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tinpanalley's Blog
Sports games and mirroring real life 
Posted on April 8, 2015 at 07:52 AM.
I was talking to some people on the MLB The Show forums about a particular new roster set and asking how well it compared to the popular OSFM rosters for its ability to provide minor league players that are missing from the game. I mentioned that, for me, it's important to have a large selection of real rookies and prospects but not as important as it is for people who play several franchise seasons in a row. I imagine that people who play like that want lots of real young talent represented all the way to 'A' ball so that their franchise can last for several years with real players in the game.

I have been playing some kind of sports video game all year, every year since the mid 90s on PC and have never once, through elementary school, high school, and for over 10 years as an adult found time or interest in playing more than one season of any pro sport in each game. It takes me as long as a regular season actually lasts to play my seasons and I like to follow along handling all transactions, injuries and seeing how the video game version compares to the real life version of events. So what happens after this season in the imaginary world of the video game is completely of no interest to me. Also, when I began playing sports games, continuing a season wasn't possible. You ended season mode, you saw some awful bitmapped image of a trophy and new midi music you hadn't heard before and you basked in the warm glow of seeing your team's logo in front of a trophy, and if you come from Toronto like me, you took great pride in seeing something you weren't likely to see in real life. Believe it or not, because I'm a total sports stats nut, I do actually sit at the end of the season and look at the stats in real life and the simulation and compare and learn about the game algorithms, how it simulates things, and I learn about the real life teams and the players I didn't know about and the glaring bugs the game has, where it's realistic, where it's not and other such observations. This goes back to something I did as a child to prolong the fun of having played a season and coming to an abrupt end after the final horn, or the last out, or the whistle. In fact, I'd go as far as to say that studying sports statistics, percentages, probabilities, averages, etc, actually kept me more interested in maths in school than I would surely otherwise have been without sports. And I did badly enough as is. So, something one of the members in the forum for The Show said really brought up a problem I've never quite found a satisfying solution for in years of following along the real season transactions in sports gaming. Should real life mid-season decisions, based on a team's mid-season performance, be affecting my simulation when the video game team might be having completely different results?

It has happened to me several times, probably more than once a year, that a team is doing quite well in real life but not so in the game. I donít mind the issues of a real life player and his video game counterpart not performing equally, to me thatís part of the fun of the simulation. Itís interesting to see what happens when a real-life .300 hitter who bats third in the lineup is actually batting .194 in the game in the same spot and how that affects the team. But whatís harder to reconcile, and happens every year, is when a team is doing poorly in real life and trades away some important players for salary cap reasons but in the video game, theyíre in a playoff spot. Itís hard to justify sometimes mimicking the moves made late in the season in an attempt to fix things for the real life team. Because that team is fixing problems in real life that the simulation isnít dealing with. So, Iíve asked myself for the first time, is there some other way to do this? I have tried in every sport game (and have absolutely no fun whatsoever doing this) letting the CPU make trades, handle its own injuries, drafts, transactions, etc. Seeing guys on teams theyíre not supposed to be on drives me nuts. Itís just not the kind of sports game player I am. It holds for me the same level of fantasy that fake team names and uniform colours have in unlicensed games. Iím wondering if the solution isnít to just set up the season to be exactly like real life but then play it out without any transactions at all. That, to my eye, would seem to be the best all-around statistical simulation model. Hereís the real life team, they ended up having to trade these guys, call these ones up and release these other ones, and hereís the game version of what happened with the same opening day team over the course of the season. But I simply donít know anymore and I thought Iíd reach out for suggestions.

Surely, someone else has asked themselves these same questions and come up with some alternate solutions. Ok, this isn't a life or death thing but in our world of being sports gaming aficionados, there's no better place to have this discussion. Iím open to any suggestions except those that involve playing with one team and letting the CPU have free reign of the leagues. I simply donít believe in the testing Iíve done in all major sports titles that transactions or injuries have been programmed into an algorithm in any game with any degree of realism or human logic. But Iím open to other thoughts, similar analyses, options, theories, arguments, etc.
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