102. JH: Joystick on Amiga is just fine... no need for keyboard... the time delay issue for online is totally separate from this
  103.  
  104.  
  105. 17. The ball seems to be getting further away from the player the more he runs with it, after which control over it is lost, tiny touches and direction changes seem to delay the moment (although they really have to be lightning quick) you'll lose the ball though (or even reset control on the ball), is this true or is it just lag (most likely just lag and/or our minds playing tricks, though)?
  106.  
  107. JH: I haven’t seen the online version recently but in general the ball should not get further away from the player as he runs
  108.  
  109.  
  110. 18. Just how many hitboxes does each swos player sprite have? One for each feet?
  111.  
  112. JH: 1
  113.  
  114.  
  115. 19. Does the joystick going back to neutral position (or not going) affect the speed at which the CPU will grant you control over the next player (tipically, the target of your long ball/passage)? Or perhaps is joystick going to neutral and fire button going unactive...maybe it has to be done at the same time? Would explain why Keyboard players are (again seemingly) much faster than stick players at "player activation".
  116.  
  117. JH: Next player selection is made based on the direction that you are pressing the joystick in... not selecting a direction at all is certainly not good to speed up player selection ( If the joystick is neutral I think it will still select as if you were still inputting from the last direction you were pushed in)
  118.  
  119.  
  120. 20. what triggers the "chase on a player to dispossess him of the ball/chase the ball" mode for CPU controlled teammates (I believe it's a combination of positioning, positioning of the teammates - cause sometimes those in the back will go further down the pitch if someone in front of them has moved way out of position, when this happens with the GK it's actually detrimental since they leave the goal unguarded - and passing skill if the ball was curl-passed and subsequently intercepted)?
  121.  
  122. JH: At least one CPU player will always try to chase the ball at all times... and they do this by running players forward onto the ball if they can
  123.  
  124.  
  125. 21. Did you know that you can actually score directly from kick-off with a series of headers-combo, although it's excruciatingly hard to pull off (video for reference: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KGR6YFaojoY&hd=1 )?
  126.  
  127. JH: No I never knew this J ... looks tricky
  128.  
  129.  
  130. 22. Aren't you freaked out by this many questions on a nearly 20 yr old game?
  131.  
  132. JH: No it is great that people still care
  133.  
  134.  
  135. 23. Do you have the lyrics of "football is our love" at hand? I swear I couldn't make them out if my life depended on it from the low quality upload on YouTube.
  136.  
  137. JH: Saturday 3 o’clock and our attentions got somewhat transfixed
  138.  
  139. At grounds and on the streets, on radios, TVs and teletext
  140.  
  141. And for a couple of hours it seems the universe is flat and green
  142.  
  143. The only thing we really care about at all is what has happened to our team
  144.  
  145.  
  146.  
  147. Football is our love, Football is our love, Football is our love, going on and on and on and on
  148.  
  149. ---
  150.  
  151. I realize this is a lot of stuff and that you're a busy professional and person who probably finds the whole thing just humorous, that being said I hope this message will reach you and that you will take the time to shed a light on some aspects of the game that have been haunting the hardcore fans for over a decade. We would forever appreciate you for that (although we already do, let's face it).
  152.  
  153. Thanks in advance from a dude who still enjoys playing SWOS at the ripe age of 30.
  154.  
  155. JH: No problem
  156.  
  157.  
  158. All in all great stuff, Thanks Jon!
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