Thursday, January 10, 2008

Draft Day Sports: College Basketball

I've put Draft Day Sports: College Basketball through its paces for about four hours now, and here are some initial impressions.

First off, this is a Gary Gorski game, so you already know that the game is going to have colorful, pleasing graphics. It also has personality and depth--certainly, it's the deepest college basketball sim I've ever played. There are also some intersesting new features--most notably, the ability to create coaching protégés who allow you to continue in career mode after your initial coach retires. That's a brilliant idea.

Recruiting is the meat of any college sports simulation, and it's extremely well-done here. The A.I. is very solid on a team basis, and when it comes to individual recruits, there are little surprises everywhere. For one, the players actually have a dialogue with you when you make a recruiting call (assistant coaches collect information as well), and what they tell you can significantly affect your strategy. Also, when you're trying to arrange campus visits, if a player isn't interested in your school, they'll refuse the invitation (a very nice touch). If they do come, and they decide it wasn't a good visit, their interest level will plummet.

One of the problems I always have with text-sims is that they rarely do a convincing job of creating a world beyond my team, but DDS:CB excels in this regard. There are season preview magazines, a season almanac (updated weekly), and two "television shows": Selection Sunday and a Post-Season Awards Show. There's a real feeling of being in a world, not just on an island.

I also like the use of the hub concept, which I believe is essential to make the details and options in a text-sim manageable. Inside your office, you'll see common items (file cabinets, computer screens, a phone, magazines, etc.) which, when selected, enable you to perform almost any management function in the game.

Real teams aren't in the game, but enterprising modders have already created files for real team names, courts, and conferences (see the mod forum at Wolverine Studios for details), and the game is very mod-friendly in general.

What would I change? For starters, I'd add a second hub. The office functions as an activity hub, but I think the game could really use a calendar hub as well. I'd like to be able to look at a week or a month at a time and see all scheduled activities--purchasing scouting reports, attending all-star camps, hiring coaches, recruiting, etc.--in one convenient location. I'd like to be able to click on an item in the calendar and be taken right to that event. This would be another way to help manage the high level of detail.

I'd also like to see more "weekly change" information on my recruits. Interest is displayed as one of four levels (at least, that's what I saw while recruiting for a scrub university), but the weekly change in interest isn't available without tracking it by hand. For recruits who are already on my call list, I'd like to see a weekly report of changes in recruit interest, and I'd like to be able to track the interest of an individual recruit over time. Right now, if I want that information, I have to track it manually.

I've simmed all the games so far, so I can't give you any impressions on in-game coaching yet. I plan to keep on playing, though, and I'll put up more impressions after another five hours of play.

If you'd like to try out the demo, head over to Wolverine Studios--it's linked on the front page.

Site Meter