The intersection of "sports nut" and "PC gamer" has been rather bleak lately. Since the rise of the console, most action-oriented sports games (Madden and its equivalents) have migrated to the living room, leaving those of us who prefer the mouse and keyboard without a way to satisfy our simulation urges. Sure, there's Football Manager and other team management sims, but nothing to replicate the life athletic. And good luck if you want to, you know, make use of the internet's connective tissue to play with or against your friends - that's strictly console-only.
But that's slowly changing. A friend of mine, whose job it is to find gaming treasures and lay them before me, clued me in to Goal Line Blitz, a browser-based football MMOG that simulates not just playing football, but playing with a team of real players and eventually owning your own franchise.
Here's how it works: Once you create your account, you receive Flex Points (you can buy more, or earn them by referring new players to the game), which you can spend to create players, buy a team or create special items that boost your player's stats. I opted to create a player, because learning how to run a football team and how to play a new game at the same time seemed daunting. Plus, I had an awesome player name in mind.
Positions on the field act like your player's class in a traditional MMOG, and they really do offer every position - from offensive tackle to quarterback to punter. Players begin with seven physical attributes and seven football skills, which are modified depending on which class the player is. Additionally, as you gain levels (you earn experience based on playing time in games), you can build up any attribute or skill you like. Each class has its own special abilities you can buy as you level up, too.
I chose to create YA Spittle, future Hall of Fame fullback. The computer boosted my strength, speed, blocking and carrying stats. Then, I got a few points to distribute across the other stats, which I heaped into agility and more speed, strength and carrying. I also spent a point to raise Cover Up, an ability that helps you hang onto the ball when you get hit, to reduce my fumble rate. YA Spittle is a running machine.
After I got YA all set, the San Francisco Football Mustangs, a computer-controlled team, came knocking with an offer to play in the D-League for $12,800/year. And so was born YA Spittle's illustrious career.
I came onto the team between games - they run every 48 hours - so I was able to choose how I'd spend my time in practice. You can choose a single attribute to work on once per day, which is how often the game "ticks." There are three levels of training: Relaxed, Normal and Intense. The more intense your training, the more it costs, and the less it replenishes your Energy for the next game. I opted to work on my strength and then set off to buy some equipment.
You have the option of buying normal equipment for in-game money, or spending your Flex Points on custom equipment. Since YA Spittle spares no expense on his gear, I went for broke. With each piece of equipment you buy, you can boost one attribute or skill by one. There are five slots to fill - feet, hands, body, head and "custom." I bought a pair of black shoes and opted to boost my strength, white gloves to boost my carrying, eye black to help my vision and a shirt to further reinforce strength.
The custom slot works a bit differently. You can spend your Flex Points to make a special custom item, and even upload an image to represent what it is. YA Spittle is really concerned about the Hall of Fame, so he's resorted to pharmaceutical performance enhancers to give him a competitive edge. I created BALCO's Special Sports Cream (+1 strength/speed) and adorned it with an image of Barry Bonds. After YA walked out of the practice complex, he was dressed to kill and had enough steroids in him to euthanize a horse.
Now, it was time to meet his teammates.