Monday, February 20, 2017

All Good Things Must Come to and End

In 2006 I stumbled across the Tecmo Repository and lurked off and on for about two years, not knowing how to play on an emulator.  In early 2010 I sold my original NES console and felt seller's remorse.  I went back to the Tecmo Repository and started to ask questions.  Once school let out in June, I finally got a USB NES controller and tried out the emulator.  Not only did I accomplish my goal of playing updated Tecmo Super Bowl ROMs on the computer, but I also discovered there were online leagues.

I played my very first Tecmo Players Circuit game against timbone666.  He was kind enough to show me the ropes and get me connected. Despite it being a very lop-sided matchup in my favor, I won 28-17 and thought I was King of Tecmo.  I then went 2-12 in my next 14 games.  It wasn't until my first couple of online leagues that I started to learn a great deal about the game and started changing the way I played.  I played in a total of 17 leagues during my online career.  Some of my favorites were HSTL and ATA.

My very first online league was Season 17 of the High Speed Tecmo League (HSTL).  I took over for the Miami Dolphins where Opus decided to leave.  In the 12 games that I played I went 5-7.  I would continue to play HSTL for 9 more seasons. In season 21 I played regulator088 in the HSTL Bowl for my first online title.

Around the end of season 24 things began to get fishy playing online.  People I could out tap with my toes were suddenly beating me when I was trying 100%.  After speaking with 1 of these individuals on a private chat, I found out he was using a "slide" controller.  I did not know what this meant until I searched eBay and found the exact controller this guy used.  I bought this controller for the sole purpose of outing cheaters.  During season 26 I had the ultimate team for my skill set.  I started the season 7-0.  I was confident, barring any bad luck, that I would be playing for my second HSTL title. In the 8th game of the season I got turboed.  Same guy I spoke with in the chat.  During games against suspected turboers, I would set my input 1 controller with my regular NES and my input 2 was the slider controller.  In the last series, right before the half,  I ran 4 straight isolation plays to catch him ( I was getting beat by 2 scores after being tossed for scores).  All 4 isolation plays resulted in me losing isolation grapples in the backfield.  At the half I called him out.  I switched back to my NES controller and finished out the game.  When it was over I messaged the league commissioner.

Eventually these turboers were outed by others and banned for a certain number of seasons.  I immediately quit the season and left HSTL.  This was the first really bad instance where online left a sour taste in my mouth.  I had sat out a season, and when the turboers were gone, I came back to HSTL as the Saints.  A few games into the season the league needed a replacement.  In season 29 I came back as the Colts and had 5 out of 6 winning seasons. Season 32 and season 33 I almost got hit with demerits because of the lack of scheduling with other players.  In season 34 it was impossible to schedule with people and two games into the season I quit HSTL for good.

In the American Tecmo Association (ATA) I played from season 19-29.  I inherited possibly one of the most poorly constructed teams ever in that first season.  My highest HP lineman was 38. My best DB was 38 MS / 44 INT. My best RB was 38 MS.  My best player (which I had to trade for) was Vince Young.  He had and incredible 31 MS, but his PS was 25 and his PC/PA was 44.  I went 0-16.  I received my worst ever MAN vs MAN defeat (63-0).  I toughed it out and promised the league that when I got to draft my own team that things would be different.  The following season I drafted Peyton Hillis and broke, the then, ATA record for Rushing Yards and Rushing TDs.  I did so by leading the Colts to a 12-4 record.  Season 21 was much of the same and the league voted me the Season 21 Coach of the Year. Seasons 22 and 23 I had to combo of Carson Palmer to Wes Welker.  In season 23 I broke the ATA All-Time Passing Yards (5579), the then Passing TDs record, Receiving Yards (4824), and Receiving TDs (46). In season 27 I broke the ATA All-Time Interceptions in a season (26) with Richard Sherman.  In season 28 I broke the ATA All-Time Rushing Yards (3234) with 56 MS Anthony Sherman.  Five of these records still stand. While I shined in statistical categories and made the playoffs 8 of my 11 seasons, I never could get over the hump to win an ATA title due to some bad luck and skilled opponents.

I had several stints in the World Tecmo Federation leagues (WTF, WTFC, and WTFR), but to me they were just too juiced and felt nothing like original ROM.  Great leagues, but the constant planning, trading, and drafting (well into the future) sucked the life out of it for me. Classic Tecmo League (CTL) was much of the same with time consuming number-crunching and having to plan around dollar amounts 3 years in advamce. For Fantasy Football types, this would have been great, but I was here to play Tecmo, not run teams.  I wanted to keep playing online Tecmo because I was getting better and I did enjoy the different variety of opponents that it offered, but I didn't like many of these league formats.

I started to dabble in ROM hacking a couple of years into my online career.  I got to point where I could make my own ROMs pretty easily with the help of people on the forums.  I decided to start my own league called Money in the Bank (MIB).  This league gave owners a certain amount of ratings notches in a team "bank". Player positions had caps and minimums. Owners built their entire team the way they wanted.  Uniform colors, team logos, team names, player names, and the player ratings. I felt like it was uber successful for 4 seasons. It had very little turnover.  I won my second online title in season 2 of MIB with the Naptown Punch (all professional wrestlers on the roster).  I would have kept the league going, but it was tedious to run it.

After MIB, my participation in console tournaments started to increase as I was traveling all around the country to play.  This was also when I slowly withdrew from certain leagues.  After talking with some of my closer friends in Tecmo, I wanted to come up with another league that helped live console players in tournaments which forced you to call the matchup.  This is where Tecmo Team Cup comes in.  Tecmo Team Cup is an online league where groups of owners play as a team to win a championship.  Each week of the season requires members from a team to call matchups. The opponents then select the team they want from the matchup.  Teams are encouraged to choose more lop-sided matchups or matchups that are unconventional.  This would exploit traditional tendencies at tournaments.   These lop-sided matchups receive extra points if you can pull off the upset.  These totals go toward the team's total for the duration of a regular season and playoffs.  This league ran for 4 seasons (each season took about 8 months to complete).  The members of this league started playing much better in live tournaments and I truly believe this played a part in that.

Tecmo Team Cup

In October of 2015 I officially "retired" from online leagues.  I continued to play in Tecmo Team Cup.  Tecmo Team Cup will be ending its 4th season right before Tecmo Madison Return of the Mack.  I have already been eliminated from the playoffs and I will not be returning for a 5th season. If the league wants to continue I will run the league, but I have played my last online league game. There are so many circumstances that have brought me to this decision.

So again, I have had much greater success in person than I ever did online.  I started to question why this was.  I also had people ask me why I played so much better in person, but was just so so online.  I didn't really have an answer for them.  So here are some facts:

In the 17 leagues I played, over the course of seven years, my online league win percentage is .515. If I took out the two leagues that I ran in my online career, then my online league win percentage would have only been .507.  My Tecmo Players Circuit win percentage is .633. My live console scrimmages record (yes I keep track) is .685.  My live console tournament record is .750.  Now I know there are several circumstances that would cause SOME discrepancies in these numbers.  For instance, The TPC record is considerably higher than the league record.  Maybe this is because TPC, for the most part, is only original ROM.

Most online leagues allow the owner of a team to switch the defensive position of players.  This completely changes the original game.  Players are not forced to play "tougher" positions with better players.  Online players can then cater to their strengths by altering the game play.  I grew up playing on a console, so for me this is not the same.

The biggest reason why I think playing online and console are so different are the variables. First, as mentioned above, you cannot control what your opponent is doing behind a screen. Are they checking the condition of the defense with a conditions checker?  Are they using a turbo controller? Are the using a regular controller, but running a pencil or ring over the buttons to gain an advantage? Are they dragging the emulator screen to cause a missed field goal? How about the dreded play-picker?  How good is that connection? Does your game stutter?  Do you have controller input delay?  Do not get me started on input delay.  I have seriously tested both Tecmo Super Bowl and Mike Tyson's Punchout side by side on a CRT and a laptop. THEY ARE NOT THE SAME.  I don't care what data you have to tell me otherwise.  I have seen it with my own eyes.  VERY NOTICEABLE difference in the input from controller to screen. Even HDMI Retro consoles like the Retron 5 have this delay.  The only systems I have not had a chance to test are the HDMI Mod Kit from Kevtris / Game Tech U.S. and the AVS from RetroUSB.

I am not here to bash online Tecmo.  Without it I would not be the KNOWLEDGEABLE player I have become.  However, when I go to playing a great deal of online/computer Tecmo and then go to play console, it takes me weeks to adjust on timing mechanisms.  The same is true after long stints playing live.  When I go back to playing on the computer it takes me weeks to adjust back.  I am not getting any younger.  At some point the physical skills are going to deteriorate.  The back and forth is counter-productive to my play.  With this being said, I have and always will, prefer live tournaments to online play.  I like being there with the competitor.  I enjoy the moment and the experiences.  I enjoy sharing those moments with other people in person.  This is why I am deciding that I am no longer playing on a computer.  With the technology of the EverDrive I can still play modded or hacked games on console.  I don't have a need to play online anymore.  I still play the best competition there is at these live tournaments.

In closing, I just want to thank everyone from the online community.  Speical thanks goes out to Gary who gave me the opportunity to host 2 leagues at Tecmo World.  I will still be around and will have my Discord, but just for live tournament news and friendly communication.

Long Live Tecmo

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