Madden NFL Is The Perfect Simulation of NFL Officiating

After watching the lowlights of Championship Weekend in the NFL just a few days ago I realized that we have been neglecting proper credit for the programming of the officials in Madden NFL. One thing can be said when you take a look at the penalty sliders in Madden – they are right on the money.

As someone that hasn’t booted up and played through a full game of our only NFL football option on console or PC in over a month I felt almost nostalgic for it when that helmet to helmet epic pass interference penalty wasn’t called or reviewed. It was like playing a big game in Madden (as big as those can feel, I guess) and having your own player get throttled in the same way. If you really want to see broken pass interference you should look at it on the offensive side of the ball – oh boy, that is some good simulation football right there.

Madden has been trying desperately to push their marketing through Twitter with all sorts of shout-outs and retweets of all things Madden. This includes NFL WR, Torrey Smith scoring 100+ points on his kid. Sure, we have probably all scored over 100 in Madden at some point on rookie. Sure, this is all in good fun and I don’t begrudge someone for playing the game however the hell they want to. However, it doesn’t change the fact that Madden is not improving or playing in the way it would be if it had competition – yes, it always comes back to that.

The officials in the NFL have been exceptionally bad this year. So bad in fact, that I think many fans have decided to stop watching NFL football in general. This was actually the first year in some time that I didn’t sit down and watch most of the playoff games. I don’t know how interested I will be in the Super Bowl as it is once again another appearance by Tom Brady playing against a team that seemingly was in the plans for the Super Bowl before the NFC Championship took place.

I’m not saying the NFL is fixed. I am saying the NFL IS FIXED. The same can almost be said for Madden in that MADDEN NEEDS FIXED.

Flag on the play! Too many complaints on the webpage.

Well, I guess I saw that coming.

The Legend and Tragedy of All Pro Football 2K8 – And What Could Have Been

In our office/spare room there is a secondary TV with my XBox 360 hooked up just in case some gaming needs to happen and the PS4/Big TV aren’t available. I had about an hour of free time where I found myself looking at my old 360 games and saw All Pro Football 2K8 shining in it’s nostalgic glory. Having just finished another season of Madden 19 Franchise Mode with the same stale feeling that I keep thinking will go away – I decided to boot up 2K8 for a random game. As I expected, I somehow emerged from this game happy with the 2K8 but annoyed by the current (on-going) situation that is the Madden Monopoly.

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.

What a game it was at the time for those of us that had only too recently seen the decline of quality in NFL football games after the Madden monopoly happened in 2004/2005. We will start with some of the basics that Madden didn’t flesh out until years later (if at all).

Double-Team Blocking was something that we had never seen carried out in the way that 2K8 introduced it. Add in reach tackles, kickers slipping, long snaps going off course and even late hits on defense (that would result in a penalty). Also, let’s not forget the interactive players on the sideline and injuries that occurred in real time – and that was just the tip of the iceberg.

Sure, the wonky Field Pass and player models were the typical hilarious mess that we especially see in retrospect. “Let’s get out there and crack some heads!” was something that got old pretty fast every game you had to hear (and see) a player say it. That’s also one of the smallest aspects of the game that would have been removed in future iterations.

The best part about All Pro Football was and remains the one thing that can’t be denied – it was real football. The weight and motion of the players when you controlled them from quarterback to linebacker felt real and it still does. The tackles on nearly every play looked like their real-life counterparts – and some of the tackles were downright wonderfully brutal. Add in the running mechanics that would make your jaw drop when Barry Sanders turned a juke into a double spin and was off to the races. Also, the way in which Okoye and Campbell would truck defenders was simply nasty.

All Pro Football 2K8 was ahead of it’s time and basically gave Madden the blueprint for what would eventually destroy sports games in general – using all time great players to build dream teams must have stuck because only three years later Madden 10 introduced Madden Ultimate Team and the rest is micro-transaction history. Say what you will, but ultimate team modes have completely gutted the dreams of many sports gamers that have no desire to play online modes with other people that pour money into their teams or pick exploit plays at every turn – sports gaming has died and gone to a fiery hell reserved for all corporate hacks.

There are two reasons All Pro Football 2K8 failed in terms of sales and as a game. The first reason it failed from a sales perspective was that it didn’t have any of the rights to NFL teams. This was an obvious downer, but it should have been fully expected as EA and the NFL decided to wreck things with the monopoly as mentioned above. The second reason APF 2K8 failed was because it was such a stripped down game to begin with. The options for customizing your team uniforms and building a squad with a limited amount of real players were cool, but hardly worth bragging about as a ‘back of the box feature’.

I believe to this day that had 2K Sports continued their football development after 2K8 with fictional rosters and a full-fledged franchise mode they would have challenged Madden in terms of game quality and eventually surpassed them. If you see what 2K was able to do with the gameplay of NBA 2K it makes a football fan look up to the sky and say ‘Why, God… Why must we only have Madden?’.

As we enter the last five days until Christmas I want to once again share my one gaming wish with the wonderful people at 2K Sports.

Please… I beg you. Bring back 2K Football with the following features.

A fully fictional roster of 32 teams with players of different ages, etc. would be a nice start. Couple that with a franchise mode that can be played for 30+ seasons. Give us an experience for scouting players that involves more depth than pressing an unlock button for three attributes. Give us real football that we can enjoy – with late hits, concussions, broken bones and real time injuries in general. Give us an improved football experience based on the great start that 2K8 had in gameplay (which I can only imagine how great it would be after 10 years of development…).

Release the game on a 2 or 3 year development rotation with fixes and patches for gameplay and exploit issues as you won’t ever have to worry about roster updates.

Please, just give us a sign that you haven’t forgotten about 2K Football fans. We are still out here and we are still waiting for a decent football game.

Madden 19 Franchise Mode – Only One Direction To Go

As we near the NFL Draft in a matter of days it is starting to leak out of the rumor mill that Madden will be focusing on ramping up the quality of Franchise Mode.  Hopefully this means we can expect a bit more depth in terms of how the mode is represented in a few different ways.

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Because EA is the Johnny Manziel of sports game developers.

They have tried to change how free agency works from the Auction system a few years ago to making offers before advancing and hoping the guy you wanted chose your low-ball offer.  Between bad financial logic and worse player and team logic – Madden hasn’t exactly been a beacon of realism for wanna-be GMs.

They must find a way to push gamers in this mode to eventually spend their money on veterans without looking at every 28 and 29 year old player like they are going to become Stephen Hawking at the age of 30.  Yes, there is certainly a youth movement in the thinking of NFL General Managers.  Yes, this means that drafting top talent over keeping ‘aging’ players is a common strategy.  It doesn’t mean that Madden should get a pass in making players in their late-20s and early 30s relevant in Franchise Mode.

On top of the age nosedive in terms of player ratings, the other aspect that needs the most help in Madden is the Draft and Scouting.

Scouting has quite simply been a lazy effort by the developers.  It isn’t difficult to find the superstar players later in the draft.  It isn’t hard to find the busts in the first round.  By the time you figured out the scouting dynamics in Madden 17 you were more than okay with the point reversal in Madden 18 that was supposed to make that aspect more challenging.  All you need to do is look for the first rating to be a B+ or higher and you are on your way.  It’s not rocket science… and that makes for an insanely boring experience that is arguably one of the most involved and talked about in all of sports.

They must address the lack of immersion in our experience week by week.  There is ZERO immersion in Franchise Mode from an overall league perspective.  There is no feeling for the salary cap when it comes to managing the team.  There is no excitement in Franchise Mode… NONE.  The Super Bowl has been the same stupid celebration and musical experience for years.

Madden 18 was the final straw for me as a Madden fan in a lot of ways.  It was the only Madden I have stopped playing before the Super Bowl was over.  It says more about the staying power of Franchise Mode than anything else.

Madden Ultimate Team has killed what made Madden a fun experience for those of us that don’t enjoy online sports gaming.  I am hoping that Madden 19 will make good on their chance to convince me to buy this game as a pre-order for the sake of giving my annual guides for all of you out there.

NCAA Football 14 and Beyond

The first time a game franchise was taken away/cancelled was after College Hoops 2K8 was cancelled.  NCAA Football 15 was recently cancelled after the O’Bannon case against the use of collegiate player likeness in games without proper compensation, etc.  Now that the bad news has been released it is time for the gaming community to rise to the occasion – like they always do.

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Just because NCAA Football 15 is cancelled doesn’t mean that there can’t be some sort of editing to make it possible – albeit on ‘older’ software.  By editing the roster files in the game and even possibly using hex-editing skills to really make it feel like a new game.

Fear not NCAA Football fans.  All is not lost as long as you take an active role in the community and work to keep your favorite game alive.

Madden 25 – The Hype Train Is Leaving The Station

Now that we are getting ready to start football season in the minds of most NFL fans with the coming NFL Draft this Thursday there are a few things we can start sorting out when it comes to what Madden 25 will be pushing from the marketing end of the annual title.

The first thing we can plan on is the inclusion of some sort of ‘interview interface’ when it comes to CCM.  This is primarily due to the fact that NHL 13 is taking up where NBA 2K has been for a couple years now.  The idea of interacting with the media and having a simulation experience

It has been twenty-five years since John Madden demanded a true simulation football game. We are still waiting on EA Sports to provide us with one.

isn’t really new but EA is starting to take more of 2K’s features to heart.  My personal hopes are that Madden’s CCM (which is still going to be in the next iteration) will feature an interaction for people that prefer to be a ‘coach’ rather than a single player.  This will add depth to a mode that was off to a decent start last year.

Better physics and refined tackling are something that people have been clamoring for ever since the 360/PS3 released.  Last year we got the Infinity Engine and got to see some interesting animations play out (a lot of Gumby motions, especially).  Regardless, we can be almost certain that Madden 25 will have more refined player physics and tackling animations assuming they keep working with the same engine.  This leads us into one of the more intensely discussed topics on hardcore Madden forums – OL/DL interaction and blocking in general.

While it is highly unlikely that we will ever see a true end to ‘suction blocking’ it has been mentioned for NCAA 14 that there has been serious work put in towards improving blocking decisions and interactions.  This has been highlighted in discussing the inclusion of a deeper CPU intelligence that focuses on second-level blocking.  What is ‘Second Level Blocking’?  Second level blocking is basically any blocking that occurs after an initial block has been made.  So, if the Right Tackle blocks the defensive end and then starts running up the field – they will actually look for the next opponent to block rather than running blindly past a defender that will be looking to bring down the ball carrier.  Sounds like something that should have been in the game for years, right?  EA Sports isn’t exactly on top of things to pay attention to what seems like fundamentals sometimes.  Hopefully they will make good on the improvements in blocking for Madden 25 as this will be a positive direction for the direction of the gameplay in general.

 

Will New Rules In NFL Change Madden?

In case you haven’t been paying attention.  The internet almost blew up yesterday when the NFL announced that they were implementing a new rule against players lowering their heads in the open field to either run over a defender or tackle an opposing player.  It was then that I started to wonder how this would effect Madden NFL games, in this case primarily the ‘Truck Stick’.

The Truck Stick was added into Madden 06 after the Hit Stick was put into Madden 05 (back when EA still cared about defense in their games).  The Truck Stick is essentially pressing the Right Analog stick forward while running the ball with a power back in order to run over an approaching defender.  If you consider the fact that this animation has been in Madden for around eight years it is going to be interesting to see if they get rid of the truck stick in Madden 25 (aka – Madden 14).  If they don’t get rid of the animation they will have to implement some sort of

penalty detection in the game to keep the NFL happy.  Chances are good that they will simply remove the ability altogether in order to 1) Avoid more work in an already broken penalty system and 2) Make their exclusive license partners happy.

Now that the tuck rule is being taken away, should we see more actual fumbles in Madden?  Chances are good that you will still see your defenders get hurt while sacking the QB but to think that you will be able to get a fumble call on a big hit ‘while throwing’ might just be a pipe dream.

You might say that I am jaded and totally biased against EA Sports and Madden.  In some cases I would say you are 100% correct… but in reality, I have bought the game every year on release day since Madden 08.  In some cases I have actually enjoyed some aspects of the game.  Madden 13 kept me happy for the most part, but it was the little things that turned me off.  Little things include bad animations, poor blocking, non-existent real injuries, bad playcalling, etc.  I am like many football fans out there that are considered to be 2K fanboys or Madden haters – we just want good and more importantly real football.

As the NFL works harder to make football into some sort of human bumper car game I am hoping that at some point we will get real football video games again.  2K – where are you?

EA Sports Could Lose The Exclusive License For NFL Games – But They Won’t

The deal that ruined football gaming for almost a decade is scheduled to expire this year.  EA Sports and Madden have been synonymous with declining quality and innovation ever since coming to an agreement with the NFL and NFLPA to have exclusive rights for an NFL video game.  This essentially did away with any of the NFL games you might have played instead of Madden over the years before that fateful day in 2004.

While there is no doubt that Madden’s sales have been impressive for the 25 years that it has been around, there is cause for concern when there is a consistent feeling among consumers that the game is nothing more than a roster update every year.  To call Madden a simulation experience would be like calling Call of Duty a military simulator.  On the surface there is ‘football’ but once you boot the game and start playing it will feel more like a half-scripted arcade game with decent graphics, canned animations and poor physics.

When the exclusive license expires it will be more of a ceremonial expiration than anything to get excited about if you are a 2K Football fan.  This is because the NFL and the NFLPA (Players Association) are going to renew the deal.  Electronic Arts (EA) is like the New York Yankees of game development.  They are easily the most hated team in sports, their fans tend to be loud and obnoxious and they really don’t have to worry about sales every year… because they are the Yankees.  There is a big problem with the Yankees and that is starting to show on the field and in the front office (See A-Rod, etc.), much like EA and their overall performance as a game developer by and large.

Over the last few weeks EA has been ridiculed for their terrible release of the new SimCity game on PC.  They flubbed the launch in so many ways that you had to almost ask yourself if someone sabotaged them.  They had server issues that prevented people from playing the game when it came out.  Then they had numerous other issues that stemmed from their use of DRM (Digital Rights Management).  DRM being put into the game is a sign that EA fears piracy, and why shouldn’t they?  Gaming has slipped into a realm of Catch 22 that few other industries have had to deal with outside of music and movies.  What you will start to notice is that when people want to support a business or a certain way of doing things they will speak with their wallet’s/purse’s/allowance.

The sales of Madden have been relatively stable over the course of the 360/PS3 generation of consoles.  This is coupled with the fact that the NFL has been bringing in billions of dollars as the favorite sport and form of entertainment of the United States.  It is going to be hard to tell either party that they should change what is going so well for them financially.  This is the primary reason why the exclusive license will carry on between EA Sports, the NFL and the NFLPA.  Money talks and so far the football gaming community has been speaking EA’s language.

The glimmer of hope can be found in the fact that EA lost exclusive rights to NCAA and Arena Football.  While the AFL is about as popular as VHS Tapes – college football is a huge business and a potentially open market for a developer like 2K Sports to take advantage of if they wanted to bring some sort of competition to EA’s doorstep.  There is a somewhat large group of football gamers that prefer NCAA Football over NFL football and EA’s NCAA Football has been less than stellar over the last few years.  Hopefully we will see a company like 2K Sports step up to the plate and work on a football game once again.  Lord knows they haven’t stepped up to the plate for hockey this year and they keep striking out on their baseball titles.

The best thing for Madden NFL is competition and they know it will make them have to step up their game.  Which is exactly why they will continue to hold the exclusive license for NFL gaming.  You can have hope that it will expire and not be renewed, but don’t hold your breath.