FUNDAMENTALS OF GAME DESIGN, SECOND EDITION

Sports Games

Sports games create a special challenge for the game designer. So many people play or watch sports that they come to a video game with high expectations about what the game will be like, and a designer must learn to meet those expectations. Sports games are one of the most popular genres in all of video gaming, and a well-tuned game can turn into a highly enjoyable, and profitable, product line.

This chapter discusses how the principles of game design apply to sports games. We'll begin by formally defining sports games and then address in detail the fea­tures that characterize them. We'll also talk about the legal issues you'll encounter if you make a game with a team or league license. Most of the chapter is dedicated to the structure of sports games: the types of gameplay, the problems of mapping actions to user input devices, and the design of athlete AIs for a rewarding experi­ence. For a designer, sports games offer the unique challenge of simulating well - known game mechanics while at the same time modifying those mechanics to work with the video game hardware their players are using.

What Are Sports Games?

Two things only the people anxiously desire: bread and the circus games.

—Juvenal

Unlike most other games, which take place in a world the player knows little about, sports games simulate a world the player knows a lot about: sporting events as they are in real life. No one has ever really led an army of elves into combat, and only a small number of people know how it feels to fly an F-16 fighter jet, but a great many people know what professional football looks like and how the game is played. Sports games encourage direct comparison with the real world.

Not all sports games are ultrarealistic, of course. Some, such as Electronic Arts' old Sega Genesis game Mutant League Football, are fantasy games even though they are based on real sports. Others, such as Midway's Blitz football series, simplify a sport and deliberately make it more extreme for dramatic purposes. Most of these kinds of games are designed to appeal to kids, who might not know much about the real sport. But for dedicated fans, the game must be a reasonably accurate depiction of the real thing, and fans will see any deviation as a flaw.

SPORTS GAME A sports game simulates some aspect of a real or imaginary athletic sport, whether it is playing in matches, managing a team or career, or both. Match play uses physical and strategic challenges; the management challenges are chiefly economic.

This chapter discusses athletic sports, as opposed to sports such as motor racing. Although racing games are often sold in the sports category, from a design stand­point, they really belong in Chapter 17, "Vehicle Simulations."

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