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This is the story behind *those* Gaelic Football and Hurling games - Part 2

Development constraints and lack of familiarity with hurling didn’t exactly help matters.

It’s All-Ireland Football Final day! In anticipation of a Croker classic here’s part two of our look back at two infamous Gaelic Football and Hurling Playstation games that first hit the console-world ten years ago…

Yesterday, we brought you the first part of the story behind the Gaelic Football and Hurling games released on the PS2 back in 2005 and 2007. 

Continuing on from where we left off, while the development of all games was tough, there were some small touches to the game that added to its uniqueness.

For example, the game was also in Irish, a feature that was incredibly rare at the time. 

Feargal Mac Giolla: Something that the people tend to forget about it was that it was bilingual, the game was in both Irish and English. Foras na Gaeilge were heavily involved in the 2005 version and their CEO at the time was the former GAA President Joe McDonough.

From our point of view, as a culture organisation and part of our remit to promote the Irish language, that was actually quite an important bit to it that players could play as Gaeilge. It was the first time, to my knowledge, that Sony would have produced a game that paid so much tribute to the Irish language so that was pretty important.

As the games were being developed, the GAA would visit the studios when they were in the country for the International Rules games. Not being familiar with gaming themselves, they weren’t entirely sure why development took so long until they visited the studios.

Feargal Mac Giolla: I remember being over as they were working on it and the amount of work they put into it, building the stands and the grounds and the jerseys and the amount of detail was huge at the time… We were wondering maybe why it was going so slow, they outlined the man hours it took to actually produce it and reproduce Clones, reproduce Killarney and reproduce the ground it happened to be, I remember that being very interesting at the time.

Dermot Power: When we were down there for the international rules, we would meet them… and that was every second year in those days so we would have come across them twice.

The football game was actually launched down there in Melbourne, during the international rules tour. The Irish media were there and obviously it was just developed by a Melbourne company so we saw it as an opportunity to launch it down there.

Feargal Mac Giolla: I remember a few weeks before it was launched going over to the guys and they unveiling the game to us. We were playing it and being slightly outside of our comfort zone but we were absolutely gobsmacked.

The level of detail that was in the game by the jerseys, by the stands, by the commentary, we just thought it was an fantastic representation of what the GAA looked like and you could on your screen magic yourself onto Clones, Carrick-on-Shannon or Galway or wherever you wanted in your teams colours.

Now we weren’t gamers. We were looking at it purely from the presentation point of view: “How does this present the GAA?” and we would have said: “It would have presented the GAA extremely well.” It presented it in a terrific light.

But before it made its way to the public, there was enough time to include some extra features.

Feargal Mac Giolla: When the games were being sold, you got a promotional DVD so we had made sure to cover that off too as well. Every time someone bought a game, they were also getting a GAA skills DVD. We didn’t miss that trick either.

g3_vf3 A promotional shot from the original Gaelic Games: Football. Source: Playstation

The reaction

When the first Gaelic Football game was released, it was panned. Some of the criticisms included its sluggish performance, scoring goals was too easy and not matching the speed and intensity of the sport.

The first Gaelic Football game did hit No. 1 in the Irish PS2 charts, selling enough for a sequel to be made, but while the second Gaelic Football game and Hurling game were better received, the same criticisms applied.

Feargal Mac Giolla: Gamers within the association that we had spoken to would have told us: “Well, it looks very well, it not realistic enough. For instance, it’s too easy to score goals.” There were just gaming issues and that’s probably why it was panned a little bit at the time, but us, not being gamers, felt it represented the GAA very, very well in terms of how it presented the game on screen.

Justin Halliday: I think the reviews weren’t great. They never were with this sort of this game because unfortunately when you have a budget of a million [Australian] dollars to make three games and people can pay $100 AUS  for FIFA or $100 AUS  for this AFL game, [it's a tough sell].

A lot of consumers don’t understand the realities of the amount of attention to detail that we can put into our games so generally they don’t review as well as we would like. Obviously, that’s always the way, but I think the games got some good reviews generally about improving on the previous version and capturing the actual gameplay of Gaelic Football and Hurling.

But the issue is always production quality, the fidelity of what the players look like, the sorts of things we can’t compete with EA with FIFA, the Madden games which is the bar that a lot of people expect from all of their games.

Thuyen Nguyen: We didn’t actually hear anything. We knew the first Gaelic Football game was actually quite successful as far as sales were concerned, but the reviews were horrible. We didn’t hear much about the other two only because at that stage Transmission Games was in a bit of a bind because of another game it were making so everyone was focused on developing this other game

I think if we have had a fantastic review, we would have heard about it, but I don’t think we heard anything like that.

Source: jdobz95/YouTube

The aftermath 

After Gaelic Football 2 and Hurling were released, that marked the end of the partnership with the GAA, Sony Computer Entertainment Ireland and IR Gurus and no high-profile GAA-backed game has been released since. Both Halliday and Nguyen have left the industry and no longer work in game development.

Since then, there have been attempts to capture the essence of the GAA on the small screen – attempts by Tailteann Games with Bainisteoir Hurling, and MojoPin Studios, which is based in Northern Ireland, is working on All Star Gaelic Football, but there’s no plans for an official game to be released.  

At the very least, there were lessons to be learnt from the experience that could be used for future games, if they ever come to fruition.

Dermot Power: I wonder if some people’s expectations, a lot of people talk about the market internationally… I’m not sure how big a market there is for a game like that, we were very realistic in our talks with IR Gurus.

It was a great project, it was something I was delighted with, well worth trying to do and it was good for the GAA. I thought all in all it was a pretty good effort considering the constraints.

Justin Halliday: I think the number one thing about developing sports games is that sports games are hard. No matter how much you think they’re easy, it takes a lot of iterations to get them right.

If you’re thinking that you can go out and do something, other than an indie project that you’re not going to make money from [and] you’re a bunch of enthusiasts, that’s the kind of way you can make it work. But it’s very hard for a studio who have staff they have to pay no matter what the market rates are, it’s hard for studios to make these games for very small markets at the moment.

Thuyen Nguyen: We didn’t intentionally set out to make bad games. I just want to make that clear. We didn’t intentionally do it. There were reasons why the games turned out the way that they did.

I think both Hurling and Gaelic Football are quite good as far as being subjects of videogames, I think there’s a lot of potential there. I think that potential is hampered, in the same way that AFL is, by having a really small audience… it’s really hard to put the effort into it and the resources and do a proper job of it for it when no one is going to buy it, so you’re stuck [in a no win situation].

We did want to make a good job of it but there’s only so much time and so much money that people are willing to spend, and unfortunately that really is a business decision.

Justin Halliday: For us, they weren’t projects that caused a great deal of trouble. What we were working on was ensuring that they were delivered on time, that the quality was as good as possible because the AFL 2005 game was delivered late.

One of the main things we were always trying was to knuckle down on our estimates and ensure that we delivered a good game on the timeframe that we had and not pushing out our dates. That was the most important thing, getting the game out during the final season or during the actual season because previous games had miss their seasons and that’s catastrophic for those games.

Feargal Mac Giolla: We’re not experts in gameplay, or claim to be, but certainly if it was to happen again, the gameplay would need to be better. That was a clear message from gamers out there, in terms of what we could have brought to it ourselves.

Obviously, being able to bring in player images and names to the game would certainly have made it a bit more attractive. If it was to happen in the future, I was pretty certain that now that we have a formal relationship with the GPA, it would not be an issue.

I think that would have been the big change that would come from our side but I’m not sure how big of an issue that was for some people. Clearly it was for some people, for others the joy was winning an All-Ireland with Leitrim which was something you could obviously do on the screen but struggle to do on the pitch.

The big change would have been from the GAA’s perspective would have been that, just how it looked and the presentation. I don’t think that could have been any better frankly, I really don’t, and it actually blew us away from that perspective to create a virtual GAA world.
This article was originally published on 22 February 2015

Read: This is the story behind *those* Gaelic Football and Hurling games – Part 1

Read: 6 questions: The42’s writers preview the All-Ireland football final

Read: We got inside the ‘Tinder for elites’ — here’s what it’s like to use

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Quinton O'Reilly

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