Feature Article
FOF Developer's Corner: The Role of High Schools in a College Football Simulation

Today we roll out a brand new feature. Jim Gindin, the sole developer of the Front Office Football line of text-based simulations, has agreed to give us more insight into the development process and design decisions of games. Each week, he will introduce a specific item relevant to developing football simulations. We will have a panel consisting of Operation Sports staff members answering these questions as they would like to see the item reflected in text-based simulations.

The idea is also to create a living document, useful for Jim's own future reference. In his own words: "I hope this becomes a regular and popular feature at the new forum. It will help me flesh out new ideas I have with Front Office Football. And I'm encouraged that it will give all of you some insight into simulation development and a chance to participate more formally in the process."

Feel free to post general comments here, but if you'd like to give feedback directly to Jim for potential future use in his games, you'll need to do so in the "Developer's Corner" subforum at FOFC.


"One of the features of The College Years which received the most buzz was the inclusion of nearly 14,000 American high schools, nearly every public school in the country with at least 100 students.

Back in 2001, when the original game came out, that represented a significant portion of the database a computer game could handle without slowing down to the point where the feature caused more annoyance than it created excitement. There was no attempt to rate or model individual schools. It was just a list, with schools divided into small, medium or large student bodies.

That was seven years ago. Today, computers have much more RAM. While games should still run on Windows '98, I'm no longer expecting speed or efficiency on ten-year-old computers. Graphics-oriented gaming companies stretch the limits of computers with respect to frame rate and numbers of polygons. I try to stretch it with regard to the size of the statistical database.

That's essentially the difference between a text-based simulation and a graphics-based simulation. Is new development focused on database or on pictures?

Each new version of Front Office Football has stretched its internal database significantly. When or if The College Years is updated, there's certainly room to expand the memory reserved for information about high schools. So, the question before the panel today is: should the high school model see significant expansion?

There are many ways this feature could be expanded. The simplest is assigning a reputation to each school, along with a little more tracking of how players perform once recruited. The most advanced is adding full rosters for each high school, playing out games and adding every senior to the recruiting database.

Personally, I'm not sure I want to go to that extreme. There are at least 50,000 high school football games played every year. While I'm fairly certain today's computers could handle this simulation, it would take some time, require significant development effort, and I'm not sure it would add a lot to the experience.

More likely, I would favor finding volunteers to refine my database of high schools, providing reputations as well as a more inclusive list of schools which actually field football teams. Each school could then develop a reputation with each college coach, perhaps providing pipelines for recruiting talent.

What would the panel like to see?"



Ben Lewis

Senior Text Sims Editor

"Ben E Lou"



I agree that the model needs to be expanded. Recruiting is the lifeblood of any college program, and a high school model that has more connection to real life would help the game's universe feel more immersive. I don't think, however, that a full-fledged sim of every high school game is worth the development effort and processing time required. Even the lesser 1A schools have a wealth of information available to them. Stats are a relatively small piece of the puzzle, so having them generated based on the player's talent as only a part of a picture that includes level of competition, star ranking, and the staff's impression of him from watching film and/or visiting, is fine with me. For the high school reputations, I would suggest using a combination of community volunteers, web research, and a user-editable table. (If someone wants a realistic high school model in general, but wants to give their favorite high school a "100" reputation, I say let 'em.) The list doesn't have to be perfect, since the players should have a bit of randomness anyway. Once in a blue moon, a stud player should come from a horrible high school, but most often they should come from the football factories that are near the top in rankings year-in and year-out.


Chris Sanner

Executive Features Editor



I would have to agree that having every high school modeled with full stats for each player after games are simulated each week would be an insane proposition at this point for an operation that isn't the size of EA Sports. Instead, I'd much rather see the high schools individually modeled with solid reputation ratings and just go from there. With that sort of modeling being done, I'd much rather see a lot more universities and levels of college football make the cut into the game to make it more like a real coaching experience if you wanted to try to climb the coaching ladder. While playing a text sim and managing teams is fun, I think adding that extra element where you have a realistic job market would be icing on the cake and it's something I really wish a text sim would really focus on sooner or later.


Tim Martin

Writing Staff



I also agree the model needs to be expanded, but much more so than Jim is suggesting. Sure, the inclusion of pipelines and knowing which high schools produce more recruits is nice, but those are features, more or less, in NCAA Football, a console game. So, I would actually like to see, in addition to more intricate stat tracking and school reputations, the ability to invite those "prestigious" high schools to your spring game. In the same way a coach woos players, with phone calls and visits, why not add a similar feature to court...the schools themselves? This would add depth to the game at multiple layers. First, let's say you switch coaching jobs, via a firing or career advancement. Why should you have to re-lay the tracks in your recruiting pipeline? Look at how Ron Zook has rejuvenated the Fightin' Illini by summoning his old recruiting connections. Also, this "pipeline" to certain schools should certainly be extended to assistant coaches, as losing a top recruiting coordinator or coordinator could be potentially devastating. I've always felt college football games, text or otherwise, don't give enough credence to the importance of coaching staffs.


Matt Blumenthal

Writing Staff



It would be going overboard to create a full universe for high schools with full rosters and simulations for every game. While it would lead to a more compelling dynasty, those resources could be better used to enhance the college experience. Refining the high school database and strengthening the relationships between high schools and colleges would add more emotion to recruiting. Ben's ideas for expanding the high school model makes sense, as the focus should be on the relationship between the high schools and colleges. High school coaches have tremendous influence over their players and possess the ability to steer their players in the direction of certain college programs. Colleges tap into these relationships to bring in talent, so pipelines would be a fantastic addition.

Member Comments
# 1 CMH @ 06/09/08 11:45 PM
I definitely agree that the inclusion of high schools would add to the atmosphere of the game. And we know that those little things help push text-sims since everything is pretty much lines and lines of words. Anything that gives you an opportunity to imagine more benefits the title.

I don't think it should go too deep, though. College is most important for a College Football text-sim.

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