EA recently released a list of the top rookie quarterbacks in their annual hype train countdown to the release of Madden. This year, they slipped up and unintentionally commented on their simulation formula for Franchise Mode.
‘Lamar Jackson could be the most interesting QB to play as in Madden 19. If you sim a lot of games in Franchise, he’s likely not the best pick at the moment. But holy hell, his base ratings make him fun…’ for more, go to the page here.
The issue with this isn’t that Lamar Jackson shouldn’t be rated higher or lower than anyone else. It is simply the fact that they reference his effectiveness in Franchise Mode to his ratings. What should continue to worry CFM players is this continuing problem with CFM being tied to overall ratings. This would be like saying that Michael Vick would be fun to play with but he wouldn’t do much for a team in a simulation. I’m not saying that Lamar Jackson is Michael Vick, but he is damn close.
This means that EA has not changed their formula of what is important in CFM. It is still driven by OVR. This means you won’t have any players that are low rated to start become anything close to superstars. It also means that the CPU is actually at a competitive disadvantage. As users, we are able to see certain players with abilities that we can take advantage of – speed, trucking, throw accuracy, hit power, etc. We can turn a 6th round 67 OVR player into an absolute beast. The CPU will either cut the player or never play them in a simulation. Take a look at the practice squads in your Madden 18 CFM – the CPU has some BEASTS that never get a chance to play. Many of us would snap up these players in a heartbeat.
Until EA makes Madden CFM more nuanced and less dependent on overall ratings I have a feeling we will continue to experience a rather mechanical and less organic CFM experience.
A recent article on FiveThirtyEight.com has helped us understand a bit more about what goes into Madden player ratings. I wish I could say I am impressed. Madden is one of the most stale and non-simulation sports games in existence, yet it gets touted as being true to the game.
It has always bothered me that Donny Moore seems to have full power to subjectively up someone’s rating because of one big catch, run or block. I truly miss 2K Football more and more as I read about Madden and the NFL in general.
In gaming all ‘ability’ levels are based around number ratings and scales. The only difference in ratings comes in how they are presented (or not presented) to the user. Everything from guns in Call of Duty to Spin Ratings for Defensive Tackles in Madden have some sort of numerical value – even if they aren’t presented to you in that fashion, the ratings are numerically based once you dig into the guts and binary code of the game. That said, there is one rating in-particular that seems to be an obsession with sports gamers… the Overall (OVR) rating.
In Madden NFL, NBA 2K, NHL, FIFA, NCAA Football (RIP), etc. the primary measure of a player’s worth is in his OVR rating. While the determining factors for a player’s OVR may differ between games it seems that it is the only thing that matters to most sports gamers in determining a player’s value/talent in the given game. Granted, in Madden and NCAA the other rating of almost equal importance over the last 10+ years has been Speed (SPD) ratings for ‘skill’ positions – OVR is still king when it comes to determining the success and worth of a player. In fact, it should be changed to a ‘Physical’ (PHY) rating as we develop a totally new rating.
How Do You Increase OVR In Madden?
To get this out of the way, there have been many people asking how to increase the OVR of their players in Madden 25. This is rather simple as long as you are earning enough XP for the player during your Franchise/Career mode. Always start with the Awareness Rating (AWR) of the player and you will soon see the OVR jump substantially. After that, it is all about investing in the position specific categories for the player. So, if you have a QB – start with AWR and then move to Throwing Accuracy, Throwing Power and so-forth. If you have a HB, I suggest starting again with AWR and then moving onto Spin, Juke, Stiff Arm, etc. Hopefully this helps – but when in doubt you should always start with the mysterious AWR Rating.
How To Best Rate Players?
This is a question that often creeps up in sports gaming forums. While there is a necessity to depend on numerical ratings for players (at least in the ‘hidden guts’ of the game, as stated above) there seems to be a growing divide among sports gamers as to how these ratings should be shown to the gamer – or if they should be at all.
Madden NFL’s rating system is vast and sometimes confusing (or simply meaningless in some cases). With Donny Moore being the primary focus of players getting weekly boosts or reductions in ratings based on their real-life performance for online roster updates there are many gamers and fans out there that question his ability to make the right changes. I have been critical of his rating changes in the past and I am not about to retract my remarks or references. However, it is feeling more and more like the best way to rate players in Franchise/Association/Career/Owner modes should be determined by more than some sort of absolute numerical value on an interactive in-game spreadsheet.
Every team and franchise values players differently. Every owner, coach, scout and fan places different values on players as well. This is where I believe the best rating system should include a mix of numbers, letters and gold stars (yeah, I said it – gold stars).
The grade of a player’s SPD should be determined by multiple factors – including game/season fatigue to start. Also, this all important rating should also be determined by weather conditions (including high heat) and agility if necessary.
As for ‘Overall’ (OVR) I am of the strong opinion that it should be changed to ‘Value’ (VAL). This might seem just as arbitrary as OVR but if we changed the rating to VAL and based it around the play-style/coaching style of the gamer and the resulting ‘fan value’ of a player it would make for a far more realistic experience in career modes and in the game.
Explaining The “Value Rating” In Detail With Examples
My suggested value rating would require an extremely ‘organic’ and amoeba-like rating system that changes from week to week and moment to moment. This would also likely be extremely difficult to develop without serious bugs in code, etc. – but why not consider it anyway?
It all starts with creating an initial philosophy. This will differ depending on at which level you are assuming control of your team (Owner, Coach, etc.). Some owners are all about making money first and having a great team second (think Randy Lerner in Cleveland). Other owners like to think they are the best judges of talent in the league (think Jerry Jones and the late Al Davis). Then you have owners like Robert Craft that support a coach that they trust and watch the victories (and the money) pour into their franchise.
Madden has started to make this type of change recently with Coaching Schemes playing a role in the ratings of players. However, this hasn’t translated to any real changes in the gameplay (which is a different discussion altogether). The downfall in this is that the players are still being judged on their scheme type and ratings in their OVR rather than their production and value to the franchise, team and fans.
The VAL rating would consider the percentage of time that player is on the field. How many times the player touched the ball and perhaps how often the gamer controls that player on defense. If you start taking into consideration the value you place on some players in terms of actually using them it becomes a much more involved and introspective gaming experience.
My Madden 13 CCM with the Cleveland Browns has reached the 2020 season and I have developed some of my players into some of the statistically best players that have ever played. My 2013 Draft Pick was a 2nd Rd QB, Mark Mallett out of Oregon State. He has developed into the best QB in the league averaging over 43 TDs and 5000 yards a season. He has also won four Super Bowls (with 4 MVPs to go with them). I decided that in his contract renewal process that I would reward him for being the franchise player that he is and I did this with a 6-Year $132 million deal. I followed that up with a deal for Joe Haden to stay with my team through the 2026 season. The moral of the story is that even if Mallett hadn’t progressed with his physical ratings he would still warrant a huge contract no matter what and this is because of his value… not his skills.
Tom Brady doesn’t exactly run like the wind… neither does Peyton Manning. Somehow they are still considered the two best QBs in the NFL. Sure, they have good arms and are accurate passers – but they are also smart/intelligent leaders. This is where the performance of players under ‘user/gamer’ control should start to develop this same Value as games and seasons progress.
What do you think? How should ratings be decided in sports gaming?
20 years ago I was a nine year-old sports fanatic. I was lucky enough to get a Sega Genesis for Christmas in 1992. After playing many great games like Sonic the Hedgehog 2 I was still hoping to have a chance to play a sports game. Eventually, my mom and dad came home with a copy of John Madden Football ’93. It was a gift for my 10th birthday and I cherished it. I had played the same game while visiting my cousins in Georgia on a trip to the Citrus Bowl where I saw Garrison Hearst run over my beloved Buckeyes in Orlando. It had hooked me from the first snap.
After years of asking for Tecmo Bowl for Christmas I had found a game of ‘real’ football. You had to run ‘up’ the screen and call all sorts of different plays. There was a manual that seemed to be 1000 pages long with player ratings and explanations of how to play every facet of the game. I digress, my play-style was far from what many in the hardcore community would call ‘sim’… but dammit, I had a blast! I could circle the field 3 times with Thurman Thomas before either getting tackled or scoring a touchdown. So yes, before we get into the nitty gritty of this reflection – there are some incredibly arcade-like things about JMF93.
During my most recent visit with my parents we started going through some of the things I had packed away in the garage after getting married seven years ago (August 27). In the process, I uncovered a bunch of old memorabilia and video games – including my Sega Collection with JMF93. As I opened it up after years of storage and checked out the manual and case I was floored with how advanced this game was back in 1992 and perhaps more-so… how unimpressive the title has been in its growth during this generation of consoles. That is where we will pick up the remainder of this article.
Why John Madden Football ’93 Is Better Than This Generation of Madden
Back Cover Game Features
Anytime you get a new game, the first thing you do is look at the back cover. In this case, it is no different. Upon finding JMF93 I took a look at some of the features in this game… and I was impressed.
“Buffalo’s No Huddle offense makes Washington scramble in the snow.”After seeing this quote, I started to think about some of the things the Madden development team has been championing over the last couple of years. Teams playing like their real life counterparts and other such pursuits that sound great to anyone looking to have a great experience against their teams rival or the like. Yet, how does this get so much coverage when almost 20 years ago – it was already in the game. Granted, this is a small version of what we have now but the fact is that this is nothing new and even what we have tends to be broken from a logic perspective.
“Which four-time champion will dominate?”The next part of our back cover reveal is focusing on something similar to what we have this year – All Time Players and Teams. This is one of those interesting things we commented in July when relating the inclusion of ‘Legendary Players’ for Madden 13 to All Pro Football 2K8. In fact, if you want to go back 20 years, you will see that there are “8 Greatest-Ever Teams”that include teams such as the ’85 Bears, ’78 Steelers, ’84 49ers and more. It tends to make us scratch our heads and wonder how original some of these ideas are or consider the notion that they have a tendency to recycle some of these old features as the games find new audiences. It is a fine idea, but it seems somewhat off-base to call the inclusion of legendary teams or players anything but an expected inclusion at this point – rather than a ‘new feature’.
“Head butts, Clothesline Tackles and Shoestring catches”You would think that some of the animations from old games would make their way into future games with ease. Well, clothesline tackles haven’t been included in Madden in almost a decade. Head butts have gone the way of the Dodo with the NFL becoming more of a police-force trying to censor away the natural violence of their televised sport so Madden can stay rated-E… for the children.
Did You Know You Could Challenge Rulings In John Madden Football ’93?
There are a lot of things that Madden has that don’t really work well when it comes to actual in-game performance. One of the things that people complain about almost every year is challenging calls on the field. In JMF93 you could actually overturn penalties (see the picture to the right). While this was limited to Head-to-Head games, it is still something to look back and snicker about because it probably worked better than the current system ‘works’.
Player Ratings Were Better 20 Years Ago, Kind of.
Another thing I noticed when browsing through the 79 PAGE manual was the listing of player ratings. When you take a look at some of the ratings you might laugh, but most of the ratings when taken into further consideration come across as pretty fair and downright decent. If you take a look at the pages we scanned you will see two teams with drastically different talent levels – Cleveland and Dallas.
Ratings have become some of the more contentious sticking points in Madden over the past 12+ years. If you take a closer look at the ratings in JMF93 you will notice a few things.
– They are simplistic
– They are smaller (on a scale of 0-15 rather than 0-99)
– They are brutally honest
– They are somewhat wonky
For instance, Cleveland’s starting QB (Bernie Kosar) was given a Passing Range rating of 11 and a Passing Accuracy rating of 12. He was a very slow QB when it came to running and scrambling and he was given a Speed Rating of only 4. The interesting rating that is included is a Scrambling Rating… Kosar also had a 4. His back-up on the other hand was given some rather strange ratings. He was given a Passing Range rating of 0… yes… ZERO and then a Pass Accuracy rating of only 4 with SPD and Scrambling of 3.
If you look at the other page you will see one of the greatest running backs of all time has almost top ratings in every meaningful category. Emmitt Smith was given 15s in Speed, Agility and Break Tackle with a 4 in Hands or ‘Catching’. If you take a look at the ratings given to the running backs for the Browns you would think that their players were taken out of a tar pit with Speed Ratings of 7 and 8. Kevin Mack (#34) was actually a FB and had a 12 SPD rating. So, it wasn’t a complete loss for the Browns.
This Article Isn’t Meant To Trash On Madden Football
Before any Madden fanboys (see our earlier post if you don’t know what that means) read this article, please take into account that we are giving honest opinions based on evidence from actual games. Also, it should be considered that we do realize that Madden 93 is clearly graphically inferior and definitely has issues with player movement when compared to current Madden games. Again, this article isn’t stating that people will enjoy Madden 93 more than Madden 10, 11, 12 or even 13, but it does put current Madden games ‘on the spot’ when it comes to pursuing greatness and innovation.
We want Madden to be great. We want it to be able to make us turn off a game on Sunday because our digital experience on a console is more enjoyable. We want to see pass interference and hard hits across the middle. We want to see head butts, shoe string catches and even an ambulance come onto the field as Colt McCoy asks where he is. We want better football on our consoles and hope that this can invigorate people to be more critical while still being professional. You are allowed to be upset, but please remember that this is all in an effort to make people think about the past so we can improve the future. Even if it means looking into the past and wondering what the hell is going on with current game development.
Once again, EA Sports has released their list of the Top 10 ‘skill’ position players – this time it is the Running Backs.
#1 Maurice Jones-Drew – 97 Overall
#2 Adrian Peterson – 97 Overall
#3 Arian Foster – 96 Overall
#4 LeSean McCoy – 95 Overall
#5 Ray Rice – 95 Overall
#6 Matt Forte – 93 Overall
#7 Frank Gore – 92 Overall
#8 Steven Jackson – 92 Overall
#9 Jamaal Charles – 91 Overall
#10 Michael Turner – 91 Overall
When looking at this list, keep in mind a few different facts (as you should for every player and position in Madden) –
Ratings are subjective and based upon the opinion of EA’s Donny Moore
Ratings are super-subjective as there is now input from the fanbase on Madden’s Facebook page
The Overall rating is one of the worst barometers for measuring how ‘good’ a player is in Madden
Depending on how you play the game, you will be able to make anyone into a superstar
One of the main issues with the ratings in Madden is the fact that one of the top running backs in the league (Chris Johnson of the Titans) isn’t in the Top 10. He had a poor year in 2011, sure. On the other hand, he didn’t suffer any injury that would make him actually lose out on how good he is/could be. On the other hand, players like Adrian Peterson and Jamaal Charles both suffered terrible injuries to their knees and are still rated as Top 10 Players.
It can be argued both ways, but Madden’s newest direction for rating players through a community vote for a few specific ratings is one of the more laughable developments in their new marketing direction. Hopefully they open up player edits for Connected Careers with a title update. If not, it looks like Madden 13 will be one of those games that makes you tilt your head to the side and wonder what the heck they are thinking with their ratings.
Why We Say “Overall” is the Worst Rating
Outside of the fact that it blows a player up to be the ‘best’ in the game, it is a rating that is comprised of a formula that brings into account the different skills that are necessary for each given position. There are also ratings that have no effect on gameplay (Awareness) and then there are ratings that should play a greater role that don’t at all – such as Injury and Toughness. A durable player is one of the more valuable assets in football, no matter which level you are playing. Yet, in Madden and NCAA these ratings mean nothing when it comes to the Overall value of each player?
A player’s value should also be dictated in career modes by their production. Notice, we didn’t say their ‘Overall’ rating, rather their ‘Value’ which is also a rating that doesn’t matter or in this case – exist. A player might not be the most physically talented or even have a dominating presence on the field but if they consistently lead their team to a Super Bowl or maybe even lead the league statistically chances are good that they will either demand or command a big pay raise and more respect as a player. A prime example of a player like this is Joe Montana.
Joe Montana wouldn’t be in our subjective Top 10 for throwing power or speed, but he would have a high rating for Toughness, Throwing Accuracy for short and medium range passes, etc. He was a super-skinny player that wasn’t a physical specimen like Cam Newton but he was a winner and arguably the best Quarterback of all time (again, our subjective opinion).
How do you feel about ratings? Are we blowing this out of proportion or is this getting downright silly to you too?