GAFFR – Behind The Scenes of a Fantasy Game

Many of you will already know about GAFFR, a brand new Fantasy Football game for 20/21 which focuses on the English Championship, but for those that don’t, I sat down with the brains of this new venture to find out more about the ins and outs of creating a new Fantasy product.

Good afternoon mate. Hope you’re well. Can you just briefly explain who you are/how many of you there are and let us know a little bit more about yourselves?

There are four of us working on Gaffr. Séan created the site and insists he’s the brains of the operation. He brought in two of his brothers, Rory and Marc, and a long time friend, Joe, to help take it to the next level. We’re a global business, two parts of the globe at least. Séan’s based in Melbourne and the rest of us are in Dublin. Séan and Rory are programmers by trade, Marc is the design guy and Joe is in charge of media & marketing but we all help out when it comes to the tasks that fall in between. FPL arch-rivals for the last 16 years, Séan and Joe have been waiting for a chance to work on a project like this and put their obsession to good use.

What made you decide to start a Fantasy Football game?

It was an idea that had been floating around in Séan’s head for a number of years but it was only in the last 1-2 years he started to make it a reality. We talked about it and thought it strange that there were no free fantasy offerings focusing on The Championship. A league with so much enthusiasm and excitement, thousands of neglected fans. We never thought we’d be the ones to do it. The turning point came when Fantasy Champ Man (http://fantasychampman.com) launched their game earlier this year and Séan helped them put a site together. Once that was built Séan realised he wasn’t a million miles away from making his dream a reality. He also realised he’d need help.

How long did it take from concept to creation and release?

It’s been years in the making but took about 3-4 months once the team was assembled.

What was the most challenging part of setting up a Fantasy game?

Probably trying to strike a balance between emulating existing games and developing something new. You want it to be easy to play and familiar but also make something fresh and exciting without alienating people. So far the feedback is encouraging!

How did you go about player pricing?

A lot of it is painfully manual unfortunately so we’d be astonished if anyone figured it out. We used the player stats from the previous season to simulate their Gaffr score and establish a base price. But this doesn’t tell us the whole story; some players were injured, poor form, played out of position…etc…some were on loan last year or arrived in the transfer window. We split clubs between us and assessed each squad one by one and updated prices. We then assessed the game as a whole, how balanced a team could you make? How many of the top 5 players can you cram into your lineup? We were determined to make it possible to have a reasonably strong bench while still being able to afford some top tier players in your starting lineup as there’s more rotation in the Championship compared to some other leagues.

Are you worried that players will discover a couple of mispriced players and it might “break” the game?

Not at all, that’s part of the game as far as we’re concerned. In FPL terms, there’s always a Lundstram or a Pukki but the trick is spotting them early and using them at the right time. Pukki was probably priced correctly in retrospect, but at the start of the season he looked a bargain. The famously unpredictable Championship is certain to throw up a few of these players.

Would you view mispriced players/or players playing in a different position as mistakes or an opportunity for better players to exploit?

We’ve attempted to price players as accurately as we possibly can but will also be interested to see which players make us look foolish. We won’t view them as mistakes as such, it’s a vital part of the game. The best managers spot these value players very quickly and you start to see a scramble. With 24 teams, you’d expect there to be lots of opportunities.

How much do you listen to the players of the game in regards to pricing and ideas for the future?

A lot. We decided early on that we wanted this to be a collaboration between the players and ourselves and the enthusiasm has been overwhelming. We’ve been receiving feedback and ideas from the very beginning and it’s clear they know more than we do, some people managed to register on Gaffr before it was even announced!

Are you excited to see the game up and running or nervous to see if it all works as it should?

More excited than nervous, we’re confident everything will work as it should. We just hope the players find it as exciting as we do.

I see you’ve got a variety of different chips available to FPL, what made you choose these and which are you most excited about?

We loved the idea of players choosing certain chips (or Boosts) based on their squad strength at that particular time. The idea that no two players will use the same nine chips over the course of a season makes it all the more exciting and reduces that sameness that can sometimes creep into fantasy football.

The obvious one is Overhaul – basically a wildcard – but if your team is settled and all is going well, you may not need it so you might go for a less powerful boost such as Park The Bus (x2 defenders) or Midfield Generals (x1.5 midfielders) if your defence or midfield have a handy gameweek ahead. These boosts give different sections of the team a chance to shine but the real stars of the show are Captain Fantastic (Captain x3, Vice Captain x2) and Multi Captain (Captain x2, Vice Captain x2, Emergency Captain x2)

To keep it interesting, we plan on removing chips from the lineup and adding brand new ones with every refresh. We plan on the community voting on future chip selections and having a say in how the game developes. Our favourite has to be Multi Captain, it’s ridiculously powerful.

Will you be playing the game yourselves? Bragging rights up for grabs?

Absolutely! Imagine literally beating Séan at his own game!

Are you FPL players too? How does your FPL history look?

Yes, all of us play but there have been some long hard seasons lately. We never took too much interest in overall ranking. We’ve played for 16 years but mostly focused on a particular mini-league, the winner of whom receives a large unattractive trophy. Joe finished highest of the four this year but was around the 150,000 mark and missed out on the trophy too.

Do you think analysing Championship data gives you an edge on the promoted teams or players that get promoted to the Premier League?

Yes, absolutely. It’s hard to know how a side will react to the higher standard of teams around them, many will change formation and personnel substantially after promotion, but you can make a pretty good guess at which players will be key to their success.

Go on then, who are your tips from promoted clubs for FPL this year?

It’s hard to look past West Brom’s Matheus Pereira’s 8 goals and 16 assists last year. He’s not in the FPL game yet but if he’s reasonably priced, he’s worth considering. Leeds were impressive defensively last season but not sure they’ll be as strong this time around without Ben White. Luke Ayling is a very reasonable 4.5, got a couple goals and looks good on paper.

Otherwise Leeds’ Harrison has great potential this season too. 6 goals, 9 assists last year.

And finally…

Whats the long term vision for this project?

A lot will depend on what we learn from this season, we’d love to see the Championship get more recognition as the exciting league it is and that there’s a fantasy option to match it. Ultimately we want users to be able to login to Gaffr, switch between fantasy teams across a variety of sports/leagues and be able to view their stats, ranking and history season by season. Basically everything a fantasy sports fan could possibly need all in one place.

So there it is. A Championship game to play alongside the EPL version this coming season. What’s not to like? It’s an exciting project which we think has the legs to take off into a big game in it’s own right.

Good luck to you guys for the coming season and thanks for taking the time to talk to me!

Want to get involved? Well you can do right here.

Follow them on twitter here.

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