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The Youth Academy has opened

2007-03-26 06:05:00

Finding the right talent for your team just got more interesting! Today we launch the Hattrick Youth Academies, the big piece of news this season. Supporters can try the system right away, while the rest of you will have to wait a few days until we have made sure the system can handle the load. With the new youth teams you will be able to scout and develop young players, picking the raw diamonds from under the noses of rival clubs. What’s more, you can create your own leagues and compete head-on against any other manager in Hattrick!

Welcome back to school! The main feature of the new season in Hattrick is our new Youth Academy system. As a first step, only Supporters will have access to the new system. Within a few days all users of Hattrick can try it out. The reason for this initial limitation is to reduce the risk of performance-related problems, as well as giving our Supporters a small “Thank you” gesture, of course!

With the youth academy you will get to manage the early careers of your young players. Rather than just bringing them directly into the senior squad, you recruit them as boys, play them in a special youth team league, and try to figure out which ones will be worth training and bringing into the regular squad one day. You can read more about it in the updated rules, but I wanted to talk a bit about our overall thinking with the youth academies first.

It hasn't really been our intention to simply replace the old "youth pull" system with something new and fancy. The old system will still work (albeit that we have renamed it Scouting), and be just as simple and straight-forward as it has always been. And it will remain a feasible strategy to use the old system. This is very important, as we don’t want to force a lot of new gameplay on user that don’t want to spend more time on Hattrick than they already do.

The new youth academy should rather be seen as a simulation of the time before the traditional youth pull, as an optional "game within the game" which does not necessarily bring you better players in the end, but does give you a chance to outsmart the system and to pick and train the type of players you think are right for your senior team one day.

From a game perspective, we think the youth academy will be interesting in several ways. Scouting players and managing your team and training will obviously be a challenge all in itself, with lots of new things to learn and explore. Another cool feature is that you can form your own leagues with anyone you wish, and even decide yourself when the games will be played! This will also be the first time in Hattrick when all users can compete against each other on level ground: In the youth leagues, neither money, nor trading, nor seniority in the game will give you an advantage. All clubs have the same chance of finding promising young players and it will be your skill as a coach and as a trainer that determines the success of your youth team.

We also like the way the youth academies will give the players in our game world more personality and history. Your future star could very well be that young lad who was rejected by a regional rival and that you picked up by chance, never expecting him to go anywhere. Or it could be that the constant top scorer of the youth league one day finds himself in the senior team, and you finally realize that he isn't really that good at all. But will you be able to fire him after all you've been through together?

Sentimentality aside, we would like to mention another important aspect of the youth academy. This has been a very big project for us, as we have essentially had to create a completely new game within the game; with a heavily modified match engine, new web pages, new match reports, new servers and new game concepts. We've been deeper down in the code than we have in years, and we've had a good opportunity to clean up and improve many details in there as well :) It's been very intense and loads of fun!

We've also realized that the youth academy project has been the perfect way for us to experiment with new ideas for Hattrick and with what Hattrick can be. Normally when we make changes to the core game, they have to be quite small and careful, simply because the game is so huge and users have invested so much time in their teams. That's all very well and the way it should be, but it can be limiting for us developers as well, as there always needs to be a balance between innovation and tradition.

The youth academy, however, is something that no one has had the time to get a fixed opinion about, and it also exists "beside" the core game world and doesn't affect it directly. So when we developed the academy, we decided we would give ourselves the right to try new ideas in practice there and not just stick to how it already works in Hattrick. After all, if a new feature doesn't work well, we can always remove it. And if it does work well and is appreciated by you, we can easily add it to the core game, as it has already been tried and tested!

Now, we're not saying the youth academy is a simple testing ground - it's very important for us to be consistent in what we do and to keep the game simple and easy to understand. But in comparison to the core game Hattrick, we will try to keep the youth system a little bit more playful and experimental. You can expect lots of little tweaks and fixes over the next few weeks as the youth academy system settles in, as well.

And sorry if we mention it again, but this has been a huge project, which means we don't have that many other features in store for this release. This is the 10th anniversary year of Hattrick after all, and we really wanted to deliver a new feature that would stand out. We hope to give you a few more of those as the year goes by... For the coming season we will once again be focusing more on the core game, and especially be looking at how to improve the economy and the long-term strategies for training and the transfer markets. We have two separate projects running analysing the mechanisms of Hattrick, and one early but obvious result of this work is that we need to do something about the deflation in the Hattrick economy. This is to a large extent caused by increasing costs for the average team (wages, mostly) that are not balanced by increasing revenue, and by the over-supply of players. The way to fix this is not to simply lower the wages, or to cut down the number of highly-skilled players, but to try to balance the whole economy so that it can regulate itself more efficiently. It's too early to say what we will end up doing, but what we can say is the following:

* Our long term goal for the Hattrick transfer market is overall price stability.
* It makes sense that the best players are also the most valuable players.
* It makes sense that training players creates value for a team.
* There is an over-supply of players in Hattrick today, and we will look at new ways of regulating that.

What you do with this information is entirely up to you, but we did want to let you know that this is a priority for us right now...

Enough about money matters! Those youth players aren't asking for a salary yet, you know...

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