We hope you dig the video just above, which is Part 1 of our biggest Fumble Dimension adventure yet. Part 2 will be ready to roll in a few weeks. In the meantime, Kofie and I spent some time talking about Football Manager, our experience producing this episode, and some thoughts about video games at large.
Jon: Ever since we started Fumble Dimension last year, people have been asking us to make a soccer episode. Even before that, people had been asking me to make some kind of soccer video for years. I never did because I just have such a layperson’s understanding of soccer and didn’t feel qualified, so I think Fumble Dimension was the only type of show where that ever would have been possible. This way, I can play my complete lack of understanding of the sport for laughs.
Despite all the silliness, I actually learned a little about soccer through all the mad experiments we ran. From a nuts-and-bolts perspective, what do you appreciate most about the sport? How did screwing around with soccer differ from messing around with other sports?
Kofie: This was the hardest Fumble Dimension script to write because there was so much going on outside of the game. From the tactics, to the chemistry, to keeping up with all of the friendlies, FA Cup games and Carabao Cup games. I respect the fact that soccer truly seems like a year-round event. We went from July to March and I only stopped there because I needed to end the video. When our Premier League season’s ended, there were more friendlies on the schedule after it. Incredible.
Jon: You talked about it in the video, but I know people like complaining about EA, so let’s give the people what they want. Originally, we wanted to experiment using a game from the FIFA series, but those games just wouldn’t do what we wanted them to. Can you go a little more in-depth into what working with those games is like, and why they drove us to use Football Manager instead?
Kofie: When we came up with the idea for this video, I had my sights set on FIFA 20 (FIFA 21 and Football Manager 2021 weren’t out yet) because we had just done Out of the Park Baseball and I wanted to go back to a game with some dope graphics and funny facial expressions. However, for some reason, FIFA Manager mode wouldn’t let me spectate the games, which got rid of all of the possibilities for gathering footage. I took a look at PES 2020 also but settled on Football Manager because they seemed to have more extensive tactic and strategy options. At Fumble Dimension, we prioritize the potential for wackiness over how good a game’s graphics look, and Football Manager had the highest ceiling for it.
Jon: So you can spectate a game in a standard FIFA match but you CAN’T in manager mode, right?
Kofie: Yeah. Like in FIFA 20, you could spectate in quick play and not manager mode. From what I remember from FIFA 21 (which released midway through production of this video), the problem still occurred. You could sim games, but they would let you jump into matches mid-sim. When you jumped into matched mid-simulation, you still had to control a team.
That’s what I remember, at least. I uninstalled FIFA 21 on the same day I got it.
Jon: That’s such an easy fix, and it’s such a perfect representation of how EA Sports has lost touch with the people who play their games. I have lots of firsthand experience with the Madden series. They haven’t changed anything meaningful about the create-a-player in over a decade. Out of curiosity I recently looked up the create-a-player from Madden 05, I think it was, and compared it side-by-side with a YouTube walkthrough for the create-a-player in Madden 21. The options were all almost exactly the same. I mean, the teams behind Football Manager and Out of the Park Baseball are constantly adding and perfecting new features. They’re practically embedded with their gamers, constantly receiving feedback from their respective communities. Meanwhile, EA is a gigantic company charging $60 for their games every year. What’s their excuse, you know?
Sorry, I’ll get off my soapbox. I think one thing people should understand about Fumble Dimension is how much research and experimentation it takes behind the scenes. Football Manager is a really complex game, and since you came into it with no experience, you had to take some time to really learn the nuts and bolts of how it worked. What would you say was the toughest, most tedious part of this project for you?
Kofie: The most tedious part for me was the fact that I felt like I couldn’t skip anything. Unlike OOTP Baseball, Football Manager’s main screen was the emails. There was a lot of tedious reading to see if there was anything worth putting in the video. Most of the time there wasn’t.
I will extend an olive branch, however. Football Manager gave us many options to help make the games go by quicker. I had the option to view “extended highlights” where they only show “important gameplay” like goals, set pieces and close calls. This was very helpful for me as I captured footage for over 60 games. If I watched all the games in real time it would have been over 5,400 minutes of potential footage to fit into a 90-minute video.
Jon: Even then, I hope everyone understands how much work that goes into that. I remember all the grinding and obsessive footage-capturing that went into Breaking Madden. While you’re producing the project, you don’t really know for sure what you’ll need and what you won’t, so you just have to grab all the footage you can and organize it as well as you can. But even that was nothing compared to a project like this. That’s why I kind of see Fumble Dimension as the final form of Breaking Madden. These experiments are just so much bigger and more ambitious.
One of my favorite parts of this entire first episode was listening to Kim talk about her experience with Football Manager. Specifically, she explains that it’s such a sophisticated game with so many moving parts that even some of the best players in the world can’t go undefeated in a season. There are just so many curveballs to navigate and no way you can reliably win out every single time, and that’s something I find REALLY interesting. In that way, Football Manager is almost more of a storytelling tool than a traditional “game.” It’s sort of like SimCity. It’s about the building more than it’s about the winning.
This actually leads me to a more philosophical question when it comes to games. As we’ve learned over the last few months, Football Manager is a superior game to FIFA in many meaningful ways, despite FIFA having a gigantic budget and incredible production values. We see games like Cyberpunk 2077 that are so large that they literally can’t even be made correctly. Do you think it’s possible that video games, or at least the big-budget ones, are on balance getting less good?
Kofie: I think that for a lot of big budget things, the lack of competition leads to complacency in the industry. Why should NBA 2K try to push boundaries when NBA Live can’t get their shit together? Why should Madden try hard when they have no competition? I spoke to a few friends last week and they talked about how NBA 2K18 broke them. I don’t look at these big yearly releases like I used to anymore because I don’t trust them. I also think that there are more and more indie and lower budget games worth my time. Look at Among Us and Fall Guys, simple games that take the world by storm because they’re FUN and don’t feel like they only want your money. Ghost of Tsushima is one of the best games I’ve ever seen. The only thing I ask is that games put effort into them. People ask for Fumble Dimensions of certain games, but if the game doesn’t have effort put into it then we can’t break it.
The Cyberpunk glitches are hilarious, though.
Jon: Oh, these are so good. I will say that video game glitches are one of the purest forms of comedy. I’ve noticed that whenever video games actually try to be funny, through dialogue or parody or what have you, it almost always sucks. The accidental shit is a hundred times funnier than any quirky NPC could ever be. Maybe there’s a lesson in that. We don’t necessarily need the huge production values! We don‘t need you to exploit your workforce and make them work unreasonable hours to get these too-large games out on time!
Maybe y’all ought to pay attention instead to what people actually love in games. Maybe it’s not just about beating it, or about immersing yourself in a world. Maybe it’s about taking some kind of ownership in it. Building stuff. Creating stuff. Breaking stuff. If you’re inventive enough, you can give us a game in which we can sort of tell our own story. Don’t worry about making the graphics immersive. Often times, we don’t give a shit.
Anyway. Good talking as always, Kofie. You excited to drop Part 2?
Kofie: Absolutely. People might watch Part 1 and think that this is a pretty tame Fumble Dimension … bless their hearts. They haven’t seen anything yet.
Jon: Oh Lord. The worst is yet to come. Guarantee it.