Interview with Bob Winberry,
Strat-O-Matic Chief Technology Officer
Q: The Strat-O-Matic world is abuzz with the exciting news regarding the launch of a new product. What can you tell us about it?
Thanks for this opportunity to discuss Baseball MAX, the latest digital version of the Strat-O-Matic baseball game.
At its core Baseball MAX is a modern web-based baseball game that was created with ease of use being the core design philosophy. It can be played by anybody, anywhere, on any device. It is subscription based, and with your subscription you will have access to all of Major League Baseball history – our entire library of seasons! And it offers live game play — every manually played league game will be broadcast on the Internet, allowing anybody to view games as they are being played.
Q: That’s interesting. Why was ease of use so important in the development of this game?
From its very inception as a board game, Hal Richman, the inventor of the Strat-O-Matic game and our company’s founder, has always stressed playability as the key to its success. We are taking that notion to a new level with Baseball MAX. It is easily the most playable Strat-O-Matic game we’ve ever developed. Yet, simultaneously, it is easily the most advanced, technologically speaking.
Q: How is this game different from the Windows baseball game?
The Windows game offers an entirely different way to play Strat-O-Matic. It allows the gamer total flexibility to create, manage, and report on their leagues in just about any way imaginable. However, there is a learning curve involved, and not everybody can make the time commitment necessary to access all of that capability.
When I created the first Strat-O-Matic game for Windows in the late 1980s I had no idea how complex and feature-laden it would become. The design goal at that time was to enable a way for board game players to transition their game play to the new world of personal computers. Over the years the Windows game has evolved into the ultimate power game for the baseball fan. But all that capability comes with complexity.
Baseball MAX takes a different approach. Instead of presenting a myriad of menu choices (as the Windows game does) it offers pre-packaged “Experiences” to users. Literally speaking, you can create a Draft or Historical league in mere seconds. There is no need for league commissioners as virtually everything is automated. Finding opponents has never been easier – the entire Baseball MAX platform is designed to be a social network in and of itself. It’s truly an amazing leap forward in terms of interconnectivity and community.
Q: How About Baseball 365? How does Baseball Max differ?
Baseball 365 is a fantasy style, salary-based, draft-centric, autoplay-only game. It is a game designed for the Strat-O-Matic fanatic who loves drafting teams and participating in an extremely competitive environment. Unlike Baseball MAX, you can’t manually play games in 365. Rather all games are auto-played.
The key to Baseball 365 is in understanding the value of a Strat-O-Matic card as it relates to the assigned salaries, so as to squeeze as much value into your roster that is allowed by the salary cap. So it is a completely different game than either Baseball MAX or our Windows game.
Q: What are some of the specific advantages of Baseball MAX as compared to the Windows baseball game?
While the Windows game offers users almost every conceivable variation of game play, that flexibility comes at a cost of time and complexity. Baseball MAX concisely defines experiences so it’s not customizable in the way that the Windows game is. However, Baseball Max offers a myriad of advantages for you to consider:
- Interface – Visually speaking Baseball MAX is spectacular when compared to the Windows game. It offers a modern, professionally designed user interface that you’ll be proud to show off to your friends!
- Platform – The Windows game can only be played on… you guessed it… a PC running Windows. You can play Baseball MAX on any device with a browser that supports Progressive Web Apps. Want to play on your iPhone, your Android phone, your Mac desktop, your tablet, or your PC? How about on your geeky friend’s computer who insists on running Linux? No problem at all – this game can be played on just about anything! There’s even a way to create an app on your phone or tablet so you can easily access the game with a tap rather than going to your mobile web browser.
- Portability – With the Windows game you are somewhat locked to a particular computer (although with some effort you can move the game to another computer). Your Baseball MAX subscription will allow you to play on any device, and switching between them is as simple as picking up the other device and logging in. For example, you can create a league on your desktop at home, play some games on your iPhone during your morning commute (well, as long as you are not driving!), and then pick things back up that evening as you settle into your comfy chair with your tablet.
- Installation – To play the Windows game you’ll first need to download it to a PC, run the installer (which can sometimes be difficult due to Anti-Virus software), and unlock it using authorization codes. To play with Baseball MAX you simply navigate to the game’s URL address – max.strat-o-matic.com. There’s nothing to install and no more codes. You just click a link and that’s it! You’re always running with the most up-to-date features.
- Gaining Proficiency – Using any software requires some sort of learning curve. For the Windows game your first step will be reading the Getting Started documentation to begin the process of educating yourself on how you accomplish things using the software. Depending on how much you’ll want to do, it may require significant time to acclimate to the game. For Baseball MAX you can simply click to start a new Experience or navigate to the Game Lobby to find other players to engage with. In almost no time at all, you will be up to speed and ready to enjoy the game to its fullest. Additionally, we’ve created a series of How-To videos that walk users through various aspects of using Baseball Max. Should you still have questions or encounter any challenges, our dedicated customer support team is just a click away through the “Help?” widget, ensuring you have the assistance you need to make the most of your gaming experience.
- Playing Over the Internet – The Windows game has a Netplay component that allows you to play games over the Internet. However, it can sometimes be awkward to use and getting it to run properly will require more time to figure out. For Baseball MAX you just send an invite and seconds later the pre-game launch is underway! In addition Baseball MAX allows users to view or participate in live broadcasts of their games. If you choose you can enable your device’s camera and live-stream the game between you and your opponent. Spectators can gather and post comments in your game’s chat section. Games can now become a real community event!
- Managing Leagues – To run a league using the Windows game requires there be a commissioner (which is a daunting endeavor, as anyone who has done it can attest). It also requires having somebody to serve as the league statistician. Even with all the tools that are available in the Windows game, coordination of files can be difficult and time consuming for all league members. Baseball MAX dispenses with all of those roadblocks since it assumes the role of League Commissioner and League Statistician all by itself. Everything is completely automated!
- Finding Opponents – When using the Windows game you’ll have to seek out others to play with. Perhaps you’ll find a league that you can join… but again, joining a traditional computer league requires quite a commitment of your time. And finding somebody to play a quick game against can be near impossible. With Baseball MAX you simply head over to the Game Lobby where other folks who are looking for opponents are waiting for you! You can find new friends or connect with existing ones in the chat area. Search to find a league with an opening and click to join it. Or for exhibition games you can post a challenge like “I’ll play my 1969 Mets against any-and-all comers!” and get connected to play right away.
Q: Does the advent of Baseball MAX mean that the Windows game will be phased out?
Absolutely not! People often assume that a new technology portends the end of the era for existing products. However our experience has been just the opposite. For example, far from replacing the board game our Windows games have bolstered our board game products. They have never been more popular!
In the same way we don’t foresee Baseball MAX replacing our existing games, but rather supplementing them. We also believe that Baseball MAX will become a portal into the world of Strat-O-Matic for many people currently unfamiliar with Strat. And some of them will ultimately decide that in addition to Baseball MAX’s ease of play they want the power-user experience offered by our Windows game. So Baseball MAX is intended to supplement and not replace our existing computer products.
Q: Baseball MAX has a different rating system than traditional Strat-O-Matic Baseball. Can you tell us a bit more about why that is and how it works?
Sure. Baseball MAX rates all categories on a scale of 1 to 10. That has been done to allow new users to be able to get up and running without first needing to take a course on Strat-O-Matic ratings lingo! It is much easier to understand that 10 is great and 1 is horrible, no matter what aspect of player performance we are talking about.
However, experienced Strat-O-Matic users should know that all ratings in Baseball MAX are based upon our existing board-game ratings. Additionally, no matter where you are in Baseball MAX you can always see a player’s traditional Strat-O-Matic ratings by clicking or tapping on the player to view his Strat-O-Matic card.
Q: What Experiences are included in Baseball MAX?
For a start you will have access to all of the following experiences:
- Play an Exhibition Game between any two teams in Major League history. Also included in this experience will be select Negro League, Japanese, and other teams.
- Create a Historical League where you manage any team from any season in Major League history. With this experience you will be able to replay an entire historical season at your own pace.
- Create a Draft League where you and other human or computer-controlled teams can participate. As other humans are involved, this game comes with a league calendar where your upcoming games can be displayed and managed. Whichever user creates the league gets to set certain league parameters, like whether or not to use the DH.
- Play any All Star game from Major League history.
- When the 2024 Major League season starts, play Strat-O-Matic Baseball Daily Games based upon the current season. The Strat-O-Matic cards for this game are computed daily during the Major League season so that you have the very latest representation of each player’s current season performance.
But that is not all. We will continue building out the Baseball MAX platform by introducing exciting new experiences and features while upgrading current experiences on an ongoing basis.
You should also know that single games can be played either versus a live opponent or versus the computer manager. And in Historical or Draft leagues you can always choose to play your team’s games manually or allow them to be autoplayed.
Q. Earlier, you mentioned a video chat capability. Can you speak more about that?
Yes! Users who play against each other can select an audio/visual option that enables the two gamers to talk to each other and/or video chat while you play! Spectators who watch the game can chat with the gamers and other guests and watch the live video feed. Video chat lets users easily communicate with their friends and live stream your games!
Q. Can you let us know more about Free Early Access Beta?
Users who want to try out Baseball Max during Free Early Access Beta can sign up to get their name on the waitlist. During this Early Access Beta groups of users who signed up for the waitlist will be granted access to the game on a rolling basis, beginning with just a few invites and then expanding throughout the period. Users who are invited will have full access to everything included in the game: Exhibition Games, Historical Leagues, Draft Leagues, and All-Star Games. Since this is a Beta test, we expect there to be some problems that come up for the team to fix. There are even improvements that we’re already in the process of making but we couldn’t wait any longer to let users get their hands on it. We encourage all users who do sign up to let us know their feedback and any potential issues they run into via the Baseball Max customer service widget available throughout the Baseball Max interface.
Q: When will the Free Early Access Beta period end?
Great question! The free early access beta period will continue while we clean up any problems that users find and introduce our planned improvements. Updates to the game will be put out on a continuous basis until we’re ready to open the game to all customers.
Q: What will Baseball Max cost after the Early Access Beta period ends?
Once the game transitions to a paid product, users can join Baseball Max at our special introductory prices: $14.99 per month for the first three months or $149.99 for the entire first year. After this, subscriptions will renew at $19.99 per month or $199.99 per year. It’s important to note that users are not charged until after you’ve had a chance to try out the game during our two-day free trial. Your subscription covers it all – unlimited access to all game experiences and every season offered within Baseball Max. No hidden fees or add-ons – one subscription gives you everything available.
For those who participated in the beta period, they will continue to enjoy free access for a rolling period after the official paid product launch. To ensure a seamless transition, users will receive a notification seven days prior to the conclusion of their free access period, offering them the opportunity to subscribe at their convenience. We value our beta users and aim to provide a smooth and rewarding experience as they continue their Baseball MAX journey.
Q: In closing, what else can you tell us about Baseball MAX?
It’s fun, it’s easy, and it’s the future of the Strat-O-Matic Community! We anticipate many new people will be coming on board as we build this platform out. So we suggest that you get in on the ground floor, and establish your presence in this new Strat-O-Matic online universe. For the Strat-O-Matic Fanatic this really will be the place to be!