Exciting news, as ‘Football GM’ joins forces with OOTP (and gets a new name)

Recently I joined forces with Out of the Park Developments, the developers of the hit Baseball sim OOTP.

We can now announce that “Beyond the Sideline Football” will be released sometime in 2015.¬†All the exciting features you’ve been reading about in this blog, combined with the excellent features OOTP has to offer (FaceGen, Customization etc).

 

The proper press release:

http://files.ootpdevelopments.com/newsletters/nl0134/index.html

We also have a new forum, where I will be responding all the time. If you wish to ask a question it is well worth posting in there:
http://www.ootpdevelopments.com/board/bts-general-discussions/

Thank you everyone for supporting the original game, it can only get better now ūüôā

Color Schemes

In Sports Management Games (as well as some other genres of games), one of the most frequent difference of opinion amongst players concerns the color scheme of the User Interface (UI).

Some prefer lighter colors, while others prefer a much darker style (often because the find light colors hard to look at for a long period of time). ¬†While the first version of¬†Football GM will not feature a completely ‘skinnable’ (customizable) UI, it was still felt the UI should cater to uses who prefer either color style.

The “Light Theme” is the default theme in Football GM, and will be used in the vast majority of the screenshots and videos this blog will show.

Player Search using the "Light Theme"

Player Search using the “Light Theme”

However, using the “Options” menu on the home screen, the player can easily switch to a “Dark Theme” if they prefer.

Player Search using the "Dark Theme"

Player Search using the “Dark Theme”

Changing the Color Scheme

Changing the Color Scheme

Below are some comparisons of the two themes.

Cap Information using the "Light Theme"

Cap Information using the “Light Theme”

Cap Information using the "Dark Theme"

Cap Information using the “Dark Theme”

In a game using the "Light Theme"

Standings using the “Light Theme”

Standings using the "Dark Theme"

Standings using the “Dark Theme”

In a game using the "Light Theme"

In a game using the “Light Theme”

In a game using the "Dark Theme"

In a game using the “Dark Theme”

In the future, if the demand is sufficient even more color schemes can be added, with the eventual goal being that players can customize the graphics themselves at some point.

Feel free to leave any questions/comments!

Follow Football GM on Google+ 
Follow Football GM on YouTube

Realism vs “Fun”

One big challenge for any game in the Sports Management genre is deciding where to draw the line between trying to be as realistic as possible, and trying to make the game fun for the user.

Two key areas in Football GM were identified in which the plethora of real-life rules could confuse users to the point where they would not find the realism a positive aspect.

  • Roster Rules
  • Contract Details

Roster Rules

One of the main concerns about the real-life roster rules was the amount of designations teams can apply to players. Designations range from the “Physically Unable to Perform” list, the “Injured Reserve-Designated for Return” list to the “Reserve/Military” List.

It was decided from a very early stage that the amount of different lists would need to be curtailed.

Football GM features only one Injured Reserve list (IR) with one player per season allowed to come off it.

Players on IR

Players on IR

A player is eligible to be put on IR if the length of the injury is at least 42 days (6 weeks).

Another simplification is off-season roster rules.  For example, Future Contracts which are a staple of early year signings in real life are gone, all in the effort to make the experience more enjoyable for the user (it was felt that having to keep track of players who were due to join your team later in the year added little to the experience Рin Football GM the players are signed straight away)

Contract Details

One of the features which may confuse users the most is the cap and contract rules. While the real rules have tried to be adhered to as much as possible a few things have been simplified.

The most striking aspect of contracts which has been simplified are bonus’.

In real life a player’s contract may (and likely will) include bonus’ ¬†for things ranging from number of rushing yards, to a workout bonus (if he attends off season workouts). These bonus’ are then generally split into “likely to be earned” and “not¬†likely to be earned”, each having a different effect on the cap number.

In Football GM, in an effort to help the user keep track of the cap numbers, all these different type of bonus’ have been merged into one*; A yearly Roster Bonus. If a player is on the roster on the date his bonus is due, he will get ¬†the money.

Upcoming dates for when Player's Bonus' are due.

Upcoming dates for when Player’s Bonus’ are due.

The home screen will display all important upcoming dates so the user will know when these bonus’ are due.

On each player’s contract panel, Football GM¬†will try and explain to the user what the terms of a contract mean, and explain any rules.

Explanation of rules (in a early stage of development)

Explanation of rules (in a early stage of development)

Releasing Mark Sanchez?

Releasing Mark Sanchez?

The texts in the explanations will be looked at on  a regular basis Рas well as if there is a need to explain any other rules Р as there is a thin line between not providing enough information to the user and annoying the user by swamping them with too much explanation.

*From the point of view of the Data, all real life bonuses deemed “likely to be earned” have been merged into the roster bonus. This way it is felt that Football GM still keeps the realistic contract/cap amounts, while being able to get rid of all the other bonuses.

Want to see a future article about something in particular? Feel free to leave us a comment below!

Data

Player History

(The following article applies to real life history. i.e. What players did before the game starts)

One aspect of Sports Management games I am most passionate about is the amount of player history available to the user. I feel games with little/no player history seem less “complete” than those with player history.

While I acknowledge that to a few users, the player history may never be noticed not appreciated, I still felt it was vital part of Football GM, and as such it was a key design goal from the start.

Types of Data

Within Football GM, player history is divided into three categories:

  • Stats History – The stats the player has produced throughout his career up to the start point of the game.
  • Transaction History – Every transaction the player has been involved in.
  • Injury history – The player’s past injuries.

Statistical History

The Statistical history of every player was already accounted for as it is vital for the attribute generation of the players (as detailed in this post).

Currently only pro regular season historical stats are in the Football GM Database, though eventually I plan for pre/post season, as well as College history.

Player stats are accessible in a few ways. On the league screen you are available to view league stats back to the year 2000. These stats are sortable by any column the user wishes.

Stats from the 2003 season sorted by rushing yards.

Stats from the 2003 season sorted by rushing yards.

Stats from the 2010 season sorted by passing attempts.

Stats from the 2010 season sorted by passing attempts.

Stats from the 2000 season sorted by total tackles.

Stats from the 2000 season sorted by tackles.

As well as the league view, the user is able to go to any team they wish, and view the stats just for that team, again the stats are sortable if the user wishes.

Passing stats from the 2006 New York Jets

Passing stats from the 2006 Jets

Defensive stats from the 2006 Ravens

Defensive stats from the 2006 Ravens

As well as viewing stats from a league/team perspective, the user is also able to click on any player they see, and view the individual stats for that player.

Mark Sanchez's career stats.

Mark Sanchez’s career stats.

Transaction History

As well as Statistical history, Football GM contains complete transaction history currently back to the year 2003 (though once again I plan to expand this at a later date).
The format transactions are viewable in, is similar to the way Stats are shown.

On a league-wide scale, transactions can be filtered by month/year.

League transactions from 2012

League transactions from 2012

League transactions from April 2009

League transactions from April 2009

Transactions can also be viewed from a team perspective, again filtered by month/year

Jets transactions from April 2008

Jets transactions from April 2008

And of course a player’s own transactions are available from the player profile.

Dorin Dickerson's career transcations

Dorin Dickerson’s career transactions

Injury History

As well as statistical and transaction history, Football GM also contains an injury history for each player. History of injuries for player’s are significantly harder to research compared with the other types of history, and so – currently – is not as complete as I wish. Almost every injury which occurred in-season from 2000, though this doesn’t include all training camp injuries, and doesn’t include pre-draft history. I aim to fix this in the future.

The history Football GM does have however, is collated to form a player’s individual health map. This map is used to help calculate player’s future injuries – for example a player with a history of knee injuries is more likely to have future knee injuries.

The health map is also useful to the user when evaluating players. For example a running back may have the desired attributes you are looking for in a starter, but if his injury history is bad you may not wish to hand him a large contract.

Player's Health

Player’s Health

The health map also takes into account the history of a player. A running back who has been overused in the early part of his career, will likely be a larger health risk than a RB who has used sparingly.

Player's Health

Player’s Health

Feel free to leave any questions/comments.

The start of the Fixture Engine

What is a Fixture Engine?

The Fixture Engine, as one may expect, is the heart of any Sports Game. It’s responsible for calculating the result of any fixture and producing the stats of the players involved. ¬†It has to be accurate and it has to be enjoyable.

Choosing what type of Engine

It was clear from the start that any type of 3D engine was not possible for a variety of reasons. Even so, I still felt the Fixture Engine was one of the the most important parts of Football GM.

For a sports game simulator there are two main ideas for this engine:

  • A Statistical Engine
  • A Engine based on the player’s actions/movements. – which can then been displayed to the user (in Football GM‘s case in 2D).

The Statistical Engine, as the name may suggest, is based on real life Statistics. For example the real life average for a RB in a certain game situation against a certain defence might be 3.5yds. Extrapolating this over the entire game, and an entire season produces a very realistic statistical result.

There are however drawbacks to this method, significantly the user is just told the result of the play, there is no way for them to “see” the play as it develops (you could show a predefined diagram of the play result, but that’s not the same).

The other method is to create an engine which calculates the movements/actions of every player on the field in such a way that we get results which are realistic. It’s a lot harder to tune this type of engine to get statics which are realistic, but I feel the benefit to the user are enormous – for one the player’s position on the field can be shown to the user at any time.

I decided that for the user the attraction to see the play develop was too much to ignore, and so – unfortunately – the statistical only engine was not an option.

The Start of the Engine

Having decided upon the type of engine would be used, the first thing to do was create the basics: Define the constructs of the field (e.g how long/wide it is) and make the player’s move around in a realistic manner. For this I created a simple 40 yard dash test. Using the player’s attributes (detailed in an earlier post) I got to the stage where players would run the 40 recording the same times as one would expect in real life for that player.

40 Yard Dash Test - Jan/Feb 2013

40 Yard Dash Test – Jan/Feb 2013

40 Yard Dash Test - Jan/Feb 2013

40 Yard Dash Test – Jan/Feb 2013

From there I could gradually expand what players could do. Running in a straight line became running back and forth, or players chasing each other. Ball physics were created so when a player kicked/passed the ball it would travel realistically. Player’s actions would expand, so they could get into a huddle, wait until everyone is in the huddle, talk for a while then walk into the chosen formation.

40 Yard Dash Test - Feb 2013

40 Yard Dash Test – Feb 2013

Around June 2013 the engine was in a stage where it played a (very, very) rudimentary game of football. However, as can be seen it was still a way off being complete at this stage.

And the engine as of September 2013:

Match Engine September 2013

Fixture Engine September 2013

Feel free to leave your questions and comments!

Attributes – Generation

Attributes

One of the most important aspects in a sports game is the attributes of the players involved. Whether it be speed, strength or how well they can catch the ball, the attributes will give a clear indication to the user how good the player is, and are crucial to the Fixture Engine.

The realism of the Attributes are also vitally important to the user. When you start the game you want the attributes of real life pro bowl players to reflect that fact; ¬†If when you started the game Peyton Manning’s attributes were no better than an average 3rd string QB, all realism would be lost and most likely you’ve probably lost the attention of the user before you have even begun.

The Problem

Football GM currently contains around 4500 real life, active players when you start the game (8000 players if you include those retired), so researching all these players and inputting their attributes manually would be too much work (not to mention the inherent bias and errors of manually inputting attributes). Some kind of automated system had to be developed to create realistic attributes for every single player, from MVPs, to players who spend every year in training camp but never make a final roster.

Automated Attributes

The solution was to created some extensive algorithms with takes extensive amounts of real life publically available data to generate attributes.
The algorithms will continually undergo improvements, however the results so far looking very good.

Attributes sorted by Rushing Power

Attributes sorted by Rushing Power

One important thing to remember with Football GM is that there is no single “magic” attribute which player’s of a certain position use. It is certainly (extremely) useful that a good RB have a good Running Power attribute, ¬†but if he has little speed, agility, awareness etc then he will not be productive as you may expect.

The user also needs to take into account the current injury status of a player. A running back may have great running power, but if his knees are wrecked it would extremely risky using him extensively

Attributes sorted by Throwing Power

Attributes sorted by Throwing Power

Attributes sorted by Speed

Attributes sorted by Speed

.

The attributes range in Football GM is 1-100, where 1 would indicate a pre-college level of ability at that attribute (for example an Offensive Guard might be rated at 1 for the “Running Routes” attribute), while a 100 range will indicate perfection. There are currently no players in the database with a 100 rating, and even a rating above 90 would be extremely rare.

The attributes above are not final, and some may change if/when errors are found in the generator.

As always feel free to leave your questions and comments!

Early development…

What is Football GM?

Football GM¬†aims to put you in the role of a General Manager of a Professional (American) Football franchise. Drafting/Cutting/Trading players, handling contract negotiations and – but only if you want – calling the plays on game day (we’ll pretend you are an¬†egotistical GM who has appointed themselves as the Head Coach).

Why Football GM?

With my prior experience of Sports Management games, and my deep interest in Football the fit seemed obvious. However the story of the development of Football GM¬†isn’t a short one and has been an on/off process for the last decade; Only starting to really ramp up in the Summer of 2012.

The Origins

While at University (around 2002) I created the very first prototype of¬†Football GM¬†for my final dissertation. The results were not great, and looking at the game now it doesn’t look too great.

Development ground to a half after a burglary in which all the code was stolen (this was before the day of cloud backups, and I foolishly left the CD backups next to the laptop).

The version first Football GM prototype c2003

The first Football GM prototype c2003

The version first Football GM prototype c2003

The first Football GM prototype c2003

The version first Football GM prototype c2003

The first Football GM prototype c2003

All remains of the Match (Fixture) Engine, unfortunately, were lost.

The Return

In early-mid 2012, and after continually requests to re-start the project from people who were aware of my original prototype, I decided to start afresh with Football GM.

The return of Football GM. cMid-2012

The return of Football GM. cMid-2012

The progress up until around early October 2012 was slow, the work focusing on the base code and data structures. The UI (as can be seen above) was truly woeful!

This changed in November 2012, when the UI underwent a complete overhaul – and hopefully for the better.

UI overhaul - November 2012

UI overhaul – November 2012

Refinements to the UI continued throughout the month.

UI overhaul - November 2012

UI overhaul – November 2012

UI overhaul - November 2012

UI overhaul – November 2012

Roster Screen

UI overhaul – November 2012

UI overhaul - November 2012

UI overhaul – November 2012

UI overhaul - November 2012

UI overhaul – November 2012

UI refinements continued up until around Christmas 2012, by which time the first database had been complete. Allowing for the first time real players and their real life stats to be in the game.

One of the first real players. December 2012.

One of the first real players.
December 2012.

And with that, we have reached around January 2013.
Feel free to leave your questions and comments!