Old School Gamer Magazine chats with legendary game designer and producer Michael Brook, who discusses his newest creation, Buddywords Sports Trivia on mobile devices. Detailing the game’s creation, the EA Sports founding father lets us know what he has in store for the game and the entire line of Buddywords products on the way.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How was this game born?
Michael Brook: We had developed a social games platform for our Buddywords line of word games and realized that we could attach sports trivia style questions to it. I had developed a sports trivia app for ESPN and later for a trivia gaming website, and had knowledge of how to create questions to test a fan’s sports knowledge.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What is your role in the game?
Brook: I was the lead designer. My business partner Lun-shin Yuen architected the server side, and we had a variety of people work on the client side.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What has development been like?
Brook: There are many challenges to development with a small team. It is a very collaborative process, with each of us the ultimate decision maker in our area of expertise. It is quite rewarding to spend time building features and then extend them in ways that were not originally conceived. And we are constantly coming up with new questions, and of course having to update the questions as new sports seasons conclude.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What makes this game special?
Brook: I think there are four main features that make Buddy Sports Trivia special:
Asynchronous play – you can play any time, as much as you want, and compare your exact games against your friends or the average fan answers
Most current info – questions are currently by sports, for the latest sports season, and are frequently updated for the playoffs, drafts, free agent signings, etc.
Sheer volume of questions – there are literally tens of thousands of questions for each genre, so relatively little repetition when you play a lot of games
Difficulty levels – you can find a difficulty level for each sport that is suitable to your knowledge and try easier or harder levels as well
Old School Gamer Magazine: What games influenced this one the most?
Brook: Major influences include the popularity of trivia games like HQ and Trivial Pursuit, a lack of good comprehensive sports trivia games, the fun of asynchronous play and social features in our Buddywords game, and the pervasiveness of trivia in live performances and broadcasts of sporting events.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What were the major lessons learned?
Brook: Keep building for the future. Things that seem impossible become more possible when you put one foot in front of the other and get started on the process. You don’t have to have all the answers or the complete vision up front – if you keep your eyes open opportunities will appear. In software development, mostly things are more complex than you originally considered.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Do you think preserving older gameplay mechanics in new games is important?
Brook: Yes, good gameplay mechanics are timeless. Challenge, immersion, intuitive tactile feel, easy access to the most relevant info, timely feedback and progressive rewards are just as important in any new game as they are in video games like NHL ‘94 or daily fantasy sports sites like DraftKings.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How have your previous experiences in the industry helped this game?
Brook: I have a long history of building immersive sports experiences, from designing and producing EA Sports titles like John Madden Football and NHL Hockey to conceptualizing apps for the ESPN phone to creating/enhancing daily fantasy sports sites at Daily Joust and DraftKings. I’ve tried to use my extensive knowledge of sports and sports fans to generate compelling and accurate trivia questions.
Old School Gamer Magazine: How do you want this game to ultimately be remembered?
Brook: Fun, challenging but fair questions in a bite-size package, and a great way to stay abreast of current sports info and test your sports trivia knowledge in comparison to your buddies.
Old School Gamer Magazine: What’s next?
Brook: More sports – College Football and Basketball, NHL, Premier League. More targeted premium genres like past seasons, franchise decades (e.g. Bulls of the 90’s), and city-specific sports trivia. Android. Possible partnership deals with platform/service providers like Google, Amazon and Apple, sports teams and leagues, and fan sites. Build a website community for sports trivia aficionados.
Old School Gamer Magazine: Anything else you’d like to add?
Brook: Innovation can come from many different places, small teams or large companies. It is important to allow for publicly available information like player names and stats to be repurposed to extend interest and accessibility. I’d like to see this courtesy extended to photos and video for sports games in much the same way it has been on sites like YouTube. I am opposed to exclusive content deals between sports leagues and game developers.