DMB News February 2000
Diamond Mind Email Newsletter #6
February 16, 2000
Written by Tom Tippett
Welcome to the sixth 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 website.
2000 Projection Disk Update
We've begun work on the 2000 Projection Disk, and our target for shipping it is Thursday, March 9th. If you've been waiting to place your order, please keep in mind that we ship most orders in the sequence they were received, and it takes us a few days to get everything out the door. So if you want your projections as soon as possible, it's not too early to get your order in.
The 2000 Projection Disk is available only in version 7 format. If you haven't already upgraded to version 7, you can do so for $24.95, and you'll get a $15 credit toward a version 8 upgrade as well.
Anyone who buys the 2000 Projection Disk prior to March 24th will receive two editions of the disk -- the March 9th edition and an update in early April that reflects changes that occur in the last three weeks of spring training. After March 24th, you'll receive only the April edition.
There won't be any way to merge the April updates into the first disk, however, so if you start a league or a season preplay with the first disk, you'll have three choices when the update comes out -- start over with the updated disk, keep going with the first disk without making any changes, or manually integrate the updates into the first disk and continue.
After the first disk is issued, we may need to create a few new players if some longshots make the opening day rosters, and we'll be updating the rosters and manager profiles to reflect late player moves, but we don't plan to make any changes that would affect the performance of any players included in the March edition.
New report generator in version 8
I've always thought our report generator in version 7 is quite good, but there are limits to what we can do with our version 7 database technology and the 80-column by 25-row display. And so, for version 8, we set out to blow away those limits and give you a reporting system that (to my knowledge) exceeds anything that has ever been included in a baseball game. We put the finishing touches on it last week, so I feel it's time to share the good news.
Displaying Standard Reports on the Screen
In version 8, when you choose the menu item for generating reports, a dialog pops up with a list of the reports that are available, grouped by the type of report. Choose the report you want, select a destination (display, printer, or file), and click on OK to proceed.
At this point, an options dialog appears (see below, but please ignore the color selections, as they have not yet been finalized). This dialog usually has three tabs, one for options specific to this type of report, one for choosing the time period on which you wish to report, and one for choosing the sections that you'd like to see on the report.
Team Batting Report Options
With the first tab, you can choose the data that you want to see on the report and set any options that apply to this report. For example, if you're generating a team batting report, you can choose which team you'd like to see, whether to show pitchers individually or as a group, whether to include players with no stats, and whether to show players who are no longer on this team's roster. The specific choices vary from report to report, but you can always find these options on the first tab.
The second tab allows you to choose the time period. There are two very important improvements represented here. First, our new database can store the statistics for different stages of the season (regular season, divisional series, league championship series, final series) in the same database. (No need to create a new player directory for the post-season.) And you can choose which of these season stages to use for the report you're about to generate.
Second, you can choose to generate the report based on the season-to-date totals or using any date interval. We've provided some standard date intervals (one for each of the six months and, to see who's hot and who's not, the last 7/14/21/28 days). Or you can choose a custom date range, with a little popup calandar to help you enter the start and end dates. Using these tools, it's easy to see who the league leaders were in the month of June, what the team standings look like for the second half of the season, and what your players have done for you lately, among many other things. (Note: these date interval options are disabled for reports based on real-life stats.)
The third tab allows you to choose the sections you would like to see. You may recall that some version 7 reports have options that let you choose which sections appear. In version 8, we have extended this concept to all reports that have multiple sections. This way, when you send a report to the printer or a file, you don't waste paper or clutter up the file with information you don't really want to see.
In most cases, you'll be happy with the default choices on all three tabs, so you'll be able to click on OK and see the report on the screen right away. But it's nice to be able to change the options anytime you want to.
When you display a report on the screen, it looks very much like a spreadsheet. Each section is on a separate sheet, and there's a row of tabs in the bottom left corner that lets you switch among sections with a single click of the mouse. When you scroll the report, the headings remain visible, making it easy to interpret the data. The column on which the report is sorted is shown in a different color from the rest of the columns.
You can double-click on the heading for any column and the report is immediately re-sorted on that column. Double-click on the same column again and the report is re-sorted on the same column, but in the opposite sort direction (lowest instead of highest, for example).
Among the best new features is the ability to change the options without having to close the report and generate it again. The report window has a toolbar across the top. On that toolbar is a series of controls that allow you to change the scope of the report (the teams or players that are included) and to access the options dialog (plus two other important buttons that I'll get to later.)
For example, if you are displaying the team pitching report, you can easily cycle through all the teams in your league simply by clicking on one of three controls -- a button with a left-arrow icon (to show the previous team), a drop-down list with all teams (to show the team of your choice), or a button with a right-arrow icon (to show the next team).
And if you want to change the date interval or any of the report-specific options, just click on the Options button and the options dialog reappears. Make any changes you want, click OK, and presto, the display is immediately updated to reflect your new choices.
When you display a report to the screen, you can choose Print Preview to see how the report would appear on the printed page, and you can choose Print to send the report to the printer.
As I mentioned above, you have the option to suppress report sections to conserve paper. In addition, we put a lot of energy into the pagination logic for our reporting system. We don't like to waste paper, so we took the time to make sure that we could put multiple report sections on the same printed page if there was room. (I've seen a lot of report generators that automatically go to the next page whenever a new section is encountered.)
Because version 8 is designed for Windows95 and its successors, we expect that you will be able to print on any printer that works with Windows. We know it works on all of the printers in our offices, and when we get into field test, we'll be able to get more feedback on other devices.
By the way, since we're using standard Windows features for printing, you'll be able to select which printer you want to send the report to (including printers on a network), which pages you want to print, and the number of copies. The print jobs are routed through the standard Windows Print Manager, so you can delete them before they are printed if you made a mistake and realize it soon enough.
For team-oriented reports, the ones that show the stats for all players on a team, you have the option of printing the report for just one team or for every team in your league or organization.
Finally, many Windows products force you to display your document or report on the screen before you can print it. There are a lot of times when I don't want to be bothered with those extra steps -- displaying the report, clicking on the File menu and then on Print, then closing the window. So we designed our system so you can send the report directly to the printer in one step.
Saving Reports to a File
As with printed reports, you can send any report directly to a disk file without displaying it first, you can suppress sections you don't want, and (for team-oriented reports) you can include one team or all teams in your league.
In addition to saving the reports in a plain-text format that makes them easy to load into a text editor or word processing program, version 8 gives you the option to generate reports in HTML format. We know that many of you run or play in leagues using Diamond Mind Baseball, and that most of those leagues are now using a web site to keep everyone up to date. Now it's that much easier for your league's webmaster to create web pages based on Diamond Mind reports.
One of our most ambitious goals was to give you the power to customize all of the reports that we offer, and I'm happy to report that we just put the finishing touches on the user interface that allows you to do that. When you display a report on the screen, the toolbar in the report window includes a Customize button. Click on this button and you are presented with a dialog that lists the sections in the report and the columns in each section.
Using these dialogs you can:
- add, remove, and rename any section, or put the sections in a different order
- remove or resequence the columns in any section
- manipulate a second row of headings to a section to help clarify the data that is displayed in the columns below (version 7 has numerous examples where an extra row of headings makes a big difference)
- add a column, or change the data displayed in an existing column, choosing from virtually any piece of information in the database, including real-life and simulated stats and the splits (left/right and others)
- change the heading that appears above a column
- choose whether a column is left-justified, centered or right-justified
- choose the width of the column (most useful for printer and file output)
- choose the default sort sequence for the column
In addition to giving you control over the section/column layout of the report, this new reporting architecture gives you the flexibility to do things that have never been possible in earlier versions. If you wish, you can design a report that includes real-life and simulated stats in the same report, even in the same section; a team pitching report that includes pitcher-hitting stats; a team batting report that includes fielding stats; a league leaders report that includes batting, pitching and fielding categories on the same report, or one that includes the best and worst players in the same category.
Once you have customized a report, you can save it and run it as if it was a standard report designed by Diamond Mind and supplied with the game.
Like previous releases, version 8 includes a lot of standard reports, more than enough to meet the needs of most people. But for those of you who want even more information, and more control over how it is organized and displayed, version 8 will give you the tools you need.
The last button on the report window's toolbar is the Memorize button. What's the difference between a custom report and a memorized report? A custom report defines the STRUCTURE (sections and columns), while a memorized report defines the CONTENT (which teams and players to include, which date interval to use, how to sort the report, and which options to use).
Memorized reports give you the ability to say things like "I want to be able to run the team batting report for every team in my league, with pitchers shown as a group, and the players sorted by slugging percentage." More precisely, they give you the ability to save those settings for future use.
You may recall that generating a standard report involves two steps -- choosing the report and choosing the options -- before the report is displayed. When you generate a memorized report, only the first step is required, since the options have been stored as part of the memorized report.
This can save you a mouse-click or two when you generate a report to the screen (and you can still change the options via the Options button when you do this), but the real value is when you're generating reports to the printer or a file. Suppose you're running a league and you have a dozen reports (standard or customized) that you like to produce for your league members at regular intervals. By memorizing these reports, you save yourself the trouble of entering the options each time. All you need to do is select each report, choose the destination (printer, plain-text file, HTML file) and voila, out it comes.
In the process of rebuilding the game around a new database technology, we also took the time to give you access to more of the information in the database, and to give you more ways to display it. We knew we wanted to make the reports customizable, and we knew that some of you would want to display information that isn't available on our standard reports. Examples include:
- for reports that list players, we've given you several name formats to choose from:
Format Example ---------------------------- ----------------------------- First name Ted Last name Kluszewski Short name Kluszewski Full name Ted Kluszewski Full name, bats Ted Kluszewski, L Full name, bats (symbol) Ted Kluszewski* Full name, throws Ted Kluszewski, L Full name, throws (symbol) Ted Kluszewski* Last name, first name Kluszewski, Ted Short name, bats Kluszewski, L Short name, bats (symbol) Kluszewski* Short name, throws Kluszewski, L Short name, throws (symbol) Kluszewski*
- for reports that list teams, we've given you several options for identifying the team:
Format Example ---------------------------- -------------------------------- Abbreviation Was Abbreviation plus year Was69 City name Washington Nickname Senators Short name (nickname, if it exists, or city)
- for reports that include batting stats and batting splits, we've added things like on-base-plus-slugging, extra-base hits, steal percentage, secondary average, runs per game, homers (and other stats) per atbat and per plate appearance, and atbats per homer (and other stats)
- for reports that include pitching stats and opposing batter stats/splits, we've added things like holds, pitch count information, and virtually any of the batting statistics, including on-base-plus-slugging, on an opposing-batter basis
- for reports that include fielding statistics, we've added opposition stolen base stats for catchers and pitchers, pickoffs for pitchers and catchers, defensive innings, range factors, and totals for all outfield positions combined
New and Improved Standard Reports
We're very excited about some of the new reports and improvements to existing reports that we've been able to make with this new architecture.
The most powerful ones, in my opinion, are the new batting register and pitching register reports. A batting register is like the free agent report in version 7, except that you can include all players in the database, all players in an organization (i.e. two leagues linked for inter-league player or the post-season), all players in a league, or just the free agents. It gives you the ability to do the following:
- sort on any column, so you can instantly see who the leaders were in any category, along with the rest of their stats
- control who appears in the list using a combination of selection criteria. For the batting register, the criteria are role (batter/pitcher), batting hand (left/right/switch), playing time (minimum and maximum plate appearances, minimum games at a defensive position), position (all rated players or primary position only), and type of record (for multi-team players, their team-specific or combined records)
The leaderboards have also been enhanced in several ways. You can now control how many players appear in each list (as few as one or as many as 25). When players tie for the last spot in a leaderboard, you can choose whether those ties should be broken using our standard tie-breaker stats or whether the list should end with the notation "3 players tied with" whatever number. We've expanded the fielding leaders report to include a whole bunch of categories for each position (not just fielding percentage). And, remember, as with all of the reports, you can customize the leaderboards and/or generate them for any time interval.
We've added several features to the team standings report. The most important of these is the new section showing wildcard standings. The wildcard standings are intelligent enough to recognize which teams are in sole possession of a division lead and to sort those teams to the top, even if their records are worse than some non-division leaders. We've included new columns such as pythagorean win-loss records and a game-by-game display of the record in the last ten games. We've also added the ability to sort on any of the breakdowns (home-road records, records in one-run games, including the winning percentage for any of these breakdowns).
Intelligence versus Flexibility
When a designer sets out to produce a customizable tool such as our new reporting system, it's easy to make the mistake of coming up with something that is too generic. I'm familiar with one other baseball game that has customizable reports but no intelligence -- there are no options, no totals, no attempt to paginate the reports in any reasonable way. That reporting system is flexible but doesn't have a high baseball IQ.
Our goal was to give you the power of customization without sacrificing baseball intelligence. For example:
- we want you to have the ability to set some preferences for the reports, so our reports have a set of options (how to sort them, whether to show pitchers individually on the team batting report, which set of players to show on the register reports, qualifications for leader boards, and so on).
- we want the reports to have meaningful totals, so we took the time to add logic that computes correct team and league totals for things (like games played and shutouts) that cannot be figured just by adding up the numbers for the players on that team
- we want you to be able to set these options once and use them again and again, so we're providing memorized reports.
You get all of these things without having to use the customization feature. And if you decide you want to customize a report, you can do it using a simple point and click user interface.
Frequently asked questions about version 8
Although we have covered a lot of this ground in past newsletters, we're still getting certain questions quite often, so this seems to be a good time to give you an update.
1. What new features will it have?
We have announced many new features through our email newsletters and we will continue to do so over the next few months. You can find back issues of the newsletter on our web site (www.diamond-mind.com).
2. How much will it cost?
For a first-time buyer, version 8 will be available at the same price as version 7 -- $49.95 for the game with 12 great teams, or $69.95 for the game with 12 great teams plus the current season disk (1999 or 2000).
Anyone who is a registered owner of any prior version of Diamond Mind Baseball or Pursue the Pennant PC Baseball (computer game only) will be able to upgrade to version 8 for $29.95. This upgrade includes 12 great teams of the past, but does not include any other season disks.
Finally, let me remind you that we introduced our free/discounted upgrade policy last August 1. If you bought the version 7 game since that date, we will automatically send you a free upgrade to version 8 as soon as it is ready. If you upgraded to version 7 since that date, you will receive a $15 discount on your version 8 upgrade order.
3. Will my season disks work with the new version?
Any season disks that are in version 5, 6 or 7 format will automatically be converted to the format used for version 8, so your investment in season disks purchased from Diamond Mind will retain its value.
If you have season disks in older formats, one option is to convert them to version 5-7 first and then into version 8. If you don't have version 5, 6 or 7, we'll be offering inexpensive upgrades to those seasons when version 8 is released. We haven't yet set the price or worked out the procedure for these season disk upgrades yet.
4. If I start a league or a season replay with version 7, will I be able to convert to version 8 during the season?
Yes. Version 8 converts all of the information compiled by version 7 with only one exception. Because more and more of the features of the game are date-based (weather system, transaction processing, date-interval-based reports, and so on), version 8 does not offer the ability to play unscheduled games. If you wish to convert your season in progress without losing any information, you must play your season using a schedule.
As with all of our previous upgrades, if you are playing in a league that transfers statistics and manager profiles, you can convert mid-season if every league member converts to version 8 at the same time. It will not be possible to transfer stats, rosters and manager profiles between different versions of the game.
5. Will version 8 be shipping on CD-ROM?
Yes, it will, but we will continue to offer the game on 3-1/2" diskettes for those of you who do not have CD-ROM drives. And we'll be looking into the possibility of distributing the game by email and/or other electronic means later this year.
6. When will you start beta testing the new version, and can I volunteer?
We're going to hold off on beta testing until after we ship the final edition of our 2000 Projection Disk in April. I'm anticipating 2-3 rounds of beta, starting with a small group and adding more people to subsequent rounds. We've already received a very large number of requests to be included in the beta program, more than we can possibly accommodate, but we haven't had time to sit down and go through them all yet. After we get through the Projection Disk work, we'll let you know if and when we're ready to receive additional requests to participate.
By the way, I don't believe in starting a beta program until we have most of the features in place, a very good portion of the user guide and help system, and virtually all of the major bugs fixed. It doesn't help get the product out the door if the beta testers have to ask a lot of questions because the help system isn't there or if we get thirty people sending us the same bug reports because we didn't do enough testing in advance. We tend to wait longer than most companies before starting this process, so the time from first beta to final shipment tends to be shorter.
7. When will version 8 be released?
Last August, I announced that we were not ready to set a firm ship date but that we were shooting for this spring. (I meant the season that runs from March to June, but it's clear from our email traffic that some of you assumed that I meant spring training.) We've made a ton of progress since then, but we still have work to do on things like player creation, stats transfer, and drafting, so we're not ready to announce a firm date yet. As soon as we can, we'll make an announcement through this newsletter and our web site.
It's time for me to get back to work on version 8. I'll be back with an update on our progress in the next few weeks.