Matchpoint – Tennis Championships – Game Designer Question & Answer

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If you haven’t already heard, there’s a new tennis game releasing this year: Matchpoint – Tennis Championships! It’s been over a decade since we last saw the likes of Smash Court Tennis, Virtua Tennis and the excellent Top Spin and developers Torus games based in Victoria are hoping to fill a huge gap in the market in creating a great tennis game, something the recent AO Tennis and Tennis World Tour games haven’t succeeded at.

To give a brief overview of what to expect with the game, there’s a deep career mode featuring a unique merit-based ranking system, a character creator which allows you to customize your player’s playstyle and looks through outfits and racquets with real-life sponsors such as Babolat, YONEX and HEAD, training modes- and what will interest most people, 16 professional real-life tennis players. These include world #1 and current US Open champion Daniil Medvedev, Top 10 player Andrey Rublev who recently just won the ATP 500 title in Dubai, and the upcoming sensation Carlos Alcaraz on the men’s side to Spaniard Garbine Muguruza, former world #1 Victoria Azarenka, and Brit Heather Watson on the women’s.

Keen to know more about the game and why Torus Games were optimistic this could very well be the new ‘Top Spin’ and best tennis game in over a decade, I was able to interview David McIntosh, game designer at Torus Games.

Question: Torus Games has never made a tennis game before, could you give us a brief background about the studio and why tennis?

Answer: Torus has released titles on every popular platform since the original Game Boy and our games include sports, racing, first person shooters, children’s entertainment, platformers and more recently research and educational titles. More specifically, we developed the sports games NBA Jam, College Slam and the Backyard Football games for handheld.

Q: I think many will agree that since Top Spin 4 back in 2011, no tennis game has even come remotely close to reaching those heights. Is there a game you’ve taken inspiration from and perhaps even tried to replicate in Matchpoint – Tennis Championships?

A: There’s always going to be room for more tennis games in the world. As one of the most popular participation sports in the world, tennis is enjoyed by millions, with new players picking up a racket every day.

It’s been over a decade since the last Top Spin game and it remains a monolith in the space with good reason. It was a wonderful series. For Matchpoint, of course we looked at Top Spin and Tennis Elbow for inspiration, but we didn’t want to simply recreate them. We wanted to make our own tennis game that looks at the sport differently. With so many ways to develop a tennis videogame, I believe we’ve only begun to explore the gameplay possibilities.

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“For Matchpoint, of course we looked at Top Spin and Tennis Elbow for inspiration, but we didn’t want to simply recreate them. We wanted to make our own tennis game that looks at the sport differently.”

Q: It sounds like there will be downloadable players in the future, am I correct in assuming that? Will the player creator be in depth so users can create their own players and base them off real life players which are not licensed? 

A: Yes, we were very lucky to sign up some of the biggest superstars in tennis including Kyrgios, Anisimova and Nishikori. For me personally, I always choose Muguruza to play because she’s fantastic and I’m a huge fan. With regards to additional tennis stars, we may have something up our sleeves, but I am sure you will understand that we cannot reveal that just yet.

The career mode of Matchpoint opens with a character creator to pick out your look and style. Within career mode, there is a calendar years’ worth of tournaments and events to play as you climb your way to world number #1.

As you reach the top of the ranking tables, you’ll find some Tennis superstars who won’t make it so easy to take their spot. Your wins will grant you access to improved equipment and unlockable coaches that you can hire to hone your training and improve your player’s attributes.

Q: As it’s a simulation, could you go more in depth to how it will play as one? Many games in the past have claimed to be simulations but have still ended up on more on the arcade side when it comes to tennis.

A: Matchpoint is a realistic tennis simulator, but that doesn’t quite cover it. We wanted to focus on realism for the characters, motions and ball physics but found during development that pushing too much for realism can clash with responsiveness and controls. So, Matchpoint is a bit of a hybrid in that sense. You have a lot of snappy control, while at the mercy of realistic ball physics and motions.

The result is a game that feels responsive while looking like a real tennis match. It took a lot of balancing to find the right middle-ground on these elements.

Q: Could you give more depth about the animations, sounds, player models etc. used for players and how they’ve come about?

A: In career mode you can train your players’ various attributes to improve their power and speed on the court. Each coach has their own focus on particular attributes and playstyles. The training you undertake will be chosen by the coach you’ve decided to work with.

There will be times during your career that you’ll need to make a choice between entering a tournament to compete for ranking points or hitting the training court to work on those attributes.

Lastly, we approached Matchpoint as the foundation for much more to come. The systems and tools that we’ve established are only just the beginning. So, we anticipate racket smash combos in the future alongside many other features that we know tennis fans are going to love.

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We were very lucky to sign up some of the biggest superstars in tennis including Kyrgios, Anisimova and Nishikori. For me personally, I always choose Muguruza to play because she’s fantastic and I’m a huge fan.”

As it’s clear to see, the ambition for Matchpoint – Tennis Championships is very high. Not only are they taking inspiration from Top Spin and Tennis Elbow (the two best tennis franchises in the past ~15 years), they’re adding their old elements to give a different and very much needed outlook to the sport. Alongside a great player list this has the potential to be great so here’s hoping for the best when the game launches this Spring!

Main photo from Getty Images.