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Interview with Jim Gindin

Gabe : You mentioned on your web site that you took a month to study the game of football. What were some of the key elements you learned about, and that you knew you wanted to implement in the game? Let's start off with the performance of the players, and then later touch on the financial aspects.

Jim : The first thing I did was to acquire a play-by-play description of every game played in professional football last season. I broke this list down by situation, play choice, running back/quarterback/receiver and direction of play. From there, I had a mean and standard deviation for every type of play, and every individual player. The ratings for offensive linemen and defensive players are based on weighted averages for every play run by opposing teams as compared to those overall means. In short, I threw out everything I thought I knew about football, and started from scratch to put together a system that does not depend on reputation. It's also guaranteed to generate controversy, so I have to be willing to back every number up with the analysis I did.

I wanted a simulation that generated overall numbers that closely matched what you see in professional football. The play-by-play breakdown was far more informative than simply collecting the year-end stats.

In Front Office Football, you're not going to exactly match, player-for-player, every professional game played. That wasn't my goal. My goal was to provide a world where the results are realistic, and you have a lot of control over the destiny of your team.

For the financial model, I looked online for any studies that were made about the viability of professional sports franchises. I found financial data about every metropolitan area in the country to generate base economic data for use with each team. And I read an excellent book, "Sports, Jobs and Taxes. The Economic Impact of Sports Teams" (Roger G. Noll and Andrew Zimbalist, Editors, written for the Brookings Institute). This provided me with a wealth of information about exactly what teams are looking for when they construct a new stadium (and what a bad deal it always is for the trusting public).

Gabe : There seem to be three groups of gamers when it comes to sport games: Those that love solely the arcade aspect of games; Those that love solely the sim aspect of games; and those that like a combination of both. What kind of audience are you trying to seek out here?

Jim : There's absolutely no arcade action in Front Office Football. I'm seeking an audience made up of the intersection between love of sports and love of numbers.

Gabe : How would you characterize the accuracy of those games that are largely dependent on the sim aspect, vs. the graphical aspect?

Jim : When you have a multi-million dollar budget, and you absolutely need to sell tens of thousands, if not hundreds of thousands, of copies of your game to break even, you can not ignore the action end of the game. These games must have state-of-the-art graphics above all else. And this takes a lot of time and energy. Unfortunately, the sim aspect of these games isn't developed as well. Some companies, like Sierra, have done very well at providing a bare-bones simulation. But by specializing on simulation above all else, the smaller companies such as Lance Haffner games have been able to simulate football in a much more entertaining fashion.

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