‘Empire of Sports’ is the world’s first massively multi-player online role-playing game platform (MMORPG) built entirely around sports. It is designed to allow millions of players around the world to simultaneously exist in a persistent online universe, where their avatars socially interact, train, compete and attend events in various sports disciplines to build a virtual sporting existence.
Building on the unprecedented rise of persistent gaming worlds, Empire of Sports opens up a completely new realm for gamers and online users: the exciting and thrilling world of sports. At the centre of the gamers’ attention is their virtual representation in the sports world, the avatar or player character. The player assumes the role of a single player character throughout the entire game, which will result in an up to now unimagined gaming experience, especially in team sports.
- The first true multi-sport MMORPG
- A journey that will take you from being an ambitious and talented rookie to the heights of sports stardom
- Create your own individual character and develop its skills and capabilities in various sports
- Participate in multi-player sports action in football, basketball, tennis, skiing, bobsleigh, athletics and gym games
- Interact with thousands of other players in virtual city centers
- Compete in matches and competitions for all levels and reach the top of your sports league
Basketball is the first truly team sport being developed for Empire of Sports. Skiing, for example, is a single-player game: even if several avatars are present at the same time on a track, the opponents are currently represented by ghosts - so there’s no risk of crashing into your opponents. Tennis, although it involves at least 2 players is one against one. For the first time, in Basketball, we have 10 individual players on the court at the same time. As you can imagine making everything work hasn’t exactly been what you’d call a piece of cake.
The greatest challenge has come from the speed inherent in the sport. Everything goes incredibly fast in Basketball: the passes, the shots, the dunks, the movement of the players, the action. As any fan of the sport will tell you everything about Basketball is aimed at encouraging speed and action. The court is small and there are various rules forcing players to keep the ball moving around the court while at the same time densely packed in the frontcourt keeping everybody in close proximity and forcing rapid movement and changes in possession.
The difficulties are partly technical, with obvious challenges from Internet lag, but also partly an issue for game designers to make sure it is as easy as possible for players to understand exactly what is going on. There are obvious issues such as knowing where the ball is, where their team mates are, how to get the ball and, once they’ve got the ball, what offensive tactical choices they have. For us, it means a lot of hard work especially looking at placing the camera and making sure the interface is easy to use and understand. This has been made a lot easier with the MACS system.
As you’ve probably read in earlier blogs about tennis MACS stands for:
We ‘Move’ the avatar with the keyboard; we ‘Aim’ at the place where we want to throw the ball; we ‘Charge’ the power of our pass or shot by keeping the mouse button pressed; then we ‘Shoot’ (or pass) the ball by releasing the button. Given that the same system will work with all the ball sports, coming to grips with successive ball sports will be much easier once a player establishes an initial comfort level with the first. Meaning we can concentrate on the sport and players don’t have to worry about constantly learning new sets of controls making Empire of Sports really easy to access.
How does MACS shape up in basketball? Put very simply if a player has the ball and clicks on the opposition’s basket, they will try to score or if they click on a teammate they will pass instead. One of the defining characteristics of Empire of Sports is that the success of the shot or pass depends not only on the aiming skills of the player, but also on the abilities of his or her avatar. The avatars will be able to develop a certain number of basketball-specific techniques. Helping with a range of skills from increasing the accuracy of passes and shots, aiding movement by allowing the avatar to run faster and turn quicker, giving an avatar better ball protection skills or better ball stealing skills, better rebounds, jumps and even your dunk success rate – although most of the dunks will actually be ‘tricks’ (a separate system within the game).
Getting back on track, the second major challenge in making Empire of Sports basketball viable is the camera. In other basketball titles the player controls a team and not an individual, so the camera simply follows the ball. In Empire of Sports there are as many cameras as there are avatars on the court, and each of those cameras consistently follows the same character throughout the game. The question we’ve asked ourselves was: “what does a player do during a game?” The role of the camera is to offer the player a clear vision of the current action as well as his or her options. This is the part we’re currently tuning, and let me tell you, it’s pretty tricky.
As much as we want to make Empire of Sports as close to a real sporting experience as possible the idea is to allow anybody to play very quickly and, through our avatar matching services, to have fun with other gamers whose gaming skills are about the same level. With this in mind we have developed the 2 on 2 and 3 on 3 versions of Basketball – as the amount of team strategy is obviously far less important with smaller teams. Teams of 2 or 3 players also allow beginners to get used to the controls and progressively find what position and what game style suits them the best. This way a player is introduced to other players and will over time find people to form an effective team.
5 on 5 Basketball, just like Basketball in real life, is meant for people who already possess strong teamwork skills. It both allows and pushes them to develop real team strategies, and players who can play as a team will have a real edge. If everybody moves towards the ball at the same time, it’s never going to work! The best strategy is when everybody plays a specific role, like: forward, center or guard. So an understanding of the subtleties of sport will give you a head start on the pure gamers. The players will also choose the abilities they want to develop based on their role in the team - for example, being able to run quickly is more important for a forward making a fast break than for a center. If a group of players decide they want to form a “professional team”, they will have the whole club system to support them, with a coach to train them, but I’m getting a bit off topic here.
Let’s get back to the Basketball. Our ultimate goal is to make it very easy to play with other people: we want players to be able to quickly find teammates and opponents with whom they’ll interact very simply and intuitively, be it in casual matches against total strangers or in high-level competitions with fully-trained partners. Although a player’s success will be facilitated by a high level avatar, the speed with which players make decisions and their tactical sense of the game will also be huge factor deciding who becomes a champion and who is just a challenger. In the end, only the players with the best instincts for reading a situation during a match, the best skills at getting the ball for their team and keeping it away from the opposition, at managing their metabolism, at positioning themselves in the best spot for a shot etc. will push their teams to the top ranks in Empire of Sports.
One last detail: One of the major differences between reality and Empire of Sports is the coexistence of men and women in Empire of Sports teams. Gender doesn’t have any impact on performance. We don’t care if you’re a boy or a girl, it’s the score when the buzzer goes that decides who is best.
Among the high quality multiplayer sports games available at the launch of Empire of Sports will be Basketball, Tennis, Skiing, and a series of fitness and training games. Other major sports will be announced as the platform develops.
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