The past few weekends, I've been lucky enough to be invited to guest host on a pair of episodes of PolyCast, the Civilization podcast series. Both episodes were dedicated towards first impressions and thoughts about the release of Civilization VI (which I've already reviewed).
The first episode (episode 268) was recorded the Saturday following Civ VI's release. In this episode, a bunch of people in the Civ community were invited to briefly discuss their first impressions of the game, including things we like, things we'd like to see improved, and things that are just plain bad. About a dozen guests (including myself) offered our first impressions of the game, and a lot of good insight was given.
I invite all my readers to listen to the full episode. This episode of PolyCast was recorded on October 29th, and can be streamed in its entirety at civcomm.civfanatics.com/polycast.
The following episode (269) was the more involved one. I was a guest host (along with Alpha Shard) for the duration of that episode.
The biggest topic of discussion in this episode was the news that eSports team, Team Liquid, is attempting to recruit competitive Civ players to join their team. We discussed the possibility of Civ entering the eSports arena, as well as our reservations about it.
A big point of concern was whether or not the game is "balanced" enough for such competitive play. We all agreed that any league that would play Civ competitively would have to agree on certain settings (and probably on specific maps) that would be exclusively used for competitive games. The variation and randomness of maps, resource distribution, civilization uniques, barbarians, goody huts, and so forth would probably not be welcome by many competitive gamers, as there are admittedly many games of Civ in which a player lives or dies by the map conditions - which are wholly outside of the player's control. In single player, you have the luxury of being able to simply restart the game on a different map. But in multiplayer (and especially in formal, competitive multiplayer), you can't simply mulligan the game because you got a bad roll for where you start and what's present around you.
TeamLiquid's Civ leader is recruiting members.
I went on a bit of a tangential rant about how I feel online gaming has hurt another of my favorite game franchises, Madden NFL. I was trying to be as brief as possible, since I didn't want to talk too much about Madden in a podcast about Civilization, so I'm not sure if I made myself entirely clear, or if I really explained the connection between Madden and Civ that I was trying to make. [More]
UPDATE OCTOBER 23, 2016: LATEST PATCH AND/OR TUNER HAVE PRACTICALLY RUINED THE GAME FOR ME.
I've been having miserable experiences with Madden 17 since publishing this review. I suspect that either patch #2 or tuner #2 are the culprit. Sliders don't seem to improve the experience at all. In fact, certain sliders (like CPU QB Accuracy and CPU Pass Blocking) don't seem to have any effect at all anymore. I am tempted to rewrite this review with a much lower score, but I'm hoping that EA will fix the problem - or at the very least, that deleting the most recent Tuner data will resolve some of the issues.
Sadly, I don't think it's possible for me to re-download the first tuner data. This is a shame, since that one actually did fix some genuine problems the game had at launch.
DO NOT DOWNLOAD PATCH #2 OR TUNER #2!
Electronic Arts has supposedly spent the last three years or so rebuilding Madden from the ground up. Because of that, the past few years' games have felt very incremental, and somewhat incomplete. It was obvious that there were still major holes in many facets of gameplay. Personally, I would have preferred that EA just take a two or three year hiatus in order to hold off on releasing a game until it was actually complete. I'm happy that it seems like we're finally getting a "finished" version of EA's vision of a "next gen" Madden game, and I was curious to see if it would live up to expectations.
By their own admission, EA has finally rebuilt the final few phases of gameplay that still used predominantly legacy code (e.g. special teams and the football itself). For the first time in a long time, it feels like Madden can be approached and reviewed as a complete retail product rather than one step in a long-term incremental beta process. Is it worth the wait?
We'll, first impressions let it down a bit. Much like last year's game, the introduction and tutorial for Madden 17 seemed like a pointless waste of time that misrepresents the actual content of the game with its frequent cutscenes and dialogue from players and coaches. I'm not sure who these scripted gameplay intros are intended for. I would expect that new players would likely be confused and unsure what to do, resulting in failing the intro without any clue what they did wrong or what they were supposed to do. Experienced players, on the other hand, are probably just annoyed with the lack of control in this sequence. The inability to skip the cutscenes only makes repeat playthroughs (if you care enough to try to actually beat the scenario) feel tedious, as you'll have to sit through more cringe-worthy dialogue. EA Sports / Tiburon isn't Naughty Dog, and so writing dialogue and directing voice actors are not the studio's strong suits. About the only thing that this intro sequence does is highlight the new commentary team, which is actually pretty good.
Slowly becoming a complete football game
Despite the blocked field goal in the intro being an un-playable cutscene, special teams was one of the primary areas of focus this year. It's an area that's been mostly neglected since the analog kick meter was introduced back around 2007. And what was the innovation that EA decided was necessary to bring their kicking game into the next generation? Well, actually, they decided to bring back a kicking meter that works almost identically to the older PS1 / PS2 era games. You start the meter charging by pressing X, then press X again to set the kick strength as the meter fills, then press X again to set the kick accuracy as the meter returns to the bottom. Nothing new here.
The "new" kick meter is basically a return to the older kick meter.
However, you now have to hold the analog stick to aim the kick prior to starting the kick meter. If you let go, the kick trajectory will snap back to the default. This does require a bit more dexterity than either of the previous kick meter systems ever needed, but it's still fairly easy once you get used to it. Though, EA could maybe loosen up the accuracy window for online games because any amount of lag makes the kicking game virtually impossible. You also have to be more careful with timing your kicks, as the game and play clocks both continue to tick while the kick meter is charging. Not sure if this is a bug or a feature... So be careful that you don't wait too long and give yourself a delay of game (or let the game clock expire before) you get the kick off.
On the other side of the ball, defenders can now actually block kicks by jumping the snap... [More]
If you get this error message, then training will stop working completely, and will just hang on an infinite load screen.
Is your Madden 17 franchise getting hung up on an annoying bug that prevents you from doing weekly training? Are you getting a dialogue saying "Training is not ready. Ensure that you have focus players selected."? I had this happen to me, and the resolution is not immediately obvious. I searched the EA troubleshooting forums and Reddit and only found partial solutions that didn't work for me. Apparently, this "glitch" has a couple different causes.
Most of the solutions that I had read online involved adjusting the user team's depth chart. In some cases, users said that the problem was caused by not having enough active players in a specific roster position. By signing a player at the necessary position, the problem was resolved, But this fix wasn't applicable to all users. I specifically encountered this bug in week four of my franchise's preseason. It happened right after installing the 1.04 update, and I feared that the update had hosed my save file. Fortunately, I found a resolution.
First, I tested the fix suggested above by ensuring that I had players at all roster positions and that all depth chart positions were filled, but didn't have immediate success. After a little bit of extra troubleshooting, I found that it was because I had too many players on my active roster. I had signed an extra player to replace an injured player. The injury was only for 3 weeks, so wasn't worth putting the guy on IR, but the new player put me over the roster cap. Since it was preseason, the game apparently doesn't enforce a roster limit, but I noticed that the Week 4 activities included "Cut 11 players". Usually in week 4, you're only supposed to cut 10 players. So I cut some dead weight (so that the activity now says "cut 10 players") and the training loaded... [More]
Earlier today, I experienced what might be the craziest, flukiest play that I've ever seen in a Madden video game! And not in the way that fluke plays in Madden are usually glitchy plays or plays in which the CPU cheats to affect an outcome. No, this was a fluke play in the genuine football sense of a fluke play.
Special teams is no longer to be ignored, and PATs are not forgone conclusions...
To put the situation in context, I was playing an exhibition game in Madden 17 as the Seahawks against the 49ers (on All Pro difficulty). It started out as an intense defensive struggle with the first score not coming until midway through the second quarter. Down 17-3 in the fourth, the 49ers started mounting a comeback. The 49ers got into the end zone in the waning minutes of the game to make the score 17-16. They lined up for the PAT that would have tied the game - a play that should be routine. But what happened next was anything but routine.
Therold Simon and Kam Chancellor rushed off the outside to block the PAT and ice the game. Simon beat Bruce Miller around the edge and successfully blocked the kick, but Miller was the one who managed to pick up the ball. He then proceeded to run around the edge and managed to make it into the end zone, turning the 49ers' blown extra point into a successful two-point conversion. Instead of tying the game, they now had a one-point lead.
Perhaps the flukiest play that I've ever seen in a Madden game.
I couldn't believe what I had seen.
And it was amazing!
Damnit Kam Chancellor! All you had to do was fall on the ball!
A few months ago, I wrote a blog piece about suggestions to expand Madden 16's feature set to make the game a deeper, more realistic depiction of the management of an NFL team. This year's Madden game has proven to be a much better game than the previous few years, and I actually have found myself playing it well into the new year. As such, I've also been coming across new, nagging annoyances, and new ideas for features and enhancements. Most notably, I finally got to play through a complete off-season, and I have several ideas for how offseason can be improved in future years of Madden.
So I've decided to write a follow-up piece with more suggestions for future games. This article will focus on off-season activities. In order to keep things clean and concise, I've also made a few changes to the original post as well. I wanted to keep specific topics grouped together. There's also less to talk about in this new post, so I've moved the "Little Things" section from the original post into this article in order to shorten the original post and pad this one out to about the same length. I've also made some small revisions and clarifications in the original post, so I highly recommend re-visiting that post to see the changes.
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