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Madden NFL - title

Earlier this month, I posted a suggestion for hiding player ratings until the player has played enough games to reveal them. Afterwards, I posted a list of my suggestions for offense, defense, and special teams for Madden 18. That still leaves some other outstanding areas of improvement such as Franchise mode, and I'd like to spend this post focusing there.

Let's start out by going over some of the things that are left over from last year's wishlist:

A lot of these items are related to Franchise, and so keep them in mind as you read through this post. But before I jump into franchise suggestions, let's first look at the issue of the Accelerated clock as it has been implemented in Madden for years:

Accelerated clock, two-minute drill, and CPU timeouts

I've brought this up before, but clock management really needs to be addressed. The accelerated clock should never be disabled! Not in the two-minute drill; not ever. The two minute drill is when it is most important to enforce the accelerated clock because otherwise it completely breaks the two-minute drill. The CPU is particularly bad at exploiting this. I regularly see the CPU go into a huddle and break it within 5 seconds of game clock, which is faster than if they had tried a hurry-up, and which spares them from using a timeout. Human users can exploit this same tactic as well in order to avoid the time it takes to run up to the line. All you have to do is quickly select any pass play then audible or hot route your receivers.

Madden 17 - clock exploits
Breaking a 2-minute drill huddle with 35 seconds on the play clock while
the game clock is running completely breaks the 2-minute drill.

And speaking of CPU timeouts: the CPU should actually use them. There should be some logic in place where if a CPU QB either can't figure out the pre-snap coverage, or he doesn't like the pre-snap coverage, then he should call a timeout to mulligan the play. This should happen if the defense puts eight men in the box when an inside run was called, or if the CPU QB reads press coverage on a wide receiver screen, or other such situations in which the the CPU determines that the player's play is likely to trump their play call. This should be tied to a QB's Awareness and/or Play Recognition rating, and there could maybe also be a small chance that if the QB doesn't make the right read, then the coach can call a timeout instead. CPU defenses should similarly be able to burn a timeout if they read a particularly unfavorable personnel match-up.

Another improvement that could be made to the accelerated clock is to add some variability to it. Instead of breaking every huddle at exactly 19 seconds (or whatever time you set it to), there should be an option to vary that value by a few seconds in either direction. Maybe one play, the huddle breaks at 21 seconds; maybe the next play, it's not broken until 16 seconds. This little bit of variability could also introduce the possibility of more delay of game penalties, and may cause CPU teams to have to use the occasional timeout in order to prevent a delay of game.

Franchise suggestions

I recently posted a suggestion for a long-term talent-evaluation feature that could encompass an off-season training camp and positional battles. This proposal would be designed to reduce practice squad poaching, make preseason worth playing, and might also help to solve Madden's issues with preseason substitution logic. But that evaluation feature isn't my only suggestion for franchise mode. One small change would be for the contract re-sign screen to show what a player's current depth chart position is. I'd like to be reminded whether that left guard is my second or third stringer before I commit to offering him a $2 million deal.

Coordinators, assistant coaches, and more staff

Kind of goes without saying, but Madden should allow franchise users to hire offensive, defensive, and special teams coordinators, and maybe also additional assistant staff - at least the coordinators...

Madden 17 - drive goal
Tone down the selfish drive goals.

More stable drive goals

It would also be nice to fix drive goals after overturned plays. Currently, if there's a turnover or a score, any incomplete drive goal is marked as "missed". But if the play is reviewed / challenged and overturned, the drive goal is not restored. I consider this a bug, and I hope it gets fixed. On the topic of drive goals, I'd also like to see the game continue to offer drive goals until the user succeeds at a certain number of them.

I would also prefer if more drive goals focused on team goals rather than individual goals. Taking the field on defense and then finding a goal for my DT to get a tackle is frustrating, especially if the opponent ends up throwing 3 incomplete passes and punting without my DT ever even having a chance to impact the play. Instead of a goal for an individual player to get a tackle, how about a goal "no missed tackles" that applies to the entire team? Instead of an individual defender needing to get a sack, how about just a goal for anybody on the defense to get a sack, or for the defense as a whole to pressure the QB? Instead of a goal for a specific defensive back to get an interception, how about a goal for the defense as a whole to not allow a passing completion? On the other side of the ball, instead of a goal for a single receiver to catch five passes, how about a goal "no dropped passes"? And so on...

The offensive goals aren't so bad because the user has control over who gets the ball, but the defensive goals are a complete crap shoot. It's OK to occasionally have a drive goal that focuses on an individual player (particularly one who is nearing a major milestone), but it shouldn't be every drive. Every player has their own personal goals already anyway.

Better injury logic and customization

One of my biggest disappointments with the franchise mode in Madden 17 is with injuries. First and foremost, I would like for the league GM to have authority to edit injury status. This would allow GMs to set injuries based on events in the real NFL and maybe also to cancel injuries sustained to players that aren't injured in real life. For example, in my franchise, both Ezekiel Elliot and Dak Prescott became injured. I would have liked to have been able to cancel their injuries so that they could go on to have breakout seasons like they did in real life. Unfortunately, I couldn't do this. This would also allow the GM to set injuries for high-profile players like Tony Romo, Teddy Bridgewater, Robert Griffin III, and so on if they start a franchise with a roster that doesn't include such injuries.

Madden 17 - Ezekiel Elliot injury
Ezekiel Elliot was injured during a simulated game, preventing him from having a breakout rookie season.

Once in a game, injury causes could also use some adjustment. Currently, only the players that are involved in a tackle can get injured - that is, only the ball-carrier and the player(s) tackling the ball-carrier can possibly become injured. Offensive linemen can't roll their ankles on the backside of a play, special teams blockers can't get the wind knocked out of them by a full-speed cover man, and receivers can't twist their ankles while making a cut away from the route. Such injuries can happen in simulated games, but not in any game that the player actually plays. This creates an unfortunate bias towards injuries being sustained by the user's skilled position players.

Ideally, I would like to have some logic in place that allows injuries to be triggered as part of the game's physics simulation. Particularly severe contortions of a player should increase the likelihood of an injury on a play. This would need to be very carefully tuned, however, since unnatural contortions are exceedingly common in Madden's current physics engine. At the very least, such hits and contortions could lead to a player suffering a very minor injury that takes him out of the game for a couple plays.

There's also a feature in the NBA 2k games that I wouldn't mind seeing imported into Madden. Each player NBA 2k has independent durability ratings for various parts of their bodies, including all of the major joints, head, torso, and so forth. This allows that game to track wear-and-tear on specific parts of each player's body over the course of that player's career. A player who has frequent knee injuries is more likely to suffer injuries to his knee in the future, and as players age, their overall durability goes does. Football is a very demanding sport on the body, and wear-and-tear is a problem for many players, especially in punishing positions like running back. Suffering a major injury to a particular part of the body should increase the likelihood of that injury recurring later. Perhaps this could even allow for equipment such as knee braces to actually act as an injury preventative or recovery tool.

NBA 2k16 - player health
NBA 2k assigns durability and records wear-and-tear for individual parts of an athlete's body.

Many NFL players have had repeated injuries, and in some cases, these injuries have forced players into retirement. Players like Patrick Willis and Arian Foster recently made headlines by retiring due to recurring injuries. Even some great players had long careers that were interrupted by recurring injuries. Joe Montana had to undergo multiple back-surgeries during his career. And Brett Favre (the NFL's "Iron Man") suffered recurring elbow tendinitis and multiple sprains and breakages in his hands and fingers over the course of his career.

Unfortunately, injuries are a touchy subject for the NFL, and politics may keep more realistic injury mechanics out of Madden. In fact, despite the growing concern over concussions in the NFL, I think that injury may have been completely censored in recent Madden titles. I haven't seen a concussion (or head injury) happen in the game for years now, and I'm not alone. So while I consider this particular feature unlikely to happen, I'm still going to voice my desire to see more realistic injuries in the game. The NFL's censorship be damned.

Lastly, I'd like more customization options for injuries in general. GMs should be able to independently set injury frequency slider for human and CPU teams in the options screen. Also, the GM should have options for setting the frequency of simulated injuries independent of in-game injuries. Lastly, there could also be a slider setting for injury severity (also able to be independently set for human / CPU teams). That way, users could set up their franchises to trigger more smal injuries that keep players out for a game or two, without having much of a higher risk of putting half their team on IR.

Madden 17 - can't force a tie
No force tie for simulated games.

GM override

The GM being able to set injury status shouldn't be the end of the GM's authority. I would actually like to see the GM have near absolute control and be able to override virtually anything in the game.

The GM already has the ability to edit player ratings and information and to set which teams will win simulated games. I also proposed some injury customization options above. In addition to these things, the GM should have other authority as well. For one thing, can we have the ability to set a tie as the outcome of a game, please? They do happen, you know. GMs should also have the authority to set the weather conditions for a game (which should be forecast as part of game prep anyway). Finally, GMs should have permission to adjust CPU depth charts, force or cancel trades, force or cancel player retirements, and maybe even force coaching changes.

Madden 17 - benching Tony Romo
Once Tony Romo returns from his injury, I'd like to be able to force the Cowboys to continue starting Dak Prescott.

Edit and share draft classes

I've previously mentioned that I would like to see Madden games allow users to import draft classes from the obsolete NCAA Football 14. This seems unlikely to happen due to both technical and [probably] legal issues. At the very least, league GMs should be able to edit the names, numbers, schools, and physical attributes of the incoming draft class.

Editing draft class ratings might be a bit problematic, and if my long-term evaluation proposal gets implemented, then that feature would have the same problem. The point of hiding a player's true ratings is to prevent players from knowing (in advance) how good a given player is before going through the process of evaluating him. If the GM is able to edit those ratings, then the GM would know everything about each player. I don't see this as that big of a problem. The GM is somebody that everyone in the league should trust anyway, and if the GM is cheating, then players can just not play in that person's league. And if the GM (or single-player franchise user) doesn't want to know which players are good, then you can simply not look at the players' ratings.

Madden 17 - draft class
League GMs should be able to edit the names, schools, and appearance of players in the draft class.

EA could also hypothetically implement a draft class sharing feature (similar to NCAA Football's roster-sharing) that would allow the community to create realistic draft classes that players can import into their franchise. Whether or not EA can legally do this might be contingent on the outcome of the on-going lawsuits regarding the use of player likenesses in games.

Other miscellaneous bug fixes and suggestions

Well that about does it for my major feature proposals... for now anyway... But there's still a few small items that I want to throw out there as well.

There seems to be a bug associated with the play-call controls in which the wrong play gets selected. My preference is for the "Triangle, Square, Cross" option, since it's the most intuitive based on the layout of the play-call interface. But this bug means that I occasionally don't get the play that I want whenever I try to call plays by concept or type. And since I've already said that I don't like to call plays by formation, this basically leaves me with only being able to call plays from the set of "Suggested" plays.

Madden 17 - play-call controls
There may be a bug with this play-call control setting. Tiburon should look into it...

I'd like to be able to re-download previous versions of the tuning data and rosters. When Madden 17 first released, there were too many strip sacks and the aggressive catch seemed completely ineffective. The first tuning update improved the balance of these mechanics and presented the best Madden 17 experience to date. Then tuning update 2 or 3 came along and almost ruined the game by giving CPU QBs uncanny accuracy. I'm talking 90% completion percentages every game! The only incomplete passes for the CPU were the ones that the receivers dropped because they got hit during the catch animation. During that time, I would have loved to be able to revert back to the first tuning set. Instead, all I could do was delete the tuning data altogether and go back to having crazy amounts of strip sacks.

It would also be nice to be able to go back and re-download old roster files. That way, if I want to restart my franchise, I could redownload the preseason or week 1 rosters that had all the pre-existing injuries to player like Tony Romo, Teddy Bridgewater, Robert Griffin, and so on.

Lastly, I wouldn't mind seeing an "End Game" button for running out the remainder of the clock. If you kneel down with less than 40 seconds on the game clock, you should be able to just end the game. No play-call screen. No coming back out to sit under center for 30 seconds. Just end the game and shake the other coach's hand.

And with that, it's time to run out the clock and kneel down on this blog post. Thanks for reading. Feel free to post any of your own suggestions in the comments below.

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