I can only think of two things more fun than complaining about sports.
First is complaining about fantasy sports.
Second is complaining about sports video games.
Patrick Hruby did an excellent job of the latter on ESPN, listing 24 random things about sports video games that bug him. He even structured it well in that there is absolutely no order at all; he doesn’t even categorize them by sport. These glitches are just annoying. Here’s a sample of what he wrote after the heading “Superstar Benchwarmers”:
Call it the Matt Bullard effect. A former pine-rider for the Houston Rockets, Bullard averaged 5.3 points per game during a nine-year career while shooting nearly 40 percent from beyond the arc — the latter number making him a minor deity in older versions of NBA Live, where his 3-point shot rating made him good for 30-plus points a contest. “You still find that in games,” admits a basketball game developer. “Two years ago in our game, people would just abuse Jason Kapono. He’s a great shooter, but not that great. We had to go in and change a bunch of things. We added fatigue factors, made it so that he had to spot up, that he couldn’t just dribble up and shoot. As a designer, you have to figure out ways to model players so users can’t take advantage.”
This is something everyone can relate to and we all have our examples (mine: Maurice Ager in NBA 2K8, Trot Nixon in Triple Play Baseball 05, Joe Sakic in NHL Hitz [yes he’s a superstar, but he was a fucking God in that game], Wily Mo Pena and Lew Ford (as a pinch-hitter) in MLB 08: The Show, Adrian Murrell in Madden 2002). The whole article is a fuzzy fury of memories. Enjoy it.
There are a few things he missed, though, check them out after the jump:
Substitution patterns. In basketball video games, every team is coached by a small child. Why does Kobe Bryant play the first 90% of each half and then is pulled for Aaron McKie because he’s at like a -40 in fatigue with 5 minutes to go in a tight game?
You’re fine Kobe, stay in
Basketball offensive plays/systems. Hruby touched on it a little with his complaint about how the Suns and Spurs are indistinguishable in style, but how about this: From the user perspective, we all play the same way — up and down. That’s why scores in 8-minute quarter games are well into three digits for each team. Obviously this makes no sense, but it’s the only effective way to play, even though you don’t play any defense. Why? Because play-calling is impossible. Plays break down too easily and everything is causal, so one missed pass and everyone stops moving. Would it be so bad to construct a few basic offensive systems (flex, motion, etc.) and just be able to instruct your guys to stay in motion? Or, if you’re a low-post team, dump it inside and have them spread around the arc with a cutter or two? You know, like in real life?
Individual rebounding proficiency. Hruby mentioned that rebounding is inconsistent, but I see the biggest problem being that a 7-ft creampuff like Eddy Curry will outrebound a tenacious and effective rebounder like Leon Powe. Or, my favorite personal example: famed Euro prospect Pavel Podkolzine, a 7’5″ monster, had a rating of like 62 one year, but was a viable starting center option because he was so freaking big that he grabbed a ton of rebounds and could block shots. Let me tell you something: Pavel Podkolzine could not outrebound Miley Cyrus in real life.
Why, hello to you too, Pavel
Low breaking pitches are unhittable. Yeah, this is true in real life, but the problems lies that in baseball games, they are completely indistinguishable from low fastballs, which are strikes. I’ve never faced big-league pitching, but I’ve seen plenty of hitters be able to make the distinction, so it must be possible. They’re impossible to lay off and turn every junk pitcher into a future Hall of Famer. It’s awesome if you compile a staff of sinkerballers, but it’s bad news for the safety of your roommates controllers, after you strike him out 15 times each game.
Pitching is just too good in general. My roommate and I used to play in rivalry mode in The Show, playing best of 29 series. The system keeps stats and everything, and generally, even your best power hitters were posting Julio Lugo numbers. I had one year where Vladimir Guerrero hit .440…and went back down under .250 the next season. Here’s the problem: being selective is near impossible because baseball is a slow game and you get bored running up pitch counts and trying to bleed the other team’s bullpen (which, believe me, we would do). But the game then drags on, and the relievers are always too effective, and every game is a 3-2 duel. It should either be pretty difficult to throw strikes or batters should be able to hit stuff that’s well out of the zone. You end up guessing on pitches with your power guys, just hoping you power swing in the right zone for one homer in the middle innings before you get to the stable of relievers. It’s a frustrating and annoying strategy, though it is strikingly similar to real life.
But that, obviously, is not what we’re striving for — we just want to be entertained for a half-hour, man.