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A Man Who Knows Nothing About Football is Accidentally Making a Great Football Game

By Julian Benson on at

One day a few weeks ago, on a whim, developer Dan Marshall - developer of Ben There, Dan That, Gun Monkeys, The Swindle and others - Tweeted that he was on a panel about the future of adventure games with Double Fine's Greg Rice. "Like I'd know anything about the future of adventure games," he quipped. "Seriously, I might make a football game next."

Here's the thing: Dan knows nothing about football.. And yet, seemingly accidentally, it looks like he might have made one of the best football games since Sensible Soccer.

How on earth did this happen? First came the prototype:

 

It didn't take long for people to start pointing out 'mistakes' in his game:

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But development nonetheless continued apace.

 

I emailed Marshall to get a better understanding on his grip of football's rules. "Aha! Now, look," Marshall wrote to me. "I have no interest in football whatsoever, and I'm not about to waste my precious time 'looking up facts' for development of a football game - but I played it to a fairly professional level back at primary school, so I think I can remember what goes where.

"You play as "The Players" and your aim is to walk the "ball" into the back of the net as often as possible. That scores you A Goal. The further you are away from the goal when you do the big kick, the more goals you get. If you score from a long way away, it's like 3 goals, I guess.

"There's a man in yellow who stands near the goal, and he's called The Goldkeeper and he's allowed to use his hands, but he's the only one.

"I think that's right."

 

Marshall even managed to get tips from Jon Hare, co-designer of the original Sensible Soccer:

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On day one, the football game was already taking shape. By the end of the day, the game already looked pretty charming.

 

By this point it'd be easy to deduce that Marshall is secretly a big foot-to-ball supporter–to my untrained eye, it does look spot on– but I'm not so sure:

The funniest thing about the entire endeavour is that Marshall seems to take great delight in baiting people who, you know, actually do know anything about football. Not all actual football fans were pleased with the direction Marshall was taking the game.

 

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It's worth reading Marshall's Twitter just for his trolling of football fans:

 

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Soon, Marshall had a pitch, a player who can jump and kick, AI to pass to, and, the all important opposition:

Here's the player AI in action:

 

Marshall was also taking suggestions on Twitter - some of which have ended up as interesting features:

The AI was still causing Marshall problems. Handling tens of men running about the pitch, passing, shooting, and tackling one another was a headache. So, somehow, he got Michael Cook, a research associate at Goldsmith's Computing Department who has managed to develop and AI that can analyse the web and develop its own games, to make the brains for his top down football game.

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It turns out Cook had qualifications for football brain making that he had left off his academic CV.

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Marshall's football game is starting to look like really, really good fun, now, after just a few weeks of development.

 

 

But despite its obvious greatness, some football fans still took exception to Marshall's creation:

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Finally, after two weeks of development, in which balls were conjured out of virtual space and 1 & 0's were delicately arranged to create players, teams, and brains to drive them, Marshall's game had a name:

Now, with a nearly football game under his belt, has Marshall's opinion of the actual sport changed? Not really, no.

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