Small Ball: Can Football Heroes out-Tecmo Tecmo Bowl?

Do you still daydream about Bo Jackson running circles around virtual defenders and Lawrence Taylor blocking cyber kick after cyber kick? Are you the type of person who sees a dunk and has the undeniable urge to shout boom-shackalacka?

Then you’re just the type of gamer Football Heroes is targeting, as the designers hope to bring sports fans back to the old school with a game simple to control, but addictive down to the last punch.

“We wanted to bring people back to the glory days of gaming,” says Michael Marzola, Creative Director and President of Run Games, the design team behind Football Heroes. “We wanted to capture that feeling you had as a little kid, playing games until the early morning, eating chips and Mountain Dew, while playing with your best friends. That was the inspiration for the game. That multi-player, head-to-head, classic sports game.

“The game is very influenced by Tecmo Bowl. People just aren’t making experiences like this anymore.”

Inside Mobile Apps: Why do you feel there’s a market for a classic, arcade-style football game on mobile?

Michael Marzola: When you look at John Madden, and you see how complex it is, and how many buttons you need to remember, yeah it’s a great game, but it’s very layered and you need to know a certain level of football strategy to really get a lot out of the game. So we wanted to strip all of those layers away. What was great about Tecmo Bowl was, it was a two-button game. Even if you didn’t know football, you could just kind of hit buttons and make it work. We try to have that same spirit live on in Football Heroes.

IMA: On top of the simple controls, you added some RPG elements to Football Heroes in order to help gamers build up their teams. What made you head that direction with the game’s design?

MM: The big thing for us is, we play WoW (World of Warcraft), we play different RPGs. And then even when Tecmo brought back Tecmo Bowl, I didn’t think the controls were very good, and I think even if you enjoyed the game on your mobile device, there was something lacking there. The game lacked that stickiness, it lacked that reason to come back. The big thing for us is, every time a player plays our game, we want them to feel like their time is valuable. “Hey, I got some coins,” or “Hey, I got some XP!” To us, our leveling system is a really big part of this because you feel like even if you lose the game, your guys are more powered up now because you were able to level up a little bit. You have ownership of your team, so it was important for us to add something that keeps you coming back. It’s way more fun, and you’re way more invested in continuing with your team when they progress forward with you.

IMA: Football Heroes also features some pretty cool moves where you can actually punch opponents. Why did those get added into the game?

MM: It goes back to Tecmo Bowl and how back in the day, when you were locked in a rumble with another player, people used to jam on the A button. You’d jam on that button, and Tecmo has never even come out and said if that did anything or if jamming on that button makes your chances of winning the rumble more successful, but every person I’ve ever played Tecmo Bowl with always jammed on that button. So that kind of twitch-feel, that arcade spirit is what we wanted to bring forward in Football Heroes. We were doing some prototyping, and we added a tap-tap thing anytime people got locked-up in our game, so when you tapped the button, you could punch your way out of it. But then we were like, that’s cool and all, but what if you could do that all the time? What if you didn’t need to be locked in a rumble before you started throwing punches? So we prototyped that really quick and made it where you could punch all the time, and as soon as we play-tested with people, it was amazing to see the smiles and the laughs that would come out of it. It’s just ridiculous to see these big-headed football guys punching each other.