Designing International scouting

Not long after the release of AB19, I imagined a big update that would allow players to get more talent, while also allowing them to take some critical decisions in the process. A kind of more active draft. I also wanted to introduce nationalities to these players. Nothing in the game says that a player comes specifically from the US or Canada, but that’s what most people would probably assume, especially given the names. Since some people asked for Korean names for example, I thought it would be cool to integrate an international dimension to this feature.

Hence was created international scouting.

Here is how the first implementation was: you gather a bunch of scouts from different regions of the world. When a good prospect is found, you receive a message with scouting info (mostly a player rating), and you can decide if you want to send one of your three spring training invitations to this prospect. The prospect can accept or refuse, depending on the offers he received from the AI.

When spring training comes, all your invited prospects play along your team. And you’re able to sign only one of them, for a standard and very low contract. The feature also features a level system for scouts and some power-ups, but let’s keep them aside.

I was happy with the design, but during play testing, it became obvious it had several flaws.

  1. Scouts are annoying: a lot of long time players don’t read their inbox. That is not exactly an issue related to international scouting, but since the inbox is where you receive reports, if you don’t read it, you miss it. And it becomes frustrating if the prospect is a bad one.
  2. Competition is hard: imagine the situation. Bernard, your Europe scout from France calls you. He has found an amazing prospect, and would like to invite him. You even allow him to call-in a hall of famer to convince the prospect (you really could do that). And the prospect tells you in the end “Sorry, I’m signing with Toronto”. You did everything right and still failed. Now you don’t want to play the game anymore, right? I addressed the issue by cutting in half the probability for an AI team to find a prospect. But that did not make the final result less frustrating.
  3. Even if you manage to get a top prospect to your training camp, you still have to sign him. Problem is, this is after the offseason. You probably don’t have enough budget in payroll. I addressed this issue by reducing the international contact price to something very low, but still players had to remember to keep some money for it.

All of these problems meant I wasn’t happy with the final result. So I decided to scrap it from Astonishing Baseball 20, especially since I was rebuilding everything from scratch (at least from a technical perspective). But then I discovered that actually, people liked international scouting! Or rather, they like the fact that they could get a decent player at a very low price, despite all the frustration around it! So I decided to recreate this feature, keeping the good points while changing the system. Here’s what I wanted to keep:

  • The possibility to get a good player at a very low price
  • The possibility to have scouts and decide what they do
  • The international aspect of it (kinda obvious)
  • The level system for scouts.

This was on top of addressing the flaws I explained before of course!

And so here’s the final implementation:

  • A special notification icon appears when an international prospect is available for review (no more inbox spam, and no chance to miss it!)
  • A rating is given, depending on the prospect level but also the scout accuracy. Then the player can decide how much time the latter spends on the former.
  • At the end of the season, just before Spring Training, the player decides one prospect among all the players that were scouted. This player joins the team on a one-year, free contract. No more competition with AI teams (which still get an international prospect as well), and no more burden of keeping money for the contract.
  • Scouts can be leveled up with standard training points once they reach certain thresholds. Each of them also get a complete, randomly generated biography that you can of course edit!

This checks all the good parts I wanted to keep, while also removing all the bad ones!

This version is way more rewarding, less frustrating, and has started the career of a few All-Stars!

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