Published 2014-12-20

Why another hockey manager game?

Ever since I was, hmm, younger, I´ve always dreamt of building my own hockey manager game. And why is that? Multiple reasons probably, but there is at least two that comes in mind.

Then who am I?

Before I begin, let me introduce myself. Don’t worry, it won’t take long. I earn my living as a web developer, which of course one very important ingredient why I'm even able to do this. Another ingredient is my huge hockey interest. I have lived and breathed hockey since the beginning of the 90s. That has meant a lot of late nights staying up to watch NHL games, especially late for us living in Sweden where all games broadcast in the middle of the night. I still remember being a kid watching the Stanley cup finals of 1994 between NY Rangers and Vancouver Canucks. Me and my friends were all gathered at my house trying to stay awake. Some of us made it through to the morning to watch captain Mark Messier hoisting the cup. That´s probably the time when I was really hooked to the game. By the way, the fact that I´m from Sweden will also explain some of the bad english you might find in this game. For this I am sorry, but I promise to do my very best. Now, back to the reasons why I wanted to create my own manager game.

Reason one - It´s a a lot of fun

The first reason may be obvious - but not less important - it´s a lot of fun! As a developer and a hockey entusiast I can´t think of a more fun project to build. To be able to combine my hard earned coding skills with ones greatest hobby shouldn’t be anything else than pure awesomeness. And this great hobby of mine has led me straight in to the next reason.

Reason two - I haven´t found what I´m looking for

Over the years I have tried so many online hockey manager games that I’ve lost count. And I still haven’t found one that suited my needs, not completely anyway. Don´t get me wrong, I don’t think that I have the perfect solution, but this hopeless quest got me thinking; why not try to build my own manager game?

So what was I looking for?

So if I was going to build my own manager game I had to do some thinking and figure out what features I really was looking for. Pretty soon I thought of four core features that, in my opinion, just had to be in an awesome hockey manager game.

  1. Stats. I love stats and can browse hockey databases for hours and hours. Most online hockey manager games that I’ve tried didn’t have a lot of stats, and if they did they didn’t play as important role in the game as I wanted.
  2. Realsim. I often missed that feeling of realism when I played a manager game, specially online. That made me tire quickly and most likely logout and never come back. With ”realistic feeling” I don´t mean the use of real player and team names. It was never an issue that I couldn’t play with my favourite team Ottawa Senators and sign Sidney Crosby to the team. What I´m looking for is much more subtle. I want to get the feeling that there is real persons behind the all the numbers and facts. I missed a game where the psychological values played an equal part to all the numbers.
  3. Details. Most manager games either lacked details or it quickly became obvious that the player details didn’t matter. Therefore I thought that if I should make my own game one day every detail shown in the game should matter, at least in some way.
  4. Game play. Who likes a random result? I often got the feeling that the game results was somewhat random. One game you lost the next game you won. It made me doubt that games wasn’t even played, just randomised results. I wanted to make sure that, in my future game, games actually was played shift by shift. The players on ice that instance should actually face each other, skill vs skill, tactic vs tactic.

So where to start?

It all started out in small scale with the first and maybe biggest challenge - could I build a game engine that created a realistic game result? As mentioned, I didn’t want just a random result, I wanted to be able to simulate the game play by play, line change for line change, and I wanted the game momentum to change - back and forward - depending on what happened in the game and which tactics that were used.

Ok, so what actually change the momentum in a game? I first thought of team spirit. Fine, but what is team spirit and how do I represent this in a game? That got me thinking. First I thought of player confidence, but I soon realised that one individual player could have a great confidence even if the overall team spirit was low. That meant that I need to use both team spirit and player confidence. All that thought process triggered a long three months of coding, a couple of hours a day, until I had taken into account everything from underestimate and pressure factors depending to different tactics and line focuses to player fatigue, confidence and psychological profiles to both team offensive and defensive morale.

Three months later I had my embryo of a game engine and, wow, it didn’t just create a random game result. It wasn’t perfect but I was happy. What actually happened in a game, scoring, successful passes, hits, giveaways, takeaways, fightings, etc - it all influenced player confidence and team morale which in turn created, somewhat, realistic results!

So, now I´m done eh?

I was happy but naive. Very naive. I thought I´ve just had to wrap things up and release my new awesome manager game. It didn’t take long before I realised that just a game engine don´t make even a hint of a game. When I started to think about all the features needed to be added to complete the game I was nearly overwhelmed. The backlog quickly grew big and I needed to prioritise. And I knew I needed to move fast. Otherwise, being on my own, I shouldn’t have a chance finishing in a reasonable time. That’s why I also needed to find technical frameworks that supported me. If you’re interested in what I used to build this game, I will tell you, but in another blog post coming soon.

First, I needed to create a way for a user to take over a team, create their own lineup, choose tactics, sign new players and so on. To make it all feel cosy and warm it should at least have some graphics. I knew it couldn’t be a lot, graphics take time, but at least enough to customise your team with a mascot and jersey colours. Ok, and then what?

To be able to really play the game there must be seasons and leagues to compete in. Now this is when I even surprised my self a little. Being a fan of the NHL the most logical choice should have been to create a closed league with affiliates in minor leagues. But living in Sweden and used to the european league style I actually went with the choice of creating a five league game world where all teams had the possibility to move up and down league levels. This, I thought, created a good challenge for user managers; To begin in a lower league level, create a successful team and be promoted to higher league levels and then get access to greater players. That´s why you can´t begin your career in the top two leagues. I must mention, even if I was happy with this solution I quickly added the north american style to the backlog and don´t be surprised if there are two types of game worlds to choose from in the future, one with a european league style and one with a north american.

A year later, from when I started experimenting with my game engine, I had what I at least could call a prototype of a game. That is what you can try out right now. It aint finished, I know, but it’s almost what I had in mind when I first started out. So if you haven’t already, be sure to sign up and try this prototype out, it´s free and without any obligations.

Thanks

If you made it this far, I want to thank you. Your interest and participation means a lot to me and is my true reward in all this. Hopefully you now know a little about why this game was created and what I had in mind creating it. If you have any suggestions, questions and whatnot - don’t hesitate to contact me. You can find the email address at the bottom of the site.

While I’m at it, I also want to thank my wife for her loving support and my very talented colleagues for all their invaluable advice.

There are many more things to be said, but I´ll stop here, at least for now. Maybe I’ll get back to some of it in future blog posts, so be sure to check back soon.

Happy gaming!

Anders Granberg