Hattrick Soccer Manager

Hattrick Soccer Manager  1997


Swedish online multiplayer game that pretty much defined the genre of online football manager games for years to come, even though is now just a shadow of former glory.


Hattrick was one of the early online football manager games, created in Sweden in 1997, it gathered a lot of attention and users in first decade of 21st century, mostly due to its simplicity and large community. For a while it was allegedly the biggest such game with around 1 million users (although there is no way to confirm that statement), but with time and some poor business decisions (not by the original creators though) Hattrick fell from the grace of users. In 2012 they have sold HT at its prime to a British company that within 1 year ran the game down to the ground and soon later sold it back to Swedes. Unfortunately after that the game never really recovered.



Competitions

While you run your team in Hattrick you will be competing with users from your own country in league division (starting at the bottom, which in most cases could be on the level of 8th or even 10th division). Each division is set of 8 clubs and top two of them have chance to be promoted, while bottom two could be relegated, which means half of the teams could be exchanged at the end of every season. The league structure is pyramid, where there is one 1st division, two 2nd divisions, four 3rd divisions and so on. Also national and international cup competitions are played. The nice touch introduced some years after game premiere was that after being knocked-out in early stage of a national cup you could be placed in sort-of second chance cup for those, who were as unlucky as you.

League matches are played usually during weekend (one match per week), during the week (f.e. on Wednesday) cup matches are played or (if you don’t take part in cup competition anymore) you can organize a friendly match.

National teams take part in international competitions and human users are in charge of them, while managing their own clubs at the same time.



Simulated world

Hattrick simulates the leagues in most of the countries around the world, although they all have the same construction (pyramid mentioned above). Although navigation is sometimes not that easy, you can actually visit any club anywhere in the world and browse through their player list. Unfortunately you cannot place direct transfer offers, so often it is a bit pointless, but in general you can.



Player parameters

One of the strong points of Hattrick was its simplicity and player parameters are here as simple as you can imagine. Each player is described by 8 skills, but most of them describe his potential in some position rather than skills itself. It is result of the fact that players do not have assigned positions in HT, you decide freely where to put them on the field. The skills are: goalkeeping, defending, playmaking, winger, passing, scoring and set pieces, all of them in scale from 1 to 20. This is so simple that it does not need a lot of explanation, f.e. someone with good defending and winger skills can be useful in defence, as wingback or winger.

Three additional skills describe character of the player, they are general attitude, aggression and honesty. Also you can check the player’s experience, leadership, loyalty (that increases with each season he spends in your team), form (that changes each week) and stamina. And that is the whole set of parameters (except for obvious ones, like age, nationality, etc).



Player management

There are very few options to manage the players - you can sack him (this will mean his complete removal from game), place him on the transfer list and that is about it. With premium account you can gain additional options (like assigning shirt number or changing the player’s face), but they do not influence the game itself.



Training

Once a week you will receive training report (usually day or two before your next league match) that will include changes in players form, stamina and skills. The form change occurs almost randomly - 1/3 of your players have chance for increase, 1/3 for decrease of form level and last 1/3 will keep the previous level.

The change of player skills and stamina is related to your training - you setup the balance between training intensity and the percentage of stamina training. This means that while you work on stamina the skills will raise slower, while working on skills they will improve faster, but there is chance players may lose some stamina.

You have no influence on the training itself other than hiring more coaches, they do all the work on trainings.



Transfers

The main form of transfers in Hattrick is the auction system - you put your player on transfer list, automatically the deadline is set in f.e. 3 days, you choose the minimum price and that is it. While looking for players you can only browse through the current transfer list and place offers before the auction will end, which usually means that the auction actually take place within last hour before the deadline. Player will join your team moments after the auction end or (if his team is in the middle of the match) after the final whistle.

Auction system is the main form of transfers, but there is one more - youth team. Every club can establish and maintain youth team that will work with youngsters, they all are existing players (unlike in other games, where they are created on-demand) that with time can be promoted to the first team. Scouts hired for youth teams find new talents that can be brought to your club.



Tactics

As mentioned before Hattrick do not assign a position to the particular player - he can be used on any position on the field, even if it does not make much sense. Additional options were to give player orders to f.e. play more offensively, defensively or support wing (depending on the position on the field), which distributed his skills to different team formations. Apart from that you could set up almost any formation available in football, but additional parameter for your team was understanding of each formation - more you play the same formation the better the teams gets at it. For example if you play 4-3-3 for 20 games straight the players are getting used to it, but if you suddenly switch to 3-5-2 they will be confused in first few matches, so your freedom in choosing formation was slightly limited.



Match engine and match report

Hattrick match engine was as simple as the rest of the game, which lead to one of the weakest points of the game - predictability. Even in game manual you can find the basic formula that was used in game engine: there are 14 events during the match and their distribution between the two teams is based on the skills of both sides, or rather midfield formation of both sides. Player skills are put together into formation skill pool and the team with better level of midfield will get more chances in the match. On paper it looks fine, but after some time it became obvious that 3-5-2 is the best formation available and experimenting with formations like 4-3-3 or 4-2-4 will get you absolutely nowhere. When HT was in decline (past 2014) another formation emerged that was even better than 3-5-2, but made absolutely no sense - it was 2-5-3, in which two players in defence were actually wingbacks. It means that formation with zero central defender is the best choice for HT and it was hard to find a national teams that did not used that particular formation.

Predictability of Hattrick is very clear in rating system - in each game each of your players will receive stars that describe his performance in this match, but in fact it really doesn’t. The number of stars is derived from player skill level and current form and can be calculated before the match will even start. For example: player with excellent skill level (which means 8) and passable form (which means 6) will get 4 stars, if his form will drop to inadequate (level 5) he will get 3,5 stars, if his form will drop to weak (level 4) he will get 3 stars and so on. This leads to sometimes nonsensical rating, where f.e. scorer of all 3 goals for your team will still get 2,5 stars that is calculated from his skills level, and could be the lowest rating in your team.

Another weak point was with team attitude for match - you can choose "match of the season" setting (that will automatically decrease the mood of your team) because f.e. 6-0 win against weak enemy will give you promotion, but then during the match you will spot the event that can be described as "the score is 3-0 and your team moved back content they have win in their pockets now".

Match report was set of simple text messages describing match events, with time graphic match viewer was created, but offered just slightly improved view on the field and player ratings.

The last flaw in Hattrick engine and match report was the simplicity itself - there are no individual statistics and match events often did not contained a lot of useful data, f.e. event was described with line: "Here comes Lohi’s Ivan Yanenko with a challenge to visitors’ central defense... He makes it through and lays the ball over to make the shot with his good foot. A defender makes a clean tackle, and the ball is cleared away". On first glance there is no problem with that line, but since there are no individual statistics you would want to know which of the defenders made that clean tackle or who exactly he passed to get through the defence line, but in HT there is no chance to learn that.



Team management

Just like most of the things in Hattrick club management is also very simple - you can buy and sell players, hire or fire staff, change team colours (although it requires premium account), challenge teams to friendly games and that is about it. All of the additional elements, like federations you can join, forums, blogs, etc. have nothing to do with the gameplay itself.



Stadium

Stadium in Hattrick provides only the basic options to improve the capacity of stadium plus switch between different types of stands: bleachers, basic seating, seats under roof, seats in VIP boxes. The nice touch is that the increase of capacity will take some time, so you have to plan your improvements in advance, because during the building operations your capacity will be decreased.



Staff

You hire a coach that will (through his leadership and skills) influence the training progress, he is added to your team just like a normal player, so he can also be used as player-manager and put on the field as last resort. The nice touch is that although you can head-hunt new coach from the "market", you can also hire any of your veteran players (he has to be part of your team for some time though). With each season your coach will lose a point of his leadership, which sooner or later will force you to replace him.

It’s not a great surprise that, like everything else in Hattrick, rest of the staff is implemented using a very simple mechanism. You can hire assistant coaches (to speed up training progress), spokesperson (to keep the fans happy), medic (to decrease chance of injury), sports psychologist (to keep your players’ morale up), form coach (to boost players’ form) and tactical assistant (to ease the switching between formations).



Multiplayer

Hattrick is a massive multiplayer online game and as such has no options for single player mode - everything you do is set in the same world as for every other player in the game.



Overall review

Hattrick was (and perhaps still is) popular due to its simplicity - it is easy to join the game and grasp the basics of the gameplay without getting through a long manual, it is enjoyable once you get hooked. The problems start bit later, when you get into the nitty-gritty of what Hattrick has to offer. On surface it is very simple and predictable game, which to be fair it is, but at the same time it can be very frustrating once you spent more time playing it. Beginning with the one match per week rule that means you will spend about 5-10 minutes per week actually playing it, not only because the interface is user friendly, but because there is nothing more to do here. You check the training report, setup the team for next week and, unless you will actively search the transfer market, you are done for another 7 days. Of course you can sit and watch the match "live", but since there are about 14 match events in match that will last at least 105 minutes (2 x 45 minutes plus 15 minutes break) it is not that much fun.

Match engine is predictable, which could be a good for some players, but basically if you compare the teams before match the one with more skill stars will almost always win. Some time ago a function was introduced that allowed you to make f.e. 20 dry-runs of the match you have just played so users could see for themselves that results are not just picked randomly and out of that 20 tests most would give same or very similar result, which was smart move by the creators, but also shown that match results are predictable.

Another problem with HT is the pyramid system and 8 teams per division rules - they allow game to pack a lot of players, but at the same time are less fun if it was different setting. For example new user will start in 8th division, even though in divisions above there are bot teams he could take over. Also starting from level 8th means that it would take him at least 7 seasons to reach the top division (which means almost 2 years in real life), but of course it is simply impossible to just be promoted each time. Especially since there was a lot of rotation among the players through the years, so the one that play constantly for years have much better teams and tons of experience, which means that around 4th or 5th division the ceiling starts for new players. They simply won’t be able to build team that could compete with the hardcore players or it would take far more time anyone would be prepared to spare. The effect of that phenomena is quite surprising - while browsing through national teams it is often hard to find national players that are part of the 1st division teams, most of them play in clubs in the 3rd or even 6th division, because their owners are simply stuck on that level and are unable to be promoted any higher.

The simplicity of Hattrick also leads to absurd situations, f.e. team mood and formation knowledge are assigned to team, not particular players, so even if you drop all the players from your squad and replace them with new ones those parameters will not change a bit, even though those are completely different player that just joined the team. That means mood drop after lost match affects the whole team, not just those, who were involved on the field and that pretty much kills the squad rotation - player who never played a match for your team is depressed by recent result, although he should be eager to be given a chance.

I could list more examples, but those few show that the simplicity of Hattrick is a blessing that make it very easily accessible game, but at the same time creates frustrating details that pop up with time and spoil the fun you might have. Plus the biggest cons in case of Hattrick is the lack of improvements - since 2014 when original creators returned to the project there were very little improvements made in the game, even before that some of the seemingly good ideas were done with halfheartedly effort, like youth team system that has more cons than pros.

Overall Hattrick was one of the games that defined the genre - a lot of online soccer manager games available today are based or inspired by Hattrick. Even though HT has its flaws still it is game that can be enjoyable.



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Hattrick Soccer Manager  1997
Hattrick Soccer Manager  1997
Hattrick Soccer Manager  1997
Hattrick Soccer Manager  1997