This Moment In Simulated Sports History:
The advent of Spring at Derbyfever.com (also known as The SIM to its most loyal devotees) is accompanied by its own set of particular traits and traditions, just like the real world counterparts. No one knows if the trees inside of Mike Wallace’s computer begin to bud, or if a long winter of post Breeder’s Bowl glory (or agony) melts away like a digitized snowdrift, but the signs of the new season are readily apparent.
Two year olds.
The urge to try out new stallions is irresistible; the chance to redeem those underachieving blue-blooded pedigree mares (and he-mares) comes again in the form of an unraced foal; love is in the air once again – and by ‘love’ I mean shards of simulated piggybanks being shattered as the Breeding Points and Credit coffers are emptied.
Hope springs eternal.
We’ve already had a few weeks of 2yo racing, with its yearly buffet of triple-digit mutuals and 75 horses vying for 14 slots in the starting gate. Prior to the first Derby Lock race, it is definitely the hottest game intown.
But once upon a time, things worked slightly differently in our SIM. Change is gradual but inevitable, and one particular change eliminated the need for one important rite of Spring that some veteran SIM trainers may remember wistfully (or woefully, or both). Some of them are experiencing early onset of dementia (no names, please) and, like me, are lucky if they remember to wear briefs underneath their trousers. Just sayin'.
You see, the concept of being able to breed your OWN horses (aka the Homebred) was introduced into SIM gameplay circa 2002. I know this because when I opened my first stable in 2001 (approximately week 652), the CPU stable bred and generated ALL the horses in the game. If you dig deep into some current horses’ ancestry, you might find some equine founding fathers such as SIM legends ENOUGH KNOCK and SEATTLE HIT. These horses existed at the beginning of Simulated Time… but where did new horses come from if you couldn’t breed them?
The 2yo draft was an elaborate system by which trainers were sorted into a pecking order which permitted them to “draft” from a pool of newly-bred 2yos every year. This pool was not unlike the one that a new stable would pick its 5 “original horses” from, but in this case the CPU bred and named them all. You could peruse the list like a Keeneland Sales Catalogue of sorts, but there was no guarantee you’d get the horses you coveted… that was up to the CPU man upstairs. SIM historian Squirrel dug up this ancient hyperlink with some rather complex instructions that certainly would have been daunting to a logic-challenged individual such as myself…take a look at the link, if you dare:
So many new horses that needed original monikers, and unlike their real world counterparts, you couldn’t make suggestions to the Jockey Club after they were born. This resulted in some names that clearly only computer entities like Hal and Banana Jr. 6000 could love… lots of prepositions and adjective/verb combos, whereas today’s CPU breds (mostly filler for fields which don’t attract 4 human trainer entries) seem to be lifted straight from the phone book. Wait… does anyone under 30 know what a phone book was? “Paper doorstop” and “those square things we take to be recycled” are not acceptable answers.
The sire stats system that is in place now was merely a glimmer in Mike’s eye in those days, so selecting a top horse was a little more of a crapshoot than today’s ticker-based system (viva Capitalism?) In fact, the entire game was “free” to play in those heady days of internet advertising revenue, where simply clicking on a webpage or an advertising banner would generate gobs of incoming scratch to keep the game running (this could be its own "This Week" article…) Alas, the golden years of Silicon Valley and internet cash cow revenue did not last – thankfully, Mr.Wallace intervened and created a system which kept the “free” option in place…but there would be no need for the CPU to generate a vast pool of horses to replace the older ones who were no longer viable runners… at least for the time being.