Keys to Madden: Fixing Gameplay

Every year, the week Madden comes out, I will pre-order Madden to play three days early and I will take that Friday off of work and play through the weekend. It is something I look forward to every year and has turned into a sort of tradition. I get intrigued by the lead up to the game where different changes to the game will drop on a weekly basis. Honestly, I am not even that good, but I am a football fan and I enjoy the hell out of anything football related. Every year, Madden will get me hyped up and it seems like every year I am let down by slow progress. I have decided to write some articles on how I believe the game can drastically be improved. Who knows, maybe one day I will be surprised? I will start this series going in-depth to the most important aspect of the game: Gameplay!

Look at the Complexity of the Game of Football

For the most part, I am happy with the gameplay. If you try and compare EA to 2K, you are going to be disappointed and that isn’t because one is better than the other. 2K focuses on the NBA, which only has to deal with 10 players on the court. Let’s be realistic here, football is 10 times more complex of a game than is basketball. I am not saying that one game is better than another, but having 22 players on the field makes creating gameplay more complex. Football has more players at different positions, and each position plays their role extremely different from the others. There is more scheming, different player types, offense, defense, special teams and more complex play calling. Each position even has a multitude of different types of players that play that role. As a good example, how many different types of running backs are there? Take that same philosophy and multiple it by every different position there is in football.

If you look at what EA has done over the past 20 years, taking that into account, they have made enormous strides, but there is work left to do. Each year, it seems they focus on upgrading specific positions to make the game more realistic. One year they will focus on tackling mechanics. The year after they will work on offensive line blocking schemes. After that, they will focus on running back moves and animations. This year they are focusing on improving the defensive line and how players can be controlled to rush the passer. Each year, they tend to have a focus on a specific area of game play. Fans do not seem to understand the complexity of all what goes into upgrading the game when you look at the grand scheme of what they are working on. The Superstar XFactor was actually a giant leap to help make the game more realistic, and nobody seemed to admire how big of a jump that actually was.

Improving Playbooks

I am not sure the rules of this between the NFL and EA Sports, but having plays that are actually run on Sundays and adding them to that teams playbook would be a great step in the right direction. Tyreek Hill was able to get Madden to add Jet Trip Wasp into the Chiefs playbook. If it happened there, I don’t see why it can’t happen every week. I mean as soon as a play is ran by an NFL team, it becomes public knowledge. Every NFL team who watches tape now knows that play right? Is there any reason to believe that these plays that NFL teams use to scheme players open can’t find their way into Madden? EA could even monetize this if they wanted to by making these playbooks available for sale in Ultimate Team if they wanted too.

Fix the Game Clock

An average NFL game consists of 67-84 plays per offense a game. The more “run” plays ran by a team usually means a less number of plays. The more “pass” plays usually means more number of plays. Could we potentially see a video game with 15 minute quarters with an accelerated clock that bases the time left on the clock by the number of plays ran in the game? This is an idea that I had and it would likely take a strong analytics model to try to accurately predict how much time should be left after each play. Obviously, the last 2-4 minutes in the half would need to be slowed down, but if there is 10:00 minutes left in the 3rd QTR and I just ran a play and a full minute drops off the clock to catch up to the 67-84 standard play benchmark a game, who cares?

The reason I recommend 15 minute game clock with the clock be tied more to a play count versus a timer is so that statistics in modes such as franchise are more realistic. One of the things that makes franchise so much fun is tracking progress of my players and if I am playing All-Madden in franchise mode, it is nearly impossible to have both the pass and the run game statistics match up with the CPU’s statistics for the rest of the 30 teams. I might be able have one match, but to have my QB throw for 4,000 yards a season and also have a RB rush for 1,000 in conjunction with another back having 300 yards is nearly impossible. I have a ton of ideas for Franchise, but that is for another article. I think a clock tied to number of plays ran in an average game would help make the game more realistic is my point. It honestly would only add 5-10 minutes to the video game’s game.

Make Franchise Teammates Realistic in MyPlayer Modes

One of the things that really irks me is having a user-controlled player that is a non-QB in Franchise and the CPU does absolutely nothing if he isn’t throwing to my user-created player, regardless of the OVR of the player. I might be a RB for the Seahawks with Russel Wilson as my QB, and Russell Wilson will go 7-20 for 57 yards. I can’t think of a single game where Russell Wilson has ever done anything like that. It shouldn’t matter if I am on All-Madden or All-Rookie, Russell Wilson should play like Russell Wilson. Sure, the game clock plays a role in that, which is why I propose the game clock change, but there’s no way Russell Wilson will ever have a game like that throwing, especially when he is throwing 20 total passes.

It makes creating a non-QB player for Franchise unbearable. You can’t have fun with it, because franchise is built entirely around the performance of your created player. If your created player has a big day, you win. If he has a bad day, you lose. Thats not football! Football is a team sport and I want to see my star players that are not myself make plays. If I am a user-created (receiving back) for the Buccaneers, I want to see a team built around great receivers that make plays with Brady driving that team. My role should be based off my player type that I chose. Make gameplay for all players realistic based off the the grading criteria that you put in the game. I want to see the Buccenears emphasize quick passing concepts with plenty of dump offs by Brady, because that is how he plays. Completely take out “Call for the Ball.” If I am playing with a player that I am locked on, and I can’t play with other players, then I shouldn’t be able to call for the ball. Also, I should have the ability to create a player, but play with all players on that team if I want to(fore face of the franchise), especially if you don’t upgrade my teammates CPU at the QB position.

Make Schemes Matter

If I create a power running back and put myself on the Chiefs, I should struggle in that offense, because my player doesn’t match that scheme. You see it all the time in the NFL. Role players who excel in one offense will struggle when they get to new schemes. Dion Lewis was a great back in Foxborough, but when he left to go to the Titans, he had mild success, but nothing near the success he had around Brady. He wasn’t a good scheme fit and it showed. Madden has these schemes in Franchise, but its value doesn’t show in the game. Make player fit actually matter in the game.

Speaking of Franchise, and I will get more depth into this during my Franchise article, but a team where most players fit my scheme and I have built a team with a good overall rating somehow will go 5-11? I have so much to touch on in Franchise, I could probably write a book…

Fix Route Running Concepts

This part of the game is absolutely atrocious when it comes to squads. I understand what EA is trying to do here, but it’s not working. For one, releases are completely randomized at wins between the DB and WR. Instead, base it off the CB press ability, and WR ability to beat press. If they are similar, make it a stalemate where the WR gets off, but the DB is on the tail, just like real life. As far as the route running itself, the whole cutting mechanics are trash on the sticks. Every time I move the analogue stick, it seems random where the player is cutting for a “slant” concept or an “in” concept and controlling it is non-existent. The user controlled DB could care less, because the cut doesn’t effect him. His change of direction compared to the WR is totally different.

Fix MLB User-Controlled Spys

I understand the user lurk picks that come from the MLB position. It’s so easy to run with crossers, but that is the hardest route to cover, yet somehow every person who picks the MLB as their user player (90% of all user-controlled) are able to prevent all passes to the middle. That simply just isn’t real. Also, accuracy from the QB to the middle of the field within 10-15 yards is the easiest pass to make. I think we need an uptick in accuracy in this part of the field and only players truly in position are able to make a play on the ball here. I am really talking about the high-low schemes here where a player is between both, but can make a play on either route. If he is truly in the middle, both plays become receptions. This forces the user to pick high or low. This would make squads more manageable to play. I am also picking on the defenders change of direction timing here as well. It needs to slow down so that it forces users to jump routes, not just hover over a zone and take advantage of the big-player to small-field ratios that is evident in Madden.

Make Player Types More Noticeable

Linval Joseph is a great 1-technique defensive tackle, now for the Chargers. He has the size and strength to play that position. Jerry Tillery on the other hand would not make a great 1-technique and fits more as a 3-technique DT. (though I guess we will see next season) The way these positions are played are different. There are other positions where technique comes into play, but Madden doesn’t dive too deep into this. Slot corners tend to be more physical and better run defenders. Madden took a big step in adding some position types, but there is more room to expand. Name the X, Y, Z, S receivers or the H-back. This players play different roles on different teams.

Take Jukes Away from Right Analogue Stick

This is less a, “This will make the game better” and more of a “Have you tried this?” I totally believe this can all be combined into the left analogue stick. If my user controlled player is running the ball, and I have my left stick pushed all the way forward, and i press hard to the right, that should indicate a hard juke to the right. If i move that left analogue stick left and then right quickly and hold it in the upper right hand corner, I just faked left and cut right and I am headed to the pylon. That right stick can be used to add a stiff arm(left/right), lower the shoulder(forward), protect the Ball(down), catch self from falling or hurdle(flick up) or spin(rotate in a circle). Just like that, you freed up (O), (X), (∆) buttons. (x) would make a great button for pushing the pile. This is just an extra thought. One of those things you would need to try in person to see if it works though.

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