RVG Interviews - Dino Dini.
Well its here guys, RVG interviewing Dino Dini.
I am a massive fan of this guy and his games, yes our American friends may not be to clued up on this guy but he is a living legend and i am so chuffed to have bagged this one. Dino is "widely regarded as the godfather of the soccer game genre", having created such influential titles as Kick Off (1989), Player Manager (1990), Dino Dini's Goal (1993), and Dino Dini's Football (1994).
Read on and enjoy
Tell us a little about you and how you got into creating games?
I started with electronics when I was about 5; my father is a doctor of engineering and so my interest in technology came from that. Home computers came about in my early teens and this was a natural progression. Visiting an amusement arcade once inspired me to think about how to make games; I am pretty sure I was trying to figure out raster graphics when I was 11 at school instead of paying attention in class.
What influenced you when creating Kick Off or Goal?
My football games were not influenced by anything other than video games of the day (8 bit games on the BBC micro mainly and not sports games) and watching international football once every four years.
How does it feel to be held in such high regard by so many from a classic era of gaming? and refered to as' The Godfather Of The Soccer Game'? and did you have any idea of just how big a name you were becoming back during the Kick Off era?.Also were you aware that UK magazine, Zero, refered to Kick Off as 'The game that made Anco'?
I believed in myself and what I was doing; for me that is the most important part of success, but I had no idea it would turn out the way it did. ANCO were a small company and not in such good shape; just before Kick Off was released they had resorted to strip poker games. Fortunately for Anil Gupta, I turned up at just the right time.
If i understand correctly, you now teach Programming, Physics, Mathmatics, A.I etc. What advice would you give for say someone looking to start out in the gaming industry in todays market, where sadly A.I seems to be a very low priority as marketing cannot really sell a game based on decent A.I.
AI (perhaps better described as behaviour programming) is the heart of every game: it is the heart of interaction, of gameplay. It is also difficult. In the AAA space, it has been traditional for AI to be marginalised, because the journey has been towards ever higher production values instead. You can see this in some modern games which, as magnificent as they can be, suffer from pretty poor AI (by my standards). It's a bit like an impressive block-buster movie full of incredible special effects, but with a poor plot. It does not necessarily make the end product worthless; but it is not what I would like to see in games. Imagine a game where millions were spent on refining the interactive gameplay, instead of on never ending streams of art assets? Still I dream.
What sort of pressure were you under to produce the next big thing, in Kick Off, after each instalment became so widely popular and did it please or frustrate you, that the public wanted more Kick off? Was there ever a secret game you always wanted to make, but felt you hands were tied somewhat, as you were too busy with Kick Off?
It is a shame that I could not use the success of Kick Off to enable me to make the games that I always wanted to make. In part this was due to stupid decisions I made in my early twenties, both business and personal. I am hoping I still have time to realise some of those dreams.
Kick Off has been described as "The game that pioneered 'pinball' football", due to it's blistering speed of play, i'd assume the power of the 16 Bit machines (ST/Amiga) made this possible, but was speed a key factor you wanted in the game from the very beginnings of the design process?
I have always favored games that make your heart race. I simply tuned the game to be exciting; real football is actually quite boring for long periods of time (sometimes an entire 90 minutes!). One of the things you can do with interpretive media such as games is extract the excitement and 'bottle it'. This is, for me, much more important that realism.
Also, tell us about the decision to not include the 'sticky ball' mechanics to the game, that every other footy game seemed to use, instead you went the real physics route and ball was'nt glued to your feet. This combined with the games speed made for a very unforgiving game at 1st, but was your aim to give footy fans a game with real depth, that rewarded them over time?.
This is what I call "going to the source". If you want to bottle football, then you have to start with the foot and the ball behaving like feet and balls. Yes, this creates a challenge, but without that you don't have football... you have something else. Speedball is an example of a great game that uses a different mechanic (I enjoyed that game a lot), but no one would consider that a football game.
Kick Off seemed very much a 'no frills' game, ie you did'nt seem to waste resources on flashy presentation, instead poured everything into making the game play the way you wanted. Was there ever any pressure to 'tart it up' a bit on the presentation side as to make it more attractive for marketing dept?.
There was a very small budget! That's the only reason for that.
What did you think of the 8-bit versions of Kick Off? The Atari 8-bit version for example was very different to the one found on the ST and Amiga?
Many versions of Kick Off were done outside of my control, in some cases with my source code used without permission. I never even looked at these versions. The only true versions were ST, Amiga and the Megadrive, as well as the PC conversion of GOAL! by Chris Sawyer. Everything else I do not trust as being a faithful reproduction of my designs.
What are you thoughts on the console version Super Kick Off? It reviewed very well but seems to have a very poor reputation among retro gamers in the present day.
Super Kick Off was made using the original source code by Imagineer in Japan. However, I did not have control of this either.
Kick Off 3 was widely criticised when it can out and received poor reviews all round, mainly for playing nothing like the other games. Did its release annoy you?
Kick Off 3 was a disaster, but since I could not take the Kick Off name with me when ANCO made it impossible for me to continue working for them, there was nothing I could do. It hurt.
At one point Kick Off was announced for the Atari Lynx handheld, do you know anything more about this version?
No, again ANCO did all kinds of deals that I had no knowledge of.
Anco released Tip Off in an attempt to conquer another sport (basketball) but it didn't have the same impact, what are your thoughts on this game?
I had nothing to do with Tip Off, which was created by Steve Screech (who also did Kick Off 3)
Do you personally feel Kick Off should have been attempted on formats like the GB and C64? As you seemed to design the game with the power of the 16 Bits in mind and if you were given task of porting Kick Off to an 8 Bit machine, how would you approach it?.
I feel I would have successfully interpreted the game design. Perhaps if I had found a way of switching from being a programmer to being a director in those early days, it would have been possible to bring the true experience to all platforms. I will never know. Instead I continued designing and programming alone.
Kick Off 3 was listed in various publications as coming to the Atari Jaguar, what would you have done if Atari had appproached you and said they wanted an exclusive Kick off game for the format? i'd assume the raw power of the hardware would have been ideal for the physics side alone.
I would have probably said yes. But, alas, that kind of deal become difficult when I got separated from the brand.
Were you directly or indirectly involved with any of the console versions? They seemed a mixed bag, with lot of the press loving the Master System and Game Gear versions, saying they'd been handled by someone who knew Kick Off, yet they slamned the various Nintendo Kick Off's, with the GB version being described as having terrible gameplay, graphics being far too small, especially for when screen scrolled and the NES version being described as 'even worse' and SNES version as 'crap' by Zero magazine.
Only the Megadrive version was done by me. Various other companies / people did other versions. In the case of Dino Dini's Soccer on SNES, that my name is on that game is to my eternal shame. I was originally supposed to do the conversion myself, but I knew I could not do it and the Megadrive version in time. Eurocom were given the task and they did not, in my opinion, respect my design at all.
Did poor reviews of the console and 8 Bit micro versions 'bother you' personally?.
I did not pay them any attention; I found it annoying, but what could I do? It was only Dino Dini's Soccer on SNES, with my name on it, that caused me real harm I feel.
Were you taken aback somewhat by just how well the Kick off games were received by the press? Looking at an old Anco advert , chock full of praise here from the likes of ST Action, The One, ACE (score 920), New Computer Express, C.U (94%), ST Format (93%), Amiga Format (93%) and Zzap (92%) all those just for Player Manager it seems, with Kick Off 2 getting even better! ST Action "Best game to ever grace the ST", Amiga User Int 97%, The One 96%, C+VG 95% etc etc.
Yes it was a surprise. It was nice too. What I am proud of is that I beat of big companies with big budgets by simple making a game that played very well and was fun. For me, that's the heart of game development.
Tip Off, seemed to do well enough at review (Amiga 90% in Zero for example) but guess it did'nt fare too well at retail in UK, what would you put this down too, lack of interest in the sport by UK gamers? poor marketing? mixture of both?.
I had nothing to do with Tip Off, so I can't really comment.
Another thing the Kick Off games were 'famous' for were the bugs!. What was done to try and remove as many as possible before release and were you aware some publications started to lower scores on your later games because of them? (case in point, Player Manager on ST, reviewed by Zero, score 79% 'Playable but seriousily flawed....too much crashing...hassle factor 4....more bugs than Baldricks mattress...during 6 hr play game crashed 3 times...locked up twice..etc'
There was a bit a problem because there was no test department. It was just me, and later Steve acted as tester giving me bugs to fix. It is possible that the first version of PM had some bugs that were later patched. There is also the matter of copy protection, which I implemented in such a way that rather than failing every time it would make things unreliable and sometimes the copy protection on disk might have trouble too. I can't say that's the reason for that review, but I will say this, that in order to tune the game I had to run it over and over and over again. It is unlikely that the game was released such that it would crash every two hours, because I used to test it continuously for longer periods than that. But who knows? I did my best with no budget.
Huge thanks to all that took part in this and again thank you Dino for taking the time to chat to us.
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