Club Soccer Director 2018: An Interview with Jim Scott12 Sep 2017 2
Being a Free-to-Play title, Club Soccer Director 2018 isn't really within our remit to review. Still, our sports management guy Mark was eager to find out more about the game, especially when he heard that it was benefiting from the experience of Jim Scott, a former Manager & Coach who also has over 15 years of experience making videogames. We decided to sit down and ask him how a former pro manager makes a football game.
PT: Congratulations on the game’s release! How are you feeling and how has the reception to the game been?
Jim Scott: The reception to the game has been fantastic. Players are really enjoying the way the game plays, and the ability to manage the manager and the staff and interact with them as it has not been done in other games. For example, in CSD ‘18 you’ll be managing disgruntled players not happy with the manager's tactics, a manager who may not necessarily agree with the coach's style of play, and top-level finance managing, such as sponsorship deals. It’s rare to play a football sim whereby you’re managing so many different aspects of a football club.
We are getting some great responses from players of the game regarding features and things they would like to add which is really encouraging. In terms of success the game has been top 10 in sports in almost every major european country which is really pleasing. We’ve also hit 250,000 downloads, so we’re really delighted to see the game doing so well.
PT: Can you tell me about your start in the industry?
JS: I wrote my first video game when i was 14 years old on the ZX Spectrum called Out for the Count. After leaving school I set up my own publishing label and released a number of games on the Spectrum, C64 and Amstrad CPC including two football management games, Jimmy's Soccer Manager, and Jimmy's Super League.
I was a big fan of football manager from Kevin Toms on the spectrum and a huge football fan/player, so football management games really interested me. When the 16 bits computers arrived we struggled to make the transition and I came out of the industry for while and returned a few years later when I founded several companies including a video game distributor and then starting publishing games again for Playstation, Xbox and Nintendo platforms.
PT: What was the catalyst for wanting to get back into making games after such a long hiatus, and what was your role in the industry during this time?
JS: I haven’t really been away to be honest. We had been publishing boxed games since 2000 and had released over 100 games from Playstation One to Playstation 3, Xbox 360, Nintendo DS and Wii, and PC. We had some good successes with the official PDC darts game on Nintendo Wii, Playstation 3 and Xbox 360, and launched branded games like John Daly's Prostroke Golf and Cartoon Network’s Punchtime Explosion.
We took a decision a few years ago to focus purely on digital publishing and not to do any more boxed video games. This was a big shift for the company as it as all built of boxes games, with regional distributors in place and a US office. So we completely restructured the business to be a digital only publisher with an internal development team and began focusing on mobile platforms.
To be honest, it was tough. We found it very difficult to get any real success and there was a lot of learning coming from console publishing to freemium games. After a few years not having any success we realised that we needed to focus on a quality product aimed at a established and passionate audience base, and football management become the obvious decision given my experience of the genre, and my experience as a football coach and non-league manager.
PS: I like the aspect of potential differences between you and the manager, whether it be players, formation, playing style. I also like how they will attempt to block you if they disagree with a decision you make.
JS: Yes, this dynamic relationship is something we wanted to get into the game as it’s very real. From my 15+ years experience coaching in a professional environment and managing at non-league level, there is always pressure on the manager to perform, and with that comes the manager wanting things very much done his way. The relationship between the director and the manager is critical in a football club and can be the reason for success and failure.
So the game replicates that, and you have to treat your manager carefully otherwise you could potential damage morale which will not be the right environment for success.
PT: I saw that you recently put out a post in regards to the coaching badges. Can you explain to me a bit about some of the questions you were getting in regards to this? And can you talk to me about the pricing model you went with [the coaching badges range from £2.39 to 35.99] and if this is something you will review?
JS: The premise of the game is your career as a director of football. Starting out at the lower jobs and working your way up as you would in any industry. As you work your way up you will improve your reputation which in turn, improves your overall rating. If you cannot wait and invest in the progression of the game you can also upgrade your coaching badge, which in turn will also increase your overall rating.
But this isn’t essential and you can get into the top league without having to upgrade your coaching badge at all, as your reputation would of grown significantly enough that you don’t need the badge upgrade. Where the badges are really useful is you can choose to upgrade at any time and the higher your reputation is at the point you upgrade then the lower badge you will require.
In terms of pricing obviously it's reflective; if you want to break the game's progression and jump to the top jobs then this does come at a premium, but if you want to progress then it costs less and less to upgrade until you don’t need to.
We are constantly reviewing the coaching badges and prices and will be running some sales on these as well.
PT: One of the small critiques I have is around earning coins: now obviously it shouldn’t be easy to go ahead and develop a stadium, but even potential player reports cost coins, plus occasional recommendations to improve moral or send players away to restore fitness, and the only two ways I’ve seen to earn coins is by either buying them or watching adverts, which breaks up the gameplay. Can you talk about this and your decision in general to go with the free to play model.
JS: Coins are really assists. They help with understanding a player’s potential, or sending a player off to rehab etc, or improving the morale of the team. At the moment they can only be earned by watching videos or purchasing them. However we are listening to players of the game and have plans to increase ways in which coins can be earned, like daily play, winning games, manager of the month and other ways to help increase coins.
PT: How much research did you put into looking at real clubs, their finances and the way they run, and what experience do you bring that was implemented into the game?
JS: A lot of research was done looking at real football clubs and in particular the finances of a club. We studied a lot of profit and loss accounts of top football clubs right down to non league clubs and believe we have developed a financial system in the game that is pretty reflective of what’ going on in real life. So from sponsorships to TV money, to the costs involved and wage costs we believe we have a pretty realistic model.
My involvement in football at a pro club and my experience of managing and coaching also helped a lot in creating a realistic football environment, and we have tried to stay a realistic as possible to that. For example, we have lots of players that want to take their available funds budget and use it for wages instead. The game does allow some of the budget to be apportioned but to allow it all to be used would be reckless, as that budget is for that year and if you massively increase your wage budget and signed a load of players on 2 and 3 year deals you would have some serious financial issues.
The other area was the game engine, which has over 1000’s decisions per match. Although the game engines visuals are quite basic, which was our intention, what's actually going on during the match (both at the forefront and behind the scenes) is incredibly detailed.
PT: Did you get a lot of feedback and player testing done before release? What were some of the common positive and/or negative comments you received?
JS: We did do player testing to some level, but given the size of the game which took over 2.5 years to make it was difficult to catch everything. The best feedback we have received has been from real players and it's amazing how real players can break the game in ways in which you never imagined!
Our feedback has been pretty much all or nothing. Players that have encountered a few bugs are obviously not happy, which we totally understand, but also the fact that they take the time to report stuff and complain means that they really want to play and enjoy the game. We have had a team permanently working on bugs fixes and updates and we have provided 8 updates to the game in the first 20 days.
Then the other end is the positives, we have been overwhelmed with some of the comments and positive feedback we have received. Users have commented with “Best in category”, “Best game on the store” and loads of other nice comments, which has been amazing to hear how well people are enjoying the game, and we will continue to update, refine and add new features. For a small team like ours, this really does mean a lot to us.
PT: What do you think makes CSD stand out from the other management sim titles out there?
JS: Firstly, it's a club management sim, not a team management game. I think it stands apart from others because of its interactions and realistic environments that gives players an emotional attachment to the game.
There are some fantastic games out there for football management fans, but we believe CSD is the definitive mobile football club management game on the market and is unrivalled in its realism, interaction and its ease and speed of play.
PS: What are the plans for CSD and what updates do you hope to implement. I'd like to see additional scenarios with the manager plus more pre and post interviews.
JS: Absolutely tons; we have pages of updates planned to the game and the team has continued to work on the game and will continue to work on the game until next year's release.
The interaction with the manager and the board will be developed further with lots more incidents and depth to how you react to both. In addition, pre and post match interviews will be improved and grown with more comments and reactions. We’ll also be adding more player issues and behaviour problems and plans for more tactical knowledge from the manager who will make more intelligent decisions in the games to get a result.
We also have tons of additional content planned that we’ll share in the near future, so stay tuned!