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Creating a High School Football Game Revisited 
Posted on August 6, 2017 at 01:28 PM.
A few years ago I wrote a blog about my vision of a high school football game. It remains my highest read blog entry. I got to thinking it might be time to update the blog. When I last visited this idea, EA's Teambuilder had just shown up, The NCAA series was still going strong but we sill only had the EA offerings. Now we live in a video game world where there is no college football game. Madden is the only real football out there (yes I know there are others but Madden is the only from a major developer.) Now I'm updating what I wrote before but if I miss something and it sounds dated understand this is an updated version and I may have missed something.

Creating a High School Football Game: Revisited

High School football brings passion. In the state of Texas it is almost a religion of its own. The question is why haven't we seen a high school football title of its own?

Sure, there are several reasons they can come up with as to why they couldn't do it. Reason like, how could we get license to all those schools? What states do we choose? It just isn't practical, it wouldn’t sell, etc.

Those would be some of the reason you'd expect to hear from the game makers of the world. But there are several ways it could work and would make it a top seller.

First off, some might say a regional release so Texas High School football gets its due and those in other states get their fix as well. This idea wouldn't work too well because you still face the problem getting all the schools in every state.

I have better idea. You release High School Football USA and make one of the first things you do is select your state. If you live in Mississippi, Georgia, Florida, California or even the before mentioned Texas, you'll know you're schools most likely.

After you've selected your state you can choose how many classes your state has in high school football. It would go from 1a to 6a. You then get to choose from randomly generated teams by the computer or given the option to create your schools. This way you ensure your high school isn't left out and at the same time allows you to enjoy creating the teams.

The creation shouldn't be a simple generic logo like we've seen in past NCAA and Madden football title's create-a-school feature. It would need to be deep and allow you to be able to create even the logo. I’m thinking Teambuilder for High School teams. Go look at the old Teambuilder teams and you’ll see a good number of the teams are high school teams. If you go back to my original blog post, I original said something about being able to upload logos and Teambuilder gives us this. Lets use it to build a High School football game, please! Doing this too also means some of us who enjoy building teams can have the teams built before the title releases and people can download them and start right away.

Using Teambuilder as a base, one thing they need to fix right away is not being able to see logos unless you’re hooked up online. This is something that has always bothered me. For this game that would need to be fixed. For people that don’t have Xbox Live, but borrowed a friend’s internet just to get the teams, they shouldn’t be forced to use generic logos. Also, some type of more defined logo creator, much like the one on Backbreaker, would be a welcome edition for those without internet.

2K has even come up with ways to upload logos now for their NBA 2K series. Creating teams no longer needs to be generic and having closer, real to life logos would be huge and as long as there is a means to share our hard work with others, this would help sell the game.

Having the ability to share logo and created teams is key to this working. It will really be depending on who the developer is of this title on how they do it. If EA does, it might be another Teambuilder website, 2K might have the upload on the game somewhere and system sharing that is right there. That way if someone is crazy about high school football in your state does all the editing and gets the entire player names in there, you can download them from there if you're too lazy. This would be key to making a game that would sell as opposed to just having a generic title.

OK, we've gotten the teams out of the way so what next? Well, we'd need some sort of mode to keep people playing. No superstar or campus legend mode. We want something that focuses on the team. The best idea is a dynasty mode that features the ups and downs of a high school football coach.

First off you aren't going be recruiting your talent. In high school you are supposed to be playing with the hand you’re dealt. I know some schools don't play by these rules, but in my game you are. Sure you might get lucky and have some stud for another team move to your town in the off-season, but you won't be recruiting him. It’s just dumb luck or a direct result of your success. I'll explain that last part later.

First off, you'll have to deal with your local newspaper. Every town in High School Football USA is going to have a different personality to its team. I say let the user choose what type of town it is, from crazed to tame or middle. If you are in a crazed town, you're always one loss or two away from being run out of town. You're local paper will be the leading voice for or against you. You can think of the movie and TV show Friday Night Lights for an example.

In a crazed town, even if you're in a year where the talent isn't there, they still expect greatness from you, maybe at least a division title. In a tame town you'll be given a lot of rope because they really don't care. Middle is where they care about the football, but will be more understanding of a down year, but you better come through in those years you're suppose to.

Your success as a coach can change a town's reaction to the team. If you start off with a tame town and win a couple of championships, you might make that tame town become a crazed town because they want that success every year.

Also, as a coach if you're successful, you might be offered jobs by other schools. If you're in tame town and win it all, expect someone from a crazed town or a middle town to come calling. You might also see some talent players move to your town because their parents want to see you coach them to greatness. But with all this comes more pressure.

Also, if you are fired from a crazed town, you might have to start over with a tame town. Tame town are usually low on talent so you will have to really work hard with what you have to try and climb back up that ladder. Of course, if you were a successful coach who hired by a tame town, that could make expectations rise and turn the town up from tame. Of course, the talent of that area is still what draws up the team, but your rep makes them expect more from you.

Also as coach you've got to deal with injuries and other issues. If a kid's grades are suffering you might have to figure out ways to keep him playing. You could make it where you fudge the numbers and risk getting in trouble or you could simply make sure he has all the help he needs to pass. Fudging the number could result in you getting caught and the team being suspended from post season play or it could result in your players’ attitudes getting worse. Bad player attitudes result in more off the field issues

With off the field issues you will also have to manage team character. Team character will define the type of coach you are. Your star player is a true stud, but can't stay out of trouble. You'll have to decide to sit him, cut him or just put up with it so you can win football games. No matter what you decide, the local paper will have an opinion on it.

I've toyed with the idea of allowing you to run a "dirty program" where you are trying to get kids to your school that might not live in your district. You could get some that actually move there because the success you're having, but this idea would have a risk reward. Sure, you could win faster in a lower tier town, but if you get caught, you could be placed on probation and lose the very player you stole. If this game becomes a series, this might be best left for a year two idea. But we also have to realize this could be a one and done title. This means all cards might need to be on the table because their might not be a next year.

Also, you have the local booster club breathing down your neck too. They bring money into your program so you better be listening, but sometimes they might ask you to do something you don't feel is right. Do it and you might get a jumbotron. Don't and you might have a tough time getting even basic stadium up-keep approved.

If we include the Dirty program option, you could have it where you allow the boosters to be the ones actually doing all the dirty deeds and just turn a blind eye. This might protect you if you get caught but still would hurt the program.

This all can lead to what type of team character you have. If you give in to the boosters, star players, your rep may come as someone that will cheat to win. Of course if you don’t and still win, you’ll be reward with something else. It helps define who you are and what you can become as a coach.

As far as play-by-play of the games, this is where the developers can have some fun. Have yourself two guys who always seem to fight to call the action and put in some fake ads they must mention and you could have just a fun commentary. It needs to sound like just two locals, not professional though or it doesn't work. They should step on what the other one is saying at times like they color guy kind of thinks he should be doing the play-by-play. It could be a fun part of the game that makes the gamer laugh. Even have one of them start telling a story of their "former glory" and miss a big play and have the other guy call him out for it. Stuff like that.

I'd have two different types of commentary. One would be for the crazed towns. The other would be for tame towns. Middle towns, you get to choose which you get. The tame team would be uninterested in the game. They would be talking about upcoming town events, like the school play that is upcoming, more than the game. Now they might get excited in the end if the game is close, but for the most part you'd know they don't want to be there. Where the crazed team would be over into the game.

The action on the field should feature smaller playbooks than in most football games. And it should be allow you to make plays and practice them too. Also I'd like to see trick plays and gimmick formations as well.

The key to a game like this is to keep the realism and not try and make it an arcade type title like the old Blitz series if you want it to sell. The game on the field needs to be real football. If it isn't those crazed high school fans won't be back for the next edition we are in an age of real football sims. Just look at Madden each year. If it feels more like an arcade game, the public revolts. That is why this needs to be a true sim title.

HOW TO MAKE THIS TITLE WORK

One of the one many things you hear people say is, "it wouldn't sell." Well, it most likely would if they did things right on the first try. Being a first year title, it would need to get a lot of things right straight out of the gate.

First off there are two ways to go about it. One would be the more unrealistic regional release. That one wouldn't work, cause while I'm sure those in Texas would line up for it, other states aren't as crazed about High School football. Plus, you’d have to have a large team to go out and research every state, every high school, so it wouldn’t work. So that option I would call extremely unlikely.

But the one that would work would be the edit feature. Sure not everyone would want to take the time to edit every team, but several will. We’ve already seen this with EA’s Teambuilder. It has changed the game and has given me hope this type of game could actually be made.

We have also seen the very deep custom feature on the old Backbreaker game. This could work method could work in the high school title, but only if we had an EA Locker or 2k Share to let other gamers who don’t want to create their state’s schools, find them. Without it, this game wouldn’t have the same appeal so a share feature is a must.

We'd also need to be able to choose what state we're going to use. Since high school football is all about that state, make it so. Also, stadium sounds will be a must so we can find the right fight songs, but have some generic and famous college ones already in there.

Also, we'd need to make sure we're able to edit everything from the name of the school on the front of the jersey, to nothing but numbers or a just a school logo on the shoulder.

Next, we must be allowed to edit everything from player's names to ratings. It should feel like our game. We create everything from uniforms, stadiums, to players. Let this be our game. Also allow us to create up to six different classes if we want.

Stadiumbuilder could make a debut with a title like this. Stadiumbuilder could be a web app like Teambuilder. Of course the biggest difference is you’re building stadiums. This would give them away to give us the deepest stadium builder we’ve ever seen and not loading down the disk with stadium building stuff. Also, it would give us the best chance at getting our stadiums close.

I do like the idea too of having an all USA top 100 too and maybe adding a fictional USA tournament. This would be just something to bring in a few more of the casual gamers. I would make it an optional part of dynasty mode, but you can only get in by winning your state championship and must be invited. Not a feature I'd really want, but could bring in casual gamers.

For High School Football USA to work, you'd need a top developer. 2k needs something to revive their football hopes and with EA having a stranglehold on the NFL, this could be the gimmick that gets them back in the game. EA having lost the NCAA deal may want to look for something fill the void until they can do another college title. Maybe this will be it.

Of course, I'd want Midway and the blitz engine as far away from this game as possible. This game wouldn't need to feel like a gimmicky game since it would be mainly geared to true football fans. So I say no to Midway. Sorry, Blitz fan, but High School Football Blitz edition isn't what I want or what most are looking for.

Maybe one of the indy devolopers could take on this title. We have seen Axis Football, the team working on the College game Gridiron Greats could consider this. They are already doing the total custom game if their college game comes to pass. I wouldn't want to see it as just a mode on that game though because then the ideas I have for a Dynasty mode wouldn't work.

Also, the dynasty mode would have to bring something new to the table. That's why I like the idea of the focus on the head coach. As I said before, let us choose how the fan base is in our town.

I just feel the focus on being a high school coach and facing off a local media that loves you one week and thinks you're the dumbest person in the world the next week would bring a challenge. Also, we'd need to be forced to make touch decisions like if we should bench our star player due to trouble off the field and face the wrath of boosters or play him anyway and face loosing control of his team.

And the last thing this game would need to work is a great marketing push. It couldn't just be a game that they put in articles and only talk about in magazines. It can’t just show up in stores and expect to sell. It would need to be on TV spots. Learn from the mistakes of MVP NCAA Baseball and make sure everyone knows it is out there. That could help make this game work.

MVP NCAA Baseball could have been a hit, but they treated it like fringe title and because of that it sold like one. High School Football USA would need to avoid this trap. Treating a sports game like a fringe title ensures it will fail.

Also, this title doesn't have to be a yearly release. If this is done correctly and we are able to edit everything, why release it every year anyway? Make it a two year or three year development cycle so when we get a sequel, we know it is going to be the best game period. By doing it this way, you have longer shelf life for the older title while ensuring actual improvement in the sequel as opposed to just a glorified roster update.

Even if we only got it made one year, I'd be happy. I really believe in this idea. Just wish someone would grab that ball and run with it. Or go deep, whichever football metaphor you want to add.

If they could put this in a high school football game I think a lot of us would flock to buy it. I'm not a huge fan of high school football, but I know I'd give this game a try if it was out there.

So to the EAs, 2ks, Indies and anyone else who might be listening, here's you another football answer. I just hope someone is listening and maybe we'll see a real High School Football USA.
Comments
# 1 grabursock55 @ Aug 8
Hey Scoop, I gotta tell you...

I read this thingall the time starting when you first posted it a few years ago. I love all of your ideas and would love nothing more than a HS Football game. They always have HS FB on ESPN nowadays, you would think that we would see a game sometime.

I have put some thought into HS football games as well and here are a few notes I can remember off the top of my head.

--a "freshman team" consisting of all 9th graders. You could look at their roster and decide if any of them are good enough to suit up and take the field with the varsity team. The risk/reward in this is that if they would get a lot of playing time with 9th grade, but you have them riding the bench for varsity games, they wouldnt progress as fast as they would if you just let them play Freshman football. Alternatively, if they get solid playing time or are a starter on your varsity team, they would progress at a faster rate than if they had just stayed on the 9th grade team

--When creatign your teams, you choose what their "classification" is, based on enrollment. A school with a single A (A) classification would only have maybe 8-11 incoming freshman each season, where a 6A (AAAAAA) school might have a freshman class of 25 or so. This classification system would help separate the large schools from the small schools and make each team feel unique.

--Piggybacking off my last thought, if you only have a freshman class of 8 athletes, you might have to decide if some of those players are capable of playing both ways. Players would need to have ratings for all skills so that the coach can make a decision as to where the player should play and if they should play O and D. Larger Schools likely wouldnt have to make these decisions as frequently since they have a larger pool of players to choose from for each position.

--I like your idea about booster clubs, Of course, larger schools would have a much easier time raising funds for their massive stadiums where smaller schools would have to save money for years for to do something basic like updating their scoreboard or pressbox. Of course, if your team was winning, it might accelerate the fundraising process. Updating uniforms should be an option at the end of each season, but this would dip into the funds as well. You could keep the same uniforms for 10 years to save a buck, but it would reflect poorly on your program IE Town newspaper making a stink about it or players not wanting to go out for the team because they are afraid of being laughed off the field in their dirty old uniforms. I would say the maximum lifespan of a uniform would be about 5 years, where a pressbox could go 10 or more years before it needs to be repaired or replaced.

I might add some more thoughts here later, but I'll leave it at that tonight!

Again, a great read! It just makes me sad that it isnt a real thing!
 
# 2 thescoop @ Aug 13
Great feedback. And yes, it is sad this isn't real and I don't have any game programing experience to attempt it myself. All I have is an idea and I hope by sharing, one day I'll run across the right person.
 
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