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Interview about EHM with Risto Remes and Miles Jacobson

First of all, thank you for bringing EHM back to us. How does it feel for you personally that the game is back? It was out for a long time.

Risto Remes: Personally, it was always my goal to one day bring the game back in some form, so I couldn’t be happier to have the project up and running again. I’m really in awe of the EHM community for keeping the game alive through these years with their own updates.

I’ve got a couple of questions from our members about the business around the game, EHM was stopped because of pirating, how do you think that has changed since then?

RR: With Steam (and other similar platforms), I think it has been made so much easier to acquire games legally online without too much hassle. Everything about the process is more streamlined and updating games is easy for both the developers and the users. And naturally for smaller niche games like management games, this provides a more cost-efficient way of getting your game out to the public than the traditional way of putting boxes in stores.

Miles Jacobson: Piracy hasn’t gone away, but a lot of the excuses for doing it have. Digital is a lot more mature now, so it means anyone can buy a game online without us having to worry about retailers not stocking it – most PC titles now aren’t even offered to retailers these days.

Now that the game has been out for a time, how do you feel that the demand for the game has been compared to what you expected or hoped before the launch?

RR: Personally, I think the demand has been around what I had hoped for before we went into Early Access, or even a bit better considering we have been relying mostly on just word of mouth to spread the word so far. The community around the old game was still strong, but it has been nice to see old friends of the game find their way back now with the Early Access version and a lot of new fans who have only recently discovered the game.

How “living” is EHM at the SI office? Do you feel that EHM got the support it needs to have a future?

RR: I’ve been mainly working from my own home office in Finland since 2006, so I only visit our SI offices in London occasionally. But ever since we let others at the studio know we were working on the game again, whenever I’ve been around there has always been some talk about how EHM is doing and what we’ve been up to with the project. We still have all the key people who used to work on EHM back in the day working in some other roles at SI these days and pretty much everyone from that core has helped out with the Early Access version at some point.

MJ: We’d all love to see it do really well and turn into an annual release for the studio with full licenses. There are lots of fans of the series at both SI and SEGA, so the really passionate people have been the most focussed on it, whereas others have concentrated more on FM.

There are a lot of people that wants all sorts of functions added. What resources are available for developing the game at the moment? What resources will you get if EHM reaches the required sales numbers?

RR: For the most part, I’ve been the only developer actively working on the game during the Early Access period but there have been others chipping in with some areas of the project occasionally as well. Regardless of the sales numbers, I’m going to keep on working on the game in the future whenever my FM duties allow me to. Depending on the eventual sales, we’ll obviously assess things to see what kind of additional resources can be made available for the development in the future.

When will the game get licenses for leagues, teams and players?

MJ: If it wasn’t for digital distribution, we couldn’t have even got to the stage we have of getting it updated and back out there for people to buy – licenses and the future viability of the game will be solely down to how well it sells. We have pre-defined numbers to hit for different stages of financial viability. It’s strange for me to be talking about this side of things, but we’ve gone into this with our eyes very wide open and long-term plans, but if we don’t hit the targets, those plans don’t come to fruition. So if people do want the game to have a long-term future, they need to support it to make it happen.

This isn’t like a Kickstarter where you are investing in a dream that might happen. The game is there for people to play. If you want a great hockey management game from the same studio that brings you Football Manager, then it’s there for you to buy. In the same way FM has grown organically over 20 years of development, we want the same for Eastside – but it’s for customers to decide whether they want that or not.

And then we have some questions about the game itself and in-game functions. Will there be a 3D-match engine like in the Football Manager-series and an editor like in the Football Manager-series? In general, will EHM be allowed to use/take advantage of functions that are already in use in FM?

RR: I don’t think there will be a 3D engine anytime soon in the cards for EHM. The 3D side of things requires a lot of resources from the development team and I’d like to concentrate our resources more on the actual gameplay and functionality, possibly improving the 2D engine further. I’ve always said I wanted to do a full-blown editor for any future EHM and there are foundations for this already in place as the current Import DB functionality is part of the editor project. However it will take some time to build up all the necessary features of the editor, so it will be one of those “ready when done” features to be included later on. We are constantly working on things under the hood so to speak to get the EHM more integrated with the shared code we use at SI for our other games, so that we can take advantage of some features already implemented in our other games.

At the moment EHM does not use newgens but regens, although it’s a bit different from EHM07. Is newgens going to be introduced to EHM in the future?

RR: For the time being, the game will continue to use the new hybrid system where it takes some functionality of the old regens but mixes it up with some elements of the newgens. In the long term, we are likely to move towards a more complete newgen based system but that will again be one for the future.

Now that the game is connected to Steam, will you take use of the client’s functions? Will we see for example the possibility to use cloud saves or to gain achievements?

MJ: Steam workshop will be there for launch.

I guess you have answered this question many times before, will we see a Mac-version of the game?

RR: At the moment we have only limited resources available so we are only working on a Windows version. We are slowly converting our EHM codebase to allow better integration with our shared code at SI, so hopefully in the future this will allow us to look into other platforms as well. For now, there is no native Mac version planned, but a lot of people are using software like PlayOnMac to play the Windows version of EHM at the moment.

More and more leagues has been added as the game has been updated. Are there plans to add the Champions Hockey League and the Swedish First Division?

RR: I would really love to include more leagues with the game even in the near future already. Due to the new format of the game database, which now includes all the rules and structures of the leagues, we can add new leagues more flexibly than before. I cannot make promises for any particular leagues at the moment but we will look into adding some more leagues in.

Right now we can only play EHM in a small window, is this going to change?

RR: The release version (at the end of the Early Access period) will have support for additional resolutions. That much I can promise already at this point.

Will all national teams be playable now that all divisions of the World Championships are playable?

RR: In the most recent update of 19th November we’ve added an option at game start to ensure all playable national teams have a big enough national pool of players to choose from to make it possible to manage all the national teams.

What’s the vision for the European junior teams? Are there plans to let the J18- and J20-teams have a more advanced system to get new players, rather than now when they just show up?

RR: This is one for the very long term future again. We do already model junior level hockey for Canada, so it should be possible to put more detail into the European junior leagues eventually at some point. But again, this is not something that is in the cards for the very near future.

And finally, how close would you say that we’re to a finished “EHM16”? A version of the game that you would feel fully satisfied with (until the release of the next version of course).

RR: We are pretty close now to getting the current version of the game “released”.

MJ: The plan is to be out of Early Access in December.

RR: Games like these will never be truly “finished” as there are always things to tune and improve, not to mention new feature ideas and such. I’m personally never fully satisfied with the game as I always want to keep on improving it and we are likely to do some updates for the game even after the Early Access period. The main purpose of the Early Access version was to get the game back up and running, update the game to support the new modern league structures and rules, fix all the niggling issues of the old game and improve gameplay where possible. We’ve added quite a few new features during Early Access and like we said initially, the main aim was to polish the game based on the user feedback. We have lots of ideas for the future, so would love the chance to make another version of the game if we get the chance – and hopefully not have to wait so many years next time!