Home
Feature Article
Defining Sim Gaming
The definition of the word Simulation is “Representation of the operation or features of one process or system through the use of another.”

Well that seems simple enough, right? Ah, but we all know that in the world of sports video game simulation, nothing is ever that simple. Sure, the word simulation is bantered about with carelessness and used by developers in a large percentage of game descriptions released for public consumption, but we really need to ask ourselves again, what does simulation mean to us as individuals?

From the genesis of the Playstation 2 and Xbox, the word simulation has been used to describe a multitude of games in every genre. In the sports genre these are just a few of the simulation claiming taglines used by developers in advertising their respective game(s): “The real driving simulator” or “So real, it’s unreal” and of course “If it’s in the game, it’s in the game.” Companies use these lines to draw people in to play their game with hopes that their title will replicate what we see on TV or in person, and in most cases the games do look like what we see, but rarely come close to playing exactly like what see, and that probably is not as bad as one might think.
 

How 'sim' is sim really?
 
The age old question is and always will be, “How much simulation is too much simulation?” How close do gamers really want their favorite sports title to actually replicate that of what they see? Of course, we all want correct rosters with player likenesses as close to possible, and uniforms and stadiums to be exactly what our favorite teams play in, both in uniform and location. But what about gameplay?

Take for instance, the Grand Turismo series claims to be a true driving simulator, not a racing one. Despite the series receiving critical acclaim from both media and gamers, and doing very well in the retail market, there is still a contingency of gamers that do not care for it all. The reason? It’s boring. Some claim that the game is “sterile” and basically just a “car collecting game”, while others have stated that it caters to only the hardcore crowd and hasn’t moved with the times. There are others though who claim that there isn’t another game out there in the racing genre that can come close to competing with Grand Turismo, and state it’s a great racer and simulator. It just depends on the game and the individual, and this is the hardest thing for developers to do -- walk the fine the line of trying to please the masses and be as true to the sport as possible.

Another title that has drawn some angst from the gaming world is the award winning baseball title from Sony, MLB The Show. A title that offers some amazing gameplay, distinct and realistic graphics, and a very deep franchise mode that allows the inner GM in all of us to come out. The problem with this title according to some, is that it is very difficult to just pick up and play, and you have to have to a great eye, great reflexes, and a working knowledge of most of the rules in baseball to fully appreciate and understand the depth and realism that this title actually offers. Sony itself recognized some of the backlash from the last couple of years, and implemented a Beginner Mode that allows gamers to slowly become comfortable on a lower difficulty.
 

Some games struggle with a diffuclty setting that allows accessibility vs. realism.
 
Although this was probably a wise move, if you follow online forums, you will find people who claim it either wasn’t needed, and the people just need to take the time to learn it, or don’t bother playing it. Hardcore gamers hate to see their simulation based games dumbed down to suit the fringe crowd, but the truth is, developers feel they have to take this approach.

We see this struggle also with the ever popular NBA series from 2K Sports. 2K developers pride themselves on pushing the boundaries and blurring the line between real life and video game, but how much is too much? This year’s version offered a wide-array of moves that try to give the user a chance to create the same move-sets that they see in a real NBA game, and while some users absolutely love it, others just disregard it because of the difficulty level. A lot of those same users claim that the game gives an unfair advantage to the ones who have the time and skill to learn all the moves.
 
The amount of options can be inundating at times, and does require the time and patience to learn them, but 2K has provided an in-depth training program to help users become familiar with the move-set. One of the problems that gamers have here though, is that there is no other option, which is whole different topic on its own.

The Tiger Woods golf series is another title that endures the annual struggle of trying to make their game as realistic as possible, yet still fun enough for fringe fans. Golf, as a sport, is extremely difficult and frustrating even on a good day, and any developer worth their weight is not going to want to create a title that truly recreates that frustration. This year the development team implemented a new swing mechanic that raised the difficulty closer to what simulation golf fans wanted. While the game is fun, if you wander into most Tiger Woods forums you will see both appreciation and frustration spilling out over the new mechanics. The one thing they did get correct was give the gamer the option to play online and use the old swing mechanic. While this may seem like such a simple thing to do, many developers choose to go one way or the other, and there is no quicker and easier way to alienate a segment of a fan-base, than by doing just that.

As much as the hardcore sports gamer wants to believe that they represent the majority of people who play sports titles, they do not. And it’s not even close. Major developers and publishers have struggled in the past, and will do so in the future with walking that line of fun and realism we spoke of earlier. Their number one priority is to sell units, and in order to do that, you have to appeal to the masses, not just a select group. The good news is this, certain developers are starting to find a ways to do just that all on the same disc. They are learning how to make the game accessible to all, and still approach the simulation level by simply changing the difficulties within the game. It seems like this would have been the answer all along, but not many games in the past or present have been able to achieve this on a completely successful level.
 

A fun, accessible, but also realistic game, possible?
 
Is it realistic to think that developers can create a sports title that is fun for everyone and still fall under the simulation moniker? Of course it is. It takes the right group of developers, management team and resources. Our hope is that the new generation of consoles will allow the developer more time to fine tune the details of the game and less time struggling to create the game within the given architecture.

We can all agree that realism in our sports games is great, but if we are completely honest, we only want enough realism and simulation style play to where it is still fun to play. Developers are not developing a game for you, myself or any other individual, and we as gamers need to stop thinking like that. As far as developers go, they could alleviate a lot of the headache by simply implementing a better slider system that has a true effect on the game itself, and that should truly help with pleasing the masses. Developers and fans of true simulation can coincide in the world of video games, heck they can even thrive together. There just needs to be better understanding of each other, and a little more flexibility on both sides.

Member Comments
# 1 Reed1417 @ 05/29/13 11:02 AM
Great article man. As someone who now likes a realistic experience and having friends who are more casual sports gamers I do think we can find a balance between the two.
 
# 2 chi_hawks @ 05/29/13 11:31 AM
That was a great read! I think the biggest thing holding back games from being "true sim", if you will, is the AI logic on tougher difficulties. Take NCAA Football. As you bump up the difficulty, the computer is given boosts to physical attributes, which creates an un-even playing field. Yep - its definitely tougher, and if thats all your looking for, your set. But some of us would like to see the computer improve its tackling angles on tougher levels. Mix up play calling, disguise blitzes more, audible based upon our defenses, etc.... Those things would mirror what you see in real life. Simply allowing a 300lb DT to chase down my RB actually does the opposite as it clearly reminds me I'm playing a silly game.
 
# 3 Tsuki @ 05/29/13 12:07 PM
Options are the answer.

Make them game play casual out the box, but give us simheads the tools we need to make the game play simulation. Full explanation on sliders, player & team editing, Coaching profiles just to name a few.
 
# 4 btow3 @ 05/29/13 12:22 PM
I liked how the wii had controls for people who don't normally play videogames in Madden and NBA Live. Where the beginners controls were semi auto. It would be cool to have my dad play against or along side me in NBA 2K14. If we have beginner to pro controls in NBA 2K games that would be nice. And I wouldn't mind the beginner mode controls be semi automated just as long as the normal(or pro) controls stay manual.
That's a good idea Auto and Manual controls.
 
# 5 btow3 @ 05/29/13 12:24 PM
I mean that's a good way to put it Auto Vs. Manual controls
 
# 6 daflyboys @ 05/29/13 12:42 PM
I pretty much defined it as that no matter what sports game you're playing, that when you come away from the game, whether you played the computer or another human, it seemed like you were in an experience close to what you've experienced (either directly or visually) in the real world and that, win or lose, you left the game satisfied with the outcome.
 
# 7 sparkdawg777 @ 05/29/13 12:59 PM
As far as football goes I agree that the gameplay needs to be improved as said above. I also think the game needs to teach more. For example there is no regard for gap responsibility which is the most important defensive assignments in real life. I think they have done a better job with the coverages but many teams don't use a basic cover your zone area anymore, now it is zone with a man-man concept. For example in real life Cover 2 can cover 4 verts if the corners read it right, reading receivers inside out (3, 2, 1). If they all go deep you cover #1 WR. Cover 4 or cover 7 is probably the best coverage in football if taught correctly. Unfortunately it is the worst coverage in the game, except deep but in RL it can cover nearly every combonation of pass patterns. I coach football and have studied many playbooks and defensive schemes.

I love playing football video games for fun but I think it would be great to be used as a teaching tool for younger players. Right now I think offense is doing a pretty good job with the option read and teaching how to execute it. Right now I think the defensive side is being over looked. My main concern is gap responsibility.
 
# 8 eaterofworlds888 @ 05/29/13 01:22 PM
I definitely like my realism in my basketball games. However, in other sports titles I'm more of an arcade guy. Overall though I'm probably more a fan of realism.
 
# 9 SHAKYR @ 05/29/13 01:32 PM
Sim is what it is. What you see live or on TV. When game producers make hybrid(arcade and Sim) games they lose fans. The hardcore and sim fans want a realistic experience. The casual fans do not care.
Let's say you were playing a boxing game and you love boxing, but Tyson had footwork like Ali and endurance like a marathon runner you be upset because it is inaccurate.
 
# 10 briz1046 @ 05/29/13 01:40 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tsuki
Options are the answer.

Make them game play casual out the box, but give us simheads the tools we need to make the game play simulation. Full explanation on sliders, player & team editing, Coaching profiles just to name a few.
The truth!
Fully functional sliders , well explained as to which ratings they effect combined with the full gamut of ratings to be explained is the way to go forward
 
# 11 Optik @ 05/29/13 01:41 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by eaterofworlds888
I definitely like my realism in my basketball games. However, in other sports titles I'm more of an arcade guy. Overall though I'm probably more a fan of realism.
Quote:
This year’s version offered a wide-array of moves that try to give the user a chance to create the same move-sets that they see in a real NBA game, and while some users absolutely love it, others just disregard it because of the difficulty level. A lot of those same users claim that the game gives an unfair advantage to the ones who have the time and skill to learn all the moves.
This is irrelevant though. You don't need to use the dribble moves to succeed online. You can just pick the Heat and turbo with LeBron in a straight line through the defense and straight to the basket. The defense is so behind the offense, most of these offensive moves will never be used, and top of that running plays is unnecessary as well.
 
# 12 Luke466 @ 05/29/13 05:11 PM
"Their number one priority is to sell units, and in order to do that, you have to appeal to the masses, not just a select group"

EA Sports NHL series on-line play and by some accounts, MLB: The Show on-line play.
Artificial assistance to lesser players. Not fair to anyone playing the game
 
# 13 tarek @ 05/29/13 11:31 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishwhiskey119
Start with a sim and then build around it.

Take Out of the Park baseball then add the show gameplay.

Take TEW 13 Wrestling simulator then add WWE/Fire pro whichever type gameplay..

Take OOTP's Boxing sim and then add gameplay.

Create a massive world of data then add your technology and people will be happy.

The show + OOTP baseball would make everyone cream their undies.
Irishwhiskey, your comment alone made me cream my undies. OOTP + The show, oh my.
 
# 14 SHAKYR @ 05/30/13 01:07 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishwhiskey119
Start with a sim and then build around it.

Take Out of the Park baseball then add the show gameplay.

Take TEW 13 Wrestling simulator then add WWE/Fire pro whichever type gameplay..

Take OOTP's Boxing sim and then add gameplay.

Create a massive world of data then add your technology and people will be happy.

The show + OOTP baseball would make everyone cream their undies.
I know I would be extremely happy!
 
# 15 ajaxab @ 05/30/13 10:49 AM
The key sentence in this article is the very first one. What system(s) is the sports game representing? I would suggest that the system being represented is not really sports, but television sports. The sports video games we have now are generally simulating the mediation of sport and not sport itself. If they were simulating sport, there would be no talk of camera angles, announcers and presentation. Certainly, aspects of sport are being simulated, but we are still far too connected to televised sport in these simulations.

Until we get to a much more realistic version of Virtual Reality complete with first person interactions with other athletes on the field/ice/pitch, I'm not sure we can truly talk about the simulation of sport. Our video games are still a bit too connected to ESPN, CBS, NBC and ABC.
 
# 16 FBeaule04 @ 05/30/13 03:22 PM
The biggest problems is on 2 side for me when it comes down to True Simming. There's obviously the fact that the programmers have a lot of problems covering all the things we see in the real world and implement it on the field of play.

The other thing falls on us, gamers. We don't accept what we call "aberation". We play a game, and we expect a great show, tons of spectacular plays and highlights. In the real world, what we do with the 6-3 game between the Bills and the Jags? What we do with the 2-1 game that was boring as hell between the A's and Mariners? Does the game of hockey offers jaw-dropping action every night? That wasn't the case this year and never was, there was the 1-0 Nashville-Phoenix game that would have make Beer Leagues games look spectacular.

We're asking more and more from companies and they seems to only think about getting new people to buy the game. Is it possible to make a nice simulation in a sports game while attracting more casual gamers to play it? Looking at what we have overall now, I would say no. Mainly because all the new goodies and modes that are thrown in games are time not invested in fine tuning the simulation part of these games.
 
# 17 stillfeelme @ 05/30/13 07:20 PM
This is a good article. The game developers need to put in realism and tuners sliders to customize the realism. You can't just put the sliders in it and not explain how to adjust to realism. I think most games need a true casual setting and a true simulation setting.
 
# 18 SHAKYR @ 05/30/13 08:39 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by FBeaule04
The biggest problems is on 2 side for me when it comes down to True Simming. There's obviously the fact that the programmers have a lot of problems covering all the things we see in the real world and implement it on the field of play.

The other thing falls on us, gamers. We don't accept what we call "aberation". We play a game, and we expect a great show, tons of spectacular plays and highlights. In the real world, what we do with the 6-3 game between the Bills and the Jags? What we do with the 2-1 game that was boring as hell between the A's and Mariners? Does the game of hockey offers jaw-dropping action every night? That wasn't the case this year and never was, there was the 1-0 Nashville-Phoenix game that would have make Beer Leagues games look spectacular.

We're asking more and more from companies and they seems to only think about getting new people to buy the game. Is it possible to make a nice simulation in a sports game while attracting more casual gamers to play it? Looking at what we have overall now, I would say no. Mainly because all the new goodies and modes that are thrown in games are time not invested in fine tuning the simulation part of these games.
This isn't true at all. I have personally dealt with some producers. Many of them are trying to find a sweet spot to please the sim minded fans and the casual fans. This hybrid gaming concept is what's turning many gamers away.
The companies need to give sim fans a chance before they say what sells and doesn't. MLB: The Show and NBA 2K sell well. I want text-sim depth on a sports game.
 

Post A Comment
Only OS members can post comments
Please login or register to post a comment.