Wednesday, July 05, 2006

Hoops Dynasty Interview


Recently, I interview the people over at WhatIfSports and learned some of the future plans and history of the amazing basketball game Hoops Dynasty!

Questions by la287:

-- Can you describe WhatIfSports to any visitors who have yet to visit
the site? What does the site offer and why should they sign up?

In addition to 80% off on toner cartridges and OEM software at wholesale prices, we also offer unique sports-based simulation games for all 4 major sports (MLB, NBA, NFL & NHL) plus NASCAR and college football and basketball fans.

-- What are the technical specifications of the game?
Hoops Dynasty is a web-based game so anyone with a browser can participate.

-- What work does it take to update the Hoops Dynasty sim engine? How
many people and what kind of time is required?
It depends on the magnitude of the change. Major changes take weeks to months to work through the math and logic as well as to fully test.

-- What work did it take to set up Hoops Dynasty, when it was being
prepared for release? It must have taken hundreds of hours to plan each
aspect of the game, not to mention re-create it.
HD was about 9 months of work to get to the initial launch - much of the best feedback, ideas and suggestions came from our beta testers as well as our users as we've continued to add-to/enhance HD over the past 2 years.

-- For any game designers out there, what advice can you give on
creating the best experience for the player?
I think the biggest problem with traditional games today is that designers don't listen (see prior Q&A) to the people that are actually playing the game. Most of our game featuresets are driven by suggestions from our existing users.

-- What are some of the upcoming features and plans for Hoops Dynasty,
besides those included in the coaches e-mail at the end of each season?
We'll actually be scheduling a developer chat to discuss what's in the works. Since the next release featureset has not been finalized, I can't go into it quite yet, but some of the near-term changes will include half-time stats, additional stats as well as enhancing the depth of the players in HD by adding the dimension of potential.

-- How does the “recent” acquisition of WhatifSports by Fox Interactive
Media? How will WiS cooperate with Electronic Arts, Inc., to make a more
realistic experience for its users (both for game consoles and online)?
The acquisition by FIM has been very positive in terms of marketing and I think we're just starting to scratch the surface. We actually have nothing but a licensing arrangement with EA.

Several questions from the user Weena:

-- Your team is a heavy underdog and the team you are playing is clearly
better than yours. Do you stick with the status quo or do you shake
things up and try something crazy?
Normally I stick with the status quo but I may tweak a setting or two to try and ride a perceived mismatch.

-- You show up on a previously undecided prospect's considering list at
the same time as two other human coaches. Do you stay and fight it out
or do you look elsewhere?
That depends on numerous factors, including, but not limited to - budget, scholarships available, status of other recruits, starting spots/minutes available to promise, etc.

-- Are you more offensive or defensive oriented? Why?
Overall I think I'm more offensive oriented - most of my teams are high scoring. Given that my job is HD, the fact that I'm on the site 18 hours/day and that only a handful of coaches have more experience than I do, I feel that I am a pretty good recruiter so I like to go with depth, uptempo and try to outlast teams. Although, lately I've been finding that you don't need everyone to be a potential 20 PPG scorer - a Ben Wallace or Dennis Rodman type is a great asset to have (and normally under-recruited).

-- Do you game plan differently if you are playing against a human coach
than if you are playing against a Sim AI coach?
Yes - the sim is pretty plain vanilla so I won't get any surprises.

*Inspired by goodtymes31:*

-- What do you think is more important, game planning or recruiting?
In both HD and in real life, I think the talent you have is more than 50% of the equation to success. Yes, Princeton can knock off UCLA in a single game with less talent, but over the long run, UCLA is going to have more success. That said, when all else is equal, the coaches that know their team, know how to scout teams and can identify weaknesses greatly improve their chances of winning.

Question from ermd2000:

-- Do you always change a new team (you just became coach of) to the
offense/defense you prefer, or do you try to recruit to the existing O/D
and make it work?
A little of both - I try to pick schools that already run an offense/defense that I like to minimize the transitional pain. If that's not the case, I'll wait until I have a fairly large recruiting class come in to make the change.

Questions from ka49s:

-- How can you address the alleged randomness in the game?
There's an entire thread dedicated to this very subject:
I truly don't think many people understand how much deviation there is in real college basketball. The other big gripe is when a team gets upset - it's hard for coaches to rationalize because the majority of coaches are very analytical by their nature so when they see a result they didn't expect, they want to play the randomness card. Upsets in college basketball are much more prevalent than most coaches realize - it's no more random than real college basketball (which is the point of the thread).

-- Can you provide a reason for many veterans of HD quitting suddenly?
It has been said it might have to do with the static nature of the game;
do you have any major updates in store?
Yes - many coaches are reaching the elite schools in HD and once they reach that dream job, there's no need to continue toiling in DII or a lower level DI school in another world. The number of veteran coaches leaving entirely is extremely small.

Questions by r0b0t:

-- If we elect to play a 3-2 zone, are there still defensive penalties
for playing a Shooting Guard at that small forward position?
No, nor would there be in any defense.

-- Can the positions listed on the depth chart screen be alternated
given your team's offensive or defensive set?
Currently no, but it's something we can look at.

-- Do you plan on making Hoops Dynasty more like Hardball Dynasty in the
future?
HD will be getting a face lift in the next major release. The new design is actually in the works already.

Question from phislamjamma:

-- In exception to the most extreme cases, does fatigue really have
significant affect on player performances?
Yes. There are many coaches which point to anecdotal evidence of minimal fatigue effects, but we've run literally thousands of games testing fatigue with controlled variables and fatigue definitely impacts performance.

More questions from la287:

-- Is it possible to have a successful team like the Phoenix Suns, who
don’t really have a true center?
Sure, there's no requirement to start a center. That said, I don't think going with 5 guards or 5 SFs is a good idea either.

-- How soon will we see a feature that allows us to gameplan days in
advance?
I don't believe that will be in the next major release but it is on the list.

--

Sign up for Hoops Dynasty! It's free to sign up and just $6.95 for your first season.

Friday, June 16, 2006

New 'Feature': Three Sentences (or less)

Okay, to get a community building here at the blog, I (with the help of nfet) decided to start up this new way to describe different parts of HD and give tips.

The main rules are that the tip or description has to be relevant to the word(s) chosen and be no more than three sentences. Try not to overuse commas...and leave your three sentences or less as a comment for this post.

The first word is: double-team

Also, if you've got suggestions and ideas for the site in general, leave a comment and let me know.

Article 3: Gameplanning

Okay, so I've probably skipped over a few other things I could address, but here is the next article about debatably the most important part of Hoops Dynasty (recruiting top talent definitely can't hurt).

You might as well start with the depth chart and minutes, though you may have to play around with it later depending on what tempo you're running and whether or not you're getting the results you want. Also, look at your team ratings and see the stamina of each player.

A good general guideline for stamina could be this:

>50 -- 10 minutes or less
>60 -- 15 minutes or less
>70 -- 20 minutes or less
>80 -- 30 minutes or less

If you've got a Fastbreak and Fullcourt Press team, you should probably have 8-10 players in your rotation, each having about 15-25 minutes each.

If you don't want your walk-ons or freshman (or any particular player) to play serious minutes, then don't put them in the depth chart and set their minutes to Rest or Mop-Up. Just make sure you aren't violating any promises to your recruits.

Also, if you're having trouble fitting all of your key players into the rotation, take a closer looks at their rating. You small forward may be able to slide to shooting guard or power forward if he's fast enough or has a high enough low post rating. You may be able to benefit by moving a rebounding guard to the small forward if you need help there.

If you need a guideline for how many minutes the player is able to last, look and see how many minutes they are already playing per game and the fouls they average per game. Your center may be the best player on your team, but if he's in foul trouble he may only be out on the floor for 20 minutes.

The next step is setting the Team Game Plan. Your offense and defense should be set to match the IQs on your team, but you could occasionally add a half-court press if you're willing to watch your team foul a few extra times and give up a couple easy baskets.

The defensive positioning is the most important part of the Team Game Plan. Most coaches set it between 0 and -5, allowing them to double-team players more effectively and also not give up any extra rebounds. You could set your position based on if the opponent has a higher average LP or PE rating, though that could vary by how many players are on the roster at each position.

Skipping down to the Miscellaneous part, I don't check the 'When losing and game is out of reach, give more time to backups'...Though I've probably missed out on keeping my freshman happy, hopefully I'll be able to get back into a game and maybe win one I wouldn't have.

You can set the offense distribution in Player Game Plan in a number of ways. You could set it as a percentage of the total shots taken, or you could set it by how many shots you would like that player to take if your entire team took 100 shots (the total distribution most coaches set it to).

If your opponent plays man-to-man, check and see what key players have low defenses so you know where to attack them.

The three-point setting can be misused into forcing your players into two many bad shots. Unless they've got a relatively high 3PT%, set all of your power forwards and centers to -2. Don't be afraid to do it to you guards and small forward as well. Having your players take it to the hoop is a good way to draw fouls and shoot a lot of free throws.

If you decide to double-team a player, make sure you've got a good reason. If you choose to change three players from 'Never' then make sure only one is on 'Always' and the others are on 'If leading scorer' so you know that you won't be in a situation where none of the three are double-teamed if they're all on the floor.

If you're double-teaming a big man, check his passing and ballhandling rating. If it's half-decent, you'll be giving up points to the open man. Also, just because they've got a high PPG doesn't make them worthy of a double-team. Look at their distribution percentage and their FG%; if they take thirty shots to score twelve points, let them have at it.

Haven't signed up for Hoops Dynasty yet? Support the blog by signing up through any links on the blog. Any purchases made will help me support my HD addiction.

Thursday, May 11, 2006

Article 2: Signing your Recruits

I must admit, I am sure there are some better recruiters out there than me. Over the last two seasons, I fill have needed to fill up my team with at least five walk ons (possibly more depending on how the next few cycles go). At least I have some experience on what not to do, and I am sure there are some Hoops Dynasty veterans out there who would be willing to help.

The first thing to bring up was something I mentioned in the first paragraph. One goal you should have is to fill up all of your scholarships. You are probably thinking "Well duh!", but it isn't difficult to overspend on a recruit and lose out on him or just spend money in the wrong places. You don't want to receive a practice penalty for having too many recruits.

One piece of information that you should know if you haven't heard it already is that speaking with the recruit or meeting with them face-to-face is going to be more valuable than sending a letter to him. In Division III especially, you may not be able to afford it, but campus and home visits are really affective at getting the recruits attention. Another thing that is essential, especially for DIII coaches is too stay within 250 miles if you can. This way you can better afford the visits needed to sign the recruit you're after.

Don't spend too much money before the signing period begins. It's good to send some letters and packets out, along with phone calls to the recruit, but don't spend your money on offering a scholarship and guaranteeing minutes until you approach the signing period.

It's way too easy to have a recruit tell you the his parents went to the college, he loves the campus, and he can't wait to sign -- but then the next day another team has offered him a better chance elsewhere. You should try to save most of your money the signing period has begun so you aren't just battling yourself for the recruit. Being considered before the signing period doesn't help your team out.

There are a couple different strategies that are used. Some coaches prefer to come out strong and snatch the recruits early; others wait until later when they are able to sign the recruits and right before signing periods slows. During the last few hours of recruiting is the perfect time if you wish to grab a recruit in the division above you.

The final advice I would like to give before asking for comments is not to aim too high. It's really easy to try and go after the top recruits at each position, but of course those players are also the most visible and sought after by other coaches. I've noticed I really have a problem with this. I always go after the best players, though I spend so much money competing with other coaches that I can't afford the other ones. If you are in DIII, then as much as you want the recruits with overall ratings of 470, you aren't going to be able to use your scholarships as well if you had gotten the 400 overall recruits that has the passing or rebounding you need, etc.

Like I said before, I don't have a lot of experience or success in this area, so hopefully you guys can leave comments and suggestions for each other without giving up too many secrets.

--

Sign up at WhatIfSports.com for Hoops Dynasty! The first season is only $6.95, so sign up now!

Saturday, May 06, 2006

Article 1: Choosing your team

This article is the first in a series about getting started on your first season in Hoops Dynasty.

Like everybody is supposed to, you will begin your NCAA coaching career at Division III. Even if you have already completed a season of Hoops Dynasty, hopefully this article can give you a few tips and reminders when you decide to move up the food chain.

One of the first things you will see when scrolling down the list is the number of scholarships available. The money for recruiting maxes out at six recruits. This means that for every recruit that you go over six, you will have to take money that would have been spent on somebody (or saved for next year). Making sure you have enough money is important because if you don’t want to be forced into having more than one walk on. Having more than one walk on is a bad idea because it slows down the development of the rest of your team because of the lower competition level.

Another thing you should look at is the player’s offensive and defensive IQs. Especially during your first season with a team, you don’t want to start changing the offense and defense. Make sure the juniors and seniors have Bs and As in the same offense and defense that you plan on running.

Read over the Hoops 101 section and check to see that the players fit in with the offense. You may have a center that has a really high low post rating and shoots a high percentage, but odds are he won’t reach his potential if your team is running a fast-break offense and the center is the slowest player on the team.

Compare the success of the team with the players who are going to be returning. Many teams who have a lot of success are loaded with seniors. With those players gone, you should check to see who will be playing more minutes than they had before, and if there is a junior (or potentially sophomore) who can possibly fill that spot.

That brings us to the final point. Choose a team where players have there own role on the team. If your point guard has a low passing rating, he may not be the best floor general for the team. If none of the big men can rebound, the team will struggle a lot. It is very important that you have players who can fill the voids left behind from graduating players, and are also able to contribute in one way or another.

Of course, you won’t always be able to find some perfect team – especially during your first season in DIII. While choosing your team is important, there are many other factors in recruiting and game planning which affect the outcome of a game and the success of your season.

If you haven't gotten a team yet, head over to the Hoops Dynasty page and sign up!

Thursday, May 04, 2006

Content Ideas

I am planning on adding some original "exclusive" content to the site. Some of the things I am planning on adding are interviews, rankings, polls, and more tips and articles from Hoops Dynasty coaches on all levels.

So what Hoops Dynasty features are you guys interested in reading? Please leave your comments about the site so we can make this the best resource possible.

Hoops Dynasty Blog Created

If you are are a member of WhatIfSports.com and have a Hoops Dynasty team, I am looking for other people to help me write the blog. If you don't have a team yet, you can sign up here. It's free to sign up, and it costs only $6.95 to sign up for Hoops Dynasty. Even if you don't want to pay to play, by signing up you can have free exhibition teams.

Do you want to share your opinion and knowledge of Hoops Dynasty? If you are interested in helping write and contribute content to the blog, you can send me an e-mail, leave a comment, or sitemail me over at WhatIfSports.