Review Fix chats with “Doug Flutie’s Maximum Football 2020” developer and president of Canuck Play, David. A Winter, who discusses the game’s development process and goals.
Review Fix: How was this game born?
David A. Winter: Maximum Football on the console is somewhat of a reboot of a couple of games I’d created in 2005 and 2007. They were PC Desktop based football simulation games that, like the current editions, allowed you to play the various rule sets of North American football in one title. The goal has always been to provide the player with a ‘football sandbox’, to create their own world with full customization.
When I created those earlier games, there were no viable commercial game engines. Unity had not yet been released. The Unreal engine, while available, had a 6-figure seat license, and so wasn’t something I could use. What that meant was that with those titles I had to begin by creating my own rendering engine with Direct X, then the football game on top.
With the new console editions, I’m able to use a commercial game engine (Unity) which has allowed me to target platforms that were out of scope before.
In 2016 I sent a prototype version of the game to Microsoft and was brought on to their ID program for development on the Xbox One. In 2018 I expanded to publish the game on the PS4. These were purely digital releases, but going into 2020, the game will also be on a physical disk at retail. It’s taken some time, but it’s been exciting to see things grow.
Review Fix: What was your role in the game?
Winter: I’m the president of Canuck Play, as well as the lead (and only) developer of the game. For the 2019 edition, I had two other people on the team, looking after UI/UX design, and business relations matters, but for writing of code, animation, etc.. that was my job to do.
Review Fix: How did you get involved in the industry?
Winter: I began writing games back in the mid-80s on computers like the TRS-80 and Commodore 64. So it’s something that I always did as a hobby. I didn’t get time to do that sort of thing during my time in the Navy, but after I left the armed forces I was recruited by EA in 2005 and have been in the industry, working for large and small studios, ever since. I started Canuck Play in 2016 to allow me to get back to doing the sort of titles I’m interested in doing.
Review Fix: What has development like so far?
Winter: I started developing the console version of Maximum Football in late 2015, with a Canadian rules only version released in 2017. The development is a full time thing for me, I work very long nights and usually both days on the weekend. It’s just one of the things that you need to do when you’re a one man show and trying to build something.
The nice thing is that going forward the team is a bit larger now, so I’m not trying to do everything myself.
Review Fix: How did you marry all these different elements of football and simulation?
Winter: I’ve been making sports games, specifically football, for a while and over the years have just developed techniques and approaches that would allow for using various rule sets in one title. Developing that system back in 2005 was what led EA to my door back then. Over time I’ve stream lined the process. It’s pretty easy for me now to add new rule sets. If a professional league comes calling, and they have unique rules, it can be added to the existing game rather easily.
Review Fix: What makes this game special?
Winter: Certainly the fact that it’s a sandbox for football fans. Other football titles on the market focus solely on one type of experience. You buy the game for $70 or $80 and you get one experience. With Maximum Football, with a much lower price point, you can have just about any experience you want. US college, US Pro, Canadian style game play, with fully customizable teams and players, along with the ability to create your own logos with the game’s logo editor. It’s completely up to the player.
Review Fix: What games influenced this one the most?
Winter: Maximum Football has become its own franchise, but during the development process I looked at a number of different football titles that have existed over the years. From the Sierra Front Page Football series, to 2K8 All Pro Football.
Review Fix: Any fun stories or wild moments during development?
Winter: Game development is very much something that is done in stages. With each stage building on the last. So there are many times during development that parts of the final experience are not in place yet while you’re still working on other things. Very early on, when I was still working on the tackle physics portion of the game play, I’d not yet set up the game to use proper gravity in the stadiums. So there was an hour or so where players would collide with each other, but then float off into space like a run-away Macy’s day parade float.
Review Fix: What were the major lessons learned?
Winter: When I started in 2015, it was just me trying to do everything. It stayed that way until late 2018 when others joined to create a small team. The difference in product quality – and by extension sales – really hammered home the need to have a group of people with different skill sets. A one-man army is fine to get started, but you can’t stay that way.
Review Fix: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Winter: To a point. It’s important to stay true to what set you apart from competitors. We’re never interested in just being a “me too” product, and we want to do our own thing with the franchise. Which means it’s important to keep those features that made the game different. But at the same time, if something isn’t working then I don’t think we’ll be afraid to strip it out. Because the team is so very tiny, we can’t really spend our resources supporting old features when we’re trying to put new things into the title. It’s a balancing act of what do we keep, and what do we replace with something better.
Review Fix: What’s your favorite memory as a gamer?
Winter: For me I’ve always had far more interest in building the games than playing them. Any time I ever played someone else’s titles I found myself spending far too much time dissecting them and trying to figure out how they did the things they did.
When DOOM was released, 25 years ago (!), I know I spent far more time with the WAD editor building my own levels than playing the ones that came with the game.
Review Fix: How do you want this game to be remembered?
Winter: I’d like the game to be remembered for what it’s striving to be – an alternative to the status quo built by a dedicated group of football fans trying to make a fun football experience, rather than a group of executives wanting more microtransactions.
Review Fix: What’s next?
Winter: Maximum Football 2020 kicks off pre-production in January. For Canuck Play we have hired another Product Director to take on the task of growing our catalogue of titles outside of football.
Review Fix: Anything else you’d like to add?
Winter: The biggest thing we ask our community to remember is that this is a game built by a small group, with just one full time developer in that group. We do not have access to the budgets of other companies. But it’s important to remember that sales from the title go directly back into growing the title for the next edition. Whether in the form of salaries for new developers, or budgets to spend on new in-game assets, sales revenue goes back into the game. The more sales revenue, the larger we can grow the title.