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Academy of Champions: Soccer

Platform(s): Wii
Genre: Sports
Publisher: Ubisoft
Developer: Ubisoft
Release Date: Nov. 3, 2009 (US), Sept. 4, 2009 (EU)

About Rainier

PC gamer, WorthPlaying EIC, globe-trotting couch potato, patriot, '80s headbanger, movie watcher, music lover, foodie and man in black -- squirrel!

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'Academy of Champions' (Wii) Developer Interview

by Rainier on June 8, 2009 @ 5:21 p.m. PDT

Academy of Champions engages players in a rich, story-driven adventure around the world's most popular sport. The journey begins with enrollment at an extraordinary Academy where your coach is the legendary Pelé and U.S. soccer champion Mia Hamm is your team member and mentor.

Q: Who has the honor to speak with us? State your name, rank, and occupation!

I'm Tuomas Pirinen, and I'm the Lead Game Designer for Academy of Champions.

Q: In the story mode, how does competition evolve (league then tournament, or else?)

TP: The story follows the adventures of a boy or girl avatar (you choose which and name your Avatar) through 4 terms of non-stop fun involving frenetic 5v5 gameplay, madcap training drills and a vibrant social life where you interact with all the other students. It’s through these interactions that you will, among other things, recruit players to improve your team.

At the end of each month there is a tournament which you must win to graduate to the following term.

Q: Is there a best scorer table?

TP: We track lots of stats, including goals scored. Sometimes a player won’t join your team unless you’ve met the required number of goals, clean sheets, tackles etc…
The training drills store your high score which you and your friends can attempt to beat later through the mini-game option in the main menu

Q: How long does a game last

15-20 hours will complete the story, however, more hours are required to unlock everything in the game.

Q: Can you choose what team you will be playing for?

TP: In story mode, you are the captain of the Mighty Five, and it is up to you to recruit, pick and power-up the best possible lineup to succeed. Through the quickplay menu you and your friends can select any of the 18 unlockable teams from all over the world, including the rival Scythemore teams.

Q: Can you choose game difficulty

TP: There are Easy, Medium and Hard options available in Quick Play matches

Q: How can you play the storymode in multiplayer? Can we play online multiplayer?

TP: With it’s hilarious plot and dialogue, storymode is fun for a group of friends to be involved in, taking turns with the activities that come thick and fast. Online multiplayer is not something that is very popular on the Wii, so we put all our efforts into making the core gameplay experience as rich as possible.

Q: How do you recruit players?

TP: There are many ways to do this, but generally each player will be looking for you to meet certain requirement before they take the plunge and join your team. For example, some players want you to perform well in certain drills or perform a certain way on the pitch, others will accept plain bribery! You find out what the other player expects through interaction with teammates using the conversation mode which takes players through the storyline.

Q: How can you customize your team? Your avatar?

TP: There are 30 recruitable characters meaning that you have a huge choice of players to fill the remaining 4 spots on your team. Adding to the fun is the fact you can improve each of their abilities through training or equipping them some of the 60 items available from the Academy shop. As well as obviously making him/her a better player, there is a choice of hairstyle and a selection of cool items including headwear and masks.

Q: How do you improve skills?

TP: By performing well in training drills and matches. After each event (there are up to 3 a day) you will be rewarded with both EXP (to boost you and your teammates’ attributes) and tokens (which you can spend at the shop or bartering with other kids).

Q: What is the story of Brightfield? Scythemore?

TP: Brightfield is the most fantastic Football Academy of all. Pele teaches the true values of the game - teamwork, friendship, fair play and respect. Although there are exceptions, the students who come from all over the world, do their very best to play the game using Pele’s values. The Academy is regarded as the best, but in recent years their status has come under threat from an arch-rival institution that teaches their players very different values. VonTrappe is the headmaster of Scythmore Academy and he rules with an iron fist. Their motto is to “win at all costs” and this manifests itself in training and an attitude that rewards aggression and cheating.

Q: Why is there no referee?

TP: Pele doesn’t want one because his students can govern themselves, while VonTrappe doesn’t want one because they would foil his style of play! Seriously though, AoC is about fast action-packed football, and stopping the game for freekicks, offsides and throw-ins would interrupt the fun!

Q: How did Pele and Mia Hamm get involved? How much input did they have on the game?

TP: We are incredibly excited to have our first choice of athletes agree to be involved in AoC. We needed someone to be the Headmaster of the Academy, someone that EVERYONE would agree on –and there really is only one man, and that man is Pele. We contacted his agent, and we were lucky enough to get him come aboard!

As for Mia, we wanted to ensure that there was something in there for soccer fans of all ages, boys and girls – so when it came to selecting someone to represent the female element in the game, again, we chose from a shortlist of one. Mia Hamm is highly regarded as one of the best players of all time, so we are delighted to have her so prominent in the game.

Both Pele and Mia followed the stylization and their roles in the game closely. Pele in particular was very excited about his mentor role, the fact that he is teaching the true values of the sport was very important to him so we were happy to give him the Obi-wan-style role, to the hero’s Skywalker. We also made sure that his most famous quotes appear throughout the story in one form or another. Needless to say he’s also the best player in the game too, so there’s a real incentive to unlock him! Mia appreciates being able to encourage her teammates and playing with the values that have secured her place in as a top player!

Q: I’ve heard there are over-the-top moves in Academy of Champions – Soccer. Where did this ideal come from? How does it work in the game?

TP: During the gameplay you build up a Talent bar by passing, tackling, dribbling etc. Once the bar is full, you can launch the special Talent of each given character by shaking the Wiimote. These can be anything from super-shots to spinning hurricane tackles –over-the-top moves that would not be possible in real life, but fit our universe and the Wii platform perfectly

Q: At its heart, despite the “magical moves” and setting, would you say AoC-S is a true soccer/football game or has it become something different?

TP: It is the best mixture of both. We’ve had even the most ardent Football players say they feel they are playing football, and video game enthusiasts say that they love playing it even though they don’t care about football that much.

Q: Is it true that AoC:F/S uses Wii Motion Plus? How does that impact the gameplay?

TP: Yes, we support Wii Motion Plus. It allows the player to pull off tricky moves such as high passes, dodges and lob shots by simply shifting the Wiimote’s position. Wii Motion Plus gave us the responsiveness and accuracy needed to pull these off!

Q: It looks like this game is about more than just soccer. “Fair play” and “respect” are brought up as key themes in the game. How is this conveyed to the gamer?

TP: The game features an extensive 15-20 hour Story mode that tells of the tension between Pele’s Brightfield academy and their arch-rivals Scythmore Academy run by the dastardly Headmaster von Trappe. We really set the two different football philosophies against each other to see whether teamwork and fair play will win out over physicality, cheating and aggression. While playing, the most tangible way to enjoy this is using teamwork which will fill your talent bar and allow you to perform special moves. Conversations with other players will also stress these values.

Q: Tell me about the equipment in the game. How does it impact gameplay? How much equipment is there? Are there any special hidden items?

TP: There are over 60 items to customize your character. Attainable at the Academy shop, there are different shoes to speed you up, banners that boost the charge speed of your Talent bar, a wallet that allows you to earn extra tokens in a match –and just weird and wacky things like a cowboy hat for your hero to wear! I’d be here all day if I were to list them all. During the Story Mode the player will encounter a character called Shady Kid who sells forbidden bootlegged merchandise and even cheat sheets for the class tests and quizzes that take place during the game. There are some cool unlockable items as well like the Ubisoft characters and Rabbid teams.

Q: Let’s talk about the Mini-Games. How many are there? Can you give us a few examples? What are among your favorite Mini-Games?

TP: There are a dozen mini-games –goalkeeping, dribbling drills, shooting practice, tackle drills and even Freestyle juggling-training. These are used to build up the potential of your characters. The Goalkeeping mini-game is my favorite –basically, you can use the Wiimote and nunchuk to leap left/right/up/down at the incoming shots. You get bonus points if you time additional button presses perfectly to catch the ball rather than just block it.

Q: How does AoC-S take use the Wii balance board?

TP: The game uses the balance board for pulling off Freestyle tricks. You stand on the balance board and by moving around you can pull off tricks in the true Brazilian Freestyle!

Q: Talk a little bit about the multiplayer modes?

TP: We allow players to battle it out head to head on 5-a-side games. A maximum of 2 players can operate in multiplayer and the camera switches to a side-view for easier multiplayer engagement.

A lot of thought has been put into making this game accessible - tell us about the controls and the process that went into creating the control scheme?
It was actually pretty simple. We tested our game by simply giving the controls to people without any instructions whatsoever, and seeing how they reacted. We changed the controls until we were happy.

Q: Can this game really make you a better soccer/football player? Has it made you a better soccer-football player?

TP: I think it can –it certainly encourages passing, aiming and thinking carefully about your line-up! Even better –I think it has made me a better team player –the motto of our game from the beginning was “Friendship brings Victory”. All the features of the game support this motto, and I believe any truly successful sports team needs to follow that maxim.

Q: Can you play as any character (ie. Pele, Mia Hamm, others)?

TP: In AoC you choose to play through the game as a male or female avatar you can name after yourself and once you’ve unlocked Pele and Mia through the Story mode you can put them on your team and play with them as well as a whole host of other fun and zany characters.

Q: How do you obtain these items: Buy, sell, trade?

TP: Some customization items are available straightaway, but most have to be unlocked through Story mode and then purchased at the Academy shop. For example you can change hairstyles straight away, but need to unlock things like facemasks later.

Q: How much of the game is unlocked at the start & how long does it take to unlock new items?

TP: The User has 3 of 19 teams to play with at the start in Quick Play and 1 of 6 mini game categories (each containing several different mini game choices), at the start - unless they have a Wii Balance Board and then it’s 2 of 6. In Story mode they have Term 1 - Day 1 only, because they have to play through – finishing one day unlocks the next one, etc; there is 1 pitch unlocked (the Brightfield pitch) and 6 more to unlock through Story mode.

To unlock, you have to advance through the story and for mini-games, you can unlock most of them within the first 11 days, which is about an hour of playing, approx. For teams, it’s a little longer as you have to win “Roadblock” matches every 5 days of the story to progress. The teams you beat in these matches are the ones you unlock for use in Quick Play..

Q: Is there a list that tells the User how to unlock something?

TP: Yes, the Checklist (which you can access from the main menu) tells you how many characters you’ve yet to unlock (recruit to your team) and how to do it. For example some players will only join your team once you reach a certain goal target. The checklist will tell you this useful info.

The pitches, teams and mini-games that are locked have a “padlock” icon overtop of them, but if you complete the story you will definitely unlock them all.

Q: Where is Wii Motion Plus used in game – all modes?

TP: It is used in any game mode, Story matches, Quick Play matches and in mini-games, but it must first be turned on from the Options menu, as its default per Nintendo instruction, is set to Off.

Q: Difference between multiplayer and single-player mode?

TP: Gameplay in multi-player employs a sideline camera, allowing both User’s to view the same pitch equally; Jostle and Header mini-games are more interactive, with both User’s fighting to fill their meters first.

Q: How many venues (teams, players etc)?

TP: There are 7 pitches, including Brightfield; 19 teams including Mighty 5 and 27 unlockable players that can be added to the Mighty 5.

Q: Can every player perform any special move? How many talent types are there and how are these obtained?

TP: No, each player has a specific move they can do, which is represented by an icon above their heads. There are 12 talents that the User will be able to use during the course of the game. Most (but not all) are unique to certain body-types. For example the “Unstoppable Rush” talent can only be performed by the muscle-bound Gorilla-like players.

The user can unlock and assign talents to his teammates with purchased Talent Stars. There are some player-specific talents, for example Pele and Mia Hamm have their own talents as do the individual Ubisoft characters and the Rabbids.

Academy of Champions is scheduled to be released in 2009.


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