2018 – The Year of the Sports Game Boycott

It seems that sports games have been lost to the same dark side that we have seen first person shooters and real-time strategy go to as well. 

Madden, MLB: The Show, and NBA 2K8 have all resorted to becoming nothing more than digital card pandering pieces of binary garbage.  They have polished the graphics and added content to their Ultimate Team/Diamond Dynasty/MyTeam card collections instead of real improvement to the core game itself.  For a few years I could understand the change I was seeing.  I could compartmentalize the fact that I simply wasn’t their target audience. 

Thanks largely to Twitch and YouTube streamers/content uploaders that open packs for the voyeur fandom to gawk over we have lost what was once the potential pursuit for true sports gaming simulation.  I must give some of these guys credit, as they do have a certain pizazz to the way they carry themselves online.  I even watch some of their videos – they do make it look like a fun experience.  That is all great and wonderful until I get inspired to try my hand at online PvP against some random guy with a name like XxHitThatLoud420-69xX.  You realize quickly that they play the game by using money plays and exploits.  Suddenly, this potentially fun experience has you wondering if you’ve stepped into some effed up version of The Matrix.  Just as you get ready to play a different game you realize that you don’t care if you lose this game because you don’t plan on playing it again.

Say what you want, but All Pro Football 2K8 proved one thing when they released a game with legendary NFL players.  The same can be said for current players depending on the year as well.  Some gamers love creating their own version of Dream Teams and I am one of them.  I remember doing this back in Triple Play 98 when I would put Griffey, Frank Thomas, ARod, and others all on the same team.  It became a habitual thing to do each year, but in the end I still wanted to play a challenging baseball game. 

I happen to come from the generation of sports gamers that can remember Dr. J vs. Larry Bird on Atari 7800.  I also remember Tecmo Bowl and Bases Loaded through Bases Loaded 4.  RBI Baseball 94 was the first game that introduced me to the concept of playing a full season – I never finished one, but damn, it was pretty cool to have that option and even see the potential grow into franchise modes in other games.  When they finally started to present us with multiple seasons and stats it was a dream come true. In all honesty, the graphical improvements were secondary for me after a while.  I loved what Madden had turned into by Madden 2005.  Hell, even MVP Baseball 2005 was one of the better games I had ever played in terms of – that was a year to remember when it came to EA doing some truly amazing work. Now it’s as if they have sold their souls and there is no looking back.

It seems that Franchise Mode has gone the way of the dodo in recent years.  It is still present in all of these games, but it is a shell of itself.  Much like Kobe and Jordan at the end of their career – you can see flashes of what they used to be, but in the end they just aren’t performing like they once could… and it’s sad.  Madden Ultimate Team and MLB The Show’s Diamond Dynasty have essentially powered their way into a position that is most likely permanent and will eventually completely destroy innovation when it comes to gameplay and franchise mode.

This isn’t something I say lightly and it isn’t something I want to be known as an acceptable issue. 

I do want those of you reading this to look at 2018 sports games with a critical eye and take this opportunity to speak with your wallet.  It is time to demand the product that we have been denied for years.  I urge you to avoid pre-ordering any sports game this year. If you are going to buy the game, look for it second-hand in hard copy form.  Do not pay the full retail price if you feel compelled to play them.  It’s time for these companies to feel the only kind of pain they understand – financial.


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GAME OVR – The Strange Obsession With OVR Ratings In Sports Games

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?