FOOTBALL MANAGER - DEV. STUDIO TOUR (21/09/12)

13/02/2013 15:44

Hi GAMERS! :D

Last year, I contributed to the "From Bedrooms To Billions" campaign on the 'Indiegogo.com'-Fundraising-Website': www.indiegogo.com/projects/78873.

One of the PERKS I received for my charitable-act was:

An Invitation-For-2 to take a 'sneak-peek' look behind-the-scenes at the multi-award-winning "Sports Interactive games" - Studio in Islington, London, on Friday 21st September, 2012. They are the game developers of the world-famous FOOTBALL MANAGER series.

Studio Tour

So, let me share that story with YOU. And, please, please SHARE it with all your gamer friends. ;)

 

I went with my buddy, Farhan to engage in a Fun All-Day Studio Tour and Sneak-Peek Behind-The-Scenes Look at the Upcoming FOOTBALL MANAGER 2013 game in a series-Spanning 20 years.

 
In anticipation of my trip to London, I emailed David Kempshall, who is basically the "MOUTH&EAR - to Miles Jacobson"...And I was given a 'Detailed Plan of the day's events':
 
TOUR&STAFF INTRO.(11AM) -> FOOTY MATCH(12PM) -> MEET MILES(12:30PM) -> LUNCH/Q&A(1PM) -> CHANCE TO PLAY THE GAME(3PM-4PM).
 
David Kempshall, or 'Dave', as the others called him - was our 'Contact' for the day, and SI Games' Marketing Manager.
 
I Played the FM2012 Demo on STEAM and 'Bought&Played the Full iPad version' - 1 Month Earlier. I also Read all-about their 'Games' and 'History' on the official website: www.sigames.com, as well as Following them on Twitter, Facebook and YouTube.
 
Dave greeted us on the street, and led us up to the studio.
 
Upon entering the studio, I was amazed by All the Flat-Screen Desktop Displays, the Posters, and Personal Decorative Items within Specified Staff Rooms. They Had a 'Giant White-Board on the Wall', where "Celebrity Promotional-events", and the "Game Project's Stages" were listed.
 
 
The studio-layout was "Really Cool".
 
I mean, FM is a Game that has MAJORLY BEEN POPULAR ON PC/MAC....But these guys had 'Kitted-Out' their studio with Table Football - Tables, Nintendo 3DS Stands, PS3s, a 'stand' to Hold up an LCD TV where they 'watched IPL Cricket matches WHILE they worked!'
 
Along with a calender, displaying key-events. They had an entire "Trophy-Cabinet" - FULL OF AWARDS, including a BAFTA! Celebrity-Signed Football T-Shirts and Mementos, Framed on their Walls. :D
 
Sofas, Consoles and Kitchens, giving it a 'Home-Away-From-Home', cosy-feel to it. It looked like a "Cushy-Job-Location". ;)
 
I was amazed by the 'Cool, Calm, Relaxed Nature of the Designers, Programmers and Graphics Artists'...
 
They really seemed to LOVE THEIR JOBS. All having the same idea, that 'Entering the Industry' was by accident, and that it was...
 
"a Hobby that Became an Obsession."
 
A lot of the current staff were quite young, in their Early-to-Mid' 20s, and so I felt like I could relate to their experiences and reasons for wanting to 'Break-Into-a-Games-Industry-Career'.
 
My buddy, Farhan is doing a "Games Development" course in Uxbridge, and he's also started using the Game Maker program. So, this was 'a Great Learning-Opportunity' for BOTH OF US. :D
 
The atmosphere was so CHILLED, that I really saw 'How' they could LOVE working there...They were all "Sports Fans" too. 
 
During the 'General Tour', looking around the floors, .."We Met-the-Staff, Learned about their various ROLES", some of the people had either LEFT, were On-Vacation, or OFF-SICK..
 
.But astoundingly even in these Final Weeks of Development, Most of the SI GAMES Employees were Still Working Hard to Put Finishing Touches to the FM2013 GAME, and I was able to 'ask questions' to some of them.
 
Dave Kempshall eventually showed us the Office of Miles Jacobson, the Creative Director. :)
 
I remember Looking at the STACKS OF GAMES, Messy Floor and Toys..And I turned to Dave and said:
 
"This Office Reminds-Me of the one that TOM HANKS has in THAT-MOVIE......"BIG!" " Lol. :D It was TRUE, but Very Cool..
 

I also said that, The Only Thing Missing was a TRAMPOLINE.

 

Moving along our 'Tour-of-the-Studio', I also talked with some of the 'younger-testers', working on the BUGS in the FM2013 Work-In-Progress... They said that the Bugs were Only Limited to the Match Engine..ie. All Graphical, Visual Bugs, No Text-issues. :)

 
I learned quite a lot. :)
 
Anyway, after the introductory-tour around the developer-studio, Dave took us out to watch the other employees Play  - AN ACTUAL FOOTBALL MATCH! :)
 
Apparently, Miles and the SI GAMES Owners, Paul&Oliver Colliyer, encouraged their Staff to Play 5-a-side Football, 4 days in the week-Before Lunch (Healthy Workout). They even had "Special Blue and Yellow SI KITS", which they use to split-up the staff into 4 Teams A,B,C&D...And play-daily-in their own 'Leagues', keeping score.
 

Dave even told us that they play against teams-arranged by Companies in their Local Area. :)

 

It was cool watching them play....If a little-'BORING'-standing at the sidelines, lol. ;)

 

Afterwards, we went back to the game-studio, Myself-and-Farhan met Miles, Shook His Hand, and...

 
 

The 1st thing he said to me was... "Hi, Oh You're That-Guy Who Helped the FB2B Campaign Reach Its Goal"... :p

 

I mean, after reading on the website, about SI's Awards, and Miles' OBE in 2011, I came to London, with a feeling of 'Great Respect' and 'Awe' of them. BUT, The fact that I'd made a 'Good Impression' on him, Based on my 'recent-contributions' - was AWESOME! :)

I had brought my iPad2, shown Miles some of my Artistic doodles, and mentioned some of the 'other contributions' I made to that campaign, as well as the "Respective Perks".

 
I also told him about how the Campaign-Runners - Anthony&Nicola Caulfield (Pictured-Below; vvvv), are going to Add My Name to the SPECIAL THANKS List in the END-CREDITS of their Movie-Documentary about 'the history of video games in Great Britain between the late 70's and mid-90s'', ..-To which Miles said: Yeah, they should. :)
 
(Pictured: At Manchester's 1st-Ever "PlayExpo2012").

And then, we went for Lunch...Joined by Dave, and 5 other  people ( I forget their names.. "Sorry":/)  ..Fellow "Coders" and Beta Tester veterans, who talked about their history of 'Testing Games' for Sports Interactive games.
 
I informed the S.I. games' lead-developers about my "Train2Game" course. After Meeting-Miles, he sat down with us, and asked us what Farhan and I - each wanted to do in our career paths.
 

 Back-at-their-offices, with my iPad2-'in-hand', I showed-off 'Snapshots' of my 'Artistic Doodles' and Sketches.

I told Miles that I wanted to Start as a Tester, go into Art&Design, and maybe Production. Miles said:

 
this is quite like what he had done - 'HIMSELF', and so he gave me Great Feedback.
 
He and the other 'Pros.' gladly answered my questions during our 'Lunch-Session', which was a pleasent pace of 'geeky chatter' at a Thai Thai Restaurant-Literally a 2min. Walk Away from the Office-Block bldg.
 
 
I had sensed the relief-from-their-work-space, and the Real-Sense of the People Working at SI Games. They had seemingly worked so hard on this game for the Last 3yrs, and they were 'AS GLAD AS Farhan&Myself- to enjoy a nice meal-and meet fellow passionate-gamers, and talk about their 'Accomplishments'.
 
Especially since Miles was Cool enough to Pay-For-Everyone, lol. ;)
 

These guys really Made Me Feel that I'd Made the Right Choice to Enter the Games Industry...I thought their Lives would be Different from a Normal Gamer, but I found a Great Many Similarities. That Reassured me that I Wanted to Work in this Career path. :)


The Q&A Session went something like this:

 

(I forget some of this stuff, but I now have Miles Jacobson's email address and David Kempshall's Contact Tel. no. Useful for future-contact, maybe. :)

 

Q - Do you guys have A LOT OF SPRITES, running around in the game?

 

A - Well, no. Actually, it's a Text-RPG - Football Manager game. It's all Text Boxes, and such. Except for the MATCH ENGINE-ITSELF.

 

Q - Ok. So, WHO does all the Image and Graphics stuff?

 

A - (*I was introduced to the SI staff, but having only-just got back and fully-rested, I forget individual names, sorry about that. :/) We work on the STADIUM - making it More Realistic, Adding New Camera Angles, Improving the Fans' Animations in the CROWD-STANDS, the PLAYERS AND THE PITCH, etc... But the External Images, Background Images and Cover Artwork are all done by SEGA.

 

Q - How do you guys get your RESEARCH into the game? I assume that Your Researchers HAVE A BALL, Getting Season Tickets to Match-Day Events, Mingling with Commentators, and Talking to Football Experts and Managers. :D

 

A - Err-m, No! :) We have over 1,000 Researchers in more than 300 countries. They get their RESEARCH from THE INTERNET..Blogs, Tweets, Football Stories, Newspaper Articles, all the football reviews, news and key-noteworthy Publications from around the world.

 

Q - Okay. You allow HUMAN MANAGERS to engage in Their Own Role-Play Manager Career, with the NEWS FEED and PRESS CONFERENCE FEATURES. And Players seem to favour Teams They Like - More than those they don't. I GUESS YOU'D NEED TO BE CAREFUL WHEN SETTING A PLAYER'S STATS, RIGHT? Because Fans of Chelsea might have DIFFERENT OPINIONS about - say Ashley Cole's ability, compared to what a Fan of Man Utd might think.

 

A - Yep. :) We Base Our Stats on our Research. So, we'll look at: HOW OFTEN HE GETS INJURED, HOW MANY YELLOW/RED CARDS HE GETS, WHAT HIS CURRENT SEASON VALUE IS, WHAT HIS CURRENT REPORTED MOODS, ACTIONS AND BEHAVIOUR HAS BEEN LIKE, WHAT HE MAY HAVE SAID, etc...We aim to give As-Real a Representation of the Player's Behaviour and Skillsets, as possible.

 

Q - (Talking to the Ball Physics and Match Engine Lead Programmer) So, DO YOU WRITE THE CODE for the BALL-PHYSICS, the PLAYER SKILLS, MOVEMENTS, ANIMATIONS, the A.I RESPONSIVENESS, and things?
 

 
A - Yes. I work on making the A.I BETTER with every new Football Manager game, the Movement and Placement of objects like the Rail-Cam and other Visual codes. The Accuracy of Passing and Receiving the Ball (Player-to-Player), The Transfer Deadline Clock, etc. We are constantly trying to make it More Advanced and More Fun to Watch.

(These were simply some of the questions that I asked the Staff - before going out for Lunch, as I met them..But I learned a lot. These guys really LOVE-WHAT-THEY-DO. And they put a great deal of effort into each part of it. :) )

As soon as we sat down to have Lunch in the restaurant, Miles and I kicked off the Q&A. (*I should have got a Photo of All of Us-At the Table, :) ...Too late now.)


 

Q - Miles, Tell me about the LEGENDARY 'SEGA' OFFER.

 

A - Which one? a) 2004, OR b) 2006 ? ... (I said: "THE ONE INVOLVING THE NUMBER ON THE TISSUE", lol.)

Well, .... We got a phone-call from SEGA, saying that they wanted to Meet-Me, and that we should have Lunch. So, we did. We went out for a Curry, and the SEGA guys said: "We Want to Buy Your Company, and We Want Full Control Over EVERYTHING! This is What We're Prepared to Offer....So, We Strongly-Advise You to ACCEPT IT!"

....And then they Wrote Down a Number on a TISSUE, and SLID-IT-ACROSS-THE-TABLE..I looked at it, and it was AN 8-FIGURE-SUM!!! :0 ..But I just Told-Them: "Look, we'd LIKE to work with SEGA, but I have to ask Paul&Oliv (*the Colliyer Bros. - who own SI games), and I-Strongly Believe that They'd Say that ...'We are Prepared to ACCEPT ANY OFFER FROM SEGA, - BUT! - WE WANT TO PRESERVE FULL CREATIVE OWNERSHIP OF OUR GAMES. So, I'm sorry".

At this point, the SEGA guys said: "It's the Best Deal You're Going to Get from SEGA. Okay, Forget it. We won't be going into business with you."

Then THE-DAY-AFTER, Paul&Oliver Colliyer Called-Me into THEIR OFFICE, and told me to Go-And-Stand By-the Fax Machine. I stood there for 2mins., and after that...A message was FAXED-FROM-SEGA:

"We are Delighted to AGREE TO YOUR TERMS, AND WE HAVE ENCLOSED OUR FINAL TERMS AND TAKE-OVER BID. 'We will Allow-Sports Interactive games to KEEP CREATIVE CONTROL OVER THEIR GAMES'."

When I looked at the NUMBER, IT-WAS-DOUBLE-THE ORIGINAL-AMOUNT! Afterwards, I asked Paul&Oliv about it, and they said: "The SEGA President phoned us, and said that they'd ACCEPTED OUR OFFER."

(*I asked Miles, and it seems Clear, that after His-Rejection of their earlier offer, the SEGA PRESIDENT must have told his Negotiators to Double the Amount, and ACCEPT. :) A Really Cool Story!

He also then went on - about their Uniqueness as a Developer with COMPLETE FREEDOM, FLEXIBILTY, and How Their Passion Drives the Company - Forwards. Inspiring Stuff.
 

Miles told me that No Matter Where You Start, or What You Do, You Must Be Happy, and Passionate, because it's Not a 9-5 JOB, it's an 18-Hour JOB, and How you LIKE it affects-Not just your Gaming Life, but your Work Life, your Personal and Social Life-Too:p  - A Lesson 'Well-Learned!)

 

*I agree,  Whole-Heartedly with the advice given by Miles, and I'll take it 'on-the-chin'. BOTH- Farhan (My +1 Studio Tour Invitee Guest) and I, enjoyed the Entire-Day's events with the Sports Interactive games  In retrospective-thought, my assumptions about THE FM GAME-FEATURES and BUILD METHODS (Based on what I learned in Chapter 3 of the T2G Intro. Module) were Right-On-The-Mark with What S.I's Staff ACTUALLY MIGHT TAKE-INTO-ACCOUNT in a "Realistic-Project".


But I was SURPRISED - about certain Realistic-Aspects of Football, that might accompany the game. Such as research that goes into it. If ONLY THE DEVS. "DID"-PAY THE LOWER STAFF RESEACHERS TO GO OUT, ENJOY THE FRILLS AND THE SAY: "Yes, we Got some Great Research...And Bought Some New Home-Kits", lol. :D

There are many other questions I asked Miles Jacobson (About Miles' OBE-given by The Queen (EiiR), His Beta Testing Past and Advice about That-Role and Others, FM-Online, Why Consoles are Not yet Ready for FOOTBALL MANAGER, The Relationship between SI games and SEGA, WHAT EACH - Sports Interactive and SEGA "DO-RESPECTIVELY",  and I feel I learned a lot about the Games industry - 'in general'. :)

I shared my experience with fellow 'Q.A Games Tester Students&Admin.' on the T2G FORUMS.
 
*As a 'final comment', I just want to say...In case I didn't already :) - The trip to SPORTS INTERACTIVE games' Studio in Islington, London was GREAT! :D And after we left their studio, Farhan and I still found time to stop-by "HMV-GAMERBASE", at Oxford Circus, to check out the new FIFA 13 game! ;) An all-round FUN-DAY-OUT! ;)
 
 

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