Well, we’re just about in the final stretch here at Free Realms headquarters, polishing the final touches of the new Soccer Star job and arcade style mini game. It’s been both an insightful and genuinely fun experience contributing to the new game update. As is the case with creating any new game, soccer has gone through an iterative process that began to really take shape in the last couple months. The biggest challenge was creating accessible soccer gameplay using a mouse and keyboard! Typically this control mapping is found on an arcade or a console style controller which forced us to really focus on how to make Free Realms soccer just as intuitive and fun on a PC.
Thankfully we were able to identify a solid control scheme midway through the development process by gathering data from our in house Usability Lab testing. Watching the different groups of kids get hands on with the game gave us immediate feedback on how to make the soccer controls more user friendly. The A.I. (artificial intelligence) balance was achieved by viewing these play sessions as well.
Overall kids in the focus test groups had a blast playing as a Soccer Star once they got a grasp on the functionality, not to mention the punctuating particle effects really pushed the squash and stretch principals for a nice layer of novelty. This also has a suggestive nature to the Stephen Chow – Shaolin Soccer film; fans of that movie will be sure to get a kick out of Free Realms Soccer. I’ll never forget the nine to twelve age group who were yelling in sheer excitement every time they executed a goal or slide tackle! There was hardly a moment of silence throughout that particular session but, it was reassuring to see the fun factor was in fact present at that point in development.
As a designer coming over from the combat team, the soccer quest line was my first quest progression implementation for the over world. This presented many challenges as I had to learn how the flow and dependencies of the tools affected the many aspects of the core game. Whereas the framework in combat is very much self contained in a bubble or instance which doesn’t have an overlapping presence on Free Realms proper. This was one those sink or swim moments, but luckily my development teammates were always on hand to provide support during any moments of uncertainty.
I’m really looking forward to reading and seeing the reactions of players once soccer launches. I actually found myself getting a bit carried away while fixing a bug the other night. The game got so competitive and came down to the wire that I actually yelled at the opposing team “Ha! I Knocked you down and scored! What are you gonna about it, huh?” Enjoy…