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adembroski's Blog
Madden NFL 12 and beyond... priorities Stuck
Posted on August 12, 2010 at 03:46 AM.
Let me start by saying Franchise mode is of immense importance to me. I still play NFL Head Coach because its such a deep and engaging franchise mode despite gameplay flaws. I will probably continue to play it until Madden meets or exceeds it. That said, there are things that have to come first.

I'll go down my top ten here. These are the ten most important things that Madden has to address in the coming years. I believe firmly that the team in place can accomplish this; Real Assignment AI has proven they are capable to me.

1.) Expand Real Assignment AI to every position on the field.
This would be a true revolution in football gaming. To really see players executing assignments as they would in the NFL. They got a great start with run blocking... expanding this to cover run fits and gap assignments, zone and man coverage, pass blocking, route running, and quarterback reads is truly the holy grail of football gaming.

If you can give Madden 11 credit nowhere else, it's hard to deny that it has the most realistic run blocking assignments in football gaming history.

2. Physics based blocking
Yes, I know, we all want physics based tackling, and that would be the next logical step for Madden. But I contend that the blocking is a bigger roadblock to a "perfect sim" than tackling.

As it stands, there is nothing about Pro-Tak that can't create sim-like results. It's not perfect, but it works. Engage/Disengage system Madden has used since its inception for blocking, however, is fatally flawed and will never quite replicate real life blocking either in the run game or in pass rush. Being physics based... with true impact and anchoring, would be the next revolution in football gaming.

3. NFL Head Coach Career Mode 2.0
I have a challenge for Ian and company; don't just match NFL Head Coach, exceed it. Destroy it. Make it obsolete. You are capable. You are capable because you already made NFL Head Coach 09 and already know what mistakes you made. You can bring the whole thing over wholesale and improve on it. It would instantly make Madden NFL 12 a must-buy for hardcore sim players, even if the gameplay is flawed. This is so high on so many wish lists many of us will overlook what gameplay is lacking for it. I'm not saying bypass gameplay in favor of it... clearly with the number of online only folks, that's not fair or wise... but make it great.

More importantly, be careful. Be methodical and mathematical. There is no reason progression, importation, and stats can't be perfect because it's all math, and math is predictable. Take the time to crunch your numbers and ensure the integrity of the roster is maintained in the long haul. I get the distinct sense hardly anybody in the sports gaming industry does this, as every sports game I've ever played is flawed in this area.

4. Physics based tackling
I have derided Backbreaker for its poor execution of fundamental football concepts. Backbreaker is flawed in more ways than I can mention, and if you replace its revolutionary tackling system with any other tackling system ever, it wouldn't get a batted eyelash from this community. It would be a laughing stalk, period.

But the power of physics based tackling is amazing. I have played the game and I honestly do enjoy it despite hating so much of it. I love seeing the tackles, I love the natural flow of contact. I never skip a replay. Ever. I wince at the throwing animation. The AI nearly makes me cry. But the tackles are sublime.

5. Rebuild the playbook system on both sides of the ball
As it stands, I am limited to about 250 offensive plays. I can run my favorite running play from one formation (Niners Zone), my favorite passing play from about 3 (Flanker Drive). Flanker drive was originally designed by Bill Walsh to be run from a base set (2 backs, 1 te, 2 wr) but it does not appear in Strong Pro, the 49ers base set. Strictly speaking, Niners Zone should be able to be run from any formation will a fullback and a flanker, while Flanker drive should be able to be run from any formation with a flanker, a split end, and at least one more receiver within a yard of the line of scrimmage.

While the presentation of the plays would have to remain the same (choose formation, then play), the system should be processed in the opposite direction. Flanker Drive should be added to a playbook, and it should automatically appear within any formation it is available for. By saving "Flanker Drive" with a list of formations it works in and adjustments necessary to work in those formations, you would save memory budget for playbooks, allowing either more playbooks, more plays in playbooks, or memory elsewhere.

This is even more critical on defense. Cover 2 is cover 2, and it can be run by any formation or personnel package. A basic 2 deep 5 under zone coverage requires only that there are 4 or fewer pass rushers... in the same way that players currently adjust man coverage based on where receivers move, zone coverage assignments should adjust based on what players are rushing, allowing me to combine virtually any coverage with virtually any rush scheme and front.

6. Playbook Editor
In the past, it made sense for 'system' plays to be locked away in 'system' playbooks. Bill Walsh's West Coast play schematics didn't appear in Joe Gibbs's One Back playbook or Marv Levy's K-Gun. The '99 Rams blew that out of the water by taking those three systems and combining them into one, creating the hybrid spread/west coast that virtually every team in the NFL runs a variation of today.

There is no reason we shouldn't be able to mix and match plays within a playbook. This is a higher priority than a play editor because Madden actually does a fairly decent job of making sure the major NFL concepts are represented. The ability to personally decide which of those concepts I want to make use of the most would go a long way toward personalizing the Madden experience.

7. Show Us Your Presentation
Stop hiding presentation. You've put a lot of work into it. No, its not perfect. Yes, we still complain, but it doesn't help when every cut scene is covered up by the playcall screen. Let me decide when I'm tired of watching Wade Phillips waddle up and down the sideline. Certainly let me button through the cutscene, but don't button through it for me!

8. All Sunday Long Presentation
That's right- pregame, halftime, post game, and evening highlight shows. I want it all. I want to see James Brown introduce the game, send it over to Gus and Chris in the booth, who later send it back to James in the studio at both halftime and after the game, then Boomer on the highlights when the week is over, along with analysis from the college season from Mel Kiper. The whole nine yards. I grabbed the names out of a hat, it doesn't have to be them, just using as an example (though i guess I'm in the minority on this, but to me Chris Berman is Mr. NFL. A lot of people hate him, but I love his passion for the game.)

PS: Wouldn't it be cool to have Rush Limbaugh and Keith Olbermann on the same pregame show?

9. The Ultimate Play Editor
Go download a copy of Front Page/Sierra Sports Football Pro to see what I'm talking about. Take a look at the game planning features as well

10. Hire Bioware to rebuild Superstar Mode
Its about time a company admit that Be A Pro mode isn't a sports mode at heart, it's an RPG, and should be treated as one. Interacting with teammates, dealing with real-life situations off the field, dealing with the media, working to expand your marketability, cultivating relationships... maybe even becoming a locker room distraction a la Terrell Owens... should be the core of Superstar Mode. Otherwise, it's just playing Madden on player lock.

Well, there you have it folks. The roadmap to the perfect Madden. Now that we know how, I'm sure EA will get right on that and deliver the whole nine for Madden NFL 12, Right?


[DISCLAIMER: I'm well aware there is no way on God's green Earth this could be done in one, or even two, years. I wasn't being serious with that ending. I do, however, believe that Phil Frazier, Ian Cummings, Josh Looman, Donny Moore, and everyone else at Tiburon are capable of accomplishing these things, so I don't want to sell them sort and say "well, if you could just, you know, be OK in a couple years, I'll be happy." These guys are capable of delivering the best, and thus, in the long run, that is what I expect of them.]
# 1 oneamongthefence @ Aug 12
I'm a firm believer that this year was a major step forward in the gamplay department. It still has it's flaws but this year gameplay wise beats out last gen which is a huge step for me. Franchise is where its at for me so MAdden 12 should be AMAZING. Take 3 things a year on your list and in 3 years, we would have MAddenperfection. (right about the time a neww set of consoles come out)
# 2 Coach Espy @ Aug 12
Well put. Based on what I've seen so far (this is the first year that I am not buying the game), the gameplay is already excellent. Now, all EA needs to do is fix everything else.
# 3 Tengo Juego @ Aug 12
Sat here nodding my head the whole time. If I had to prioritize, or select a couple of those items...

-Assignment AI for all 22 positions
-Hire Bioware for Superstar mode

Playbooks could use redesign, but I can live with what we have, for now. Simply add the ability to use ANY play from any playbook. Custom playbooks seem simple. Maybe I'm wrong?
# 4 TreyIM2 @ Aug 12
Well, tell EA to stop BSing on the PS3 and take FULL advantage of it's capabilities and Blu-ray
# 5 rudyjuly2 @ Aug 12
Real phsyics based blocking will be huge. Allowing a DE to do a true speed rush up the field and to watch bodies block on the move will be good.

Getting a real based tackling engine will also be big. I never want to see an extra defender "bounce" off the pile/tackle animation again if I don't have to.

The biggest improvement needed in the football games though is a smarter cpu. EA needs to do a better job of having the cpu execute certain plays and adjust to tendencies. I want the cpu to feel like a human when I play them. That's the biggest improvement needed and the hardest one to implement imo.
# 6 adembroski @ Aug 12
@TreyIM2 Being a recent PS3 convert, I get where you are coming from, but I think they need to build for both systems. To do otherwise would simply divide resources and both versions would suffer. I'm annoyed a bit by the jaggies I get on PS3, but it's a fair trade for MLB The Show
# 7 Meast21Forever @ Aug 12
a few things:

what's a laughing stalk?
also - great article. really good stuff. the presentation stuff is low on the list for me, but your ideas on franchise are great. i'm really hoping madden 12's franchise is revitalized. the assignment AI is good too. if i want my strong safety to follow the other teams running back every time there's man coverage, i should be able to tell him to do so. if i want a corner lining up on jason witten instead of a slower linebacker, i should be able to do it.

great ideas dude. really good article.
# 8 darknmild @ Aug 12
good points
# 9 ForeverYoung @ Aug 12
My feeling is that most of these items will never be implemented, especially #3.
After reading the last interview with Ian I have the impression that franchise mode is officially DEAD.
# 10 greene015 @ Aug 12
First to Meast21 : Can't you go in defense assignment and put a cb on a TE... In previous versions you could and think I saw it the other day.

Adembroski, very good point. I also put great importance in franchise and stategies. What I would like to see is a substitution systeme in game. They've touched that part on the offensive part of the game by inserting a 3rd down back on the deptchart (Only usefull switch on offense in my opinion). What I would like to see (maybe intergrated with gameflow) is the same option (maybe not in the depth charth tought) with the defense. Let say its 3rd and 1, they you put 3 DT on the line. its 3rd and 10, then you put 4 DE on the line like the giants use to do. I'm not talking about putting 4 DT on my 4-3 under because then I wont be able to use that formation on other situation. There was an option in Madden 09 I think were you could personnalize you're allignement within formation (ex. Dline sub, DE switch, CB strong, "custom"...). Imagine if you were stuck with your slow no hands RB on all 3rd and long unless you had to change allignment.

These type of personnel change would mesh well with gameflow as it would put something else to change in gameplanning.

I personnaly like gameflow, it lets you play and not worry about picking plays, witch make the game faster. But they should find a way to let us move player around (like putting WR 1 in the slot) without having to go to the playscrean.

Speaking off substitions, when you change you line to backup lineman... why is it so hard to change both DT (if you have 4 on your team). Both Madden and NCAA have had this since forever!!
# 11 labguy @ Aug 12
What about a complete online franchise mode? You know one with a salary cap and free agency bidding system. Not sure how you could leave that off the list. Oh wait....its because not enough people use the mode. F that. The true hardcore gamers who have given EA 50+ bucks every year want it and that should be enough.
# 12 Meast21Forever @ Aug 12
greene015 - can you? the whole game? i didn't know that. i know if you're in man you can but if it's zone, doesn't it just revert to the standard alignment?
# 13 greene015 @ Aug 12
Its possible Meast21 that they revert when in zone. I'll check tonight! Now i'm curious... never noticed... Dont switch assignment on a TE very often.
# 14 adembroski @ Aug 12
@labguy Personally, I think online and offline franchise should be one and the same. You select "franchise mode" and then decide whether to put it online or not. There should be one system running both.
# 15 TreyIM2 @ Aug 12
adembroski - Lol but I was sorta joking about the PS3 thing...sorta. I KNOW with all the politics and devs cycles and the yada, the PS3 will NOT get that superior of a product than the 360 that it should get but the PS3 having 50GBs of max disc space is IMMENSE and can't be overlooked when compared to a DVD's 17GB potential max. EA maybe wouldn't have to remove things to input new things if they could fully realize the Blu-ray potential among other things the system can do with the PS3 GPUs and all that technical jazz. Ha. Still burns my biscuits, though. They need to take it back to the days of SNES vs Genesis. Remember those days? SNES was technically superior to the Genesis but the Genesis got better playing and possibly better looking versions of EA games. SNES had that Mode 7 spin stuff that the Genesis couldn't do so the screen would spin around on INTs. Lol. Enough of that...

What's ironic about u mentioning the jaggies is the fact that I just played the 360 version in Best Buy - Jaggy as well. Someone else up here had something about the PS3 jaggies a couple days ago but the 360 is definitely not exempt from those. That's EA's fault and larger TVs expose them. I play on my 32" 1080p and don't really see the jagginess as much on the PS3. Gunna take it downstairs to this new 42" LED joka and see what's really going on, then. Lol.

Back to the Madden progression, I also think that old, stiff code is factoring into Madden not progressing as far as we all believe it should. EA has to replace the entire, core engine, I believe, at this point. I dunno what's the difference between how the Fifa and NHL teams (and possibly Elite) can do wonders with theirs and why Madden can't get that same rate of growth.

At the same rate, eh. Whatever. EA's not maximizing this franchise like so many of us would like. I can live with it, though. Starting to dig this Madden. Just need them to patch some issues.

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