[FIELD NOTES] IGDATC June – Going to 11: Developing a Fantasy Soccer App

The local chapter of the International Game Developers Association met in June to dig into the art and craft of making games. The two presentations focused on the logistics and challenges of creating a visual novel and the process of launching a fantasy sports app.

Lane Davis, co-founder of Escape Industries, began the evening’s talks with an in-depth look at what went into creating Ruler By Default, a visual novel with over 40 endings and a wide cast of characters. The Pistachi Studio game’s protagonist has recently graduated from college when a blue and purple portal opens in his bedroom, transporting him to a fantasy world inhabited by elf-like citizens. He learns that, by tradition and a particular birthmark, he is the new ruler of this fantasy world.

Visual novels are story-driven games that often feature hand-drawn stills, focusing primarily on delivering a memorable narrative experience. For Ruler by Default, Davis discussed how the team leader, Gloria Kim, wanted to create a world that fostered exploration and meaningful interaction with the supporting cast. Their goal was to strike a balance between a wide variety of choices to a single story that had a high amount of polish.

Davis explained his Fundamental Equation of Visual Novels: (Time + Money) * Skill + Luck = Length * Choice. Providing more choices for the player drastically increases the complexity of production. The team began production in Ren’Py, a visual novel development engine, but shifted to Unity in the middle of production. Davis emphatically warned against changing engines in the middle of the development cycle.

After Davis’ presentation, Teague Orgeman introduced his project, a fantasy soccer app called Starting 11. They are the world’s first live daily fantasy soccer app, formed in the boardroom of his former law firm. Their goal was to create a live-action, authentic, fan-friendly experience.

A primary feature was the ability to substitute three players during a live match, a feature many other fantasy platforms lack. This creates a living, breathing experience, putting fans in control of their players during a live match. When determining point values for each game, they found goals scored was boring in a low-scoring game like soccer, but miles run per game and ball velocity became too complex. They settled on 12 categories including completed passes, tackles, shots on goal, and yellow or red cards.

They had to navigate international gambling law as well. Canada, for example, has no regulatory framework for fantasy sports betting. The UK has one body of regulations for gambling and fantasy sports throughout the entire country and the US leaves fantasy sports, considered “games of skill,” up to states to legislate. They spent six months in the UK to obtain a UK gambling commission license to ensure that British fans could participate.

The International Game Developers Association Twin Cities chapter meets on the second Wednesday of every month at the Nerdery.