When The Grass Was Real (Martin - Turocy) - comments, Martin

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When The Grass Was Real

Brien Martin and Ted Turocy are the creators of When The Grass Was Real, a cards-and-dice simulation
featuring fictional players. Their website is [ http://econweb.tamu.edu/turocy/WTGWR/ ]; Brien's website,
linking to both When The Grass Was Real and his earlier baseball sim, Let's Play Two!, is
[ http://www.geocities.com/aslplayer63/hs ... index.html ].
Brien became a member of the Baseball Games forum in May 2004, Ted in October of that year.
Discussion of their game among other members of the forum in May 2005 occasioned Brien to chime in,
and an informal interview ensued. Brien's posts (#s 889, 892, and 895 in the Message archive) from
May 10, 11, and 12, 2005, are presented in this file.
____________________________________________________________________________________

Good morning, gents!
After catching up on the discussion, I thought I'd add my two cents to the fray regarding WTGWR.

First of all, I am pleased to know that folks enjoy the game, at least those who have played it.
We (Ted and I) often wonder what audience the game has, given that only two people routinely post results
on the Delphi Forums.

One of the things I am most proud of, as the original designer of Hot Stove League / Let's Play Two!,
is that someone like Ted, whose background is in game theory, believes that the original idea of "see if the
ball is in play ... see who it may have been hit to ... see if it's a hit or an out" hits the feel and flow of baseball
on the nose.

Another thing we're both proud of is that we've taken many of the variables you'd find in a complex
computer sim, and put them into a board game. And, those variables lead you, the manager, to make
in-game decisions, not based on stats, or on the player's "card", but on the skills and talents each player
possesses.

You know that, needing baserunners, you should pinch-hit a PATIENT batter, rather than an
AGGRESSIVE batter. You know that, needing a key strikeout, you'd rather have a NASTY pitcher
on the mound than a FLAT pitcher on the mound.

You know you want a SLICK fielder in center ... but if you don't have one on the roster ... who do
you use? You know that you have a ton of POWER guys, but all of them are SLAP hitters. Who becomes
your Manny Ramirez?

Someone said that the Campaign Game in LPT is complex. Yes and no. I have found that re-rating
takes all of fifteen minutes, once you have all the stats compiled. However, I operate with total familiarity
with the CG, so I'm biased. As to the WTGWR CG, it's simply a draft at this time. We're hoping to refine it,
but we're not 100% sure that it will work the way we want it to.

Of course, that's where you, the players, come in. We can't run enough seasons, on our own, to know.
We need players who enjoy WTGWR to start visiting the Delphi Forum and posting your game results ...
your comments ... your questions. Armed with the right data from you, the fans, we can certainly improve
upon and refine the game system.

So, if anyone here has any questions, fire away ... I'm available and listening for your inquiries!!!
____________________________________________________________________________________

Baseball Games: "After all the work you and Ted put into WTGWR (and that you'd put into Let's Play Two),
what made you decide to offer it as a free download rather than put it on the market for at least a small
potential profit? Pure altruism? Market research?"

Brien Martin: Part of the "problem" of mass-marketing the game is that you have to make one of two choices:
print all the charts and tables and sell them, hoping to recoup your investment, or sell the files so folks can
"roll their own", so to speak.

With printing, if you do an "on-demand" system, it means either Ted or I, running to the printers every
time we collect a few orders. To print up a few sets requires a small investment we may not get back.
If you sell the files, you may sell one copy, but fifteen people end up with the game (the "underground"
market for cards, charts, and tables of commercial games is huge).

So, when I did HSL, I did the "voluntary contribution" route ... if you DLed the game, and thought
it was good, PayPal or send some dosh in appreciation. Although over 900 hits were made on the
download page, only seven people actually contributed. Bad call on my part.

So, I did LPT and made it freeware. When Ted jumped on board for LPT2, which morphed into
WTGWR, we never discussed (or, at least, I don't recall us discussing) any sort of commercialization
of our joint effort. We wanted to share the game and the concept with people, gauge their reactions,
take their suggestions, and so on.


BG: "We also noted the small and promptly-resolved contretemps concerning WTGWR over at
Tabletop-sports, which echoes a problem Gene and his fellow ASB disk-creators have discussed
over at their forum -- mainly, third-party reproduction of freeware without credit being given the
program's creators (... yet another reason we haven't made our game available)."

BM: I know that Ted has it somewhere on his site that we don't mind innovations, changes, re-engineering
... as long as we're credited with the original concept and design. At TTS, I simply wanted the detailed
info on the website to reflect that these files, although they are in the "public domain", do have authors,
and that those authors want folks to make sure we're credited if ever they devise a variant, new rule,
chart, table, etc., that uses the base concepts in the orignal WTGWR rules and charts.


BG: "We're always curious, too, about the thought processes that went on in the development stages
of a game, so we'd be happy to hear about what led you this way or that in creating WTGWR."

BM: ... I can't speak fully to Ted's ideas, because he did add an awful lot to WTGWR, taking it from
what was going to be Let's Play Two! 2 to the game it is today. However, here's where I was
coming from, and what I think a good baseball game has to have. I'll touch on two at the moment.

1) Interaction: I hate the so-called 50/50 games. Why? Because, half the time, the quality of
the pitcher or batter is immaterial to the outcome of the at bat. And, to me, that's just wrong. Let me
give you an example.

I have Barry Bonds at the plate. My opponent brings in lefty Billy Wagner to face him in the
bottom of the ninth with Bonds representing the winning run. Let's assume, for argument's sake, that
Wagner didn't give up a homer in the season set we're using.

Now, why did my opponent bring in Wagner? 1) Because he's a left-hander who will negate
any platoon advantage in the game; 2) Because he's a flamethrower who doesn't allow as many
balls in play; and 3) Because he gave up no homers.

The dice are rolled, and they fall on Bonds' card for a homer. What impact did Wagner's
"unhittability" have on the at bat? None. What impact did Wagner's ability to avoid the long ball
have on the at bat? None.

So, going all the way back to HSL and LPT, the key was meaningful batter-pitcher interaction
on every plate appearance. That means having a matrix. It means having more than one play resolution
column on the PITCH? charts. It means that the gopher ball pitcher will give up lots of homers,
especially to long ball hitters.

In other words, all decisions will be based on how the combination of batter and pitcher skills
interact to produce the game result from the charts. A GOPHER pitcher, facing a POWER hitter,
will find results coming from a column of the FLY? Chart that a STINGY pitcher will never allow the
batter to reach. It means that the pitcher definitely has an impact on the outcome of each at bat ...
and that the batter also has a definite impact on the outcome of each at bat.

2) Flow: The game has to flow logically. I think it's strange to "know" that the ball hit is an error
before you ever look at the charts. In LPT, I really addressed this, and we've gone one step further
in WTGWR.

In LPT, the first roll answers the question: Is the ball in play? If not, we also know immediately
if it's a walk, strikeout, HBP. If it is in play, we also know immediately if the ball went for a hit, or
if it was hit to a fielder. Once we know the ball was hit to a fielder, we then roll to see if the ball was
fielded cleanly. If so, we know the out is recorded. If not, we then know there's an error, and how
that error is resolved.

Some hit results have ? notations, meaning, we know the ball fell in for a hit, but maybe the batter
is out trying to stretch the hit ... the runner is out trying to take an extra base ... or the ball was eventually
bobbled for an error that allows additional advancement.

Flow ... the dice rolls follow the logical sequence of events. Just because the result is "GROUND
BALL 2B", it doesn't mean an automatic out, because if we roll high enough, the play result is "E4".
So, that simple, two-out ground ball to the shortstop in the bottom of the ninth (that, for most games,
will be an automatic, game-ending play) may be an error that opens the floodgates. Realistic.
Suspenseful. Important.

I'll have more on flow and other stuff in another post soon.
____________________________________________________________________________________

file by Butch & Co., Baseball Games
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