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Fooscade is a pong-like take on football (soccer), using a sliding, spinning controller to mimic the complex footwork and movements of the sport.

Joel Couture, Contributor

February 10, 2023

5 Min Read
A pair of people playing a pong-like soccer game using a unique sliding, twisting controller
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The 2023 Game Developers Conference will once again feature Alt.Ctrl.GDC, an exhibition dedicated to games that use alternative control schemes and interactions in new, exciting, and clever ways. Ahead of GDC 2023, Game Developer will be talking to the developers of each of the games that have been selected for the showcase.

Fooscade is a pong-like take on football (soccer), using a sliding, spinning controller to mimic the complex footwork and movements of the sport.

Game Developer spoke with Hong Hua and Yixuan Liu, creators of the game, about how the concept was born out of prototyping several controllers, what the motions of rotation and sliding feel right for capturing the feeling of football footwork, and how the physicality of the controller captures some of the adrenaline and excitement of the sport.

What’s your name, and what was your role on this project?

Hua: Hi, I’m Hong Hua, a product designer/creative technologist. I am the developer of Fooscade.

Liu: Hi, I’m Yii (Yixuan Liu), a visual designer, and XR storyteller. I am the game designer of this project.

How do you describe your innovative controller to someone who’s completely unfamiliar with it?

Hua: The Fooscade Controller is like an arcade version of the Foosball table. Instead of controlling your players with poles, you will use your fingers as your left and right feet. You can rotate and change the distance between your feet, then try to kick the ball to the goal! It will be a bit challenging when you first pick up this controller, but it is easy to master.

Fooscade showing players, screens, and controller

What's your background in making games?

Hua: I come from a background in industrial design, but I also worked as a hardware developer before. My current work focuses on the tangible interactivity of digital experiences, which lead to building this game.

Liu: My original background is in graphic design and UX/UI, but right now I’m more focused on 3D design and XR development.

What development tools did you use to build Fooscade?

Liu: We built the game in Unity Engine, which provides us with a great physical simulation. And we used 3D modeling tools like Cinema 4D and Blender to create 3D assets. For the controller part, we used several production techniques including 3D printing, laser cutting, and metal work. The CAD behind these is Rhinoceros.

What physical materials did you use to make it?

Hua: We used PLA filament for 3D printing and acrylic board for some [surfaces.] The final structure will be built on aluminum rails, as we want to build a “table-top” experience. Also, the controller contains lots of electrical components.

Fooscade retro icon

What inspired the creation of Fooscade?

Liu: The idea of Fooscade started from the most original video game: PONG. Added on are some random experiments in combining controllers. We created a prototype that had a slider on top of a knob. We found this interaction interesting, so we decided to adapt PONG with this type of controller. After several prototypes, we ended up with a dual-slider controller. Then we realized that how the player interacts with it looked like playing football (not soccer, it is football [laughs]) with fingers. Then, we came up with this foosball + arcade name for the game. Also, it was the World Cup during our development! So, everything was about football; even our game.

What ideas went into the sliding and twisting mechanism players use to control the game? What made it feel right for mimicking the footwork of football?

Hua: As Yii (Liu) mentioned about our inspiration, it all started with several controller experiments. Also, as an amateur soccer player myself, I found that these rotations and stretches were very much like the ankles when doing soccer tricks. So referring to finger football, I designed a tiny football cleat cap for the slider, as players can put their finger inside the mini cleat. Trust me, once you put your finger into it, you will feel like you are the next Messi!

Fooscade brings both players up close by having them play off of a connected controller. Why did you choose to bring players together on the same controller?

Hua: For the current version, we have two players on one controller. But we have a big plan for GDC! We will build an arcade table like a real foosball table. And the players will compete on each side of this table. The motivation that drew us to keep iterating was that we ran several public playtests. Throughout the feedback, we thought it would have a better game experience to modify the layout. So, make sure to come and play our newest version!

Fooscade win screen

Why did you draw upon PONG for this project? What appealed to you about building off of that classic game?

Liu: Classic is classic; you will always find similarities in game mechanics between those classic games and modern games. The most critical thing is how to adapt them into a new scenario and rewrite the narrative, bringing a new aesthetic. So our solution is building a new type of controller, but we will keep exploring the possibilities in the gaming field.

What do you feel the physicality of Fooscade adds to a game that's supposed to mimic a sport?

Hua: I would say Fooscade is not a football or soccer simulation game—not like FIFA. It is more like the relationship between foosball and football, in that foosball brings the same tension, vibe, and excitement into a smaller scope. So, I think the physicality of Fooscade reduces the muscle part, adds more gaming elements, and keeps the same hormone level as the actual sport.

Has building a game around a unique controller taught you anything unexpected about game design?

Liu: I think the process of developing a game with a unique controller is similar to developing a “normal” game—the only difference is more work. When you get into this parallel development process, sometimes building the controller will inspire the game, and sometimes the game in development will make new demands on the controller. This is an interesting self-circulating process, and we really enjoyed making it happen.

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