Before you have a chance to wonder how I can make the claims I am about to make. Let me say that I have played almost every football game released since Caleco Vision Football.
First I want to start this article on football gaming with baseball gaming.
Lets think about it for a minute. What technically makes up a baseball video game? Its actually two games in one. The pitcher batter interface and fielding. Lets start with the pitcher batter interface. What is it? Fundamentally its two polygonal characters on the screen. Just like we see in real baseball. These characters generally have the same animations every time you are in this part of the game. Easy enough right? Lets move to fielding. This interface gives us nine men on the field plus any base runners. You control one man. The other 8 polygonal characters are following a pre-determined path laid out for them in relation to the situation. There are no obstacles they must overcome to get where they are going.
Lets move on to……Basketball gaming. Ten polygonal characters interact at the same time. While once again you are in control of one. This leaves 9 characters that need to be controlled by the AI. Once again, these characters move in a predetermined path laid out for them in relation to the situation. This time it also depends where they are on the court at any give time. Each character is assigned another character to guard. This does not change unless the user changes this. In Basketball, there is a little more contact going on than baseball. Does anyone see where I am going with this yet? This contact is very rudimentary. Some shoulder back downs, and some collisions in the paint.
Finally, lets talk about Football. I am going to make the claim that a Football videogame is the most complex game to develop.
This time there are twenty-two characters on the screen. Each character has a different assignment on almost every play. Not only do these twenty-two characters need to be different, some of them are drastically different. Take the speed of a lineman compared to a running back for example. Not only do they have different assignments, but they have different assignments almost every play.
Think about what must be programmed into the game. Man to man coverage, Zone coverage, combo coverage, blitzes, zone blitzes, line stunts, tackling, probability of tackle success, gang tackling, and that’s just defense. On offense there are hundreds of different plays that require different blocking assignments, receiver routes, not to mention hot routes, audibles, missed blocks, and, evasive maneuvers. Then there are the variables. Fumbles, the odds of fumbling, interceptions, good and bad throws, whether they are low, high, or out of reach, penalties, kicking, and blocking those kicks. And like any good game of chess, the offense and defense must be constantly adjusting to every possible scenario.
Even after all this, I know exactly what you are thinking. What about NFL 2K5?
I have 4 words for you; Lightning In a Bottle. In my opinion NFL 2K5 was the perfect storm of football gaming. Could it have continued its torrid pace? I guess we will never know. Or will we?