Continuing on from last week, this is the second part of a series in which I describe why I decided to remake an existing game instead of making a new one.
The training in Kickboxing Manager was both far more complex and far more simple than that in World Boxing Manager. In theory, having different types of equipment - each with their own levels of
upgrades - which trained different sets of stats gave the player more choices in how to build their fighters and customize their gyms. It was also supposed to add strategy because the player would
have to balance out the use of all equipment properly in order to prevent certain stats from atrophying due to neglect.
The old Gym Information screen in Kickboxing Manager
In practice, however, the complexity that arose from having so many different types of equipment was completely artificial. For starters, the player was more or less forced to memorize
which equipment affected which stats, as it wasn't always clear. When coupled with the sheer number of stats that each fighter possessed, it simply became too easy to get bogged down
trying to keep track of it all. Having an upgrade level for each piece of equipment made this worse, as keeping track of different upgrade levels and attempting to optimize training across
all of it became too much to deal with. The solution was to simply focus on upgrading a few select pieces of equipment, thereby defeating the point of having so many in the first place.
The old Training screen in Kickboxing Manager
These factors did add difficulty, but not the right type of difficulty. It was all too easy to devolve into a pattern of simply using the same type of equipment all the time and training the exact
same type of fighter repeatedly. Thus, having all this added "complexity" ended up completely detaching the player from the training process and making training an afterthought.
Going into World Boxing Manager, I knew I had to address three key problems:
a) Prevent the training system from railroading the player into training the same style of fighter over and over again.
b) Make training and upgrades clearer and easier to manage.
c) Engage the player during the training process and get them to think about what stats they trained.
Encourage Different Styles of Fighters
The first thing to do was to scrap the concept of having different upgrade levels for each type of equipment. For World Boxing Manager, I implemented a single Gym Equipment upgrade level,
accessible from the Gym Profile screen rather than the training screens. This prevents the player from ignoring certain types of training in favour of others by simply making them all the same
level, and also avoids the railroading problem Kickboxing Manager had by not penalizing the player for training his or her fighters differently. The player is free to train each fighter according to
the fighter's individual traits.
Making Training Easier to Understand
I also stopped using "training regimens" as training, because things like "Game Planning" or "Plyometrics" weren't totally clear with regards to what stats were being trained. World Boxing
Manager's training is much more straightforward, allowing the player to train stats specifically, or train them according to a fighting style. Either way, having the player choose between training
Cross or Guard instead of "Banana Bag" or "Meditation" makes the training process much clearer. I also added progress bars so the player can actually tell how far along each fighter's training is.
The new Training screen in World Boxing Manager. Note that the Begin Training Camp button only appears if a match has been booked.
The most difficult problem to solve was how to engage the player in the training process. By its very nature, training in a game like World Boxing Manager is quite passive. Even Football
Manager's training system is largely passive - the user sets a training plan for a player on his or her team, and essentially sits back and watches the player grow. However, for those not
familiar with the sport of boxing, every match in real life is preceded by an intense training camp, which allows each fighter to tailor his training for his upcoming opponent. Training camps
also allow fighters to control their diets in order to make the weight limit for their next fight. Oftentimes, a poor training camp can scuttle a fighter's hopes of victory. Going into World Boxing
Manager, I knew I wanted to capture the strategic depth of a training camp as best I could, while also giving the player a reason to actually pay attention to training.
The Training Camp screen in World Boxing Manager. Note that the opponent's stats are shown in the lower right.
In World Boxing Manager, Training and Training Camps are separated into two distinct phases. Between matches, Training is handled in a fairly passive manner - the player simply selects
what stat or style to train, sets it, and forgets it. This type of training results in permanent gains, allowing for the long-term development of a fighter.
Once a match is made, the fighter has the option of beginning a training camp. Gains in training camp are higher, but only apply to the next fight. This allows the player to train his or her fighter
differently depending on the strengths and weaknesses of the next opponent. Not only does this increase the strategy when making matches in the first place (more on this later), it also forces the
player to try and optimize the training given the time remaining until the fight.
Trainers are able to train multiple fighters at a time.
I also included Trainers in the game, each with their own strengths and weaknesses. Because the player's gym will never have as many Trainer slots as Fighter slots, the player is
forced to strategize somewhat when hiring trainers. Do you hire a trainer who can give a mediocre boost to all of your fighters? Or do you favour a certain fighter and hire a trainer
suited to his skillset at the expense of your other fighters? This choice is exacerbated by the fact that trainers are less and less effective as the number of fighters they have to train
concurrently increases. This means you, the manager, must juggle schedules and fighters in order to maximize the gains from trainer bonuses.
Another major factor in training camps is the concept of cutting weight. Kickboxing Manager had no weight classes - everyone somehow fought at a universal weight. World Boxing Manager
has weight limits, and with it, the possibility of failing to make weight. It is up to you, as manager, to make sure that you leave enough time before a fight in order to make the weight limit.
This aspect of training camps is passive aside from having to monitor your fighter's weight - their weight decreases automatically each day by a varying amount depending on how good the
fighter is at cutting weight.
I'm hoping all of the changes I made to the training process allow the player to become immersed in the strategy of preparing for a fight rather than passively clicking the "Next Day" button. Having
to consider things like balancing trainers and weight cutting in addition to tailoring training for the upcoming opponent will reward players diligent enough to pay attention to each fighter's training
progress and schedule, especially as the player's gym grows and you find yourself having to manage the training of multiple fighters at a time.
As usual, this feature is getting a bit long, so I'll have to pause for now. If you found this interesting, please do make your way over to my Greenlight page to upvote World Boxing Manager. Every vote counts!
Or if you're curious about Kickboxing Manager at this point, feel free to try the full game for free at IndieDB!