The Sensible Software co-founder gets the rapid-fire question treatment

FAQ: Jon Hare

[This feature was published in the April edition of Develop magazine, which is available through your browser and on iPad.]

Who are you and what do you do?
My name is Jon Hare. I was co-founder and owner of Sensible Software, and for many years have been a games design and business consultant within the game industry.

What are you working on right now?
I am working on two games right now with my development colleagues at Vivid Games. The first game is an update to our successful release of an all-time classic Speedball 2 Evolution.

The second title is my first properly original game for 17 years and I am very excited about it. It is called Word Explorer and is a gigantic word game in which you explore the world, taking thousands of beautiful photos.

What was the first video game or product that you ever worked on in the industry?
The game was called Sodov the Sorceror. It was a conversion onto Commodore 64 of an old game called Gandalf; I drew some sprites.

What was the first video game you ever played, and did you enjoy it?
Back in 1976, when I was about ten, I remember a school fete where a version of Pong was playing in one of the classrooms. I had a go and quite liked it, although there was no prize like the hoopla and stuff, so it didn’t grip me for too long.

What was the most recent video game you ever played, and did you enjoy it?
I was playing Flow Free about an hour ago on my iPhone. I like the game and find it very relaxing, although sometimes the ads annoy me.

What is your favourite game ever, and for what reason?
What a hard choice. I think my favourite ever game was probably Heroes of Might and Magic 3 on the PC. In general, I prefer turn-based games against AI or fast human competitors, where I have time to think. I love the subject matter. Skyrim and World of Warcraft are also both favourites of mine. More than anything, the level design is almost perfect and the game mechanics are easy to use and brilliantly balanced.

How many hours a week do you spend playing video games?
I think about three hours on average.

What area of the industry do you feel needs more ‘investment’?
In my opinion, we need more investment in old-style publishing models to open up mid-price gaming again. Currently, we are stuck between the closed shop of triple-A games that cost £39.99 and free-to-play games, which are made to appeal to everybody in the hope that the dumbest or most impulsive five per cent will actually pay for them.

What do you enjoy about the video games industry today?
I enjoy the fact that we are becoming acknowledged more by the media at large as something serious and here to stay.

What disappoints you about the video games industry today?
The inadvertent sabotage of the art form of making games by hardware companies, service companies, accountants, financiers and other middlemen trying to extract their slice with no care for the evolution of the products on offer.

We have been cornered into making increasingly dumbed down, free games. However you argue that, a zero price point fundamentally devalues the art of game making, and also creates a big restriction on the type of games you can create which are commercially viable.

Meanwhile, well over 80 per cent of developers making original games will earn next to nothing for their efforts and either go out of business or make shovelware for the rest of their lives.

Of all the games you have worked on, which has been your favourite to work on?
My favourite game to make was Sex ‘n’ Drugs ‘n’ Rock ‘n’ Roll, but of course it never came out. I would also name Mega Lo Mania, Sensible Soccer and Wizkid as my favourites to make.

What game that you were not involved with would you most liked to have worked on?
World of Warcraft. It was truly ground-breaking and brilliant.

What other video games developer do you most admire?
Shigeru Miyamoto. He is by a country mile the best game designer the world has ever seen. I think there are quite a few people around the world, myself included, a level down from him, but he is up there on his own, as are Nintendo.

To read our growing collection of FAQ articles, visit our archive.

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