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Jon Hare's Sensible resurrection

"FPS gameplay hasn't evolved substantially for 20 years!"

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Image credit: Eurogamer

Jon Hare comes from a bygone era when videogames weren't bloated multi-million dollar projects that had to tick boxes to ensure they repay an anxious publishers' dollars. Creativity, he would argue, was never better than before 1994. Soon, however, it could be. Take a bow, the App Store.

Hare hopes his Tower Studios can pour old-school design through a modern-day funnel and relive the glory days of Sensible Software. Through a close relationship with Sensible IP holder Codemasters and best friend The Bitmap Brothers, Hare has a wide array of golden oldies he can recreate, although he's equally passionate about introducing a bundle of original game ideas he's been sitting on for years.

After Shoot to Kill, Hare's second iPhone/iPad/iPod Touch venture is Speedball 2: Evolution, due this month. But what about Cannon Fodder, Sensible Soccer, Mega-Lo-Mania? And what are his new games? Eurogamer invited him for a cosy February chat to find out.

Eurogamer I was trying to think of someone in the world of videogames today that represents what you were to the games industry back in those Sensible days. I came up with Cliff Bleszinksi.
Jon Hare

Who's Cliff Bleszinski? No, I don't know who he is.

Eurogamer He works for Epic Games. He's creative director of Gears of War. And he looks a bit like he should be in a boy band. He goes on talk shows.
Jon Hare

Oh does he really? Good for him! I'm glad that they're taking someone on board who's making good quality games and treating him actually as someone who matters.

I've not played Gears of War. All I ever play is Angry Birds and Scrabble on my iPhone. That's it.

Eurogamer When you look at today's videogame industry, what's the biggest problem you see?
Jon Hare

The number one problem is that the industry has forgotten how to seed and generate new games IP. We used to be really, really good at it. The [industry] is awash with unnecessary middle-management, none of whom are interested in new games IP. That's why we've got such a stagnant pool of games.

Making games, from a publishing perspective, should be about educated gambling; you've got to take a risk or you won't get anywhere. All I see at the moment is people not taking risks at all. Doesn't mean you have to lose money; means you have to be smart, reduce your wage bill so you can survive longer. Don't have this huge machine you've got to feed even though half the people you don't really need and the product you're putting out is banal crap people have seen for the last six years. What's the point? Half the products we blatantly don't need.

The appetite isn't strong enough from the consumer. The consumer will buy stuff whatever. I was talking to my friend today; you look at first-person shooters, barring graphical enhancement and the ability to talk to people and work in groups (which is great), we haven't had clear innovation in 20 years! It's like... It's boring. If I look back at the old games I used to make at Sensible - every one was a bloody original game, well 90 per cent of them were. And they were genre-defining in their own way. And no one batted an eyelid.

Suddenly, in 1994, someone decided you couldn't make original games any more - all the genres had been made. That's bullsh**! If I look at the games I made that didn't come out - Sex 'n Drugs n' Rock n' Roll, CCTV, this word game - they're original games. It's really easy to make them. That's not the problem - the problem is getting someone to back you to actually put it out in the market...

This Cliff Bleszinksi - the reason people are interviewing him is no doubt because he's a guy who's made things happen. There are too few people in the industry like it. There's a whole younger generation of people, in general, who don't understand the value of origination as opposed to emulation. It's amazingly creatively dis-empowering to be smothered by sequels.

With iPhone and iPad we now have a chance to make games with relatively low budgets, but not the awfully sh***y low budgets mobile have been working in up 'till now. Speedball [2: Evolution] is a quality game, it's not about a low budget at all.