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Behold the Kickmen: Development Diary #00001

May 52016


Hello there! As you may have heard, I’m now making a little football game, despite knowing nothing at all about football and not really liking the sport or the people who used to walk past my bedroom window at 11:30 at night after the “big game” shouting “WAAAAY-OOOOH, WAAAAY-OOOOOOOH, WE DID IT, WE DID THE FOOTBALL-aaaaah” or whatever it was they shouted.

I liked Sensible Soccer though, back in the 1990s on Mike Horner’s Amiga. I also enjoyed Speedball on IBM-compatible PCs but (ssssh, heresy incoming) Speedball 2 left me a little cold, it wasn’t as good. There, I said it.

Anyway. Here we are, we’re all here now making a football game and there doesn’t seem to be anything anyone can do about it so probably best to just knuckle down and make it into a viable product to shovel into people’s faces.

Progress has been thick and fast, loads of cool stuff going in. It’s starting to ‘feel’ like a sport, but I’m aware quite a lot of the work at the moment is ‘game feel’ and tinkering, which is something I really enjoy but doesn’t make for a barrage of interesting gifs for Twitter. So, here’s a little run-down of the stuff that’s getting done, and where Kickmen is going.

Lovely Michael Cook has been slaving over the AI – they’re still the game’s biggest problem at the moment. When it was all a silly joke the idea was to have players dogpiling the ball, like a playground match, and the AI for that was going to be exceptionally simple. Sadly, it turns out that just isn’t fun, and while Behold the Kickmen is a tongue-in-cheek silly little game, it still needs to be fun and enjoyable to play. So Michael’s hard at work making the little football men do sensible kicking, and making them do things that make the game more enjoyable to play – spreading out around the arena a bit, predicting what you’re thinking, that kind of thing.

I like working with Michael. He’s super-intelligent, funny and – importantly – doesn’t know anything about football either, so his AI code is all just guesswork as well. It’s helping make Kickmen not feel like just another football game. It’s warped enough to be its own thing, thanks to sheer, blissful ignorance of ‘facts’.

For my part, the main football stuff is bordering on finished. I’m working on giving it some variety, and hoping to get the main “football match” side of things finished soon – all the rules like goals and penalties are in, it’s now a case of making the whole thing ‘flow’ in an interesting way. We’re getting there, but it’s all a lot of jiggling.

From there, I’ll be adding “leagues” or “divisions” or whatever that is, as well as some sort of Management side. Not sure what form that’ll take yet, but it’ll probably be cribbed off of Speedball with a little bit of X-COM thrown in, because who doesn’t love that game loop?

I think that’s where Kickmen‘s development will end – with a nice progression up the ladder to win the World Cup, and some sort of management side to tailor your team. I should point out I’m focussing purely on Single Player. Mainly because I’ve heard from loads of other indies (as well as my own experiences with Gibbage) that Local Multiplayer just won’t sell copies. I’m also not touching Online Play with a bargepole, for reasons I’ve outlined here.

Obviously if the game sells a million billion copies and it’s something people want, I’ll shift my stance. But for now, the game is strictly SP only.

That’s it for now. That’s where the game stands – bordering on playable and interesting, but not quite there just yet. But that’s game development, isn’t it? Everything’s always shit for at first while you wiggle the pieces into order.

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