He’s a true goal scoring superstarhero 😉 – supremo of Sensible Software – Jon Hare kindly granted us an audience so we could quiz him and basically tell him how great he is! A world without Sensible Soccer and Cannon Fodder doesn’t bear thinking about…
Sensible Soccer was a worldwide smash – easily one of our favourite games of all time, which has built up a true cult following even today. How does it feel to have created a game that had (and still has) such a big impact on the gaming industry?
It is a privilege to have been part of something truly amazing. These days I see many people excited by making money and getting coverage, but having been part of history as well is something extra special and a lot of it is down to pure luck and timing.
Are you a fan of the FIFA, PES and Football Manager games?
I have played all of them at different times. The most recent football game I played was New Star Soccer which I really enjoyed. In a way all of these games have their own merits and are all good games.. but none of them mean as much to me as Sensi.
I used to prefer playing Sensible Soccer on the Amiga with the trusty joystick as opposed to any other console or computer. Which format do you think was the best for playing Sensi?
Amiga without question, the original and the best.
I truly believe there would be enough demand for another instalment of Sensible Soccer. Do you have any plans to develop a new football game?
I have my eyes on this right now, just as we made Microprose Soccer for 8 bit machines and Sensible World of Soccer for 16 bit machines so a new football game for the digital age remains a possibility.
Do you consider yourself more of a music artist or game developer these days?
I have always been a musical artist, although I really do need to devote more time to mastering my recordings for the net instead of continuing to write. I also continue to design new games even now, so I would say still around 50/50.
Overall were you an Amiga, PC, Mega-Drive or SNES man?
That’s a lot of percent! Which award are you most proud of winning throughout your career as a game developer?
SWOS being put in some hall of fame and named as one of 10 most influential games of all time by Stanford University alongside games like Tetris and Mario…. that will take some beating.
Which player had the best stats in the classic Sensi games?
Hmm tricky one as I didn’t do the data, I always had a thing for Jean Pierre Papin.
Which football team do you support?
Norwich City (who thankfully for all concerned have gone up! – Ed)
Which games console do you have the fondest memories of?
N64 it was the first console I really paid close attention to and I loved the way Nintendo brought 3D to life, Mario 64 was jaw dropping when it first came out.
Who came up with the idea of creating Sensible Train Spotting and did it strike a chord with the trainspotting community?
It was my stupid idea… (I knew it! – Ed) Our office was next to a train station in March, Cambridgeshire at one point… no idea how the real trainspotters felt about it.
We think they gave it mixed reviews… Is it true that Sensible Software was based in a tiny office with very few staff? If so, did this tight-knit environment have any impact on the games you produced?
For the 8-bit era there were originally just two of us; me and Chris Yates (my partner) in his Dad’s house in Chelmsford, Essex. Then three when Martin Galway joined. The office was small then and moved around, (eventually)ending up above a florists. For the 16-bit era there were 6 of us in the office in March, this was the best size, we were an awesome focused team. For 3D games we expanded to 20 and took on a bigger office in Saffron Walden, Essex. By then the size meant communication was weaker and some not so good staff started to dilute the quality of the group.
It is quite clear that Cannon Fodder was made with an anti-war message throughout. How did you feel when some areas of the media accused the game of promoting war?
Well yes by the end of development the anti-war message was strong… I just thought the media were stupid and ignorant to criticise a game they had obviously not played… but the publicity did us no harm in the end.
All the soldiers in Cannon Fodder have individual names – Did you name any soldiers on friends and family or were they all made up?
They started with all the names of the guys in the team Jops (me), Jools (Julian Jameson – lead programmer), Stoo (Stuart Cambridge – lead artist), RJ (Richard Joseph – ace sound man) etc… By the end of the list we were making up a lot of stupid names like Chalky though.
Have you ever had an idea for a game which you believe could have been successful but was never released?
Yes many, many games Console Olympics, Sex n Drugs n Rock n Roll, Have a nice Day, Cannon Fodder 3 (awwwww – Ed), Virtual TV, CCTV, Word Explorer 2… the list goes on and on.
What are your views on the video game industry of today?
Too many games at the bottom end, too few games at the top end, no games at all in the middle… Games are now seen as “content” by the channel providers. They do not see them as art at all and most of the people making games these days also have little creative or technical ambition, they just want to join the party because they think it is cool. Give it 10 years and it may start to change, but Apple and Google are the Lidl and Aldi of the games world and that is very far from my ambition for it.
Which video games/consoles do you play today?
I mostly play on my phone, back to Scrabble again recently although Mana Crusher and Candy Crush have been recent favourites. On console the best games I played recently were Destiny and the Lord of the Rings game whose name escapes me.
Which video game character would you most like to share a few pints with?
Stan from Monkey Island.
You are currently working on a new game called Word Explorer – how would you describe this game to our readers?
A-ha! Word Explorer is already out, I am currently keeping Word Explorer 2 in the wings. The game is out now on iOS or PC via Big Fish. It is about exploring the world and taking over 2,000 photos of cities, animals and landmarks as you travel. You travel by answering word clues which open up into grids across the map like roads enabling you to access new places. It has been the number one word and trivia game in about 30 countries around the World and averages over 4.5 stars from 1,500+ reviews…. and it is FTP so come and get it (sounds great to us! – Ed).