DMB News-August 1999

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August 12, 1999
Written by Tom Tippett

Welcome to the third edition of the Diamond Mind email newsletter. Through these newsletters, we will try to keep you up to date on the latest product and technical information about the Diamond Mind Baseball game, related player disks, and our ongoing baseball research efforts. Back issues are available on our web site (www.diamond-mind.com).

If you don't wish to receive these messages in the future, please send an email response with the subject line "unsubscribe". We'll immediately remove your email address from the list. And if you know someone who would like to subscribe to this newsletter, we'll be happy to add them to the mailing list if they send us an email message with the subject line "subscribe" and their name and street address in the body of the message.

Topics for this issue:

New baseball articles
Boxscore search engine
Version 8 news

New baseball articles

As many of you know, ESPN.com has been publishing articles written by Diamond Mind staff for the past 16 months. Although we rarely write from a fantasy baseball perspective, our relationship is with their fantasy news staff, so whenever we write something new, it's posted on their fantasy baseball news page for a few days. Sometimes you'll see also a link to the article from their main baseball page.

During the season, our schedule is irregular -- we post something when we've got something to say or when we've completed an interesting research project of some sort -- with 5-6 articles coming out during each season.

During the coming off-season, we'll once again be posting a series of 30 articles reviewing the performance of each team and its 20-25 key players. You'll be able to find them on our web site and ESPN.com starting in late November. And next March, we'll release our annual season preview article.

Our two most recent articles were posted in July, and you can find them at www.diamond-mind.com by scrolling most of the way down our home page and clicking on the Baseball Articles link.

The first article offered some thoughts on the career leader boards, examined the growing number of low-pitch-count outings by starting pitchers, takes MLB to task for how they handled the revision to Hack Wilson's RBI record, and talks about my experience at the Jose Jimenez no-hitter in late June.

The second article starts with a look at each team's record in games against the stronger and weaker teams in the first half of the season and ends with a few random thoughts about the year to date.

Boxscore search engine

Two Diamond Mind customers, Ron Gudykunst and Tom Milne, teamed up earlier this year to write a terrific program that searches Diamond Mind boxscores (version 7, both expanded and newspaper formats) and gives you access to all sorts of interesting information about the best and worst performances by players and teams. I don't have anywhere near enough room to tell you about all of its features here, so I'll simply say that I'm impressed with its power, flexibility and speed.

It runs on Windows, it's free, and you can download it from:

http://ourworld.compuserve.com/homepages/tdmilne

Version 8 News

As you might expect, we've been getting a lot of questions about version 8. For several good reasons, we've been saying nothing more than we're working on it and it's going to be our first Windows version of the game.

Why have we been so reluctant to talk about it? Five reasons, mainly.

First, I believe very strongly that it is dishonest to sell something that doesn't exist. And version 8 doesn't really exist in any meaningful sense until we've actually built and debugged and documented and field tested it.

Second, every minute we spend talking about the next version or answering questions about it is a minute that we're not actually working on the product. And we think you'll get the most value for your money if we're spending most of our time working, not talking.

Third, I think it's bad business to hype upcoming products. I've seen a lot of companies create a frenzy of anticipation for a new release, only to be under so much pressure to ship that they end up scrapping promised features or releasing a buggy product. Nobody wins when that happens.

Fourth, there are certain things we're working on that we don't want our competitors to know about just yet. This is actually one of the less important reasons, but it is a factor, and I wouldn't be telling the whole truth if I didn't include it.

Finally, it helps control the rumor mill. Last month, for example, someone posted a totally fictitious account of a conversation they claimed to have had with a non-existent member of our staff. Many of you knew that we had said that our web site and newsletter would be the only official sources of information about version 8, so we were able to contain that rumor quickly.

On the other hand, there are a couple of very good reasons for beginning to talk about the new release now. Many of you run leagues or play in them, and if we won't talk about version 8, you're missing some information you may need to plan your next league season. And many of our non-league customers have been great supporters of our work for many years, and I feel that you have a right to know something about what we're up to.

So we're going to start releasing information about version 8, but we'll try to do it in a controlled fashion that gives you what you need to make decisions without venturing into the land of wishful thinking and marketing hype. We won't talk about features until they've been thoroughly tested, and we'll be cautious about our projections for the ship date.

Free/discounted upgrade policy now in effect

Talking about version 8 creates a dilemma for someone who's interested in the game. Do you buy version 7 now, allowing you to begin playing the game right away, but taking a chance that we'll ship version 8 next week. Or do you wait until version 8 is ready to save the cost of an upgrade?

To make this decision easier, we've always offered free or discounted upgrades for a period of time before a new version is released. And I'm happy to announce that our free/discounted upgrade policy was put in effect on July 30, 1999. Here's how it works:

- anyone buying version 7 for the first time receives a free upgrade
to version 8 when it is ready

- anyone upgrading to version 7 from an earlier version will receive a $15
credit toward the purchase of a version 8 upgrade

Please understand that I'm not suggesting that you buy version 7 now if what you really want is version 8. If that describes you, I recommend that you wait and evaluate version 8 when it's ready. On the other hand, if you've been holding off on version 7 because you're afraid we'll make your investment obsolete by releasing version 8, fear not.

Conversion of Season Disks

We know that each of you has made an investment in our season disks, and some of you worry that we might make that investment obsolete with the release of a new version. That's why we have always included a conversion feature in every new upgrade. Version 7, for example, automatically converts season disks from formats as far back as version 2 (which was released in 1988).

We have already written and tested the code that converts disks from version 7 format to version 8, and we plan to convert from older formats as well. But I have serious doubts about whether it still makes sense to go all the way back to version 2. Disks in these early formats are missing information that we routinely include today, so even if we built an automatic conversion for those disks, they'd still be inferior to the seasons we current ship.

Instead, suppose we build version 8 to convert from all formats as far back as version 5, and we offer you the chance to trade in any disks in older formats for the version 8 equivalent at $3 per disk plus our normal shipping charges. This would mean that the vast majority (probably well over 90%) of season disks that are out there would be converted automatically at no cost to you, since they're already in version 5, 6 or 7 format. And you'd have an inexpensive way to move to a newer and better version of the others.

If you disagree with this approach, I'd like to hear from you. If a good case is made, we'll make sure version 8 handles all formats back to version 2. If not, we'll direct that energy into new features or getting the new version out sooner.

Version 7

Our work on version 8 doesn't mean version 7 is going away. We will continue to sell and support version 7, and we'll produce new season disks in version 7 format for the forseeable future.

In particular, we will be releasing the 1999 Season Disk and the 2000 Projection Disk in version 7 format on our normal schedule (December and March respectively).

When version 8 is ready, we will release updated editions of both disks that take advantage of new features in version 8. Purchasers of the version 7 editions of these disks will automatically get these updates at no charge with their purchase of a version 8 upgrade.

None of this is new, by the way. We had the same policy in place when versions 6 and 7 were released. And even if version 8 was shipping today, we'd be releasing both disks in version 7 format, because we don't believe in forcing you to buy an upgrade in order to use the new season disks.

Timing

I'd love to be able to announce a firm ship date for version 8, but I can't do that yet. Until we get more of the work done, and until we successfully make it through the first round of field testing, we won't know for sure when we'll be finished. And because this is our first Windows release, we are planning a longer-than-normal field testing cycle.

I can say, however, that our target is a spring 2000 release. This is not a guarantee, because I can't give you one right now. We will not ship the product until it's been rigorously tested and we feel it's ready for prime time.

Features

Version 8 might be shipping now if our goal was to get the version 7 feature set into a Windows version as quickly as possible. That would be something like taking an older house and putting a fresh coat of paint on it.

But we wanted to do much more than that. We wanted to keep the things that are great about the old house and move them into a thoroughly modern building that will support our plans for years to come.

So we've adopted a more powerful database technology that will enable us to do much more than we could with our old file system. We're completely rethinking the user interface to make good use of toolbars, popup menus, drag and drop, tabbed windows, online help and other modern tools for making things easier to find and to use. We've increased the power of our play-by-play engine and added lots of new commentary to the play-by-play library.

It's safe to say that we've added new features to just about every part of the game that we've touched so far. The most frequently-used areas of the product (game play, autoplay, league management, reporting) are better than 80% complete. As these components begin to approach 100%, we'll provide more details. But it would be a little premature to do so now.

System Requirements

Version 8 will run on Windows95 and its successors. It will not run on Windows 3.1. We've chosen this course because we feel we can build a much better product if we focus solely on the 32-bit environment and if we take advantage of the newest user interface elements. Our goal is to run on Windows/NT and Windows2000 as well, but we haven't yet tested the game in these environments.
It's too early to know what the memory and disk space requirements will be, but we always try to keep the game as small and efficient as possible.

Field testing

As you might expect, we've had a lot of requests from people wishing to be involved in field testing this new version, and we cannot possibly accept everyone. We hate to say no to people who are trying to help us, but it does nobody any good if we're so swamped with the logistics of communicating with the testers that we can't get our work done.

When we're ready for more volunteers, we'll announce it through this newsletter. At that time, we'll describe the mix of people and computers we think would provide for the most effective field test coverage, so those of you who wish to volunteer can then tell us about your interests and your computer. With that information, we'll select a group of people who we believe can provide the most thorough test of the game and it's ability to run on different computers.

Wrap-up

We're doing our best to build a great product for you and we can't wait to show you what we've done so far. In the meantime, we'll use our web site and this newsletter to bring you periodic updates.

As many of you know, we're always interested in hearing from you. A lot of what's good about Diamond Mind Baseball sprang from suggestions made by customers. And the sooner we hear of any idea, the sooner we can start thinking about how to integrate it into the product, even if it's too late to get it into the very next release.

Please understand, however, that we're entering a period that will be the busiest we've ever experienced, with the release of two new season disks and a new game upgrade. We'll read all of your suggestions, but we won't have time to respond with more than a polite thank you. And if you send us a message asking whether features A, B and C will be in version 8, we'll politely refer you to our web site and back issues of the newsletter. I'm afraid we have no other choice.

We will, of course, continue to provide our normal levels of technical support for version 7, so please don't shy away from seeking the help you need. Your questions about version 7 and our current catalog of season disks will continue to be answered promptly.

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