Interactive Armchair Quarterbacking

Gregory Alan Bolcer (
Sat, 22 Nov 1997 09:33:56 -0800

...or how I stopped worrying and learned to love
a good Hail Mary bomb.

...or why they shouldn't make games like Riven anymore.

What the heck, it's a slow day on FoRK, thought I'd repost
this for the common consumption.

I recently acquired a new game for my Nintendo 64. For those of you who
haven't heard me talk about it before,
Nintendo ( and SGI (Silicon Graphics
teamed up and put a $15k unix
workstation with state of the art 64-bit graphics into a $129 gaming
console. This machine very interesting with
such add-ons as a 'Rumble Pak' to feel the action, capture cartridge to
capture screen shots and movies of your
favorite escapades, a mouse for graphics and animation creation programs
(where's the keyboard??!!??,,
a voice recognition headset, hot swappable storage devices, a VR headset, and a
'Bio feedback' sensor that you can clip onto
your ear. The premise is that 1) price/features is low enough that it
walks and talks like a PC, 2) you don't have the
overhead of PC incompatibilities and headaches when installing new
technology featues.

My latest game? NFL Quarterback Club '98.

I am not a big sports fan and in fact don't own a television as one of
the reasons. This game is gorgeous. QC'98 uses
Acclaim's Turok hi-resolution rendering engine (for those of you who are
out of it, Turok was last years smash hit
recently ported to the PC about 'making dinosaurs extinct again' and
will soon be made into a movie), and the
graphics are just like watching a real football game on television
excepting the fact that you can dynamically pick the perspective
of any player, any camera angle including the football's.

Now for me, not being a big sports fan, the appeal of the game lies
entirely in 1) it's interactivity, and 2) it's
programmability. Actually playing the game is a lesson in frustration.
Even in it's easiest mode which includes 30
NFL rosters and 1500 players for the '97-'98 season complete with all
their stats and equivalencies, I have managed
to come up with a whopping -110 yards against 5 games. The funnest part
is the simulations. You can trade, create,
draft, sign, and release players; run games and simulations based on
times, quarters, teams, setups, plays, stadiums,
matchups, and even configure the weather from quarter to quarter. The
game also includes 50 historical and custom
simulations. Also, when you get hit, you get hit. The N64's rumble pak
add-on makes sure you feel it.

For the armchair quarterback, this is SimCity's version of football. You
can create expansion teams and even
manage the salary cap. 9 categories of stats, 80 injuries, 12 penalties.
Coming from a person who used to run networked
commodity simulations on my workstations and currently is devoting
cycles to the RC5-64bit Bovine project,
the simulation aspect is by far the most appealing.

Back in my undergraduate days, one of my friends was hired by the NFL to
do computer simulations of NFL plays
using AI and probabalistic game theory techniques to try and come up
with real-time 'solutions' to coaching and
play-calling. It was a very hush-hush project, even more secret than
some of the projects the pentagon had going on.
I wish he could see this now.