Soccer Nation

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1995-1998 Crush / SunSoft

Platform: PC

An intriguing football title which was one of the most ambitious football gaming projects of its time. Kicked off originally by UK based developer Crush in 1995, originally under the name of “Live Soccer” / “Live! Sports” and in collaboration with Japan’s SunSoft.

The game would combine arcade, management and online functionality all within one package. It was tested out in Spain with great success and everything seemed to be going well with the development overall, even though there was a lot of work still to go.

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From the old Crush website, the game was described as follows:

Key Features

Soccer Nation. Highly realistic computer software for your PC. It’s a business simulation. It’s a management simulation. It’s an arcade game. It’s an interactive hobby. It’s serious fun for beginner or expert. Choose to be Player, Manager or Player and manager.

Manager

  • Manage your own team:
    • You choose the team name!
    • Complete control of the club finances – you say where the money goes
    • Select your team kit from a choice of over 500,000 possibilities
    • Do everything – or just manage those parts of the team that interest you – the rest will be done automatically for you by the Coach and the Board
  • Unique Players:
    • Only you have the footballers in your club
    • Buy or sell players from an International Transfer Market
    • Over 2,500,000 realistic footballers
    • Players feature realistic personalities, and advanced artificial intelligence profiles
    • Players age over time and can be improved through careful training
    • Look after your squad – they get injured!
  • Develop Tactics That Deliver Results
    • Dictate where you want each player at any point in the match
    • Instruct the team for your preferred on-the-ball, off-the-ball and set-piece positions
    • Adopt playing styles – set-up man-marking, play-makers etc
    • More than 4,000,000 playing style combinations
    • Put the team through its paces on the training pitch
  • Manage Your Own Stadium
    • Start with a basic ground and build it into the dream stadium
    • Over 8,500,000 stadium possibilities
  • Command From The Dug-Out
    • Watch the match played in glorious 3D – just as if it were on TV
    • Change the team tactics during the match – arrange substitutions, defensive and offensive strategies

Player

  • Be a star on the pitch every time:
    • You control the player on your team who is nearest the ball – control will automatically pass to that player
    • Options include pass, shoot, chip-shot, chip-pass, back-heel, flick-on, powerhead, diving header, flying volleys, bicycle kick, after touch, sliding tackles, close control dribble or sprint, shoulder charge opponents, take penalties, corners, free kicks, throw-ins… and more
    • The rest of your team will play in accordance with the team tactics
    • Joystick or keyboard control to suit your preference
    • Referees with personalities and attitude to ensure each match gets played by the book
    • Realistic 3D Stadia to play in – with the advantage you don’t get muddy boots
    • Variable weather conditions to play in
    • Varied and helpful in-match play-by-play commentary

Player/Manager

  • All of the above! Set-up each match as the team manager, then play in the match

On-Line Option

  • Subscribe to one of the Nation On-Line Systems*, and Soccer Nation opens up to make your fantasy a reality:
    • Enter your team into a managed league system – try to get to the top
    • Play against other people – just like you – and their Soccer Nation teams
    • It’s a battle of strategies and nerve
    • Win cash prizes
    • Weekly league fixtures
    • Seasonal League Cup Tournament
    • Cup Winners Cup etc
    • Friendly games ‘just for fun’
    • Manager Mail & Conferences – swap tips, tactics, and post-match comments
    • Download other matches – replay them like a video! – study opponent’s tactics and star players
  • No Internet Account Required
    • Low-cost monthly subscription **
    • Competitive Telephone Charges ***

GameShot

Unfortunately whilst everything was progressing there was an unexpected issue with their investment from Japan which would put a stop to development. Here is a snippet from the old archived Crush website:

“Leading developers Crush! has confirmed that its relationship with the Sun Corporation of Japan has unexpectedly come to an end. As a result of the main investor withdrawing support and in order to protect the business, Colin Haig & Jim Clifford of Baker Tilly were appointed as joint administrators last month. Accordingly, Crush Holdings Limited (CHL) and its highly original SOCCER NATION on-line property is now being offered for sale.

CHL is a talented interactive entertainment software house which specialises in the latest on-line technology and support services for innovative game concepts. The company has been concentrating on the development and completion of Soccer Nation, the eagerly anticipated PC software title which combines arcade, management and on-line play to deliver the ultimate football experience.

More than £2 million has been invested in the creation of this unique title which has enormous potential. Substantial research and development has been undertaken and completed, a successful test has been carried out in Spain and there’s a good opportunity for a range of spin-off Nation titles.

The specialist PC press have been positive about the concept since it was first announced and the initial demonstrations of the title were well received. This, combined with the unabated interest in football world-wide, the rapid uptake of internet connections both in the UK and throughout the world, makes the future of this hot property continue to look optimistic.”

Eventually the game was taken over by Attica and released, but in a very different form to what had been intended at the start, with many of the features not making the cut and the AI not being properly finished as it needed to be. Attica also got the services of the late Jack Charlton to become a figurehead for the game. However, the game was not meant to be about real-world footballers, but a virtual world of sport where *you* were the star.

Gaming historian Niklas Lindholm has produced a detailed video on his own findings about the history of the game, which you can see here:

Working on the original project was Jon Dean, who has been an influential and highly respected figure within the games industry for many years. Jon has produced a brilliantly detailed post about Soccer Nation, along with various videos which you can check out at:

https://www.guv1.com/crushblogs/2014/9/17/soccer-nation

There is tons of information, including many of the manuals produced for the game and screenshots from the development.

As for the Attica’s release of the game. Copies are out there, and it is hoped that an ISO of the PC game will be available on archive.org in the near future, so you can see for yourself what a missed opportunity it was. If only all of the original team and Jon had been kept on, we may have experienced something very special that could have changed the course of football games as we know it.

Resources and links:

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