How it began.....
In late 1998 I got a call from a friend who knew a guy that was starting a computer football league & was looking for interested participants. The guy was Brad Bridgwater & was using the very popular(at the time) Football Pro '98. I figured why not & gave him a call.
Brad decided to go with the 12 team league format(just like the AFL12 & former GNFL)calling it the WFL(Wichita Football League). The draft was to be at his apartment with owners drafting one by one an entire 53 man roster from the 1998 NFL Player pool. Needless to say, this was a daunting task. I had no idea that I would be there for 6 hours drafting players with no knowledge of the 8 attributes per player & their subsequent meaning. As many of you know the game has some quirks & glitches which down through the years I have discovered work arounds. This was not the case in this situation. Brad tried to draft players 'in game' as we selected them. About 4 hours into the draft, the game began shifting players around to different teams(a work around I figured out years ago). Brad did not know what to do. For the next 2 hours we aimlessly watched him struggle to figure out the problem. Inevitably, the draft was suspended.
Fast forward several years later.....Brad figured out the issues with the game, was able to discover the work arounds & the league thrived. The WFL had strict player caps & very limited talent base in the rookie drafts. There were no 'studs' or 'semi studs' created for the draft. Brad offered only one playbook, the WFL(which the AFL12 still offers). After a few seasons he created the 'run & shoot' as an alternative to the WFL. Both playbooks were very basic with not a lot of creative blocking schemes. No matter, the league was fun & gave me and a bunch of other guys something to look forward to when football wasn't happening. I believe we have one owner in the AFL12 that remembers much of what I speak....John Turner of the Turner Penguins.
Brad decided to have a family & felt that the WFL was too much work into his busy schedule. I believe it was 2001 or 2002 when the WFL was disbanded. It was a fantastic league & I made a lot of great friends. I couldn't let it die. Enter the GNFL.
After much deliberation, a lot of phone calls & even a one on one tutorial with Brad(which went very badly) I decided to form the GNFL. Only a few of the former WFL guys were interested so I reached out to the online community & friends of friends. The GNFL was formed. A 12 team league that offered multiple offensive & defensive playbooks(about 3 or 4). It was all consuming.
After several years I expanded the league to an 18 team league. I had a good friend that was really good with numbers create a custom 14 game schedule for the league. Now I had 18 owners(me included) scattered throughout the world participating in the GNFL. The league expansion was challenging but really provided great competition & comradery. I was addicted. So much so that I created a College Football League. The CGFA was formed(College Gridiron Football Association). It was a 12 team league that featured real college teams but with make believe players. Most of the GNFL owners joined in.
Now, finally the reason for this article. Though re living the history of this league & leagues before it has been a pleasant(mostly)trip down memory lane, I'd like to share an interesting discussion I had with one of the FBPRO '98 developers in 2007.
Even in 2007 FBPro '98 was thriving with online leagues, head to head leagues, simulation leagues. The VPNFL(Vaguely Plausible National Football League)was the king of FBPro leagues & proven ratings caps. They also developed quite a library of custom plays many of which we use today. It was here that I really began to cut my teeth on improving the GNFL. I visited the VPNFL forum almost daily, connecting with other GM's and game players all over the world. We began sharing not only information but utilities, plays, profiles, ideas, you name it.
So, one day I happened to be on the VPNFL forum and a guy was posting about an online chat with one of the developers of FBPro '98 that used to work for Sierra. (Sierra was bought out by Vivendi shortly after the FBPro '99 debacle. More on that later.) I jumped at the chance to ask this guy(I don't recall his name) many things about the game; its limitations, why we can't alter logos or make the clock management profiles better, etc.
I was like the 2nd guy to join the chat room that night. There ended up being about 30 of us in total, asking questions & listening to his answers. It was quite informative. Did you know that he was one of 50 other dudes creating this game? It was a grind to pump out new & improved FBPro series games year to year. I believe the first one was FBPro '94. Many I talked to say the '97 version was the best. Anyway, we asked him why he left Sierra. His answer was based around the '99 version. You see, all the FBPro Series games were 2D. Madden & similar games were all going to 3D & the demand was great for Sierra to join the fold. However, this was not to be a one year turnaround as much as Sierra wished.
All of the FBPro Series games(94,95,96,97,98)used the same game engine to power the game. FBPro '99 required a new & much different one to power the game. Even with 50+ guys reworking the engine, it was released with many bugs. My recollection is that it was literally unplayable. Sierra quickly came out with bug fixes to make the game somewhat playable, but in the end it wasn't to be. This would be Sierra's one and only stab at a text based 3D Football game. I actually have a FBPro '99 disc, which I still can't get to work even with the released patches.
Back to the chat. After lengthy discussion about attributes and actuals vs potentials I finally got to ask the burning question....."ARE THERE HIDDEN NUMBERS?". The guy was pretty quick to respond, telling the group of "chatters" that "numbers are numbers, and there is nothing past actuals & potentials". Boo for me. I could tell that this dude had moved on and was just humoring us group of leftover '98 players basically telling us stuff we already know. Until.......
The guy was ready to leave the chat room so we all said our goodbyes. I stuck around a while hoping to maybe ask some more questions. I was the last one to leave the chat room until he chimed in one more time. "Cameron?". I said "hey!" He responded, "You asked a question that startled me & I wasn't prepared to share the information with the world". I said, "am I right?". He said, "Yes". I said, "How?". He responded, "The game has a function that 'stamps' each incoming player with either average OR above average abilities regardless of actuals & potentials". WHOA. I asked one final question...."Is there a way to identify these 'stamped' players?". The answer was a quick, "No". He said goodbye and that was it.
2009 was my final year running the GNFL. My personal life got in the way & the game was too much to do. The CGFA was the first to go. Then in early 2010 I offered the GNFL to my friend Jack Davis. At that time I never thought I would enter the FBPro world again.
So, in 2012 I got the itch again. For those of you reading this that were in Jacks GNFL league in no way did I intend to poach any owners from there to join my league. I just missed running a league that I had invested so much into. I'm certain that Jack took offense to my starting a league again & he's entitled to his feelings.
8 years in and the AFL12 is one of just a handful of leagues still playing this crazy game. I'm in for the long haul this time. And, the only reason of this WAR & PEACE length article was to let you in on the hidden secret of FBPRO 98. Stamped players with above normal capabilities outside of the viewable actual & potential numbers. You can probably identify these players in our current league, just because of the consistency and dominate performances. Ayrton Senna anybody?