Friday, November 11, 2005

i put a link to this on the right, but i'd like to discuss in a little more detail as well. before people start ripping me for playing it (just like i ripped the people who introduced me to the game), i know the game is based around soccer and i know it uses "fake" players. despite those obvious flaws, hattrick has proven to be the most entertaining sports simulation game i have ever played because it contains an incredible amount of strategic depth without being overly complex or taking up too much time.

the game puts you in the position of being the owner/general manager of a local team (the sport is irrelevant as you don't need to know anything about soccer to play it) whose threefold goal is to a) compete against the teams in your 8 team division, b) improve your team by bringing in new players and/or training your existing players, and c) remain financially solvent. if you've ever played "franchise mode" on madden or fantasy sports of any kind, i can almost guarantee that you will love this game as it takes those two games to the next level.

each team is placed in a division (or "series" as they are called in hattrick) at the bottom of a pyramid structure where each series below has 4 times as many teams as the series above. each country has it's own pyramid of series starting with one top level series (in the US it's called "Major League") consisting of 8 teams, with 4 series of 8 teams each below it, and 16 series of 8 teams each below that, etc. every season, teams move up and down levels based on performance. at the end of the year, every team that finished in first has a chance to move up to the next highest level. the top half of the teams that finished in first place automatically move up to the next level and swap places with a team that finished in 7th or 8th place in the level above. the bottom half of the first place teams play a qualification game against a team that finished in 5th or 6th place in the level above, the winner getting the position in the upper level. every season, there is the potential for 5 teams to change in each series.

obviously, the goal then is to continuously improve your team to keep moving up and up the ranks. you do that by training your players and buying better players than the ones you have. the system they use to move players amongst the 700,000 teams in hattrick (a little over 6000 in the US) is called the "transfer" system. rather than trading players between teams, where you have to find a trading partner and negotiate. players move from team to team in an ebay style auction system. you list a player for sale at a starting price, and other teams search for players by skill and bid on players they want to buy. the way to improve your team, then, is to train young players in a skill, sell them on the transfer market, and use the funds to buy better players than the ones you have.

the obvious question is, why not just train your players in many skills and improve your team that way? a) you can only train one skill each week, b) most players do not have sufficient starting skill in multiple skills to make it efficient to train, and c) players gain skill more slowly as they age (yes they age, more on that later) so you are better off stopping at a certain age and replacing with a younger player or switching to a new skill and buying a new set of trainees for that skill.

players in this game age. everyone has the same "birthday" so every player in the game ages 1 year at the start of each season (each season lasts 16 weeks so there are a little over 3 seasons per calendar year). several byproducts of this aging are:

- players gain skill slower
- players heal slower from injuries (and eventually never heal at all)
- need to introduce new young players in to the game to replace old players. this is done via a "youth squad" system where each team can promote one player from their youth squad per week. this player is a randomly generated player, so sometimes the player is very young and very skilled or not so young and no so skilled.

from a management standpoint, there are two sides to the game, team management and game management/tactics. i discussed team management a little above, but it also includes factors like: stadium size, how many doctors/coaches/PR people to hire, and what type of coach to hire.

each team plays up to two games (called "matches") a week. one match is your "league" match for the week with an intra-series opponent, the other is either a "cup" match or a "friendly" match. every country has a single elimination tournament of the top 2800 teams, which is called the "cup". teams not qualifying for the national cup or eliminated from the cup may play matches against anyone else in the world at home or away on the same day that cup matches are played. i don't have the time or inclination to go into a lot of detail on game management or tactics, but game options are plentiful enough for team tactics to play an important role in wins and losses but not so deep that you need to know anything about soccer prior to playing this game.

it is by far the best game on the web imo. oh by the way, it's free.


Blogger Steve72 said...

Better than

3:39 PM EST  
Blogger The Mean Guy said...

different genre, but i'd say yes.

6:11 PM EST  
Blogger Behan said...

Hattrick uber alles.

The chance to post with people from across the globe alone makes hattrick a fun place to waste some time, but the depth of the economic decisions a team makes is what I really enjoy about hattrick. Newbs be warned, this is not a game for people looking for instant gratification.

12:33 PM EST  

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