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Tuesday, February 18, 2014


I've received a lot of questions about how scouting works. The real-world analogy is that the plays you scout are the plays that your team practices against during the week. To understand how the game engine simulates this, we need to go into a bit more depth about a player's familiarity with a play and what that does in the engine.

Play Familiarity

Each player in the league has a setting for how familiar he is with every play that exists in the game. If you go to a player's page, under the "Off Plays" and "Def Plays" you will see his familiarity with each play in your playbook. The size of the red bar indicates how familiar he is with each play.

There are several events that increase a player's familiarity with each play. The most significant happens during the Training Camp stage. It is in this stage that each player on your team increases in his familiarity with each play in your head coach's playbook - the offensive players learn the offensive plays, and the defensive players learn the defensive plays. During the season, as you install plays into your game plan, the players will increase in their familiarity with those plays. Then, throughout the course of a game, each player grows in familiarity with each play  that occurs while they are on the field.

So, what impact does play familiarity have on the play? As the game engine sims each play, the players are all autonomous user agents that make decisions independently of each other. Most of the rules that govern this logic are tied to their attribute values. Attributes are reduced by fatigue and injury, but not by play familiarity. Being more familiar with a play does not make you stronger or faster. What familiarity does influence is reaction time and decision making.

A very obvious example of this is a quarterback's familiarity with a defensive play. Let's take as an example the defense is blitzing the cornerback, with the deep safety taking the coverage of the outside receiver. As the quarterback's familiarity with the defensive play and his own offensive play increases, the probability increases that he will audible to a hot read which often will result in a large gain as the safety doesn't have time to get to the receiver that the blitzing cornerback has abandoned.

Another example of the impact of familiarity is a player's reaction time to an event. For example, a defense that is highly familiar with a particular outside run will close on the hole faster than a defense that is less familiar with the same play. This is taken on a per-player basis - so if you have a young, inexperienced linebacker playing next to a wily veteran, the veteran will have a faster reaction time than the rookie.

In addition to the play familiarity, a player's positional experience, crowd noise, and fatigue are taken into the equation.

So, about scouting

Now back to the scouting page. Under your game planning screens, you have a tab for scouting the offense and scouting the defense of your upcoming opponent. While your offensive and defensive game plan screens show your head coach's playbook, the scouting screens show your opponent's playbook, as well as information about how often your opponent uses each play and how successful they have been. The list is sorted by the plays that your upcoming opponent has used most over the current and previous seasons, as well as an indicator of the composite familiarity of your team. Here, offensive plays show your defense's composite familiarity, and defensive plays show your offense's composite familiarity. You can choose up to five offensive and defensive plays to scout. If you load your coach's recommended game plan for scouting, he will select the 5 most used offensive and defensive plays for your opponent.

This is where there is a little cat and mouse game, because in order to gain a good familiarity with your own playbook you need to use the plays in games. But, the more you use certain plays in your playbook, the more likely your opponent will scout those plays.

I usually will scout the top 5 plays for my opponent unless my team is highly familiar with the play, in which case I might choose one further down the list. You might also try to include a play that you struggle against and have poor familiarity - as long as the play is in your upcoming opponent's playbook.

One more word on plays

I'll conclude this topic with a comment that is loosely linked to scouting, and that's pointing out the play card. On the game log and on the game planning pages, you can open a card that displays information about the play.

As you can see in the example here, it details information about the play - the formation, play type, your team's composite familiarity, how often you have used the play in various situations and how successful the play has been in those situations. There is also a tab for a large diagram, as well as a list of each position in the formation and their assignment. As it says in the fine print, the times used and the success values reflect how your team has performed using this play in the current and previous regular season.

Successful scouting can have a positive impact on your team's performance, so don't neglect coming in and setting up your scout plan before each game.

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