Last season, Ryan invited me and 22 other basketbloggers and hoops fans to some UFC action. No, we didn’t step into The Octagon and beat the daylights out of each other. We played Ultimate Fantasy Commissioner, NBA.com’s first attempt at the traditional format of fantasy hoops. While some of us enjoyed it, most were decidedly lukewarm. In a survey of my fellow GMs, 70% ranked Yahoo! Fantasy NBA as their first choice, followed by UFC, Salary Cap Challenge, and “Other” (i.e., ESPN and CBS Sportsline).
To me, UFC seemed like an unfinished product, with glitches and gradually-working features. Why wasn’t it more polished and ready to go? What will be done to improve the game for the 2007-08 season? NBA.com’s Fantasy Games Manager, Jon Loomer, answered my questions via email:
Hey, Jeff. Let me give you a small taste. First, see attached. You’ll note immediately that the look and feel are vastly improved. I’ve cut off the header because of legal issues, but that is much improved as well.
First, let me give you a quick history of last year’s game.
I arrived here in December of 2005, which was after the 05-06 season had already started. My first goal was to create a new commissioner game. I wanted the most comprehensive game with more features than anyone offers, but free. After finding a partner to build this game, we began work in March of 2006. As you may know, there is only so much you can do in six months, which is what we had to build this game. The game was cleaned up throughout the season, and many of the features and fixes I wanted implemented were saved for this season.
In February, we hired a company to redesign the game. This was a very complicated process, including 90 minute interview sessions with users to determine what they like, don’t like, what they want in their game, etc., as well as sessions during and after the redesign was complete. The result? The game looks beautiful, and we are solving all outstanding issues, as well as implementing some cool new features.
It is impossible to list everything that has been improved, because it’s seriously everything. Some notable improvements include the league set-up, joining a league, and the message forum. More community features are being added, more analysis tools, etc. The overall ui and user experience is vastly improved. I just can’t say enough.
There are also items that we are trying to squeeze in, including mobile functionality and auction drafts. There is so much to come, it would take hours to go over it all.
Don’t base your decision on the experience you had in last year’s game. Yes, we’ll have all of the features there that we had last year, and it will be free. However, there will be more, it will work better, it will provide a much better league experience, and it will be so pretty it may just be voted Homecoming Queen. I’d ask that you check us out before making a decision. Launch isn’t that far away.
I admit, I was leaning towards Yahoo! for next year. Now that I’ve read Jon’s plea, I’d like to give UFC another chance before I give it the Pete Becker smackdown.
UPDATE: More UFC screenshots on NBA.com.