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TOL1S
31 Μαρ 2022
In Other Video Games
MAKING THE PERFECT FOOTBALL GAME Making the perfect football game, does it exist, and is it even possible? That has been my ultimate goal for the past 12 years, or at least it was to begin with. You see as time went by, perfection was the last thing on my mind. The problems facing football games were unlike any other major game titles: delay, lack of meaningful updates throughout the years, and above all complete monopolization. How come the virtual side of the biggest sport in the world is in the state it’s in despite the major advancement in technology and gaming? What was a dream quickly became an obsession. All hope was lost…that is until GOALS came along. What I quickly understood throughout the years is that football fans have different interpretations of the perfect football game. Unfortunately, we cannot please everybody but our mission is to create the highest possible skill gap while keeping the game fun and engaging for all types of players. In order to fit a 90 minute football game into a 12 minute one, the general pace of the game has to be fast. As much as we will do our utmost to stay true to the sport of football, we have to remember that GOALS is a video game and our priority is to make your experience as enjoyable as we can. In a football game, it is not possible to control all 11 players at the same time, which means some form of assistance from the AI has to be in place. Our priority is to increase the AI’s off-the-ball activity while making sure that it provides the player with as little assistance as possible. This means that the AI will help in making runs, tracking runs, pressing, and getting into the best positions, but will never directly assist the player in direct actions such as tackling, shooting, or passing. When it comes to defending we want it to be as manual and always force the user to select the defender closest to the ball in order to try to win the ball off the opposition. In order to achieve this, we are going to focus mostly on player switching and making sure that more often than not you will win the ball and emerge with it when completing a successful tackle. On the ball, we want to focus on giving you the freedom to express yourself. Prioritizing left stick dribbling to ensure that you can turn in whichever direction you want is crucial in achieving this as well as giving you the ability to take players on at speed, and drive your team forward. The “darker” side of football such as diving, time-wasting, “parking the bus” will be insignificant or limited as much as possible. With regards to the direct gameplay features such as shooting, passing, crossing, and heading we aim to find the perfect balance between assisted, semi-assisted, and manual. Shooting inside the box will be fully assisted as the skill gap would come in creating the opportunity, as well as choosing what type of shot to go with. Heading and short passes will most likely be assisted whereas long shots, crossing, and long passing will be more manual. Of course, we will always listen to feedback so please feel free to let us know your thoughts and preferences. When it comes to game modes our mission is to ensure that all modes will have the perfect balance of fun, engaging, competitive, and rewarding. In order to enhance the social aspect of the game, we will also provide you with the ability to play across a variety of options ranging from solo 1v1 to co-op 2v2/3v3 to even controlling only one player and diving into our 5-a-side and 11v11 modes. My dream of finding the perfect football game may always have been an unrealistic pipe dream but with a game that is being built from scratch together with the community, this is the best chance we’re ever gonna get. Thanks to GOALS, football fans may once again begin to dream. A NEW TAKE ON GAME DEVELOPMENT One of my dear friends and former colleagues phrased the AAA game development cycle something like this (not a direct quote): "In pre-production you are having a lot of fun, experimenting a lot, and everything is possible. Then comes production and it's kind of like a regular job where you just get things done but it is still a lot of fun. Then in the end you pay for all the fun you had with the crunch." This is kind of a humoristic way of looking at a serious problem, but I think it is interesting to analyze. What makes the first part extra fun? Why do we crunch in the end? Is it really necessary? And the inevitable question at the end of this train of thought: Can we create an environment for game developers that makes it feel like pre-production all the time? What can we do differently? The Crunch I have now been part of shipping seven AAA games in my game developer career. I've done this as a lead, as an engineer, as a manager, and as a director. I've done this as a young bachelor and as a married man with kids. And I can honestly say that I don't know what to think of the crunch. I've called my lead and said "It's too much, I need to take it slower", upon which (without anything negative happening to me or my career) all critical/stressful tasks were reassigned. Most of my cherished memories and war stories from game development are from some kind of crunch or intense period. This is actually true for my years as a software engineer before game development as well. I've seen artists sitting literally all night moving around pixels to make something just perfect. I've heard engineers threaten to come in at night to add a feature if they are not allowed to add it to the backlog during the day. On the other hand, I have also seen desperate producers and directors roaming the halls late at night wondering why the engineers are not there trying to make up for poor planning. I've sacrificed time with my friends and family to make games. As is apparent from above, my relationship with the crunch is ambivalent. Drawing on personal experience only is not fair either when trying to set up a system that works for as many as possible. We have, however, identified a few things that we think are important to try at GOALS. The first and most important thing is to avoid hard deadlines as they usually come with negative stress. If we can be a truly modern software company with continuous deliveries of the game, we think we can avoid much of the negative stress. A hard deadline is a deadline with fixed scope and quality expectations. We need to be able to adjust at least two of scope, quality, and resources. Resources in this case being the time developers put in. The war stories, the wonderful "in the zone" moments, and the memories will come anyway as the passion for the product and dedication to the fans grows. The difference is that it comes from inside the developers themselves, not from external pressure. A developer will feel “I’m doing this for the fans” rather than “I’m doing this because I have to.”. The infinite pre-prod What is it that makes the pre-prod/prototype phase so much fun? For me, it is the freedom of creativity, the relative lack of process, and the inspiration that comes with starting something new or setting out on a new adventure. How can we bottle that up and use it all the time? We can't have everyone just work on what they think is fun or interesting all the time, or can we? Turns out we can do exactly that as long as we don't promise to deliver anything that is not finished. We are looking closely at companies that have "work on what you like"-policies and we are putting into place mechanisms to prevent work that is not fun from falling between the cracks. One such mechanism is making sure we can deliver positive feedback to the people taking on critical but "not sexy" tasks. This leads us to the next point. The (positive) feedback loop GOALS has something few startup game companies have: A vibrant and active community straight from the start. At the time of writing, GOALS has a Discord channel with 5.4k amazing members contributing feedback every day and all day. On Twitter, we have 23k followers just a few months after the announcement. By letting developers share what they are working on with the community we can create a positive feedback loop where the community is not overly critical or disappointed since they know they were a part of the design and/or we can always change it. Also, developers are encouraged to share their work in their own names building their careers and their own followings. This way we believe the developers feel passionate and responsible for things that may otherwise be considered boring or "not sexy". Building engineering teams for a new generation of games It is not enough today to be a really good engineer. You also have to be a good communicator. You have to be able to take initiative, prioritize and focus as there is lots of freedom in terms of when you work. You need to be able to estimate, plan and structure your work. You have to be a good listener and a good teacher. You need to be a good problem solver but also humble and open to other peoples’ novel ideas and perspectives. On top of this, it would be great if the team comes from varying backgrounds; identify with different genders, and it would be great if a couple of people are left-handed and/or colour blind. As you can imagine, finding these individuals is not easy, and probably the most important thing to get right when building the studio. Many studios talk about inclusion and diversity but at GOALS, we take this very seriously. We believe that the game will highly reflect the team that built it and we want everyone to feel welcome at GOALS. It is not a requirement in any way, but we think the game developers that like to have an active discussion with the games community will thrive at GOALS and as mentioned above, we really encourage this. Conclusion The rise of NFT’s, the hole in the market for a competitive football game, the state of technology, and remote/flexible work have all interacted to set GOALS up with the best possible conditions for success. With these initial conditions, we can be bold and truly push the boundaries of what is doable today. In other words, we don't have to look too much at how things traditionally were done. We can build something completely new. We can build GOALS. OWN YOUR TIME For decades, gamers have become used to putting thousands of hours of gameplay into different games with very limited financial returns. On the contrary, the consensus has rather been that gamers should pay to play a game. With the introduction of blockchain games, this era might be coming to an end sooner than we think. In blockchain games, often referred to as play-to-earn games, users are the rightful owners of all their assets which can be traded freely on an open marketplace. By utilizing NFTs (non-fungible tokens), the rightful owners of all digital assets can always be verified due to the possibility to backtrack the creation of the assets on the blockchain and all transactions of the assets. By earning assets through gameplay and selling them on an open marketplace, it is possible for players in blockchain games to earn money from their gameplay. In many cases, it is also possible to earn a game’s native token through gameplay, which can be exchanged for fiat money on top of any earnings from NFT sales. So why haven’t blockchain games been successful? Well, they have, you just haven’t heard about them yet. Axie Infinity, a pokemon inspired play-to-earn title, had a revenue of $800m in Q3 2021 alone with thousands of players making a living from the game. As many blockchains are now being developed to support games and provide a smooth user experience, the number of blockchain games in development has increased rapidly. The next stage for blockchain games will be to not only attract the limited amount of crypto-savvy gamers, but gamers in general. Why hasn’t that been the case already? If you could choose to earn money from your gameplay, wouldn’t it be an easy choice? Well, the answer is simple: blockchain games are still not good enough for traditional gamers. The genre is still very young, and so far great economic structures with a possibility to earn have been prioritized over gameplay experience. Once we start seeing games that can provide both, I am convinced that blockchain games are here not only to stay, but also to replace traditional games where players are not rewarded for their efforts. When blockchain games break through, we will see an explosion in crypto adoption amongst the general population since all of a sudden there is a huge incentive to get involved, and maybe even a requirement for some of the games you want to play. At GOALS, we do not want to develop a complex economic structure with an abundance of different tokens, only to have the game as a little side function to bring some utility. In my humble opinion, this has been one of the major shortcomings for a lot of the early blockchain games. Many of them are truly play-TO-earn, where playing is a necessity to earn rather than a joyful experience. On the contrary, we want to put the gameplay experience in the center to appeal to the general gaming crowd. This would not only give an opportunity to earn, but the experience of doing so would at the same time be very enjoyable - play-AND-earn. We believe in avoiding unnecessary complexity in the economy which could otherwise create an onboarding barrier for traditional gamers. Instead, all blockchain interactions should be easy for users to understand and offer a great user experience. Hence, we aspire to only implement blockchain assets we deem necessary to fuel the economy. We are also looking to integrate mechanisms such as staking as a natural part of the game to make it more desirable, accessible, and easier to understand for the average user. By making the transition for traditional gamers to blockchain games as easy as possible, we believe that the choice will be easy when comparing GOALS to other football games: experience better gameplay and get rewarded for your time. Play-and-earn. THE RISE OF WEB3 Historically people have been trading in-game virtual currencies, items, skins and accounts for real money for a long time. The RMT (real money trading) market is so big, there are even companies providing dedicated escrow services to help facilitate these P2P transactions. However, in most games these activities are prohibited, violating end-user license agreements. Users caught engaging in these activities are likely to be banned. At GOALS, we take the opposite approach and instead acknowledge our users' right and demand for a secondary market. With the rise of web3, we believe the timing is right and technology mature enough to create a game where we promote P2P trading of in-game assets. Through the use of blockchain and non-fungible tokens (NFT), every asset will be fully owned by the player, and not by us. GOALS is a free-to-play game, and our revenue will instead come from transaction royalties on secondary sales. First and foremost, GOALS is about creating a great football game that is fun to play and easy to interact with. Learning about blockchain, wallets, private keys and paying gas fees should not be a prerequisite to play. We are focusing on user experience first and will strive to make the blockchain integration as transparent as possible for our end users. We have a mission to onboard millions of players onto GOALS, and by extension also the blockchain, which requires us to remove every bit of friction from the game experience. When you login for the first time, GOALS will set up a custodial wallet for you via our security audited identity provider. We value your privacy, and GOALS will never have access to your private keys. The more crypto-savvy user who wants to use their own wallet to custody in-game assets themselves, will have the option to do so. GOALS is currently being built on top of a blockchain that enables instant and free transactions. Every in-game asset will be backed by a 1:1 NFT that can only have one official owner at a time, and is secured by the decentralized blockchain network. When you as a user decide to sell an asset, you can do it at your own discretion – either through the GOALS marketplace or any other venue that facilitates NFT transactions. By playing GOALS you will be the rightful owner to the assets you've acquired in the game, while having instant access to a global marketplace where you are free to trade them. DIVERSITY AND INCLUSION Diversity and inclusion is a hot topic within the gaming industry and something we at GOALS have actively chosen to work with from the beginning. We work with all parts, from creating a great organizational culture where everyone can thrive, to making the game representative and diverse, thereby inviting everyone to play the game. To us it’s simple. For whom are we making the game? We are making it for the community. For the guy who watches every game at the Kop, following the team from great victories to mid-December fights in snowy rain. For the young woman who wants to become a pro but struggles with a knee injury. For the kids taking the ball to the local football field every day after school. For the non-binary, that has never touched a ball but loves the crowd screaming their favorite team name at Katowice. We want everyone to feel like a part of GOALS, regardless of if you’re a part of the team making the game or if you are playing it. We will always listen to our community, and we see it as a two-way communication. The great thing about football is that almost every person in the world is able to play it. We want to take that into the digital world. We want to make a game not only for those who can afford a next-gen console, even though it of course is going to look great at the next gens as well. We have a great challenge in inviting more women to play the game. The current status of women players in sports games is actually horrible. According to surveys, women make up about 2% of sports games players. So why is the percentage so low? We refuse to believe that women do not want to play sports games. However, there are a few explanations. In my future articles, I will dig deeper into these explanations. Women and LGBTQIA players are more likely to be exposed to hatred only. This is something we take seriously. Making a game where we eradicate hate and let everyone just be a gamer - playing the sport they love - is key to GOALS. We know that representation is important. Representation when it comes to sex, gender, expression and identity of sex/gender, color, age, religion, disability, and many more. We need to have a team that is diverse, and we need to make the game diverse. Honestly, everything plain is boring. We want all the colors of the community. We appreciate you. As a final remark, I know that a lot of what I’ve been writing may sound cliche. I do want to give a promise to our community that this is not only talk. Keep following GOALS and feel free to start conversations in our Discord.
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