One Step Forward – Madden 17’s Franchise Mode Takes Two Steps Back

It has been a rough ride being an NFL fan and having one option for video game representation.

Madden NFL has had a bit of a roller coaster existence since becoming the monopoly that it is.  Franchise Mode has been the primary victim when it comes to changes to the game.  It has also been the elephant in the room when fans are asked for feedback from EA Tiburon.  It seems that the Franchise Mode/CFM/CCM team has finally realized (for Madden 17 at least) that customized rosters and real world features are key to people enjoying Franchise Mode.  There are a couple changes new to Madden in general but the real changes seem to be the things that have been featured before or needed since the monopoly took effect.

Coaches Are The Least Important Aspect of Madden Franchise Mode - This isn't a big decision... it's a non-decision.
Coaches Are The Least Important Aspect of Madden Franchise Mode – This isn’t a big decision… it’s a non-decision.

First, the things that truly matter the most when it comes to Franchise Mode improvements.

  • Full Player Editing – This isn’t new as they might want people to believe.  It existed in Madden 12 and provided much needed customization for rosters.  The fact that this is available to online leagues is also a nice touch.  To add that any changes will be shown in the Transactions is a nice and necessary perk for league members as well.  The biggest curiosity for me is whether or not we will be able to edit Draft Classes before the draft or if we will have to draft players that are once again less than stellar prospects and edit them all to resemble legitimate rookies.
  • Practice Squads are finally entering the Franchise Mode universe.  It was always puzzling to me that EA would make claims about not having the resources to put certain small aspects into the game.  This was one of the many that was apparently a matter of time. Now we can have players on a practice squad as long as they have played fewer than two full seasons in our respective Franchise Modes.  It will be nice to know that I can take a flier on that 7th Round WR that can run like the wind but catch like Simple Jack.
  • Dynamic Development is one of the aspects that I am skeptical of when it comes to Madden.  They have tried and failed to implement all sorts of development and player growth from season to season.  Now they are putting the trait of Development into the front of how players grow in ratings.  The broken season awards system is going to play a strong role in how players are moved up and down in development traits as well.  It really makes no sense for players to be pre-rated in this way as Slow, Normal, Quick, and Superstar.  Make every player start each season with the same baseline and allow the season to determine how each player progresses.  Sure, Tom Brady is and has been a Superstar, but he isn’t too far from being done.  Then we have players like Robert Griffin III that have played up to par in their rookie year and then either fall apart or get injured.  Maybe he comes back and becomes a superstar after this season.  His slow development rating might say otherwise.

The other changes like ‘Big Moments’ and the ‘score ticker’ make me scratch my head.  I love the idea of a score ticker and believe it has been needed for years.  This doesn’t change the fact that Franchise Mode has yet to make it feel like anything more than a single team focus that misses out on an entire story outside of your own franchise.

Big Moments are rather insulting as it looks like they want to make the user think that every moment is a big moment.  ‘First Drive of the Game’ is probably the least impressive in-game ‘Big Moment’ I have read about.  The non-game Big Moments are laughable.  Injuries, Free Agents and Coach Re-Signings aren’t big moments.  Signing a coach is the least important aspect of Madden and they call it a Big Moment.  Give me a break.

Madden does seem to be making strides this year.  I am actually excited about it this season.

As jaded as I am and seem to always be about Madden, I am truly excited to play it this year.  I just wish 2K would shock the world and release a new football title.

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2K Football Announcement Coming? – The E3 Rumor Mill In Full Swing

Every year in late-May and early-June we start hearing buzz about new games that will be or might be unveiled at E3.  (E3 is the Electronic Entertainment Expo held in Los Angeles, CA annually.)  It is much like the time leading up to the NFL Draft where there are so many rumors and baseless suggestions that you don’t know what to believe or who has the ‘inside track’.

2K_Sports_LogoThis year there are a few titles that are supposedly being shown at E3 in hopes that they will capture the next-gen console audience’s hearts and minds.  Some of these titles include Halo 5, Rockstar Games’ Agent and one game that a niche group of sports gamers have been longing for since 2008 – 2K Football.

Every year there is hope injected in the football gaming community that there will finally be some sort of football game released that isn’t made by EA Sports and that isn’t called ‘Madden’.  There have been a few youtube videos with people saying that they have ‘a feeling’ that there will be a new 2K football title unveiled at E3 this year.

It is something that I almost always have high hopes for when it comes this close to football season.  It seems that my hopes (and those of the sim football gaming community) are always dashed by the time E3 is over.  Hopefully the rumor mill will prove to be correct this time around.

That said – there is no official news one way or the other about a 2K Football title as of yet.  If there does happen to be an announcement, it will have to be a far deeper game than All Pro Football 2K8 was back in 2007.  Keep your attention focused towards legitimate news and releases as we get closer to E3.  The rumors will only get more ridiculous between now and then.

Madden 15 Finally Releases Typical Hype Reel

So, EA Tiburon has finally unleashed the marketing train that they hope will catch football gamers by storm.  The best (and worst) part about these trailers is the graphical presentation.  What makes it awesome is rather obvious… go ahead and get the “Ehr Mah Gehrdddd!  He Looks Realzz!” out of your system.  Yes, sure – the faces of players in sports games is cool.  We always dreamed about it back when we were playing 8-bit Tecmo Bowl back in the day and now it is finally here… again.  Perhaps someone should remind you about the Madden 06 trailer that was complete garbage and meant nothing at all from the graphical or gameplay aspects of the actual game..

Now, another thing to consider is that after you watch the cut-scenes that might seem cool the first four times you play Madden during a game – you will most likely start smashing the A/X button repeatedly to play the actual game and skip the repetitious cut-scenes with “Ehr Mah Gehrdddd!  He Looks Realzz!” faces of players.  Then, it is back to seeing the back of the offensive players’ helmets and the front of the defenders from about 60 ft away if you use the default camera angle.  So, it begs the question… Why do we care about digitized faces with sweat, etc?

There are bigger things for EA to worry about and there are bigger things they need to do to convince people to buy their annual roster update.  One of those things is to show the gamers that it is more than simply a roster update (if it is… it probably isn’t).  Will we finally have morale in franchise mode?  Will the challenge system be worth a damn?  Will there maybe be some sort of injury system that makes sense?  Dare I ask if they will put in realistic injuries for once?  Maybe even *gasp* real-time injuries?

Coverage of Madden is about to start going off the deep end shortly and any/all of the new additions will already be in the process of being finalized.  This means that any ‘new’ ideas we might have will have to wait for Madden 16 at the earliest.  Outside of the couple hopes I listed above, I have to say that I have a slight hope for Madden 15 this year.  While I have yet to decide on a next-gen console, I am hoping to find a reason to get one.  Hopefully Madden 15 will actually prove my skeptical nature wrong this year.

But I doubt it.

Madden 15 – Why Haven’t We Heard Anything?

In what seems to be the non-stop world of NFL media coverage, we have yet to hear so much as a peep from EA Sports when it comes to Madden 15.  With the draft coming in nearly a month and numerous reports of big changes in free agency – there isn’t even a screen shot of the assumed upcoming title from EA Tiburon.

rg3

Does this mean that there is something bigger on the horizon and EA is just playing it ‘close to the chest’?  It doesn’t seem like it could be anything else other than that assumption.  Madden is the cash cow of EA Sports (perhaps behind FIFA) and it is in need of some serious work when it comes to improving the overall experience of the game in general.

What are you hoping to hear from the football gaming front in the coming months?

Here are a few of the things that Madden needs –

Better Team Management from AI – This seems to be a yearly issue with Madden.  Yes, they mostly fixed the ability to steal draft picks from teams (via trades).  However, there seems to be a drastic drop-off when it comes to teams making personnel decisions as the years pass in Franchise Mode.

Better Officiating and Foot Detection- I have a feeling I’m not the only one that has played Madden and seen a receiver clearly catch a ball out of bounds and have it ruled (after review) to be a catch.  The same goes for catches made in the end-zone and inexplicably, the animations or officiating doesn’t allow the catch.  This is an issue that occurs almost every 2-4 games I play.

Better Draft Class Balance – Now that NCAA Football and the importation of draft classes (and the constant problems that presented) is a moot point.  We now have to look at the classes designed and wonder why there are WRs created that are 5’8″ with 77 SPD and 67 CTH ratings.  For the love of all things unholy – just make the player somewhat less crappy.

Custom Draft Class Creation – As stated above, the current state of draft classes is terrible.  The sports gaming community has shown in games like NBA 2K that there are people out there that can put out some amazing effort in this regard and openly share their creations with the community.  This would be a huge success if EA simply allowed it.

Smarter Playcalling and Decision Making – This goes without needing explanation for the most part.  However, Madden seems to be designed for the casual fans to pick up the game and throw the ball around.  It would be nice to finally see the game become challenging in a way that made the gamer (and the AI) to consider all of the match-ups and the game situation before choosing plays or who to focus on for a given moment in a big situation.

Madden 25 Connected Franchise Mode – Don’t Settle For Anything!

After Madden 25 announced a recent Gamestop promo for ‘Connected Franchise Mode’ and an article surfaced on Bleacher Report talking about the supposedly tweaked Connected Careers Mode; there seems to be a lot of work for us to do in order to make Madden better instead of simply allowing EA Tiburon to give us old features and call them ‘new’.

There is a poll on the Brian Mazique article asking if editing rosters, fantasy drafts and controlling every team are enough to make you completely satisfied.  These aren’t new features!  Madden 12 had every single ‘feature’ they are trying to re-implement into a mode that essentially disallowed them.  While these features are a must and will only add more depth to the game they by no means should satiate your desire for a better football game.

Reyna BOOM

Some of the (many) additions Franchise Mode needs in order to mimic the real NFL are below:

  • Player Morale – Player morale was in Madden 2005 and has been in the NBA 2K series for years.  If there is one thing that Madden lacks in terms of bringing life into the players it is morale and mood when it comes to the actual players.
  • Free Agent/UDFA Signings – Madden seems to think that free agency is something that allows a team to go and simply sign anyone they want if they aren’t on a team.  After this weekend’s draft there were many players that were picked up just seconds after it was over.  These players don’t simply go to the first time that calls, they weigh their options and choose.  Some players have no desire to play for a team that has too much depth or a team that simply doesn’t win.  Madden needs to make this more realistic and that starts with a more true-to-life free agency.
  • Storylines – The addition of storylines for some of the draft prospects in Madden 13 was awesome.  It was a nice way to give some of the players in the draft a personal touch.  The downfall is that their stories all seemed to stop once they were drafted.  The commentary doesn’t follow any of them and the updates on the ‘news feed’ seem to leave any of those stories high and dry.  Continuity is something that Madden’s career modes always seem to lack and while it will take some work to fully implement – it will be worth it.
  • Fan Bases – Some teams sell out almost every game.  Some stadiums are lucky to be at 50% capacity.  Somehow, almost every game in Madden is a sell out according to the stands.  While some games have low attendance due to weather it doesn’t seem to matter what is going on in a given city for a game to be sold out.  I can promise you one thing, if the Browns ever host an AFC Championship Game and it is snowing like crazy… the stands will be FULL.  On the other hand, if the Bengals are playing a game in the middle of the season at home and they are 2-7, they will be lucky to have any ‘fans’ show up.  The NFL is nothing without the fans and that needs to be made apparent in Franchise Mode.
  • Team Movement – While this poses some sort of strange issues with licensing, etc. there were some serious shortcomings when Madden allowed you to move a team to a new city.  Outside of the issues listed in the fan base section, you couldn’t keep the team logo and there wasn’t any real support for the gamer to create a team in a new city because the commentary was terrible and franchise mode lost its luster.  If you look at the fact that many teams are looking to move to new cities because of stadium issues or simply for more money it is something that will be happening soon and should be given the proper attention in the game.
  • Injuries – Madden finally put in some sort of real-time physics last year with the Infinity Engine.  The downfall was evident in many areas but injuries are one of the most obvious.  As much as the NFL wants to censor Madden and try to convince people that it isn’t a violent sport – football is a violent sport and that is why we like it!  Real time injuries need to be in the game and big hits need to matter.  It makes no sense for my 6’4″ 260lb MLB to have a random injury when he crushes Joe Flacco or Mike Vick in the backfield and they get up like nothing happened.  Fix the injury system… please.
  • Player Progression – While I have always been a proponent of performance based progression I do not like how Madden 13 allowed the user to simply accumulate points by stats and put them where ever we wanted to in each player.  Abilities should progress as the player uses them and performs them.  How can a strength rating go up randomly or just because we decide we want it to?  Follow the lead of MLB The Show and let the user have the option to determine what areas players will work on in a given week or set it to auto and let the coaching tendencies determine it.
  • Player Value – After Joe Flacco won the Super Bowl he got a healthy contract renewal.  I drafted a QB in my Browns CCM, Mark Mallett… He has thrown for over 4500 yards and 35 TDs in his first three seasons.  He then won a Super Bowl in 2015 and is up for a new contract offer from our front office.  His OVR is 84 but his abilities have been growing with his performance.  His contract demands?… 5 Years, $4.6 Million per year.  There is no thinking about this from my perspective – Mallett is never going to ask for the money he deserves and that is sad.  Players with great speed or players we like using are typically going for crazy statistics in our Franchise Mode.  We should have to pay a premium price to keep them around if that is the case.  Player value shouldn’t be determined by OVR but by performance and that should make it harder for teams to sign players they want to abuse the other teams with and keep them forever.

We will continue our efforts to make Madden a better game and you shouldn’t let EA get away with calling old parts of the game ‘new features’.  What are your thoughts?  What is Madden missing the most in Franchise Mode?

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.

 

Madden 25 and Infinity Engine 2.0

As many sports fans finish watching the Final Four tomorrow there will be a new direction for their attention to go in the coming weeks (assuming they are NFL fans).  The NFL Draft is this month and while there aren’t any real high profile ‘must draft’ prospects out there there is plenty of hype to be started for some teams and especially for Madden 25.

NCAA Football 14 just announced through their typical trailer promo that it would have Infinity Engine 2.0.  While this isn’t much of a surprise as Madden had it first (last year), it is something that should make Madden fans wonder what is coming this year.  Now that EA has started to push yet another cover vote (as if it really matters) they are once again pushing the old players into the mix with a bracket that seems to be played out after the Peyton Hillis cover debacle – why I voted for him to curse my

I wonder if they will still keep brittle QBs damn-near invincible...?
I wonder if they will still keep brittle QBs damn-near invincible…?

Browns is beyond me.

Now that the Madden 13 cycle is almost over (most Madden fans will put this game on the shelf until July, when NFL Camps grab their attention and they can’t help themselves) we are looking to the next iteration of the same game we buy in droves every August.  With NCAA’s announcement there are some things we can all but assume for Madden 25’s improvements.

Better tackle physics are something that happen incrementally every year for Madden.  However, now that the NFL is making rules against certain player centered moves (tucking your head when running the ball – IE, The Truck Stick) we will most likely see a trend for Madden to be even more toned down as time goes forward.

Another hope for Madden is better O-Line/D-Line interactions.  This has as much to do with physics as it does with how the game is programmed.  It has been shown on numerous occasions that Madden’s blocking system is broken at best.  There have been multiple occasions in the past where I have had a punter or kicker mysteriously jump into the O-Line and easily handle a 350 lb defensive lineman.  While this goes beyond the infinity engine, it is something that should be made apparent regardless.

Pass Interference has been non-existent in Madden for almost the entire generation of 360/PS3 titles.  There are high hopes that Madden 25 and Infinity 2.0 will actually have this often-called penalty fully functional this year (on both sides of the ball).

As far as gaming goes in 2013, it has been a surprisingly dull start with little to look forward to in terms of games and even the new consoles.  It seems that we have hit a bit of a lull when it comes to this generation’s games.  Everything is a sequel, prequel or some other sort of half-assed effort with a big name company stamp on it (I am looking at you SimCity).  I always start out my year by saying I won’t buy Madden because it is the same game every single year.  Now that we are firmly set to start draft season, I am sure my tune will change for a few months before we are once again asking for patches the day after the game comes out.

As more Madden info comes out we will have it here for you – with completely honest opinions and reactions.

If you are curious about the roster update for Madden 13 – it is in progress and will be out in a couple weeks.
The draft is often a busy time for roster updating, so it will be a good time to get that work started.