Summer, beach, holidays and for any footie fan, also the time for crazy transfer rumours. Any gamer immersed in the FIFA vs Pro Evolution Soccer debate knows that at this time of the year, those games that gave us endless hours of fun become obsolete as team rosters and kits change. I you bought any of these games in 2010, seeing Torres play for Liverpool can be quite depressing. If you are an iOS gamer, you're stuck with it. Well, at least there's a developer who knows how to change that. This isn't a review of First Touch Soccer, but on how awesome it's to customise every detail at the bottom of the post.
In the last weeks I've talked about the popularity of certain game genres on the App Store that would struggle to fit in the casual bucket. From card games to premium first person shooters, I think there's a market for them in iOS. When we get to sports simulation, for Europeans like me it's a no brainer. However, I keep meeting Americans that are surprised about the popularity of what they call soccer and their video game equivalents.
Games with expiry date
A quick look at EA's financials is enough to realise that football (as in soccer) is huge. FIFA 10 is the company's second biggest money-making title, in a year where revenues continue to grow. Since the beginning of the App Store, we've seen several attempts to control this tempting piece of cake. Who wouldn't like to play FIFA on their iPhone?
Three years later and we've all seen and played everything that was expected. Fair enough, EA introduced a handheld version reminiscent of its FIFA editions for PSP and Nintendo DS. I can't say those were perfect, but when you combine them with proper licenses and real player names, it makes for a great mobile gaming experience. If you want to get fanatical about it, you can also go for PES 2011 and bring the stereotypical football gaming debate to iOS, but really… does anyone care?
For me the most interesting bits come from the other studios that don't enjoy the benefit of FIFPro licenses and don't even dare to use real club's names in the game. Gameloft, I'm looking at your Real Football series! This doesn't represent a major issue when you release a football game for the World Cup, which was OK. I'm not sure how David Villa feels about the player's animations that look more like "FIFA on Ice" with Messi sliding in the field. On the positive side, Real Football contained a bug that allowed players to cheat upgrading the stats of your players in the "Enter the legend" mode.
Importing your own designs
One of the smartest solutions to deal with the licensing problem is allowing players to customise the game content as they want. This is nothing new for PC gamers and I remember downloading special plugins almost a decade ago to change kits, numbers, boot colours and the like. The suspects are X2 Games, a relatively unknown studio that pleasantly surprised me in the past with the quality of its football and snowboarding games. I found the controls in the first 2009 spot on, something you can't say about their rivals.
And with no previous warning, X2 decides to launch a new football simulator in the middle of May, when all major seasons are over: First Touch Soccer. For everyone's surprise, an update in late June included the option to import your own kits and edit team data, meaning that you could update leagues with the latest transfers and add new kits as they were launched. The fact that you have to tinker with it yourself, means that you are free to use the official stuff, leaving the developers to concentrate on the important aspects of the game.
As expected, a group of First Touch Soccer players put together a PSD file to create their own kit templates based on the real ones. Thanks to the smart import system, you just need to find what you need in the forums at Touch Arcade and use the URL of the file to add it to the game. Brilliant! You can also update the original data with the real club's badges too. The process if really simple and doesn't require a PC to sync data. Simply opening the Safari browser on your iPhone or iPad and copying the link will do the trick.
Since this is kit making process is completely crowdsourced, don't expect every single league to be completed. If you have any particular interest, I encourage you to go and check out the thread, and why not, collaborate with your own contribution. I have even posted one myself!
Refresh your iTunes and see how the First Touch Soccer icon has changed to signal new exciting features. From now on, you can purchase the squad updates for the new season via In App Purchase, including transfers and promoted/relegated teams, which seems like a good option in case you don't want to do it yourself manually. As additional DLC content, you can get classic teams from the 70s to the 90s.
As noted in some App Store comments, the update will delete the changed you've made in the game so far, so please make sure you backup the data accordingly before synchronising your iDevice.