Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Notes And Opening Day

Okay, before I get started today, let me note that the 3DS impressions post was grotesquely overwritten. Not that you didn't already know that, but I just thought I would acknowledge the obvious. I was having so much fun, though, that I just kept going, and I wasn't exaggerating, just "language-scaping" to an obscene degree.

There's only one person on earth who can write like that and sound good, and it's not me.

Next, Glen Haag of of The Blog For The Sports Gamer had a terrific podcast interview with Shaun Sullivan, the creator of the PureSim series and someone I've mentioned on a regular basis over the years.

Even if you don't like sports games, this is a terrific podcast, because Shaun talks at length about "the old days," back when we were all beta-testing Front Page Sports: Baseball Pro '98.

I'm not sure there was ever a more dedicated group of beta testers than there was for that game. We were all insane, basically. I was working 50+ hours a week managing a payroll conversion project (some weeks 60+), but I had a laptop at work and I'd dial into my home system several times a day, simming almost a thousand seasons over the course of the last month of testing. This was back in the day when a single season took about (if I remember correctly) fifteen minutes to sim, so I'd start the game simming, go out and work on the payroll project for an hour or so, then come back into my office, look at the statistical results, adjust the .ini file (which tweaked EVERYTHING, including gravity, believe it or not, and had hundreds of settings), and sim again.

That was my little pod, working on statistical accuracy, but every guy who was beta-testing was working like crazy on something. We all drove ourselves to exhaustion, then kept going.

What I was trying to do was achieve a high degree of statistical accuracy, both at the league and invidiual player level--something that had never been done in a graphics-based sports sim. So it was a math exercise, basically, but a very complex one, and I was completely fascinated. And after almost fifteen years, I can still vividly remember the one thing I couldn't get to work right: I couldn't get contact hitters like Tony Gwynn to hit for a high average without also hitting too many home runs.

The game finished development, and the lead developer (a guy named Doug Johnson, who was unbelievably bright--I wonder what happened to him?) shipped my version of the .ini file with the game. Except, unfortunately, he didn't ship the right one, which was totally understandable with all the versions we had flying around. So the right version wasn't included until the first patch, which absolutely killed me (even though no one except Doug and me knew it was my version, it still killed me).

If I had the time, I'd still be working on things like that, and I miss it.

Shaun kept at it, though, and turned into an amazing designer and programmer, as well as keeping the mod-friendly philosophy that seemed to begin with FPSBB (I can't remember an earlier sports game that allowed that kind of tweaking to the game engine, and in terms of graphics-based sports games, I don't think another one ever has allowed it to that degree).

In Shaun's game (PureSim), though, you can mod everything, really, and Front Page Sports Baseball and PureSim were probably the origin of my "let your customers help you improve the game" rule.

In the podcast, Shaun talks about all this and more, and it's a great listen. He's a tremendously interesting guy and a very nice one as well.
I mentioned that PureSim 4 was coming out in time for Opening Day, and it's available now, so if you want to play a terrific baseball sim, it's an excellent choice.

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