Creating Your Best Connected Franchise Mode Starts With YOU – Madden 19

As we impatiently wait for the next two months for Madden 19 to release there are some things we can certainly prepare for in the meantime when it comes to this game.  This is going to be a long article and I hope you’ve taken your hype pills – because it’s about to get textually exciting!

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Franchise Mode Is Draft Mode –

Ever since sports games introduced multiple seasons and franchise mode in general it has always been driven by the existence of a draft.  The action of finding new great players for your team is really what drives most people to play this.  Sure, there are existing players that you want to use in game – maybe it is simply a rookie that you want to make into the greatest of all time (GOAT)… please be Baker Mayfield in real life…. annnnd I’m back.

The fact of the matter is that you are going to have to police yourself when it comes to creating a draft class.  Here are some basic observations and house rules I already have in place to keep CFM as fresh as possible before I get close to installing Madden 19.

Development Traits Dictate Everything

Much like potential ratings of the past, development ratings will continue to be the driving factor in determining if you have made the best selection in the draft.  My problem with doing this in Madden is that it is much like drafting Ryan Leaf back in 1998.  If you drafted a player with what most people said from simply the athletic ability alone – sure, he might have made a lot of sense. Madden still hasn’t incorporated any sort of real leadership or personality traits.  I feel like this is the next step that may never be taken, sadly.

In creating your draft class it will be crucial to be selective if you choose to give development traits that are outside of ‘Normal’.  The danger will be in that you will have a leg up on the competition to select any of these top players with low round grades that happen to have Superstar development.  This is why I am pushing for a dialed back draft class creation that will start with every player being given a development trait of Normal.  It only makes sense for these new players to prove who they are in by showing it on the field and once the CFM engine starts for the pre-season.

Scouting – It’s Still Too Easy

I have set up my own house rules for scouting because Madden still has yet to create a scouting system with any sort of fluidity.  This generally leaves most ‘discovered’ ratings to be set in stone.  Some players on the news wire throughout the season might have their story dictate an injury or something else that takes them down a notch in development, etc.  Once you know this, it becomes easy to pick apart each draft class.

You should still be scouting players based on matching your coach scheme to keep your efforts focused from the outset.  After that, it is as crucial – if not more crucial in all honesty to focus on which positions you need to fill with young talent.  It is most important for the sake of keeping your CFM challenging and realistic that you full scout each prospect once you open one of their ratings.  I truly believe that this will keep you honest within your draft experience as well.  Some highly ranked players will scout out terribly, and that generally will stand to pass that they are terrible players.

THIS IS WHY CFM NEEDS TO CREATE SCOUTING DEPARTMENTS AND REGIONAL SCOUTS!!!! (Sorry to yell, but this is something that could be awesome, and I don’t understand why it hasn’t been done to this point.)

Hording Draft Picks… It’s Over

It’s hard to be honest with yourself once you start finding glitches in games that eventually become a subconscious pattern that you manipulate for your own gains.  In a game like Dark Souls I have to say I understand and might even condone it to a point.  However, it is still far too easy to trade for high draft picks in Madden.

I believe my house rules from Madden 18 are among the best out there to keep you honest while still maintaining some semblance of running your own fictional world in CFM.

Draft Pick Limitations – You can only hold a limited amount of picks in each draft.  The rules for your draft pick amounts are somewhat complicated, but they will make for a better experience.

  • Maximum of 13 picks in any draft
  • You can have two first round picks for up to two years in a row
  • If you end up with three first round picks during any draft you must trade one of them to a division opponent for their lowest pick in the next season’s draft.
  • You cannot draft two QBs in two consecutive rounds
  • You cannot draft more than two QBs, HBs, or TEs in any draft

The last aspect we will be covering today involves the draft class itself.

Rookie Ratings Should Never Be Maxed Out (Or Bottomed Out)

It is going to be vital for any decent custom draft class to be balanced with players that have great ratings in key areas as well as poor ratings in key areas.  The idea here is that no player should be created in the draft class with a ratings of 99 in any category.  This goes for speed and arm strength.  The entirety of CFM is really based around development – so why would you create any player that doesn’t need to develop?

It will be important to give some players low ratings as well.  There might be a QB you want to create from a small school that has to develop from a 65 OVR into an all time great.  That is what CFM should really be about.  One of the aspects that Madden 18 finally did a good job of was making it harder to do things like this if a QB had poor accuracy, etc.  You need to create low rated players for the sake of your CFM and to give some stories to follow if you choose to pay attention.

There will be more updates on custom draft class guides as we get closer to Madden 19’s release.  Stay tuned!

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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.

Madden 18 CFM and Gameplay House Rules

House rules for Madden 18 are here for you to start planning your Madden NFL experience!

Madden 18 – Franchise Mode and Gameplay House Rules

As most of the Franchise Mode players out there know, sometimes we have to make our own unwritten rules in order to keep our team from dominating the CPU in every facet of the game.

Draft Picks – It has always been easy to horde draft picks as the CPU becomes dumber as the seasons go on.  This year, we saw the Browns end up with three first round picks.  It doesn’t happen often, but it also happened – so I understand the view of ‘I do what I want to the cognitively disabled CPU.’.

This year will be the toughest draft house rule set I have ever made.  Also, I highly recommend you create a Franchise Journal in order to track your yearly performance.  I will be posting updates of my own Franchise story this year.  It helps with immersion and also to keep you honest in your franchise!

  • Trading Down – You can trade down three total times during the draft.

  • Scouting and Draft Board – You must fully scout every player you begin scouting.  This will keep you from seeing the first rating being a C+ and moving on to the next guy.  It will also limit how many sleepers you can find every year.

  • Big Board – You must draft according to your big board.  This will make it necessary for you to plan through the season and off-season.  You must also take it upon yourself to rank your big board through the season and build your draft each year.

    • Top Three Rule – While you don’t have to pick the top guy on your board in any situation you must select from the Top 3.

    • Sleeper Rule – You can choose any player up to one round before their projected position.  This will keep you honest and give the CPU a chance to take these sleepers before you get the chance.

  • Draft Pick Limitations – You can only hold a limited amount of picks in each draft.  The rules for your draft pick amounts are somewhat complicated, but they will make for a better experience.

    • Maximum of 13 picks in any draft

    • You can have two first round picks for up to two years in a row

    • If you end up with three first round picks during any draft you must trade one of them to a division opponent for their lowest pick in the next season’s draft.

    • You cannot draft two QBs in two consecutive rounds

    • You cannot draft more than two QBs, HBs, or TEs in any draft

Free Agency and Re-Signing –

  • You can only sign one 90+ OVR free agent player per season

  • You can sign one player outside of each of your schemes during free agency bidding (1 on Offense, 1 on Defense).

  • You can make ONE offer to any player on your team with 90+ OVR during the re-signing period while in regular season.  If they turn down your offer they must be allowed to test free agency.

  • QB Specific – If you have two QBs with 80+ OVR you must allow one of them to test free agency when their contract expires.  If both are on expiring deals you must choose one to re-sign.  This will allow CPU teams to have access to quality QBs and drive realism.

Spending XP –

After finding a serious issue with some ratings creating a broken gameplay experience in Madden 17, which will most likely be the same issue in 18 (WR Release in particular) I have decided to stop spending XP manually.  XP will also be set to ‘Every Four Weeks’ to allow for a better development system for all teams. 

Trading –

During the pre-season you are permitted to make a maximum of four trades (one per week).  Two trades can involve acquiring draft picks.  Two more trades can be made that are player for player.  Any player you acquire must have a lower OVR than what you are giving up OR if they are a greater OVR they must be over 30 years old.

GAMEPLAY HOUSE RULES

  • Play Calling – You must pick a play from as many formations as possible during each game.  I recommend choosing a new formation for every play or every other play. This will add a tremendous amount of depth to your experience and how you play each game.

  • Hot Routes – You can use one hot route per series.

  • Money Plays – If you find a play that works often enough against the CPU that it becomes a go to play, you must either remove it from your playbook or stop using it immediately.

  • Running Up The Score – If you are up by 21+ points in the fourth quarter you must switch to Chew Clock and choose a running play while rotating new HBs as well as a new QB in the final two minutes.

  • Passing No Switch – Do not user control a WR until after the catch has been made. This will add realism, challenge, and more animations! 

  • No Huddle – This can be used only on the first drive of the game and during the final two minutes of either half.  It cannot be used to keep other personnel on the field outside of the situations above.

  • 4th Down – You can go for it if you are losing the in the fourth quarter or if there are fewer than five seconds left in the half and you are within fifty yards of the endzone.

Madden 18 CFM -The Annual Dumpster Fire Keeps Burning

With almost two months to go before Madden 18 graces us with another year of incremental updates we are starting to get a similar message about Franchise Mode (CFM).  Sports games have moved more and more towards the micro-transaction over the last few years.  It makes sense from a business perspective, but in terms of actual improvement and innovation of the game itself – no so much.


It turns out that Franchise Mode is once again more or less on the back burner.  At this point, it is safe to say that it’s actually in the microwave and waiting to be heated up again as a left-over from a few days ago. 

Sports games have all decided that they want to move in a direction of Story Mode rather than any sort of immersive Franchise Mode experience.  This is great for the YouTubers out there that seem to make their money from their over-the-top internet ‘personalities’ and gameplay videos.  I guess it is a matter of taste, but they don’t do much for me when I am trying to play my own game.  Maybe we live in a more vicarious gaming world than I thought.

No matter how you slice it, Madden has moved towards completely focusing on two modes in particular this year.  They are banking on the Longshot Mode to be their saving grace in offline experience.  As usual, they are going to bring all of their post-release cash grabbing from Ultimate Team.  I see this as the continuation of sports gaming’s innovation decline more than anything else.  I don’t post much about MUT or any online sports gaming experience because it’s tiresome and really takes away any sort of gaming immersion. 

Franchise Mode announcements have come and gone.  The primary aspects of change that have been announced are that they have introduced MVP chatter into the commentary as well as new quick entrances and fireworks in the stadiums that we will continue to hold the X or A button to skip through.  The developers in charge of this mode seem to believe that CFM needs more visual bells and whistles than actual immersion in the guts of running a team on the management level.

One of the things that really killed my experience in Madden 17 CFM was a combination of the XP System and terrible Defensive AI (especially with DBs and WRs).  One of the easiest things to do after leveling up during the first season or two is increasing your WR’s Separation ability along with a few other mechanics.  I did this with Corey Coleman and managed to not only turn him into an unstoppable force, but also made RG3 into one of the best QB’s of all time.  All that needed to happen was for the CB on Coleman to play him in a Man To Man Press (up close to the line of scrimmage).  Coleman has great speed and acceleration already.  By the time I finished building his separation and strength attributes in 2016 all I had to do was call a hot route in 2017 if he was being pressed.  Even with safety help, he would burn the opposing team for a huge TD on a fly route over 60% of the time. 

The results?

I built my team into an absolute juggernaut on both sides of the ball.  The fact that I could score 70 points a game on All Madden without blinking made the entire experience feel as disposable as the developers seem to believe it is. 

That said…

One of the aspects about Madden 17 that I really enjoyed was feeling like I could play defense most of the time.  This took a lot of slider adjustments and house rules (including a ‘no switch’ rule).  The no switch rule will actually improve how your defense plays through the game.  Why?  Because your AI players will stick to their assignments for the most part if you stay with one player during each play.  The AI will start to break down as soon as you switch players at the wrong moment.  This includes run plays especially as your entire defensive squad will essentially be rendered useless and the CPU will break off a big run most of the time if you have to switch to the other side of the field to defend against a run.  (You are actually better off trying to run with the original player than to switch to the closest defender on CPU run plays to the opposite side.  It doesn’t make sense, but then again… neither does Madden.)

Madden 18 won’t have editing for Draft Classes.  It will have the same relocation mode, but no expansion options.  CFM also won’t have any real changes to the injury system other than supposedly including off-ball injuries.  It seems like Franchise Mode effectively died after Madden 2005.  With the PS3/360 consoles bringing high speed online gaming to the forefront of almost every gaming experience it’s really no wonder that this mode has lost so much momentum if not gone backwards a few steps over the last decade-plus.

This genuinely feels like a Madden CFM experience that most would be better to wait on for a purchase rather than buying on release day. 

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.

New Rules, The NFL, and How You Are Ruining Sports Games

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With all their new rules you’d think Bill Maher was the new commissioner of the NFL… don’t get that joke?  Either I am the Dennis Miller of gaming commentary and online personas or I am just old and lame.
I am starting to think that Madden has hit that slope as well.
Seeing that the draft is coming up and the NFL is as popular as ever it seems like they would be pushing more and more to make their monopoly on football video games a more true representation of the game on the field and on television.  Then again, maybe they are when it comes to all the rule changes that seemingly gut the NFL of any sort of toughness under the guise of ‘player safety’.
In Madden it is nearly impossible to injure a player by hitting them harder (which is basically 80% of the injuries in the league). In Madden your players can’t get unsportsmanlike conduct penalties because that type of thing isn’t in the game either.  So, the new rule of two penalties for being an arrogant taunting jerk with a big mouth has no place in Madden to begin with.
This is why I constantly wonder when the madness will stop.  When will 2K or another publisher pour in the resources to give football fans and football gamers a different option from Madden?  I have been on this journey for over a decade demanding a true competitor to Madden and the football gaming monopoly. 
I am starting to wonder if I’m alone out here on the digital gridiron.  Everyone else seems happy to play two-hand touch on Madden and I am stuck wondering why I waste so much time playing a Franchise Mode for the sake of having a ‘new’ football option every year.
This might be why I am looking forward to MLB 16 more and more.  At least SCEA goes above and beyond to truly add depth to their game every year.  Madden has seen their top guys leave over the course of the last few years and with that they haven’t grown or done anything new.  They have invested in Ultimate Team because gamers seem to have more money than they know what to do with.  So in many respects, if you are playing Ultimate Team you are part of the problem as well.  I’d say this goes for Diamond Dynasty players on MLB, but now that SCEA has made it so you earn packs as you play the game rather than simply giving the option to buy more (which you can also do)… maybe they are similar afterall.

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Maybe I am just like Mugatu and I have taken crazy pills somewhere along the way.

Taking Your Draft To The Next Level – Madden 16

Now that the order of the first twenty teams of the 2016 NFL Draft have been determined it is officially draft season for many fans.  This includes yours truly… the constantly disappointed by my Browns ‘in real life’ Dawg Pound faithful Cleveland fan.

What makes it all better for me is knowing that I can at least build my team effectively in the draft on Madden 16. Fortunately, you don’t have to be an analytics wiz like Paul DePodesta to do this either. Here is a quick-ish guide to scouting and drafting better players in Madden 16.

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Scouting…It Matters
It took me awhile to realize that the most valuable moment in Madden 16 scouting is the first and cheapest ‘letter grade’ for each player. This is because it only get worse after that first grade… seriously, once you realize that the best grade they have is the first one you find you can quickly determine who to cast away as a waste of resources.

Scout Needs and Schemes First
Now that we know that letter grades will be a good guide for investing more points we can eventually scout all of the players that fit our scheme first.

C+ Is Not Average, It’s Bad
When scouting any players you should never be excited to see a ‘C’ rating. This is never a good sign and should tell you to move on. If you want to take a chance on some WR with ‘A’ SPD and ‘C+’ catching, that’s on you.

Combine ‘Final Litmus Test’
Never judge your prospects solely by their combine score. Always check out where they ranked in the important categories. If your LT prospect was 12th in the 40 yd dash, who cares? If he is the strongest Bench Press LT you might be happy to take him. The combine scores aren’t as important as the rankings for each workout. Do the extra button press and judge your prospects accordingly.

Don’t Be Afraid To Trade Down
If you don’t believe there is a ‘must have’ player for your team where you are picking you should always look to trade for other picks. If you have a Top 5 or 10 pick and want to trade, you could find a lot of great offers. Don’t take a player in the Top 10 if he doesn’t have at least an ‘A’ or an ‘A-‘ Grade in one category with ‘B+’ after… otherwise, you will find you drafted too high.

Take A Chance In Rounds 3-7
You will find that some players projected well (green projections) will be worth taking in the round before their projection at times, especially in later rounds.

While I wouldn’t suggest taking a projected 5th Round player in the 2nd or 3rd round, they might actually be worth it if their combine and grades check out. Take your time and be picky with this as you learn what your team needs.

Don’t Forget Position Changes
What many people might forget is that some players that might not fit schemes as they are listed for the draft but they would be perfect if they changed positions. That 3-4 DE might be too fat and slow to be a DE for your Attacking 4-3, but that doesn’t mean you can ‘ draft him and edit his position to DT just after the draft. This is the only time you can do it for any player, so don’t forget. Also, take a look at changing CB to SS or FS as it may fit them better. You can always mess with these things to see which ratings will be the best for OVR.

You should now be on track to have a top draft every single year.