I still regret giving up tennis 20 years ago. I played on clay courts and loved it, but as a result of various circumstances, I hung the racket on the wall permanently. All that's left is following tennis games around the world and watching matches. And I also have games – that's why I've got my hopes high for Matchpoint.
To understand exactly what Matchpoint was going to be, I asked some questions to David McIntosh, Game Designer at Torus Studio. We talked about what this game is meant to be exactly and what we should expect.
The recently announced Matchpoint is, of course, a tennis game that will be released on all leading platforms: PC, PS5, XSX, as well as last-gen PS4 and XONE. There will also be a Switch version. The premiere is due really soon, in the spring of 2022. Perhaps we will even be able to play Matchpoint when real players hit the courts of the Roland Garros Grand Slam tournament in Paris.
Tennis is one of the most popular sports
Matchpoint, like its distinguished predecessors, is addressed to fans of this peculiar, difficult sport. All over the world – especially in the USA, Australia and Europe – there are plenty of people who will potentially be interested in playing the game. Even despite the fact that we haven't had a good tennis game for a long time.
So, Matchpoint for me means, above all, hope for finally bidding farewell to older games like Top Spin or Tennis Elbow, and replacing them with a brand-new, technically refined game adapted to modern standards. I asked David McIntosh, the Game Designer of Matchpoint, about it – while tennis is a popular sport, tennis video games are a bit neglected. The last one I remember was AO Tennis 2 from 2020 (released to a rather cold reception) and Tennis Manager 2021, a rather specific and very niche game. Fans, however, are still brooding over the Top Spin or Tennis Elbow series. So does David think that there's still room in this specific niche for a new IP that, in addition, will be able to replace it?
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.
However, if you look at the tennis games that have been released so far – from Tennis Elbow, Tennis World Tour, AO International Tennis, AO Tennis, Top Spin or the old Virtual Tennis – you will discover that we have basically had two approaches to the subject of tennis games in the history of gaming. A more arcade approach, focused on fun, but having little to do with actual tennis, as well as a more realistic approach – more difficult to realize, but more desired by sports fans. Will Matchpoint be more on the realistic side, or will it be focused on accessible fun?
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.
Matchpoint will thus try to combine both of these approaches. On the one hand, it will try to reflect the true spirit of tennis – with all its rules, customs, and even the physics of the ball or character movement – and on the other hand, it is supposed to be… Well, a game – fun, and all that. It's supposed to let those who don't really care about grinding their skill for hours on end to have an enjoyable experience. This kind of approach seems the most sensible, although it may quite easily go haywire, if the creators will not be able to satisfy either group to a sufficient extent. However, time will tell how it will all work out.
Maybe I'll make a career after all
I wrote in the introduction that I regret giving up tennis when I was a kid. I was left with spectating and playing video games – and here comes good news for those who love to lead their created player through the career. Matchpoint will have a career mode. Here's what the developer says about it:
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.
Exactly, tennis stars! We would definitely like to see our favorite ATP and WTA players in action. At launch, Matchpoint will have 16 famous players, including Daniil Medvedev or Garbine Muguruza. However, I asked if they planned to add more and if we would have to pay extra for it.
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 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.
Therefore, it is difficult to predict whether we will have to pay extra for the new players in Matchpoint. We all know how things are now with monetization, and we can expect that we will have to make an additional contribution for Nadal or Djokovic.
RPG, multiplayer and bathroom
You already know about the career mode – interestingly, you will also be able to hire a coach for the money won in tournaments, thus expanding the statistics of your player. Yes, our players will be determined by various parameters and it will be up to us which way we'll develop. These statistics have an impact on gameplay – in other words, how our character behaves on the court.
That's right, 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.
So we will face difficult choices, but also mini-games! By completing them, we will increase our statistics. However, if you get bored of playing alone or winning against Kyrgios, Torus Games has also prepared a multiplayer mode. And as long as the game is satisfying, I imagine this mode will be wildly popular. Who knows, maybe even the creators will give us the possibility of organizing their own tournaments with friends or random people from around the world? If the word "crossplay" has crossed your mind right about now, then great – because I've asked the question:
You'll be pleased to know that Matchpoint was planned for crossplay right from the start and is available from launch on all available platforms.
So you will be able to test all the known moves – from topspin and slice to dropshot – with players using different platforms. I think that's one of the best pieces of news. Especially since the creators announced that each court will be carefully crafted and will have a different peculiarities – playing on grass will be completely different from playing on hardcourts. I also asked whether Matchpoint would be able to boast of Grand Slam tournament licenses, but unfortunately I was not given an answer. You can probably imagine what it looks like.
Finally, I asked the most important questions. The kind you just couldn't live without. You see – tennis is a difficult and serious sport, but it has its dramas and some rather bizarre events. So I asked the creators whether if a match doesn't go our way, we will be able to strategically go to the bathroom like a famous Greek player, or smash the racket against the court.
Haha, well it was certainly on our list of wants. 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.
And now you know. Anyway, please also note that one of the players available in Matchpoint will be Kyrgios. Does this mean we will be able to argue with the umpire? We'll find out soon enough, as the premiere will take place in the spring of 2022.
Matthias Pawlikowski | Gamepressure.com