February 26th, 2013 - Brian Nichols, aka Heavyreign, has been making basketball games for years. His newest effort, Fast Break Pro Basketball 3, is on the verge of release (you can currently download the beta version and play it to your hearts’ content.) Furthermore, you can give him feedback, on the GreyDogSoftware forums.
I have long been entranced with his college product, Fast Break College Basketball, and wanted to pick his brain regarding his latest work.
John Comey (GM Games): What have you found to be the most difficult part of making FBPB3?
The tough thing for me has been finishing. I've stopped and started so many times and each time you start up again it takes time to figure out where you were. The original code for the historical database was done in 2004 or 2005. The game has seen three different interfaces. The whole issue with the Sonics being sold to Clay Bennet and moved to Oklahoma City actually killed my interest in the NBA for a couple years. When I started working on programming again in 2009 it just made sense to me to work on the college game instead because I was still frustrated with the NBA.
John Comey (GM Games): Is there something about making this game that has changed you as a fan or developer? Is there any chance that any of these changes will find their way into future games?
The amount of statistical data available around the internet has gone up dramatically the last few years. One of the biggest things for me has been the data about how much players shoot from the different zones on the floor. This has been a huge help in making the engine more realistic. When I start working on the next version of the college game I'll need to make similar changes.
John Comey (GM Games): How close is FBPB3 to the ideal basketball game out of the box, in your opinion?
What I'm shooting for is a game that is fun for as many people as possible. The ideal game for me might be something like Football Manager with basketball and I've got a lot of work to do reach that point. I'm someone who feels like there is always more that could be done so it isn't really possible for me to look at the state of one of my games and be satisfied.
John Comey (GM Games): What feature has surprised you the most?
I've had a ton of fun playing around with the historical mode. I've spent a bunch of time just starting up the league in a certain year and then watching to see what happens.
John Comey (GM Games): What feature hasn't lived up to your hopes or expectations?
I'd hoped to get more done with the foreign leagues. Really this whole section of the game could've been the basis for a new release all on its own.
John Comey (GM Games): What is atop your to-do list, in terms of future features?
Long term one of the major goals will be expanding on what I've offered with the option to run leagues all over the world at the same time. There are competitions between teams from multiple leagues like the Euroleague so I'd like to build towards adding those. From there you can get into international competitions like the Olympics. These things help the universe feel more alive.
John Comey (GM Games): We live in a community that seems to predicate more in immersion. Have you adjusted your approach to your games, either philosophically or in terms of actual development, as a result of this? Basically, how have your own thoughts about what your games should be aligned with what your market has sought?
What makes a game immersive is different for everyone so I try and add things that appeal to different people. The print screen option was a big help for people who write about their own dynasties. The historical database would make the game more interesting to people who are interested in the history of the game. The customization options are big for people who want to create their own world or possibly mimic a system that is already in existence. Another big thing was making it possible to run multiple leagues at once. Just having a larger game universe means there are more stories out there to follow. Football Manager is a very immersive game for me and very deep but you have to be careful about what you add. Added depth can also mean added busywork that is less fun.
John Comey (GM Games): The one thing I see in other games, that I have yet to add, is...
The big thing these days seems to be a 2d or 3d display of the action. I'm not sure if that is something I'd ever want to attempt however.
John Comey (GM Games): What sets you apart from other developers? What sets FBPB apart from other games?
One thing I've heard from people is that I am more open to feedback than most developers. I've added small things that it is possible only matters to one person but if it won't make the experience worse for everyone else then I have no problem taking a little time doing that.
As far as the game, the big thing for me is customization. If you get bored with one format the possibility is there to mix it up.
John Comey (GM Games): I know that the creation of FBPB has been a difficult process, from a personal standpoint (as you've spoken about the issues you've gone through in the past). What has been the most satisfying aspect of making this new game?
Honestly, the feedback I got when I posted the first public beta has been a huge boost to me. I actually had it ready for close to a week before I posted it but I was nervous about what the response would be. It has been such a long process and I wasn't sure how I would handle it if the feedback was massively negative. It probably says something about the various issues I've been going through that I considered that to be a possibility. I've been kind of conditioned to expect the worst. It kind of goes back to the first FBCB. I think I started living alone for the first time in my life about a month or two before FBCB was finished. I made a game that I enjoyed playing. I'm sure it didn't come near the type of sales that Jim (Gindin) or Markus (Heinsohn) likely get but I was happy with it. The initial feedback was good but there was also a ton of drama going on at the time. A big thing was the whole issue with Joe Stallings trying to negatively influence a review of FBCB. My frustration with what was going on at the time combined with the issues with living alone resulted in me staying away from text sims for a while. It didn't really sink in for me how much fun people had playing the game until several years later when I was reading though the main thread for the game at FOFC.