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Saturday, December 14, 2013

Managing your Depth Chart

Welcome to today's installment of tips.  In this entry, I will discuss setting up your depth chart, some tips about it, and how to keep the AI from resetting it.

Let's first take a look at the depth chart screen. On the top right you will se a bar that indicates how many players you have on your roster, and how many of those players are active vs. inactive. During the pre-season you are allowed to have up to 60 players under contract; once the pre-season is over, you must cut your roster to 53 max. This total includes all players you have under contract with the exception of any players you have on injured reserve. If you enter a game stage with more than the maximum roster, the AI will cut players to bring you down to the limit.

At any game stage, you must have at least 45 and no more than 46 players active. Again, if you have fewer than 45 players, active, the AI will take over and make sure you have enough players to field a team for that week. This may also reset your depth chart to balance out the active players. Note that when you sign a player, he will be added to your roster as an inactive player. If you cut a player, he actually won't be cut until the next sim - so he will remain in your depth chart, giving you the chance to change your mind. He will be automatically marked inactive, though, and you won't be able to activate him without canceling the scheduled cut.

Below the top bar is your roster. You can view your entire roster, or filter by a position group. The boxes display each player's name, their current rating at their position, and their experience. To assign a player to a position in the depth chart, drag him from the top section into the position below. The player on the top of a position is the first string, the second position is second string, and so forth.

The bottom section shows your offense, defense, and special teams depth charts. Again, the same information is displayed for each player. One difference, however, is the rating - in this section, the rating displayed is the rating that this player has at this position in his depth chart.

To remove a player from the depth chart, you can drag him back into the top section, or click on him to select him (a red box will display around him), and hit the "delete" key.

Let's talk just a bit more about the player boxes. If a player is inactive, his box will be shaded to indicate this. In the upper left corner is a plus or minus button; use this to activate or deactivate the player. The bar at the top of the page will update to reflect your current count. You can open the player card with the (i) button in the upper right corner. Note, also, in my example, that J Hyatt has a green triangle in the upper right corner. This indicates that he is on the injury list, and green means that he is probable. You can look at his player card to see exactly what his injury status is. You can deactivate a player here without having to remove him from the depth chart; the player below him will automatically be promoted into his spot. Once your player is healthy, you can re-activate him, and the depth chart will return to how it was.

During the game, it is possible that your depth chart may run out of players. For example, you may have two running backs in your depth chart. If your starting running back becomes injured, and then your second string running back becomes too fatigued to continue, the AI will automatically select the most appropriate player to fill the spot, using your player position weights. For more information about setting these weights, check out the entry on How To Evaluate your Players.

I wanted to mention here some ideas about managing your depth chart. The player's card will indicate where he is in your depth chart. I try to make sure all my players are in the depth chart - even if they are inactive - so that I can keep tabs on who is improving and might need to be moved up, or who I might cut. I will also do my pre-season cuts using the depth chart screen, which helps me see each player relative to the other players in his position more easily. During the draft, I will usually plug my player into the depth chart immediately upon drafting him. This helps me quickly see how he stands up against the current roster. And, if I find that a player has a better future rating at another position that I am in need of, I will put him into that spot and then go into his page and change his position so that he will grow in that position appropriately. Between each game, I use the depth chart screen to evaluate my team's injuries, and quickly deactivate players that are too injured to play, and see if I need to plug in some other players in the depth chart beneath them. Technically, you could deactivate all the players in a given position, and the AI will not adjust your depth chart - it will just choose the best player available during the game. I don't like giving up that control, however, so I'll usually make sure that I have an appropriate number of active players at each position.

Monday, November 25, 2013

First Class Coach Management

Welcome to the latest installment of the tutorials!  Today we're going to discuss your coaching staff.  What do coaches do in MyFootballNow?  What should you look for?  And how do you best pursue them?

On your team's home page, you will see your coaching staff listed in the right column.  Notice that you have a head coach, offensive coordinator, defensive coordinator, and 9 position coaches.  Each coach will display his rating for his given position.  The higher the rating, the more desirable the coach will be for his position.

Let's discuss the coach ratings.  Each coach has a value for each attribute that your players have.  Unlike players, your coach's attributes have a single number - no current/future split exists.  Like players, those numbers will move throughout a coach's career.  When coaches are introduced into the system, they will tend to average near 50 at all the attributes; as a coach ages, he will diverge from those values.  In the same way that players boom and bust, some coaches will increase, others will decrease and most will hover around their original values.
When you open a coach's card and look at his ratings, you will see some ratings in blue and some in red.  The red ratings are the ratings that are applicable to his current position; a head coach will have all red ratings, while your kickers coach will only have ratings relative to kicking.

During training camp and each game stage, your players will improve in their attributes.  This is tied directly to their coaching staff hierarchy above them.  The influence of his position coach is 20%, his coordinator's influence is 30%, and his head coach's influence is 50%. Kickers have a 50/50 split between head coach and kicker's coach. The more influence a player has from his coaching staff, the faster his current value will approach his future value.

Your head coach has one other very important part to play - he brings your playbook to your team.  Each coach has an offensive style and defensive style.  When searching for a replacement head coach, you will want to consider his coaching style and whether you want to bring that playbook into your team. By hiring a new coach with the same coaching style as your existing one, you will retain the advantage of your players knowing the playbook.  On the other hand, if you don't like your head coach's style, you can replace him and let your team learn the new playbook.

So, that's what coaches do in a nutshell; not terribly complicated. How do you go about managing your coach's contracts?  Since there is no salary cap for coaches, your funds for your coaches will come from your team's available cash flow, which is influenced by your previous season's attendance.  To further aid you in managing your coaching staff, you will always be able to extend your existing coach's contracts at the salary they currently receive.  But you may not want to keep the coaching staff you have, which means you will need to search for and hire coaches.

The coach search screen gives you the ability to search for coaches with several filters.  If you choose an attribute or position score, you will see that value in the search results.  If you choose a coaching style or team, you will only see coaches that match those options.

Coaches can be hired at any time that you can sign a player.  If you hire a coach in place of an existing coach, the existing coach will be fired. You cannot enter a game stage without a full coaching staff - if you don't have a full coaching staff, the game engine will hire a coaching staff for you.  There is no penalty for firing a coach like there is if you cut a player.  And, you can promote your own coaches within your ranks at any time.

During early free agency, you can also hire coaches that are employed by other teams as long as you offer that coach a promotion.  So, you can hire a position coach into a coordinator or head coach, or your can hire a coordinator from another team as your head coach.  As long as you keep your head coach under contract, no one can hire him from you, but your other coaches are all fair game during this time.  Once the draft starts, you can only hire coaches who are unemployed.

When you offer a coach a contract, you will open up the contract calculator screen.  You can choose the coach's first year salary, the position you are signing him for, and the number of years his contract will be.  At the top you will see your cash flow.  The green bar indicates how much of your cash flow is used, the blue bar indicates how much is pending, including the contract you are currently working on. Unlike players, you cannot make offers that will exceed your cash flow.  At the very bottom you can see each coach position and what the average salary for those positions are.  If you're not in a potential bidding war with other teams, there is no reason to pay more for your coach than the minimum salary.  Note, however, that while players may take a few stages to decide who they will sign with, a coach will always sign for the best offer at his first opportunity.

If a coach is currently employed, he will not sign for less than he is currently making.  This includes coaches on your staff.  To extend or promote a coach, you must at least offer him his current salary.

Lastly, I want to point out a few things on the coach's page.  First, if you want to see a coach's trending, like the players you can view his progress chart.  Another neat feature is the history of the coach - in the right column (and in the coach's card, for that matter) you can see the entire career of the coach - where he coached in what years and his record while he was there.

Thanks for reading this installment of tutorials!  As always, let me know if this has been helpful, if you have any questions, or if there is a topic you'd like to see discussed.  If you haven't yet joined a team, come on over!  We'll see you at MyFootballNow!

Monday, November 11, 2013

How to deal with player injuries

Injuries are a part of life when you play football.  In MyFootballNow, you won't be playing for long before you have to deal with injuries on your team.  This entry will detail some information on how those injuries occur, what they mean for your team, and how best to handle injured players.

The first place you might notice a player injury is on your team roster page.  There is a column that shows each player's health status.  This can range from Healthy to Probable to Questionable to Doubtful to Out.  Players that are "Out" are unable to play; if you leave them in your depth chart, they will not take the field.  All other statuses are able to play.

Injuries are calculated in the game engine on nearly every event that could cause an injury. Each event will have a base level chance for injury, and there are few factors that will increase the probability that a player will be injured.  The factors that increase the injury probability are:

  • Conditioning: The lower the conditioning bar, the more likely a player will be injured.  This is kind of a catch-22, because in order to get the conditioning bar high, your player must play in the games.  During the pre-season, you will want to play your starters enough to get their conditioning bar up without too much of an injury risk.  The option of when to pull your starters in pre-season is in the miscellaneous game plan options.
  • Age: As players age, they are going to be more likely to be injured.  So don't be surprised when your older veterans tend to have more injuries than the younger players.
  • Current Injury Status: If a player is already nursing an injury, he has a higher likelihood of incurring another injury.  A player with a Probable injury status is far less likely to suffer an additional injury than a player with Doubtful injury status.
  • Fatigue: The more fatigued a player is, the more likely he is going to suffer an injury. This plays hand-in-hand with the conditioning attribute, because a player with low conditioning will fatigue faster and recover more slowly.  You can define how fatigued you will allow your players to become and still remain on the field in your miscellaneous game plan options.
Once an injury occurs, the player will have to leave the field for at least one play.  If his injury is serious enough, he will not return to the game.

To find out more about a player's injury, open his player card by clicking on his name and then choose the "Health" tab.  You will see the condition of the areas of his body, where 100 is fully healthy.

These values will affect appropriate attributes while this player is on the field.  Leg injuries, for example, will cause the player to run more slowly, while hand injuries will make it harder for the player to catch or otherwise hold on to the ball.

In this example, you see that Roger Wood is marked as having a neck injury with a 4-week recovery time.  Looking at his health bars, you see that he actually also has a leg injury.  The injury status display shows the worst injury that the player has.  Notice that his leg health is 69 but his neck health is only 48.  The 4-week timeline is the expected time for this player to return to 100% - that means all his health bars should get to 100 in about 4 weeks if he doesn't suffer any more injuries.  I will also point out that the factor used to determine the injury probability during the game is not cumulative; in this example, Roger Wood's leg injury has no effect on his probability for incurring an additional injury, only his neck injury is used in the calculation.  (Unless his leg gets further injured during the game and it drops below 48, making it the more severe of the two)

You can play a player as long as his injury status is not "Out."  The status is designed to be a bit of a guide to help you decide whether to deactivate the player and let him recover, or go ahead and play him.  If a player is "Probable," his injury status is probably not going to significantly decrease his skills or have a large impact on his re-injury probability.  Unless you really don't need the player in the lineup, you will probably be ok playing a player with probable status.  Questionable is a little bit more severe, and you should exercise caution when activating a player with questionable injury status.  The very term "questionable" implies that you need to evaluate the risk of playing him.  "Doubtful" players probably shouldn't be played - unless you decide that playing him is worth the risk of additional injury.

On the depth chart page, each player's injury status is represented by a small triangle in the upper right corner.  The scale goes from green to red, with green indicating that the player is probable, to red indicating that the player is out.  You can quickly look over your team's depth chart and deactivate players that you feel are too injured to play without having to remove them from your depth chart.  If you want to see more details about the player's injury, click on the (i) button to open the player's card.

If a player's status is "Out," that means that his injury is serious.  If you have a player with an "out" injury status and his recovery timeline looks like it will be most or all of the season, you can place the player on injured reserve.  Next to his injury status on the player card is a button to do this.  Once you place a player on injured reserve, he cannot be activated for the remainder of the season.  His roster spot will open up, and you can sign an additional player to fill that roster spot.  His salary, however, will continue to count against your salary cap.  You will only want to place a player on injured reserve as a last resort; most players will return to Questionable and Probable status well before the indicated time line for returning to 100%.

Friday, November 8, 2013

How to evaluate your players

MyFootballNow is an exciting online game that gives you the opportunity to build a virtual professional football team, developing it from year to year in the pursuit of the league championship. It is essentially a "franchise mode" football game, where you control all aspects of your team. The main difference between MyFootballNow and an arcade style game like Madden is that the games themselves are simulated without interaction. In MyFootballNow, you set up rules that your coaches will use to call plays during the game, and then you can watch the game in real time.

So, there are two significant things to do as you play the game: game planning, and roster management. In this installment, I'm going to talk a little bit about player management, and how to best evaluate your players as you build your roster.

Once you take over a team, you can view your existing roster on your team page.  (Click on your team pretty much anywhere it's mentioned on the site and you will be taken to your team page).  The default view shows your player details, which is sorted by position.  Each position has a color to help identify it - this is not really so you know that the slightly-greenish-yellow color means WR, but really just to help your eye discern the different positions represented on your team.

The "Edit Filter" button on the upper right will allow you to see different columns on your roster.  Most of the time, there is one other view - your contract view - that you will want to look at as you made decisions regarding contracts.  We'll get into how to evaluate your player's contracts and stay under the salary cap in another entry; for now, we're going to talk about how to decide what to do to improve your roster.

Under the "My Team" menu item there is an option called "Position Distribution."  This shows you how many players you have on your team at each position, how many of those players are active, what the suggested count for that position is, how many contract offers you have for a player at that position, and how many players you have at that position that will be cut at the next sim.  You will want to check this as you work on your roster to make sure you have a well-rounded roster.

You can have up to 53 players on your roster during the regular season (60 players during the pre-season).  You will want to make sure that you stay under this limit, because if you don't, the game engine will automatically release players for you, which you probably don't want.  You also have to have a minimum of 45 players on your roster, if you don't then the game engine will sign players for you - which may mean cutting players if necessary to get your salary cap into a position where 45 players can be signed.

When you click on a player's name, his player card will be displayed.  Here you will see bars for his attributes.  Each player is assigned a total of 40 attributes, but only a handful are shown on the player card.  To see all of the player's attributes, click on the "View" button to see his full page.  On the right column is an option to see his ratings - this shows all the player's attributes.

On younger players, you will see a red bar followed by a blue bar.  Above, you might see two numbers such as 45/70.  This means that, at the current time, this player's skill at this attribute is 45, but he is expected to develop to 70.  We reference this as his "Current" value and his "Future" value.

It is important to note that a player's future value is not set in stone.  In fact, you will find that there will be some players whose future value drops steadily until his current value catches up to it.  You will also find that there will be some players whose future value increases steadily, until the current value finally catches up to it.  All players' future values will change over time until they have "maxed out" with their ratings.  On average, the future value will be a good indicator of where they will land.

On the player page, there is a tab labeled "Progress."  Here you can see the entire history of the player's composite attribute values.  The red line indicates his future value at the time, and the blue line indicates his current value at the time.  Notice in the example image here that this player had a significant jump in his current value during each of his two training camps, but his future value has been steadily declining.  You will probably see similar activity with the current values of all players, but the future activity could be very volatile.  When evaluating free agents and potential trades with players that have not yet reached their potential, it is a good idea to look at a player's progress chart to see the direction he appears to be headed.  Of course, just because a player's future value drops in his first year doesn't mean that it will continue to drop, but it's a good indication that it might.

So how is the composite rating calculated, and how are the attributes chosen that display on the player card?  When you first join a league, these values are determined by your head coach.  Each coach has an offensive and defensive coaching style, which primarily determines your team's playbook.  We'll get into more detail about coaches in a future entry, but for now I'll just mention that different coaches will evaluate players slightly differently.  For example, a "Smash Mouth" coach will not be as concerned about the quarterback's passing skills as a "West Coast Offense" coach.  The good news is that you can change these values and evaluate all players using whatever criteria you choose.

Under the "My Team" menu is an option called "Edit Player Attribute Weights."  When you choose this, you will be presented with an interface to assign the weight of each available attribute to each position.  The composite rating for players will be calculated using the values you have selected here.  This gives you complete control over determining what the current and future values mean for each player in the league.  You can also save your settings and load them in any other league, or go back and forth between various groups of settings.

Any attribute that you have a non-zero value will be displayed on the player card.  So, if you want to see your quarterback's kick holding attribute, but don't want it to have an impact on his composite value, set his kick holding attribute to a small value.  If the game engine is forced to make roster moves on your behalf, it will use your player attribute weights to make decisions.

Your players' attributes improve independently during training camp and each game stage.  If an attribute as applicable to his assigned position, he will improve at that attribute until it reaches the future value.  If an attribute is not applicable to his assigned position, he will lose skill in that attribute, both in his current and future values.  It is important to note that you do not have control over what attributes are applicable to each position for this calculation - editing the player attribute weights only effects how the composite rating is displayed to you.

If you have a need at a position, you can find available players through the player search screen.  Choose the position you need to fill, and choose "Free Agents" for the team.  You will be presented a result set that shows all players in the league that are available free agents, and what their rating at the requested position is.  You can then make an offer to the best player, even if he is not currently assigned to the position you need him at.  You can then change his position once he is on your team, and you already know how his ratings will be.  Note that the composite ratings do not take into consideration the player's weight - so be wary of the 140 pound kicker that scores well as an offensive lineman.

Once a player is on your roster, you will see on his player page a "Change Position/Number" button.  Opening this dialog will give you the opportunity to change the player's position.  You will be presented with the composite rating for each position.  As mentioned above, the player will improve best if you assign him to the position you intend to play him at.

I hope this has been a helpful view at player evaluation in MyFootballNow.  If you have any topics you'd like to see discussed in this blog, please feel free to drop me a line here or over in the forums at the game.