Some people just don't seem to understand the concept behind this game. This is a great strategy sim! I love it!
I've been playing the game for about a week at this point (I've probably put in a solid 15-20 hours already), and I think I've got a handle of some of the issues that are out there. I've been through off-season, the draft, training camp, and the preseason, and these are the things I've learned so far.
#1 - Massive Load Times:
Ok, the load times average about 20-30 seconds each time you move between tasks. But if you're really into this game, it just gives you a little extra time to think about the next task and the strategy that you're working on. This is a VERY detailed strategy game, so breezing through to game day is absolutely pointless. Don't bother buying the game if you're just looking for some gridiron action.
#2 - Office Hours:
A lot of people seem to have a problem with the limited activities available to you in the mandatory office hours that occur on average twice a day in the game. But these required stints behind the desk are incredibly valuable for adjusting your gameplan each week, and they're necessary to make sure that you have the right guy starting in each position on the field. One of the great things about this game is that each of your players is capable of a great week of practice that gets them to their max potential, and they're also capable of totally slacking off all week and being a total bum at game time. Depending on what kinds of practices you choose for your squad, you might need to make some adjustments to the depth chart throughout the week, and office hours are the only time you can do it.
One of the things that is really useful about office hours is that they provide you with chances to bolster confidence among your coaching staff. One thing that you'll pick up early on is that any time that you disagree with a coach or reprimand him in a staff meeting, his trust level decreases, and he becomes less likely to offer you useful information on his players from week to week. I've made the decision to always accept a coach's recommendation to start one player over another, simply to make sure that each coach's trust level is as high as possible. These recommendations generally come well in advance of game day, and I can always go back and change the depth chart back to the way I want it during office hours. There are a lot of other times when chewing out your coaches is unavoidable, so this helps to balance things out.
#3 Boring Practice Schedules:
The practice outings are the only way you can directly impact your players' onfield performance on gameday. Again, if you're not into micromanagement, don't buy the game! There's nothing I enjoy more than helping my #3 receiver become the X-factor on Sunday, or turning one of my outside linebackers into the best defensive end on my squad. Pratice schedules are the heart of this game, and I love the depth of options available to you. You get to choose everthing from full contact team practices, to skeleton drills with just a few players, to one-on-one drills.
The team practices, which can be contact or non-contact drills, allow your squad to increase their overall efficiency at running specific offensive and defensive plays. It's very important to have as many "Money Plays" as possible in the game plan, and this is the most efficient way to achieve that. Contact vs. Non-Contact is a big decision though. I've found that my offensive and defensive linemen crave contact and won't develop fully without it, but my QBs, backs and receivers will be in shambles come game time if they've been pounded in too many full-contact runs during the week.
The one-on-one drills, which can also be contact or non-contact, are the quickest way to increase an individual player's ratings to get him ready for a game. The key here is to make sure that the player you're trying to build up has enough SUCCESSFUL attempts at the drill you're running. If your DB gets burned by your #1 receiver on every rep, his improvement will be minimal. Mix in favorable matchups to make sure the guys that need the most work get quality reps.
The skeleton passing drills and the inside running drills are an average of the first two practice types. They help a little with team efficiency and they help a little with individual attributes.
Everyone has been griping that the player reactions to your attempts to motivate are unpredictable and useless. I've found the exact opposite to be true. The game actually does a good job of putting your comments to the player in context with what just happened on the field. If a veteran player just screwed the pooch and you try to be passive and patronizing with him, you're going to piss him off! Get aggressive, and let him know that he had better shape up. He'll appreciate it and do better on the next rep. Young players seem to be quite a bit different. They're more likely to react negatively to any comment you make, but every now and then, a passive encouraging comment will bolster a young player's confidence. It's generally better just to offer strategic advice to a younger player unless he's just making awful decisions. Regardless of how he handles your first motivational comment, keep your mouth shut from that point forward, because the young studs just can't handle too much lip from the coach.
One issue that I've had with the game myself is that the preseason games seemed really easy for my squad. I'm not sure if my team is just performing relatively well against the teams I've faced so far, or if the computer AI for the opposing squads is struggling. I did observe a dramatic difference in my team's performance during my 4th preseason game because we had a very short week to prepare. Most of my starters were still in pretty bad shape from the Monday night game when it came time to play again on Thursday night, and it showed agains a fresh Tennessee Titans squad that ending up winning by 10. If this holds true going forward, I'll be very pleased to learn that the preparation of your players during the week really does make a difference.
I'm blogging my game experience if you want to find out how things have progressed.