I have always been a gamer, right back to the days I would eagerly wait to see what new machines my local arcade had and right on through the console wars. I didn’t have a great deal of money growing up, but even as a kid I took odd jobs and saved every penny to ensure I could buy a PC capable of playing games (which was basically any PC in those days) and could own every console going.
But my habits changed as I aged. The games I played weren’t the games my friends were playing. They had a thing for the shooting and fighting games, whereas I preferred strategy; they loved sport whereas I preferred simulation. But this obsession for lesser known titles has helped me in my current profession because many of those games inspired me to become a developer in the first place.
This was a huge game and it was also popular in the UK and Europe, albeit much less so in North America. You managed a soccer team and took them through the toil and the joy of modern soccer. That was it. There was no 3D graphics, it was all text, but there was a huge amount of data and that’s what appealed to me.
The game was like nothing I had seen before. Prior to this my experience of computer AI in sport was playing games where the opponents always followed a simple trajectory, and one that never made much sense. The players were rarely realistic, because the parameters they were based on were too thin. With CM, however, each player was based on a series of attributes, with a sliding scale for each. These would combine to determine everything from his preference for going wide on the pitch, his ability to strike a ball, and his vulnerability to getting injured.
What’s more, there were tens of thousands of players, thousands of teams, dozens of leagues and infinite possibilities. It opened my eyes to the scale that was possible even back in the mid 90s and it recently helped me to create a game that required a huge scale, but had a limited budget and platform.
This 1990s game was based on the film of the same name, but it followed a different trajectory. I would later become a huge fan of the film and the book it was based on actual became my favorite of all time, but when I played this game I only knew the film by name and had never read the book. My introduction to this storyline was therefore very fresh and I instantly fell in love with it.
The storytelling was beautiful and immersive, the game was huge and the graphics were very good for the time. It has a very dark, noir feel to it and was the game that introduced me to the storytelling prowess of point-and-click games, a genre that has all but died in this day and age but one that I have personally tried to bring back several times.
Red Card Football
This is an obscure title and in all honesty, it wasn’t that good. But what I liked about it was that it was doing something different. Soccer games were a big draw for me and the same could be said for every other sport game, but I like the fact that this one tried to do something different.
Another title for the 1990s, it was basically a no-holds-barred soccer game where you could hack and slash your opponent on the pitch and not face any penalties for it. This game was a revelation to me at the time. It almost felt like a taboo. I remember getting equally joyous about a soccer game called This is Football where you could actually dive and try and win a foul, but Red Card Football took things to another level.
I am all for simulation games and trying to make something as real as possible, but if that can’t be achieved, whether because of budget or platform limitation, then I like to go the other way. I’d rather create a parody of something than aim for realism and fall short. This is the game that gave me that mentality and as an indie developer I am always looking to add unique twists to games that are based on things people know and love.
As an example, I recently worked with a guy who owns Foosball Fanatic, basically a fan site for all things foosball. We put together a plan for what appeared to be a simple foosball game on the surface, but one where options included manipulating the board and the opposing player (cheating, basically) and offered a risk/reward balance. It might never see the light of day, but it was fun, different and makes for a good conversation piece.
I can’t even remember how I first discovered this game, nor can I remember who created it. It was a very simple game that was downloaded onto your desktop and played out like a basic mobile game. No graphics, no extensive data. It was a simple screen with a list of drugs and their prices based on a certain location. You could buy in one location, travel to another and then sell. The goal was to make as much money as possible by buying low and selling high. You could follow trends that dropped or raised prices and there were a few random events to change things up, everything from "undergoing an audit" (basically having your stash stolen) to being arrested.
The game also had a social scoring system and was one of the first of this type I had seen. It was unique to me because it was so fun, seemingly so popular, and yet so basic. At that point, I had also never seen any scoring system like that outside of an arcade and the idea of trying to beat player scores from around the world was amazing.
I suppose there was also a small part of my 12 year old self that thought I was a rebel for becoming a virtual drug dealer, shifting large quantities of cocaine like Pablo Escobar.