What Is A Replay Game?
But What If......?
Sports Replay Simulations - The Lambourne Games Concept
Getting The Most Out Of Your Replay Gaming
What Is A Replay Game?
A replay game or simulation is a set of rules which enables the user to
re-create a season of the sport in question, or a single tournament, or
event, using the season's statistics as the framework for the replay.
Individual matches (or whatever) will rarely produce results which exactly mirror their real-life counterparts, but overall both teams and players will achieve figures (e.g. goals scored and conceded, league position) which are quite similar to those actually recorded, other things being equal. Of course, nothing is ever equal - an early season injury to a key player, the freak home defeat by your close championship rivals, a run of poor form by your main striker. All these can alter the course of history as far as your season's replay is concerned.
If the game design is accurate the real-life statistics will be reflected in the outcome. If it is also imaginative the replay of the season as it unravels can be as equally enthralling as the real thing from your privileged eye-in-the-sky position.
Some replay gamers require, and insist upon, a complete no-hands-on simulation, where their role is limited entirely to rolling the dice, consulting the charts, or pressing the computer keys, and recording the statistics that are 'created' by those actions. They crave a replay in a vacuum - no possible user bias allowed to contaminate the results, unloaded dice, clear and unambiguous charts. Such games can be produced, every user decision capable of being substituted by a randomly generated but 'intelligent' action controlled entirely by the game system.
Others require a definite involvement in the proceedings, the ability to influence team selection, strategy, tactics, etc., either just for their team or for all teams, reacting in their own way to that inopportune injury or the early goal conceded. Each gets his kicks (pun) in a slightly different way but in replay gaming the user's influence is in any event marginal as the game system must seek to impose the season's actual statistics above all else, the only justification for labelling it a Replay Simulation in the first place.
Stats Soccer Replay for instance gives you the best of both worlds, or more correctly, the choice of both worlds. It can be used entirely as a spectator sport, or with varying degrees of hands-on involvement - but don't expect the USA to win the 1994 World Cup! There are limits.
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One thing that is allowed - and encouraged - within the hobby is the What if...? scenario, when teams, players or whatever of different eras are matched up to see just who was the greatest, the fastest, the toughest, etc. This is possible provided the games system is accurate enough, and the research that creates the team and player ratings is thorough enough and objective enough to evaluate the sheer quality of the teams of a particular era in relationship to other eras.
Thus you can match up the 1948 Australian cricket team with the 1963 West Indians, see how Muhammad Ali would have fared against Joe Louis, Rocky Marciano or Mike Tyson, as you can in World of Boxing, or try to decide which of the fifteen World Cup winning teams would have come top in a 28-match league competition.
We can't guarantee that the result will finally end all those pub arguments, but it should certainly start some!
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With these goals in mind the design is approached as follows:-
A)   What makes the particular sport tick? What are the critical excitement factors? How do individual players contribute towards team performance? Is the team factor greater than the sum total of the individual player abilities? As a spectacle what aspects of the sport excite the viewer?
For example, in simulating the Men's Downhill in World Cup Skiing we cannot hope to conjure up the sights and sounds of a high speed descent but we can recreate the excitement of the split times recorded at two or three points down the course. And provided we can get the skier there by a series of simple decisions and Ratings (ability to take turns, gliding skill, stability over jumps, ability or otherwise to 'charge', general balance and control, etc) we can produce an accurate, realistic, and exciting simulation of the event.
B)   If we can then isolate and concentrate on these factors we can keep playing time down to a minimum without sacrificing the 'feel' or excitement of the sport. We therefore tend to produce games which use the 'highlights' system, not attempting to recreate every pass and tackle but only stepping in when a vital piece of play takes place.
Thus in Centre Court for example we make no attempt to simulate every serve and return and subsequent shot until a crisis point is reached in a game. And with the men's game we suggest that this is when the receiver has a break point or the game reaches deuce. With the vast majority of games going with service a single dice roll (adjusted by player Ratings for Service and Return of Service) takes us quickly to a crisis point and thereafter the full character of the players can be simulated by a shot-by-shot procedure. This is not to suggest that some great tennis isn't played in games won by the server but our 'highlights' method means that you can play a five-setter in perhaps 20 minutes and still display the varying styles and abilities of the players.
C)   One great advantage of a comparatively short playing time is that your replay gaming can be used in the meaningful context of a full season, tournament, or campaign rather than a one-off match up. A hockey game or American football game which takes four hours to play a single match hardly encourages a full-scale campaign.
Likewise a recreation of the Indy 500 that requires 200 circuits of a board, each circuit requiring 7 or 8 turns for each of the 34 cars (over 50,000 dice rolls) must have you hoping for an early multi-car pile up to thin out the field a bit! Nor does the refuelling need to be simulated in detail when all cars need to go through that procedure several times during the race, and the only important effect apart from the odd pitlane fire or crisis is how quickly the stop is achieved in relation to the other drivers.
Provided you can simulate those differences, and of course the pitlane fire, no more detail is required. Using Part 2 of our World of Motor Racing system you can run a full IndyCart season, all races, in 20-25 hours with all the excitement and attendant stats recreated.
D)   In general terms we try to design for a series of quick and easy user-input decisions rather than requiring a chess-like analysis of the situation before every selection. Provided all these decisions have an immediate and visible effect on the play the user feels involved, even though the subsequent dice roll or turn of a fast- action card is outside his control and is the instrument which actually fashions the outcome.
Many customers tell us that they prefer dice and chart games to the computer equivalents because handling the dice, fast-action cards and charts makes them feel more involved and 'in control' than merely pressing a key. And that's despite the fact that the computer version may incorporate much more detail and sophistication because the computer is so good at number-crunching.
Designing for a computer game is of course so much easier than for a dice and chart game. For the latter the trick is reducing everything to a format which can be physically handled by the user while retaining playability. With a computer design it is more the case of throwing in everything you can lay your hands on in terms of stats rather than deciding what it's possible to leave out.
E)   And that brings us to one of our major problems - the availability of stats. Sports stats are just not published for UK and European sports in the same way as they are in the USA in, for example, the hockey, football, and basketball yearbooks. Rothman's Football (soccer) Yearbook would be the equivalent, but apart from lists of players, heights and weights, position (in general terms, midfielder, defender, attacker), and number of appearances and goals scored - nothing. No stats for Shots on Target, Tackles made, Passes completed, etc etc.
And cricket is no better served. It is possible to calculate a bowler's strike rate (how many balls he bowls between taking wickets) and economy (runs conceded per over), but no way of establishing a batsman's scoring rate (how many runs he scores per 100 balls), and no fielding stats at all beyond catches taken. No details of catches dropped or run out attempts completed or failed.
So whereas we believe that American sports games are frequently spoiled by incorporating too many stats - slowing play and losing the 'feel' of the sport - we are forced into subjective decisions about individual player's abilities, making research a long but never tedious task, and the size of our research library massive!
Whereas an American football game designer might get away with two or three editions of the yearbook, for cricket alone we have over 290 cricket books on the shelves, for soccer around 70, and for motor racing 60 plus.
Just as well we enjoy the work!
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I recently ran the 1966 Monaco Grand Prix and used the following Lap Progress Chart to make a permanent record of all that went on - space permits reproduction of only part of the chart here. This chart and the following notes provide me with a summary of events up to the halfway stage in this 100 lap race.
|Clark||1 -0||2 +3||1 -0||1 -1||2 +2|| 6 +28
|5 +36||5 +44||5 +52||2 +59||...|
|Surtees||2 +0||3 +3||2 +0||2 +1||3 +6||2 +8||2 +19||2 +31||2 +42|| 5 +88
|Stewart||3 +1|| 1 -3
|Hill||4 +1||4 +6||4 +5||5 +7||5 +14||4 +16||4 +26||4 +34||4 +48||3 +61||...|
|Hulme||6 +2||5 +6|| 3 +3
| 3 +1
| 1 -2
| 1 -8
|1 -19|| 1 -31
|1 -42||1 -59||...|
|Rindt||7 +3||6 +7||5 +5||4 +6||4 +10||3 +11||3 +21||3 +33||3 +44||R6|
|Anderson||5 +5|| 8 +21
|7 +23||7 +28||7 +37||7 +39||7 +58||7 +74||7 +88||6 +101||...|
|Ginther||9 +5||7 +12||6 +12||6 +15||6 +24||5 +26||6 +39||6 +55||6 +69||4 +84||...|
|Brabham||10 +8||9 +21||8 +24||8 +32||8 +51||8 +55||8 +84||8 +120||8 +149||7 +175||...|
|Spence||11 +8||10+22||10 +26||10 +35||9 +56||9 +60||9 +92||9 +132||R5|
|Bonnier||12 +9||11+22||9 +25||9 +33||R3|
|Ligier||13+11||12+29||11 +35||11 +46||10 +72||10 +77||10+112||10+156||10+196|| 9+265
|Boundurant||14+11||13+29|| 12 +37
|9 +179||8 +197||...|
Firstly, in the Lap Chart above, the drivers are listed in Starting Grid order with Clark on pole and Surtees alongside him on the front row. Heavy rain is falling. The numbers along the top show the laps completed - remember that The World of Motor Racing deals with each race in chunks of varying number of laps.
At the end of the first lap Clark led by a whisker from Surtees, denoted by the '1' in Clark's first box (his position) and the '-0' beside it his lead over Surtees in seconds. Stewart is third, a second behind the leader as indicated by the '3' (position) and '+1' (seconds behind leader). McLaren in 15th and last place is already 54 seconds adrift having needed a pit stop. The 'PS1' is explained in the Notes, a Pit Stop for a puncture taking 44 secs.
(Lap Chart) After the second Race Section (Lap 5) Stewart has got past both Surtees and Clark to take the lead, setting Fastest Lap on Lap 3 in the process (FL3). Bandini has by now retired, the 'R1' note telling us that he was forced out with a holed radiator on Lap 4. Anderson in 8th place spun on the wet track as indicated by the 's'.
Next Race Section the leader Stewart retired, the 'R2' being detailed as 'oil loss - black flagged'. At the bottom of each Race Section column I've noted the number of drivers still racing at that point. This chart also enables me to prepare a Leader Board at any point of the race, thus after 25 laps (quarter distance) we have:-
|2) Surtees||19 secs behind leader|
|3) Rindt||21 secs behind leader|
|4) Hill||26 secs behind leader|
|5) Clark||36 secs behind leader|
|6) Ginther||39 secs behind leader|
(Lap Chart) This chart also lets me plot the progress of each driver throughout the race. Rindt, for instance, worked his way up from 7th on the grid to 4th by Lap 10, 6 secs behind the leader, and eventually to 3rd by Lap 17 but he was gradually losing ground on the leader and was some 44 secs behind but still in 3rd place when he retired with a broken drive shaft on Lap 47 (R6).
Maintaining the chart probably added about 10% to the playing time but increased my enjoyment of the replay by a much higher percentage and provided me with a permanent record of the race and all the details I need to construct a race report if and when required.
Hulme eventually ran away with the race winning by well over a lap from Hill and Clark, the latter failing to catch Hill by just 4 secs with a late charge, setting fastest lap on Lap 99 in the process. The bald result rarely tells the full story and here we had Stewart being black-flagged while leading, Clark spinning and pit stopping to drop from 2nd to 6th on Lap 17, and Surtees, another of the front-runners, spinning three times later in the race before finally losing a wheel on the armco on Lap 85.
I can re-construct all that from the full Lap Chart, rather in the manner that Bill Frindall's unique method of scoring can be used to re-live every ball bowled in a (cricket) Test Match. Most replay games recreate the drama and excitement of the sport portrayed, so give a little thought to the best way of recording these events and your gaming takes on another dimension.
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