An interview with the Blackout Rugby Manager creators: Jeremy and Matt

Hi, my fellow Blackout Rugby fans! This week Game Fox has interviewed the developers of the game, Jeremy and Matt. This is the english version of the interview.

This managerial game came out of nowhere and immediately impressed due to quality graphics and the very innovative and living match text system. How was the game concept born and when?

Jeremy: I’ll let Matt take this one. He was the one with the original idea.

Matt: About 9-10 years ago I discovered a game called Hattrick, I am not a Football fan but loved the concept and instantly was hooked, I tried many different games but nothing was as good as Hattrick, then along came Battrick, similar style but a sport I enjoyed a lot more this is where I decided a game like this should be designed around Rugby. After meeting Jeremy and approaching him with the idea a couple of times he finally accepted and several years latter here we are.

You plan a cricket version, but I must tell you that Europe would much more eagerly wait for a soccer one. Basically all sport managerials (save for Sokker) lack an exciting matchday system, and they could really profit from the “Blackout” system. Have you plans in realising a Blackout version of other sports?

Jeremy: Indeed we do, we already own the domain names for many other sports, but I cannot tell you which ones we plan to do sooner, and which ones we plan to do later. What I can tell you however, is that we plan to create a network of games, much bigger than just rugby and cricket, and we also plan release mobile interfaces for the iPhone and Android phones for all games.

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Matt: There are many sports around the world that people have requested that we create. I just wish we could have them all done tomorrow

Are you reinvestings part of the funds raised by the game and do you fixed a target of member numbers?

Jeremy: We’re not even at a stage where we’re making a profit, so there is no money to “re-invest” yet. We’re only able to employ myself full-time for now. But as we grow, we will definitely invest in more developers, research and development, and marketing/sponsorship before we start taking profit out for own pockets.
As for a target number of members, I think I’d be happy to see 20,000 playing members, but there is no maximum really. We’ll keep marketing and growing for as long as we possibly can. With expansion into new platforms e.g. mobile, and with translated versions of the game, we’ll grow even further.

Do you plan partnerships of some kind with the RL rugby federations?

Jeremy: I assume you mean rugby boards such as the IRB, or NZRB? Personally I haven’t thought about this, so no, we have no current plans to partner with them. I doubt there would be many mutual benefits for both parties anyway.

What’s the strongest and the weakest point of the game, in your opinion?

Jeremy: The strongest point for me is definitely the community. This is what really gets people addicted, the participation and the banter is what really makes people hang around for the long run. That’s why, on top of the clubrooms, we built in the journalist system and the 3rd party competitions, to really bring people together. It’s also this community that does a lot of our marketing for us. The game community extends far beyond just, there are national off-side forums, and competition sites, 3rd party apps, and plenty of random threads on other rugby and sports related websites.
The weakest point in my opinion is the interface and the initial newbie tutorials. We have a very large bounce rate, and feedback tells us that people find the site very intimidating at first, and that there isn’t a very well done tutorial system. We have got a plan in place to remedy these problems, but we want to get the translation platform done first.

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What’s the first improvement you feel BR needs?

Jeremy: I’ll let Matt give you an improvement from a game design perspective, but from my seat as the site developer and server admin, right now, the most pressing issue is scalability. As I’m sure you’re aware, the site can become quite slow, and things like match reports and training can take a long time to complete. I’m currently working on a new platform on the back-end to provide a great deal of scalability so that we can handle much larger loads, but for costs to remain affordable.

Matt: I can think of 3 improvements which would grow the game and experience immensely for the end user.
1. Translation system (as discussed this is already in action to be built)
2. A newbie tutorial which would guide a user around the site and get a feel for how things are done.
3. And of course an easier far less daunting interface, this is something combined with the above which I feel will grow the game immensely quicker than we are currently seeing.

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Having the italian translation could really be of great benefit to raise the italian community. Could you update us about when it’s planned?

Jeremy: Well, it’s pretty much all planned in my head. Our new student developer started with us two weeks ago, and is now independently building some early parts of the translation platform. If you didn’t know already, the translation platform will be a community based site where many people from the game will contribute to the translation effort using a Wiki type platform. We plan for this to be ready for people to start using it in late February 2010.

Do you plan to start selling some BR-related gadgets (like t-shirts and so on)?

Jeremy: Yes. Once we release one or more new games, we plan to open a “Blackout Store” which will be the central location to purchase merchandise and premium membership packages.

Are there plans for a BR club international tournament? A sort of World Champions’ League I mean.

Jeremy: Not at this stage, but this still exists on our suggestions list from before the game even started. So I’d say it will get done somewhere down the road, but not before we’ve released several other Blackout games.