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A New Star Soccer Story A.K.A. ‘Everything That’s Wrong With Mobile Gaming’

New Star Soccer is a bit like Crack.

It eats up your life and time without ever really giving you anything in return. Something that starts off as a bit of fun, but soon becomes a black hole that leaves you with a void inside. It’s not a new game, but I saw someone playing it and thought I’d have a look.

The game has the typical mobile gaming set up. Energy bars that are never quite enough, financial points that rack up slowly, all designed to get you to spend. Playing it without spending means a constant barrage of negative reminders of how you haven’t pleased your sponsors, or your boss, or your girlfriend. I can sum up the design in one moment. The game says “Your boss wants you to do something, it will lose 25% of your energy to keep him happy.” If you don’t do it, the relationship with your boss goes down, if you do, the boss then complains you don’t have enough energy. This is negative reinforcement gaming, making you choose between 5 different negative outcomes that can only be overcome by spending money.

In the desperate rush to make scoring and levelling systems that drag you towards paying money, game developers are just throwing gameplay and fun away. Some developers make the free to play mechanic work (CSR Racing for one), but the principle will always be flawed because to make money they have to focus the game towards restricting your progress.

New Star Soccer is a typical example of a free to play game, except it isn’t even free to play if you want the main career mode. Personally, I far far prefer the idea of paying a one-off cost for a fuller game experience. However in this case, you are paying to simply open up a rabid dog of payment that will try to bite you every time you touch it. 69p isn’t much, but there are far better uses for it.New Star Soccer Screenshot

It’s not even that much fun to play. The elements of football that are recreated are done using Sensible Soccer style visuals and a system where your teammates only shoot and don’t react in a realistic way at all. You can almost feel the mechanics of the game grinding slowly and rustily underneath the experience. The two or three little gags within certain parts of the game do not make up for it at all, though the interview responses are good. If the game wasn’t so focused on getting you to pay, I believe it could have been so much better.

You may have gathered that I don’t particularly like New Star Soccer. Yet I still spent a long time playing it, largely because it contains the same strategically designed numbers and goal reward system that free to play developers have been honing down these past few years. By the time you find out that the experience is no fun, you are hooked into wanting to level up and pass a goal or two.

It saddens me that gaming is coming down to this, logic systems designed simply to hook us into parting with money. Development that puts the actual gaming experience to the back, and makes having fun purely coincidental if a factor at all.

So let’s sum up. 69p of New Star Soccer equals a bit of frustration, some levelling up of numbers and a pervading sense of questioning whether bothering to play it is actually fun in any way shape or form. In other words, Zynga Syndrome.

When people say that mobile gaming will bring the end of consoles, it’s games like this that make me hope with all my heart that it doesn’t. These games are a shambolic impersonation of gaming. When someone stops you on the street and asks you if you’d like to try New Star Soccer, just say no.

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Rob is an advertising strategist and author of 'The Ad Pit' blog. Rob has been playing games for 25 years - which makes him feel very old. He used to have a victory ratio of 40:1 in Super Puzzle Fighter II Turbo, but that was a long time ago! #dogyears

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  1. it still amazes me that sites like Eurogamer rated this turd so highly. It must be because it has a resemblance to Sensible Soccer, but I found it just took all the crap of football- the training, the celeb stuff, removed the fun managerial stuff and left in the tiniest sliver of actual gameplay. Hey, its got in-jokes and 2D graphics, it MUST be good!

    • @Simon Burns If this was a game that you bought once and had no add-ons, we would say it was terribly broken. Yet because you can pay for add-ons, people seem to think: Broken Mechanic + Ability to Pay More = Ok.
      It is NOT ok.

      • @RobMortimerVA  @Simon Burns Totally agree!

      • @RobMortimerVA The developer’s take on the article:

  2. Sensible Soccer wasn’t (shock!) all that anyway. Rose tinted glasses. Same for Kick Off. They were good for their time but haven’t aged well.
    After an initial splurge with my first iPod touch, I can’t bring myself to even play mobile games. Must be getting old.

    • @Luke Martin VA Never liked Kick Off, but Sensible World of Soccer is the purest football game ever. I have FIFA 13 and Pro Evo but Sensi still beats them all ends up, and still gets game time from me to this day

    • @Luke Martin VA I dunno, the sheer speed and fast fun of Sensible Soccer has yet to be surpassed by any other game. Sure we have better football games now, but that arcade ‘zipping’ sensation is no longer a part of them.
      Some mobile games are great (usually ones you pay upfront for), but CSR Racing is about the only initially free mobile game that I’ve wanted to play to the end.

      • @RobMortimerVA Fair shout. Perhaps it’s just me that hasn’t aged well! I’m not really a footballing man to be fair but I do prefer the measured pace of FIFA to the insanity of football games of old like Sensi!

  3. I agree with the general view about in app purchases but using this game as an example is incredibly harsh. You can play the entire game to it’s fullest extent without spending a penny more than the original 69p you stumped up for the career mode, the IAPs lingering in the background are irritating I agree (I wish there was an option in these games to hide them, I have no intention of ever paying for them so they are nothing but a distraction), however I find the complaint about energy levels to be completely false, the worst case scenario is that your energy runs out and you are subbed (this has happened to me once in 3 seasons), it’s hardly game breaking. The option of IAPs to make the game easier are what is making you feel this way, the game isn’t difficult or unfair.

    • I think you are right that there are far worse games out there that force IAP’s down your throat, but I think he singled this one out because it essentially hides the constant grinding behind an attractive looking game, if you see what I mean, and it has been singled out, in a positive way, by many other outlets for praise.

    • In this game it’s not how the in-app purchases are presented, but the overbearing sense that no matter how well you do there is never enough energy to do the game, and the lifestyle bars/sponsorship etc.
      I put many hours into it, and no matter how well I did I was constantly being hit by messages that said I hadn’t kept this bar or that bar high enough, which was impossible on the energy you have.
      It’s an opinion. The game has good points, but for me they are hidden by this issue. I’ve played and enjoyed a huge range of games, and even after a lot of time it still felt broken to me.

    • Perhaps, but the constant reminder of IAPs is like a smarmy sales assistant constantly looking over your shoulder, period.

  4. OBD-II stands for on-board diagnostics and they are standard on all vehicles manufactured today. In the late 1970s, auto manufacturers began using electronics or computers to monitor and control powertrain functions. This was done as a way to control emissions on new cars to comply with government standards.

  5. Actually I find NSS very rewarding and a pretty decent game. Not much to it and beyond the original payment there is really no need to pay any more money if you are at all decent at the game. I find I always have spare cash and it is easy to play. I think what rob had played an older version than me and he might find that staying in the lower leagues and working your way up rather than going to the top league ASAP means he can enjoy the game and keep the relationships high. Either way I recommend this game.

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