Stats and analytics aren’t just for baseball nerds any more. The geeks have made their way into basketball.
Due to its endless statistics and 162 games worth of data, baseball has traditionally been the sport that was the most popular in the text sim world. With analytics and stats now taking hold in basketball front offices and the hoops blogosphere, could a basketball GM sim revolution be on the horizon?
If it is, one of the games leading the charge will be Draft Day Sports: Pro Basketball 3 (DDS: PB3), the latest offering from Gary Gorski at Wolverine Studios.
DDS: PB3 features a completely revamped user interface, artificial intelligence, contract rules and the introduction of season disks that allow you to start with a full league history and import draft classes.
The second version of Gorski’s pro game was excellent and more than filled my need for a fun, realistic and challenging NBA sim. I recently started playing the third version, so let’s take a look at how it stacks up:
The first thing you notice after firing up DDS: PB3 is how great the game looks. It’s the GM sim version of a picturesque painting that hangs on your living room wall.
I don’t play GM sims for fancy pictures and graphics, but man, when the game looks good, it really ups the immersion factor. The studio-type setup during the draft and office-type of layout during the season really sucks you into DDS: PB3 and makes it easy to connect with your team and individual players.
Everything is laid out well, too. There’s a lot to do in this game, and it’d be a major hassle if you had to click 10 different times to do certain tasks. Thankfully, you don’t have to. It might take you a little bit to figure out exactly what you have to do and when you have to do it, but once you get your bearings, getting where you need to go is simple.
Playing the Game
Ok, so the game looks good. How does it play?
The short answer is very well. Statistics are realistic and it feels like you’re getting a very real-world simulation of professional basketball.
The first thing I noticed is improvement in the play game screen. I thought playing your games in the second version was a little clunky, but thanks to the new gameview mode, playing your games in DDS: PB3 is much smoother. Stats, play-by-play, subs, strategy options and the court are either all on your screen or just a click away.
One thing I would like to see added is the ability to call specific plays or call for specific players to try and score. For example, for each possession, I’d like to call for the ball to be dumped into the post to Dwight Howard, or simply select Kobe Bryant if I’d like the offense run through him on a possession.
It wouldn’t always have to work out as I call it, but I think that option would make the user feel like they have more control over the game. I like to feel like I have the power to actually execute some of the strategies that form in my head.
You do have some control over what your team does in-game (defensive sets, offensive sets, subs, etc.), but it could be a little more specific.
Want to try and trade Michael Beasley for a first-round draft pick? Not going to happen. The AI is strong and difficult to trick.
When simming games, sometimes I question why certain players shot so often or don’t shoot enough. Having a play-by-play log for each game would help simmers better understand the why and how of each contest. But you’re not completely powerless in what your players do, either.
If you choose to control your team as a coach in addition to being a GM, you can set your philosophies to favor fast breaks, jump shots, zone defenses, crash boards, etc. You can also run certain types of offenses.
If you think Derrick Rose is shooting too many 3s, you can call him and tell him to stop shooting so many 3s and drive more. He might even listen to you.
Navigating the NBA’s financial system can get a little tedious, but the game offers the option for a simplified system if you don’t want to deal with the ins and outs of Bird rights and the luxury tax.
Play-by-Play and In-Game View
Basketball is a simple game. You take a ball, you shoot it in a hoop, you run down the court and try to prevent your opponent from doing the same. However, there are all kinds of intricacies that take the simplicity of the game itself and make it much more challenging.
DDS: PB3 captures this. The game feels really simple from a basketball-sense, but forces you to think beyond just finding five guys who are good at putting a ball in a hoop.
I feel like I have the most success in DDS: PB3 when I either a) develop an overall philosophy and acquire players that match it, or b) change my philosophy to match my players. You can’t just cobble together five guys with overall ratings about 3.5 out of 5 and think you’ll win.
Ratings matter, and not just the overall rating. If you find yourself only looking at the overall rating, you’re going to get burned. You need to build a team with players that complement each other in order to be successful.
A strategy that I use is trying to always win the points in the paint battle every game. That means I favor shot blockers and strong defenders in the front court and a point guard and/or small forward who likes to drive to the hoop. I supplement this with a 3-pointing shooting specialist off the bench and a defensive specialist.
Sounds simple enough, right? Well, putting a ball in a hoop sounds simple, too. But it’s not.
DDS: PB3 is the best professional basketball GM sim I’ve played and likely will only get better when Gorski starts releasing season disks that incorporate the full history of basketball.
Realism, immersion, easy-to-navigate and easy-on-the-eyes screens and menus, stats, and challenging AI, it’s all here.
It’d be nice to have a little more control over the in-game action and some additional data to pore over after each game. More options for customization would also probably attract more players. Those faults are hardly deal breakers, though.
Basketball GM sims might not ever reach the popularity of baseball sims, but who cares? It’s pointless to compare the two sports, anyway.
DDS: PB3 is an excellent GM sim. Period.