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It's summer time, which means that football video game developers are hard at work implementing features for the fall release of this year's games. It's probably too late to influence the design of the 2020 slate of games (due to release in September), but I'd still like to take some time to express some of my ideas for growing these games over the long term. This post should hopefully give both Canuck Play and Axis an idea of the roadmap of improvements that I'd like to see over the next two or three years.

For each suggestion that I'm going to make, I'm going to try to provide a general goal that I want to achieve with the idea. Then I will provide one (or more) ideas for how I think the games' developers can attain that goal. If Canuck and/or Axis like the ideas, then by all means use them. If, however, they think they can accomplish the goal with a different method or implementation, then by all means do that. You know your games better than I do. I'm just a blogger with a YouTube channel and little more than a basic understanding of how game development work. You guys and gals do whatever you think is going to make your games the best that they can possibly be.

Table of Contents

General Suggestions for Both Games

First and foremost, both games need to put a large emphasis on improving and cleaning up their on-field play. The biggest current gameplay problem with both games (in my opinion) is poor safety play (and deep pass coverage in general). In both games, it is far far too easy for receivers running streak, fly, wheel, or post routes to get behind the defensive secondary for uncontested deep receptions and touchdowns. Defensive backs in zone are routinely caught flat-footed as receivers run past them. In fact, I don't think Maximum Football 19 implements a deep zone concept at all. I don't expect these games to have 12 variations of zone coverages like Madden does, but they at least need to implement deep zones! This absolutely needs to be cleaned up ASAP!

Both games need to work on safety play and deep pass coverage.

Sticking to the passing game, catching and pass-defense animations also need some work. Neither game has particularly compelling or believable jumping catches, diving catches, or sideline catches. Both games also seem to lack animations for players going to the ground to make catches (picture Madden's "possession catch" mechanic), and there are no interaction animations of receivers and defenders both going up to compete for a pass in the air. Lastly, I don't recall ever seeing any animations of defenders playing press coverage at the line, or of receivers getting "picked" by other defenders.

Both games could also use more animations for wrap tackles and gang tackles. Too many of the collisions in both games result in a "rag doll" effect, which was a problem that also plagued Backbreaker.

Hopefully, these gameplay and animation weaknesses will see improvement in 2020. Canuck Play has already said that their partnership with Unity has lead to Unity developers improving the kinematics of pass-catching animations. Hopefully that will help. Axis has also stated that they plan on completely reworking their physics and collision systems for 2020. We'll have to wait and see what this will mean for the game, but hopefully it will also help address these issues with the passing game.

Special Teams Overhaul

Both games also need a lot of work on special teams play. Special teams play in both games is exceedingly rote and un-engaging, from both a gameplay standpoint and also a team-building standpoint. First and foremost, both games have a problem with CPU kickers missing make-able field goals. Maximum Football kickers tend to put too little power behind their kicks, and Axis kickers get plenty of power but tend to kick wide left or right.

Maximum has a full special teams depth chart, but it's exceedingly difficult to use.

I'd like to see more comprehensive special teams depth charts from both games. Maximum already allows us to set kickers and even gunners and return blockers (which is great!) but the UI for editing the depth chart makes assigning players to these roles more trouble than it's worth. Axis doesn't even include kick returners on its depth chart, let alone a holder, longsnapper, return coverage gunners, or return blockers.

It would also be nice to include some fake kicks, trick returns, and better implementations of onside kicks, among many other possible special teams enhancements. Maybe one or both games could even include an option to use the XFL's kickoff rules, which I thought was the single best and most innovative rule change that the league introduced. I would also like to see it be more possible to block kicks.

The XFL may have folded (again), but their kickoff rule is truly innovative.

Credit to Axis, one of their developers reached out to me after seeing my critique videos on the 2019 indie games, and promised to fix the kickoff out of bounds glitch (and also the coach's win/loss record glitch) that I had reported. These fixes will be included in Axis 2020, and are also planned to be released as part of a patch for Axis 19 which may already be available by the time you're reading this. So if you think we can't help make these games better, here is an example of the developers listening to community feedback and taking action. Kudos to Axis for responding directly to some of my criticisms. And also kudos to Canuck for having generally good post-release support for Maximum 19, including the addition of new plays and concepts, the introduction of gameplay sliders, and various other improvements and bug fixes that were released over the course of the fall and winter of 2019.

I was invited to join Axis' slack channel, and have been providing feedback directly to the develoeprs.

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Save File Import and Loyalty Rewards

Since neither of these games is tied to a real-life football league, their teams and rosters are purely fictional (even though they are inspired by real-life teams). As such, neither game is bound to real-life roster changes that happen from year to year. Because of this, I would like to see both games include support for importing a save file from last year's game. This would allow us players to pick up in each year's new game where we left off in last year's game. We could continue developing the same team with the same player, coaches, win/loss records, championships, and so forth, to try to build a true dynasty.

This would be a good way of providing a bit of a loyalty reward to players who buy the game year after year: they'll get to keep playing their same save file. Perhaps an even better way to reward loyalty would be a monetary discount. I recommend that each edition of the game include a promo code for a discount towards the purchase of next year's game. For example, Axis Football 2020 on Steam could come with a Steam code for, say, 25% off of the purchase of Axis Football 2021. Similarly, the PS4 version of Maximum Football 2020 could come with a PSN code for, say, a 25% discount towards the purchase of Maximum Football 2021 (for either PS4 or PS5). This would be a great way of thanking your biggest fans, and also encouraging them to come back year after year and build a loyal, dedicated community.

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Break the Glass Ceiling

This is another thing that I've brought up in past NCAA Football wishlists: these games should include models, faces, and voices for female players and coaches. I've been on this soapbox for many years now.

Katie Hnida - UNM placekicker
Katie Hnida is the first woman to play
and score in Division I-A football.

Though there aren't any women playing NFL football, they have been playing in division I college football for years, and Canuck Play could include them in Maximum Football. Katie Hnida was a placekicker for the University of New Mexico, and broke the glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to ever score a point in Division I-A (FBS) college football. Since then, Antoinette Harris (who survived an ovarian cancer diagnosis when she was 18) broke yet another glass ceiling by becoming the first woman to receive a scholarship from a 4-year university to play college football in a "skill position". She also made headlines when she expressed a dream over social media of becoming a Seattle Seahawk. She received a response from coach Pete Carroll over Twitter, expressing his hopes of someday seeing her in the NFL combine, as well as a willingness to draft the young woman. I believe she will be a senior this fall, which means she could be eligible for the NFL draft in 2021. It's a longshot, but it could happen.

That isn't to say that women aren't represented in the NFL as more than just cheerleaders and sideline correspondents. There are several high-profile female assistant coaches that have been hired by NFL teams over the past few years. Perhaps the most well-known right now is the 49ers' Katie Sowers, who broke the glass ceiling of being the first woman to coach in the SuperBowl. So perhaps Axis could include a handful of women in its list of coaches and scouts?

Unfortunately, many women who attempt to break into football (and other male-dominated sports -- or careers in general) face harassment and sometimes even sexual assault at the hands of their coaches and teammates. A game developer including a handful of models and faces for female players and coaches in video games isn't going to solve sexual discrimination. But it could go a little ways towards normalizing the idea of women playing or coaching football. It might also encourage more young women to try out for their schools' teams. Such normalization of the idea could also help raise a generation of football-playing men and coaches who would be less likely to harass or abuse any female colleagues on their team. It's a tiny little thing that should be fairly easy for Canuck or Axis to implement. But that tiny little step from the game developer could be a huge deal to some young girls out there who pick up the game and get to create a version of themselves wearing their custom school's helmet or coach's polo. I have that luxury; there's no reason why my sister, girlfriend, or daughter shouldn't have it too!

And if some MRAs or incels throw a fit, then:

  • a.) Who cares? Screw 'em!
  • b.) There's nothing stopping them editing the rosters to remove female representation

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Axis Football 2020 (and Beyond) Wishlist

Since I'm part of Axis' Slack channel, and actually do have their ears, I'm going to start with my suggestions for that game. Specifically, I'll begin with some interface and user-experience suggestions.

Interface and User Experience

I own the game on PC, but have found the mouse and keyboard controls to be very uncomfortable. I therefore use a console gamepad (plugged in via USB) to play the game on Steam. I don't own an XBox, so the controller that I use is a PS4 controller. In both Axis 18 and Axis 19, the game recognized when a gamepad was plugged in, and would show controller icons. Sadly (for me), it only ever showed XBox icons. I'm not sure if the game is capable of automatically detecting which controller is plugged in (and automatically showing the appropriate icons), but it should be easy enough to include an option to toggle between XBox and Play Station controller icons when playing the game on PC.

I use a PS4 controller, but all the on-screen prompts show XBox button icons.

Axis 18 had a PS4 port, and Axis 19 was planned to have a PS4 port (until technical issues forced Axis to cancel it). So Axis should have the assets for a PS4 controller icons, and already have builds of the game that use them. So I would think it wouldn't be too hard to include a toggle option.

Another thing that would help create a more positive user experience would be the inclusion of a free practice mode. This would help the user to learn the game and controls better without having to sink or swim in the deep end of an actual match. It would also help to train the muscle memory for using audibles and hot routes. It would also be nice if practice mode were accessible within the Franchise mode, so that you can practice with your Franchise roster.

Having an instant replay mechanic would also help users to improve at the game by allowing them to review negative plays to see what went wrong and hopefully fix the mistake next time.

It would be nice to have more tooltip and help screens like this, to explain more of the game's mechanics.

It would also be very helpful if Axis contained more tooltips and help screens that explained more of the game's mechanics and the effects of various options or attributes. For starters, every option in the options screen should include a tooltip that explains what the option does. For example, what exactly do the different Pass Systems do (specifically "stick push"). And what exactlydoes "P1 Lead Receiver" do? Within Franchise mode, there is a whole screen that explains what effects morale has on the team, but there's no descriptions anywhere of what all of the player attributes or coach attributes do. What specifically does a coach's Offense and Defense attribute do? Do they improve the ratings of all offense and defense players? Do they improve the effect of offensive or defensive practice drills? Do they improve player progression between seasons? Similarly, I would like to see more detailed descriptions of what the effects of weekly practice are. What exact effects does each practice drill have, and how long do those effects last?

Lastly, a small visual improvement would be to disable weather effects whenever a domed stadium is selected. Also, it would be nice if each team were assigned a default stadium. This stadium should be able to be changed in the Customize screen.

Return to Contents.

Adjustments and clock management

Team Strategy adjustments should
be limited to clock stoppages.

Moving onto gameplay improvements. I already talked about animation and physics improvements above (which apply to both indie games), so I'm going to focus more on ideas unique to Axis Football. I would like to see the pre-play "Team Strategy" adjustment limited to only be accessible during clock stoppages. It should only be accessible during team timeouts, quarter breaks, the two-minute warning, and changes of possession. In real football, teams aren't usually able to make such large-scale adjustments on the fly. They have to go back to the sidelines to review "all-22" photos or have "chalk talk" with the coaches. This would also create a rock-paper-scissors strategic element to each possession, as the teams would have to commit to a particular strategy for an entire possession. Lastly, it gives both the human user and the CPU a reason to use its timeouts outside of the two-minute drill.

If there isn't already logic for the CPU team to use Team Strategy adjustments, then Axis should add such logic, and also include logic for the CPU team to call a timeout if they need to make a Team Strategy adjustment mid-drive. For example, if the CPU selected a pass-counter Team Strategy, but the human user starts burning them on the ground and running out the clock, the CPU would have to call a timeout to adjust their focus to stopping the run.

I would also like to see an actual no-huddle / hurry-up offense be implemented, and I would like an option to enable the accelerated clock within the two-minute warning. Disabling the accelerated clock inside of two-minutes is one of my pet peeves in football games. It largely negates the need to run an actual no-huddle offense, since you can often get in and out of the play-selection screen as quickly (or sometimes quicker) than it would take to run up to the line in a no-huddle and audible to a new play. This problem is exacerbated if the play-selection screen has the added effect of teleporting the players to the new line of scrimmage. Enabling the accelerated clock during this time would make it more important to get out of bounds when possible, use the no-huddle and spike-ball play, and to be judicious with your timeouts.

And while we're on the topic of the end of a game, it would be nice if Axis Football had a better overtime mechanic. Currently, the game just adds 1 minute to the clock until the clock expires with one team having a lead over the other. There's no overtime coin toss or kickoff either. Play just resumes after the end of the fourth quarter with an extra minute on the clock. Either put in a functional overtime, or just remove overtime altogether and let games end in a tie.

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Franchise Suggestions: Coach Personalities and Deeper Scouting

Now, I'm going to go over some ideas that I have to help Axis' Franchise mode truly surpass Madden.

Let's start by further expanding the coach features that already put Madden to shame. The inclusion of a full coaching staff was a good start, but coaches in Axis 19 lack personality and uniqueness. Each coach should have their own preferred playbook and style of play. If the team uses the same playbook as the coach's preferred playbook, then the players will receive the maximum attribute bonus. If the team runs a different playbook, then the players should only receive a small or partial attribute boost. Having more coaches on your staff who prefer the same playbook should yield even higher attribute boosts.

This could be handled via modification to the badges system for coaches. Coaches could have global badges that apply boosts for certain position-specific ratings to players regardless of the playbook used. Other badges should provide boosts to other attributes (such as Awareness) if the team runs that coach's playbook. For example, a QB coach might have a badge ("QB Expert") that grants +1 to all QBs' Throwing Power, Speed, and Agility. That same coach may also have an additional badge (say, "Air Raid Expert") that grants +1 to all QBs' Throwing Accuracy and Awareness when running his preferred playbook (which in this case is the Air Raid playbook). Other generic or universal badges (such as "Locker Room Hero" or "Film Studies") could remain unchanged.

I would like to see coaches have more detailed attributes and more defined personalities.

Additionally, we could have more coach attributes or badges that influence how they strategize and run the team. Perhaps their Offense and Defense attributes could be broken down into "Run Offense", "Pass Offense", "Run Defense", and "Pass Defense". This would make it so that their effects on player attributes only take effect if the corresponding plays are selected. A coach with an "A" in Pass Offense, but a "C+" in Run Offense would provide a greater boost to his players when executing passing plays, compared to running plays. Similarly, a coach with a "B+" in Run Defense and a "C" in Pass Defense would provide a greater boost to his defense when the opponent's offense executes running plays. These coach ratings should be considered when the CPU is weighing which play to call.

We could maybe go even deeper by having badges that boost certain play concepts. For example, maybe a coach could have a badge for "Aggressive Passer" that grants an attribute bonus to a WR running streak, fly, wheel, or post routes, and a boost to the QB when throwing to a receiver running such a route.

Also, can we get some "Special Teams" attributes for coaches? It would be nice to have some clue of which coach would be best as my Special Teams Coordinator. I haven't seen any badges for special teams coaches, but some ideas for special teams badges could include (assuming such badges don't already exist in-game):

  • Place-kicking specialist: increased range and accuracy on field goals.
  • Punting specialist: increased accuracy on punts.
  • Longsnapping expert: decreased chances of a bad snap on punts and field goals.
  • Execution expert: better blocking and faster kick animations on punts and field goals (reducing chances of a blocked kick).
  • Return specialist: Attribute boost to all players on punt and kick returns.
  • Kick-blocking expert: Punt and field goal defenders are faster off the line (increasing chances of blocking a kick).
We need some attributes and badges that define a good special teams coordinator.

I would also like to see in-season scouting be a more active and season-long process. Currently, each scout only gets three points for the entire year. Since Axis employs a draft, rather than recruiting, the user has very little control over whether a scouted player will be on the board when your turn to draft comes around, which means you need more information about more players in order to make an informed decision.

My first suggestion is that each scout should refresh one scouting point each week of the season (up to their maximum capacity of three points). There could be a badge for "Deep Scouting" that increases that scout's max scouting points by 1 (to a total of 4). Another "Frequent Flyer Miles" badge could refresh one additional scouting point for that scout each week. Being able to scout additional prospects each week would also help give the user more things to do between games throughout the season.

I would also like to see the practice squad be more fully developed. From my experience, the practice squad is a pointless feature because I rarely have the money to hire enough players to fill a practice squad. Each player should only have 2 or 3 years of practice squad eligibility (similar to the NFL). Further, players on the practice squad should be inactive for the season and receive a minimum salary (like $200k or something) while on the practice squad. If a player is activated from the practice squad, he should receive a prorated salary. A player who is on the practice squad for any period of the year should lose a year of practice squad eligibility, even if he is activated. This should allow teams to keep more players on their practice squads and make the squad into a more useful (and thoughtful) tool for long-term development of your team.

I would like to see practice squads and scouting be more fully developed.

To supplement the further development of the practice squad mechanic, I think that teams should be able to poach players from other teams' practice squads. I think that Scouting points should be able to be spent to scout the practice squad of another team in the given scout's region. CPU teams would need to be programmed to occasionally scout the user team's practice squad and potentially sign a player from the squad if the CPU team has an immediate need at that position. This would create a risk-reward element for putting highly-rated reserve players on your practice squad. Yes, you get to develop them further instead of having to cut them, but you also risk a CPU team scouting and signing them. Maybe you're better off finding a place for such a player on your special teams squad?

For this to work, there would need to be restrictions on poaching practice squad players. First and foremost, practice squad player attributes should be hidden to other teams, so that they actually have a reason to spend Scouting point on practice squads. The user should be notified if another team scouts their practice squad players, so that you have an opportunity to potentially activate any players you want to prevent the CPU from poaching. Poaching a practice squad player might also require that the poaching team pay out the poached player's salary to the original team, or some other financial penalty that should serve as a disincentive for excess practice squad poaching.

It would also be helpful to have a tab in the draft screen that shows an overview of all the prospects that you've scouted.

Lastly, I would like for the user to be more aware of what is going on around the league. Right now, I have no idea of other CPU teams even bother to sign free agents, make trades, or do other front office activities. If they aren't programmed to do so, then they should have this functionality added! There should be a tab for "League News" that shows an overview of what other teams around the league are doing. This should show key injuries, depth chart changes, free agent signings, trades, practice squad movements and poaching, coach hirings and firings, and other similar events. This would help to add more life to the Franchise mode and make it feel like the other teams have more agency.

We should get an opponent scouting report each week.

As a supplement to the deeper scouting that gives the user more to do between games, I would like to see the user be given a detailed scouting report for each upcoming opponent. This scouting report should outline the opponent's playbook, give an overview of their depth chart, show their key injuries, show some team stats, maybe show some tendencies, and other information. It should also include a weather forecast. After reviewing the scouting report, you should have the opportunity to enter a practice mode in which you may practice against random offensive and defensive plays from your opponent's playbook and begin installing a gameplan (see below).

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Maximum Football 2020 (and Beyond) wishlist

Just like I did with Axis I want to start by proposing user interface and user experience suggestions for Maximum Football moving forward.

Control, U.I. and U.X. Suggestions

Receiver routes are color-coded
based on the XBox controller.

Let's start with something simple: for the PS4 version, could we get receiver route colors that match the PS4 controller icons? The game currently color-codes receiver routes in the play-call screen based on the controller button that they are assigned to, but these colors seem to be based off of XBox controllers. It makes these colors kind of nonsensical to PS4 users.

I would also like to see the controls changed so that offensive pre-play play art is activated by the right stick instead of the left stick. This would bring the offensive controls in-line with the defensive controls. The inconsistency is annoying on its own, but it also causes some delay of game penalties when I accidentally view play art instead of snapping the ball because I try to start running or dropping the QB back a split second before snapping the ball.

Can we add an "Instant Replay" button to the pause menu? Currently, the game doesn't show the prompt for instant replays if a play has some post-play cutscene. This prevents the user from viewing an instant replay after a QB sack or scoring play. I would really like to be able to view a replay after a sack (to find out where the breakdown in pass blocking occurred, and whether there was an open receiver I could have thrown to), and would also like to see replays of certain CPU scoring plays (to find out where the breakdown in defense happened).

I would like to see the camera repositioned on kick and punt returns so that it is easier to see how close the coverage men are to the returner, and whether a fair catch is necessary. I'm OK with keeping the camera facing towards the returner (to emulate his lack of visibility while focusing on catching the ball), but I do feel that it should be zoomed out or centered a few yards in front of the returner so that we can see a little bit further upfield as the ball approaches the returner.

The only time I ever saw a muffed return was after calling a fair catch.

As an aside, I think that there should be a much higher risk of fumbling if hit immediately after fielding a kick. In my experience with Maximum Football 2019, I never once saw a muffed kick or punt return. The only exception was actually on a play in which I had called for a fair catch. I'm not sure if the ball bounced off my player while he was waiving for a fair catch, or if it bounced off the back of a coverage gunner who had run right up into my returner's face. Bottom line: there's no real incentive to using the new fair catch mechanic, since muffed returns are so exceedingly rare.

I'd also like to see the ability to play as college teams in Play Now.

I would also very much like the ability to load a default logo into the logo editor and be able to customize it. Ideally, I would like to be able to edit that default logo. But even if it's just a base or background for a new logo, that would be better than nothing. For example, I used a default logo for my Las Vegas Pioneers college team, but I would have liked to have added the letters "L" and "V" to the sides of the logo without having to re-create the base logo from scratch.

If the game allowed us to import a png as a team logo, that would also be swell.

One of the biggest improvements that I think Canuck could make to Maximum Football 2020 would be to add an accelerated clock option to the game in order to improve pacing of the 15-minute quarter games and balance out time of possession between user and CPU teams. Just like with Axis, I would also like to include an option to keep the accelerated clock running inside of the two-minute warning for the same reasons noted above.

There is also currently a bug in which punting the ball out of bounds does not stop the game clock. This should be fixed.

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Dynasty Suggestions: Gameplanning and Going Pro

Now let's get into the more exciting stuff: Dynasty suggestions! For Maximum Football's Dynasty, I have two primary goals. The first is for the game to really emphasize the idea that you're building a team of "amateurs" who are still largely learning the game of football. The second big goal is for this mode to be more compelling for users who chose to build up smaller schools.

First of all, the game should show a player's year/class (e.g. freshmen, sophomore, etc.) on the depth chart screen, and also indicate whether a player is already a starter at another position. Additionally, Canuck really needs to clean up the Depth Chart screen in general.

Proximity to Home went from always being "low" to always being "good" after a mid-year patch.
My school is in Las Vegas, NV. Left is a pre-patch prospect in Utah, and right is a post-patch prospect from Carolina.

Canuck also needs to fix the "Proximity to Home" recruiting pitch. When Maximum 19 first launched, this pitch seemed to be bugged such that every recruit from every state was listed as having a "low" Proximity to Home. This was supposed to have been fixed in a late-year patch, but instead every prospect now just shows "good" Proximity To Home. I play as a school in Las Vegas, so I would expect to see an "good" rating for Southern California and Arizona; an "above average" rating for Northern California, Utah, and Hawaii; and an "average" rating for Idaho, Colorado, and New Mexico.

While on the topic of recruiting pitches, I would like to see some new pitches added to the game -- specifically adding new pitches that favor lower-tier schools:

  • Early Playing Time: higher if your team has low-rated players and shallow depth at the prospect's position.
  • Play-Call Style: higher if your team has a playbook and play-calling tendencies that match the prospect's talents.
  • Victories Against Quality Opponents: higher if you've recently (within the last 3 weeks, perhaps?) beaten a top-25 team as an underdog.

It would also be nice if the players retained more of their personality after they join your roster. Currently, the game includes a little factoid about the player. As far as I can tell, this is just fluff, but it does help to give a little bit of character and humanity to the recruiting process. I would like to see this idea expanded. Perhaps players could have a Morale attribute that is based on the team's performance relative to the player's recruiting desires. Maintaining those pitch ratings while the player is on your team will improve that player's morale. Failing to maintain the pitch ratings would lower the player's morale. If their morale gets too low, they may seek a transfer to another school.

For example, if the player had an "Elite" interest in "Playoff Potential", but your school fails to win its conference or reach the playoffs several years in a row, then that player might seek a transfer during his junior or senior years.

The recruiting screen should also provide better feedback in certain regards. I would like to see the recruiting screen show if a prospect is eligible for a campus visit, for example. If a prospect is signed to another school, I would also prefer if the game did not automatically remove that prospect and replace him. That is confusing. Instead, the player should remain on the recruiting board until the user manually removes him. This ensures that the user knows which players (and at which positions) are no longer available, and also which school(s) succeeded at recruiting them. In general, I would like for Maximum Football to give more feedback as to whether other schools are actively recruiting the prospects that I'm targeting, and how successful they are at doing so.

Maximum Football could also take a few lessons from Axis Football. Including some basic school athletic finances would be a welcome addition. This could allow you to spend money to upgrade facilities such as your stadium, school campus, and athletic facilities, which would improve the respective recruiting pitches.

Bigger schools should have more regional scouts to cover more of the country,
while smaller schools should have to focus on a smaller set of "pipeline states".

I also think that Axis' concept of regional scouts would fit in very nicely with a college-themed game. Scouts could be assigned to individual states or regions of the country. A scout would provide more accurate estimates of the talent level of recruits in that region and would be able to spend hours visiting prospects in that region to make pitches. Your coaching staff, on the other hand, would be limited to a small number of hours in which they can only make phone calls (but can call any recruit in the country). Larger schools would have more scouts to send across the country, while smaller schools would have to focus their recruiting efforts on a smaller number of "pipeline states".

Because college players are "amateurs", I think that a college football game should put a greater priority on the idea of developing talent and teaching the game to young players. This is another place where Maximum could take a lesson from Axis: by including a coaching staff for each team. There should also be a robust gameplanning feature (see below). Each week, you should receive a scouting report for your upcoming opponent and be able to set up a gameplan for the upcoming game. You should be able to enter the Spring League practice mode from within Dynasty Mode and be able to practice with your Dynasty team against an upcoming opponent's playbook.

Maximum already beats Axis in terms of giving users an engaging activity to perform between games, in the form of the in-season recruiting. But I think Maximum can provide more off-field gameplay by including weekly gameplanning, practice, and training mechanics -- whether they come in the form of playable drill mini-games (like modern Madden's Skill Trainer or PS2 Madden training camp drills), or in the form of management spreadsheets and menus (like in NFL 2k5).

The game should also definitely include some kind of off-season training camp that allows you to evaluate your new recruits, engage in position battles, red shirt underclassmen who aren't likely to contribute immediately, and finalize your depth chart before moving into the season proper.

I also wouldn't mind seeing some kind of team chemistry system. Perhaps this can be on a per unit basis, instead of the whole team. For example, the offensive line would have its own unit chemistry, the receiver corp would have its own unit chemistry, the defensive secondary would have its own unit chemistry, and so on. Units that play together for a long time would have high chemistry, which would improve every player in the unit.

This would have several knock-on effects. First, it would make an injury to a starter in any given unit much more impactful, as the backup would most likely not have strong chemistry with the rest of the unit, and it would bring down the performance of the unit as a whole. Secondly, it would provide an incentive to start veteran upper-classmen over more talented under-classmen. Even if a newly-recruited freshman or a sophomore has a slightly higher overall rating, you might still want to redshirt him or put him on special teams, and let the upper-classman play because his experience in the unit will make the entire unit better. Lastly, units that have multiple years of experience playing alongside one another will have noticeably better performance. If you recruit an entire offensive line as freshmen, and they play together as sophomores and juniors, then by the time they are all seniors together, their chemistry will be so high that they will be playing far above the level of their actual ratings.

Remember back when EA published both Madden and NCAA Football each year? And NCAA Football allowed you to export your draft class at the end of each season, and Madden allowed you to import that draft class into the NFL draft. Both of those games kind of joined together to create a single larger football experience. Well what if we had one game that did that?

We used to be able to export
NCAA draft classes into Madden.

Since Maximum Football already supports multiple leagues and rulesets, Canuck could develop a Dynasty mode for each of its professional leagues (the U.S. Pro league and the Canadian Pro league). It is hypothetically possible for this one game to allow a user to play college and pro Dynasties simultaneously within a single integrated save file. Scouting information, stats, news, and so forth could all be shared between modes. At the end of a season, players from the college Dynasty could be drafted into either the U.S. or Canadian pro league, and the user could hypothetically play as a team in each of those leagues as well and continue to follow their favorite college stars after they go pro. Instead of having to wait till the end of the college season to export your draft class, then import it into the pro game at the start of the season, you'd be able to play both college and pro schedules concurrently and have full access to all relevant information from both leagues.

Sports games have already been going in this sort of direction for many years now. NCAA Football games used to have a career mode that let you play part of your college athlete's high school career. Madden 20 has the "Face of the Franchise" mode that allows you to play part of your player's college career. The NCAA College Hoops 2k games used to allow you to play the entire Amateur Basketball League (ABL) tournament in order to scout and recruit high school players. So the idea of a single sports game encompassing multiple levels of play is not completely unprecedented; it's just never been done on the scale that I'm proposing.

Sports games have already included the ability to play part of a lower league.

You could even have interactions between the different pro leagues. Perhaps teams in the "American Pro" league (the NFL stand-in) could poach star players from the Canadian league. The Canadian league could, in turn sign highly-rated backup, practice squad, or free agent players from the American league in order to fill out their own rosters. The game does, after all, have Doug Flutie's namesake, and all of this stuff did happen to Doug Flutie throughout his career.

Return to Contents.

Robust Gameplanning

Both games' wishlists included a description of an enhanced "gameplanning" feature. I've proposed a similar idea in the past (in anticipation of a hopeful return of EA's NCAA Football series), but I feel it's worthwhile to re-iterate the idea here. A gameplanning or preparation mechanic would give the player things to do in the "week" leading up to a game, adding to the immersive feeling of managing a team, while also hopefully giving the player meaningful strategic decisions to make before entering the game match itself.

Gameplanning could involve installing plays into your playbook and having your players practice them. In the case of Maximum Football's Dynasty mode, this might mean that you start each season with a playbook of zero plays, and then have to add a certain number of plays over the pre-season training camp and each week of the season. Only plays that have been installed in the playbook can be run in games. Because your college players are "amateurs" who don't necessarily know all the ins and outs of football, they have to be taught plays and concepts before they can execute them on the field. Even though this idea is geared more towards Maximum Football, I believe that a similar approach can work in Axis.

Players should receive attribute bonuses when running plays that you install and practice during that week's game prep. Players should also receive a significant attribute drop-off when running plays that you have never practiced, or haven't practiced in a long time. Teams with better coaching staffs could be able to practice more plays, thus granting those teams more diverse playbooks. This would also mean that hiring new coaches with new playbooks would mean re-teaching the new plays to the players before that coach's scheme can be run in games. This could act as a substantial penalty and deterrent to firing a head coach or coordinator mid-season.

As mentioned before, this functionality could be handled via playable mini-games or drills (similar to Madden's Skill Trainer), or it could all be done via menus and spreadsheets (as in NFL 2k5's practice schedule).

I would like to see more gameplanning and preparation activities between games.

The game could also track how often each team calls each play in a game and how successful they are at executing them. CPU teams should put higher weight on calling plays that they have a high success rate with, especially in important situations (such as 3rd or 4th down attempts, etc.). NFL 2k5 already did similar tracking with its VIP profile feature. This should be part of the scouting report, and opponents should be able to install plays to try to counter opponent's best plays. If my scouting report says that my upcoming opponent likes to run a play action pass to a tight end on 3rd and short or 4th and short situations, then I can call an appropriate play or put that tight end in double coverage in order to try to stop the play when those situations come up in the ensuing game.

By tracking the success of plays, the game's A.I. could also potentially become "adaptive". It will hopefully "learn" which plays and concepts work, and will be more likely to call those plays. I'm not super knowledgeable about artificial intelligence algorithms or how either game's play-selection logic works, so I'm hoping that such a weighted tree would be manageable enough to process in a reasonable timeframe (e.g. the few seconds that the CPU spends in the play-call screen).

Coaches should essentially have to commit to a gameplan by reviewing the opponent's playbook and tendencies, and modifying your own playbook to try to stop the opponent. During possession changes and timeouts, both teams should be able to tweak their offensive and defensive gameplans. During halftime, both teams have an opportunity to make major revisions to their gameplans (or throw them out entirely).

Essentially, what I would like is for the game to include mechanics and systems that allow the user (or CPU opponent) to essentially win the game during weekly prep, by coming up with a better gameplan than their opponent. In the words of Sun Tzu: "Victorious armies win first, and then go to war; whilst defeated armies go to war, and then seek to win.".

What's especially frustrating is that Madden already has most of the groundwork laid out to allow Tiburon to accomplish this, but they just don't do anything substantial with it. They already have a system for situational play-calling, and they already track each coach's play calls and recommend counters to them based on the situation. and they already have a weekly preparation mechanic. But they don't actually go to the extent of letting the user customize your playbook for an upcoming opponent. Because of this, I never really feel like my gameplanning or weekly preparation really matters in Madden.

My hope is that one (or both) of these indie games can find a way to provide me with that feeling that is lacking from Madden of managing my team on a week-to-week basis.

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