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Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

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Old 11-07-2009, 01:37 PM   #1
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Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

I've been sitting on this thought for a while. Please read the whole post before complaining this is no excuse for the quality of the Madden series in recent years.

From a logic standpoint, football has got to be the hardest game to program out of the "big five". Baseball is easily the least complicated - pitchers throw, batters pick good pitches, fielders make plays. Heck, the team management logic is probably more complicated than the gameplay. Hockey, soccer, and basketball are about the same - there are a lot of decisions each player needs to make but the core idea is still simple - get open, make good passes, and move the ball (or puck) toward the goal.

But football is another story. If you put me into a real-life high school football game, I would be making way more stupid mistakes than the defenders in Madden do. There's no freelance offense or defense; every player on every play has a job to do and especially on defense, no play is ever the same twice.

Just to put this into a better perspective, here are just a handful of the decisions that need to be made on a dime, play after play:

  • Quarterbacks: which play to pick to counter the defense? After we line up, does something look wrong and I need to change the play? After the snap, which receiver is likely to be open? Will that defender commit? Chance a throw or take the sack?
  • Blockers: which defender is a bigger threat to the ball carrier? Who's blitzing?
  • Receivers: sure, I'm running a set route, but what happens when the play breaks down? Can I do anything to fool the defender?
  • Defenders: how many receivers are there? How many backs? Is a run or a pass play coming? Which defensive set will suffice for the offense's setup? After the snap, which player needs the most coverage? Which route might he be running? Where can I position myself to make the best play?
For example, let's use a current issue that really irks me. More often than not, the defender makes the cut on my receiver's route at the same time or even before my receiver does. It's obviously EA's way of making sure a cut in a WR route doesn't guarantee a completion. In the NFL, there ARE times when the defender is in a good position to follow the receiver and therefore, the WR doesn't become open. There are other times when the coverage is too tight and the completion is easy. This ties directly into the whole defender positioning issue. You see how they're all related somehow?

There's 22 players on a huge field and each person needs to make many unique decisions, play after play. In addition, every action is different - nobody has "signature" tackle or catch styles. A physics-based engine such as the one Backbreaker has, would really improve this area (but I'm not putting my money on it).

I'm not saying we should just give up on Madden, nor am I giving EA an excuse for producing a game with mediocre AI. I'm just trying to put the entire game of football in perspective from a game developer's standpoint - how could all of this logic possibly make it into a game with an outdated engine that's on a one-year development cycle? Maybe our expectations are too high.

Developers can do their best to simulate these decisions as much as possible, but a video game can't match the power & reasoning of the mind of a football player.
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Old 11-07-2009, 02:00 PM   #2
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Re: Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

In a word. No.
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Old 11-07-2009, 02:45 PM   #3
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Re: Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

To get all of that, we'll need about 5 years. Nobody can tell me that any football game has honestly had that. Madden needs to work on the basic stuff. Don't worry too much about the CPU QB being able to audible if a play probably won't work. They need to get down the Blocking AI. That has to be a huge concern this year.

Btw, Basketball is just as hard to program. Football has a lot of similar plays. Except tackles, but there is now an engine that can make them different everytime. Basketball has different kinds of passes (bounces, bullets, lobs, and lead), dribble moves, off-ball movement, rebounding, collisions, etc. And if you went into a high school basketball game, you'd also look stupider than CPU AI does on Madden. Just sayin... Good post.
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Old 11-07-2009, 03:02 PM   #4
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Re: Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Valdarez
In a word. No.
I agree. Somebody else has already pretty much nailed it. It can be done.
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Old 11-07-2009, 04:21 PM   #5
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Re: Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

Without reading everything you've aid the answer is easily no. Obviously u can't create a perfectly human AI but modelling the interactions should not be that difficult. EA devs just have to make the right choices while programming.
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All they need to do is flow chart all the different interactions that happen in the game and appropriately program for the. Voila u have urself a game that makes sense.
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Old 11-07-2009, 04:30 PM   #6
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Re: Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

Your bring up some in depth decisions by the CPU. The problem is right now, Madden has a hard time getting common sense interactions.

Madden cant even audible based of personnel at this point.
The computer should be able to make semi intelligent decisions. More so considering the back of the M09 claimed "The game that adapts to you".
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Old 11-07-2009, 05:36 PM   #7
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Re: Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

naw man thats bs, witht the technology in todays gaming those things can be mimiked, im not saying down to being a copy of each player but from a fundamental standpoint of football. games like the older maddens and the 2k games have a good enough system back in the days on older consoles, why arent things improving with the improments with technology? makes no sense why a ps2 football game was more fundamentally sound than todays next gen consoles.
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Old 11-07-2009, 05:52 PM   #8
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Re: Is football's logic just too hard to put into a video game?

Quote:
Originally Posted by danphilibin
[i]I've been sitting on this thought for a while.



I've been thinking about it for a lot longer than you have.... and after playing almost EVERY football game ever made from the 16-bit era up to today. I'm convinced that there is no way to make a perfect football game. If some game company could do it they would have done it a long time ago. Its just not posible to build a game engine with AI players that react and think just like real football players. For now, I'm done with playing football games. It can still be fun to play them but in my opinion, the way they develope games is all wrong. I'll explain in this post....

But yeah, its a waste of time to expect anything more than what EA has given us over the last 15 years. I don't know why people keep thinking that EA can do it, well, its been over a decade and we still haven't seen a perfect game. Why are they going to do it now? I would have to say because its just not posible and partially because the way they make the game is flawed. Honestly, the Madden that had the most realism was Madden 98 for the PSX and the Sega Genesis version was really tight also. I find the PSX version quite difficult to play though because of the uber realism in it. Which is another problem, if the game is too realistic it probably wouldn't be fun to play.

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Baseball is easily the least complicated

I'd have to disagree with that... maybe among the big three sports it might be the easiest but Tennis (and probably golf) is by far the easiest sport to make for several reasons. The AI really doesn't need to be that good, people will still buy it even if it has poor AI. And gamers don't expect a tennis game to be realistic. People want arcadey games when it comes to tennis, which makes the game even easier to make because developers don't have to worry about REAL tennis physics. All they have to do is make the graphics really good and throw the game together in a few months and it will sell.

I think Baseball is pretty tough to make also because of the pitcher/batter wars that take place. A baseball game needs good physics. Some hits need to be ground balls, some need to be line drives, some need to be bloop hits etc...etc... thats pretty hard to duplicate in a video game.

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More often than not, the defender makes the cut on my receiver's route at the same time or even before my receiver does

To me this is what makes the football games of today just really lame. Defenders stick to you like glue, the only passing routes that work are posts and corners. In my opinion, its not so much the AI that needs to be improved, its the physics!!! Players seem more like robots than humans.

I've mentioned this several times in here and I know some people disagree with it but i'm convinced that a football game must have some type of sliding effect. What I mean by this, is when a player is running at full speed (or even half speed) it should be pretty hard to just change direction. In fact, he should actually slide a little bit when he's trying to change direction, almost like he's wearing ice skates, but not that exagerrated. This would allow receivers to get some kind of seperation from the defender. It would also make it easier to avoid the blitz when you're in the pocket. We see people doing this "nano blitzing" and the way the game is designed the QB is stuck in an animation which the game has too many animations that bog down gameplay and this makes it a lot harder to move around when you're in the pocket.

Here's a good example of what I mean by sliding... here's a video clip of a new game comming out this year called College Lacrosse 2010. Its a budget game, so don't expect great graphics... i'm just using this as an example of what I mean by "sliding effect".


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=C5tEOLDTmQQ

If you notice that players have a hard time changing direction in this game and it allows the guy with the ball to get some kind of seperation from the defender. A football game must have this too. Its just lame how defenders stick to you like glue. If a game had this it would make play calling a hell of a lot more important than it is right now. And sliding is actually realistic.... how often have we seen a QB dance around in the pocket and buy an extra second or two then deliver the pass?? I say get rid of the QB animations, put in some type of sliding effect and this would make playing with the slower QB's more appealing.

I'm sure i'm now going to hear... well killroy, that would also make playing with fast QBs too easy. The way to fix this is to give QB's TWO speed ratings, a roll out speed rating and a downhill speed rating. just make the roll out speed rating low and that would balance the game.
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