Madden NFL - title

I think I've finally decided to take a stab at some long-form video analysis and critique on Youtube. My first go at this came in the form of a nearly-hour-long breakdown of my frustrations with the Madden NFL video game series (broken up into 2 parts). For the benefit of my readers, I'm also transcribing the video onto this blog post. Though reading this post will certainly convey all the same points that I make in the video, I still highly recommend watching the video, as the video footage included will do a better job than screenshots of demonstrating the problems I report. The entire video is embedded below.

Watch the full video on Youtube.

EA's ethos of releasing a new Madden entry every single year has become a tremendous detriment to the game as a whole. Modern games have become very large, very complicated, and very expensive to create, and every game series that has relied on an annual release cycle has, in my opinion, suffered for it. Even companies like Ubisoft have recognized this, which is why the company has decided to end the cycle of annual Assassin's Creed releases, opting instead for a major release every two or three years, with some large-scale DLC and expansions to fill out the intervening period. Despite re-using the same game engines, the huge cost of creating a new game every year stretches the company's resources further than they can go. Though I still didn't think that Assassin's Creed: Origins was particularly great, the game still clearly benefited from the extra design and development time that the year's hiatus provided, and the general internet consensus is that the game is very good.

Assassin's Creed: Odyssey was released only a year after Origins, and it looks like a terrible, derivative, waste of time fueled by a grindy micro-transaction economy pulled straight out of a mobile free-to-play game, except with a $60 upfront price tag. We'll have to wait and see if Ubisoft follows through on its promise to "spend more time making fewer, better games", or if it goes back to milking its franchises with slapped-together annual releases.

EA's Madden game is in an even worse boat than Assassin's Creed was in. Not only is Madden an annual release, but it's internal resources are being stretched out between multiple, completely divergent game modes! EA has to chose how much resources to devote to each of these modes, and that commitment comes at the expense of the other modes. In addition to having to make general gameplay improvements every year, the team is also tasked with coming up with new features and improvements for Franchise mode, Ultimate Team, and now Longshot. They're basically developing three different games, and trying to squeeze them all into a single annual release cycle.


Madden's resources are divided between three divergent game modes every year!

Worse yet, one of these game modes clearly makes a lot more money than the others...

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I've been really dismayed by the focus that EA has placed on its Ultimate Team feature in the past couple years of Madden releases. I've made my distaste known in my reviews of both 16 and 15. With the NCAA football series dead due to the revocation of the license, Madden is all we have. I feel like the best thing for me to do at this point is to just give up, since it seems that EA has no interest in appealing to the small demographic of simulation die-hards to which I belong. Instead, they want to keep their model of annual releases that force people to have to give up their established decks of Ultimate Team cards so that they can spend more money on micro-DLC to buy the credits necessary to rebuild their collection.

But as cynical as my reviews can be, I don't want to give up on football gaming. I love football, and I love gaming, and I want to continue to be able to enjoy the union of the two. And right now, Madden is the only way that I can do that.

So I'm going to take some time to write up a wishlist of the kind of features that I want - no expect - a modern football game to include. Some of them are new features that football games have never attempted. Others are ones that previous games just never got right. And still others might be things that were present in earlier games, worked just fine, but have been inexplicably removed to make room for less worthwhile features.

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NCAA Football 13 - box art

The NCAA Football 13 demo hit the PSN a few weeks ago, and I managed to play a few games before my PS3 went belly-up with a yellow-light-of-death last night. I can't do a very detailed breakdown of the demo because I don't have my PS3 at the moment in order to continue playing it. Hopefully, I'll get a working PS3 back in a week or two, but I have no guarantee that it will work. So in lieu of a full breakdown, I'll offer some simple observations and impressions.

First and foremost, it has already been announced that NCAA will not be including the new "Infinity Engine" that is being introduced to Madden with the intent of providing real-time physics simulation for collisions. NCAA is due out only about a month before Madden, so it seems like if EA really cared about providing the best game possible, then they would have just delayed the game a few weeks and added this feature to NCAA as well. But no, even though they have no other football game to compete with, and even though the college football season doesn't start till late August, EA insists on releasing the game in mid July. They have essentially relegated this year's NCAA game to being a second-class football game - which is a real shame because the NCAA dev team just seemed to show slightly superior effort that the Madden devs over the previous two years or so.

Unfortunately, if the demo is any indication (but that is the whole point of a demo), the lack of any real-time physics simulation won't be the only thing holding NCAA Football 13 back from greatness this year. The demo itself is a much better demo than what we've been given in the previous year, but the game being demoed doesn't seem that good...

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Madden NFL 12 box art

Once again, this review is exceptionally late. The football season is almost over, and Madden has already sold its bazillion copies for this year. So anything I say here is kind of moot when it comes to helping people decide whether or not to buy this year’s game. But maybe – just maybe – my critiques will help the developers provide us with a better game in the 7 or so months that they have left to make Madden 13.

After being thoroughly disappointed with last year’s Madden game, and not being won over by either the new demo or the gameplay in NCAA 12, I didn’t rush out to buy Madden 12 on day one. I waited till September and bought the game used. This also contributed significantly to the tardiness of this review.

Overall, Madden still just seems uninspired, even when compared to EA’s NCAA Football game. All the same gameplay enhancements go into both games each year now, but NCAA has at least taken some efforts to better represent its sport. Setting up “linked” plays is simplistic but was a start towards a better representation of football strategy. Integration of the No-Huddle offense into the game is a bit clumsy, but is a major component of modern college football, and is thusly represented in that game. Requiring the QB to “read” the defense on option plays doesn’t work as well as last year, but it’s actually an important part of the option strategy. The collegiate look and atmosphere really looks and sounds like Saturday afternoons, and the ESPN integration is actually pretty slick at times.

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Thursday, April 14, 2011 02:12 PM

Replacing a PS3 - a horror story rant

in Video Gaming by MegaBearsFan

PS3 restore prompt

I recently had the misfortune of needing to send my PS3 into Sony for servicing. Something was wrong with the graphics card and was creating very unpleasant graphical artifacts and texture issues on most of my games. EA Sports games such as Madden and NCAA were very badly affected. Fallout New Vegas would sometimes go completely black on me. Metal Gear Solid 4 saw some very irritating texture pop-ins and coloration issues. Even the Back to the Future downloadable game from the PSN was suffering from similar problems...

Sony's customer service is horrible. Not the service. Just the policies, the way that the hardware is configured, and the lack of respect that the whole process has for the consumer. I don't understand how they are still in business when repairing a $600 piece of hardware goes something like this:

"Thank you for calling Sony Customer Support. Oh, you're PS3 broke. Well that's too bad. Go ahead and back up your hard drive even though none of it can be restored onto a replacement system anyway. Pay us $130. And then send the system in. If we feel like fixing it, we will. But we probably won't, cuz that would require, like, you know, work. So we'll send you a replacement and inconvenience you even more by making it impossible for you to restore your save files and downloadable content. Thank you and have a nice day. Or a shitty day. Whatever."

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