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Gameplan Baseball 2024

Updates and Changes

Background

Gameplan Baseball has now been running for well over 30 seasons, but hasn't really had much development since 2009 when I moved to working full time, and games became a spare time (usually Saturday) hobby. The old "continuous development" has been far from continuous, but now I'm not working full time, I've a bit more time to get back to some of those elements of trying to improve the game.

I think it has stood the test of time pretty well (player numbers tell me that) but as I've been reviewing Slapshot and Hoopplan I think there are some tweaks we can make to the game which would make it more interesting, and perhaps a bit easier to turn a team around (though not without making it too easy).

The overall financial model seems to be decent, with few holdouts, and it's noticeable that some teams do clear the decks, and rebuild from there, which is not a bad thing. However, I also think there are a few aspects whereby once a team reaches the top, it's perhaps not hard enough to stay there (which isn't to say we should stop them, just make it continue to be a challenge).

It's also worth reminding people this is a simulation. It's not going to be true to life (for example we don't have "high market" and "low market" teams) but it is meant to be reasonably realistic. Even if teams are in rebuilding phases, that doesn't mean you shouldn't be trying to win games, and the game shouldn't be supporting a strategy like that.

A good game is one where you've got to make decisions, and I think the adjustments outlined below might make that more interesting. They're all "for consideration" at the moment, and I'd like feedback - the one ask is to take a bit of time to digest them, and let me know what you think (and not just from a parochial perspective!!!).

Changes

You will now see the changes in three groups below, which are as follows:-

Immediate - these changes are in play now, so regardless of where your league is at, they're happening.

2024 Rules - these changes come into play at the start of pre-season (technically you'll see the week 21 report say "2024 rules"). Note that quite a few of them don't apply until the end of that season (in particular the increased reduction in Stadium, Trainers, Minors).

Backlog - Some of the proposed changes I've put on the backlog (stuff I might do in future). I'm aware that the consultation time for these changes has been somewhat short, but with MLB21 (changes to 2024 rules on 10th February), MLB1 and MLB2 (both change on 24th February) very close to the end of the season, I'd rather get most changes in play for them now, and can come back (or not) to the others later.

 

Immediate Changes

Merchandising #1 (immediate) - when calculating Merchandise sales, any fractions have a chance of being rounded up. e.g. if you'd be due to sell 1.4 units of merchandising then you're still guaranteed to sell one, but have a 40% chance of selling a second. The change ensures even the smallest investment in merchandising can make a difference.

Preseason Free Agent List (immediate) - wading through the code I discovered that a "hidden feature" of the game was that a free agent who had been on the list for some weeks at the end of the previous season (and probably about to give up, and announce their retirement) in Gameplan Baseball would not only come back onto the list at the start of the new season, but with their "give up counter" reset. That's pretty dumb, in the six months of off-season they're more likely to have decided to pack it in. Going forwards, when the free agent list re-appears in pre-season, expect to see some of those veterans having retired (that was already in place) but plenty more of them announcing they're about to (i.e. sign me this time, in pre-season, or I'm done). It has the added benefit of clearing spaces on the free agent list for players about to be waived (see above).

Fans #1 (2024 rules) - instead of resetting all teams to 20,000 each season (very samey), albeit with the really successful teams starting up to 24,000, we would change this so that fans would be reset to 20,000 plus 10% of the excess (so if you had 48,000, it'd reset to 22,800). This change would apply at the start of a season which is under 2024 rules so would take a while to become a factor.

The rationale here is to reduce (not remove) the benefit a team has from ending one season with fans significantly over 40,000. At present that can be a massive benefit the following season, and this change would dial it down somewhat, rather than removing it.

It also means that most teams would have some additional income from Fans (because they'd start with more than 20,000) so we are adding some LPs to the ecosystem which can offset the increased decline in Stadium, Minors and Trainers.

Given that this change (starting the levels for most higher) goes hand in hand with the change below (slightly reducing the growth) reduction of fans just prior to going into a season under 2024 rules we'd have a hybrid, the reduction would be either to whichever is higher of "half last season" or "20,000 plus 10%" (for those who don't have enough spare fingers and toes, the break even is 45,000 fans, which would change to 22,500 by both methods).

Draft List (immediate, but won't apply for any draft lists already created) - We'll make two changes to the draft list. The first is that it'll expand from 80 to 90 players (this gives more choice in the third round, and also means more unsigned draftees to filter onto the free agent list at the start of the season), and the second is to reduce the number of "veterans" (higher level, but lower potential players - the latter is simply a reflection that people don't tend to want to draft them. 

Allstar Game (immediate) - Some of the parameters will change, MaxBats to 12 for the starter, 6 for relief pitchers and PinchInn to 4. Ideally we'll get more players involved in the game, though we do still have the restrictions of maximum five pitchers in a game, which I don't want to deviate from for just one game.

Unnamed Players (immediate) - it'll take best part of ten years to really feed in, but I've added a lot of new "default" names for players. I probably can't ever do enough, but at least you'll see a bit of variety in names of players going forwards.

Uncoached Teams (immediate) - I will also be reviewing the routines used by uncoached teams, to try and make them a bit more competitive or at least viable if a new player does turn up. I won't comment too much on those changes, as you shouldn't know what they are! Unfortunately, whether we like or not, we have uncoached teams, and there's no real source of new players nowadays (feel free to introduce anyone you can). You will notice they're more active with free agents, in particular targetting the best free agents but also clearing away the dead wood, though that'll probably mainly be for leagues once they've hit 2024 rules.

 

2024 Rules

TV Income (2024 rules) - the basic income in Gameplan Baseball is 50 LPs per turn (plus 4 LP per loss). We'd change the terminology to "TV Income" (which is realistic) but it would become slightly variable. Each season, it could increase (or decrease) by up to 2 LPs, subject to a minimum of 45 LPs and a maximum of 55 LPs. The first season under 2024 rules we'd stay at 50 LP. The additional income per loss would be unchanged. 

This provides two new nuances - first of all, at the start of a new season every team might find they have 2 LP less (or more) to pay salaries than they expect (or other sources of expenditure) and second, different games might end up with quite different thresholds. It'd be subtle, but for players in more than one game, you'd have slightly different challenges.

Free Agent Bids (2024 rules) - it's a minor change - if two teams bid the same amount for a player, then the bid that wins is the team with fewer wins, rather than with most wins. This is in line with the process when a player is claimed off waivers (and gives struggling teams a slight boost).

Rookie Wages & Draft Squad (2024 rules) - at present, a team gets pretty much forced to make decisions about draftees at the start of the season, and with veterans often asking for more wages, it's a real challenge with the salary cap forcing draftees have to be thrown into the active squad to survive (or sink). 

To reduce the impact of this players on the draft squad will only be paid half wages (rounded up, for each individual player, so if you have three players with 3 LP wages, you'd pay 2 LP for each one) until the September callups deadline (week 16 onwards), so you can use some of your LPs by keeping these players on the roster and allowing them to develop. Of course, if you want to use that player you'll need to promote them (and then start paying full wages) or you may choose to release them (to get income in). It's a relatively small change, and for some rookies means their wages won't change at all (because it is rounded up).

Holdouts (2024 rules) - it'll be a rare occurrence, but it seems a bit of a loophole that a team can run with holdouts throughout the season, and then when the playoffs arise, the holdouts are available. We can easily bridge this gap by introducing a rule whereby if any player was holding out in week 17 (the last week holdouts are possible) then they'd stay holding out throughout the playoffs (even if a team managed to source LPs in week 18).

No Free Agency if Released (2024 rules) - At present, a lot of older players get marked for immediate deletion when they are released (via a free agent bid, or a promote action) which somewhat clogs up the list (albeit only for a turn). In future, at the end of season assessment, any player with zero potential will make a decision about whether they would be a free agent if released, or simply retire. If they will choose to retire, then they'll be shown with a * after their age on the Team Report. 

This doesn't mean you have to release these players, and you may want to keep them for many seasons, but if you do release them, then they won't be added to the free agent list, they simply retire. Equally, if a player isn't marked as No Free Agency, that doesn't mean when they hit the free agent list they won't be marked for immediate deletion (but of course it does give other teams the chance to sign them). A player marked as No Free Agency can still be traded.

Stadium (2024 rules) - the rate of "decline" in a Stadium will be increased; from dropping two levels per season to three. At present we have a lot of teams at "maximum Stadium" and that is one of the factors that makes it harder for other teams to catch up. You can of course still maintain a higher level of stadium, but you'd need to find more LPs each season to do so. This is an "end of season" change, so you won't see it until the end of the first "2024 rules season".

Originally I proposed this would have a random factor, but almost everyone (not quite everyone) hated that idea, so it won't be happening. Not even in the backlog!

Minors (2024 rules) - As with Stadium levels, the decline in Minors will be increases from 2 to 3 (my rule of thumb is you ought to be able to decline from maximum to zero over five seasons - if you don't invest anything). As with Stadium, it's an "end of season" change, so you won't see it until the end of the first "2024 rules season". And no random element.

Trainers #1 (2024 rules) The annual reduction in Trainers is also increased, from two levels to four (again, applying that "full decline over five years"). We'll see how this shakes out (I'll run some more tests over the next month or so) before considering whether to have the maximum at 15, and the decline of three per season (so that might change in a month or so). Again, this is an "end of season" change, so you won't see it until the end of the 2024 season.

Merchandising #2 (2024 rules) - rather than carry over the full amount each season, a team would carry over 80%. Marketing departments do launch new stuff, and "end of line" sales are not uncommon. This means you'd have a decision each season about whether you can afford to top up merchandising. However, half of the cost of the "end of line" merchandising is recouped in an end of season sale (these LPs do not affect the end of season carryover). This change would only apply at the end of the first season under the new rules. This also has the benefit of giving teams an LP boost at the start of a new season.

e.g. a team finishes the season with 180 LP in merchandising. 20% of these (36 LPs) are lost at the end of the season, but the team does gain 18 LPs for the new season (so they start the new season with 144 LP in merchandising, but their LP balance is 18 LP higher). These sales LPs are not considered as part of the end of season LP carryover routines, so you can carry over the normal LP balance, plus any income from the merchandising end of season sales.

Trainers #2 (2024 rules) - An additional "check" will be added each turn, with a chance that the team avoids any injury. The higher the level of trainers, the higher the chance. Expect to start to see teams, on occasions, avoiding the "weekly injury".

Coaching (2024 rules) - There will now be a chance that when you coach a player, they won't lose a point of potential. The chance is higher if your MINORS level is higher, and lower the higher rated the skill is for the player concerned, and also lower for higher level players. Overall, the chance varies from minimal to around one in three chance of avoiding it. You cannot try and coach a player without any potential.

Fans #2 (2024 rules) - this is a subtle change, but the base increase in fans each turn would change from 1% plus 0.5% per win to 1% plus 0.4% per win. This has two impacts - first the average Fans level will grow slightly more slowly, and it reduces the gap between successful and less successful teams.

End of Season Carryover (2024 rules) - If a team has more than 200 LPs, then three quarters of that excess over that 200 LP is lost (e.g. if a team has 240 LPs, they would start the new season with 160 LPs = 100 + (50% of 100) + (25% of 40)). This is an "end of season" change, so you won't see it for the best part of twelve months anyway.

Given we already have teams lose half of their excess over 100 LPs (there's really no sense encouraging teams to massively tank one season, and build for the next) it's unlikely many will trigger this, but if you do have over 200 LPs, then expect to see only a quarter of that "super excess".

Scouting Reports (2024 rules) - we'll introduce into 2024 rules scouting reports. They're pretty simple, you get a one page summary of the player stats for each of your opponents (basically a copy of the second page of listings for your team is sent to your opponents - minus the depth charts section). It's three extra pages of listings, but as pretty much every player gets reports by email, it's up to you whether to print them off. It might make keys a little easier to determine week to week. I've also added to the scouting report the configuration of the stadium of the team being scouted (even if you're scouting a team who will be your visitors).

Fixture List (2024 rules) - I'll be honest, this really doesn't warrant being included, but as it took me a day to fix (it's required to make the scouting reports work, don't ask for the tedious details) I'll detail it. You'll now find in the first set of fixtures in the two interleague weeks (5 and 10) that half of the AL teams are at home, and half of the NL, rather than it being every AL team in week 5, and every NL team in week 10. Told you it didn't warrant being written/read (or looked up to see it was true, which some of you will have just done).

Given that MLB teams now play 46 interleague games, maybe in future we'll look at more. When my brain has had time to cool down........

Free Agent List (2024 rules) - The maximum number of free agents is now increased to 90, but don't expect to see this many (ever!). The expansion is there for the first few weeks of the season when the list gets busy as teams cut players, undrafted rookies are available, and a few holdovers from the previous season. I tested whether the software coped (it does) so it makes sense to have them available, and not have players just "disappear". This also then allows us to ensure there are always a decent number of cheap players (effectively minor league players whose minimal contracts can be purchased) available so that teams looking to pick a cheap player up to reduce salary pressure have more options.

Skill Bias (2024 rules) - an interesting idea, and building on the theme of "different leagues are slightly different" we will a skill bias in each league. The basic way it would work would be that one batting and one pitching skill has more chance of being created at a slightly higher level when a new player comes into the league (best example would be all of the young leg spinners across the world after Shane Warne came along, and doubtless we'll see more two way players in the next twenty years). It won't remain the same (I'm sorting of thinking every season each one has a 25% chance of changing) and you'd not be told what it was (though plenty will claim to work it out, some correctly). As the options include "neutral" (all skills are the same) that means there are 25 combinations of options.

Free Agents and Wages (2024 rules) - once a player has been on the free agent list for a few weeks, we'll also accelerate a little the rate of decline of value for them. At present a player loses 10% of their value per turn, but that may increase a little until they decide to retire.

Promotions and Releases during the Draft (2024 rules) - at present, you can Promote (only to the reserve squad) or Release a player whilst the draft is still going on, which is a bit strange. The change will now prevent this until the Preseason turn.

 

Backlog

Renaming Players (Backlog) - I'd been pondering this for some time. We've always had a restriction that you cannot rename players during the season, to avoid confusion for other coaches when looking at rosters (in particular for keying players). We could relax this and allow renaming of players during the season, and even allow a change of shirt number, because you've now got the scouting reports (see above). This is now on the backlog - I thought it'd be an easy win-win (and maybe from the perspective of a new coach coming in, and taking over a team with lots of computer generated names it is) but I got quite a lot of feedback from people who looked at previous seasons when scouting free agents, or wanted full career histories of players, that this might not be so popular. So it's not one we'll bring in.

Release and Options (Backlog) - I thought about this a while ago, and then parked it, but a couple of others suggested it as well, but then having put it out there, and having a few different thoughts myself, I've parked it again.

A team would have a number of options (maybe only two initially, as we don't want it to become a panacea for teams clearing out in a big way) and each option allows them to use a Release action on a veteran. That player is waived but is replaced by a low value, low potential, player from their minor league system (e.g. a Dirk Hayhurst, or a Bull Durham - you'd get a random player, probably equivalent to the bottom quarter of the draft list, though they would be the same fielding position if a batter, and a pitcher for a pitcher). It could only be used on players valued at 30 LP or more, only on Reserve Squad players (so you may need to do an activate first) and the cost of the minors player is 15 LP (so the action cannot have a negative impact on finances - if you release a 30 LP player the net value of the action is 0 LP).

In game terms, your veteran would be waived to free agency in the usual way, and the roster spot would be filled by a newly created 15 LP level 5 player without much potential (so you could play them if you needed, but probably don't want to). 

It enables teams to have certainty over clearing wage space (one of the problems with signing a cheap free agent is someone else might be after the same player, whereas a PROMOTE action provides guarantee of success). However, there are some inbuilt failsafes, you can only do it twice per season, and the player you "create" isn't going to be anything other than a "roster filler".

So that's a lot of "stuff" for something we're not adding. We'll see how the expanded player list, reduced rookie wages changes pan out first, and then can consider whether to come back to this idea.

Stadia Changes (Backlog) - When I designed Gameplan Baseball, the costs of 25 LP on changing Stadia Configurations (size, surface and type) were there to stop people changing their stadium every season (which is silly). However, now most of our stadia are "30 years old" they're probably due for rebuild! Maybe we could allow coaches to change one configuration for free every five seasons, but with a one off allow all three to be changed in preseason at the end of the first season under 2024 rules.

Fixture List (Backlog) - I won't rush to look at this, but longer term the more sensible fixture list might see a team playing 54 divisional games (six series against each of the other three teams), 48 interleague games (every other team one series, and four of them a second series) and 60 intraleague games (two series against each team, and one more against four of them). It'd be a balance closer to the current MLB, means more variety with interleague play, and also means we can look at an unbalanced schedule whereby the extra series can be slightly weighted so the top teams play each other a little more!

Dog Days (Backlog) - I'll also do some pondering on anything we can do for the second half of the season. In real life, the trade deadline often sees moves as contenders pick up a key veteran (to try and give them the edge in a playoff run) whilst "sellers" pick up good prospects in return. It doesn't feel that in Gameplan Baseball we have the trade system (which is what this is meant to model) really working, and if we can get that working better (e.g. could a team make an OFFER without waiting for a LIST first), maybe it adds to the second half of the season. 

Another option might be to have some of the key veterans stay on the free agent list (easier if we have space) but without their wages dropping too far (e.g. at some point their values stop reducing, but they don't necessarily get removed from the list early/mid-season), so they can at least be picked up by those contending teams (their managers then have to decide whether to really go "all in" for the playoffs, or hedge their bets).

 

Comments

Please feel free to drop me any thoughts on this. All of the changes are intended to add a bit of variety, without fundamentally changing the ethos of the game, which is a mixture of roster building and in game strategy. However, they are overall intended to add a bit more variety to the game.  

It's also an acknowledgement that times have changed - when I started Gameplan Baseball we had lots of players, and were pretty much cutting edge in terms of sports simulation games. Now we're very much in a "retro niche", with online games and the like much more prevalent, so there's a bit of cloth cutting, and these changes are intended to help make the game a bit more interesting, without breaking what (for those of you who are playing) is clearly still working..........

 

Last updated: Monday February 12, 2024 19:53  

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