Fishing Software

About Fishing Games, Part 2-
What makes a good fishing game?

Iíve often bought a fishing game, hoping it would take fishing seriously, only to be disappointed. For example, lots of fishing games are designed to make fighting fish a challenge every time, with the line frequently on the verge of breaking, and with pounding music to drive up the tension. Of course itís a lot of fun to hook a fish thatís almost too big for your tackle, making it a real challenge to land. Those are the most exciting moments in fishing, but if every fish you hook fights like a trophy, those moments lose some of their thrill.

If a one pound bass can break 30 pound line when you play it carelessly, the program is too far on the ďgameĒ side of the spectrum for my tastes. That often happened in one popular fishing game, and between that and the pretty but unrealistic top-down view I gave up on the game. I wanted something that felt much more like real fishing.

As a software engineer and a life-long fishing addict I set out to create a fishing game for people who actually like to fish. Since 1998 Iíve developed two fishing games with another game publisher and three independently after forming Pishtech.

Here are some things I think are important in a good simulation-oriented fishing game:

* Lots of water. Part of the fun of real fishing is exploring a new lake or stream, looking for that new hot spot. There should be a wide variety of habitats.
* A choice of views. A first-person option is a must. Underwater and third-person views are fun, but the player should get to pick the view.
* Fish that think like fish. Their behavior should depend on the conditions, with sophisticated artificial intelligence so they relate realistically to depth, structure, cover, weather and seasons.
* Realistic fish populations. As in the real world the size distribution of the fish should have a natural bell-curve. A true trophy is a rare fish, and thatís what makes it so exciting to catch.
* Physics. A heavy lure casts farther than a light one. It drains a battery faster to move a big boat with an electric motor than with a smaller boat. Also, that one pound bass canít exert 30 pounds of force or provide 30 pounds of resistance to the force you apply with the rod.
* Attention to detail. Take line diameter for example: Thinner line is weaker, but it cuts through water more easily making lures run deeper, and sink faster. Itís also less visible to fish, which matters more to some species than others, and it matters more in clear water than in murky water.
* Educational value. Even if the program isnít designed to teach lessons, if a game simulates fishing well youíll learn from it. What you learn playing the game should help you with your real fishing and vice versa.
* Adjustable skill level. Some realistic fishing situations are very difficult to master, but you should have the option of making the game a bit more forgiving. A good game should offer a challenge for experts without frustrating beginners.
* Expandability. Itís a great bonus if you can download new locations or fish species to a game, so your virtual fishing opportunities keep expanding. If you can create content for the game and share it with others, the game keeps getting better for everyone.

On the other hand, I think there are things that donít belong in a fishing game. Itís fine to have some name-brand products in a fishing game, but the game shouldnít be a thinly disguised advertisement for a lure company. It also shouldnít be a flashy show of glitzy titles and a sparkling ďfish-on!Ē sign that spirals into view with game-show sound effects whenever you hook a fish and bikini models posing at the weigh-in. Iíve seen some big-name games where it looks like the developers put a lot more effort into the opening animations than they put into the fishing itself.

For those of us who really love fishing, the best fishing games are those that mirror the experience of fishing in real-life.

Next: Part 3- Real World Fly Fishing

Previous: Part 1 - Game or simulation?


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