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.
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.
The following two tabs change content below.
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