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Oluseyi

Sports RPG?

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I''ve wanted to write a sports game (specifically a basketball sim) for a long, long time. I actually advanced somewhat on a DOS-based incarnation around 1996/97, but that''s all history now. I used the term "sim" loosely then as well; now I''m asking what your reactions would be to an actual sports simulation - not a management sim, and not an arcade "sim". Sort of a Sports RPG. At the most basic level would be a "generic" sports simulation that allowed you to play the game as various characters or controlling an entire team, much like what we have today. Of course I''d make improvements in control and AI, but the real revolution would be in the RPG element. You''d be able to play through a professional athlete''s career, starting from draft day. The draft could be randomly generated, possibly even resulting in your going undrafted and having to play in NFL Europe for the Rhine Fire or for FIBA teams in Turkey. (Please note that this is representative of the American professional sports climate; the rest of the world "drafts" its pro players from development leagues and junior clubsides). Once drafted, you''d need to perform on a regular basis to earn your "minutes" and gain public recognition. As your name brand value rises, you''ll be approached with shoe and product endorsements and the like. You''ll eventually become a free agent and need to negotiate contracts with teams, ultimately seeking to position yourself with a team that has real chances of "winning it all" (it''s all about the hardware, baby!) You won''t be required to be the team leader, but can play a role (be like Derek Fisher or Robert Horry instead of Mike). You''ll also contribute to the team dynamic through your post-game comments and statements in huddles or during time-outs. As far as actually "playing" the games, you can either jump right in and control the action (but only as one player - like current "player lock" features) or leave your character to respond according to his/her skill levels. Skill can be improved by training - gym workouts, aerobics for flexibility, shooting/batting/kicking practice, running/bikes for cardio, etc - and reflexes improved through timing sub-games. Perhaps you should also be able to improve your character''s work ethic, which would cause him/her to work out independently (leaving you to focus on more important things). Inspired by a column in July''s PC Gamer, I''ve considered it worthwhile to include an MMO aspect of the game, allowing several individuals to play as teams - coaches and players - for playoff positions and championships. You can also take your developed player online for "streetball" games (roller hockey, anyone?), one-on-one challenges (winner holds the court), half-court 3-on-3s (basketball), etc. Eventually, you''ll grow too old to run the floor/grass/pitch/diamond and retire, but then you can become an assistant coach/coach/GM (depending on your attributes while you were a player) and manage or direct the team, calling plays, negotiating and trading for players, working around salary cap limitations, etc. You''d need to hire scouts and scan reports for information on emerging talents, and keep your eyes peeled for opportunities to invite them to join your organization. In the MMO version, these may be actual, real people on the other side of the globe. This is where your player''s work ethic and skill levels become important: if there''s a scheduled game that you (the gamer) can''t make, your avatar will still be able to play at a level commensurate to the time and effort you''ve put into the game. In reality this is like blending two games into one (Fast Break Basketball with NBA2K1 , for example, or Championship Manager with FIFA 2001 ), with a little bit of something extra. What do you think? Overambitious? Infeasible? Overly broad? All critiques welcome.

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I like it.

I''ve been wondering why there still is no real MMO sportsgame out there where players can compete against eachother while building a career.

Seems to me that there are enough players out there who take pleasure in proving themselves better than others. Why not create a real competition for them?

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I think the reason why has been answered by the sheer lack of replies to this suggestion. Sports are fairly big and popular, but nowhere near the gaming market prowess of RPGs (can you actually count the number of RPGs released in the last 2-3 years? Including expansion packs and add-ons [but not patches]) and FPSes (even worse). Publishers are so busy pushing "quick buck" titles - some of them remarkably good, but blaze trailers nevertheless - out the door that a game like this would have to be independently developed, but would probably end up a major sleeper hit.

Well, I've got my work cut out for me. If anyone ever has any suggestions or comments, let me know.

[Edit: outdated email address.]

[edited by - Oluseyi on April 17, 2002 6:27:14 PM]

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Oluseyi, I really like the idea even though I''m not a sports fan. Maybe something like this would get even ME to play sports.

I lived with two roomates who were both RPG players and sports nuts. I don''t imagine that you wouldn''t have an audience, though the cross section overlapping both RPG and sports players would probably automatically make it smaller. I''d imagine you''d have more success as a console game, as that seems to be the widest fan base for sports titles.

The MMO aspect sounds especially promising. Again, I don''t know much about sports, but this would seem to be a potentially lucrative area. (Maybe you''d tap into all those fantasy baseball / basketball players out there...?)



As for the lack of replies... well, not to rib anyone on the board, but perhaps if you added a medieval component? Say, undead, magick, and lots of characters whose names ended in -ia or -undrel?

Then you''ll get six pages of replies and lots of discussion, I promise (tongue firmly in cheek, that is).

--------------------
Just waiting for the mothership...

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I like the idea, but how would you handle "bench-time"? Say your character sucks, you won''t get a whole lot of minutes. So will your character just sit there or will the game automatically cut to the times(if any) your player is on the floor?



--I don''t judge, I just observe

Stuck in the Bush''s, Florida

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Have the ability to skip to the next time the player is active, but if nothing is pressed, play through computer vs. computer.

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quote:
Original post by Dynamite
I like the idea, but how would you handle "bench-time"? Say your character sucks, you won''t get a whole lot of minutes. So will your character just sit there or will the game automatically cut to the times(if any) your player is on the floor?


As Thrump said, there would be an option to either watch the game even though your character was out of it or jump ahead to the next time you got playing time (imagine if that was 3 games later!)

I think that players who aren''t terribly skilled or knowledgeable about these sports would opt to use preconfigured, relatively "good" characters until they get a feeling for the game. What that means is that in developing your character, you can choose to go with an already "developed" player, but you wont be able to reach the same pinnacles of achievement as if you developed him from scratch (he may have picked up some bad habits that will be almost impossible to overcome, etc. Besides, there needs to be an incentive to develop a "fresh" character and a potential reward for people who do). Also, the control system will be worked out to give good variability - accomodating players of different skill levels (remember that when we talk of sports games the player is the person playing the game, aka the gamer, while the avatar is the "character" or "athlete").

The control system I''ve been thinking of has a huge number of toggles and switches that can be individually enabled or disabled to allow the player control different aspects of the game. So to immediately be competitive even though you don''t know the sport, set most things to automatic (this comes in handy when you can''t be around, because essentially everything is set to automatic - the framework is already there). The balance in this is that it uses semi-deterministic AI routines, and as such can never match up to the potential level of a human player. Say you set shot selection and shot release to auto, and your athlete is defined as "explosive" and "aggressive". In a basetball game, such a player might try to dunk over opponents (and possibly commit a charge) when the "smart" thing to do is to "stop n'' pop". Or the athlete may only be able to release on hs jumper at the peak of his jump, whereas a human opponent can release at any time - off balance, falling into the crowd for the Jordan-esque fadeaway...

These are some of the balance issues that I''ve considered to give both sporting "newbies" and hardcore tele-athletes roughly equal advantage. I hadn''t been checking this thread since I only got two replies after the first week, so I''m sorry for the delay. Thanks, guys. I see that some people''s interest is at least piqued.

Wavinator: Actually, I''ve been considering the console space essential to the development of an audience for this game, but wondering how to incorporate all the RPG elements (and control variations). As for names ending with -ia, we need only look to Turkish soccer . Besides, how many gmaes have a character named Dikembe Mutombo Mpolondo Mukamba Jean Jacque Wamutombo (Philadelphia 76ers)?

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If we DO opt for an online sports game with rpg elements... I''d say let''s just go for it: create an online league.

You''d have your ''rookies of rookies'' league where all players have to start their new characters. When they start winning games, they''ll be able to move up on the league ladder and enter tougher competitions.

There''d have to be a feedback system in place to leave feedback to other players. Say you play with 8 players (rotating) per team (basketball). After the game, win or lose, you''d leave feedback on the players you particularly liked or disliked.

Of course the goal of the game could be to
a) enter the top of the leagues where with victory comes ultimate glory
b) become one of the best liked players
c) become one of the best skilled players
d) just have fun competing
e) create the best team
f) create the best duo
g) etc

I think with sports comes competition. So you''d have to give the players a place where they can really compete. With that, comes the absolute necessarity of disabling any options of cheating. Which would mean a lot of server side information

How to prevent other players from ignoring you during play (selfish bastards!)? Those players that will not pass the ball even if you''re a better shooter than they are, even if you''re wide open, even if they''re covered by three players...

Feedback.

Players that continue to play selfish will get a very low team-rating. Other players will not want to include them in their teams.

About feedback. I''ve always had big problems with the way Ebay''s feedback system works (my wife does a lot of Ebay shopping). It''s just a ''I leave negative feedback on you, so you leave negative feedback on me'' type of feedback. It really doesn''t mean anything.

I think that to establish an effective feedback system (which I really think is necessary to make online sports fun) you HAVE to create a system like the following:

If I leave POSITIVE feedback on another player, that pretty much means I accept his views and style. So whoever HE leaves positive feedback to, should also be on my positive list. If he leaves negative feedback to someone, that someone should show up with a negative number on my list.

It''ll work somewhat like the old ''seven degrees of separation'' idea. Each player that play, will somehow be linked to you.

All the system would have to do is show you the shortest route of positive/negative feedback to the player you''re investigating.

Example:

You''re trying to see if you want player X on your team.
You look at feedback and see
Player X-->positive feedback about player X by Player Y-->positive feedback about player Y by player Z-->positive feedback about player Z by self.

X-->+ Y-->+ Z-->+ Self

You can make the system work even better by assigning ''trust'' values.

If you ABSOLUTELY trust player Z (maybe he''s a close friend) you assign the number 10 to him. If you somewhat trust player A (someone you played with yesterday), you would assign number 1 to him.

Now, when you ask for feedback on player X, the system will find the shortest route, with the highest total ''trust'' value.

Sounds a little complicated, and maybe this is thinking too far ahead (let''s first design this thing) but I just think that a feedback system is needed to make players play together. Otherwise you''d just end up with a bunch of selfish ''I''m the best and I''ll prove it'' players. Nothing wrong with that, but the very reason why I want to play online with others is that I want to play as a team and compete... I don''t want to compete WITH my teammembers.

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This feedback element is very interesting, and seemingly quite unique. I do see some shortcomings, though. The ''chain'' of feedback means every single player on a server needs to have a rating (or memory allocated to hold a rating) on every other player, resulting in an N * (N - 1) table of feedback values which must be constantly updated and rapidly searched. the problem it attempts to address, however, is a very real and legitimate one (heck, it turns up in real life pickup games!). Here''s my original take on it:

Players may choose to play pickup games, sign up to teams of people they don''t know and have never met, or collectively form a team (with friends). As in real life pickup games, you need to play with people or observe them play to get a feel for their game - how selfish they are, their skill level, their court awareness and so on.

(On a self-actualizing side note, all the cats I''ve been balling with recently seem to lack court vision; I always pass out of double teams and set them up for wide open Js, wrapping the ball around defenders with, frankly, amazing skill to find my man. They wont even feed me in a post! And they never look to see me wide open, unless I scream for it - I find them, even off the ball).

After observing, one may choose to play or not to play (playground rules apply in pickup games: someone has "next" and gets to pick his team for the next run out of the available guys around when he becomes next. He can''t choose players who have played since others who haven''t played arrived). It would then be recommended that one not elect to join a team until one had either observed their game (there will be spectator capability), played with them or gotten to know them in real life (the friends scenario). The other alternative would be to be "drafted" to any team that is looking for a player with your skills (there will always be at least one computer-controlled team to ensure everyone who wants to play, can. Such a team may not make it to the playoffs/tournament/finals, but neither will everybody else). In tournament/organized games - ie, non-pickup - players will be rated on their performances automatically and this data made available to coaches. A smart (human) coach will bench a player who''s too selfish with the rock, or may encourage another to go to the hole more. A computer coach will automatically bench a selfish player - possibly pulling him out of the game - and issue "standard" encouragements/reprimands, etc.

This brings me back to the question of what happens when your player (say [s]he sucks) is benched. If you''re playing conputer-controlled opponents, the game can be simulated in fast forward till your next insertion into the lineup. If you''re playing online with other humans, however, you''ll have to sit out - which should provide incentive to improve your personal performance and/or your relationships with teammates/coach. Team sizes will be limited to the current minimum (the real-world minimum will be our maximum) of 8 (for basketball), otherwise too many players may not see any game. Maybe I shouldn''t actually limit, but rather should recommend no more than 8.

This all introduces very interesting social interaction aspects. A team manager (a possible role) may spend time observing playground pickup games and inviting players to "tryout" for or join their team (it would be cool if managers could create "highlight reels" of their team in action to sho prospective signers). This would introduce the hiring, firing and trading aspect - and possible tensions between real people. I guess managers should be able to keep computer players as reserves on the roster, in case a real-world member has a season-ending injury. All this means that it would be possible to play the game from a number of different perspectives, with varying amounts of necessitated committment - manager (you could build a team from scratch, recruiting players and juggling egos), coach (develop a playbook, fulfill your long-time desire to lead your boys and "win it all", deal with team discipline, micromanage the game down to your team''s use of the clock) or player. And, of course, you could just watch.

I think these are more than enough aspects already to consider. I''ve (finally!) received some excellent feedback and contributions. Thanks - keep ''em coming!

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I don''t know how well it''ll work online because then you will need all the players online to have a game, or forfit if there are not enough players. And what about disconnects? It''s an excellent idea but there are too many "must haves" just to play 1 game. Streetball online may work because the stakes aren''t so high if someone is shooting and gets cut off. I do think it can work single player though. The first game I ever made was a basketball game and I considered this too, but a little different. I didn''t really stick with the idea, but you make an excellent argument.



--I don''t judge, I just observe

Stuck in the Bush''s, Florida

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