Today's the day that Championship Manager PSP hits store shelves, and, if you're a-clamouring for some handheld footie management thrills, you might want to check out the diminutive version of the long-running series.
We recently sat down with Gusto Games CEO Simon Phillips and talked all things Championship Manager PSP. From our brief hands-on with the game, it's looking like being on par with its console siblings - only this version's perfect for filling those few snatched moments of freedom from the family this Christmas.
What's different between the 'bigger' versions and the PSP version of Championship Manager?
Simon Phillips: The first thing to point out is that this is real Championship Manager - because it's on PSP a lot of people assume that it's cut down or watered down but this is full-on Championship Manager. One of the key development mantras was that if we couldn't make the game properly we weren't going to do it. It had to have all of the stats, all of the gameplay features, it had to have a proper match engine in there, all the AI in there and stuff like that.
And what's new in this version?
Simon Phillips: Basically, what we've done is we've taken the solid game from Championship Manager PS2, we've listened to the fan feedback, read the reviews, built on that and then started work on the PSP version of Champ Man based on the good features from the PS2 version. Rather than taking a PC game and trying to cut it down and slap it on to the PSP, we've started with a nice new bit of code and moved it to PSP, and that's allowed us to use the hardware properly because we haven't got to change mouse drivers into d-pad controls.
We've got decent controls, we've had a match engine that wasn't brilliant but now we've improved on that based on the player feedback - basically it's a big PSP version of the game. We've got over 30,000 players from 52 different nations, there's 12 playable nations in the full game with another six to eight in the challenge modes. Player profiles are a new addition as well - alongside the usual stats you can make your own player pictures by downloading them from fan sites or creating them yourself.
What else can you tell us about how you've changed the game to accommodate the handheld platform?
Simon Phillips: What we did at the end of the console version was read all of the reviews, be very critical of ourselves and find out all of the things that were annoying people. Things like not knowing where you're going when you're navigating, so on the player profile screen you can instantly put players on the transfer list, you can change what squad they're in - whereas before you'd have to go through menus to set their transfer status. It's all still there, so a hardcore Championship Manager fan will be familiar with it, but it's kind of softened up a bit with the extra options for new users.
We've also introduced help menus, because the thing about Championship Manager was that if you know it, you know it and if you don't, tough luck. Now on every page you can access help, get a list of controls and get specific help for each screen which shows you what you can do and how it all works. It can all be turned off if you find it annoying, but for new user it's vital. The control system is admittedly tricky at first, but after about 15 minutes of play it becomes second nature. You've got the quick nav button on triangle which jumps around certain menu aspects of the screen, you've got square which is secondary action - like right click on a mouse, and the start button goes to the continue button.