Monday, December 22, 2008

Yes, I'm still alive.

And so is the game.

The refactoring kept on going through that delicious blogging hiatus. As I had said before, everything is so much smoother with the competitions and although there are still things to go, I'm pretty confident that it was worth all the effort. I was setting myself up for major headaches further down the line with the old system, so the streamlined one is a great improvement.

I've been thinking recently about what the game consists of, and I think I've got it broken down into five key areas.

Competition Engine
If football games were a car (and oh, how people seem to love treating them as as metaphorical automobiles), the competition engine would actually be the network of roads on which they drive. Except, er, inside the car. So a satnav perhaps. Oh, I dunno.

Anyway, the competition engine's job is naturally to manage the competitions in the game. It has the structures, generates the fixtures, deals with the results, and so on. This is the area of the game that's most complete at the moment, with only a little bit more tidying really required. It could have been so much easier, but I wanted competitions to be accurate, so the complexity ramped up.

The steering wheel, I guess. And maybe your pedals, handbrake and gear knob. Heh, knob.

Off the pitch, this is your interface with the game. You need to be able to view competitions, clubs, players, and a host of other information in a clean and accessible way. It's underdeveloped at the moment, as it's just a testing area for the competitions. Thus, it's pig ugly, has a host of bugs, and doesn't actually allow for anything other than viewing competitions one stage at a time. Luckily, FryGUI's decent enough in my view to allow all this to be fixed.

Game Engine
This is your engine. Your car engine, that is. It drives the game forward, progressing through time. Actually, this is more like an entire car - electricals and all - than just the engine, because the game engine is split into myriad different parts that all do something important. It controls the game clock, generates news events, deals with off-pitch AI concerns, picks teams, selects squads, and anything else. If you click on a button that does more than just move you to another screen, the game engine is beavering away and carrying that out.

Like the navigation, this is basic right now and serves only to test the competitions. The clock advances properly (hooray), daily fixtures are passed to the fledgling match engine, results are returned, and not much else. The core is there, but it needs a lot more to it - they will come as the features require them.

Match Engine
Every football game needs one. I dunno what part of a car it is though, so we'll just pretend it's the wipers. If you don't know what it does, you probably don't care much for the sport.

This is virtually non-existant at the moment. I've got an old formation editor, a 2D graphics engine that works but might get chucked, and a bunch of notes on how I plan to approach the AI. It's simultaneously depressing and exciting - the most important part of the game hasn't even been worked on properly, but on the other hand, I get to make a football game and experiment with a host of control options and things that might work and might not.

At the minute, fixtures are passed to this and random results are returned. It's all the competition testing needs.


Without data, you've got nothing. A football match cannot be played without players, is disorganised without teams, and has no meaning without competitions in which to play them.

What's actually great about data entry though is that it's so passive. You research, you fill in spreadsheets or data editor forms, and it requires next to no thought. As such, on one of the many days when I've sat around bored, this is what I do.

Right now, around half of the FIFA affiliated nations in the game have clubs, essential for any league to be created. Europe and South America have been created in their entirety, whilst Africa, North America, Asia and Oceania have work remaining - and this is before I get into creating the competitions and getting to work on players.

Reading that all back, it does seem like so little has been done and to a certain extent that is true, but as ever a lot is in the planning. The database structure is complete. The competition structure is complete. The game engine's core is complete. What's left is to bolt on the little segments here and there that make the game come alive, the internal details that turn a sterile world into something almost real.

And also, I guess, to get some men playing football.

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