Want Better Football Gaming? Avoid The NFL License

This might be sacrilege for many pro football fans out there.  However, after playing just one game of All Pro Football 2K8 last night I found that the answer to all of my football gaming frustration is based on changing one thing (primarily) – the NFL license.

nfl-no-fun-league

Before a lot of people start coming at my neck for this, let me make one thing clear.  I love using my favorite team (the Browns) and building my team through the draft & guiding them to the playoffs.  However, when my quarterback or wide receiver gets lit up during the game, I want to see them struggle to get up off the field.  I want to see players hobble with a pulled hamstring during a game.  I want to see and feel real football again.   The primary reason we don’t have that with Madden NFL is because the NFL has essentially castrated the game to being a representation of NFL football only in name.

This isn’t to say that EA Tiburon is off the hook when it comes to their pathetic annual roster update with minimal improvements and innovation to the actual game.  Madden has been able to ride the exclusive NFL license all the way to the bank for close to a decade now.  Not to mention the fact that in the process, they have also found it necessary to remove features from year to year and effectively do as little as possible to evolve their product over time.  This isn’t new to gamers that have bought Madden over the last two decades.  We have become almost jaded into expecting and accepting that ‘it is what it is’.

2K Sports hasn’t said anything about a new football title in the last few years.  However, now that we are entering a new generation of consoles with even more possibilities for improvements to graphics and physics in sports gaming; it does beg the question of when we will (if ever) see another 2K Football game.

Would you buy a 2K Football game on next-gen hardware?

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Is Madden NFL Still Relevant?

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This is one of the more risky topics I have covered for the sake of this site and the popularity of all of my Madden NFL coverage in recent years.  That being said – I am having a difficult time these days wanting to write or cover any sort of news from the Madden NFL front, let alone anything positive about the series.  It has been a journey of ups and downs covering EA’s football games and it has finally come to a point where I am questioning whether this title is worth anything more than obligatory coverage for the sake of web traffic.

It Is The Same Game – Every. Single. Year.

Madden doesn’t change.  There are roster updates and a few tweaks to gameplay, sure.  I don’t expect Madden to become a baseball game or something either.  While continuity and general similarities should be expected in a sports title I can’t help but wonder where the innovation has been over the last decade.  The last Madden game that really changed anything was Madden 2005 and that was the hit-stick that does nothing but aesthetic value for hits that cause no real injuries to occur (most likely because the NFL demands that such ‘violence’ not be realistically put into the game).

People Still Talk About NFL 2K5

Nothing should make a developer more upset than people still preferring another title that hasn’t existed for ten years over their current game.  While NFL 2K has a cult following among a relatively small group of sports gamers, it is still worth pointing out that not only do they exist, but they are quite devoted to never buying a Madden game.  Even if we were to look at All Pro Football 2K8 from this perspective.  It still holds up to the improved graphics and physics of Madden because it plays like a real football game.

EA Sports and the NFL Hold Madden Back

This might be the biggest issue that causes Madden to be such a dull experience.  EA Sports has exclusive rights to create the NFL in video game format for consoles.  This means that their goal has nothing to do with the game being innovative or realistic.  It has everything to do with the bottom line and whether or not profit is being obtained annually.  While this is clearly the goal of any ‘successful’ business, it remains to be seen where this will ever lead to any real innovation in the future.

The NFL has come under fire in recent years for concussions and injuries from the danger of playing football.  Rather than coming out and saying that the game has risks and standing firm on the grounds of the game, they have bowed under the pressure of lawsuits that have started to slowly ruin the game.  We have gotten to a point where in Madden, they can’t allow realistic injuries to occur because the NFL doesn’t want to market that aspect of the game for fear of being sued some more.  It is a farce and the political correctness is hurting the game on consoles and on the field.

The Community Is Dying A Slow Death

Madden 10 was the last time I was truly excited about a Madden title; and it was also the last time I pre-ordered the game.  The interaction with Ian Cummings and Co. made me feel like I actually had a stake in the game before it was released.  They took the opinions of sim sports gamers seriously and really tried to make the game realistic.  To their credit, they did make a damn good game that year.  There were a lot of signs that started to point in the direction of Madden becoming truly innovative and a game for ‘real football fans’.  That died in Madden 11 and 12 as EA tried to once again dumb down the game for ‘casual gamers’.  Again, it was and will always be about the bottom line rather than innovation.

The aspect that EA seems to have forgotten is that the sports gaming community is their primary ‘Day One’ sales target.  In this regard, they have been losing more and more customers over the last four years because they have taken away those interactions and decided to make the same game every year.  Madden 13 and Madden 25 are virtually the same game.  The commentary is the same garbage and the terrible gameplay and AI is still there.  The CPU still calls a timeout when they have the ball at the 1:01 mark and they still call the same pathetic plays at the end of close games.

Do you really think that this would be the case if there were some sort of competition?  Better yet, do you think these issues would still be around if EA still took an active approach to seeking the input of the consumer?

Where do you stand?  Are you sick of Madden yet?  Are you still playing and older version or a 2K title?

Comment below.

Sim Sports Gaming Vs. Casual Sports Gaming (Remember The Titans)

We have been focusing on Madden 13 and football gaming quite a bit over the last few months.  One of our more recent articles was about the complete subjectivity in what makes someone a “Sim” sports gamer.  After considering my own personal views and then looking at my own advise to the NTTV community (…have a good time and play the game however the hell you want to…) I was left to wonder what the other people within the sports gaming community thought about this rather trivial but somehow vital prescription for how games should play and be played.

The ultimate showdown between the Casual Sports Gamer and The ‘Sim’ Nazi… Where do you stand?

it was at that point that I came across this post on operationsports.com from community member, Big FN Deal

…I will suggest this again, for all the good it will likely do. We are all aware that the game is not tuned for optimal realism, it is tuned for a “fun”/realism balance. So they should release two separate optional tuner sets, one “balanced” for casual Madden play, the other for the “hardcore” tuned for optimal realism. …” (click the link for the full post)

What made my mind explode was the mention of the word ‘FUN’. In case you don’t remember what that is; it was that thing you used to do when you were younger and playing games that made you laugh and enjoy the moment because you were just having a good time.  You wanted to smile your way through whatever happened and breath in that fresh air of innocence.

Then something happened… you can’t pin-point it, but chances are good that it happened when you started playing high school sports and the coaches started screaming at you and you thought every moment was live or die.  You stopped wanting to have fun and just wanted raw, unadulterated, anger inducing competition.  You stopped smiling.  You stopped playing the game for fun.  It became a chore to even go home and relax with a game of Madden football because there is NO WAY someone can rocket catch in real life!

The Definitive Movie Reference

This clip can be viewed from a two sports gamer perspectives/comparisons…

1- Casual Gamers That Play For Fun (The Players) VS. Sim Gamers That Play Strictly For Realism (Coach Boone)

or

2- Madden Fanboys (The Players) VS. 2K Fanboys (Coach Boone)

Hopefully you are laughing at this point, because you are supposed to be… if you are angry, that is okay too.  Just remember to think back to when you used to have fun.  Once upon a time when there was no such thing as a ‘patch’ for the 100-Yard pass in Tecmo Super Bowl.

How Should Sports Games Reflect The Happenings of Real Life?

Today the NCAA decided to pass down a punishment on Penn State that would essentially cripple the football team and university for years.  It does raise a question about how much video games should or shouldn’t reflect what happens in real life.  For instance, in NCAA 11 and 12 you will notice that teams like USC and Ohio State are given terrible ratings as far as Championship Caliber and Coach Ratings matching those of Luke Fickell (eventhough they aren’t really those coaches… riiiight).

When game developers gloss over the realities of the sports they are trying to reproduce they are short-changing their creativity and the consumer’s ability to take part in a true simulation of the sport itself.

Now we are in the midst of a USC team coming off of a ban, an Ohio State team starting a one year ban and last but not least – Penn State.  In NCAA Football 06 you would have to deal with players violating team rules and all sorts of things that brought real life situations to the game.  Why have these things been taken out of games this generation?

Madden NFL Football doesn’t have late hits, real-time injuries or even contract holdouts.  Are sports games being held to a different standard somehow?  We have shooter games that allow for some of the most gruesome actions to take place but when it comes to sports titles we can’t have late hits or concussions?  We can’t have bowl bans or shady recruiting?  We can’t have team rules violations by players that have questionable motivations?

You can’t say we never had these things before…  we did… but  now they are gone with the winds of political correctness or some sort of false societal demands.

Madden 13 ‘Legends’ – I Think I Played This Game Before

Madden 13 is coming to your console with Legendary Players.  If you are excited about this – more power to you.

On the other hand, you could pop in a game that is five years old tomorrow and use quite a few of the same players such as the great Reggie White.

This is a screen capture of Mr. White as a Philadelphia Eagle while it looks very nice, the only thing different is that it is a licensed NFL rendition on the Madden engine.

It isn’t really a question of whether or not Madden or 2K Football is better.  It really is apples and oranges when you start comparing how the games play and other nuances that are too numerous to discuss in this article.

However, the real issue at hand is that EA Tiburon is putting this ‘feature’ in a game and almost acting like it is an original idea.  2K Sports (out of desperation) to please their hardcore football fans and with a feeble attempt to jump into the football gaming foray early on in this generation of consoles tried to grab a foothold with the inclusion of legends such as the aforementioned – Reggie White.  As well, they had players you can see here on 2K’s website.

The Original ‘Legends Game’ can be had for cheap. You will be amazed with the gameplay and animations that might not even be in Madden this year… or ever.

The issue at hand also makes the controversial Connected Careers Mode a little more strange in that it allows these legendary players (Barry Sanders, Ronnie Lott, Troy Aikman, etc.) as well as Legendary Coaches!  It is puzzling that they can’t allow people to do something like edit rosters, but they can allow legendary players onto their teams.

To compound the confusion there is also another vital question that needs to be asked –

Since when does the coach matter in Madden football?

Legendary Coaches is also a nice enough feature (and one that isn’t in APF2K8) but coaches have never mattered in Madden NFL.  You could have gone to the Super Bowl with Romeo Crennel’s ‘I’m Thinkin’ Arbys Cleveland Browns All Stars’ and it wouldn’t matter a bit.  Your coach means nothing in Madden and that has always been the case.

Madden 13 is on par to impress with their usual growth this year, but the inclusion of legends and marketing of their presence in Connected Careers (as well as Ultimate Team) is something that makes a lot of people look at EA with confusion and wonder if they will ever understand that gimmicks (especially those that have been done by another company) don’t sell games or make their game more enticing.  They are cheapening the ‘experience’ and making it feel more and more like it should be Downloadable Content to mess around with like a toy from a Happy Meal and then forgotten forever in the annals of Epic Sports Gaming Fails.

If you want a great game with classic players that requires a more simulation approach than Madden, please follow our link to a bargain of a fantastic football game!

All Pro Football 2K8