Article by Safwat "Helium02"
When browsing through the shelves in your favorite computer store tennis games will usually not be in the more popular sections. This is a sad fact for tennis fans, seeing as how sports like basketball and soccer have multiple releases every year. But for those of you who have been missing a solid tennis challenge comes Fila World Tour from Hokus Pokus Games, to be published by THQ. It definitely looks promising, so if you want to find out what it’s about then you can read what SÃÂ¸ren Lund had to say.
First of all, please, would you introduce yourself and the company you work for?
My name is SÃÂ¸ren Lund and I’m the Managing Director of Hokus Pokus Games, basically I work as an internal producer for all our projects with a bit of mandatory paperwork thrown in for good measure (*sigh*). Hokus Pokus is a relatively young company with only three titles developed so far (including Fila World Tour Tennis) and a fourth in progress, but our team all consist of experienced developers who have worked for other companies before.
When we talk about tennis pc games, what is the most important element that must be in a game to attract sport gamers?
I would say respect and understanding of the sport. If the developers haven’t learned all the elements, facets and rules of the sport they want to portray it will be instantly obvious to the fan of the sport. Secondly, but not less important, is a proper way to control the flow of the game. Even if you had the best looking and smoothest running sports game in the world it wouldn’t help if the way you controlled it did not “connect” to the sport so you could get a proper feel of how your athlete moved and behaved.
What's unique about Fila, why will it succeed and why should I invest my money on it?
Fila World Tour Tennis is unique because it is fast and action filled. It’s the fastest tennis game I’ve seen on any platform and it makes it really fun. Other tennis games have a slower pace trying to match the real world speed of the ball, the result is a slower gameplay because the camera is placed so you can view the whole field and have ample time to read the ball and place your player.
In Fila World Tour Tennis the ball is moving really fast making the game play a lot more on reactions and understanding of how to place yourself in relation to the ball to achieve the shot you want to perform.
We also have 24 courts to play on where 6 courts are placed in unique locations around the world. In reality a court at the Eiffel Tower will play exactly as a court in a non-descript Tennis facility but it’s still nice to have a view to a famous landmark.
How are you going to control the player and handle the shoot, how many buttons will you use and what will you be able to perform? How long will it take to get accustomed to controls and how long to be a perfect player?
The player can be controlled using the keyboard or a gamepad. We use a directional controller and 6 buttons but the game could be played using one button only (although I’d not recommend it).
Luckily tennis is one of the most intuitive sports to play on a computer. Almost all players understand the concept of intercepting a ball before it passes you. Easy to learn controls with mostly left / right motion and one button to perform a stroke will also make it easy to enter the game instantly.
If you want to master the game you will have to spend quite a bit of time to learn to read the ball properly to gauge distance and height so you can position your player at the right spot at the right time as well as learning how to use any of the four different strokes (ordinary stroke, lob, topspin and backspin) as well as curving the ball sideways.
All in all I would say you could enter the game and enjoy immediately but you’ll get maximum enjoyment once you’ve played the challenge mode through and learned how all the elements of the game interact with each other.
Is there going to be an on-line gaming option?
We had online in the original design, but as Microsoft didn’t have a clear online strategy at the time development commenced it was decided together with our producer at THQ to develop the game without online features. It wasn’t a feature we could add to the PC game at the end of development. It’s something we would love to focus if we do a sequel.
What have you (as a developer) focused on more, custom single player game or on-line / multiplayer gaming?
Tennis is in its nature is a multi-player game. There are always two opponents or four if you play a double match. We concentrated first and foremost to get the controls right so moving your player and performing strokes would come natural to the player. This actually meant a lot of controller tweaking, animation retouching and ball physics adjustment but eventually we ended up with, in our humble opinion, a very playable system.
Once this task was completed we basically had our multi-player game. Now came the next tricky part of producing a believable and intelligent AI for computer players. This task was maybe even bigger as player stats and behavior were so interlinked that a change in the one would mean some changes in the other and as I would imagine every developer would know AI is in area that could be tweaked and adjusted from now on until eternity.
Is the game going to be a tennis simulator or arcade tennis with an aim similar to Virtua Tennis?
Our priority lies in a fun and exciting gameplay so I would say that our game is more arcade tennis than a tennis simulation.
We don’t have options to tweak rackets or tamper with shoes for maximum performance but in the Challenge game mode we do have the option for the player to buy new rackets which improve player stats, to train the player in various skills and basically decide for themselves which tournaments and events to participate in to advance in the World Rankings. It’s sort of like a small Tennis RPG or mini-simulator within the arcade game if you like.
How did you come with the idea of tennis for PC, and how will it differ from Fila’s console versions?
A PC version of Fila World Tour Tennis was pretty obvious as firstly there are no up to date tennis games on PC (and there must be a need as a lot of people actually enjoy playing tennis games) and the code base for the Xbox and PC versions are the same so the leap from Xbox to PC wasn’t that big.
There really is no difference between the Xbox and PC versions.
Are you going to include multiple options for tournaments, will you be able to win Wimbledon and most famous tournaments? Will there be a career mode? Are the characters and players going to be taken from real life?
There are three game modes to play in Fila World Tour Tennis. Arcade, Quick Game and Challenge.
The Arcade game lets the player choose between four different tournaments with increasing difficulty. Each Arcade tournament has five rounds each on a unique court.
The Quick Game lets the player play singles or doubles with up to four players in a single match or tournament on any court and surface of preference. Some courts will only be accessible if you have completed the court in the arcade game mode.
The Challenge mode lets one player try to reach the number one position in the World Rankings. You start out with a weak player and a small budget and have to struggle your way to better stats and more money to participate in bigger and bigger tournaments.
We considered using some of the FILA players but the time involved in approvals would have held the game up. Playing as Andre Agassi will not make the game play any better than playing as John Doe. It is also really exciting to develop your own talent to a high professional level. And playing on the Wimbledon court will not make the ball bounce any differently than on our grass court in front of Big Ben in London. This is something we may look to do next time.
When is it going to hit North American and European market, will there be any differences for these two markets?
The European game should hit stores around September, America is tbc at the moment.
Closing, anything else you would like to say about this game?
Just that I hope people like what we have created and that they will have as much fun playing it as we do. Have fun.