You know, if you're longing for deeper, stat-heavy, party-managing RPGs, you might not go far wrong with a sports management sim. Beneath the sporting veneer lie all the tactics, behaviours, and numbers you could hope for. Sports games are other games in disguise. I was only taking the piss a little bit with that FIFA demo post calling it real-time tactical action, you know. Football Manager has a fair few fans here at RPS, and now its makers are getting back into ice hockey.
Eastside Hockey Manager started as a freeware game before Sports Interactive picked it up and worked their Football Manager-style magic. However, they only released two games, in 2004 and 2006 for the 2005 and 2007 hockey seasons, before SI and publishers Sega iced the series. Now it's back, they explain:
"At that time we were not only badly affected by piracy, we were also hit by the way retail used to work, particularly in the US. Boxed copies of the game would fly off the shelves in places where hockey was popular, but would languish in places where it wasn't – and there was no system in place for those boxes to be shifted from one State to another. Steam wasn't anywhere near as popular back then as it is now, so we didn't have a digital solution to this problem like we do now."
SI explain that they've been working on Eastside Hockey Manager in "what little spare time we have", and are turning to Early Access to pay for hiring new folks to help out. They're hoping that it'll also prove the series is viable and let them land licenses for leagues and go ahead with annualised sequels.
They expect EHM to be in Early Access mode for "months, not years" while they polish it up and add a few features. This version's using 'fake' data (because licenses), but it has support to import user-created databases even from older EHM games.
EHM will cost you £9.99 on Steam right now. That price will go up as development progresses.