Commentary Engine

The brilliance of Top Eleven, the popular soccer management game developed by Nordeus, was readily apparent to Team Alpenwolf.  It combines excellent gameplay in short, easily playable bursts while almost completely eliminating the greater part of the development budget, that being the art.  The Top Eleven approach makes for a much more viable development process for small teams, allowing the designer to focus all of the development resources on the depth and quality of gameplay rather than spending them on eye candy.  And more importantly, it works. 11 million active players prove it.

However, what is required for soccer commentary is considerably different than what is required for hand-to-hand combat.  It doesn't really matter if the player who dribbles past the goalie and scores the goal is the sweeper, or if the player who makes a diving, last ditch stop in the area is the striker.  Such things may be unlikely, but they do take place on the soccer field.  On the other hand, a gladiatorial combat narrative only involves two characters instead of 22, and moreover, tends to gets boring very quickly if it is all phrased in generic terms.  Even worse, referring to the wrong weapon or a nonexistent wound will quickly render the narrative completely incoherent. The system that works exceedingly well for narrating a soccer simulation simply doesn't work for a combat simulation.

So, we developed a sophisticated commentary system that is not only capable of distinguishing between races and types, but between weapons and body parts.  Where there used to be hundreds of commentary messages, there are now thousands.  The system can describe which character is winning, which is losing, and how badly. It knows the difference between a nearly harmless scratch delivered by a sword to the naked arm of a winning gladiator and a powerful blow delivered by a spear butt sufficient to break a helmeted gladiator's nose who is at the point of defeat. The system will not describe a gladiator armed with a club as "cutting" a foe, or refer to a nonexistent breastplate or leg greave.

Below are some actual commentary messages from the game:

Lucius goes for the legbreaker! He swings at Aquila's knee.

First blood to Paulus! That won't be the last wound the retarius takes today.

 Armatus screams as Canus drives the gladius through his arm!

One!  Two!  Three!  Eroshnak smashes in the dwarf's skull with his bloody club.


Upon further reflection, perhaps it's just as well that the game is text-based....