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GiantBlue76's Blog
Changes in Madden 
Posted on September 7, 2012 at 11:57 AM.
This blog will be a continuous work in progress to address and will hopefully aid in making Madden a better game.

Since my main concern is gameplay related, I want to write up a detailed document explaining exactly why I dislike Madden’s representation of realistic NFL football on the field. This document will compare Madden to other current sports games, older Maddens and 2k football games at times. This is simply to show how something CAN be done. As the author of this blog I can assure you that I do not favor any one company over another, nor am I pushing any other agenda other than wanting the best simulation we can ask for.

I will list areas of the game that need serious work and then write up a description of why those areas are issues.

1. Player Movement:

Player movement has been a sore spot for Madden fans for a long, long time. As a lifelong fan of the NFL and the game itself, I have played countless football video games dating back to the very early 80s until the present. Since then, all of the games have progressed immensely and so has the expectations of each title. What’s strange about Madden is that there have been iterations of the game where the player movement has felt “organic” and fluid. The problem with how the players move is more that they don’t do a good job of convincing you that they are alive. Too many players move in unison and have the same mannerisms. Their movement is twitchy and robotic. Even though it may seem like it’s a small detail, even such things as the players breaking the huddle or coming back to the line. They all move in unison and don’t appear to be aware of each other or of anything else for that matter. In the real NFL, I see the players moving to the line and looking to each other, pointing out assignments, yelling out calls, looking up at the QB, etc. etc. The QB at times will stroll to the line under center while pointing out the MIKE or he will walk up and down the line shouting out the changes to the play so his lineman can hear. This would be something that would be applicable when playing on the road. After plays, you may see some players helping one another up or some shoving afterwards. Guys who are engaged with each other may stumble and fall due to contact after the play is over.

Pass Plays:

Player movement on pass plays is especially bad in Madden. One of the biggest issues is how all defensive players at a respective position look exactly the same the majority of the time regardless of their abilities or their athletic attributes. One of the worst things I’ve seen in Madden is the “jump tackle” or “interception tackle” play. A pass will be thrown and the receiver will go into his animation to try and catch the ball and the defensive back or linebacker will try to catch the ball with that over-the-shoulder catching animation. It looks very awkward and unrealistic. The way the defender reacts should be based on how his body is positioned when the pass is thrown. At times he should turn around and attempt to make a play on the ball, other times if he is trailing the receiver he should get a hand up while looking for the ball and reach for it. Maybe he will lunge for the ball out of reach and fall down or lose his footing. On top of all of that, he should NEVER suddenly go into the tackling animation immediately after he jumps to make a play on the ball. Another problem in this area is how receivers actually attempt to catch balls. Apparently, they’ve added 430 new catch animations to Madden 13. That sounds great, but aside from still seeing the same ones over and over, I still don’t see the receivers reacting to throws properly. You rarely see passes thrown “slightly” off target (which is an issue I’ll cover momentarily), but in the real NFL, passes are rarely PERFECTLY thrown. Balls will be thrown slightly out in front, behind, high or too low for the receiver. In Madden 12, you could throw a hitch route and point the left stick down and the receiver would always do the same exact animation before catching it, no matter who he is. He will go low to the ground and fall down catching the ball while the defender would just be standing there. The whistle blows due to down by contact, but you don’t see him come up and lay a hit or touch him down. This also makes the game look less authentic. We should be seeing a different animation many times. The receiver may have to slide down to attempt to catch the ball. He may bobble it, he may trap it, he may have to go to his knees, he might reach down and stumble as he’s attempting to reel it in. The animations should be smooth and fluid. How the defensive back reacts should also impact how the receiver handles this. It should also not look the same for each receiver/defender. Their specific skill set and ability should affect what kind of athletic play they will attempt to make. When a pass is thrown, nothing kills immersion like when a receiver warps towards the ball and puts his two hands up near his head to catch the ball like they do in Madden. Some catches will be hand catches, bobbled catches, body catches, reaching catches and lunging catches. Many times, these passes shouldn’t be caught or the defender makes a play on the receiver breaking up the play. It should look fluid and flow realistically rather than seem twitchy and choppy like it does currently.

Another area needing major work is the QB play. QBs all still look very robotic when dropping back to throw. They all hold the ball exactly the same way. This is the NFL and Tiburon has access to everything NFL. Let’s see the QBs replicate their real life counterparts. Throwing motions are ok in Madden, but not great. APF does a great job of differentiating all of the QBs. They not only look like their real life counterparts, but they “feel” like them when controlling them. I shouldn’t be able to run around like a chicken with its head cut off with my QB. Even special athletes like Michael Vick who are more athletic than most of the league cannot run backwards faster than defenders run forward. Throwing on the run should be very difficult, especially against teams with solid front 7’s. Another issue is how the ball seems to “shoot” out of the QB’s hands. It doesn’t look like a smooth, fluid throwing motion. Bullet passes are like lasers, and deep throws are like moon balls. I see improvement in the videos for Madden 13, but it still looks unnatural. When the QBs get hit as they are throwing, we should not see the ball “squirt” out in the same direction every time. Sometimes QBs arms are hit while throwing, or they hit their hands on helmets of defensive players as the pocket collapses. This will affect the spiral and the direction of the ball when it leaves the QB’s hand. We should see these passes be errant resulting in incompletions the majority of the time. No receivers or defenders should magically come back towards the line and catch these balls. Many of the players should not be aware of where the ball is in this situation because they are handling their respective assignments. It looks very unpolished to see a right-handed QB get hit while in his throwing motion and see the ball squirt out the same way every time regardless of his arm angle when hit. Sometimes the ball should come out in the vicinity of where it was being thrown, sometimes it should go behind the QB (fumbles happen as well), sometimes it should go straight into the dirt. 30 yard bullets should not be thrown when the QB is hit while in his throwing motion. It is also important that these balls are not caught unless it is a realistic occurrence. The desire for the Madden developers to foster highlight plays on routine plays detracts from the game’s immersion and is not at all realistic to what we see on Sunday.

Line Play:

Unfortunately, line interaction in Madden is one of the biggest problem areas in Madden. When I play Madden, the extremely poor animations I see playing out completely detract from my experience. I see lineman hunched over showing the “jazz hands”, players warping over to pick up blitzing defenders, zero double or triple teams on passing plays. Animations are not smooth or realistic at all as they seem to have a single win/loss calculation which ends in either the defensive player “chucking off” the defender or the defensive lineman bouncing off of the lineman. The animation where O Lineman are chucked aside is especially disturning. They all do this same animation and it looks very scripted and fake. Not only does the defender perform this on the lineman, but then he simply runs past him. There is no evidence of a struggle or push. The lineman do not engage at all with the defensive players on the line. There is still no formation of a pocket either. The abilities of the defensive players up front should be on full display. The same goes for the offensive lineman attempting to block them. I don’t want to see a single, unrealistic move being made with the defensive lineman then shooting past the offensive lineman running towards the QB. DEs should get upfield and get behind the QB. Edge rushers should dip their inside shoulder and attempt to get around the offensive tackle. They should be leaning in and attempting to get leverage. I should see a big difference in technique when a stud like Osi Umenyiora is rushing versus someone like Justin Trattou, an undrafted practice squad player. Defensive players should be using a slew of moves to get past the blocker. Proper footwork should be displayed along with double team help and chips from running backs and TEs. I want to see and feel that battle between the lineman. This is where the true essence of football is born, in the trenches on the line. In Madden, it’s a complete afterthought and a point of frustration as you see a wall in front of the QB and pressure coming from mediocre defensive tackles with a single move. Even if offensive lineman get beat, they should be scraping and clawing to get a hand on the defender. This will result in holds or other penalties at times and should draw a flag. Sometimes the offensive lineman will get blown off the ball and will fall down or stumble and lose their leverage. More animations may not be necessary, but correct context for certain animations and fluidity is of the utmost importance. All Pro football does this extremely well, but it has some issues at times as well. Madden should be able to do this so well, that we have a hard time determining that it’s a video game. Madden will NEVER be respected by those who desire realistic games until this area is done well. The blueprint for line play is freely available - just watch NFL footage.

Player Running:

Undoubtedly, one of the most talked about problems with Madden is “running”. Although this seems like an incredibly elementary area, it is incredibly off in Madden. Player running has seen many forms since Madden’s inception. Some feel that running animations were best represented in older versions of Madden dating back to 2004. Others feel that Madden 10 struck a nice chord with it. Currently, the running animations completely destroy any sort of realistic immersion other areas of the game could have created. Players accelerate to full speed nearly instantly. Receivers travel 20 yards before QB’s finish drop backs. Ball carriers move with a “twitchy” and choppy motion. They do not need to plant their feet when changing direction. They look robotic as they cover up the ball and appear to be hunched over when running through holes. Ball carriers will literally run in place when running into the back of lineman or bouncing off defenders not attempting wrap up tackles. When running into lineman, the back should put his hand out to feel his way through, maybe stumble backwards or get pushed off course. Sometimes they will stumble and fall down or get knocked backwards. The animations should be fluid and smooth and should fit the situation. If a tackler comes in and takes out the players feet, how he goes down should be reflective of that. Instead, what we see in Madden is a generic runner that looks more like a robot than a real living athlete. Ball carriers can cut on a dime and change direction without any effect on their speed or acceleration. Their momentum does not carry them in other directions. This fosters the “Zig zag” style running that many players use in order to break big runs. Once again, the emphasis seems to be on “the big play”. This is not fun. It’s frustrating and reminds me that I am playing an archaic video game rather than a true to life simulation. When I change direction I want to slow down and have to shift my momentum. Changing direction hard enough might even cause a stumble or loss of balance. Once again, the degree of how this affects the ball carrier will depend on his athleticism, height, weight and strength. However, EVERY player is affected by these real world elements. Nothing needs to be invented here, just simulate how a football player really would run. It’s that simple.

WR/DB Interaction:

WR/DB interaction in Madden is very limited. When I look at All Pro Football, I get the impression that the defensive back is his own entity separate from the receiver. In Madden, you get the feeling that DBs are tethered to the receiver. A win/loss is calculated at the line and if the DB wins, he simply runs the route the DB runs. This looks incredibly unrealistic and artificial. It’s another immersion killer because it gives the player the impression that the outcome is scripted. In man coverage, I want to see the DB do some hand checking and attempting to run with the receiver. I expect him to see the WR looking up for the ball and then looking up himself. Both players should be fighting for the ball. Instead, in Madden, we see many times on deep balls the receiver standing there (turning around like a robot doing an about face) along with 3 defenders waiting for the ball. Then the receiver will jump up and catch it. It looks scripted and dated. This may happen on hail mary’s, but that’s about it. I want to see guys fighting for the ball. How about that ridiculous over-the-shoulder catching animation that we see constantly from defensive players.
# 1 EmmdotFrisk @ Sep 7
Thanks for taking the time to write this up Taz. We see these things, but there is only so much things we can put into a game on this gen.
# 2 Jet Sufferer @ Sep 11
Good job Taz. I've written a lot of stuff over the years but kind of gave up on these guys ability to do anything. The infinity engine has provided more animations this year, at least the game doesn't look the same as it has for 7 years. Begged them for more animations/outcomes when I first came on this board. The animation system is still miles behind 2k, but at least it's not the same damn slideshow it's been the past 7 years!
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