Friday, December 11, 2009

Itsagoal.com

itsagoal.com is an online soccer manager game. There are a few things I like about this one, but there’s way more things that I don’t like.


What We Like About This Game- Well, there are a few things we like about this one. Our favorite part is the frequency of games. There can be as many as 4, 5, or even 6 games in a week (depending on what competitions you're in), so that regardless of your attention span (or lack there of) there's always lineups to be adjusted or training to be updated. Also, training is updated daily, so you don't die with anticipation of a once-a-week bump. Also, income and expenses are done on a game-by-game or day-by-day basis, rather than week-by-week. This system means there's more to do on a daily basis.


The training system is much less stressful than others you'll see. Players have to get game time in order to get full training, but unlike other games, it's not on a weekly system (see above). This means that if you have 3 important games in a row, you're not forced to play your 16-year-old backup goalie in order to make sure that he gets training.


I'm a big fan of the contract system (for both players and coaches) and the extensiveness of the coaching staff. It's nice to be able to have a different person to handle your in-match coaching, training, rehab, and scouting, and be able to run contracts on them. Even better, you get to negotiate contracts with your players, so you have to look more long-term in your decisions, and there's big financial penalties for simply cutting a player.


A nice little feature that I like is the "To Do List". It's a neatly organized list of stuff you need to do (set match tactics, review a contract, etc.) so that you don't forget something important.


Now, the Bad News- We have a long list of grievances about this game. We'll start with more clerical issues, then move on to our problems with the actual game. First of all, the game guide is TERRIBLE, and gives you hardly any information to help you be good at the game. I haven't had much luck getting a ton of help in the forums either, so even after having played this game for about a year, there's still a lot that I don't understand, especially about the tactics (more on that in a bit).


Also, the navigation is not very easy. A lot of the time, I still have trouble finding certain things I need to get to, because the way the game is laid out is not intuitive. To really improve game popularity, they're going to need to have a major game redesign.


The site is unusable for large parts of the day, and there is no match viewer. The site goes down to run a daily update in the morning, and then again in the evening for about an hour and a half to run the matches. This is the only manager game I've seen that hasn't developed a way to run the matches and updates without shutting the site down. Also, the lack of a play-by-play match viewer takes some of the excitement out of big games.


The tactics for the game are VERY complicated, and again, thanks to no help from the game engine, it's very difficult to figure out how you should set each of the 10 or 15 different match variables. And there's so many different skills that the players have, it's hard to figure out which things will help which match tactics, and which players should go in which positions etc. As if that wasn't confusing enough, there's a whole slew of different positions that can be a player's FP. There's probably 8 or 9 different types of midfielders, 4 different forwards, etc. And maybe the different positions are familiar to soccer nuts, but to those of us who are casual fans (or not at all), it's a lot of unnecessary jargon.


There's not a great transfer market in this game. There's typically no more than 20ish players on the transfer list at any time, and odds are none of them are the type you're looking for.


In this game, there's no "national team" system, and there are leagues with sub-divisions, but the leagues don't have any correlation to a particular nation. Furthermore, there can be teams in the 7th division that are just as good, or better, than the 2nd division, and players can enter at any level of the system, so you can get stuck in a bottom division even with a good team.


The finances in the game are VERY difficult to manage. In the lower divisions, it's very difficult to field a competitive team with much more than the bare minimum # of players and not be hugely in debt. This really handicaps you as far as being able to make player moves, expand your stadium, etc. And the players can get fatigued very easily, so having a small roster really makes the game tough. In other words, there's not much interaction within a game-wide marketplace beyond just adjusting your lineup and tactics.


Other Things to Know About This Game- Three teams promote from every division, and 3 relegate. Unlike most other manager games, the leagues have a 1:1 ratio. In other words, there's 1 top division, 1 second division, 1 third division, etc.


The Verdict- Definitely not my favorite. There are a lot of other soccer management games on the web, so I would go with one of them.


Hints For Getting Started- Most of your new players, as a result of the financial issues mentioned above, will come from your youth system, so don't ignore it. Also, the first contract out of your youth academy will be WAY cheaper than any other contract, so try and lock the player in for as long as possible.


Hire a good staff. This goes along with the previous hint. Since most of your players will come from your internal system, it's important to have good coaches to raise their skills. Also, in lieu of being able to actually make heads or tails of the match system, make sure you have a good assistant manager, as he will be able to make many of the decisions for you.



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