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Thursday, March 12, 2009

Making Madden Less Maddening

In theory, the Madden series should be the best sports games ever. I mean, realistic-looking football, with player progression, practices, trades and you're even able to set stadium prices? How can this not be awesome? Yet, every year the series gets a little dimmer, until it's now more than a glorified roster update. The release is still an event, and Madden still sells like hotcakes, but no one can deny that the series has gone stale for the last few years.

So, what can be done to make the Madden franchise better?

1) A clutch rating.

I've been begging for this for years. What separates the greats from the not-so-greats? Who would you rather have on 3rd-and-long with 30 seconds on the clock? Kyle Boller or Joe Montana? What differentiates the two? When the chips were down, Joe Montana came up big. When the chips are down, Kyle Boller collapsed like a cheap folding table outside the ring of a wrestling match.

Why hasn't this been accurately modeled? Why aren't the good players matched up with how they perform under pressure? I mean, Tom Brady doesn't have the strongest arm in the league. What separates him from other quarterbacks is that he gets it done in tight situations. Model this, please. I don't ask for much, except for the other stuff on this list.

2) Fix the draft.

A good GM is a GM who picks well in later rounds. Anybody can look at the college game and see who the best 30 players are. It takes a great GM to make choices in later, less expensive rounds.

Unfortunately, in Madden, all of your usable draft choices will be in the first or maybe second rounds. Everyone else is worse than a scrub. Plus, the way they handle scouting is ridiculous. Who scouts only 10 players in a draft, honestly? Are you telling me that you have to have an interview with Tim Tebow to tell me that he's a good player? It's pretty apparent by watching him play that he's good.

Here's what I want. I want updates during the season on which college players are doing well so that I know before the draft who is available. I want players that play for major colleges to be more fully scouted. We know their stats much more clearly. I want players that play for minor colleges to have fewer stats revealed UNLESS you scout them. Then, once you start playing them and using them in practice, you see more of their stats revealed.

That way, maybe a 7th rounder might look like a scrub until you scout him. Then you'll see his true potential and maybe draft him in the 4th round. Once you play him you realize that he's a great player who had some easily-fixed flaws. That makes the draft more strategic and fun.

3. Add an inside-the-helmet cam.

I know that people will say that this has already been done in the 2K Sports games, but let's try it again, shall we? Now that graphics are better, TVs are bigger and there's already some head motion controls in place in Madden (the passing cone), what's to stop them from adding it? Wouldn't it be a great way to liven up the game? It might not be the best thing ever, but it's at least something different.

4. Add chemistry.

No, I don't mean steroids. I mean this: When Brett Favre played a couple of years ago, he had some scrub receivers. Robert Brooks, Anthony Morgan, Antonio Freeman and Bill Schroeder did nothing once they left Green Bay. Why were they good? Favre made them better.

Similarly, I want players to affect other players. If one of my players is an "Idol," he should make other players around him better. If my offensive line plays together for years, I want them to get better and better because they are TOGETHER. This opens up multiple strategic possibilities.

For instance, what if one of your offensive line wants to leave? Will you be more or less willing to open up the purse for a guy who helps your chemistry, or will you let him walk and suffer the hit to your other players? Conversely, what if a malcontent player is affecting others, but he's really talented? Will you take the good with the bad, or will you cut him loose and hope that someone else steps up?

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There's always room for improvement in any game, and Madden is no exception. If they refuse to tweak the formula, there will come a point when people will refuse to get the new game because they don't want to pay $60 for a roster update. It behooves EA Tiburon to make these changes now before they're forced to.