Friday, January 30, 2009

Card Sets: The Player Cards and Brenda Dean

As you can see, the cards look pretty good. Brenda Dean/Pete Maravich has been added, and is surrounded by her teammates at last.

If you've never played the game, I'll point out what makes Dean so special.

The first fact is her field goal rating of 43. In a base-eight system (11-18, then 21-28, up to 81-88), her 11-43 rating makes her the one of the best field goal shooters on the team. There are only a few players that have a better rating than she does, and each of those players is handicapped in a particular way.

The second fact is that her line in "secondary" is blank. "Secondary" was created in the game to account for the fact that there are some basketball players who have great field goal accuracy (look at Immaculata Suarez's amazing 62 field goal rating), but don't take a lot of shots in real life.

In the game, there is an "ACTION" phase and (up to) two "ADVANCE" phases. The "ACTION" phase puts the ball in someone's hands. The "ADVANCE" phase moves the ball - up to twice, after which whoever is holding the ball must shoot it. Players can shoot any time they want, they just flip over the next number and see if it falls in the field goal range.

However, if the player decides to shoot directly off the ACTION phase - the player gets the ball and immediately decides to shoot - the "secondary" rating must be used and not the "field goal" rating. This provides a disincentive for most players to shoot immediately vs. handing off the ball to someone else. When getting the ball through an "ADVANCE", a player can shoot.

Result? Immaculata Suarez is dynamite only if someone sets up a shot for her. But Brenda Dean, since she has no "secondary" rating scores just as well off the "ACTION" phase as she does off the "ADVANCE" phase.

(Perversely, LaToya Lloyd scores much better when she creates her own shot than when someone else creates it for her. I wonder what's up with that?)

Now, note the 31 in parenthesis. This is Dean's 3-point rating. If she decides to shoot from behind the arc, her range is cut down to 11-31. Other players have better 3-point ratings than Dean does, but it's the (+) that's important.

Dean can shoot five 3-pointers a game (actually, she can shoot 13 if she wants to - the cardmaking machine doesn't account for Maravich-like superproduction). Other players have "iii" or "**" or nothing next to their number in parenthesis - they can only attempt one, two, three or four 3-point shots per game.

Dean's rebound rate of 25 is exceeded by only two other players. When determining who gets a rebound, the card might read "High at F1". Whichever player has the higher rebound rating at the Forward (#1) position gets the rebound. So Dean has a good chance of getting rebounds.

Stamina: This is the monster advantage. Dean's stamina is a ludicrous 53 (the next highest is Moss's 18). What keeps a player from just keeping his starters in the game perpetually? Stamina. Players that run out of stamina only shoot with the secondary rating and their defense rating goes to "+5" - they add five points to the shooting accuracy of their defenders.

Stamina gets used up with each field goal attempt, each rebound and each foul. Dean's superhuman 53 in stamina means that she could stay in for the entire game without rest under optimal conditions.

Also of note: Dean's foul drawing rating of 43. Once again, ridiculously high. There is a high chance than anyone defending Dean will be tempted into fouling her to stop her. And when starters are in foul trouble, the scrubs have to come off the bench - and scrubs generally have high defense ratings.

Dean's defense rating is +1: she's not a great defender. No one ever recruited/drafted Maravich for his defensive skills, and the same goes for Dean. "Zero" is average, and the range goes from -5 (an All-Star defender) to +5 (all offense). These imaginary UTEP miners aren't much of a defensive team - the starters have the highest stamina, and most of their ratings are positive numbers.

So what does that final card mean? The one with the nice UTEP Miners picture on it? More later.

The UTEP Cards

The cards for UTEP, stored as a large .gif image. I bet you can tell this was made with Excel.

Free Image Hosting at

More later.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Creating the UTEP Miners

I decided to base the UTEP miners on the current miners of the 2008-09 season. I avoided using the 2007-08 miners because I believe they had some sort of horrible record. In hindsight, my reasons were good, I just couldn't remember what they are.

The next step was to get rid of one of the Minerettes and create Brenda as a member of the team. This led to a little bit of difficulty.

First, I had an abbreviated version of Pistol Pete Maravich's stats from the website. Unfortunately, it was partially incomplete. We had no information on his steals and blocks. Therefore, I had to borrow from the profile on Maravich to get an idea of how well Maravich stole or blocked.

The next problem was that while Maravich was playing at LSU, there was no offensive rebounding. Only overall rebounds were counted, and I needed offensive rebounding rates to create my new player's card. Good thing for most of Maravich's NBA career that offensive rebounds were totaled (they started differentiating between offensive and defensive rebounds in the 1973-74 season).

Finally, there was the problem of Maravich's (theoretical) 3-point shooting rate. If Pistol Pete was to be reincarnated as a female college player, we'd have to know what his/her 3-point shooting rate was. Basketball-reference would be no help, as the 3-point shot only entered NBA history when Maravich was at the end of his career and playing limited minutes.

All I had was that "57 points a game" statement to work with. After some mathematical finagling, I came up with a 3-point shooting rate for Maravich - .280.

That's not a very great 3-point shooting rate. For a modern WNBA shooting guard, you'd expect her to shoot better than .300 from outside the 3-point line. I decided to work with the limitation anyway. Brenda Dean would be a real point scorer, but would only shoot .280 from beyond the line - let's just say she was never really accurate with her shots until she could work her way in close.

I had Dean's statistics. I had the statistics of everyone else at UTEP, and I projected their current stats out to a complete 29-game schedule. All that was left were some name changes - the UTEP players would go under assumed names. It would be as if Michael Jordan were renamed "Jordan Michaelson" for copyright purposes on some XBox version of NBA Live 09.

Next up: creating the cards.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

The Setup

So who is Brenda Dean? How did she get created? What does she want from us? This involves the story of a wonderful game called Statis Pro Basketball.

I'll give you some background about the game itself. Back in the days before the personal computer reigned supreme, there were people who wanted to take their sports fandom to the next level - immersion. A company called Avalon Hill, which produced pencil, counter and dice wargames created a game called Statis Pro Basketball, a part of their Statis Pro line of products. (Statis Pro Baseball, Statis Pro Football, etc.)

Each player in the pro game would be represented by a card with a range of numbers for field goal shooting, fouling, etc. Instead of dice, something called a Fast Action Deck would move the game forward. Players would consult this deck of playing cards and look at the numbers on it if they wanted to pass to another player, make a shot, etc.

It was a game well adapted to solitare play. If you didn't have a friend, you just set whatever strategy made sense for the opposing team and had at it. It was probably the best of the sports based board games.

What happened to Statis Pro Basketball? Two things. First, there was a change in the system from "base eight" to "base ten". Without going into detail, this upset the purists, and other rules changes took a lot of the strategy out of the players' hands. Second, the death of the board game companies (including Avalon Hill) as the PC could do things a lot better and smarter than it could be done with boards and paper.

So why, Pet, are you resurrecting this tired old format? The answer is simple: PC games don't give me what I want.

What I want is women's basketball. The WNBA. Women's college hoops. The problem is that PC games cost money to create and are market creations. There are a lot more men's basketball fans than there are women's basketball fans, so the attitude of the computer gamers to fans of women's basketball is a big raised middle finger. If I want NBA Live 09, I can get it in a thousand places; if I want a similar version for the WNBA, I can get a handful of WNBA players from the Wii version of NBA Live 09. No teams. No leagues. No franchise mode. That's it.

I want more. And if I can't get what I want, I'll figure out a way to get it on my own.

Frisco del Rosario wrote about his experiences with Statis Pro Basketball, which sparked memories of an experience where I played out the entire season for the Golden State Warriors as a young adult (it was the 1987-88 season). I managed to get 40 wins out of the Warriors, namely because Ralph Sampson stayed healthy. So I thought could I do women's basketball with Statis Pro Basketball?

The answer was "yes". I could. As it turned out, there was a man named Phil Graham who loved SPB (which I'll call the game from now on) and had made his own cards. He not only had all of the WNBA sets which he had made himself, but he had a Fast Action Deck suited not only for WNBA play, but for college basketball play as well.

I wanted to avoid my dependence on Phil Graham's largess for the time being. I would create my own imaginary universe of players based on real life players - only the names would be changed. If the game didn't work right, I could simply say, "well, that's how basketball works in the imaginary universe". I would become the umpire of my little world: whatever I said happened, happened.

Why college basketball and not the pros? I happened to bump into an article written about "Pistol" Pete Maravich which stated that he averaged 40 points a game while playing for LSU. The hook was that one of his coaches had done a chart of his shot selection, and estimated that if the 3-point goal had been part of the rules when The Pistol was playing, he would have averaged 57 points a game.

Then the lightbulb went off: if there were a women's basketball player that averaged 57 points a game, could she lead her team automatically to the NCAA championship?

I had found a card-creating spreadsheet that, with a few tweaks, would print out entire card sets for any basketball team I wanted to put into the data. I could therefore follow the premise to its logical conclusion - create a player with Pistol Pete's stats, put that player on a college basketball team, and watch what happened.

There were some hurdles, obviously:

One was which team? If you put this Pistol-Pete-In-Drag player - which I decided to call "Brenda Dean" - onto a team, how do we know the team wouldn't have won without Maravich/Dean? Furthermore, if you put Maravich/Dean - I'll just refer to her as "Dean" from now on - on a crappy team, what's to keep Dean from being double and triple-teamed all game?

She had to go to a team that was not very good, but not abysmally bad. I decided on the team in the #226 position of the RPI Women's website at Real Time RPI.

Of course, I had to get a copy of this out-of-print game first. EBay solved that problem. About $40 later, I was in business. I just had to wait for the game to show up. So while I waited, I'd visit the RPI and see what kind of teams ended up in the #226 spot - the spot where the bottom 1/3 of women's basketball begins.

Each day, the team would change. Wright State. Lafayette. Northwestern Louisiana. Massachusetts. And on the day the game finally showed up at my door, the team was....University of Texas at El Paso.

Mighty UTEP. Hail Miners.

Brenda Dean was going to be a Miner. But there were other hurdles to overcome.