How did it all start?
A little background on my game, On-Deck Baseball.
This has been a passion project of mine for almost 20 years. When I was a kid I started out in the tabletop baseball world just like most others, playing Strat-O-Matic. But I found myself veering away from the normal replay simulations. I was never a fan of trying to replicate seasons that already happened, I also hated it when I would be playing with a team whose real life counterpart just traded away their star player, because of contract issues or something else that I had no control over, but I just lost my best player. To get past that, first I started bringing all of the players into one huge player pool and drafting new teams with those players, but then it evolved into creating my own players using a simplified version of Strat-O-Matic that my friends and I could play.
Eventually I found myself wondering, if I could make a game, could I do it in such a manner that it would appeal both to my need for a good baseball simulation but also allow me to create a base of players that were not tied to reality, a fictional universe.
I began first by creating some basic baseball game mechanics, trying to emulate the real flow of the game but also not over complicating the systems so that it was not tedious to play. I also always hated having thousands of charts to reference to complete the most basic of plays, so it became a goal of mine to try and have everything necessary to play the game on the backs of the player cards themselves.
Next I started using spreadsheet on excel to break down all the different basic percentages used in the game, we didn’t have the great variety of analytics back then, so I utilized the standards of the day, batting average, on-base percentage and Slugging percentage. I also wanted my game to be represented differently from most games but still use the basic function of dice rolling, so my first goal was to figure out what type of die system would work best. After a long process of both testing and elimination, I realized that the best way to display a players true potential was through the use of the power of 10. Percentages are all based off of 10s therefore it made the most sense to use the D10 die (a 10 sided die) so a person can truly see a representation of the percentages as possible outcomes. The next step would be to come up with a way to display these possible outcomes. Something that is unique to my game is not the way these results are accomplished but instead in the way that they are represented. Most tabletop baseball games function the same, results are based on the success rates of individual players, represented on a card based on those rates, it’s the manner at which I represent those success rates that I feel lend to an easier flow when playing the game. Incorporating the use of a rolling matrix, result are obtained by cross reference the rolls of 2 different die, in this case a red and blue die. Starting with the matrix, the flow of the game follows a typical baseball style of play. For example the pitcher faces off against the batter, the batter hits a groundball, that groundball goes to the shortstop, the shortstop throws the ball to the first baseman, and the batter is out. In my game that process is displayed easily and functionally lends to a comfortable and familiar flow of the game.
Having figured out the mechanics I then set out to build an alternative to the standard baseball world we see, not necessarily better, just different. A fictional baseball universe, from the teams down to the players. But once that world is created what happens after that first season of play, do you start another season with the same cards representing the same players? What about the evolution of that player? How did that player evolve from the past year to the current one, what attributed to that players growth or for that matter his decline?
I started to build out careers for each player, based on personality traits assigned to each player. Allowing for some variety in the player base, not all players would start out at the same age for “Season 1”. For about a year I would go on evaluating players, building players’ careers and cards that would represent each player at each of the stages of his development.
Having amassed over 200 players a buddy and I were able to build a league that consisted of 2 divisions with 4 teams each, a total of 8 teams. We built a schedule based on 100 games and started to test out the game. Mechanics were fine-tuned as we went along and without too much tweaking, the first season was a roaring success.
Bringing this game to market was nothing more than an afterthought, but having purely developed this game for my own entertainment creatively worked out the best. Everything was developed to make the game real for us, we were captivated by world the game created by itself. We grew attached to our players, we looked forward to seeing them develop from one year to the next and most importantly we grew attached to our franchise and did everything, including selling the farm to try and win a championship. All aspects of what would occur in a real world situation began to take shape in our universe, the best part was that our universe wasn’t tied to or dependent on anything but our world. Our players developed independently free of any real world counterparts. Free agency reflected their desires, loyalty and greed, similar to real world players but in their own way.
The last step was finding a name. While there are so many terms and situations to pick from in the game of baseball, finding a name that matches your vision for your game can prove pretty difficult. There have been thousands of games that pre-date this game, so something original and unique isn’t easy to find. I wanted the name of the game to reflect the feeling of being in the game, in the world. Watching the game un-fold, but as an active participant.