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Exclusive Interzone Futebol Interview - Bringing Soccer to MMOGs

Posted Tue, Jul 08, 2008 by Cody Bye

Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor

Answers by Jeff Lyndon, Vice President of China Operations, Interzone Entertainment

When most gamers think about massively multiplayer online games, a number of examples probably come to mind. However, most of the individual titles on the gamer’s list probably doesn’t include a sports-based MMOG. While sports MMOGs have been discussed for a number of years, few titles have really made an impact on the global marketplace. But that may all change in the near future.

A new development company known as Interzone has unveiled its first product, which happens to be a soccer MMOG. Dubbed Interzone Futebol, the company is actually hoping to release their introductory game in Brazil first, with subsequent releases in the other major world territories. To many it sounds like a risky venture, but one that just may pay off. Ten Ton Hammer’s Cody “Micajah” Bye had a recent chat with Jeff Lyndon about the upcoming soccer-based MMOG and the future of the company known as Interzone.


Ten Ton Hammer: To start, can you give the Ten Ton Hammer readers a brief summary of what Interzone Futebol is all about? Why go with a sports game as the company’s first MMOG?

Jeff Lyndon: Imagine living in a world where soccer is everything. This is what Interzone Futebol is about.

The initial idea came from our president, Marty Brickey, when he was flying his plane over Chicago. Soccer, or Futebol as it is called in Brazil, is the most popular sport on the planet and yet no one has created a true multiplayer online version of it. We talked about for awhile and we understood that there were a lot technical and design obstacles that we would have to overcome but we realized the end product would be something very cool and fun to play.

Ten Ton Hammer: Opting to introduce Interzone Futebol in Brazil first is a tremendously different approach compared to the tact most MMOG companies take. Why did you decide to enter the Brazilian market first rather than Europe or North America? What sort of opportunities do you see there that aren’t available in those other markets?

An exclusive screenshot from Interzone Futebol.

Lyndon: When we decided to create the game we thought a lot about the people who would play it. We talked about futebol fans and places in the world where futebol was most popular. This all lead naturally to Brazil where “Futebol is Life.”  We even went down to Rio and Sao Paulo to experience that culture first hand.  It’s an amazing place and their appreciation and enthusiasm for the sport is not only unmatched, it’s infectious.  Going to a World Cup game in Brazil is something everybody should do at least once in their life. It’s just… wow!
    
Ten Ton Hammer: Do the developers at Interzone have experience creating MMOGs at other companies? Where did the staff work previously to joining Interzone?

Lyndon: We have put together a great team overflowing with experienced and talented people not just in design but in all departments of the company. Joseph Hewitt, our Lead Designer, worked on the original Command & Conquer, Earth & Beyond, and just recently completed Fury.  Scott Gall, our Localization Manager, was involved with Final Fantasy XI and Dragon Quest Monsters Joker.  Our QA Manager, Richard Maxwell, worked on Heavenly Sword and I personally worked on Shadowbane.

Ten Ton Hammer: As a gamer, how should we compare Interzone Futebol to other MMOGs that are on the market? Does it play like a sports game, a sports-based MMORPG, or somewhere in the middle?

Lyndon: The benefit of games like this is that you can be somebody you’re not. In that sense it is like other online games.  You can be a Professional Futebol player in Interzone Futebol, just like in other games you can be an axe-wielding dwarf or a Princess of Mars. Some people might even argue that all online multiplayer games are a sport. It is the skill and determination of you and your team in Team Fortress as much as it is in futebol and any other “traditional” sport.

What we do have is a true Futebol experience. Interzone Futebol is the real thing done right. The designers have taken special care to identify exactly what makes the game fun and to not compromise that fun. They have made sure the game doesn’t turn into “kiddy soccer” with every player clustered around the ball and they haven’t let it become something with players having outrageous powers. The abilities, moves, and techniques your character performs are real futebol moves and you are playing real futebol.

Ten Ton Hammer: What sort of character creation and advancement function do you have in Interzone Futebol? Do players “level up” by scoring goals or defending shots in the game? How does the game track these advancements?

Lyndon: You do earn experience which you can use to unlock new abilities and techniques, but we don’t really use “levels” because they feel so artificial.  Instead, your character has a proficiency in each position on the pitch (that’s the playing field).  Progression is really just you specializing your character and giving you more strategic options and elements to use on pitch.  You can also earn achievements and even get rewards from catching the attention of sponsors.

Ten Ton Hammer: The press release for Interzone Futebol also discusses a social element being included within the game. How will players socialize with others players outside of competition? Will they be able to explore virtual cities and party at virtual clubs?

Lyndon: Our current social space, which we will be expanding in the future, is a little idolized section of Rio, specifically the neighborhood of Ipanema. We want players to have lots of cool things to do in the social area even if players don’t ever go into the futebol stadium.  In the beginning we are keeping it simple and focusing the futebol game. We have seen too many online games fail because they over-reached too soon and instead of doing their core thing very well they did several things poorly.  That being said we are sticking in a number of fun activities to keep you occupied in Ipanema at launch with many more things to follow. Eventually it will be a whole virtual environment.

The Interzone Futebol Logo

Ten Ton Hammer: How much of Interzone Futebol’s gameplay will depend on the skill of the player? Will gamers who are already skilled at sports games excel in Interzone Futebol? Or will it be a completely different sort of experience?

Lyndon: The skill and knowledge of the player are the key elements. We want to make sure that everybody is competitive from the first day they start playing. In your first game you should have fun with just as much of a chance at winning as everybody else playing. We don’t want progression to be nothing but a power curve like it is in a lot of other games. When that happens, the main thrust of the game becomes just about grinding to higher levels and that isn’t fun.  In Interzone Futebol you will get better and your character will become more specialized with only a shallow power difference between a new and veteran player.

Interzone Futebol is real futebol. It is an accurate representation of actual play where you can expect the same elements of play to be important. In real futebol, passing always beats people swarming for the ball and the same goes in our game.  So somebody who is already familiar with how futebol is played on a high level may have some strategic advantage like knowing how to set-up and use the offside trap.

Ten Ton Hammer: By including a social element into Interzone Futebol, you’re obviously encouraging the players in the game to learn about each other and get to know other players. Once that’s accomplished, will players be able to create their own futebol teams? Can the teams level up along with the players?

Lyndon: Yes, once that is accomplished we will have player run teams and clubs that will compete against each other in leagues and positions on the leader boards.  We also want to implement a fan-based system where those clubs and their fans can have a mutually beneficial relationship with each other. The goal is to give players the full experience of being a professional futebol player both in and out of the stadium.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will the game be free to play or subscription based? Microtransactions are mentioned in the press release; will players also be able to buy virtual in-game items?

Lyndon: The game will be free to play with some in-game items and other things available on the web store.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you’d like to tell the Ten Ton Hammer readers and fans of Interzone Futebol?

Lyndon: That is all we can say for now but we’ll definitely have some more news for you soon.  Players can visit www.interzonefutebol.com for more information.
Thanks for the interview Cody. Stay tuned on Ten Ton Hammer!

GOOOOAAL!

Game first in Portuguese, language of millions of Brazilian soccer players and fans.

Official Announcements
Mon, Jun 09, 2008
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Questions by Cody “Micajah” Bye, Managing Editor
Features, Interviews
Tue, Jul 08, 2008
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