Gameday Live: A new kind of Football Management Sim [First Look + Interview]29 Aug 2016 5
The only PC I had access to as a child belonged to my grandparents, who I would usually visit every other weekend. It was pretty basic, mainly for creating invoices for their business and for the most part I used it for learning to type and for goofing off in MS Paint.
Of course it had Minesweeper and Solitaire, but it also had a copy of Championship Manager 2. I remember watching on television as David Beckham scored from the halfway line – that was the day I became interested in football and thus, football management games. Though I was too young to decipher the piles of stats on hand at the time, I would eventually learn to understand the beautiful game. This eventually led to what can be quantified as an ‘unfortunate’ amount of hours spent on my phone playing Football Manager.
In the world of video games, the football management genre is one that is often overlooked and underappreciated. For over twenty years there has been a constant annual turnover from the likes of long-standing Football Manager, to current favorites such as Top Eleven and PES Club Manager. With management sims finding their way across to mobile gaming, it has never been easier to have a crack at becoming the next Alex Ferguson or Brian Clough (of football management sims).
Enter Gameday Live - A new contender that has recently made its (soft launched) debut and is ready to make headlines. It’s been developed by Digital Sports Arena, a team made up of individuals who have been involved in developing football management games in the past, including lead developer Stuart Anderson, whose work includes Championship Manager for mobile.
Stuart discussed how Gameday Live is taking a different approach to the conventions that have been set by the genre: “We wanted to create a fast-paced, head-to-head football management game. The focus is that you can play in less then 5 minutes against a human opponent. We like competition and we want that reflected in the game. So you can test your skills and your team.”
Gameday Live presents itself very differently, as the piles of spreadsheet-like menus have been done away with and in its place is a streamlined approach to the user interface. The game is less like a traditional management sim and has more in common with real time strategy.
“Your opponent is reacting the whole time, and we reflect that through the UI. When they are changing tactics, you get an indication that they are currently changing something. So it gives you a bit of a clue in real time,“ Stuart noted.
The main screen during gameplay is a reflection of this attempt to streamline the experience: key information on ratings, fitness, and tactics are within your fingertips. This is vital as the clock never stops during a match, meaning you need to be quick with your decisions and the user interface does a good job of making this possible with a solidly designed filter system.
Stuart says it is key that all this information is seen on the screen: “We try to draw the user onto that information front and center, so they can make fast-paced changes to their team.” Do you want to quickly change from a 4-4-2 to a 4-3-3? No problem, quickly tap the icon and you can change within seconds. Need to swap a defender who is not performing so well? Simply drag another player from your substitute bench on top of the current player and it will swap them instantly.
GDL currently has global leaderboards – the main competitive element, alongside playing against your friends. Digital Sports Arena have also said they have a tournament mode they are currently creating, which you can create with your friends or play in pre-set tournaments. “We also want to have regular events and prizes as well,” Stuart revealed.
How does match-making work? “We have a match making system that will match you against suitable opponents – similar strengths,” Stuart told us. “As you play you earn experience and a ranking of how successful you are. And these factors will determine your opponents.”
You are given a starter team of average players with the goal of improving up to the superstars. You can train your players up, and as you play more games you can improve their stats. Or you can go to the transfer market and buy players, but in a very gradual way. You cannot buy your way to the top, though; as you are only matched with gamers of similar players and experience, so winning will only come to those tactically skilled.
Match-making will also put you up against a bot opponent if there is no one available, which is a handy way to gain experience. There are two main screens you can swipe across to display; the left screen has your team and their current stats, while the right screen shows the pitch with simple animations that pop up when something important happens. Gameplay felt smooth, with the swiping and tapping of icons all being responsive. There was a constant issue of players getting injured every match, though that does not have long-term ramifications. The game is still being balanced where needed, so it will be interesting to see if that is a reoccurring theme when it gets a global release.
“We think when people play it they will see we have taken things forward in a lot of ways,” Stuart noted, and Gameday Live does play very differently to the current crop of management sims. With a clear focus on short bursts of multiplayer head-to-head actions, it behaves entirely different compared to its competitors. It sometimes feels like a game that has more in common with the likes of Hearthstone or Clash Royale. It will be interesting to see what public reaction is like when it gets a world-wide release.