Monday, August 6, 2012

2012 Fantasy Olympics: Reflection and Analysis (Part III)

As we enter the second half of the Olympics and have been able to observe many of our favorite events with plenty left to come, it is time for a moment of reflection on how our Fantasy Olympics have unfolded. This is the crucial playtesting stage of game design where we break down what works, what doesn’t and what has been surprising outcome.

The Good: It’s Challenging

The Fantasy Olympics has two distinct phases each requiring a mixture research and risk assessment. Following the draft I had anticipated the event selection to be relatively straightforward with the occasional surprising results. I’ve tracked each participant’s maximum achievable score along with their actual score and created a simple metric called “Performance Index”. Right now the best performer through Day Eleven of the Olympics has achieved 88% of their maximum score with multiple people fluctuating in the 60 to 70 percent range.

It started off on July 28th which was also the first day of events. By selecting a different event, I missed out on China's historic gold medal in the Women's 400 Individual Medley. I couldn't believe I had done insufficient research and missed out on a prime early scoring opportunity until I realized it was previously unforeseeable when the news starts covering just how unexpected it was. Two other participants made similar decisions leading all three of us to miss out on the gold medal efforts of our countries.

The Bad: There are still some balancing issues

I have a favorite quote about tennis great and Olympian Roger Federer:
[In the modern game], you're either a clay court specialist, a grass court specialist or a hard court specialist ... or you're Roger Federer. - Jimmy Connors 
In Fantasy Olympics the USA is like Roger Federer. China is probably fellow Olympian Novak Djokovic but the point is they are both really good at winning in the Olympics. We looked at solutions in Part II of this series and while we didn't completely solve the problem we did mitigate it and through this first trial of Fantasy Olympics we can see what we need to do.

In future Fantasy Olympics the best solution would be remove more events with strong history of the USA or China winning a medal and replace them with more cycling events or do a better assessment of events and include more events that would add value to smaller Olympic countries.

The Surprising: How much it improves the fantasy viewing experience

Let me give you a common fantasy football situation. You're watching a Monday Night game between the Green Bay Packers and the Baltimore Ravens. You have Packer's QB Aaron Rodgers along with the Raven's Defense while your opponent holds a hefty lead and only has Packer's WR Greg Jennings left to play. To complicate it further, you're a Baltimore Raven's Fan.

Fantasy Olympics is it simplifies all of this, as you just don't have those conflicting games and its just as engaging. I'm constantly invested in events I'm not involved in and rooting against countries simply because the person with those countries is winning considerably overall.

The Good: It flows seamlessly

Two of our primary goals was simplicity over all else and to allow people to invest as much or as little time as they wanted to. Probably 80-90% of the strategy is completed with the draft and after that its all about research and risk assessment. So far 32 of 33 events have been selected, the only exemption being passed over by several participants for a equally enticing option that turned out to be less favorable. But that is of course part of the thrill, you make the selection and watch the result. It only takes a few moments a day to participate.
The Bad: Scoring isn't very manageable

Some of the strategy in Fantasy Olympics involved drafting complementary countries who would allow additional scoring opportunities or insurance in picking certain types of events. Having a roster full of strong track and field countries like Jamaica or Ethiopia would likely create a deficit until the Athletics events begin in the second half of the Olympics. This isn't really a large drawback but if you've ever participated in a 12 person fantasy football league there's a good chance only 4 were participating at the end. Fantasy Olympics just requires avid Olympic fans who won't give up after a poor first week performance.

Our Draft Order
 The Surprising: It's engaging

If you're reading at this point you understand I love the Olympics. I love the sportsmanship of countries coming together on the biggest stage. I love learning about unfamiliar countries and how big a particular sport is in their country. But what I love most is finding a few new sports every Olympics that I've never seen before and becoming at least for a few days a dedicated follower.

After drafting Hungary and Serbia primarily for their Water Polo and Team Handball prowess I became invested in each game in the group stages. Hungary's Men's Water Polo team has won nine Gold medals in the Olympic games, including each of the last three. I was shocked when they started out 0-2 in the five match preliminary group round. I sweated each of their remaining three games for them to get into the quarterfinals. The best part is this is happening in a dozen sports at the same time. It is like having a strike shortened regular season condensed into a week and then skipping ahead to the playoffs. It's all the best parts.

Next week we'll have all the final statistics to look through and we'll analyze all the best performances.