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OS Roundtable: What real-to-life attribute is the hardest for sports games to emulate?

Question: What real-to-life attribute is the hardest for sports games to emulate?

Jayson Young: Running Back Vision -- For as long as video game football has existed, developers have struggled to make computer-controlled running backs a threat.

To this day, AI running backs still have trouble following their open blocking lanes and running to daylight. Vision is one of the key attributes in a successful running game, but over the years, it just hasn't translated correctly into video games. Whether the vision rating is 99 or 0, the computer logic still hasn't become advanced enough to pick out the right running lanes when the AI is carrying the ball.

I look forward to a day when CPU runners are tough to stop, not because they have been given superhuman boosts to their speed and tackle breaking abilities, but because they have exceptional field vision and can cut back against the grain on my defense when I overpursue or run my linebacker into the wrong gap.


Being a skilled passer isn't a given in basketball...or their digital counterparts but for different reasons.

Steve McPherson: Passing in basketball - This is not unrelated to what Jayson is talking about with regard to running back vision, but it afflicts the user as badly as the CPU in this case.

Passing, you might say, doesn't seem like it should be that hard to emulate. Press a button, there goes the pass. But there's a subtlety and art to passing in basketball that gets left on the table. Take something very simple: you can't fake a pass on the move in NBA 2K13. Once you fake the pass, you come to a dead stop. You also can't purposefully throw no-look passes. Sure, they happen every so often, but anyone who's watched Ricky Rubio play knows that the no-look pass is as much of a tool for a point guard as a pump fake is for a quarterback. Get the defense going one way, then go the other way. I can't tell you the number of times I've wanted to draw the defender in the post away from the roll man by looking him off but it seems like it would take an impossibly complicated control scheme to make that work.

And the complicatedness of the control scheme already puts a haze around passing. You're most accurate when using icon passing, but it takes enough button presses that you need to be running a play you know well to perfection to make the timing work. If you need to improvise, it moves too slow, and then when you do try to direct to whom you want the pass to go, you often end up throwing it to the opposite baseline rather than the rolling man because they both lie in essentially the same direction.

The NBA 2K series has worked hard to provide you with a dizzying array of shot options, yet right now, passing is comparatively vanilla. It still feels too random, too chancey, to genuinely represent the game.


Being smart on the field isn't a given.

Matthew Coe: Awareness - I'm thinking especially about football but this goes for any sport really. The catch-all awareness (AWR) rating in both NCAA Football and Madden are frustrating and really struggle in capturing anything close to real player intelligence.

In basketball, specifically NBA 2K13, awareness is broken down into offensive and defensive awareness. While this approach is better than just one awareness rating, it still fails to capture the nuances of any given player's ability to read, react, or anticipate things as they happen around them.

Eventually you can see the predictable patterns that the limited AI is capable of in all of the aforementioned games. This is a tough one to get right and I'm not sure if we'll ever truly see awareness implemented at an individual level for every player on the virtual playing field. It's probably going to take a major rethinking of AI to make believable actions/reactions possible.


No matter how talented, a lack of experience will always catch up to a rookie eventually.

Caley Roark: Experience: This is similar to Matthew's answer, in that it deals with a mental aspect of a game; but instead of simple intelligence or situational awareness, experience carries with it a raw familiarity of a game based on time served. The "wily veteran"-ess of virtual athletes, if you will.

Someone like Jamie Moyer or Brett Favre should have their overall knowledge factored into statistics. Where it might take a younger player longer to adjust to a change in tactics or technique, an older veteran should "normalize" earlier.

We've seen some attempts at the this, but all have seemed a little "gamey" and more closely tied to awareness. Remember the ability to "steal plays" in past Madden's? Or reading colored pitches in MVP 2005? Those work, but don't necessarily relate to age, and depend on in-game mechanic.

The key, here, is that experience is something that makes (some) older players valuable. For most games, there's little upside in signing or trading for an older player with little growth potential. Some kind of experience rating would help.
 

No matter the player, if the attitude isn't right at any point -- their performance won't be either.
 
Chris Sanner: Mood. Anyone who has played a lick of sports knows that you can have all the physical advantages in the world, but the question of 'how do you feel' is an important aspect to sports which I feel is likely purposefully left out of the equation. Sports gamers don't want to have something as simple as Tony Romo having a bad day ruin his effectiveness on the field. And let's face it, how happy would a guy like Ocho Cinco have felt when the game gave them a bad attitude rating?
 
But I think when it comes to franchise modes, this is the next big leap that sports games need to take. Team chemistry, player attitudes...all of that are huge difference makers. If you want to simulate the coaching experience, having to pick between being a motivator or a tactician would be a good pick -- there are only rare cases where a guy is able to be fully both effectively at the same time.
 
It's about time mood, chemistry, and all of the truly important parts of sport make onto the digital realm.
 
 
Sound off: We feel the mental aspects of sports are the hardest to capture from sports games. Do you agree? What physical traits are also hard to compensate for?

Member Comments
# 1 SHAKYR @ 11/16/12 02:22 PM
I agree that Fatigue and stamina is hard to implement. I also know producers fear balance in the game would be compromised if they added this correctly according to what they see watching film and videos. Imagine if Barry Sanders had his moves down to the T or a quick point guard was a quick point guard out the box.

The mental aspects of a sport to me can be added it's just I feel producers are holding back to implement it at some point and time as the ultimate feature. I see so many things in other games that aren't sports games that give it's characters physical traits. So, it's definitely possible.
 
# 2 cmehustle @ 11/16/12 02:32 PM
I say agility and acceleration. Or as it relates to bball games quickness. It seems that whoever makes these ratings takes the simple way out when it comes to this. For example a linebacker may have an 80 speed, 78 agility, and 79 quickness. For a lineman it may be 72, 68, 69. Rb 89, 88, 88. To me there is a huge difference between agility and speed. Most linebackers are pretty fast in straight line speed, and can run with backs and TE. Where RBs seperate is with agility. I think if people who made ratings took agility and acceleration more seriously it could completly change the gameplay in a realistic fashion.
 
# 3 threattonature @ 11/16/12 04:30 PM
For passing in basketball, I wonder if they can add the same scheme like they have for doing up an unders in the post. Hold the direction you want to fake the pass to. Once he starts the animation and before he lets go of the ball if you move the left stick to the opposite direction it'll throw a no look that way.
 
# 4 BA2929 @ 11/16/12 05:06 PM
The intelligence of the human brain is the hardest for sports games (any game actually) to emulate. People complain all the time about the players in EA's NCAA Football doing stuff that isn't smart and isn't like real life. It's hard to program a CB to make a million different corrections on route awareness based on what he sees like the human brain does. Due to this limitation, we'll never get a 100% accurate sports game and most people need to tone down their expectations for CPU AI.
 
# 5 SHAKYR @ 11/16/12 06:35 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by BA2929
The intelligence of the human brain is the hardest for sports games (any game actually) to emulate. People complain all the time about the players in EA's NCAA Football doing stuff that isn't smart and isn't like real life. It's hard to program a CB to make a million different corrections on route awareness based on what he sees like the human brain does. Due to this limitation, we'll never get a 100% accurate sports game and most people need to tone down their expectations for CPU AI.
tendencies and abilities helps the AI come close to what the brain of an athlete can do. It's about what abilities and tendencies you give the athlete. OK, let's say you have a boxing game and you are playing against Muhammad Ali. Ali should jab you and move around. He should clinch you when you come in too close.
There are so many variations you can add to CPU AI. It's just that some developers think it might be a waste of time to add them.
 
# 6 rudyjuly2 @ 11/16/12 08:37 PM
RB Awareness - finding the right holes, knowing when to take it easy and when to accelerate hard, when to use special moves are all hard. I think QB Awareness - when to throw to the right receiver, when to lead the WR, when to gun it or put a soft touch on the ball, timing, etc. are all very hard. EA has really struggled in both areas this gen.
 
# 7 naot2010 @ 11/16/12 09:15 PM
Confidence is something that cannot be done accurately. A player could who could have all the talent in the world but get into a situation he is unfamiliar with and freeze up. Or if he is expecting a certain amount of minutes/touches he might not react to that well.
 
# 8 Chuckydjr @ 11/16/12 09:32 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by cmehustle
I say agility and acceleration. Or as it relates to bball games quickness. It seems that whoever makes these ratings takes the simple way out when it comes to this. For example a linebacker may have an 80 speed, 78 agility, and 79 quickness. For a lineman it may be 72, 68, 69. Rb 89, 88, 88. To me there is a huge difference between agility and speed. Most linebackers are pretty fast in straight line speed, and can run with backs and TE. Where RBs seperate is with agility. I think if people who made ratings took agility and acceleration more seriously it could completly change the gameplay in a realistic fashion.
they already added acceleration few maddens ago look it up the videos they was showing before that madden came out. there should be one showing acceleration vs speed. But i do understand where your coming from. They havent did anything on agility tho.
 
# 9 Chuckydjr @ 11/16/12 09:47 PM
They should add in special skill in madden to try to mimic what the players do in real life. It worked for NBA2k13 very well. For example running back mccoy on the eagles in most minds has the best agility in the game, so therefore you would add a special skill for that in madden. Thats why it works so well in nba2k13 because the cpu uses those special skills to play like the real nba players would play. I know they did something like that in the previous madden but they did not put much effort in it. Nothing seperates the stars from the others and thats a problem.
 
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# 11 cusefan74 @ 11/17/12 07:55 PM
Awareness in general. It can include HB awareness, QB awareness, passing awareness in basketball or any other game. You always see the AI doing really dumb things several times a game, no matter what game you play.
 
# 12 AC @ 11/18/12 01:02 PM
Probably game calling for catchers.
 
# 13 Grallis @ 11/20/12 10:15 AM
Offensive and Defensive awareness. The reason certain hockey players are so good is because they know *exactly* where to be and when. Everyone who watches or plays a sport has this knowledge and ability, but the elite athletes are by far the best, so how can a programmer emulate this *genius* level of ability?
 

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