Ab Initio Games

Retro Interactive Sports, Historical & Sci-Fi Games

Online & Postal Games since 1986

Try a game for free - offer for new players

Hoopplan 2024

Updates and Proposed Changes

Background

Hoopplan has now been running for well over 30 seasons, and I've had a bit of time to review some aspects of the game, and in particular the financial side of things. Ideally, when you're playing a game there are a bunch of decisions to be made - some strategic, some short term, and the more decisions to be made the better, that's what keeps you playing.

If I look at the current financial balance in the various Hoopplan games, it is somewhat "samey" - most teams have Stadium at a maximum level, often the same for merchandising, trainers at the higher end and fans consistent from year to year. There's very little variation and not too many decisions to make if everything is at a maximum. It looks like that is mainly down to the Salary Cap being relatively low - maintaining a cap of 40 LPs is very easy so teams have LPs to spend, but can't use them on players because of the cap, so every team is in much the same position, and there aren't really many decisions for you to make (and agonise over).

Additionally, the uncoached teams seem to have done a really bad job of maintaining their rosters, with a lot of (very) old players with no potential lying around. In part, that seems to be because everyone always has a decent number of LPs, so they've been coaching players like mad to spend LPs.

I also don't want to introduce anything that might upset people (like reducing LPs) but having done some testing and modelling, I'm proposing on introducing the following:-

 

Changes

The changes which follow are now referred to as Version 3.0 of the game. These changes are in three groups below, which are as follows:-

Immediate - these changes are in play now, so regardless of where your league is at, they're happening.

2024 rules - these changes come into play at the end of the playoffs. Note that quite a few of them don't apply until the end of that season (in particular the increased reduction in Stadium, Trainers and Minors). I'm not expecting to vary these, but don't be surprised if you see the odd tweak if I think it's the best thing for the game.

Backlog - these are changes which are possible for the future at some point, whether it's because I'm thinking about them, they're more complex to add, or waiting on current changes to see how they pan out. Please don't bug me about when and whether they'll come in, because I probably won't have an answer.

 

Immediate Changes

Salary Cap #2 (immediate) - it's a low impact change, but even if a team is over the salary cap, we will allow free agent bids as long as the player being signed is on minimum wage (i.e. wages will be 0 LP) even if it doesn't reduce the cap number (i.e. a 0 LP player can replace a 0 LP player). The only real impact will be clearing out some dead wood will be easier, and it's an anomaly that you can't actually clear a minimum wage player off your roster.

Free Agent List #1 (immediate) - you'll also see the Free Agent list is busier, especially early in the season. Players without potential will spend less time on it, but you'll also see more low value players coming onto the list (and being replaced again) to help teams manage any holdout problems as well as to clear those older players. As the season progresses, you will still see fewer players on the list.

This change will definitely help teams who are trying to clear dead wood from their roster (though it will take time).

Free Agent List #2 (immediate) - you'll notice that free agents are frequently better than before (we had too many level 4 free agents). Basketball has plenty of sources of players from outside of the college ranks, so the variation makes sense.

Preseason Free Agent List (immediate) - wading through the code I discovered that a "hidden feature" of the game was that a free agent who had been on the list for some weeks at the end of the previous season (and probably about to give up, and announce their retirement) in Hoopplan would not only come back onto the list at the start of the new season, but with their "give up counter" reset. That's pretty dumb, in the six months of off-season they're more likely to have decided to pack it in. Going forwards, when the free agent list re-appears in pre-season, expect to see some of those veterans having retired (that was already in place) but plenty more of them announcing they're about to (i.e. sign me this time, in pre-season, or I'm done). It has the added benefit of clearing spaces on the free agent list for players about to be waived (see above).

Roster Balance (immediate) - there are now a couple of exceptions whereby a free agent bid can allow a team to have less than two players at a given position on the roster. The first is if they are waiving a holdout, and the second (which follows on) is if the incoming player is the same position (i.e. a team with only one Center is signing a new one, but waiving the existing one). Neither is ideal, but if a team are in these straits, the sooner they can fix it the better. As a rule of thumb, you should still work on the basis the squad has to have two players minimum at each position.

Unnamed Players (immediate) - it'll take best part of ten years to really feed in, but I've added a lot of new "default" names for players. I probably can't ever do enough, but at least you'll see a bit of variety in names of players going forwards.

New NBA Teams (immediate) - I'm not proposing to move to 30 teams (finding enough players is a challenge without expanding) but I will look to make available the new teams (Brooklyn Nets, Oklahoma City Thunder and New Orleans Pelicans) to new players. Anyone coaching the New Jersey Nets can change them to Brooklyn if they wish (it'll be done between seasons), and the same applies to Seattle Sonics and Oklahoma City - however, I'm not going to force anyone to make that change.

Uncoached Teams (immediate) - I will also be reviewing the routines used by uncoached teams, to try and make them a bit more competitive or at least viable if a new player does turn up. I won't comment too much on those changes, as you shouldn't know what they are! Unfortunately, whether we like or not, we have uncoached teams, and there's no real source of new players nowadays (feel free to introduce anyone you can). You will notice they're more active with free agents, in particular targetting the best free agents but also clearing away the dead wood.

Draft List (immediate) - I've also made a tweak to the draft list is now sorted according to the players' Trade Levels (and squeezed in displaying it), rather than Level and Value - this is purely cosmetic, but will ensure that players with higher potential are shown higher up the list. The list is now sorted by Trade Level, then Level, then Potential and then Value. 

Merchandising #2 (immediate) - when calculating Merchandise sales, any fractions have a chance of being rounded up. e.g. if you'd be due to sell 1.4 units of merchandising then you're still guaranteed to sell one, but have a 40% chance of selling a second. The change ensures even the smallest investment in merchandising can make a difference.

 

2024 Rules

Salary Cap #1 (2024 rules) - rather than being fixed at 40 LPs, this would increase (or decrease) by up to 2 LPs each season, though would never be lower than 40 LP, and never higher than 50 LP (so it'd average around 45 LP long term). This mirrors the NBA (though with inflation, that usually goes up, but it can go down) but would mean a bit more uncertainty each season - the cap could go up, or could go down. It would also mean different salary caps in different games (which would be interesting for those folk in more than one game). It also means teams can generally run higher wages, so will give some decisions about where to find those LPs from.

For the first season under 2024 rules, the Salary Cap would be set at 45 LPs, and will then vary from there.

Income Cap (2024) - full disclosure, I'd kinda missed along the way the nuance that regardless of merchandising, stadium etc, a team's income is capped at 50 LP. I think in the "new world" we should still have an income cap, but I think it ought to flex with the salary cap - we'll keep it consistent (and simple) so the income cap will be 10 LP above the Salary Cap (whatever that is). That means for the first season under 2024 rules, the income cap will be 55 LPs.

Salary Cap #3 - Rookies and Promotions (2024 rules) - We'll also add an exception to the cap for rookies, mirroring the NBA. There would be no restriction on promoting rookies to the active/reserve squads (i.e. if you want to increase your wages above the cap, then you could do so), but only for draftees (i.e. it doesn't apply for rookie free agent bids). Of course, once they're promoted, you've then got to live with the restrictions that go with being over the cap (to keep it relatively simple).

Free Agent List #3 (2024 rules) - We'll remove the feature whereby a "new" (i.e. not waived from a squad) Free Agent has a "previous team" assigned. It's not really fair that some teams luck out and get a good player, and others don't, and there are plenty of sources for clubs to find players.

Free Agent Bids (2024 rules) - it's a minor change - if two teams bid the same amount for a player, then the bid that wins is the team with fewer wins, rather than with most wins. This is in line with the process when a player is claimed off waivers (and gives struggling teams a slight boost).

Holdouts (2024 rules) - it'll be a rare occurrence, but it seems a bit of a loophole that a team can run with holdouts throughout the season, and then when the playoffs arise, the holdouts are available. We could pretty easily bridge this gap by introducing a rule whereby if any player was holding out in week 15 (the last week holdouts are possible) then they'd stay holding out throughout the playoffs (even if a team managed to source LPs in week 16).

Veteran Assessment (not being changed) - this change isn't a change. Although in Slapshot and Gameplan Baseball players with high potential can convert more than one at the end of the season, in Hoopplan we're not bringing this in. There's less of a physical element and players' careers tend to be longer, so a more gradual "using" of potential makes sense.

Rookie Wages & Draft Squad (2024 rules) - at present, a team gets pretty much forced to make decisions about draftees at the start of the season, and with veterans often asking for more wages, it's a real challenge with the salary cap forcing draftees have to be thrown into the active squad to survive (or sink). 

To reduce the impact of this players on the draft squad will only be paid half wages until the final quarter of the season (week 13 onwards), so you can use some of your LPs allowing these players to develop. Of course, if you want to use that player you'll need to promote them (and then start paying full wages) or you may choose to release them (to get income in). 

Additionally, players on the draft squad will be considered as playing in the minors, so will pick up form each week (similar to if they were on the reserve squad). All of this should give rebuilding teams more chance to "develop" players before moving them up to the majors.

No Free Agency if Released (2024 rules) - At present, a lot of older players get marked for immediate deletion when they are released (via a free agent bid, or a promote action) which somewhat clogs up the list (albeit only for a turn). In future, at the end of season assessment, any player with zero potential will make a decision about whether they would be a free agent if released, or simply retire. If they will chose to retire, then they'll be shown with a * after their age on the Team Report. 

This doesn't mean you have to release these players, and you may want to keep them for many seasons, but if you do release them, then they won't be added to the free agent list, they simply retire. Equally, if a player isn't marked as No Free Agency, that doesn't mean when they hit the free agent list they won't be marked for immediate deletion (but of course it does give other teams the chance to sign them).

Stadium (2024 rules) - two changes would be introduced. The maximum Stadium Level would be increased to 12, but the season decline would be increased to a simple loss of 3 levels (feedback suggested a random factor wouldn't be welcome). This reflects the changes required due to technology changes (bigger TV's, etc etc).

End of Season Carryover (2024 rules) - rather than a fixed cutoff (and being consistent with other games), a team only loses half of its LPs if it is over the end of season threshold of 50 LPs (e.g. a team with 70 LPs would lose ten, and start the new season with 60 LPs). 

However, if a team has more than 100 LPs, then three quarters of that excess over that 100 LP is lost (e.g. if a team has 140 LPs, they would start the new season with 85 LPs = 50 + (50% of 50) + (25% of 40)).

As a consequence, the end of season routines which automatically spend any excess will be removed (relying on you to sort them out).

These changes are intended to discourage teams from saving up LPs for a new season, though if they do have excess numbers they will keep some of them. With the addition of Minors, there's plenty to invest in if a team isn't having a good season.

Merchandising #1 (2024 rules) - rather than carry over the full amount each season, a team would carry over 80%. Marketing departments do launch new stuff, and "end of line" sales are not uncommon. This means you'd have a decision each season about whether you can afford to top up merchandising. However, half of the cost of the "end of line" merchandising is recouped in an end of season sale (these LPs do not affect the end of season carryover). This change would only apply at the end of the first season under the new rules.

e.g. a team finishes the season with 80 LP in merchandising. 20% of these (16 LPs) are lost at the end of the season, but the team does gain 8 LPs for the new season (so they start the new season with 64 LP in merchandising, but their LP balance is 8 LP higher). These sales LPs are not considered as part of the end of season LP carryover routines, so you can carry over 100 LP as per above, plus any income from the merchandising end of season sales.

Minors (2024 rules) - As with Slapshot, Minors will be introduced into Hoopplan, and represents the strength of a team's minor league affiliate, and their strength in developing players. The maximum level is 12, and the costs are the same as for Stadium developments. The better your Minors level is, the more form your players on the Reserve and Draft squads will accumulate. The season loss of Minors would be 3 levels (no random factor). It starts at 0.

Coaching (2024 rules) - There will now be a chance that when you coach a player, they won't lose a point of potential. The chance is higher if your MINORS level is higher, and lower the higher rated the skill is for the player concerned, and also lower for higher level players. Overall, the chance varies from minimal to around one in three chance of avoiding it. You cannot try and coach a player without any potential.

Fans (2024 rules) - instead of resetting all teams to 25 each season (very samey) the fans would be reset to 20 plus 10% of the excess (so if you had 50, it'd reset to 23). Again, many teams would start the season with a decision to make about whether to top up to the next threshold. This change would apply at the start of a season which is under 2024 rules.

Trainers #1 (2024 rules) The annual reduction in Trainers is increased from dropping two levels per season to three levels. Additionally, the maximum level will change to be 15, although for the first season under 2024 rules, it can be 18 (so a team on 20 would decline to 18, and then to 15).

This will force teams to make decisions about re-investment, and it's not realistic to assume physios and sports scientists are quite that loyal!  This change would only apply at the end of the first season under the new rules.

Trainers #2 (2024 rules) - An additional "check" will be added each turn, with a chance that the team avoids any injury. The higher the level of trainers, the higher the chance. Expect to start to see teams, on occasions, avoiding the "weekly injury".

Addform (2024 rules) - I was slightly surprised to find this wasn't in Hoopplan already. As with Gameplan Baseball, a special action ADDFORM can be used to increase the form of one player for up to three weeks. The cost is 1 LP per week (so ADDFORM 49 3 increases the form for player 49 for 3 weeks, at a cost of 3 LP). If a player is struggling for form, you can use this to help boost them, and of course that may help for young players with potential you are keen to develop.

Scouting Reports (2024 rules) - we'll introduce into 2024 rules scouting reports. They're pretty simple, you get a summary of the player stats for each of your opponents, as well as their team offence and defence totals. If you play a team twice during the same week, you'll only get one scouting report (for obvious reasons).

Renaming Players (2024 rules) - I've been pondering this for some time. We've always had a restriction that you cannot rename players during the season, to avoid confusion for other coaches when looking at rosters (in particular for keying players). We could relax this and allow renaming of players during the season, but not allow a change of shirt name (so you could change 3 John Smith to 3 Mike Jones - and any opponents will still be keying the same player). Comments are welcome, as I know some coaches like to have their players reflective of a real team roster.

Backlog

Salary Cap #4 (to be determined, but 2025 rules at earliest) - I will consider (but this would be after a season of 2024 rules, so I'll think about it some more in autumn 2024) a couple of exceptions (after all, the NBA does have various exceptions to their Salary Cap, which is a soft cap after all):- 

The first is whether to allow the same as Salary Cap #1 above, but for a player on 1 LP wages (but not for any player higher value than that, so it's somewhat akin to the mid level exception). This would allow teams to improve the lower end of their roster without needing to worry about being over the cap (of course, income restrictions might mean they have to do so).

Salary Cap #5 (to be determined, but 2025 rules at earliest) - The second possible exception would be to allow a team to go over the cap when signing a free agent, but ONLY if they're below the cap when they make the bid. It might be interesting to add this (so you could sign a high value player, and then have to deal with the consequences afterwards) particularly if it gives playoff bound teams the chance to take a gamble, and add a good player to their roster (probably at the expense of having LPs in hand for the next season).

Roster Balance (future) - I am open to comments about whether to relax the restriction that a team should have two players at each position. The NBA has plenty of Power Fowards who also play Center, and so forth (they now talk about swingmen and hybrid guards), and indeed we allow for it in selections, and the software accounts for it - would the game be better (again, offering a bit more variety) if you had a restriction of maximum one only? (we'd not go to zero, at least not until seeing how minimum of one works).

 

Comments

Please feel free to drop me any thoughts on this. All of the changes are intended to add a bit of variety, without fundamentally changing the ethos of the game, which is a mixture of roster building and in game strategy. However, they are overall intended to add a bit more variety to the game.  

It's also an acknowledgement that times have changed - when I started Hoopplan we had lots of players, and were pretty much cutting edge in terms of sports simulation games. Now we're very much in a "retro niche", with online games and the like much more prevalent, so there's a bit of cloth cutting, and these changes are intended to help make the game a bit more interesting, without breaking what (for those of you who are playing) is clearly still working..........

 

Last updated: Sunday March 17, 2024 19:08  

For more information please contact: Danny McConnell

Are you just looking for information about the game of Baseball? Check out www.howbaseballworks.com