b10b

How to feature National Flags in a sports game?

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What would you do?

For example in a Soccer / Football game where the Player takes on the role of a National Team.  They will face specific opponents of other National Teams.  What's the optimal approach:

  1. Customization.  Allow the Player to pick their Nation from dozens of Flags.  Dynamically arrange the opposition so that they will not face "their" team in the competition.
  2. Specialization.  Pre-allocate the Player a predefined Nation - either a specific Flag, or a generic Flag representing no particular Nation.  The opposition are specified, so the Player may potentially face their "real" Nation.
  3. Generalizm.  No Nations, just Colors or a collection of Generic Flags - let the Player infer their own meaning.

Additionally, my constraints are:

  • Cheap is best
  • Less UI is better UI

If using Generic Flags, what might they look like?

THANKS :)

 

 

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I would prefer the player to choose the flag of the country he wants to play with.

Off course, you can't face your own team, so that couldn't be an opponent.

You can use these SVG flags with MIT licence: http://flag-icon-css.lip.is/

Make sure to credit the author, because they are really good.

 

Although in my foosball game, teams are generic named by their color. I didn't really wanted nations for now.

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@Ninjadoodle thanks, this is really interesting because ....  exactly like when the video says ... "one thing that really really really bugged me about this game was that there was no Finland, no Finland!" ...  and the Canada team wasn't even wearing Red (or C64 Brown!).  So given that this "Customization" isn't really customized at all - my follow up question would be: do you genuinely like this, or is it just nostalgic?

I'm trying to figure out (if implementing full-nation Customization) whether it is required to do it properly (all the teams, all the colors, no clashes) or whether doing a fake job of it (like "Summer Games") is actually good enough?  Thanks!

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Hi @b10b - I like your question about nostalgia, and here is my answer :)

There are some obvious flaws when you take old c64 games, and try to play them today. The difficulty can be way to high,  sometimes the controls seem a little unresponsive / clunky, and the graphics can often be questionable (by today's standards).

While I do have a certain amount of nostalgia for old games, there are some real classics, which had the formula just right. I often replay games like H.E.R.O, Hunchback, Wizard of Wor, Impossible Mission etc. because I feel, there is not much else that could be done to make these games better (without losing the simple / accessible charm).

This leads me to my main point - One of the things I believe a lot of these old games did REALLY well, is keeping things simple and straight to the point.

Everyone's opinion on this will differ, but I absolutely despise how bloated games have become. The other day, I tried to play a game on my PS4, just to chill out after working all night. As I was going through the tutorial, I realized that every single button on the controller was used to some degree. I quickly got frustrated and gave up, as it wasn't 'fun'.

There are some incredible examples of recent games, that I find, have the right balance - Inside, Firewatch, Her Story and so on. I believe these games have a strong direction and keep things simple enough to draw you right in. 'Inside' doesn't even have a tutorial! It just throws you in the deep end, and yet 'instinctively', you know exactly what to do.

As a kid, I've always thought, that it would be awesome to have the freedom to do anything in a game, yet now as an adult, I realize that the old games had the right idea - games are better when they have 'limits' :)

Don't get me wrong, there are some incredibly complex games that get away with it, but they are a few and far between.

So to sum it up - If you can look past some of the quirks of the old machines, I think they produced some incredibly playable games which seemed very accessible and drew you in. Half the kids in the 80's had these games on copied disks, and managed to figure the instructions without any help.

I believe simple, fun and to the point is better.

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For previous games like this I've taken a few different approaches:

if the game is based on a competition where the number of national teams are fixed and displaying all of the flags as individual options/buttons doesn't feel too unwieldy then I've taken the 'customisation' route as you described (all teams, all colours, no clashes).  In this situation, users who do not have their specific country represented do not feel aggrieved because their team wasn't in the actual competition it's based on.  

For games where you already have a user specific image asset (eg. Facebook profile image) I've used that instead of choosing a country as a visual representation (but still have opponents displayed as a national flag).  This allows you to skip the flag selection screen and get straight into gameplay.

For games where there would not naturally be a limit to the number of countries to choose from I've let the user choose their flag but from a limited selection that represents the predicted audience,  eg. in a sports game I display flags from countries that (a) would form the core audience based on data from previous games and (b) Are known for being good at that particular sport.  Obviously there are going to be some people not happy their country is missing but I didn't really want many pages of flags before gameplay!

One of the good things about having user selected countries  is that it allows you to have country based leaderboards (where scores are totalled up for each location), this is useful on several fronts:

  • the leaderbaord is a fixed length, avoiding potentially thousands of entrees which can be discouraging to players
  • it really taps into that patriotic fervour to beat your opponent as it aligns with how we approach national sports in real life
  • has a nice 'team' based approach to gameplay where you are essentially playing alongside your countrymen rather than just yourself for the highscore

In general, personally I think it's worth adding user choice countries and team colours where possible as it does make the game take on a more personal flavour, particularly if you feel your own performance can improve your team's standing on a leaderboard 

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@mentuat thanks, you make a compelling case for doing it thoroughly, and also provide a viable concept for a generic flag (user avatar).  Likewise when I made my first sports games I put all the teams from the real-world event in the game, added assets to cater for full customization (kits, flags, stats, skin tone bias, player name generators, national anthems ...) and dynamically created the player journey according to team selection.  So I got super miffed when the in-game analytics showed that the default team selection was used for 98% of the play sessions!  Your idea of using geo-data (and core audience) is great - a solid enhancement that may fix what I experienced.  But I still wonder if @Ninjadoodle 's "illusion of choice" (as I call it) is sufficient to tick most of the patriotic fervour and leaderboard benefits, without the cost of asset creation?

Decision time.  Time permitting I'll adopt an incremental approach to test things out ... wide flag selection (fast carousel selection), followed by minimal customization (e.g. 4 kit colors, with opponents simply renamed and recolored based on initial flag selection)?  Then review and enhance based on player analytics.

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On 5/29/2018 at 7:25 PM, b10b said:

So I got super miffed when the in-game analytics showed that the default team selection was used for 98% of the play sessions!

For this issue I think you should rather take into account only the statistics showing what players do when they choose team for the second and further times. In free-to-play games and especially browser ones there are probably huge amount of accidental first game sessions when player just wants to quickly look around and decide if the current game is worth playing longer. So he/she skips first screens as fast as he/she can in order to get into the game itself. If you cared about this numbers you would end up designing the whole game experience also for people that don't want to play your game instead of focusing only on the ones really interested in playing it.

For the first sessions you could look into statistics showing how many people leave your game when they're on 'Choose team' page. If there are many such players you could suspect that there's something wrong with this part.

There's also an issue of correlation between your default country and real player's country. If i.e. 90% of your players come from your default country we don't know if they wanted to change it if they would be assigned to 'wrong' country by default.

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38 minutes ago, bambo said:

For this issue I think you should rather take into account only the statistics showing what players do when they choose team for the second and further times.

There's also the opposite risk that "zooming in" too closely can create retrospective-relevancy.  For example, of the 2% who did select a team they were the ones who played longest.  Does that mean that the team selection mechanic influenced their prolonged stay - so we should add more?  Or does it mean that they were the type of players who move slowly, systematically, and experiment with everything?  The way I see it are that stats are great for posing interesting questions / testing assumptions, but their data should only influence future tests / insight.

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I though that you wanted to answer the question: "Do players want to make a team choice?" when referring to choosing default team in 98% play sessions. I think that using for this purpose such simple data would lead you to wrong conclusion ("players don't care about team selection so there's no need to make it" - it can be true but can't be concluded from default team choice in 98% play sessions piece of information) so I just wanted to encourage you into deeper analysis :)

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Update.  Thanks again for your answers - following advice we went with option 1, Customization.  We ended up putting 70 teams in the game (but reusing 8 kits).  AND IT INCLUDES FINLAND!  We disabled using Geo-IP lookups for team selection because I didn't feel comfortable relying on a third party service.  The team customisation layer consumed about 3 days of development time.  The final result, SOCCER HERO, can be found in this post:

 

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Cool game:)

I managed to win 3 gold medals on my desktop :) Then started playing on my phone - picked it up as console controller and started using my thumbs (I suppose that it may be the case of many players for landscape orientated games). So my first impression was that controlling is quite uncomfortable and it took me a while to come up with an idea that I rather should be holding it by one hand and using forefinger of the second one. I see that you have an image showing that it's recommended way of controlling in 'How To Play' section. Maybe it would be good to show it when player runs the first match, so it would be less likely to have wrong first impression such as mentioned above?

Currently you can complete the whole game quite quickly. If you wanted people to enjoy it longer you could implement some tournament system as it is in real football World Cup (group phase, knockout phase). Instead of 3 chances to score a goal players could also take on a goalkeeper role - he/she needs to point the direction in which goalkeeper jumps to catch the ball. In order to ensure more diversity there could be different ending events i.e.:
- yours and your opponent 3 chances to score a goal in turns
- whoever manages to have 2 goals more than opponent wins the match
- whoever manages to score 4 goals wins the match
- match duration: 3 minutes

When it comes to gender of soccer players, it seems that in your core game women vary from men only in hair length. In reality there are a couple more differences between them and I think it would be nice to include at least some of them in the game - now women's appearance is confusing ;)

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