Sunday, April 16, 2006

How many microbots?

I got up early this morning and rushed off to the post office. The reason? FM Handheld, Sports Interactive's new version of Football Manager for the PSP. Good job too, as I've done nothing all day but play this beast. It's rather good. And it got me thinking.

It got me thinking about structure, which highlights what an interesting life I lead. FM is pretty much a database with some funky bits attached. There's no getting away with it. At its core lies information, and every time you hit that continue button some little microbots get to work whipping that information inside the game to make things happen. Little microbots with different jobs like "transfer AI", "match", and "cheating AI", or so we all think. Not to mention the miniscule robots that can see into the real world to make sure you're superstitiously holding your nose with your big toe whilst singing the first three verses of Sweet Child O' Mine, and woe betide you fall below an octave because you just know that the opposition will score. Yes, those microbots are there too.

So I was thinking about all this, and not smoking anything at all, and wondering what bots are in my game. The Complete Football Game's (still that wondrous working title) main feature is the scope of its world - tons of leagues of all shapes and sizes and cliches. Other than the match engine itself, it is the most important part of the game. Teams get results, results power competitions, little compobots run around moving teams around accordingly. I never imagined it would be so fucking hard. Really, if I had known this at the start I'd have given the game six generic leagues and left it at that. But now I'm close, real close.

Close to the funbots. The competition engine, as I've named it in a bout of ingenuity, isn't too far from completion, and when it's done the game will be able to take results and shape them into something not too dissimilar to reality. At that point, I'll be able to look around the gameworld at all the lovely stuff going on. I can almost smell it, it's that close. And it's just information in the end, the problem was getting the right information.

Then the true fun comes. Well, I say fun, when I really mean stuff that produces instantly visible results. The whole competition structure doesn't produce anything until it's finished, yet it's a year long project so you can see how motivation can drop. Working on something you can't even tell will work for twelve months... man. Soon I'll get those results. It'll work, I'm sure about that. Took long enough. Then the funbots. The transfers, the media, the weather system, the tiny little animated bits on the menu. If I have any of that.

Who knows, I may just die if this damn thing doesn't work in the first place.

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