Monday, July 07, 2014

Gridiron Solitaire: 1.1 and the Future

First off, here are the main features of 1.1 (taken from the patch notes):
1. Revised Gameplay Balance
Run matches are now worth 3 yards, not 4. This means that you can no longer use the run-heavy, predictable offense that was effective in previous versions. There must be much more balance now to be successful.
2. Kickoffs (new feature)
Kickoffs auto-resolve and are based on Human/CPU Special Teams rating. Closely models real NFL data for 2013 season.
3. Punts
Punts are now based on real NFL data, including chances of punts being downed inside the 20.
NOTE: The addition of kickoffs/punts has greatly increased the importance of the Special Teams rating.
Also, you can now gain Big Play presses on defense if you down a punt inside the 15-yard line.
4. Penalty Cards (new feature)
A penalty card will block its card stack unless matched with a wild card. Frequency is affected by Human rating for active play type.
5. Big Images (new feature)
There's a new presentation system to enhance the in-game excitement. On certain plays, "Big Images" are shown instead of the smaller referee cards. There's also a huddle now.
6. 2X Small Headlines
There are now twice as many possible headlines for the small story images on the left side of the newspaper.
7. Offseason AI
Instead of two possible team strategies during the offseason, there are now eight, and the criteria for changing strategies is more robust.
8. Offseason News Ticker (new feature)
After the offseason broadcast, you'll see a news ticker announcing coaching changes along with team strategy changes.

There's quite a bit more in the patch, but those are the headline items.

No bugs reported so far, which is good. I felt like this was a very stable build, and it was heavily tested.

I'm very pleased with how few bugs there have been in the game in general, but it's been done with brute force, not clever programming. So it's possible to write crappy code and then test it to death to fix everything, and if you're exceedingly patient (or stubborn), that will work. Far, far smarter would be to write code that is more logically planned upfront and therefore easier to test. 

I've learned that there's a big, big difference between being able to write code and being a coder. I made so many foolish upstream decisions that multiplied the time I had to spend downstream.  

I started layout for the new Team History screen yesterday (yes, I took a day off on Saturday after releasing the new version, but I'm not much of a celebrator, really). Immediately, though, I could see that my original idea wasn't working. 

The basic premise is that there would be a Team History book, and the user would select a season from one of the book "tabs". The problem, though, is that it could contain up to 30 seasons of data, and--to put it mildly--that's a lot of buttons. 

I know from past experience that when something isn't working, it's because I have the wrong idea. The good ideas work right away, generally. 

Still, though, I tried triage, reaching out for feedback. Fredrik was going to do a mock-up. Garret had a nice suggestion about a button per decade, then sub-buttons to pick the individual season. While I was thinking about that, though, I realized that what he said had given me a new idea entirely.

Now, I'm going to explain the new idea and you're going to think "How in the hell did "A" lead to "B"?" I don't know, but that's what happened. 

Here's the new idea: a team history museum. 

The reason the book idea wasn't working: thirty years of history was just too much to encompass in a single book. It shortchanged all the effort the user puts in, which is bad design. I should be doing everything I can to create a "place" to display team history that feels tangible. 

Here's how I see this in my mind: in the back of the room, the best players in franchise history will have their portraits displayed, and you can select them to see their career statistics. In the front of the room (the focal point), there will be a display area for Gridiron Bowl trophies, plus a Franchise Records book (selectable) and a Hall of Fame book (also selectable).

For individual seasons, there are two ways I could go. I could use one book for each decade, or I could put each season into its own "book" on a bookshelf, and the bookshelf is selectable. Then you would see individual volumes in a close-up of the bookshelf and could select any season you want. 

I like the bookshelf because a new volume would get added each year, so each season you play, something of substance is added.

Also, there will be a museum attendant, and as you play more and more seasons, he'll age. He'll start off as a goofy guy with a goatee and lots of hair. By the 30th season, he'll have a combover, glasses, and no goatee. 

This should take 3-4 weeks to put in (I think).

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