There are as many different ways to play a dynasty as there are to skin a cat. Probably more. At MaddenMania, we have always tended to have a majority of forum members that are interested in realism on some level. Some more than others, but a common thread on the NCAA and dynasty boards has always been that the more realistic and believable the dynasty is, the more dedicated the readership.
My preference has always been to take a team and build it up gradually, but along the way implement rules or strategies that keep me from dominating too much. In short, if a player takes over a small team in a big conference, turns it into Penn State, and has a 60-year career similar to that of Joe Paterno (ups and downs), I think that’s awesome. An unbeaten season is something to celebrate and feel good about. The down seasons make winning all more desirable. On the other hand, if a player takes over a bad team and wins a national championship within three years and starts winning it every year on a consistent basis, then why even read? I like to see CPU teams winning the Heisman, winning the National Championship, and continuing to recruit well even if I’m recruiting in the same state.
For this reason, I have always preferred to play in a smaller conference if possible. That way, when (if) I pull a TCU and become dominant in a small conference, I’m still a small fish in a big pond on the national level, and I’m not greatly changing the natural outcome of things right off the bat. In the case of a bigger conference, I prefer to play in a 2-division conference such as the Big 12 or SEC, so that even if I succeed in wresting power within the division, there’s still a team with an equal chance of dominance from the other division.
The single-division conferences have always seemed to peter out the fastest once you throw a human-controlled team into the mix. Once you beat down USC, for instance, the Pac-10 quickly falls apart and the teams never seem to recruit worth a damn, even though the 10 teams basically have California to themselves (think about how many BCS teams are recruiting in Texas each year).
I bring this up not to blither on about my personal preferences, but because I think other people care about these things as well. People want to see the action take some form of realism. They want a long-term challenge on some level, not to beat the cpu into submission early on, cut off their recruiting pipelines and pillage the women and children… But I can foresee a scenario in which 12 people start up a dynasty and dominate the Top 10 both in the standings and recruiting each year. To me that seems a little rank. To each his own, but here are some thoughts about the various types of online dynasty setups we’ll see and how big of a footprint each is likely to leave in the online dynasty.
The worst-case scenario: One or two user teams per conference – I know that in “The Tradition” (an online dynasty being organized at MaddenMania) we are hoping that the cpu teams are very competitive and hand us (or preferably, the other players) some losses. It’s all well and good and admirable to want that, but for the most part, after the first couple seasons I think it’s guaranteed that the human teams in most leagues will eventually be winning a much greater percentage of games (against the cpu) than those same teams would have otherwise won.
Quite quickly, the human controlled teams will begin to horde the best players and knock any dominant cpu-controlled teams from the top tier. The Heisman will go to a user-controlled team just about every year, not to mention the national championship.
The least realistic scenario of all (though probably fun) would be one in which 12 players take horrible non BCS conference teams and work their way to dominance within a few seasons, supplant several teams in BCS conferences and in the Top 25, etc… A mockery of the real-life game would quickly be made. I still say it would be fun, but that’s a King-Kong sized footprint being implanted.
The best-case scenario: All teams in one conference with recruiting rules – Not hard to follow, confusing rules; easy ones. For instance, if 10 guys took over the Pac-10 conference and had a cap on the number of players that could be recruited east of Arizona, you’d see true competition and true realism. Without recruiting rules, the "have nots" of the Pac-10 might quickly start to recruit more than their share of recruits from Texas, Florida, and other states that aren't typically a hotbed of talent for the Pac-10.
USC might be knocked from the ranks of the elite in this scenario, but so might they be in real life. Another Pac-10 team would likely take their place, and it would probably be a team from California, or possibly Washington/Oregon, which have good prestige and recruiting possibilities.
Nine games against human teams would guarantee losses for most of the human teams, and as long as games against Top-25 teams weren’t overdone, it’s likely that one or two CPU teams per year would go unbeaten and challenge for National title contention. Meantime, anybody who managed to go unbeaten against that kind of a meat-grinder schedule will have truly accomplished something more meaningful than gamerpoints.
Somewhere in the middle: What most leagues should strive for – Most leagues won’t have people who can schedule 9 human games a year. Most will be looking for 4-5 games max, in order to keep the pace up. With that being said, efforts can still be made to minimize the footprint of the league and maximize the realism. My league has four players in the Pac-10, four in the Big 12, and three in the Big Ten with the 12th human team being Notre Dame, who will play two or three of the Big Ten human-controlled teams each season.
All four teams in the Big 12 will play in the same conference in our league, ensuring that only one of those four user-controlled teams will be able to play in the Big 12 championship game (and thus the National Championship) in any season. Similarly, the Pac-10 teams consist of the four best Pac-10 teams that will each have to play three other good teams controlled by human opponents each year.
All taken into account, in my league it is likely that only two to four of the human-controlled teams will be in contention from week 11 and on in a given year. Teams in the ACC and SEC will be largely unaffected by our league. In my opinion, it will be important for us to not only schedule a realistic (low) number of games against SEC and ACC teams, but for the most part stay out of their recruiting regions as well, possibly with some simple recruiting rules. This should be enough to keep things very realistic, which is the #1 priority of my league.
What are you doing to prepare for these situations in your leagues?