Legend Bowl - title

I already made one video praising Legend Bowl's innovative, player-driven passing mechanics: the passing charge meter, and the QB Vision. Within hours of me posting that video, Sports Gamer's Online broke the news that leaked information on Madden 23 shows that Tiburon will be copying this idea from Legend Bowl and implementing its own pass charge meter. If you can't beat 'em, copy 'em, right? Well it wouldn't be fair to Madden or to >Maximum Football or to Axis Football if I just gave Legend Bowl a free pass for not being a 3-d, physics-based football sim, and if I didn't also give a critical eye to Legend Bowl as well. So now I want to turn my attention towards perhaps my single biggest pet peeve with Legend Bowl.

The full commentary video is available on YouTube.

You might be thinking, "if this quy who made hours of video content tearing apart Madden, Maximum and Axis Football can't find anything wrong with Legend Bowl other than to nitpick about the huddle, then Legend Bowl must be pretty darn near perfect!" But, mmmm ... no. Legend Bowl is far from perfect, and there are plenty of other things that I can find to complain about, especially if its developer wants it to be taken seriously as "simulation" football. I have issues with how the game handles its difficulty levels, and the inability to more finely tune difficulty to my skill level or play style. Defenses have horrible containment logic and let too many plays break to the outside. Pulling linemen are often too slow about getting out to their blocks. Every team uses the same playbook, with the same formations and plays, so none of them have any distinct play style or personality. The QB Vision mechanic could use some more granularity. Special teams feels wildly under-developed. And ever since the Franchise patch, the button on the PS4 gamepad that used to assign a kickoff returner now moves a player to the top of the depth chart, meaning I can't set my kickoff returner for Franchise -- let alone field goal holder, longsnapper, or coverage gunners. Maybe I'll talk more in detail about any or all of those issues as well, but perhaps the one issue that sticks out to me the most with Legend Bowl is its weird game clock.

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Legend Bowl - title

Readers of my blog and viewers of my YouTube channel may be familiar with my series on "How Madden Fails To Simulate Football". In the second and third episodes of that series, I discussed how Madden's binary blocking logic, and the ability of QBs to hit any receiver anywhere on the field with the push of a button, leads to unrealistic pass rushes and inflated sack stats. Pass rushers either have next to no impact on the play, and the QB can throw a dime to anywhere on the field; or the pass rush gets home for a sack. An aggressive pass rush in Madden does not force a QB to have to throw early or off-platform and result in an off-target pass. Or at least, Madden's attempts at emulating this reality of football often feel poorly-defined, arbitrary, and inconsistently-applied. It hasn't been since the QB Vision Cone of 06 that Madden has really come close to getting this right.

This is where a little, pixel-art indie football game called Legend Bowl really shines (see my full review). With one simple, elegant mechanic, Legend Bowl has managed to emulate the idea of a panicked QB having to release an off-target pass before he wants to, in order to avoid the pass rush. You see, Legend Bowl employs a charge-up mechanic for determining the power and accuracy of passes -- and the same mechanic is also used for kicking.

This entire essay is also available in video format on YouTube.

The QB can still throw to any receiver with the push of a button (although there is a "QB Vision" mechanic, but it doesn't work like Madden's old QB Vision, and we'll talk about that a bit later), but the QB needs to hold the button for a split second in order to charge up the throw. Release the button too early, and the throw will be an under-powered, floaty, lame duck of a pass that will sail over the target's head, or be easily picked off by zone defenders. Hold the button for too long, and the throw will be "over-charged", which results in a severe accuracy penalty. The pass will likely be a laser beam directly into the dirt -- the football equivalent of a gutterball.

Ideally, you always want to charge your throw to 100% power, without overcharging and taking an accuracy penalty. However, that is easier said than done when a 300-pound defensive lineman is charging right at you. This is where Legend Bowl respects the pass rush in a way that Madden hasn't come close since the days of its QB Vision Cone. If the defense gets pressure, the QB doesn't have time to hold that button down and fully charge the pass, which will lead to more floaty, inaccurate throws. Inversely, panicking because you see a defender break free of his block at the last second can distract the player's brain just enough to mis-time the charging of the throw and over-charge it for an accuracy penalty. This is especially true on higher difficulty levels, in which the meter charges faster and the accuracy penalty is greater.

Pressure can rush throws, making them less accurate, and preventing the QB from putting his full power behind it.

Best of all, as far as I can tell, the CPU-controlled QBs are also bound by this mechanic. They also, as far as I can tell, have to take a split second to charge their throws. And if they don't have time to fully charge the throw, they too will throw a wobbly floater of a pass that sail over the receiver's head, or be swatted down or picked by a defender waiting in a nearby zone.

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Here we go again. The NFL is modifying its overtime rules. Now, both teams will have an opportunity to possess the ball in overtime. Even if the winner of the coin toss scores a touchdown on the opening drive of overtime, they will still have to kick off to the other team, who will now have an opportunity to match with a touchdown of their own, or potentially win the game if they convert a 2-point conversion.

The rule change is in response to the Chiefs' victory over the Bills in last season's AFC Divisional Playoff. If you recall, the 4th quarter of that game was a shootout with 5 lead-changes. The Bills scored what should have been the game-winning touchdown with 13 seconds left in regulation. The Chiefs then gained 44 yards in 2 plays and kicked a game-tying 49-yard field goal to trigger overtime. The Chiefs received the opening kickoff, drove down the field, and scored a game-winning touchdown against the exhausted Bills' defense. The Bills never got to possess the ball in overtime because, according to the old rule, if the opening drive results in a touchdown, the game ends.

Chiefs beat Bills in overtime Photo Credit: William Purnell/Icon Sportswire
The Chiefs beat the Bills in overtime of the 2022 AFC Divisional Playoff.

Fans have complained about NFL overtime rules for a very long time. The common complaint is that the winner of the game often comes down to a coin toss. But this is only partially true. In fact, in the regular season, the winning percentage of the team receiving the overtime kickoff is only barely more than 50% (86-67-10). This percentage changes to over 90% (10-1) in the playoffs (since the current hybrid sudden death rule went into effect). The disparity probably results from playoff teams being generally better and having better offenses.

So what else can be done to change the rules? I've already expressed my distaste for proposals to implement college overtime rules. I'm not going to rehash that here, since that isn't what the NFL is doing. Other proposals include making overtime an extension of the 4th quarter, which just gives an overwhelming advantage to the team who possesses the ball at the end of the 4th quarter, and removes any pressure for that team to execute in the final minute or so. Or maybe overtime should just be decided by a field goal shootout? Just take the offenses and defenses out of the equation entirely, and let the kickers decide the winner!

Really though, the NFL's new rule still doesn't solve the underlying problem: which is the coin flip. Now, if both offenses score, the game still goes into sudden death, and the team that gets the tie-breaking 3rd possession was still determined by the coin toss. In that Chiefs vs Bills Divisional Playoff game, even if the Bills had scored a TD to match the Chiefs in overtime, the Chiefs would still get the ball next, and it would be sudden death. The Chiefs would probably still win against a tired Bills defense that was completely incapable of stopping them. The game would just go on longer, the defenses would be even more tired, and the risk of injury would be greater. So here's my proposal:

I propose the NFL get rid of coin tosses.

Get rid of the coin toss

I think the NFL should go back to having sudden death overtime, and should get rid of the coin toss entirely. Instead of having a coin toss, the visiting team should just be able to chose whether it wants to receive the opening kickoff, and the home team should be able to chose whether they want to receive the overtime kickoff. This might sound unfair, but the idea here is to remove a coin toss from the equation, and make the opening possession of overtime become a part of a team's home-field advantage.

In regular season games, teams play half their games at home -- or at least they do over a 2-year average, since the NFL added a 17th game to the schedule. This means each team will have a 50/50 change of getting the opening possession in regular season overtimes, so it's fair. In the post-season, the home team is determined by playoff seeding, which is a function of the teams' regular season records. The team with the better regular season record gets homefield in a playoff matchup. This means that getting the opening kickoff in a playoff overtime will be a privilege that the home team will have earned by having the better record (or the seeding tie-breaker).

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Legend Bowl - title

While I was neck-deep in the 2020 editions of Axis Football and Maximum Football, another small indie football game slipped under my radar. Legend Bowl was in early-access on Steam for 2 years before its 1.0 release in fall of 2021. Its retro, pixel-art graphics caused me to initially dismiss it as just another nostalgia arcade game -- another remake or knock-off of Techmo Bowl.

But YouTube comments, tweets, and a discount during a Steam sale have finally convinced me to check it out. After all, Legend Bowl was awarded "best alternative sport game of 2021" by Operation Sports, so it must be doing something right!

In those 2 years since going into early access, Legend Bowl has resisted the urge to just release an unfinished game and re-sell annual incremental upgrades to gamers, the way that almost every other sports game does -- whether it's licensed or not. Instead, Super Pixel Games is confident enough in the game that it will continue to sell based on quality and word-of-mouth. Its creator seems more than happy to treat Legend Bowl as a living product, providing regular feature updates, bug fixes, and so forth without feeling the need to charge us full-price, again, for them. The game has been successful so far, and I'm sure there will, eventually, be a sequel. But in the meantime, I am thrilled that I do not have to re-review a nearly-identical football game each fall.

I initially dismissed Legend Bowl as just another Techmo Bowl clone.

Pixel-perfect simulation?

Don't let the pixel-art fool you. Legend Bowl is not just a casual arcade football game. It can be enjoyed that way, for sure. It's simple enough to pick up and play. Nevertheless, Legend Bowl is grounded in sound, fundamental football concepts.

Perhaps the first thing that gamers will notice is the incredibly slow pace of play. The on-field action is slow, allowing the user plenty of time to react to read the opponent and react to what is going on, whether I'm running the ball, passing the ball, or playing defense.

Running is not simply a race to the edge, as in so many other football games that have poor containment and pursuit angles. Cutting back inside, against the grain, is often a great way to pick up extra yardage or break a huge play, especially if my blockers are in good positions to shield my runner's cutback. Reversing field completely is also much more viable in Legend Bowl than it is in any other football game I've played. It feels really good to cut back inside, get behind the lead blockers, and hit a narrow seam for a breakaway play.

Running out of stamina and becoming "gassed" limits the frequency of breakaway plays.

To help get those precious yards, running moves feel really good to execute. Jukes have a nice explosiveness, and are great for side-stepping around lead blockers. The stiff arm is brutally-effective -- maybe a bit too much so. Running moves use a system similar to NFL 2k, requiring the user to mash a face button to sprint, or hold it down to charge up an extra-powerful move. And all these moves consume quite a bit of stamina, which prevents them from being spammed, and requires the user to be deliberate with our use of these moves. Sprinting or using special moves will result in the player becoming "gassed", causing him to slow down considerably. Runners being caught from behind while they are gassed has proven to be an excellent way of limiting the frequency of breakaway plays. It might even be a bit too strict.

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Friday, January 7, 2022 05:30 PM

Should the NFL allow teams to force a tie?

in Sports by MegaBearsFan
NFL

This weekend could see an interesting possibility occur in the NFL. It's the final week of the regular season, and the schedule has been set in a way in which the best outcome for both teams playing in the Sunday night game could be to just not play and force a tie. I'm not sure if this has ever happened in NFL history before, or if the NFL has any plans in place to prevent this from happening.

The Colts, Chargers, and Raiders all currently have 9 wins on the season, and are all competing for the last 2 AFC wildcard slots. The Steelers and Ravens sit on the fringe of eligibility with 8 wins each, and the Steelers already have a tie in their record. The schedule is such that the Colts play their game against the Jaguars in the early game, and the Ravens and Steelers also play each other in the early game (10 am for us on the west coast). The Chargers and Raiders game is then scheduled as the Sunday night game, which means that the outcome of both the Colts / Jaguars game and the Steelers / Ravens game will be known to the Chargers and the Raiders before their game kicks off.

Here's the crazy thing: in the unlikely event that the Colts lose their game, and the Ravens beat the Steelers, then the Colts, Ravens, Chargers, and Raiders will all have 9 wins prior to the Chargers and the Raiders playing their game. In that event, the Chargers and Raiders could effectively not play their Sunday night matchup, take the tie, and both would have 9 wins, 7 losses, 1 tie, while the Colts and Ravens would both have 9 wins, and 8 losses. The Chargers and Raiders would both have the same number of wins as the Colts and Ravens, but 1 fewer loss owing to the tie, and both would have better records than the Colts and Ravens. In that scenario, the Chargers and Raiders would both get those last 2 playoff spots, and the Colts and Ravens would be eliminated.

Could we see an NFL game in which both teams kneel the whole game to run out the clock?

If the Steelers win, they would also have the same record as the Chargers and Raiders (9-8-1), and I'm not sure who would win the tie-breakers in that case. It would come down to head-to-head matchups, division record, conference record, and then I think points for and against.

If the Colts and Steelers lose, the Chargers and Raiders could both agree to send out reserve players to simply kneel down every play and punt in order to run out the clock and take a 0-0 tie, and both have a guaranteed playoff berth. If they actually play the game, then the losing team will be eliminated from the playoffs due to tie-breakers, and the Colts or Ravens would get the final spot. We could potentially see a game in which both offenses simply kneel on the ball on 1st, 2nd, and 3rd downs, then punt to a returner who fair catches the punt. That could be the entire game.

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Welcome to Mega Bears Fan's blog, and thanks for visiting! This blog is mostly dedicated to game reviews, strategies, and analysis of my favorite games. I also talk about my other interests, like football, science and technology, movies, and so on. Feel free to read more about the blog.

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