Designing Custom Plays for FPS FBPro (prior to Ď99)

Play Design Basics


This article is intended as the first in a series which will discuss the design of custom plays in Front Page Sports FBPro 95 thru 98. These articles will point out how to get the game to simulate what you want to accomplish with a play and also share some insight on general play design concepts. Every attempt will be made to stick to the subject at hand but you must excuse me if I strays into associated subjects such as gameplans, profiles and player ratings/rosters. These subjects are so integrally related that it is hard to discuss one without at least pointing out the effects on/by other aspects of the game.

The fact that youíre taking time to read this article probably means that you are either new to FBPro or at least new to playing in an on-line league. Even if you are experienced but new to the on-line arena and have joined a sim-league or coached home game league, youíre in for a new experience ! Also if you have been playing in arcade mode (as opposed to coaching mode) youíve got a lot to learn including patience. Kind of like switching from player to coach in real life. The ball isnít in your hands any more and now youíre responsible for how all 22 guys perform ! These articles will be geared towards simmed and coached games.

If you are an experienced FBProer, you may find some or all of this material redundant and/or at conflict with your own opinions. Hey...itís a free country. If you read on youíre welcome to whatever insight it may bring. I make no claims to superior intellect nor can I claim multiple league championships due to brilliance on this subject. Simply having fun with this game and offering my personal experiences and opinions on the subject at hand. Also Iím a strong proponent of fair play and in maintaining realism in the simulation. If youíre a true football fan, Iím sure you want to test your football skills and strategy against other people and not your video game skills. If you donít share those values youíre probably wasting your time reading any farther.

Getting Started

This may be pretty basic but it requires saying. If you havenít read the FBPro manual on play design, stop here and do so. Even if youíve been designing plays on your own already please go and read the book. The main reason for this is to make sure weíre on the same page with the terminology in the play editor etc.

OK. Now that you have read the manual, we can start to discuss getting a handle on the games artificial intelligence vs. reality. This simply means understanding how players in the game will react to commands compared to what the book says they do or what real people would do. Before you can hope for any success at play design, you have to get a general understanding of how the artificial intelligence reacts to situations. This doesnít mean learning to trick the computer. Remember, weíre trying to simulate a real football game.

Practice Makes Perfect

The best way to understand how players act in FBPro is on the practice field. This part of the game is fun because practice is where you figure out your teamís abilities in real life too. You can go onto the practice field and watch how players react to commands, test different combinations of player ratings, etc. For example, letís say you want to "try out" a couple of receivers. Here is what you do:

After you have done this you will start to see how the AI works compared to how it is described in the manual. For example, "acceleration" isnít what it is in reality. In the real world acceleration means you start slow and pick up speed. In FBPro, the acceleration rating just determines how long the player stands still before he starts to move (at top speed) after the snap. Also the manual indicates that strength rating is different for different positions. Not true. If you line up a DB with ST=85 against an OL with ST=50 and have the DB blitz, guess what. The DB will run right over the OL. (Actually now that they are promoting the Ď99 version of the game, one of the things theyíre advertising is that this has been fixed)

Obviously the things you can try here are endless. Line up a WR and DB one on one and see if the DB can cover. Run a pass rushing DE against a T etc. The point here is to study how the game executes the player commands. I recommend you practice enough to get a good understanding of all of the defensive player commands and how different ratings affect the players. Good defensive plays are harder to design than offense. One thing to study closely on offense is pass blocking. Iím sure everyone has noticed that there are more QB sacks in FBPro than in real life. Pass rushing is the one advantage defense has in this game. If you are in a league with a really good commissioner, the OL will be a little stronger than DL on average and the DLís SP and AC will be limited to 75 or so. Unfortunately itís a lot of work to do this and most leagues just let the computer assign the ratings when the players are created. So you have to figure out how to block some awesome DL !

Iíll say it one more time, the idea is to figure out how to make the game simulate real plays, not to figure out how to beat the computer. If you read enough league play rules you donít have to figure out how to cheat. You can tell how to beat the computer by what the rules tell you not to do.

OK thatís all for now. Next article will start to deal with specific situations and recommendations on what works and what doesnít.

Dan Roberts