July 13, 2013 – An update of the state of Franchise Hockey Manager 2014 has arrived from OOTP Developments. Jeff Riddols the producer has put out what can be expected. It’s an interesting read, see below.
While most of the basic elements of the switch to a 2013-14 start are in place and working, the changeover exposed a few problems that we’re going to need to deal with, and there are also some unrelated projects – the new in-game view, for example – that are going to need some more time to get to a releasable level (incidentally, all games in playable leagues are now viewable, not just your team’s.) Changes to the playable leagues, and the leagues feeding into them, are also posing a bit of a problem at the moment, since new and unexpected announcements about structural and scheduling changes to leagues mean fixing the data, making any necessary coding changes, and then testing them. That should settle down later in the month. Finally, Sebastian’s going to take some time off so he’s well-rested for the last few weeks before release, since the final crunch will mean a lot of very long workdays without a break.
There is going to be one other major change in plans: multiplayer/online league play. We were planning on implementing that in the next couple of weeks, but that’s looking impractical even without considering the delays involved with the new update. Some of the essential elements of online play, notably scouting, the financial system, and team strategies, are going to be worked on heavily in the coming weeks, and it doesn’t make sense to build an online system around them, then have to re-do everything after the changes. Fictional leagues are also coming soon, and those really needs to be working properly before we try to make them function in multiplayer.
So, online play is going to be added after release – it’ll be the first priority, aside from any serious bug-fixing in the release version, after the game is officially out. That’ll likely mean it’ll arrive in October, which should fit well with what we intend to do with the database: we’re going to freeze a version of it on NHL opening night, and then let you start with either that version or the constantly-updated one, which will be getting changes through the trading deadline in February. The frozen version will probably make more sense for multiplayer leagues, since it’ll guarantee a common and stable starting point.
I’m going to start posting a little more information on game systems in the coming weeks; I’ll be going through that stuff to get the manual ready anyhow, so once I’ve edited it up nicely, there’s no reason not to let you see it now. First up will be player development; the systems involved with that are pretty much set in stone now, so what I tell you isn’t going to change before release.
The database is a bit of a mixed bag at the moment: we’ve got a few researchers who are working extremely hard and doing a great job, but there are also several who’ve contributed very little since joining the team and frankly, I don’t expect to get much more work out of them.
What I had been hoping to do to help the editing effort was introduce an online version of the database that would be editable by anyone with an approved ID (probably tied to forum ID’s.) It would be Wikidatabase, essentially, albeit with significant restrictions on editing – only player data, and the changes wouldn’t be “live” – rather, they’d be subject to approval by me or one of the experienced researchers, and would only be applied when we do the regular weekly researcher updates, so they wouldn’t override a researcher’s work. I think that would be a much more efficient system for both us and the modding community: rather than having people duplicate effort across multiple mods that would only be see by a fraction of the userbase, it would direct the changes much more efficiently and let everyone take advantage of all that hard work. I know I’ve spent hundreds, if not thousands, of hours over the years editing game databases that no one besides myself ever saw, and that seems like a terrible waste. Let’s see what we can accomplish by directing that sort of effort into one place.
That’s all well and good, but the problem is getting it set up. To get it running now, I’d need to pull Malte off every other coding task he’s doing for a couple of weeks. That’s not really an option; there’s too much we need to do before release to lose a coder for that length of time. So it’ll have to happen after release as well. That leaves the database a little shorthanded for the immediate future. The playable leagues will get plenty of attention between now and release, but the shortfall is likely to show up in the number of new playable leagues we add. Right now, there are only one, maybe two, good candidates, and that may not change for a while (although there’s also the possibility of adding some Canadian Junior A leagues one at a time, rather than as a group like the CHL leagues.) Once we get a wider group of people editing, though, that will open up the possibilities enormously. If someone gets, say, the Bulgarian League thoroughly researched, making it playable is relatively simple, and now that we have user-selectable league choices at startup, it can be added to the game in a way that doesn’t affect anyone who doesn’t want to play with it activated.
Once Sebastian’s back, I want to get him working on the overhaul of the AI roster handling, scouting, and trading; that’s waited long enough. The more I look at the way things work right now, the bigger the scope of the changes I think are going to be necessary. We’ve tried incremental improvements, and they’re just not getting the job done. I’ve worked out the way to re-do scouting and player evaluation (including trades), and I think that’ll give us a good foundation to work from; the trickier part will be getting the AI to use it in a sensible manner. Without going into too much detail, the heart of the new system will be a move away from evaluating the players with a one-size-fits-all approach, irrespective of their actual function on a team, to one that looks at them more in the context of their specific role. You can see the problems inherent with the first approach in the way the best stay-at-home defencemen are badly overvalued in the game at the moment. After the change they’ll be looked at a little more realistically, since their lack of offensive production limits the role they can play on their teams to, at best, a support role on the top pair or a job on the middle or bottom pairs.
Finally, we’ll be beginning more of a marketing push soon; we’ve done fairly well so far without much beyond very basic social media presences on Facebook and Twitter, and these forums. But we’re still largely unknown outside the small community of hardcore sports management game players, and that needs to change for the long-term health of the game. Aside from getting the word out about the game, that also means making it available through means other than downloading directly from us – OOTP has sold well on Amazon the last few years, so that’s one obvious place to go, but there are several more we’ll try as well. The more visible we are and the bigger a user base we build now, the more we’ll be able to do in the future.