MuscleMania Development Diary: A Bit of History

As you may or may not be aware, I am currently developing a game of our own. A wrestling card game to be exact. Last year, a few of us began playing card games in the pub and one we took a shine to was Boss Monster. Admittedly we were getting a ton of rules wrong at first because learning a new game when you are drunk isn’t the greatest idea, but we loved it. One of the great things about Boss Monster is that it only uses cards, no other pieces. But this post isn’t about Boss Monster, more on that another day. I’m just giving you some context on how the idea for a wrestling card game came about.

Last year I was having one of those nights where I was completely unable to sleep and the thoughts rattling around my head were all about a wrestling card game. I’ve been a big fan of wrestling ever since I was a small boy (you know, when you’re supposed to like it). I’ve had periods where I haven’t been paying so much attention to it, but I’m always drawn back. And one of my favourite wrestling games has always been SmackDown vs. RAW 2007. Specifically the General Manager mode, which is kind of like Football Manager for wrestling. Bear with me here.  So the aim of the mode is to sign the biggest wrestling stars, book the best wrestling matches and get more fans than the rival TV show (Smackdown or Raw). You don’t actually play any wrestling matches. Yeah I know. Despite being fairly limited in scope, it was great and I loved it. I tried some more WWE games down the years and nothing managed to improve on it (if you know of a good wrestling management game, let me know!).

Anyway, I was laying in bed and I was thinking about how I would improve SmackDown vs. RAW 2007’s General Manager mode (in February 2017, 10 years after that game was released). Then my thoughts drifted to card games and all the Boss Monster we had been playing, and I started thinking up how to do this as a card game. Unable to sleep and knowing my ideas would vanish from my brain overnight, I got out of bed around 1.30am and just wrote everything out, everything I had been thinking. There was a lot. Full game mechanics, almost full rules. The fevered dreams of a wrestling game nerd. A few days after that, I ordered a pack of blank playing cards to draw out a first pass at the game and take it to the pub.

The first ever game of MuscleMania, with plastic forks for counters

The premise of game is very similar to what I described above – you are a wrestling manager and you have have to put on a better show than your opponent by hiring the best wrestlers and booking the best matches. In fact, the first iteration was pretty much me trying to emulate and improve on SmackDown vs. RAW 2007. We took it down the pub and the first thing we found was that it was way too complicated – there was a currency system, you had to earn enough takings to keep your wrestlers but also to pay for equipment and publicity stunts. The whole thing was quite complex and, as well as my initial numbers being way off and people bankrupt too easily, there was a hell of a lot of maths! Playing this on the Xbox, the machine does all the calculations for you, but sitting at a table and doing your accounts on a calculator wasn’t really the point of the game. But for a first play through, it worked and it gave me plenty to think about and tweaks to make.

Next Week: The second iteration, and how MuscleMania got it’s name.

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