Thursday, August 9, 2012

Learning from Video Games

I've spent too much time playing video games.  Some might say that anytime spent playing video games is a waste.  They may have a point, but that would also mean that anytime spent watching movies, etc. is a waste too.

I don't expect that anyone but me will find any of what follows to be interesting but I've been thinking a bit about it and I want to have all written down so that I might review it.

One game I've spent a lot of time with is Sim City 4, and its predecessors.

It is very interesting to build cities and look at the causes and effects of your actions.

Its not a perfect game, and as a libertarian I would like to see some changes, like more private schools, private power and water companies, etc.  But it is a very good game.

4/5 is how I'd rate it.

When I played I learned to keep my budget panel open at nearly all times.  Instead of focusing on other things, like health, education, pollution, traffic congestion, etc.  I saw that one reviewer at Amazon didn't like the game because too much time was spent balancing the budget.  I liked that aspect of it.

If the budget isn't balanced, then bad things happen and you can't afford anything.

It seems to me that if the budget is balanced, in the game and life, then there isn't a problem that cannot be solved.  If the budget is unbalanced, you will be unable to spend time on anything else.

Planning cities to avoid traffic congestion seems to be a serious problem.  I can also see why you want to have planned a long way ahead how the city will expand.  If you want to reduce congestion in the busiest areas that will almost, by necessity, require destroying the buildings, and reason for the congestion because there is no room.

Public transport, except buses, require too much work to be viable.  If you want to have a passenger train system that is well used, than you just about need to design the city around the rail.  And if you don't have a rail system that has a stop everywhere, because you cannot predict where the train will be wanted, then almost no one will use it.

To summarize: balance the budget and forget public transportation

Another game that I have played a lot of is Gran Turismo 5.

This is also a good game which I would rate at 4/5.

The one place I would like to see a difference is to add a long section of real life road to be able to drive, say 100 miles, through different road types and through windy and long straight road sections.  Another is trying to find races that are competitive.  In most races I either had the wrong car and no chance of winning, or a car that blows everyone else away.

I've only given it 4/5 because its a game with limited scope.  Everything else about is excellent.  Even with its limited scope it was about the only game I played in 2011.

One thing that I learned was that in order to be a good racing driver you need not only to have fast lap times, but have very consistent lap times.

It is very interesting to drive an underpowered car that handles better against a car that does not handle as well.  I think that that may be the most fun.  However, I always prefer to have the more powerful car because I hated being on a straight and losing ground without there being anything that I could do.

I'd also like to improve the exhaust and suspension on my own car.

I'd also quite like to own an Alfa Romeo GTV someday, preferably in red.

1967 Alfa Romeo GTV

The game that I've been playing recently is Elder Scrolls V: Skyrim.

5/5 It is excellent.

I suppose that the only thing that I could be accused of learning is that when you are constantly doing something, its amazing what you get done.  As long as you keep moving toward your goal it will get accomplished.

The real reason I wrote this post was for the things I've learned from Madden NFL Football.  I've spent more time with this game than any other.  I've not added a link because the newest versions are unplayable, in my opinion.

When I played on the PS2, I thought that its was great.  Particularly after 2005 when they made playing on defense fun.

The way I played was to play in franchise mode and play the games for a single, or two or up to 5, teams throughout the year.  It wasn't really the games that I looked forward too, though those were good, but it was the assembly of the players for a team.  I liked the preseason. I liked the draft, free agency, and I liked the arranging of the depth charts, and the use of players in certain situations.  The post season wasn't as interesting.

Often I would play the preseason, arrange the players, then play the first half of the regular season thinking about what positions needed upgrades during the next off season.  I would often simulate the last few games and the post season in order to get to the next draft sooner.  And I would play as multiple teams over the seasons so that I could draft more players and arrange more rosters.

My offensive playing style is also a bit different than most.  I liked to run the ball.  "3rd and 10? Sounds like a running play," I'd think.  I liked taking undrafted rookie running backs and making them my primary runners.  1,200 rushing yards with a fullback who was hardly any faster than the offensive linemen was what I'd do.  I thought that it was great when I'd have a powerful running back to start the game, have him take plays off here and there, with a fast back replacing him.  Then switch to a powerful and fast back for the end of the game with the fast only guy getting carries throughout.

Anyway, some things that I learned.

When you are looking to replace greatness, you need to look for all kinds of greatness, or you'll miss things because you are looking for a specific thing which may not be there.  If I had a great defensive end who was very strong, I often wanted to replace him, when he retired, with another strong end.  But if I only looked for strong ends, I would miss guys that aren't as strong but are faster.  The faster end is different but can be just as good, or better.

The point of assembling a team is not just to get the best players, but to get guys who are good in specific situations, and who can fill in for others when there are injuries.

The best wins were those that occurred when I had a much worse team than my opponent but was able to do just enough to win.  Knowing that if I could slow their offense just a little that I would, some how some way, score just enough to win was the best fun I've had while playing.  Lets see if I can draw a parallel to the real world.  When a small business guy gets started the little victories will mean more than big victories later.  Once your business, or team, becomes near invincible, then it is the statistics, or amount of money, that are what keep you going.  Once you get to the top then there had better be a new challenge or there will be no motivation to improve.

For a final note on this subject I would like to tell a story.  The story of my favorite, simulated, football player.

I was just starting a new team.  I happened to only have 3 safeties.  I have a fondness for undrafted, free agent, rookies; so I signed the fastest undrafted, free agent, rookie safety.  He had only an 88 speed rating, and I did not like defensive backs that would be out run by fast receivers.  A speed rating of 90 was the bottom limit for my defensive backs.  So I figured that this new guy would be the number 4 safety and I would replace him in the next off season.

In the preseason the game puts the number 2s in for the 1s in the second half, which I then rearrange to find out which 3s stay, etc.  But I had forgotten to replace this guy in the lineup with someone else.  I first noticed this when he got a sack.  I had not called for a safety blitz, but somehow that's what he did.  I thought, "what's he doing on the field?  I won't take him out if he's getting sacks though."  The next play he got an interception.

I'd seen enough.  So the guy ahead of him was traded and he was my new starter.

Whenever I had trouble stopping the run, I'd bring this strong safety up to the line, in a "qb spy" zone.  And the runners would have no place to go.

Whenever I had trouble stopping the pass, I'd bring this player up to the line and blitz the quarterback.  And after a few plays of this, I wouldn't have any trouble stopping the pass.

I considered my user name for this blog, to be "Grendel," after him.   (He was named after a bad movie on the SciFi channel.  I thought that the monster looked good though.)

I appreciate that this will be of no interest to anyone, but me, but I wanted to get it out of me.

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