So That Every Underdog Can Have Its Day
Now admittedly my breadth of experience on these sorts of things is limited so I don't pretend to speak from a position of authority. But seeing as I've kept my interest in this website for over a year it probably won't surprise many that as hockey simulators go I believe PPM does a pretty fine job. Of course as with any simulator you won't get a perfect re-creation, and PPM is no different. Yes, there is that fairly odd grouping of offence and defence into a discrete line, but beyond that I'm hard-pressed to pick out anything else that's glaringly incongruous with reality. That minor nitpick aside I believe it does an admirable job of simulating the full range of operations involved in running a hockey franchise. But as a North American I can't help but notice that it all has a distinctly European feel to it. This feel originates most prominently in the practice of team promotion and relegation to higher or lower divisions, a practice that does not happen in any major professional sport in North America.
This is not a complaint, but it does hint at a glaring characteristic of European sports leagues in comparison to North American: massive franchise disparity. North American leagues all practice to some degree revenue-sharing along with other tools aimed at levelling the playing field between franchises. Meanwhile European leagues don't seem to have any issue with vast differences between the have's and the have-not's. In PPM we see this disparity to some degree in the higher divisions. For example in the first division of Other World presently over half the teams have been there for the last 4 seasons, and most of those for much longer. Unsurprisingly the league finishes with the same few teams jostling for the top spots more often than not. It might be too early to tell, and I'm far from the sort of mathematician to run the simulation numbers all the way through – or maybe I'm just missing something obvious - but it seems to me that there is little in the way of the simulator to counter this developing stasis of permanently dominant teams.
What might be in order, in other words, is some of that good old North American parity. Now in the interests of full disclosure I'm not intentionally suggesting anything that could give my still young team an advantage. Any casual glance at my players and you'll know I'm in for the loooong (but preferably not infinitely long) build. Considering my utter lack of any programming knowledge it's entirely likely anything I could suggest would be prohibitively difficult to implement anyway. But in the interests of fun and perhaps interesting discussion here is my pro and con of some distinctly North American sports franchise parity practices for the head honchos of PPM to perchance consider:
Salary Cap –
The first and most obvious tactic for franchise parity is a player salary cap.
Pro: A salary cap would likely be relatively simple to implement, and it would lead to substantively direct in-game effects with regard to on-ice talent level and competitiveness.
Con: A salary cap will not restrict transfer payments which regularly go into the hundreds of millions, so while it will limit the quantity of over-all talent that can be iced on an individual team it won't limit the quality of talent a team can acquire and develop quickly.
Revenue Sharing –
PPM already sort of engages in a form of revenue sharing with bonuses for users logging in. Another likely simple implementation, revenue sharing would “penalize” richer teams and “reward” poorer teams - perhaps according to OTR?
Pro: Again, a direct and substantive effect with regard to finances which as anyone who has been around on PPM long enough knows is the real meat and potatoes of this simulator.
Con: In terms of consequences it depends entirely on the degree of revenue sharing. For the lowest teams any extra meagre revenue is a blessing, but a similar amount subtracted from the higher teams would likely be an afterthought at best.
Inter-Market Competition –
PPM sets every new user up in what is a virtual hockey market that is unlimited in it's ability to lure fans and generate revenue. If markets differing in size and suitability for hockey could compete for franchises, i.e. markets with more or less onerous taxation, higher or lower living costs (and therefore salaries), greater or lesser “tradition”, etc. it could add another interesting game dimension and capacity for parity.
Pro: Serious real-world simulation with all the potential attendant bragging rights of running a successful franchise in a market that is stacked against you, or conversely the shame of failing spectacularly even with the advantage of a fantastically supportive market. Think Phoenix Coyotes/Toronto Maple Leafs.
Con: I can see this being the most prohibitively difficult suggestion to code and implement without bugs. Which is a shame.
Fan Appreciation –
Built into the PPM simulator there are already standard means for teams to attract fans. Parking, arena lights and sound, etc. In reality some teams without a fantastically supportive market or a tradition of success rely on ever more eccentric gimmicks like bobbleheads and theme nights to lure fans a la the Las Vegas Wranglers. Much like customized pucks, jerseys, goalie masks and the like a weighted option skewed to weaker teams for customizable fan appreciation could be implemented to attract more fans and boost revenue.
Pro: Dick Cheney Hunting Vest Night, Rapture Night, Billy Idol impersonators and KISS tribute bands made up of dwarfs... need I go on?
Con: If I'm going to be true to my love of hockey and faith in its inherent superiority as a form of entertainment, the con of this suggestion is Dick Cheney Hunting Vest Night, Rapture Night, Billy Idol impersonators and KISS tribute bands made up of dwarfs.
So there we have just a few parity-inducing suggestions. I hope they are at least a little interesting and will spark at least some discussion over the merits of increased parity, if nothing else.
And you know what? Who am I kidding? Dwarfs in heavy make-up playing heavy metal music would kick serious ass!