Monday, July 16, 2012

The 2012 Fantasy Olympics: An Introspective Look at Game Design (Part I)

Earlier this year Matt was in town and we were were catching up while enjoying some delicious frozen yogurt. We discussed our previous Fantasy Football season results and the upcoming Olympics in London. As our conversation evolved we realized the enjoyment that could be added to the Olympics by creating a Fantasy Olympics League.

As we are approaching the London games later this month it seemed natural to incorporate a brief blog series encompassing our very own quest for the Gold at the 2012 Fantasy Olympic Games. This will be a blog series beginning with the preparation of the rules and design framework moving through the competitive process identifying unforeseeable challenges and measuring the balance of the game design all the way through the final scoring.

Now that has been said, we need some design goals. These help us shape our mechanics, identify our audience and game weight and help guide our decision making along the way when we find a fork in the road with two equally enticing directions. Matt and I enjoy the Olympics and our goal is really to create a compliment to the excitement, something that gets us invested in more countries than our own and isn’t too large a time-commitment that it removes us from actually watching the events.

I’ll propose three primary design goals:
  • Simplicity over all else
  • Open-ended decision making allowing participants to create their own strategy
  • Generate millions of dollars
Wait, no... that last one isn’t quite right, but we’ll move on with the first two goals and I’m sure the third will come along eventually.

Now Matt and I want to be able to root for the Lithuanian Sailing team or the Mongolian Water Polo team to win medals so our focus will be on the final podium in a limited but diverse sampling of events which will provide a simple and manageable scoring system everyone can follow. We also need everyone to have plenty of small countries on their roster that expand our fanatics to our many fellow competing countries. I would expect 5 countries to be a very manageable country amount so that no one needs to carry around a list to remember who cheer for everyday.

To follow the theme of the family of Fantasy sports we will have a snake style draft of countries with five rounds. We’ve now hit our first two design obstacles. How many players can Fantasy Olympics handle? What can be done about the competitive dominance of the Olympic medal big three of USA, China & Russia. Now keep in mind we are going to use a limited schedule of Olympic events to reduce analysis paralysis and allow each event to be more meaningful. In looking at recent Olympic results, I’d estimate there are roughly 40 countries that can be routinely be counted on as medal contenders in numerous events. So for competitiveness purposes we should limit ourselves to 7 or 8 players max or reduce the countries-per-player to accommodate more participants.

Now the larger issue, what can be done about the sheer dominance of Russia, China and the USA? What can be done for players who draft 4th overall or later to maintain balance in our ongoing game design? We’ll answer this question next week and continue creating the structure in which our game design can both flourish and meet its design goals.