We are big fans of sailing games. Not only do sailing games engage fans and provide new sponsorship opportunities, they also help educate people about some of the more complicated aspects of the sport of sailing.
The new look America’s Cup has looked like a video game from day one. CGI was used to make trailers for new look Cup catamarans, set against an apocalyptic black sky – and all to appeal to a larger, but it seems dumber, audience.
Of course game makers have a choice to make when they convert a sport into a game. Some opt for the simulation angle, like the hugely popular SailX. Some opt for an arcade style game. Some allow the users to grow with a game, starting them off in an arcade format and slowly allowing them to turn off the aids to race under simulation conditions, like the previous America’s Cup game – Virtual Skipper.
The first, and we hope not the only, America’s Cup game is well and truly at the arcade end of the spectrum.
Released into the iTunes store over the Easter Weekend, the America’s Cup Speed Trial game focuses on the ‘drag race’ element of the America’s Cup World Series – a 500 meter time trial against the clock.
The gameplay is so simplistic that the creators don’t even see the need to add instructions on how to play. All the player has to do is steer the boat down the course for 30 seconds or so and it becomes very boring very quickly.
The equivalent would be an F1 game that simulated only the ‘straight’ part of the race-course, where the gear changes were automatic and all you had to do was steer.
The problem with the game is the problem that the AC Marketing people have struggled with from day 1. They don’t really know who their audience is and they don’t really know how to create a product to satisfy the multiple demands of different audiences.
The contradictions do nothing to help the sport. This game trivializes the athletic abilities of the sailors competing for the cup by reducing it to a 30 second game of chance. In the real-world, Darren Bundock – a multiple world champion has only managed 36.17 seconds for the speed-run, while we set a virtual time of 33.06 on our first run through sheer dumb luck.
We know that Russell Coutts is in salesman mode, but we don’t know what game he was playing when he said to his Facebook fans:
“The new game is awesome. It’s a lot of fun, educational, and it should help to introduce the America’s Cup to a new fan base.”
America’s Cup Speed Trial Game Review.
The game opens with the re-used opening credits from America’s Cup Uncovered, some sailing meets Mad Max futureworld. There is an options screen which allows non-sailing folk to choose metres if they don’t know what knots are, the music can be turned up or down and the steering can be by using the accelerometer or touching the screen.
There is no tutorial or game instructions at this point. Even the objective of the game is not clear yet.
Choosing PLAY sends you to a screen where you can choose your favourite team. As far as we can tell, no team has a specific advantage over the other – so it is just choosing colors and skippers. The teams are in alphabetical order, so Aleph – the team that has now withdrawn from the cup – is the first one you see.
From here you are straight into the game. And here is what you see.
The marketing people are so obsessed with the crash-and-burn nature of catamarans, that the whole premise of the game seems to be that these boats are inherently unstable and can be righted by pressing a big red button. Of course if you do panic and press the big red button you go slower, but there is no explanation why.
For people who know a little bit about sailing, the first thing you want to do in this game is trim the wing, but this is not an option. It is done automatically for you depending on where you steer.
For people who know nothing about sailing. There is no explanation why the boat tends to come up into the wind resulting in a capsize. There is no explanation about gusts or about why the angle of the boat in relation to the wind affects the speed.
We were looking forward to spending a flight from London to Dubai sailing fast catamarans, but after 4 or 5 runs the response is – Is that it?
The America’s Cup promoters need to stop treating it’s audience like 5 year olds. We have an attention span of hours not seconds. We want to be able to learn how to trim a wing-sail through the mechanism of a game. We want to be able to sail against other boats, not a ‘ghost’ or a clock. We want to be able to customize our boats to see if it makes the run faster. We want to be able to see the apparent wind angle.
Virtual Skipper is a few years old now, and gaming technology has come a long way. We live in a world where game titles make more money that blockbuster films and the new America’s Cup provides a great opportunity to create an epic game.
We hope that this game is a kind of teaser. This one is far from being fun, awesome or educational, so until a proper one comes along, check out SailX.