When May and June hit, the football fan is faced with a big problem: no football. With the draft over, OTAs barely around and Madden and NCAA still months away, the fan needs something to bide time with. But why force them to ignore their passion? Why not give them football in the summer with a new Arena Football game?
The Arena Football League is almost a video-game football product in itself. It’s as if the sport mixed flag football with Playstation 2 Madden and put two top-ten ranked players behind the controls. Translating this fan-driven, turbocharged offensive league should occur naturally.
So how do we grow the league into the monster that Madden has become? I want to put that in the gamer’s hands. In addition to the wall-crashing action on the field, managing the business to reach new levels would create a fun challenge to gamers. Match this focus with an owner mode and you have the dream of playing commissioner of a major sport in the U.S.
Owning the League
If you’ve ever used Google Maps and thought about using the zoom out feature with satellite imaging and applying it to a sports video game, then you and I are thinking on the same plane right now. By applying this macro-management of the league and the teams, we effectively can turn a sports video game into Sim City AFL with the click of a button. From here, we can make all the decisions to structure the league in a way we think it will grow best. Think of some of the possibilities: choosing from major cable networks all with different presentation styles for your in-game experience or expand your franchises into cities that can sustain profitability and growth. Scour fan bases and locations to build new stadiums. To compete with Madden, the game needs to have the depth of a owner mode that MLB: The Show offers, and then some. This is why I like the zoom-out feature on the maps. You can analyze the flow of your revenue stream and foot traffic in your stadium. When you get bored of this, zoom back in and get back to playing the on-field action.
An AFL game will no doubt play like an arcade game, but we don’t need another NFL Blitz. For this game to stand out, it will need to achieve in exceptionally precise game play and control design – allow gamers to become the master of their domain. For better or for worse, the game should focus on the quarterback and wide receiver chemistry; the game about timing and anticipation, throwing into windows with just the right touch. Translating this to a control scheme is challenging, but it can be done (We’ve seen the beauty in the passing game in All-Pro Football 2K8). I would force gamers to make 100 percent user catches on every passing play in this title. Once the ball is in-flight, it’s on gamers to break off the route properly and make the grab.
An intense emphasis made on quarterback control and wide receiver control would allow for gamers to play a game within the game. Mapping the footwork to the left stick and upper body contortions to the right stick for wide-outs will allow for gamers to make endless amounts of varied catches. Of course this would force the designers to take advantage of an engine such as the one developed by Natural-Motion.
Realizing the Game
A devotion to certain aspects of the offensive side of the ball can place the game into its own niche. A price point lower than fully licensed NCAA and NFL games would certainly help the title break into the same markets. A license with Yahoo! Sports would also have a global reach, and play into the macro and micro managing of stats. A deal with apparel and equipment companies can be used to subsidize development costs for the game in exchange for showcasing the latest gear in the digital realm. A license to emphasize their sports management would place the game on the map globally with a large media reach. All these deals could be worth millions – this is how the game can be realized.
What do you think? Can this, or any other type of AFL game succeed?