...and Answers

In the aftermath of Bainisteoir - Hurling's launch, we received a huge amount of enquiries from the public. Naturally, a lot of the same questions are asked, so at the time we decided to put together a list of Questions and Answers (which are listed below in no particular order) to respond to the aforementioned queries...

Q. Where did you get the idea for Bainisteoir – Hurling?

A. The Bainisteoir – Hurling© project commenced 2003/04 to ensure Tipperary would once again be capable of winning an All-Ireland title! All joking aside, I suppose like many a hurler, it was blatantly obvious that we were not going to reach the levels of an Eoin Kelly or a Henry Shefflin. However, like many a hurler on the ditch, we thought to ourselves that surely we could do a better job than the real life inter-county hurling managers do! After being sparked by an incident playing Championship Manager 4, we started to research the game. It was only then did we realise the exact detail that their job entails, and just how difficult it is to succeed at the elite level.

Q. Who did you have in mind when you designed the game?

A. Pure and simple – it’s a game created by G.A.A fans for G.A.A fans. It has been designed in a logical, user-friendly manner that will allow everyone with basic literary skills to pitch their wits against the computer. We feel it is a game that everyone can play but one that not everyone can win. The greater your Hurling intelligence and instincts are, the more likely you are to succeed.

Q. Who were the biggest influences on the game’s designers throughout the process?

A. To produce the game that the Hurling public deserve, the design team incorporated into Bainisteoir – Hurling© techniques and strategies employed by top Hurling, Gaelic Football, Rugby Union, American Football, Baseball, Basketball and Soccer managers. We also drew on inspiration from numerous business strategists, psychologists, strategic theorists, motivational speakers, dramatists, game designers, social commentators, authors, scientists, artists, musicians, athletes, philosophers, entrepreneurs, politicians, inventors and comedians, integrating their respective wisdom into Bainisteoir – Hurling’s design. A list of these individuals can be seen in the “All Credit” Section of the game’s manual (see below).

However, we also had to show faith in our own judgement. As life-long GAA members and hurlers, we felt we had a good knowledge of Hurling to form the game’s base. But to further our understanding of Hurling management, we completed GAA coaching courses while we also trained underage Hurling teams at our local club. Furthermore, we have worked with a number of excellent Hurling managers both on and off the field, while we based our postgraduate careers around producing a management game.

So as you can see, the development of Bainisteoir – Hurling© really was a hugely intricate process but based upon the feedback we have got from the sport’s top managers and players, we feel it was worth the effort.

Q. Was Bainisteoir – Hurling difficult to design?

A. It was, to be honest - the words “challenging, complicated, frustrating” certainly all spring to mind when thinking back upon the game’s design process! It probably is just too complex a process to succinctly explain, it being not just a huge technical challenge but also a very artistic one. Without trying to big ourselves up too much, the game is one of the most intricate pieces of software to be ever developed in this country. Pound for pound, it is arguably as intellectually stimulating a game as there is currently on the market. All in all, we are really happy with the start we have made in the industry. But like an inter-county hurler in his debut season, we are still learning the whole time and know the experience we are gaining everyday will allow us to release even better products in the future.

Q. In the past year or two (2006 - 2007), a lot of music fans have rejected the over-processed diet served up by many major labels in favour of something a little more homemade, which led to the emergence of the Arctic Monkeys, Arcade Fire, Clap Your Hands Say Yeah, The Cribs, Spinto Band and Nizlopi. Would you consider yourselves the computer game equivalents of these bands?

A. If you are comparing us to acts of such quality, we will gladly say yes!! I suppose in recent times a good few people have sought an alternative to the efficient but somewhat empty stuff that certain big labels are pushing. I would always hope that there is room in the entertainment industry for the underdog and it is great to know that many out there value something other than predictable, commercially motivated produce.

From the outset of the project, we promised ourselves we would maintain our independent status, as we were simply unwilling to “commercialise” the game as was requested by interested publishers. We just didn’t want Bainisteoir – Hurling© to be everything to everyone. Our stance will probably cost us in monetary terms, but generating as great a profit as possible is not what we are about. We just wanted to tell a unique Irish story, which is something no gamer has ever got the chance to experience.

Q. Is Bainisteoir like soccer management games in that you need to give it time to get into it?

A. It really does depend on your own personality and your own likes/dislikes. For example, some play-testers took a huge amount of time deciding upon which back-room staff members they would bring on board while other players are very keen to go straight to the match-day. What we can say is that the game is like real-life Hurling, in that it will increase in drama and intensity as the season progresses. It is also akin to other strategy games in that the more you invest in it; the more you are likely to get back in return. My personal recommendation is to explore the 32 County Single Elimination Tournament at Beginners level, as it is a nice way to introduce you to the game.

Q. Were you expecting more from the GAA-licensed Gaelic Football game that came out at Christmas 2005?

A. I can understand why people were disappointed with IR Gurus’ Gaelic Games: Football but in saying that, I don’t think the majority of the public had very realistic expectations of it. It was heavily criticised by many for being ten years behind the current generation of soccer favourites but the reality of the situation is that the developers of FIFA/Pro Evolution etc. have had a huge head start upon Gaelic Games: Football, not to mention having much larger budgets to work with.

I know it is not something that would play too heavily on the minds of consumers but IR Gurus could only afford to apportion so much of their budget to Gaelic Games: Football’s development, as GAA games are more or less confined to the Irish market, and have a very limited earnings potential. Without knowing their budget, I would be surprised if they could break-even on the project if they were not to have charged a premium price on their game. It’s an unfortunate situation but the stagnancy in the Irish Games Industry for so long, and the economics of game design (developmental costs in the industry are currently spiralling out of all control) mean if Gaelic Football fans want a good Action football game, they will probably have to keep patience with the likes of IR Gurus until they get it right.

Q. Is your game similar to Gaelic Games: Football?

A. To be honest, they are as different as chalk and cheese. Bainisteoir – Hurling© is a strategy game, which means it places an emphasis upon contemplation. It was designed to test the GAA public’s intuition and cognitive skills i.e. you think like an inter-county manager after becoming one. Like a good book, the more time you spend playing Bainisteoir – Hurling©, the more you will become involved in it.

Gaelic Games: Football was an Action game, so its emphasis was on more of an immediate sensual gratification, where colours and action attempt to arouse its player at every opportunity. I suppose if I were to summarise the differences between the two games, I would say that theirs is a graphic-based game with supporting text whereas ours is a text-based adventure with supporting graphics i.e. their game attempts to appeal to the eye, whereas our attempts to appeal to the mind.

Q. Would you see Bainisteoir as a rival to S.I.G.’s soccer management games?

A. We can understand why Bainisteoir – Hurling© is being compared to Championship Manager but we must admit that we are uncomfortable being pitched beside S.I.G. as we are very much David to they Golliath. To exemplify, S.I.G. sold over 5 MILLION copies of Championship Manager 4 and had over 2,500 people working on the project! Indeed, an analyst within the industry predicted that if Championship Manager’s sales were predominantly restricted to the Irish market (as Bainisteoir – Hurling’s are), they would have to charge approximately €7,500 a copy to keep the company’s ship on course!! I hate to say it but I doubt the GAA will ever be popular enough to allow us to establish an external team as large as S.I.G’s but I suppose you never know!! However, although we may not be able to match S.I.G. in terms of research power, we are very confident in our own firm’s innovation and creativity levels, and believe we have something very unique to offer the Irish game-player.

Q. How did that ad for the game go again?!

A. "For some time now, people have been wondering what I'm like, what I'm about. So, if I was an iceberg, and was to describe my tip, I would say...

I'm a controversial umpiring decision,

I'm a two month suspension for abusive language,

I'm a spiteful journalist baying for blood,

I'm Eoin Kelly versus Eoin Kelly in an incredible shoot-out,

I'm an unwelcome Aussie Rules scout at work,

I'm the Artane Boys Band leading the players' pre-match parade,

I'm an ill-timed floodlight failure,

I'm a surprise in-house drugs test,

I'm a dummy hand-pass,

I'm Pat Daly's celebrated OTú Coaching Model,

I'm a success-hungry panel of Waterford hurlers,

I'm Leighton Glynn's sprained ankle,

I'm a training ground brawl,

I'm the harder side of the Munster Championship draw,

I'm a healthy training expenses account,

I'm the Archbishop of Cashel throwing in the sliotar to start an exhibition match,

I'm the Hogan Stand website looking for value for my sponsorship cash,

I'm Ollie Moran battling to the very end,

I'm a pre-match plea for passion, courage and determination,

I'm an intricate player performance rating system,

I'm a shoot-on-sight policy,

I'm Eugene Cloonan's peripheral vision,

I'm a meddling opposition manager,

I'm an old school County Board chairman,

I'm an angry mob of so-called 'fans',

I'm Mayo's Urslan Afzal trying to keep tabs on Sligo's Fabio Cretaro,

I'm a high-risk puck-out strategy,

I'm a terribly disappointed substitute who is itching to prove my worth,

I'm an honest, hardworking backroom team,

I'm a Feng-Shui expert examining the layout of Wexford Park,

I'm a cross-country run on a cold, wet February day in Athleague,

I'm the McCarthy Cup on the banks of the Lee in Mid September,

I'm Davy Fitz complimenting Clare's Senior Hurling team manager,

I'm Joe Canning pulling on a Galway Senior Hurling shirt this summer,

I'm Henry Shefflin receiving yet another Man of the Match award,

I'm Seán Óg O'hAilpin's story,

I'm Seán Óg Brady's story,

But above all, I'm YOUR STORY.

In a nutshell, I'm the ultimate GAA experience.

I'm Bainisteoir - Hurling."

Q. How reactive is the game to my moves?

A. As Bainisteoir – Hurling© is a microcosm of human behaviour; it focuses on the relationship between you and your stakeholders, stakeholders including your individual players, your panel as a whole, your team’s fans, your County Board, your team’s sponsors, the media, opposition managers, opposition players and opposition teams. Every move you make in the game has a knock-on effect that is likely to affect a large number of these stakeholders. The game-player will quickly see that Bainisteoir – Hurling© is very much a human story that will never be played the same way twice. Nigh on two years were spent play-testing Bainisteoir – Hurling© to ensure it fully works so rest assured that the game processes your every strategy.

Q. How did you research the players in the game?

A. Researching the database of hurlers became a bit of an obsession as we strove to capture every minute detail of every player as accurately as possible. However we must also state that as Hurling fans, we found this probably the most enjoyable aspect of the game’s design process!

Anyway, to accurately capture each player’s persona, we started our exploratory research by attending a great number of matches while we also conducted a huge degree of video analysis on the matter. Numerous articles by top GAA journalists including Enda McEvoy and Vincent Hogan were also examined to help devise individualised player profiles of the higher profile players. In the so-called “weaker counties”, articles by local journalists were of untold value, as was first hand information that we received from these individuals themselves. GAA Chat-forums also played a part as we interacted with forum posters to learn even more about the game’s cast. We also received great assistance from Hurling Development Officers and from “Hurling” people in a number of different counties. However, to proof the game’s database, the aid we received from both Top-Level Managers and Players really was invaluable to us, as it assured us that the game’s content was wholly accurate.

Q. How long did it take to enter each hurler into the game?

A. It took an average of 5 hours to craft and input each player’s personal details & unique statistics into the Bainisteoir – Hurling© database. As there are over 1,000 real life hurlers within, this was one of the more time-consuming aspects of the game’s design process.

Q. Did you draw on much from Championship Manager?

A. We have a huge respect for Sports Interactive Games and the quality of their work really is evident in their produce. However, we were anxious not to overly indulge ourselves in the Championship Manager series, as we didn’t want to become conditioned by it and then just produce a mere replica of it. After all, Soccer and Hurling are very different sports that have different cultures, so it was vitally important that we produced a standalone game, and not an imitation of another simulation. It obviously has numerous features that Football Manager and Championship Manager both have but in the same vein, it also has numerous features that neither Football Manager nor Championship Manager have. Put simply, Bainisteoir – Hurling© was designed from an inter-county hurling manager’s point of view, and from none other. To be honest, we would prefer if it is judged on its own merits, and not necessarily compared to CM/FM (and not just because they are long-established games with mind-blowing budgets behind them!!)

Q. Is there a particular area I should focus upon to succeed in Bainisteoir – Hurling?

A. Right, here goes my big tip! Several outstanding managers were quizzed as to what “makes” an inter-county hurler, and they had but one answer – Coaching. As no transfer market exists in the GAA, they felt that the greatest challenge in the sport was working with a fixed squad and trying to develop them into the type of players they need to deliver success.

Each training session is where they get the chance to develop the hurlers at their disposal, where they try to rectify negatives in each individual’s “game”, where they try to further improve each individual’s “game”. It is also where they can speak to the players on an individual basis, where they can implement both individual & team tactics, and where they can liaise with their backroom staff.

It really is impossible to underestimate what good coaching can achieve in the Hurling world. Therefore, we ensured that the Training Session game option would be extremely developed, which provides the game-player with the opportunity to achieve great things in the sport.

Q. Is the game all about getting training sessions and matches right?

A. While taking care of training sessions and matches are the most obvious duties of a Hurling manager, the sport has evolved so much in recent times that there are now a huge number of other critical issues that fall under their jurisdiction. The game challenges you to tackle the everyday dramas, human dilemmas and controversies that arise from interacting with not just your team’s fans, sponsors and back-room staff, but with the media, opposition managers, opposition teams as well as your own panel of players. The truth of the matter is a manager’s job is never complete in this game!

Q. Any tips on how to win the All-Ireland in Bainisteoir – Hurling!?

A. Read the manual thoroughly and then never stop thinking! It’s hard to describe just how reactive the game is to your moves, but trust us when we say that every decision you make has a knock-on effect. To exemplify, the most successful play-tester we had would often spend up to four hours on a training session the week before a big championship game!! That is not to say that level of thought will guarantee you success but it is unlikely to hurt your chances either!! A hurling genius may be able to win the championships in a rather short space of time but mere mortals can expect to put in a huge number of hours before they taste All-Ireland glory!

Q. Is it true that your background as a company is very similar to the guys who came up with Championship Manager?

A. Ya, I suppose we do have a similar beginning to S.I. Games in so far as we were both founded by brothers and sports fans who strove to produce as good a strategy game as we possibly could!

Q. The name Bainisteoir?

A. As the word "Bainisteoir" (it being the Irish for "Manager") is emblazoned across the match-day tops of the real life inter-county managers, we felt it was a quite appropriate game title. On a personal level, the name has a double meaning: "Bán, a stór" being a tribute to our mother, Siobhán, or Bán, as she is known to friends and family. During the game's design process, she unfortunately fell quite ill but thanks be to God she has since made a full recovery. During that really difficult time, the title inspired us to do it for her.