Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
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Join Date: Apr 2010
Location: Seattle, WA
Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
DO NOT QUOTE ENTIRE POST
Quote a specific section if you want to talk about it but please avoid quoting the entire 16k word post.
Just over three years ago, I created what I referred to as "The Madden Connected Franchise Mode Blueprint." It was over 23,000 words and 70-plus mockups of every possible thing I could think of that I wanted to see within franchise mode. Unfortunately, three years later franchise mode finds itself largely unchanged and in a very similar state still severely lacking what it takes to be that deep, authentic, engaging experience we all know and wish it could be.
Enter #FixMaddenFranchise. I had no plans of doing anything like this until things blew up and I realized that I was completely wrong in thinking that the passion and demand for a deep franchise mode was a thing of the past. But the community showed up in a big way and looking back at that post, a ton of the ideas have evolved and changed since it was written and with the community voice being louder than ever, I felt it was the perfect opportunity to revisit things and hopefully keep a good amount of momentum heading into Madden 22 and the next generation of consoles.
As with the first post the goal remains the same which is to illustrate how much further franchise mode could be taken as well as providing the community with something where they can not only say “this is what I want,” but also “this is what I’d like it to look like.” Every idea here comes from the countless community wishlists I’ve seen over the years and while there is no doubt that there could be plenty more here, I feel like I’ve done a good job to include the vast majority of things that I’ve seen at the top of franchise wishlists.
All mockups below should be clickable to full-size versions but if you notice any of them not doing so or linking to the wrong image, let me know and I’ll get that fixed.
How do you make the meaningless meaningful? It sounds redundant but you have to give it meaning. I’d be willing to bet that, outside of maybe weekly training, preseason is one of the most commonly skipped parts of franchise mode and it’s not hard to understand why. Outside of unlocking snaps towards hidden DEV traits, there’s really no incentive to play those games. They don’t mean anything to you and they don’t mean anything to your players so the main goal here is to create some incentive behind playing the preseason as well as trying to improve the overall experience.
Choose Your Preseason Opponents
One small thing that can slightly help incentivize users in playing the preseason is being able to choose your own preseason opponents. In the older Xbox/PS2 Madden’s I would always choose to play the defending Super Bowl champions, the team that was most active in free agency to see a bunch of new players on their new team and then the team with the #1 overall pick to get a look at the face of the most recent draft.
You can choose to follow that kind of storyline angle or if you’re in a multi-user league you’d be able to use this as a way to set up faux scrimmages against other players in your league rather than being forced to play the AI. This would also eliminate the monotony behind playing the exact same opponents every year after the first season which for a few teams actually includes divisional opponents which never happens in real-life.
Position Battle Scenarios
The Scenario Engine is something with a ton of potential that I will showcase throughout but we’re going to start here with position battle scenarios. Position battles are an old favorite from the Xbox/PS2 era and we’re looking to bring that back and make it significantly more meaningful. The idea here is that when you start preseason, position battles are identified and scenarios are triggered where either a coordinator or position coach (more on those later) will come to you asking who you want to get the initial first team reps.
From there, you play a few preseason games and prior to the last game of preseason, the coach comes back to you and this time you get to decide who wins the starting job. And based on the decision you make, it can have any number of repercussions among the players involved as well as your team.
So in this case, you play through the preseason and find out that you feel more comfortable with Nick Foles and choose him to be the starter over Mitchell Trubisky. As a result Foles’ morale goes up because he won the starting job while Trubisky’s morale takes a dive into the basement and now you have a very unhappy player on your hands.
I’ll get more into morale later but right now we’re going to focus on the effects of the decisions and, in this case, the decision triggers an additional scenario where Trubisky comes to you declaring that he no longer wants to be part of the team. So now you’re faced with an immediate decision to trade him and try to get what you can, cut him and eat a large cap penalty, or keep him and have his bad attitude potentially have a negative effect on the rest of the team.
On the other side of the coin, we’ll look at the 49ers position battle between cornerbacks and rather than the player who loses out getting upset, it’s the player who wins the battle receiving a positive effect in the form of a boost in DEV trait. The major key here is having this be as dynamic as possible. Sometimes this happens, sometimes neither of these things happen, sometimes they both happen. Maybe the player that loses out on the starting spot drops in DEV trait or maybe if he’s in a contract year he says he’ll remember this and then refuses to negotiate and the only way to keep him will be to franchise him at the end of the year. There’s an incredible amount of possibilities here and one of M20’s biggest struggles with the scenario engine was that they were incredibly predictable and once you encountered something once, pretty much all intrigue was lost beyond that point.
Fog of War: Player Ratings
The “Fog of War” elements added for DEV traits in Madden 20 was probably my favorite addition and based on everything I saw from the community, they seemed to love it as well and one of the most common comments I saw about it was the desire for more and so that’s exactly what we’re going to do.
We saw this done in Madden 12 and it was something that made the preseason a bit more interesting because when you made final cuts, you were often deciding between a known commodity and an unknown commodity and if that unknown commodity had made plays or stood out in preseason, a decision that was normally just ‘X is higher than Y’ became a lot more interesting. So similar to position battles, we’re going to take a feature we’ve seen before and improve upon it so that it fits in with today’s Madden.
With DEV traits, they’re entirely hidden and the method to unlock is a strict 500 snaps and with Madden 12’s system, ratings were entirely hidden initially and progressed after each game played but the idea here would be somewhere in the middle of that. You shouldn’t ever be absolutely blind on players like in Madden 12 and stuff like physical ratings is something you would realistically “know” so those wouldn’t be hidden either. And then rather than a strict 500 snaps, knowledge of players ratings would be broken into four tiers: Basic, Intermediate, Advanced and Complete. And those 500 snaps would then be broken up into tiers of 250, 150 and 100 to advance to the next tier of ratings knowledge.
Upon drafting a player, you will always start out with Basic Knowledge which puts all of his intangible attributes for his position on a basic letter grade scale of A, B, C, D or F. The ranges are wide and could even overlap but it gives you an obscured picture of a player where their strengths and weaknesses are still evident but pinpointing exactly what a player actually is becomes a bit more difficult.
After 250 snaps played, you would then progress to Intermediate Knowledge and those letter grades would now have +/- designations which is going to give you a clearer, but still partially obscured picture of where a player stands because the windows for those letter grades has now become much smaller and a bit more precise.
After another 150 snaps, you move onto Advanced Knowledge of the player and the reveal of ratings could be done a couple of different ways here. One way would be to unlock the numeric ratings for about half of the letter grades and then you unlock the other half upon completing the 100 snaps. Another way would be to unlock nothing new initially but progressively have the letter grades become numeric over the course of those remaining snaps with the final one unlocking at 100 once you’ve reached Complete Knowledge.
What’s better than 75-man rosters? 90-man rosters. More players means more decisions, more control over how you build your roster and more potential for battles over those last few roster spots and the ten practice squad spots, not to mention more authenticity for the game’s premier simulation mode.
Even with 75-man rosters, it’s still very common to find yourself, and especially CPU teams, in positions where they’re using starters or key role players in meaningless situations throughout the preseason. 90-man rosters would help alleviate some of those issues as well as take the edge off of having to play the fourth quarter of a preseason game against Aaron Donald while using a bunch of 58 OVR offensive lineman.
Multi-Team Depth Charts
Another avenue here to make the most of the preseason as well as 90-man rosters is multi-team depth charts. Rather than having just one universal depth chart, it would be broken down into a First, Second and Third-Team. In the preseason each team would have an allotted number of series before switching to the next team. So for example in the first preseason game, your first-team might play one series before your entire second team subs in, they play 4–5 series and then the third team comes in for the rest of the game.
This eliminates the awkward mass subs that occur at the end of quarters with one team in the middle of a drive. It also maximizes your ability to get more players into the game without having to take time in the middle of each game to shift your depth chart around to get the right guys in. This would also ideally help with the situation I mentioned before of guys like Aaron Donald or key role players playing meaningless snaps in meaningless games.
The main course and probably the most important part of franchise mode. If the regular season is a boring, predictable, unexciting experience it’s going to be difficult for users of any level to ever make it through one season, let alone multiple. The off-field tasks need to be interesting and engaging and have more connection to the on-field gameplay. And then the on-field gameplay needs to have it’s own unique franchise stamp.
The main goal with everything in this section is to make the “weekly loop” (which I’ll get into more here shortly) more interesting and then also attempt to create a certain level of cohesion between the off-field and on-field elements of franchise to give gameplay that unique stamp I just mentioned.
Full Coaching Staffs
I’m going to start here with coaching staffs because this is such a huge feature with the ability to greatly affect the things I’ll talk about afterwards and then also because this has long been a high community wishlist item as well as probably my number one for the reason I just mentioned. Coaching staffs are one of the few features that has the ability to affect your team on the field, off the field and then also provide another offseason, roster management type task that really drives home the feeling that you’re in control of an entire organization and not just a team.
Two points I want to make here: heavy emphasis on FULL. Only coordinators isn’t enough for a feature with this much potential which is why position coaches factoring in is so important. And the second point is that fictional coaches are perfectly okay. I show the real coaches in these mock-ups and while it would be preferred, it’s absolutely not a deal breaker. Once you get a few years into franchise there’s going to be enough turnover where that authenticity doesn’t really matter and the benefits of having the feature with fake coaches greatly outweighs not having it because of their absence.
When thinking about how to approach coaching staffs, I wanted to have some kind of foundation to build around based on what I felt coaches had the most impact or influence over when it came to their team and players and I ultimately landed on Preparation, Development and Identity.
Preparation being how prepared and ready the team is for games and situations. Development focusing around a coach's impact and influence on the development of players. And then Identity being what separates having one coach versus another and how a coach can put his unique stamp on any team that he’s a part of. Everything I mocked up I tried to tie into either one or more of those pillars which will hopefully be noticeable throughout.
Starting with the basics, the “OVR” system for coaches would be made up of four tiers that separate coaches from the Bill Belic…Griffin Murphy’s of the world and somebody that is just entering the league as a position coach.
Level 1 — Entry Level
At level one are going to be your rookie coaches and coaches that are just beginning their coach career. However, you’re also going to find coaches at this level that are essentially long-term position coaches and that really don’t have aspirations or the ability to ever become a coordinator or head coach.
Level 2 — Mid Level
Level 2 will consist of your top-tier position coaches that are up and coming coordinator candidates. Also at this tier are going to be your low level coordinators who haven’t established themselves as true head coach candidates or even top tier coordinators.
Level 3 — High Level
The third level will be strictly for the highest tier coordinators that are on the verge of head coaching jobs as well as the majority of head coaches around the league.
Level 4 — Elite
This is reserved for the best of the best. The Belich….Murphy’s, Reid’s, Tomlin’s, etc. When these guys hit the market, they’re only looking for head coaching jobs and nothing less. These coaches will also come with exclusive benefits that separate them from their high level counterparts.
Schemes & Archetype Prioritization
I really enjoy the idea of schemes and archetypes within franchise which makes it all the more disappointing that their importance and impact was toned back in Madden 20. The main issue with schemes currently is that lack of impact and the fact that no matter what scheme you run, you’re bottled into one archetype and what that ends up doing is putting more emphasis around the generic scheme itself than the coaches that are running them.
If you have Andy Reid or Freddie Kitchens, it doesn’t really matter because the scheme is still functioning and reacting the same way under their direction. So to open things up, rather than each position having one specific archetype as a scheme fit, each coach would dictate how well each archetype fits into their scheme on a scale of poor, normal, good and ideal.
Ideal scheme fits would essentially be treated how scheme fits were handled in Madden 19 and would receive the maximum possible bonuses.
Good scheme fits is where the system starts to open up because these players would now also receive bonuses albeit not at nearly as significant of a rate as Ideal, but you’re still being rewarded for having what is considered a better than normal fit.
Normal scheme fits would act as non-scheme fits currently act. They’re not a good or ideal scheme fit, so no bonus. They’re not a poor scheme fit, so no penalty.
Poor scheme fits would replicate players in a direct conflict of a coaches scheme. The thing here would be that just as players with ideal scheme fits receive bonuses, these players would receive a penalty and earn XP at a lower rate than normal and could even suffer gameday attribute penalties to replicate their square peg, round hole nature.
What this is going to do is create unique schemes and fits for every coach which is really hitting on that identity pillar. A guy like Andy Reid may run the same generic scheme as another coach, but because of his prowess with QB’s it isn’t going to matter whether they’re a Field General, Improviser, etc. while another coach that doesn’t have that makeup may be much more limited but have similar strengths at other positions.
It’s also going to create a greater separation between schemes because, as it currently stands, you have one scheme fit and the others are all treated the same whereas now you have four different tiers that are all being treated differently. It’s also going to create more incentive and freedom to go after certain players rather than feeling boxed into one archetype per position while also actively looking to avoid players that are poor scheme fits to avoid those penalties. And then lastly, by changing schemes in this fashion, it also hits on that development pillar with three of the four schemes affecting the rate at which players earn XP.
Coach Perks/Skill Tree
Next up is coach perks and this is going to feel very familiar to NCAA 14’s coach carousel and their skill tree/perk system and basically think of these almost as superstar abilities except for coaches. Coach carousel/coaching staffs has been a heavily requested feature and I think this is one of the best aspects of that and as with everything I’m going to try and build off that and take it a little bit further.
So the mockups here are only going to give you a taste of the possibilities but the overarching idea is that coaches would have certain perks that differentiate their skill and abilities. I mentioned the coach levels earlier and the idea here would be that the higher the coach level the more perks you can have/unlock and each of these perks would have a Bronze-Silver-Gold-Ruby tier that enhances their effects.
The beauty of something like this is that it’s going to hit on all three of those pillars I mentioned. Each coach is going to potentially have a different set of perks that can also be different tiers of effectiveness meaning that each coach is different. And then as you can see from the mockups, these perks are going to be largely based around both development and preparation boosts.
This would fundamentally change how you approached franchise mode because now you are not only building a roster, but every offseason your coaching staff is likely changing and evolving and you have an insane amount of freedom over how you run and build your team. Maybe you have a stud edge rusher you just drafted and to maximize his development you go out and find a coach with perks that are going to help build on that. Maybe you have a veteran roster and gameday boosts are more important than development so you build your team around that. There’s tons of freedom and most importantly impact here. You’ll constantly be able to see the decisions you make impacting the direction of your team on and off the field.
Coach Salary Cap
Obviously the question with this then becomes: What stops me from always being able to put together an all-star coaching staff? And the answer to that would come in the form of a coach salary cap. Realistic? Not really. But you have to have something in place to prevent being able to just always have who you want. With a salary cap on coaches you’d be forced with the decision of going big on your head coach and coordinators and having them potentially eat up most of your cap or maybe you decide to go with cheaper options so you can build a more well rounded staff. The key here is making sure that the decisions you make feel like they have weight and are meaningful rather than just going through the motions.
Players Become Coaches
As I mentioned earlier, having fictional coaches would be completely fine and one way to make that even more acceptable is to have players that retire within your franchise become coaches. This is another thing older Madden’s did that I think a lot of people enjoyed and if coaching staffs had the kind of impact and meaning displayed here, I think people would enjoy that part of it even more and it would also allow for real-life situations like Mike Vrabel, Frank Reich, etc. to play out in franchise.
"The Weekly Loop"
As it currently stands, the regular season consists of a pretty standard gameplay loop of "Train-Scout-Negotiate-Play Game." On the surface, this isn't really a terrible loop but I'm going to try to be as nice about this as possible in saying that the events surrounding playing the game are so uninteresting and uninspiring that they might be the single biggest reason why people lose interest in franchise mode and stop playing.
Game Prep is more of a teaching tool than any sort of preparation device or development task and its impact on gameplay is minimal at best and nonexistent at worst. Scouting prospects amounts to pressing a button three times and repeating until you're out of points. There's no attachment and very little reason to even pay attention to a prospect once they're scouted and once you've scouted one player you've experienced all there is to experience. And then negotiations fall into the same kind of binary process where you offer a player a contract and he either accepts or tells you exactly what's wrong with it. It feels much less like a negotiation and more like that matching game where you flip cards trying to match a red car with the other red car.
But like I said, on the surface this isn't really a terrible gameplay loop so the main goal here is to bolster the tasks within that loop and make them more interesting. The real key here was to maximize impact versus time spent by the user. You don't want players having to spend 30–40 minutes between games just to get necessary tasks done but you also don't want the current situation where tasks take very little time but also carry very little impact.
Game Prep/Weekly Training
We talkin' bout practice, man. I mentioned it earlier when talking about the preseason but I'd be shocked if practice wasn't the most skipped part of franchise mode and it comes back to what I just talked about with impact versus time spent. The impact of getting gold each week is not really significant but in a multi-user league becomes necessary. Then in a solo franchise, getting gold each week gives you an unfair advantage over the CPU and none of that is really worth the 10–15 minutes you spend doing the drills.
The two areas I wanted to focus on here were making the in-game boosts more meaningful/impactful and also make the development side of things more open and dynamic. So starting above with the weekly training screen, it looks very familiar but you'll notice at the bottom there is a setting for practice intensity. This would consist of three options of Low, Normal and High and would affect the level of in-game boosts that players received.
Low intensity practices would be something that is very low risk, low reward. No risk of injury to your players, very little season stamina loss (more on that in a bit) and very little to no in-game weekly boosts. These practices would be best used for short weeks or when your team is beaten up where recovery is more than the gameday benefits.
Normal intensity practice would be more in line with practice as it currently stands. Slight chance of injury for players, normal season stamina loss and normal rate of weekly in-game boosts. This would be the default setting and likely the most common choice when practicing.
High intensity practices would be the more high risk, high reward option. Greater chance of injury to players (or re-injury to players nursing injuries) but this is also where you'd get the greatest weekly in-game boosts. Using this option would also take the greatest season stamina toll on your players. Use it every single week and by the end of the year your players are going to be drained and you'll likely have suffered multiple injuries doing so as well. This is an option you might want to use before a big upcoming game to get the extra oomph you need to put you at an advantage when you really need a win.
The other side of this is the development side and a couple of the biggest frustrations I've had with weekly training currently is how it's limited to only two position groups on each side of the ball and how the medals are universal for each player. The way I've always felt weekly training should be handled is to give a medal to each player individually to emulate how "good" their practice was. Gold would be a good practice and come with the highest XP gain. Silver would be a normal practice and would come with normal XP gain and bronze would represent a poor practice and result in minimal XP gain.
The medal a player earned would also act as a modifier for their in-game boosts. If a player earns gold, any boost they receive will be greater than those that only had a silver, or normal, practice while players who had a poor practice receive no bonus at all or maybe even a slight attribute penalty.
Outside of games, scouting is the most substantial activity you encounter during the regular season which makes the fact that it's such a mundane and uninteresting task very problematic when it comes to holding both new and experienced users interested over any significant period of time.
There isn't any attachment or investment being placed in the prospects. The process and information you receive itself lacks any kind of real intrigue. And then news stories that occur for certain prospects aren't highlighted and are buried within menus. Those can't be things you say about the most substantial in-season task that connects directly to the most substantial offseason task.
What follows is going to be a complete overhaul to the scouting system with the goal being to make scouting a much more interesting and in-depth experience that not only adds to the regular season but also creates an additional offseason task so there's more to do there as well.
So the first thing we're going to discuss is regional scouts. Regional scouts would provide what I'll call influenceable fog of war. You'd have four scouts responsible for different regions and they would have skills or traits to differentiate their ability and value. Those skills would be Evaluation Ability, Reputation, Specialty and Bias/Influencer.
Evaluation Ability would be exactly as it sounds and would dictate the accuracy of the information that you receive on prospects. A scout with elite eval ability you're going to be able to trust the vast majority of the time and take scouting reports he's responsible for at face value. Meanwhile a scout with poor eval ability is going to provide scouting reports that aren't nearly as trustworthy or accurate and will force you to think a bit harder about players scouted by that particular scout.
Reputation is also pretty straightforward and would essentially work as an OVR for scouts. Scouts with higher reputations would garner more money and would be more coveted by other teams. This could be something that is dynamic where as a team drafts more good players from a particular scout, their reputation goes up. It could also be used in a similar fashion to DEV traits where a scout with a higher reputation would be more likely to progress while scouts with lower reputations stay the same and even regress.
Specialty would be the position (QB, RB, etc.), position group (OL, DB's, etc.) or side of the ball (offense or defense) a scout specializes in. This would most likely be handled in the same way it currently is where players at a scouts specialty would be scouted faster and take less time/points to scout. It could also be something that boosts evaluation ability for that specific specialty as well.
And then lastly we have Bias/Influencers which would be what influences a scout or what they prioritize most when scouting. This could be a number of different things but the four I ultimately settled on were Athleticism, Intangibles, Potential and Talent. So a scout with an Athleticism bias is going to grade players with great physical skills a bit higher than normal and players that have below average physical skills lower than normal. A scout with an intangibles bias is going to grade players with better intangible skills higher than normal while a player that might be a physical freak but has poor intangible skills for their position will be graded much lower.
This is not only going to create an additional layer of fog of war in terms of player grades, but it's also going to give you the chance to have your scouting staff better replicate how you build your own team. If you're a player that only cares about the physical freaks, you can build your entire scouting staff around scouts that will grade those players higher.
You might again be thinking “Well I’ll just hire all the best scouts and scouting will continue to be easy as pie.” So to remedy that, scouts would have a salary cap similar to how players and coaches are handled. I’m sure you’ve all seen those ‘Build Your Squad with $15’ posts where you have to pick and choose and you can’t possibly have five $5 players and the idea would be the same here. You’d have to balance your scouting staff and you’d be forced to make tough decisions on whether to go after an elite scout or to put together a more well-rounded or balanced scouting staff.
Similar to coaching staffs, it would again be cool if after some players retired they popped up in the scout pool in the offseason. As you got deeper into the franchise rather than just having a random pool of fictional, generated scouts, you'd have a bunch of players from within your franchise mixed in as well.
The big thing here is that not only are you creating something that influences and affects how you approach scouting in the regular season that then flows into the draft, you're also creating another roster management type meta and task for the offseason and rather than franchise be so predominantly based around team-building, it becomes more about organizational building.
Before I get to the scouting report, I want to go over the scouting board here which intentionally looks very familiar to previous Madden's. Even with an overhaul to scouting, this is going to look very familiar to previous franchise users. On the left side you're going to notice some very helpful quality of life additions for users that includes things like draft depth, deepest position, weakest position as well as deepest and weakest region. These are not only quick helpers for new players but also greatly benefit an experienced user looking to get the absolute most out of their time spent scouting.
Things like draft depth as well as the deepest and weakest positions will also help players in how they approach re-signing players before free agency. If you see that the WR is the deepest position, you may feel a little bit differently about re-signing that WR or attacking that position in free agency. On the other hand if you see it's the weakest position all of a sudden re-signing that WR or finding someone to fill the hole in free agency rather than the draft becomes that much more important.
Another change you'll notice is to the draft projections. Rather than projecting players 1 through 32 in each round and having that dictate their projection, players would be graded on a more universal scale and you'd see projections like Top 5, Top 10, Early 1st, Mid 1st, Late 1st, etc.
Then on the right side replacing the letter grades is a progress bar indicating how much a player has been scouted and how far away they are from being fully scouted. Upon selecting a player to be scouted in any given week, the scout assigned will be highlighted above the progress bar.
So this is an example of what a scouting report would look like for a player when you first started scouting. And one of the first things you might notice is that he already has two bullet points unlocked and this is done intentionally. Something crazy about scouting in its current form is that even if you have the scouting coach package, you can only fully scout 110 players at 30 points apiece out of the 450 in each class. If you have the scouting package AND every position was considered a specialty only costing 21 points to fully scout, you'd still only be able to scout 158 players out of 450. That means that when you head into the draft, chances are you're completely blind on probably 70% of prospects which is just unacceptable. So here, at the very least, you're getting a tidbit or two on each player so you're not completely blind but if you haven't scouted a player you're still going to be largely in the dark.
The prospect profile gives you some basic information on the prospect to give you some sort of picture of what his value might be and what type of player he is as well. You'd get a look at their player grade as well as the projection that you could also see on the scouting screen. A player comparison that gives you an idea of the real-life player the prospect most resembles. A short term projection and long term projection as well as a current roster projection to give you some insight into his potential career arc. And then lastly you get a draft ceiling and draft floor that gives you a rough estimate of where the player is expected to fall in the draft.
Onto the scouting report itself, you saw the bullet points that you receive for players which is going to bring us back to regional scouts and their evaluation ability. The information that you get in a players scouting report will describe a players traits and/or attributes and your scouts evaluation ability is going to dictate the range of inaccuracy for the statement that you receive. So for Man Coverage above, you have a number of statements that tell you his rating/grade is anything from Poor to Elite. For the sake of the argument we're going to say that "Fantastic fit for a man-heavy scheme. Always seems to be in position to make plays" is deemed the perfect description.
So above is a very rough example how evaluation ability would work. If you have an Elite scout (blue), the chances of getting a very accurate statement are much higher with a much better chance at receiving that 'perfect' statement. Meanwhile if you have a poor scout (red), the range is going to be a lot wider and while the chance to receive the 'perfect' statement is still there, it's a lot more unlikely and the chance for overselling or underselling a player's ability is a lot higher.
The main thing you want to avoid here is something like a player being Elite or Poor at something and the scout telling you he's the complete opposite. It's more about the fog of war aspect of knowing something may be good or bad, but not necessarily knowing how good or bad rather than an elite scout being pinpoint accurate and a bad scout being just a shot in the dark. If a prospect is poor at something, you shouldn't ever be told they're elite no matter how bad the scout is but a poor scout may over value that skill or trait as below average and the biggest area you'd suffer with a poor scout is them over/under valuing players that are above or below average.
So as you build a players scouting report you have to be cognizant of your scouts ability but by the time you've fully scouted a player you should have a much better picture of a prospect than you currently get by only receiving three letter grades along with some added uncertainty that you can influence by who you have on your scouting staff.
Next up is the Physical tab and one of my biggest frustrations with scouting in Madden currently is that you have zero clue or insight into a prospect's physical abilities until the combine. Archetype can maybe give you a slight hint but not reliably and the entire season you could be wasting precious scouting points on RB's and WR's that run 4.6's with the reality being that you'd never even consider drafting players like that. So that's where the SPARQ (Speed, Power, Agility, Reaction, Quickness) score comes in. At the beginning of scouting you'd get a projected SPARQ score that would give you some hints at the players physical makeup so you can avoid players that don't fit your criteria and spend more time scouting players that you truly want.
In addition to the NFL combine there would now be college pro days as well. The NFL combine would be limited to 330 of the 450 prospects. For players invited to the Combine, this would function as a second set of data for prospects. This opens the door for more fog of war elements where a player's data may confirm their physical ability or there might be discrepancies in the data that make you second guess which data is more accurate.
For players not invited to the combine, pro days would function as their only set of data so once again you have that fog of war element of not knowing how accurate those numbers truly are. You could also tie this into stories where a player is injured and misses both the combine and their pro day and all you have to go off is that projected SPARQ score.
Moving along we have the Medical tab which is going to give you some insight into the health of a player. Injuries and injury risk are something that HAS to be meaningful in a mode like franchise and that needs to extend to prospects as well. On the left hand side you're going to get a medical evaluation which would cover the prospect's injury history from college and/or high school and then on the right hand side you'd get a range of health for each body part to give you some insight on where his injury risk may lie.
Then we have the College tab which is something that is completely open ended. Even if it's just window dressing, it still serves an immersive purpose that users will value. And then if you want it to have meaning, it's something that can be useful in painting a picture of a player's career arc. Maybe you have a guy like Joe Burrow that explodes onto the scene in his senior year or maybe you have guys like Mark Sanchez and Mitchell Trubisky who are top flight prospects but have limited starting experience hinting at a possibly limited DEV trait. And then to the right of that is college awards and accolades which can also be tied into news stories used over the course of the season.
And then lastly here we have the stories tab that is more of a quality of life addition and consolidates any stories or tweets related to a player into one space within their report. So even if you don't pay a single iota of attention to the news feed over the course of a season, either because you don't care or maybe you simulated, when the draft rolls around you'll still be aware of the happenings with any prospects.
Mock drafts draw some similarity to what I just talked about with college stats. It's something that is more ancillary than necessary but even while it might only serve as window dressing, it can still serve a purpose in providing immersive value. But then if it needs to be something that has some sort of meaning, you can also use it in conjunction with scouting reports and/or the news and Twitter feed to help emphasize context and substance.
Re-Signing Negotiations & Scenarios
The big problem with negotiations is that they lack the feeling of, well, negotiating. The process largely consists of offering a player a contract and them either accepting or telling you exactly how to get them to accept. There's no offer-counter offer aspect and you always feel like you're in control. There should be times when negotiating with players where you feel uncomfortable and with your back against the wall with a decision to overpay or let a player walk and this would aim to create more of an actual negotiation experience than what we currently see.
As mentioned earlier, the scenario engine is something with an incredible amount of potential and we're going to look to utilize that here as well. The Re-Signing scenarios would be reserved for the higher tier pending free agents so that the stakes would feel a bit higher and also so each week isn't bogged down by having to go through the process multiple times per week.
The scenario would begin with a message from your GM informing you of the free agent you're dealing with and also some insight into what he's worth. Then another message would follow to help new users understand the choices they have and the reasoning behind why they could choose each.
You would then be posed with those options we contracts already structured around the player and his market value. As you can see, the overpay option comes with a significantly higher per year value and bonus and would be the option to go with if you wanted to have the best chances of a player not walking. The market value offer falls right in line with what your GM told you his market value was and then the low ball offer would be an offer that you could start out with if a player has very high morale as an avenue to pay him less but if you low ball a player who's already unhappy with his contract, expect an immediate rejection and potentially further morale loss.
I'll run through some examples of what can happen as the result of each choice. In the screenshot above, you decide to lead with the above market value contract which would usually get the job done, but with him being on the franchise tag, his contract morale is likely to be very unhappy so this results in a counter offer with a bump up in cash and from here you can decide to accept the offer, propose your own counter offer, stand firm or reject the offer.
Do you test the waters and try to find some middle ground and risk him walking away? Do you give him even more money than you initially anticipated? Or do you hold your own ground, reject him and let him walk?
Above is a potential response for offering a market value contract. Once again you're going to be hit with a counter offer asking for a slightly larger amount of cash and once again you have multiple options to accept, counter, stand firm or reject.
And then lastly here, maybe you decide to try and low-ball him and as mentioned, he's probably already upset about his contract and by offering him lower than market value, the player and his agent take it as an insult and it's not even worth their time to try and counter the offer. Now you have a very frustrated player on your hands and your only choices are to tag him at the end of the year or possibly trade him if it's before the deadline.
Obviously a scenario like this would make a lot more sense if it was the GM and player's agent going back and forth but I'm trying to work within the framework of how franchise and scenarios are currently set up so while the interactions may seem kind of weird, it's with the sole purpose to make sure that you're always the decision maker in the process.
As for your other pending free agents, you'd get a pretty similar experience as to what's in place currently but with the new negotiations screen that I will talk about more in the Free Agency portion of this post. One thing I'd really like to see even here though is still more of that offer-counter offer meta rather than being so blatantly straightforward with the player telling you exactly how to get them to sign.
Injuries/Wear & Tear
Each NFL season is a war of attrition and it's commonly accepted that nobody is 100% at the end of the year and we see every season how injuries can change the course of a teams season. Just this past year Patrick Mahomes suffered a sprained ankle on opening day and while still playing through it, wasn't exactly himself and even more so upon re-injuring it in Weeks 4 and 5. Then in Week 6 he goes down with a dislocated kneecap and upon returning, you could once again tell he wasn't at 100%. If that's Madden, he gets injured in Week 1 and Week 6, misses a few plays/games and then comes back 100% both times like the injuries never occurred. Maybe you get a big decision in there but it doesn't affect him for the rest of the game let alone the next few weeks and that's something that desperately needs to change.
So to start off here we're going to look at the newly created health tab of the player card and focus on the left side. At the top you have the players injury rating and below that you'll see Season Stamina. Think of this like fight stamina from a UFC or boxing game. Each game is a "round" and the more you use up in each round, the lower your ceiling is for the rest of the fight or season. This is going to affect each position differently and as a player's season stamina gets lower, it's going to start to come with attribute penalties to emulate a player being beaten up or just plain tired. A team playing on Thursday Night's isn't going to get a full recovery from a week's rest because of the short week while a team coming off a bye is going to be more "fresh" than a team that just played the previous Sunday.
This creates an interesting dynamic where you have to be aware of how you're using your players and puts an importance on having players with good health and makes capable players who come with injury risks much more of a risk to have on your roster.
Below that you'll see Practice and Game Status which would use the same scales that NFL teams use which is Full, Limited or DNP for practice and then Probable, Doubtful or Out for games. A player who's limited is only going to earn a fraction of their normal XP while a player that is full but injured may earn slightly less than normal. But just because a player can practice doesn't mean he'll be able to play and returning to practice may be the final stage of his rehab and you'd be aware of where he stands both on the player card and from the view injury report menu.
Then finally on the left side is the current injuries a player is suffering from. So using the Mahomes example I mentioned earlier, this is a rough example of how he might look upon returning in Week 10 of last year. The main hindrance here was the kneecap so you're going to see his athletic ratings take a pretty significant hit because the injury is only at 70% recovery. If a player isn't practicing or playing, he's going to recover quicker than playing through the injury but as long as a player doesn't suffer a re-injury, he's going to continue to recover. And then at this point, the ankle injury was pretty much fully healed but as you can see he's still getting docked a couple attribute points because it's not quite 100% yet.
On the right side the player model shows a player's career health. Unless incredibly minor, each time they suffer an injury, they're going to lose a bit of career health for whatever body part is injured. How much they lose would be based on severity so a sprained ankle may only result in a 1% drop while a torn ACL might be a 15% drop. This isn't going to regenerate and as players suffer more damage, it's going to speed up the process and impact of regression and if a player suffers enough damage to one area to the point where the percentage drops too low, they may retire due to health concerns.
Also within the health tab is access to a player's entire injury history which would show the injury suffered and any career stamina lost as a result. In the scouting portion I showed you the medical tab of the scouting report and everything from there would carry over here for drafted players.
This, in my opinion, is one of the most important aspects of franchise mode to replicate because it affects things both on and off the field. On the field you and the teams around you are constantly dealing with bumps, bruises, strains, etc. and how you handle those off the field can greatly impact the course of your season. And then on top of that this becomes something you have to start considering when scouting and acquiring players. Do you take the better but less reliable player or do you play it safe and go with the guy you can consistently count on? Decisions, decisions.
Forget everything you know about morale as it currently stands in Madden. The "morale" you see currently is just the Confidence mechanic with a new name. It doesn't affect anything that a proper morale system should which is a HUGE problem. Morale is another one of those things like injuries that separates franchise mode from any other game mode and that can affect and play into so many different aspects within the mode. It can factor into re-signing/negotiations as I showed earlier, I also showed an example where poor morale could trigger a trade/release demand. On a team level, team chemistry based on morale could have an affect on how players practice and what medal they receive in the weekly training example I showed.
I've always used this example but in Madden 06 the Chiefs had Jerome Woods and Greg Wesley at FS. Both were rated an 86 OVR and when playing my franchise I decided to start Jerome Woods. At the end of the season Jerome Woods retired and after having barely played the entire year, Greg Wesley's morale was at one red bar, as low as it could possibly go. He was also a pending free agent and when I attempted to re-sign him, he wouldn't accept anything. And I mean anything. $30-Million a year? Nope. And while that sounds kind of stupid on the surface, it's actually kind of brilliant IMO and gives players some feeling and personality instead of being robotic and lifeless. He was so pissed and unhappy that not even $30-million was going to sway his decision to move on.
Now, it's great to have that kind of situation but you obviously want morale to do more than just affect things like that and I think more importantly you want it to be balanced. And what I mean by that is that you should have more of an incentive to keep players happy than simply avoiding contract issues or trade demands so that's what these first few examples would aim to do. Keeping players, and more specifically, players with a team leader personality trait happy, you'd be more likely to trigger these "mentor" scenarios where they'll take a player aside, work with them and give them a boost.
As with anything, within franchise mode, you want to have as little window dressing as possible. If you're going through the mode and you see something like a "Team Leader" personality trait, it should have a purpose otherwise there's really no point to it being there. So this would look to give some meaning and purpose to that so when certain things happen, users can understand why it happened and what caused it.
Now what happens when you have a player that is very unhappy? Well, that could pop up in contract negotiations or it could continue to remain dormant until things get better or it could reach a breaking point like you see above where the player or even a team captain comes to you and informs you that something needs to be done. This then creates a tough decision where you may be forced with a decision to either stick with your star player or try and keep the rest of your team happy.
So this is something that is long overdue but Madden's roster structure is still living in the days of the early 2000's. Very few teams even carry a fullback anymore and Madden continues to struggle with how to handle 3–4 OLB's versus 4–3 DE's better known as Edge rushers. In an attempt to remedy some of those issues, we're going to make some pretty significant changes here and consolidate a lot of these positions into more generic labels.
On offense, halfbacks and fullbacks would be consolidated into Running Backs. Left and right tackles would lose the side designation and become Tackles while guards and centers all became Interior Offensive Linemen.
Defensively, 4–3 defensive ends and 3–4 outside linebackers would get their proper designation as Edge rushers while strictly off-ball linebackers would all fall under a singular Linebackers moniker. And then lastly, free and strong safeties would be consolidated into one Safety category as well.
And then on special teams, long snappers would finally get some love and get their own position designations. This would likely need to come with some kind of snap rating that could also be applied to centers and that would force you to have a true long snapper on the roster making team building something that is slightly more difficult.
The depth chart would become the place where all of that information became side or position specific and would see some significant changes of its own. Certain positions would have specific OVR formulas that would dictate who was the best "fit" for that position. So for example, the LT in the depth chart would put a greater emphasis on pass blocking than the right side. RB would value ball carrier moves, speed, etc. while FB valued things like RBK and LBK so even though those players are falling under the same tag, the depth chart values them differently and appropriately.
On the defensive side it would depend on your scheme but you'd have SAM and WILL designations which would act in a similar fashion. SAM in the depth chart would put greater value on things like BSH and STR while the WILL would put greater emphasis on coverage ability, pursuit and athleticism. This is essentially an expansion upon what's already happening with 3rd down backs, nickel corners, sub LB's, etc. and would ideally help both new users and the CPU be able to maximize the skill sets of their rosters.
News & Twitter Feed
We live in an era where information about anything you care about is constantly at your fingertips which makes it feel really odd that franchise mode seems to do so much to obscure and bury that same kind of information. Both stories and the faux Twitter feed are buried to the extent that I wouldn't be shocked if a large number of users didn't even know they existed. To add to this, it feels incredibly jumbled and disorganized which makes the consumption of this information even more difficult which is a real shame when not long ago it was something that Madden did extremely well.
I'm of the opinion that it's incredibly important, and borderline essential, to have what's happening around the league front and center. It shouldn't be something you have to put effort into consuming and it doesn't need to be in your face either. But it needs to be easily accessible to the point where even if you're barely paying attention and doing other things you're still consuming that information even if you don't really realize it.
While I feel like the news feed does a lot, it only really helps you if you're on the home screen and not when you're going through other menus making roster moves, looking for trades, etc. So it would also be nice to see the ticker at the bottom better utilized as it only currently scrolls through tweets which often includes information that lacks context or meaning and isn't overly useful. Instead, the ticker would focus more on scores and stats from around the league, similar to the in-game ticker. In addition it would scroll through things like league leaders, transactions and the upcoming week's schedule just like any ticker you'd see on TV.
I go back and forth on the Twitter feed all the time. On one hand, I think it can be an extremely useful tool for consuming information and providing immersion. And then on the other hand, I look at the Twitter feed in Madden and you have the few useful tweets getting lost in a shuffle of Mark Schlereth talking about his chili and multiple tweets talking about some random touchdown or how you wore alternate uniforms.
Above you can see some additions I've made to the feed that includes a Swami Sez account that makes predictions on games during the week and could also make predictions during the preseason on who might win a division or the Super Bowl. Also included are team accounts that will give you information you might not be aware of like a series record and/or the last time you played against a team. These are small things but when they're organized they become more meaningful and engaging while also adding some much needed "life" to the mode.
I've already talked about full coaching staffs and regional scouts which I think would greatly benefit the offseason by providing users with some additional roster management type tasks so the main goal here is going to be to kind of fill in the gaps with some missing pieces and then focus on the two main attractions of the offseason: free agency and the NFL Draft.
Compensatory picks hit on a couple different areas that make them a worthwhile addition. Not only does it add to the authenticity of the mode and make it a more accurate replication of running an organization but it also puts an added emphasis on both re-signing players and picking up players in free agency. Those decisions carry a bit more weight because going one direction or another can and will affect the results here and provide an additional form of strategy to building a roster. Additionally this adds another full round to what I would imagine is most users favorite part of the offseason in the draft.
Restricted Free Agency
Similar to compensatory picks, restricted free agency is going to not only add to the authenticity of the mode but it's going to add another task that comes with meaningful decisions and a different way to acquire or hang on to players. This is something that should also aid in the CPU with some of their roster and cap issues by giving them a cheaper avenue to retain young players as well as an extra season to get a deal done.
Once again, this is another area where the scenario engine could come into play to not only use restricted free agency as an authenticity addition but also as a teaching tool for NFL fans to understand how restricted free agency works. The process would be very simple as you'd get a message notifying you of who's a restricted free-agent, then an explanation of how they work followed by the choices you had for the player.
This has always been one of the toughest things for me to approach when making these kinds of posts. I don't play in a multi-user league so I'm not completely in touch with specific problems that occur within those or what kind of things could really mess things up from a multi-user standpoint. And then just overall it needs to be something that is pretty seamless and that's not going to bog down the offseason. So for that reason, I'm going to focus more on some quality of life changes than trying to come up with a way to overhaul the process but I will definitely offer some changes that I think could improve how free agency functions.
Upcoming Free Agents
This would be a permanent tab in the roster menu where you'd be able to check on upcoming free agents throughout the season. It would work a lot like the draft board where all upcoming free agents would be ranked based on overall and you'd get information on how deep of a free agent class it was along with the deepest/weakest positions.
That information would update as players signed extensions and similar to the draft board, you'd be able to target certain potential free agents and upon those players either signing an extension, a team withdrawing negotiations or negotiations breaking down, you'd be notified of that player's status either via scenario engine or a news story.
Free Agency Menu
One of the craziest things to me and something that is extremely frustrating when going through free agency is that there are no front-facing player ratings. You get the OVR and DEV trait but to view ratings, you have to individually click to the player card of each player. If you want to compare players, you have to go back and forth between the two and then if you're looking for something specific like the player with the best man coverage or the best return man in the class, you have to go one by one which makes things way more tedious than they need to be.
So what you see above would be an attempt to remedy some of that. The only information you're losing here from the current free agency menu is the point chart that tells you exactly what you need to do to sign any free agent you want so that's really addition by subtraction. But then you have the same look you get on a player card but it's front-facing so you don't have to keep going back and forth between menus and you're able to spend more time looking at players and identifying the players you really want.
On the left side we have some changes that you kind of saw earlier in the re-signing portion where there's somewhat of a simplification to the contract demands function. Rather than getting a very specific 5-year, $46.1-million dollars with a $23.14-million bonus fair offer, it's going to work in some more broad terms of APY (Average Per Year) and then the free agent will also have either a specific number of years they're looking for or a range of years as you can see in the above example.
Below that is Player Interest which indicates how much interest a player has in your specific team. And then there's also League Interest which acts similar to the points chart but without telling you exactly what it takes to sign a certain guy. If a player has high or very high league interest, that's going to mean that multiple teams are in on him and you better bring good offers to the table or you can kiss your chances goodbye. And then lastly is a condensed look at your depth chart at the position of the player you're looking at.
In addition to that, you'd also be able to view the entire free agent class in the same fashion that you can normally view the roster. This allows you to search for specific wants or needs in a much quicker manner. Need a speedy WR? Go to receivers and sort by speed. Need a return man? Same concept. No need to click prospect by prospect searching for a certain criteria of a player that may or may not even be there.
As we start to get into some new mechanics for free agency, I'll start with player interests. These are going to dictate how interested a free agent is in signing with or even negotiating with your team.
Overall Interest: Very straightforward. This is the free agent's overall interest based on how you meet the criteria for the following factors. Obviously, there could be a lot more here but I always try to look out for the new and casual users and try to not complicate things too much. And then I'm also not a huge fan of having a ton of ingredients in the kitchen, so to speak, and I try to focus on the biggest or most important factors and lean on those.
Team Prestige: Is your team a winner or a perennial loser? Teams that are constantly in the hunt and in the playoffs are going to carry more weight with veteran players at the end of their careers and players that value winning.
Staff Prestige: Similar to team prestige, this is going to be about how good your coaching staff is. If you have a more experienced coaching staff and higher level coordinators, your staff prestige is going to be much higher than a first-year coach with a more inexperienced staff.
Team Culture: This would be kind of an amalgamation of team chemistry and player morale. Are your team's players generally happy and team chemistry generally high? Then that's a good team culture. If you're constantly pissing players off because of contracts, playing time, etc. that's not exactly a place that a free agent is going to want to be.
Player Role: Player role represents where that player would fit on your team. If you're going after Philip Rivers in free agency who's looking to be a starter, but you have Tom Brady already on your roster, there's no point in Rivers even trying to negotiate with you.
Money: This wouldn't be limited to the player wanting to make the most money but is also going to favor teams that have enough cap space to match or exceed their market value. Again here if you're going after Philip Rivers who's asking for, let's say, $18M per year and you only have $3.5M in cap space, there's again no point in him even considering your offer…unless of course this is Madden 20 and he ends up settling for $550K with no bonus because he had no other offers.
Looking at the contract offer screen, you have all the options on the left side that include the amount of years the contract is for, the average amount of salary the contract is worth per year, the signing bonus and then two new options in contract structure and incentive packages. And on the right hand side you have the year-by-year contract breakdown that would change based on the input on the left.
I was a bit hesitant to include this because I'm not really sure how much teams actually use this anymore but I know it's been a hugely requested contracts feature for a while now so the option is there. The three choices would be front-loaded which is going to put a large amount of the base salary upfront and get cheaper over time. Back-loaded which is your typical NFL contract that escalates year over year. And then the third option would be flat which is a static amount of base salary each year.
Incentive packages would be a new way to sweeten the pot when negotiating a players contract. How this would work is that you'd have a choice between three potential incentive packages ranging in difficulty from easy to hard with escalating values and they would come with certain goals/incentives that would trigger increases in base salary for future seasons.
Think of these kind of like promises in NCAA where you can promise a player certain things to sway him into committing, but then if you don't follow through and the player doesn't get those incentives, he's losing out on money and may become unhappy and lose morale. I also think this would be a much better way to utilize goals rather than them acting as a progression tool.
Round Based Visit System
So this is my very rough vision for the process of free agency. It sounds crazy but I love how Super Mega Baseball 3 handles free agency. It's essentially a round based system where players start with their ceiling value and then as each round goes by, that value gets knocked down a little bit more until they either get signed or remain a free agent.
So the idea here would be like a 10 to 15-round system where each round would consist of a target portion and an offer portion. The target portion would be where you were allowed to target 2–3 players to go after and then based on the interests we mentioned earlier each player would take the top 2–3 teams to hear offers from. The limit here is to force prioritization and strategy when targeting free agents similar to recruiting for NCAA. Sure, you could go after the top free agent but if he's not interested in you and the rest of the league is interested in him, you're essentially wasting a target.
Upon advancing each round, some players would accept contracts immediately while others would go through another round or multiple rounds of "visits" and contract offers. Players who were offered contracts would have their market value remain the same while players that didn't would have their market value drop slightly. Certain players who have money as a very high priority will have their value stay the same for multiple rounds to replicate them holding strong or just being stubborn on their contract demands.
Like I said, a very rough vision but free agency is a huge offseason task and it really lacks the feeling of such. You don't really get that sense of being in a battle over a player or multiple players and having to move on to further options trying to fill holes and what should be a marquee activity feels more like a small stepping stone to the draft.
The Draft is an interesting topic because it's essentially the Super Bowl of the offseason but when approaching how to improve it, I don't really come up with a lot. We tackled scouting earlier which is a huge part of the draft and also talked about compensatory picks which adds to the draft as well. But the draft itself isn't something that really needs new mechanics or features added to it but the one thing I always come back to with the draft is presentation.
The Draft is a huge spectacle that has a certain energy around it but within franchise, it feels pretty lifeless and doesn't really feel much different than any other task. You have the immersive environment but it's not really that immersive because of that lack of energy and life and I think one way to help with that would be to leverage some of the things we've seen done with how the draft is presented in Face of the Franchise.
Each pick doesn't have to be this crazy, elaborate presentation but it needs to have some energy. Show guys on stage holding their jersey up and/or taking pictures with the commissioner before transitioning to the players attributes and breakdown so it kind of feels like you're actually watching the NFL draft. I also still miss the commentary for certain prospects and wish that was something that got expanded upon rather than eliminated.
While presentation is the big focus here, you can see a lot of the elements I've already talked about aligning here as well. You have fog of war being applied to ratings which doesn't eliminate the excitement of drafting a good player. Below in the draft ticker, you have the selection bar going through some of the accolades and college stats that I showed in scouting and where you're able to tie all of these other things together, it really helps the mode feel more cohesive and like things are working together rather independently.
With obscured rookie ratings, it doesn't make a lot of sense to keep the draft analysis that tells you exactly where they ranked in the draft class but once again going back to older Madden's you can still accomplish a similar effect with crowd reactions to draft picks. If a player is drafted above or within a certain range of his true value, the crowd cheers. If he's ranked well below his true value, the crowd boos.
It adds a little bit of atmosphere to an otherwise dull experience as well as gets the ball rolling on some of the fog of war elements. If you draft a player high and get the cheers, you know you have something good and now you have to get him snaps to find out how good he is.
Once again going back to the early days of franchise here, but this was something that I always enjoyed checking after the draft not only for my team but to also keep abreast of how other teams did and the top players that they acquired. Little things like this don't feel like they matter individually but when you combine them with other elements like the news and Twitter, those little things add up and make franchise feel like a more complete, cohesive and immersive mode.
Undrafted Free Agency
Following the draft, the signing of undrafted free agents is a very hectic experience where there's a ton of moving parts that's hard to replicate under normal circumstances. So rather than working within normal circumstances, the goal here would be to turn a mundane experience into something a little more fun.
The idea is that following the draft you have a rapid-fire draft for the UDFA's. Each round would be a randomized order where each team has a short period to pick an UDFA to sign to their team. Teams can opt out of the draft from the beginning, once they're happy with their haul or once their roster is completely full. The CPU routinely heads into new seasons well below the roster maximum so this would create more competition for their rosters while creating a quick, extended draft experience for multi-user leagues.
If you're going to have players demanding more money and managing the cap be something that is more difficult, you need some ways to be able to relieve that pressure. I tried to keep this as simple as possible to not be too daunting for newer users but the main idea here is the ability to turn base salary into signing bonus so it spreads over the remainder of the contract. And then working in incentives here as well, you'd have the chance to upgrade the incentive package for the remainder of the contract as an additional way to entice the player into restructuring their deal.
You've already seen a bunch of examples of the scenario engine being used throughout and I'll continue to say that I think it's a feature with a ton of potential which makes the fact that it saw essentially zero upgrades for Madden 21 so disappointing but I wanted to take a section here to talk about some additional ways it could be utilized within franchise.
Before I get to any scenario examples, it needs to be said that the scenario engine absolutely needs to start working for the CPU controlled teams and I believe that needs to come before the addition of any more scenarios. I will continue to reiterate and stand by the thought that it has a ton of potential but if it only works for the user that potential will never be realized and it just furthers the feeling of being isolated within your franchise on top of continuing to be so incredibly unbalanced which also gives you a significantly unfair advantage over every other CPU-controlled team.
Higher level players that enter a new season extremely unhappy with their contract will be more prone to holding out. This could come in the form of the GM, player or even beat reporter coming to you to notify you that said player is planning on holding out along with your options of sending a new contract offer the player's way, holding firm or looking at trade offers. The longer a player holds out, the lower their season stamina will be upon returning and you'll be faced with the decision to simply not play them or ease them back into the lineup until they're fully ready to go.
This creates a motive to keep players happy with their contracts and get deals done sooner rather than later. If a player does hold out, it creates an interesting dynamic with potential to affect your team from a number of different angles. Maybe you lose your first couple games as a player holds out and his teammates come to you saying how much they're missing him out there and pressuring you to get something done. Maybe you give the player a new deal and now he's happy but also takes the playing time away from the guy who had been starting and now that player is unhappy about his reduced role. It's all about having a meaningful impact, positive or negative, based on the context of each situation.
Similar to restricted free agency, there could be a waiver claim scenario that pops up when a player is released where your GM comes to you and asks if you'd like to place a waiver claim and then based on what happens it triggers a follow up scenario of either having to cut a player to make room or notifying you that he was claimed by somebody else.
I would imagine that one of the biggest things inexperienced users struggle with in franchise mode is maintaining their cap. This would aim to help those users by suggesting players that might be beneficial to cut due to making more money than they're worth and the ability to create a large amount of cap space with limited cap penalties. If scenarios were ever to work for the CPU, this would also be something that helps them be smarter with the cap as well.
During the offseason your roster would be reviewed and certain players that might be better fits at another position may trigger a position change scenario. Maybe you have a veteran corner who has lost a step and a move to safety keeps his career going. Maybe you have a player struggling at a certain position and a move to another spot is the only way for him to save his place on the roster or maybe you have a glaring hole a position that could be filled by a player from a position where you have an abundance of talent. Lots of possibilities here and plenty of opportunity to play off morale and have these decisions affect players differently based on the choices you make.
Nemesis scenarios would be for players that consistently have great performances against a certain team. Think of this like an Aaron Rodgers vs. the Cowboys situation where after several instances of being burned by a player they become a nemesis and receive some slight attribute upgrades in games against that team. This would also have a scenario where if you shut down that player for a couple games it breaks the nemesis stigma and things return to normal.
This would work similar to the nemesis scenario in that a player would receive a boost in attributes for one game but would be triggered by a player facing his old team that he left on bad terms. Maybe you traded a player away or got into a contract dispute which ultimately led to their exit and now they're back with a score to settle.
But Wait...There’s More!
As this novel starts to come to an end, I'll cover a few more things that I didn't feel fit into any particular category but that I also feel are still important to mention.
Authentic Broadcast Presentation
This obviously has more to do with presentation than franchise but the idea is something that I think would benefit franchise more than any other mode because part of what can make franchise gameplay stale is the presentation. Game after game you see the same intros, the same graphics, the same overlays, the same screen wipes and it's never going to be something with lasting power which is why it gets changed pretty much every single year.
Virtually every other sports game takes the approach of replicating an authentic network broadcast and I think it works extremely well and much better than Madden's "beyond the broadcast" approach. So the idea here would be that Madden would have multiple broadcast packages based on each network. Ideally, these would be authentic to the network but what I'm showing here is what EA branded counterparts could look like. I'm a firm believer that having presentation replicate what is seen on TV creates a lot more "wow" moments where the line between reality and video game is blurred rather than seeing graphics and camera angles that you'd never see used in real-life that remind you that you're playing a video game.
Instead of having one broadcast package that gets stale in a month, you have multiple packages that can be honed and tweaked to include their own unique elements. Playing a Sunday Night Game? Expect to see that weird 'green zone' in pre-play and more "primetime" type cameras. Those primetime games should feel different and have their own atmosphere when compared to any random Sunday day game.
This also opens the door to create some crazy things that you don't see like throwback presentation. Maybe you want your game clean of clutter and on-screen graphics and to look more something out of the early-80's with over-sized and drop-shadowed text. Maybe you're playing a game with throwback uniforms and want to go full immersion with the broadcast presentation.
The more options, the more chance for each user to find and be able to choose something they really enjoy. It also creates more opportunity to keep the game feeling fresh at least from a visuals standpoint. This can also become part of treating franchise like a live service where you introduce a new package or two throughout each life cycle of the game.
This is a big one. As I said in the beginning, franchise mode is a novel waiting to have a unique story written by each user that plays and unfortunately, a lot of that story gets erased with each page you turn. You can't go back and look at past Super Bowl winners or standings or league leaders or virtually any of your franchises history which is a huge problem.
It's important to track those kinds of things so a user multiple seasons in can go back and look at the progress they've made. It's somewhat demoralizing when you complete a season and then have a ton of the information that went along with it go into the void to never be seen again. Even more so when you have to go searching for that information to begin with.
Madden 12 did a really good job with this so the idea would be the same here where you'd be able to go through league history and look at things like individual leaders, team schedules and Super Bowl winners. If a random user joined your franchise seven seasons in, they should have a way to look back and see how the league got to that point it was at, otherwise it feels like you're playing a bunch of consecutive one-off seasons.
Enhanced Player Card
This goes hand in hand with the above. Not only is important for you to be able to see how the league and how teams got to whatever point you're at in franchise, it's also just as important for you to be able to look at any player in the league and see what they've done, what team they did it with and just their overall "story" as a player. That starts with the above where the draft status of a player would be pushed to the front of the player card along with how they were acquired by their current team.
Going deeper into the player card, career stats would include the teams they've played for each year and would also be separated into sections for regular season totals and postseason totals. The game logs section would also now include the teams the games were played against as well as go back for the players entire career. And then lastly for player card additions would be a complete transaction log of moves involving the player.
And then one last addition here would be a career bests section where you could look at a player's single-game and single-season highs. Having played franchise for years, there's no way around getting attached to certain players and being able to look back at things like this and recount certain memories you've had with players goes a long way in making the mode feel like a worthwhile investment of time.
Postseason awards are something that have been pretty much the same since the Xbox/PS2 era and are in a big need of an update to align with the current times. The Pro Bowl works fine and can remain the same but the area I really want to focus on is the individual awards. Rather than having a bunch of awards that don't really exist like AFC and NFC winners for the offensive, defensive, rookies of the year and "Best [POS]," I want to model them more around the real-life awards we see players and coaches win each year.
Instead of the Best RB, Best WR, Best DL, etc. awards, those would essentially be replaced by All-Pro first and second-teams. Both offensive and defensive players of the year as well as rookies of the year would be limited to one true winner rather than four different winners with two coming from each conference. FedEx Air and Ground players would be awarded to the best passer and rushers of the year.
I've never been a fan of the backwards approach of performance based progression so this would serve to definitely limit that and make it a bit more rare. However, I do feel like I've outlined numerous ways that the progression lost from winning these awards could be made up and even exceeded in a much different and more realistic manner.
NFL Top 100
I know plenty of you are probably rolling your eyes at this but the fact is no matter how meaningless or irrelevant the Top 100 is, it's one of the most watched and talked about things of the offseason. It would merely be a fun addition that the news feed could talk about each season and that could also create some friendly banter in multi-user leagues.
Relocation is undoubtedly one of the best and coolest features within franchise currently. Unfortunately the entire feature is completely hamstrung by limited customization and limited options at virtually every turn. You're forced to choose between a limited number of cities that has continued to dwindle since the feature's inception. Upon selecting a city, you're once again limited to three custom team names and logos that have also been the same since the feature's inception.
Well, at least you can create your own uniform, right? Nope. You get to choose between one of three templates that are often poorly contrived knock offs of other NFL uniforms. Well, create-a-stadium, that feature from Madden 2004 has to be in then, right? Wrong once again. Instead you get to choose from one of four generic stadiums that also have deluxe versions that look identical to their standard counterpart.
Relocating a team should be an avenue where you have the creative freedom to put your own personal spin on things and make it truly feel like your own creation. It makes sense to have a limited number of team names to help with commentary but logo colors, uniform colors, uniform style and virtually anything else you can think of should be left up to the user.
Team Rebrand without Relocating
Another downside currently is that the only avenue to rebrand your team is via relocation and as we've seen with the Washington Football Team this year and the Titans years ago, relocation isn't always required for a complete rebrand. Having the option to stay in the same city with a new name, logo, uniforms, etc. allows users more options and opens the door for more possibilities which is always a good thing to have.
This pretty much goes hand in hand with the relocation customization as putting your own creative stamp on your team wouldn't be limited to just logo colors and uniform types. With field customization, you'd also have the ability to customize your end zones and midfield logo as well as things like the yard lines and yard numbers and it's just another avenue to allow users to be more creative and have their experience feel more personalized.
The cool thing here is that it doesn't have to be limited to just relocated teams. Current teams do all sorts of different things with their fields on a week to week basis and this would create an avenue where you'd be able to replicate things like the 49ers end zones being painted red for the playoffs or the Dolphins (or any other team) using throwback field art to match their classic uniforms. Similar to the multiple broadcast packages, it's something that you'd be able to change over the course of your franchise to keep things fresh from a visual standpoint and not be limited by the game's default options.
This is something that I've wanted to see since starting points were first introduced to franchise mode and would be not only cool to have but also a decent onboarding tool for new users to get familiar with the offseason. Rather than having the first starting point be week one of the preseason, users would have the ability to either start at the beginning of free agency or the NFL Draft from the previous season.
Maybe you're a Panthers fan that loves Cam Newton and hated the idea of him being cut in favor of Teddy Bridgewater. Now you can start with him still on the team, build around him and essentially rewrite history and tell your own story. Or maybe you're a Bengals fan and felt they should have stuck with the Red Rifle and taken Chase Young. You'd now have the ability to once again rewrite history and tell your own story in a way that's never been able to be done within Madden.
Custom Draft Class Templates
Custom draft classes are a great tool and this addition would aim to make it a bit more accessible to the user by allowing them to create custom, auto-generated draft classes with different strengths and weaknesses without being exposed to the prospects ratings and destroying a lot of mystery behind the draft. This could also serve as a useful tool when it comes to balancing issues for users to correct positions that are either too weak or too strong without having to worry about an update.
This is also something that should make it easier for draft class creators in allowing them to have a better base to start from. If someone was creating a 1983 draft class, they'd be able to adjust the quarterback depth for the class to 'Very Strong' and it would take a small bit of the tedium away from editing. It's a small thing but I think it would open the door for more users to take advantage of and interact with the feature. Down the road, this could be something that gets taken even further and allows users to be able to choose how common or rare certain archetypes are in each draft class as well as the amount of players available at each position.
Wrapping up here I want to thank you for your time and hope you enjoyed what you read and saw in this post. I encourage discussion around the things you saw here as well the things you’d most like to see that I left out. Obviously this isn’t everything and a lot of what was in the original post wasn’t included here because I tried to consolidate things down into something a bit more organized that focused on the biggest wants and needs that I’ve seen from the community over the years. But like I said, I encourage discussion so let me know what you liked and didn't like about anything here or that I missed. Appreciate you guys and #FixMaddenFranchise
Last edited by DeuceDouglas; 08-19-2020 at 05:17 PM.
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|08-19-2020, 05:08 PM||#2|
Join Date: Dec 2015
Re: Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
Absolutely awesome follow on to your original write up DeuceDouglas. The fact we don’t even have a waiver wire yet is bananas to me. Great job again!
|08-19-2020, 05:08 PM||#3|
Join Date: Aug 2008
Location: Peoria, IL
Re: Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
That's incredible....The 1994 Fox overlay for the Niner-Cowboy game almost brought a tear to my eye.
|08-19-2020, 05:13 PM||#4|
Join Date: Aug 2014
Location: SF Bay Area
Re: Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
Deuce, I don't know if there's anyone better at articulating what the Franchise community wants! Thank you so much for putting in so much effort once again; I can't wait to see this post make the rounds like the last one did.
Also, I'm having trouble getting the two Philip Rivers screenshots (under Player Interest/Player Role) to load into larger images.
MLB: San Francisco Giants (Fine, I'll give Kapler a chance), Oakland Athletics
NFL: San Francisco 49ers
NHL: San Jose Sharks
MLS: San Jose Earthquakes
Football Championship: Brentford FC
RIP San Francisco Deltas | 2017 NASL Champions
M18: dmmfranchise Roster For Xbox One
|08-19-2020, 05:20 PM||#5|
Join Date: Mar 2020
Re: Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
EA needs to hire you! This post is a thing of beauty and made me kind of sad while reading because i hat to think about the barebone CFM we got every year...
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|08-19-2020, 05:20 PM||#6|
Join Date: Jul 2009
Location: New York
Re: Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
This is the dream franchise mode for the hardcore fan of football. I'm sure someone at EA will see this, but it probably won't matter. Best case scenario is that we get these features delivered to use piece by piece until it reaches our expectations (the year 2100 isn't that far away....). I'm sorry that I sound so negative, but the years of EA ignoring franchise have to be in consideration.
Overall, this post is everything I want in franchise mode and more.
Founder of the Make It Rain Foundation
|08-19-2020, 05:29 PM||#7|
Join Date: Jun 2015
Re: Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
Sheer perfection. Thank you for articulating everything this game could (and should) be by now. They should hire or consult you immediately. Much appreciated.
|08-19-2020, 05:43 PM||#8|
Join Date: Aug 2018
Re: Madden Franchise Mode: It's Time to be Classic
A couple of things I want to address:
When they came out with their relocation and select your unis and all of that, it was cute. A fun addition. But now that it has gotten stale, it is time to rethink this. Why are you told to select the uniform you want? At this point, since ALL the NFL teams have their throw backs and alternate etc etc, they should let all of the Brooklyn Beats uniforms be an option.
Second, again, this is only because relocation has gotten stale, it is time to put all the relocation names into a bucket. If I want to name my team the Orlando Lumberjacks even though it makes absolutely no sense at all, let me do it. I know it has been claimed that the NFL 'won't allow it' but I am not buying it. The Mexico City Monarchs or the Ireland Bats do not hurt the league's brand in anyway, shape or form.
I love the idea of coaching staffs but only and I mean ONLY if they have a significant impact on the game. TO have them there just to have them there does not excite me.
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