Sunday, December 13, 2009

Gridiron is, in my experience thus far, the best American-Football themed manager game on the net; albeit in a market without many American-Football manager games. Unfortunately, the game is developed by Europeans, and thus it is missing many of the familiarities that would allow it to become truly huge in the U.S., which has the potential to be its biggest audience.

What We Like About This Game- The first thing I like about this game is the match-tactics. They are simple enough that even those who are not football coaches can still figure them out, yet are detailed enough to allow managers some freedom in tailoring their tactics.

The forums on Grid-Iron are pretty active, and there are certainly some entertaining characters in the bunch. There's even a guy that interviews active managers and does a weekly "coaches corner".

We also like that friendlies actually matter. In many games, they are just places to "experiment" and thus people ignore them. In Grid-Iron, managers receive ticket revenue, and players gain chemistry and experience from them. Also, many managers set up informal Friendly Cups, that give some added advantage. Because the game is young, often, teams in lower divisions are just as good as those in higher divisions, so these friendly cups are a good way to see how you stack up.

The ability to choose a sponsor allows you to tailor your sponsorship needs towards your team. If you think you're going to win a lot, you can pick a sponsor that has a lower base payout but higher victory incentives. If you don't expect to win a lot, you can pick a sponsor with a higher base payout.

We also like the "positional ratings" feature. This allows you to see how much experience your player has at each specific position. This rating is a huge factor in determining how well your player will play. In so many manager games, players are given a position at "birth" and, regardless of the skill set, their performance will suffer at other positions. The positional rating is more true to real life. A great passer is a great passer, and if you give him enough time at quarterback, and he has great accuracy, footwork, and vision, he should develop into a great quarterback. This is the principle that Grid-Iron goes off of.

Along the same lines, the training system is much more realistic than many other games. In real life, a player can develop their skills in practice, regardless of whether they play, but without game-experience those skills will not result in higher performance. In the same way, in GI, players can develop passing, catching, running, speed, strength, vision, agility, etc. in practice, but will still get creamed if they don't play games to develop team chemistry, experience, and positional experience that comes from games.

What We Don't Like- One thing that I don't like about this game is how long the season takes. There is only 1 league game per week, so with a double round-robin system, that means it takes roughly 20 weeks to get through a season, which is an eternity in manager games. The developers claim that based on the way the game was made, it's impossible to add more games per week, but every other manager game seems to have accomplished it, so...

Also, the developers refuse to do a "bot flush". Many manager games have a problem of managers trying the game for a few days, and not coming back, which results in their team going bot. Most games have a system for rooting out these teams, and it usually has something to do with promoting teams from lower divisions (even if they didn't otherwise earn promotion) because playing games against the computer is boring. As a result, even the top few divisions still have as much as 6 out of 10 teams as bots. In the 4th division, there are still many leagues with only 1 or 2 active managers.

When you combine these 2 ideas together, it can make for a dull season. If there are only 2 human managers in your league, it can be 8 weeks in between playing meaningful games. Snooooozze.

I'd also like to see a playoff system to determine a league champion. I think that this playoff system would play much better to an American football audience, since it is what they are more used to seeing, and would help the game grow significantly in the Western Hemisphere.

Problems related to the newness of the game, rather than poor quality- These are issues that are going to be worked out in the next season or 2, but are something that all games face when they are young. If you can get past these problems, in a few seasons you can be one of the "good old boys" who "remembers GridIron when," which is always a fun position to be in.

1. The transfer market is not very active. This has to do partially with the developers still working out the kinks in the economic system. Either way, players can train up fairly quickly, so you can easily develop a great team only pulling from your youth system.

2. There are still some key parts of football that have not been adapted into the Game Engine yet, most notably penalties and passing to running backs. Hopefully, the powers that be are working on a way to put these into the game.

Other Things to Know About this Game- 3 teams are relegated to the lower division in each league, and 1 team promotes. This means that out of each 10-team league, there are 4 new teams each season.

The Verdict- So far, the best American Football game we know of. If the developers keep working to improve the game, it could become one of the best manager games on the net, period.

Tips for Newbies- As was mentioned above, players' ideal position can chance, and their preferred position doesn't necessarily have anything to do with their current skill set, so the first thing you should do is analyze your team and develop a lineup based on skill instead of favorite position. Use this guide to help determine which skills are most important for each player.

Make sure to claim your sponsorship money every week! It's in the economy section.

Read the FAQ. It's very informative, and is surprisingly detailed in the formulas used for attendance, training, etc.

Remember that when you develop a certain set of the stands (there are 4 sets), that set becomes unusable until the construction is finished! Therefore, make sure that you have a long term plan in place for stand development, and try to make large improvements in one fell swoop, rather than a lot of small builds. Executive and VIP are the best bang for your buck, but there are many fans who won't pay for these seats, so don't forget to build regular stands too.

Away teams earn income in Friendlies too, so try and schedules away matches against opponents with large stadiums.

Develop well-rounded players. The majority of a player's salary is based upon his highest skill, so to keep your salaries down, try and build your players well-rounded. In other words, don't train your QB's Passing to 18, but leave his footwork at 2.

Strength and Speed usually begin higher than other skills. As a rule of thumb, I multiply them by .7 to make them comparable to other skills.

Read the forums. A lot of users have come up with some very important information based on their experience, especially with regard to which skills are important for which positions.

Talent is very important, and basically determines the player's potential. Teamwork is also important, and determines how fast they gain training. See FAQ for more details.

Players are injured in TRAINING, rather than in GAMES, and training happens shortly before game time, so make sure you check in on Friday to update your lineup. If you have an "invalid lineup" (aka you have a player starting who then gets injured), the computer automatically sets up your lineup, and it usually does a cruddy job.

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