submit to reddit
Pin it

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.

If you want to see more (better-produced) video content like this from me, then I invite you to support me on Patreon.

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. As such, Ultimate Team has become the design focus of the game every year. It's where we see the most improvement and the most new features and ideas. Sadly, this mode does not attempt to provide a fulfilling and interesting football or team-building experience. It's designed to sell packs of cards. These ideas are squandered on a game mode based around a pay-to-win model of addictive gambling-like behavior -- the same design that EA got in trouble for implementing in Star Wars: Battlefront II, but which consumers seem to give them a free pass regarding the sports games that have been doing it for years.

Ea could just make Ultimate Team be its own, stand-alone "live service". It could even be offered as a free-to-play (or as Jim Sterling calls it "fee-to-pay") game! But they don't. In addition to the hundreds of millions being raked in from the micro-transaction sales alone, EA also wants Ultimate Team players to have to shell out the $60 entry fee every year. Why not just make it a stand-alone subscription service then?

It's obvious which game mode makes the most money for EA.

Separating Ultimate Team from the core Madden package would [hopefully] allow the Madden developers more resources and leeway to implement a better core Madden experience for those of us who exclusively play Franchise mode. I'm imagining a Madden release model in which Ultimate Team is a stand-alone, free-to-play "live service" that uses the same engine as Madden for the on-field gameplay, and which is updated each year with new gameplay features and enhancements for free. It wouldn't actually be free; it would be funded by the hundreds of millions of dollars that EA makes from micro-transactions. Madden then could be an annual (or bi-annual) release that sells for $30 or $40 and includes Play Now, Online Head to Head, and Franchise game modes. Longshot could be included as well, or it could be sold as a stand-alone $10 or $15 game, or as a DLC pack for Madden.

MUT could then be used as a platform and test bed for introducing new gameplay upgrades over the course of the year. This would serve to play-test those new upgrades, and to hopefully encourage player retention during the NFL off-season, as the game would be regularly updated over the course of the entire year. This might make good business sense for EA, since consumer retention during the 6 months of the year in which we don't have football would increase the sales of card packs.

Legacy issues and piling on half-baked features

The problem isn't simply that EA is prioritizing MUT over other game modes. The problem is that EA can't even really decide how (and if) they want to continue to support Franchise mode. Despite all the talk of three and five-year plans for the game, EA keeps hiring and firing new people with new creative visions to lead the development. Or if the leads aren't being fired by EA, then they are being pressured to resign, probably as a result of having to continually conflict with EA's corporate mandates.

Each annual release has to have 2 or 3 back-of-the-box features.

As such, the Madden product has been very stagnant for a very long time. The game's developer, Tiburon, doesn't have the time, and isn't given the resources to fix or resolve outstanding legacy issues with the series. At the same time, the need to sell a new game every year pressures the team into introducing a handful of new features each year, so that they can plaster marketing blurbs onto the backs of the boxes to sell product. It's unlikely that an average consumer would pick up a Madden box that says "The same game as last year, but we fixed some stuff that wasn't working" and feel compelled to buy it. Instead, the company has to pretend that they are adding new, "revolutionary" new features every year. The reality, however, is that they never have the time to actually develop a completely new and revolutionary feature, because revolutionizing the game would require dramatic rebuilds of various features from the ground up.

The end result is that new features get added to the game, but the developers don't have the time (or the willingness) to rebuild or rebalance the existing systems, mechanics, and features around those new features. This leaves some old features feeling very vestigial and orphaned, as old features that never quite worked properly (or which lacked polish) hang around for years without Tiburon fixing or polishing them. Eventually, some of these vestigial features get amputated. Other times they languish and fester indefinitely.

Precision passing and defensive shifting

Perhaps the single, biggest legacy problem that exists in modern Madden is the proliferation of motion-shifting, warping, force fields, phasing, and clipping issues. These are terms that will come up very often whenever you read or listen to anything that is critical of Madden over the past 10 years or so. If you're not familiar with these terms, here's what they usually mean (though any given writer, streamer, or Youtuber may use them in different contexts):

  • Motion-shifting: "motion" and "shifting" are actually terms used in real football to denote an offensive player who moves (usually laterally across the formation) in the offensive backfield prior to the snap of the ball. This isn't what motion-shifting refers to in the context of Madden. In Madden, motion-shifting refers to instances in which a player's body moves or slides across the field without using proper body mechanics to perform the movement. The player will appear for a brief moment as if he is sliding on ice or levitating and may move across the field without moving his feet, may turn in place, or perform some other impossible feat of mobility.
  • Warping: is used almost interchangeably with "motion shift", and specifically refers to instances in which a player is motion-shifted in order to interact with another player or the ball. This may include a receiver's position being adjusted in mid-air so that he lines up with the football to make a catch, a blocker sliding laterally across the field for a few feet in order to engage with a defender, or a tackler sliding several feet in order to line up a tackle animation. In these cases, the players were not in proper position to make the plays that the game wants them to make, so it shifts their position in order to line up the animations.
  • Force fields: are the opposite of warping. In this case, a player (usually the ball-carrier, though sometimes also a receiver or defender) stops in place or slows down for a moment in order to let another player (or the ball) catch up to him. This usually takes the form of a runner stopping or slowing so that a pursuing defender can catch up to him for the tackle, or it may be a receiver or defender having their momentum slowed in order to line them up for a catch animation. Admittedly, I don't see these instances happening very often anymore, so I don't have any footage of them to show you.
  • Phasing or clipping are also used interchangeably to refer to instances in which players' physical bodies or appendages occupy the same space at the same time. Clipping is a general video game term for when this happens, and it's a very common visual bug in almost all games. The most common cause of phasing (and the most egregious example of it) is when a defender or receiver reaches his arms through the body of the other player in order to make a catch, swat, or interception. More benign examples include arms, legs, or heads clipping through the other player in blocking or tackling animations.
Players are able to shift and phase through each other.

Admittedly, tackle shifting has become much less prevalent in recent years, though slight shifts do still crop up from time to time. Instead, the big problem with tackling recently has been with the contradiction of the physics and the use of canned animations. Specific animations often completely disable the game's physics, such that momentum or inertia are not conserved, and players just don't feel like they have any weight. Tackle animations may cancel out a player's momentum, or they may grant extra momentum.

Animations also take control away from the user and prevent other players on the field from interacting with the player(s) locked in animations. This happens commonly in tackles and in receiver / defender interactions.

While many Madden players dismiss such problems as simple bugs or glitches, other more critical members of the community have suspected for years that these faux pas are indicative of the game "cheating" in order to make pre-determined scripted outcomes occur. In fact, the notes released for the August 5th patch have provided validation to some who suspect that the game scripts the outcome of plays. The note says that early block sheds had been tuned down on All-Madden difficulty in order to bring yards per carry up into their "target range".

A patch note from Tiburon may expose some of how the game's suspected scripting works.

The implication here is that the game uses a "rubber band" mechanic that allows defenders to break free of blocks early if yards per carry starts to exceed an arbitrarily-determined threshold that Tiburon has set. That is, the game allows the CPU-controlled defenders to exceed their own ratings, in spite of the ratings of the offensive blocker, in order to artificially maintain the yards per carry value that Tiburon has defined. So if you grind at the defense with a successful running attack in the first half of the game, conventional football wisdom would say that the defense should get tired and worn down, and running should be even more successful in the second half, unless the defense makes a scheme adjustment (such as putting more men in the box) to defend the run, at the cost of leaving themselves more vulnerable to the pass and play action. Instead, Madden will (in complete contrast to conventional football wisdom) allow the defense to cheat in order to hold your running back in check and keep yards per carry low.

The game will even rub it in your face that it is rubber-banding your players.

It stands to reason that the scripting works the other way around too. If you hold the opponent's running game in check early, then the CPU will force your players to play worse later in the game to allow the opposing running back to break big runs to bring their yards per carry up into the expected range. I don't know what else to call this other than "cheating", and this is why I don't play All-Madden difficulty.

I also want to emphasize that I'm not complaining because the game is "too hard". I'm complaining that the game is unrealistic and un-representative of actual football. I get just as frustrated when the CPU cheats to let me win, and I've been known to throw my controller to the ground and turn the game off because the CPU just gives me free plays that I didn't deserve. I don't want the CPU to cheat to hold me down, but I also don't want the CPU to cheat to prop me up. I want my victories to be earned.

Warping, shifting, and phasing may be deliberate
function of the game's difficulty and sliders

The problem here is that, as far as EA is concerned, shifting and phasing might not even be a problem; they might be features!

Even if that's the case, keeping them in the game only flies in the face of other features that the developers try to implement. What is the point of having features like leading the receiver, or throwing low or throwing high, if the defenders can continue to shift to make interceptions or swats, or they can literally phase their arms through the receiver's body in order to make an interception or swat? It doesn't matter where I throw the ball if the physical bodies of the receiver and cover man are not respected, and if the defender can break the laws of physics to make plays on the ball that they should not be physically capable of making.

Features that give the user precision control over the player or ball are moot if the game can disable them at a whim.

Similarly, the shifting and warping that occurs in order to line players up for tackle animations is completely antithetical to the intent of locomotion systems used for running (whether they be in the form of True Step or Real Player Motion or whatever EA chooses to call it in any given year). If a tackler can just magnetically snap to my runner to make a tackle, then what is the point of including locomotion features that allow me to make precision cuts, evasive moves, and changes of direction? What is the point of "calculating" every step that a player takes if a diving tackle can trip you up regardless of the position of the runner's feet, or worse yet, if the game changes the animation to move the player's feet in order to line up with the tackle? What is the point of being able to "get skinny" or "push the pile" to get through holes in the line, if adjacent defenders can just shift out of their blocking animations and warp to my runner in the hole? And what is the point of giving defenders the ability to make a reach tackle if they can just shift and warp out of blocks to make tackles anyway?

If the shifting and phasing are bugs, then they are bugs that interfere with the successful implementation of other features that are put into the game, and EA should be devoting extensive resources to fixing them. And if EA isn't committing those resources to Tiburon to fix these problems, then EA is just being lazy and shortsighted and either unable or unwilling to fix mechanics that are not working as intended. If shifting and phasing are actually deliberate functions of the game's difficulty and slider settings, then Tiburon is knowingly and deliberately sabotaging the features that they are putting into their own game! In that case, EA is fraudulently advertising the product when they tell us that these new features will "give the user unprecedented control" or whatever bollocks they put on the back of the box and the promotional posters at Gamestop and the TV spots interrupting actual NFL football games, because they know that they programmed the game to turn that control off whenever the game scripting deems that the user or CPU isn't going to be allowed to do something.

Defensive pressure and throwing out of a sack

Remember a couple years ago when Tiburon added a bunch more strip-sack and throw-out-of-sack animations, and the community complained that there were too many strip sacks? EA basically had to tune strip sacks down with a series of mid-year patches to the point that the mechanic was barely relevant to the game anymore.

Well, that strip sack feature was actually very realistic, and I thought worked very well. The problem was that the rest of the game didn't work very well around that feature. For one thing, the problem was that users (and the CPU) were holding onto the ball too long instead of checking down. It was also compounded by the fact that offensive play calls designed to counter blitzes and pressure (such as screens and draws) don't reliably work, and often fail harder when the defense actually does blitz, because the offensive line does not block the play the way that they are supposed to.

Madden 17 [LEFT] had an excess of throw-out-of-sack animations,
which Tiburon tuned down to the point that the mechanic is hardly relevant anymore.

The bigger problem was that the rest of the game wasn't modified around that strip sack mechanic. Blocking engagement was (and still is) too binary, leading to defenders (especially interior rushers) releasing too easily and getting clean shots at the QB without the QB having a chance to "feel" the pocket collapsing and appropriately reacting to the pressure. Then the following year, EA added the reach tackles, which helped with that problem, but EA didn't bother to re-tune the strip sack or throw-out-of-sack to accommodate that. So now we have virtually no strip sack or lame duck passes, even in situations where we should see them. QBs just tuck the ball and take the sack, or the ball goes straight into the ground for an incompletion.

All the halftime shows that have come and gone

Seriously, how many half-time shows have come and gone over the past 10 to 15 years? Remember the "Extra Point" halftime show? How many of those have been half-implemented, stagnated for two or three years, only to be completely removed or replaced? Same goes for pregame presentation. And they still haven't done jack squat with the postgame. There's a new halftime show this year too, and it's lame, and it's completely skipped over during Play Now exhibition games and Franchise preseason games.

So many half-baked halftime shows have come and gone over the last 10 to 15 years.

In addition to the NFL license, EA also has ESPN and NFL Network licenses (or at least, they used to), not to mention a shit-load of money to throw around (thanks, in part to all you people throwing money away in Ultimate Team). They can't bring in Chris Berman to do a "Fastest 3 Minutes in Sports" highlight reel? Maybe they fear that would be too similar to NFL 2k5? What ever happened to the ESPN and NFL Films music tracks? Or what about licensing a version of Hank Williams Jr's "Are You Ready for Some Football?" for Monday night games? Or what about doing something functional, like transitioning some of the pre-game and post-game presentation into the loading screens to save us some time? If they were neglecting presentation to improve the game's physics, A.I., and franchise mode, then I'd be happy as a clam, but they're not doing that either. EA has the money and the resources to do these things. If they wanted to invest the time and resources to make a good game, they could.

Why not invest in real-life presentations, like Chris Berman's "Fastest 3 Minutes in Sports"
or Hank Williams Jr's "Are You Ready For Some Football?"?

Before they were put on indefinite hiatus (the optimist in me prefers to think of it as a "hiatus"), the NCAA Football games were making pretty solid strides in the presentation department. They had full ESPN integration that used graphics and overlays that were pulled straight out of Saturday television broadcasts. Not only that, but the commentators actually would analyse how the game had played and even how the teams might adjust in the second half -- something that could actually be a useful tool for a user looking to change up your own strategy in the second half.

NCAA Football 14's halftime show featured actual analysis.

Scheme fits don't fit into the rest of the game

Turning our attention to the newest Madden title: Madden 19: we now have the scheme fits mechanic and player archetypes. These features don't really interact with the other game systems much (if at all). Scheme fits only provide experience boosts to players who fit your scheme. It doesn't provide attribute or performance boosts in the way that the weekly training drills do. Heck, the scheme you select doesn't even affect your playbook or play calling! You can chose to run a fast-paced spread offense scheme, but then select a power running or west coast playbook, and it won't affect the on-field performance of your team at all!

The depth chart doesn't specify the archetype of the players.

Not only that, but Tiburon failed to update other elements of the game that relate to (and reference) the schemes and player archetypes. For example, the depth chart now includes specialist positions such as slot receiver, slot cornerback, power halfback, rush defensive ends, and so forth, but the depth chart doesn't bother to tell you which archetype(s) each player fits under or whether that player is a scheme fit. So if you slot receiver goes down with injury, and you go into your depth chart to replace him, the game doesn't bother to tell you which of your other receivers have the "slot" archetype. Same goes for wanting to decide which of your defensive ends to put in the alternate "rush" position.

Are these features deliberately designed to not interact with other game systems? Does Tiburon intend to make all these new features modular so that they can be plugged in and pulled out? Like the way that they pulled out the Targeted Passing mechanic from last year's game?

Thrown away to the land of the QB Vision Cone

Tiburon also has a track record of removing features. Sometimes they remove features that don't work, and they're removal probably improves the game. The QB Vision Cone comes to mind. Other times, features that are popular just disappear. The Tony Bruno radio show, or being able to hire offensive coordinators and assistant coaches, or the team and stadium creators, or the expansion draft from Madden 2002, and on and on and on. In both cases, however, they rarely (if ever) bother trying to improve a feature or fix major problems with it.

Look at, for example, the QB Vision Cone going all the way back to Madden 2006. The feature required the user to rotate the QB's head in order to accurately throw to a receiver in his field of vision. In principle, it's a good idea (as far as simulating the sport of football goes). In practice, it was cumbersome to use. This feature stuck around for several years and showed up as late as Madden 2008 on the PS3 and XBox 360! That's right, it was ported into the next generation!

The QB Vision Cone was cumbersome, and EA didn't even try to fix it.

The feature was probably rightfully removed, as it didn't really add enough to the game to be worth what it costs for the developers to maintain, and for the actual users to utilize. Though, some people actually do continue to defend it to this day, and every now and then a petition shows up asking for EA to reinstate the vision cone. Personally, I didn't mind the feature, and would not be opposed to a version of it returning to the game. Anyway, whether you liked the feature or not, Tiburon never really did anything with it after its initial launch -- other than to add an option to disable it. They didn't try to redesign the controls to make it less cumbersome -- even with the advent of motion controls for the Wii and PS3. They didn't try implementing any new assist features for the vision cone, nor did they try to rebalance it to make it easier to use. It just sat around for three years collecting dust before Tiburon finally decided to throw it away completely.

Targeted Passing vs Tackle Battle

This past year, we saw a similar situation with the Targeted Passing feature of Madden 18. The marketing for Madden 18 claimed that Targeted Passing would revolutionize the game, and the Longshot story mode was built -- at least in part -- to showcase that mechanic, as many of its scripted mini games and scenarios used a variation of Targeted Passing.

Targeted Passing didn't even survive into a second year.

Targeted Passing is simply gone in Madden 19. They didn't try to come up with a more comfortable control scheme as a compromise. It's not disabled by default and hidden behind a menu. It's completely gone -- out of the game. It didn't even make it to a second year before being shipped off to the "land of the QB Vision Cone". Consumers didn't care for it, so EA abandoned it. All that development effort just wasted. Had they not bothered with Targeted Passing, maybe Madden 19's Real Player Motion locomotion system could have been implemented a year early.

Speaking of Real Player Motion: it is basically just a rebranding of the "True Step" feature that was part of Madden 25, and then mysteriously disappeared. Maybe it didn't survive the transition to the Frostbite engine? Or maybe it was gone long before Frostbite. But now they're selling it to us again as "Real Player Motion" in Madden 19.

Real Player Motion is essentially a rebranding of the True Step feature sold to us in Madden 25.

Or how about any variation of the "ice the kicker" feature, which came in and out of Madden and NCAA Football over the course of the years? Is that still in Madden 19? I don't think so. At least, I haven't seen it...

Then there's the Tackle Battle mechanic, which (in my opinion) is one of the most confounding features in the game. This is a mechanic that allows the user to override a tackle animation (or tackle break animation) by pressing a button on a Quicktime prompt. Now, I'm not inherently opposed to Quicktime events. In fact, Madden's implementation of the Tackle Battle is one of the less offensive executions of a QTE-like mechanic.

Tackle Battle defeats the intent of physics-based tackling.

However, this mechanic spits in the face of any sort of physics or locomotion system that might be in the game. If you claim that your engine uses weight, and momentum, and leverage, and position to calculate a physics-based tackle, then how can you simultaneously include a feature that cancels all of that out?! How is this feature still in the game, but Targeting Passing is out?

OK, let me calm down a bit. I understand the point of the Tackle Battle mechanic. It's to give the user some control and influence over the outcome of the play. It's still garbage though. If you want a mechanic like this, then you should design the mechanic so that, instead of pushing a random button to trigger a random animation, the user should just be allowed to perform the regular ball-carrier or tackle moves, and if the weight distribution, momentum, and relative leverage positions of the players allows it, then the tackle gets to be broken with an appropriate animation. Make it a procedural part of your supposedly "physics-based" gameplay; not a random button prompt.

Things that don't work

There's also a series of fundamental football concepts that have never been properly implemented. Screen passes, draws, and play action passes have always been problematic (as have been pretty much every trick play). In real football, blockers are supposed to hit the defenders and then let them release before pulling out into the flats to block for the screen. This is supposed to slow down the defenders and make them think that they beat the block so that they don't realize that the play is a screen pass, and they'll continue to rush up field. Screen passes are supposed to be among the safest passes in football. But they don't reliably work in Madden.

In Madden blockers do not even attempt to slow down the defensive rush on screen passes.

In Madden Blockers don't even touch the defenders before pulling out to block the screen -- ever. This not only makes it trivial for a user controlling a defensive lineman to recognize the screen, but it also gives every defender a clean break to the quarterback. In some iterations of Madden screen passes have had worse than a 50/50 chance of the QB being sacked before the running back even gets out into the flats. Even in the iterations of Madden that do screen passes relatively well, the likelihood of a sack is still fairly substantial.

Receiver screens (bubble screens) aren't much better, as the camera angle usually prevents the user from even seeing the target of the pass. You have no idea if the receiver is in position when you throw the pass, or if the defense is converging on it. These passes also have an unreasonably high chance of being intercepted and returned for a touchdown.

Draws, on the other hand, are intended to lure the defense deep into the backfield, leaving large lanes for the running back to run through. This isn't the case in Madden however, as defensive rushers treat the play as a run. They don't rush upfield as far as they should, and they are too good at shedding their blocks and filling the gaps.

On difficulty settings above PRO, the CPU defenders never bit on play action.

Play action passes have also been a crap shoot in Madden for years. Blockers don't hold blocks long enough to complete the play action fake, leaving the QB vulnerable to sacks. This is actually somewhat realistic, but the problem is that (on any difficulty level above Pro) the secondary never, ever bites on the play action, no matter how effectively you've "established the run", because the CPU is completely oblivious to your habits and tendencies.

And don't get me started on other, more complicated trick plays like end-arounds, reverses, flea flickers, HB passes, and onside kicks. Ugh, onside kicks are just the worst. Madden's loose ball gameplay has always been atrocious. The player who fumbles the ball, and the player who causes the fumble are rarely (if ever) even aware that the fumble happened, and make no effort to try to recover the ball. They will sometimes lay on the ground while the ball just rolls around right next to them. This is because they are trapped in animation scripts that don't have any branches for recovering loose balls.

As for the player who do try to recover the ball, they are also often laughably incompetent and unrealistic. They will often kick the ball around, or the ball will just magnetically attach itself to a player's hand as he walks by, allowing him to effortlessly pick up the ball and run with it. This allows for far too many fumbles being returned for touchdowns by the defense.

The player who fumbles never makes any effort to grab the ball -- even if it's sitting in their lap.

Lastly, there's the things that that are actually included in the game, but which EA and Tiburon have yet to actually do anything with. Perhaps the single best example is the inclusion of the Longsnapper position on the depth chart. It's completely pointless. There's no player ratings, attributes, or traits that define who is a good longsnapper and who isn't. It doesn't matter who you put in this position, as longsnaps will never go wrong.

Or at least, they'll never go totally wrong. Madden does actually have animations for poor snaps. I've never seen one on a punt or field goal, but off-target snaps do happen occasionally to QBs in the shotgun or pistol. As far as I can tell though, these poor snaps are purely superficial. They never actually bounce off the ground or go flying over the QB's head. The snap is never premature or fumbled by the QB. And these bad snaps do not (as far as I can tell) throw off the timing of the play.

Despite the inclusion of a Longsnapper position on depth charts,
there are no ratings or attributes that make a player a good Longsnapper.

So in summary, we have a Longsnapper position, but no qualities that make a player a good longsnapper, nor any mechanics for botched snaps. But we do have animations for QBs adjusting to bad snaps, but they have absolutely no impact on the play, nor is there any characteristic of a player that defines whether or not he'll execute a poor snap. Why are either of these in the game if they don't do anything? The Longsnapper position has been in the game for as long as I can remember, going back at least to the PS2 era, but it's never had any effect on the game at all.

Of course, trying to propose that the game model botched snap is the sort of thing that will get you flamed by some Madden fanboys. They say they don't want games decided by flukes like botched snaps. But actual NFL games are occasionally decided by those sorts of plays. Besides, what's the difference between the random chance of a botched snap or the random chance of a dropped pass or fumble? Madden games can be decided by those sorts of plays. It's acceptable because players have ratings that determine how frequently they drop passes or fumble the ball, so you (as a user) have some control over who you give the ball to.

Players have attributes that determine how often they fumble or drop passes.

So if we add a rating or trait that defines who's good at snapping and at longsnapping, then we'd have a similar mechanic to catching or fumbling. Plus, from a franchise perspective, it would mean that you would have to chose whether to allocate a roster spot for a dedicated longsnapper, because if you don't, you'd risk something like a field goal snap being driven into the ground, or a snap going over the head of the punter and out the back of the endzone. It would be strategy!

NFL teams have even spoken up about
the poor representation of longsnappers.

Apparently, I'm not the only one who thinks this way. Some NFL teams have also thrown mud at EA for not properly representing longsnappers -- though they've been very tongue-in-cheek about it. And if they can't properly represent longsnappers, then I guess I should forget about my hopes that they'll represent holders, gunners, and other special teams positions. Sorry Steve Tasker, you're being snubbed in Madden too.

A casserole of half-baked ideas

The end result is that, by inserting and removing all these modular features and mechanics, and not further refining the mechanics that are in the game, we end up with a bunch of janky, half-working ideas and concepts that don't necessarily fit together or create a cohesive game experience. And we can't have a cohesive game experience because, instead of going back and making the non-cohesive parts more cohesive, EA insists on just throwing another new mechanic into the pile to see if it sticks. There's no consistent design philosophy or unifying vision of the game.

This is why, despite all its problems, Madden 17 actually stood out to me as a "complete product". All three phases of the game (offense, defense, and special teams) had been redesigned and rebuilt with a consistent design philosophy over the course of three years. The new features that had been put in between Madden 15 and Madden 17 complemented each other, both on the field and off. It was probably the best three year run for the series since the mid 2000's.

Now it looks like EA is back to throwing darts at a board, putting in a level of effort into the non-MUT elements of the game that is comparable to Jay Cutler in the wildcat. And that is why we Madden players can't have nice things.

EA is back to throwing darts at a board, and putting in as much effort as Jay Cutler in the wildcat.

Contribute Comment


We'll incarnate your avatar from the services below.
PlayStation Network Steam Xbox LIVE Facebook MySpace Pinterest Twitter YouTube deviantART LiveJournal

  • Comment
  • Preview

Grid Clock Widget
12      60
11      55
10      50
09      45
08      40
07      35
06      30
05      25
04      20
03      15
02      10
01      05
Grid Clock provided by trowaSoft.

A gamer's thoughts

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.

Check out my YouTube content at

Follow me on Twitter at:


If you enjoy my content, please consider Supporting me on Patreon:

FTC guidelines require me to disclose that as an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases made by clicking on Amazon product links on this site. All Amazon Associate links are for products relevant to the given blog post, and are usually posted because I recommend the product.

Without Gravity

And check out my colleague, David Pax's novel Without Gravity on his website!

Featured Post

The Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season RecruitingThe Humanity of NCAA Football's In-Season Recruiting08/01/2022 If you're a fan of college football video games, then I'm sure you're excited by the news from early 2021 that EA will be reviving its college football series. They will be doing so without the NCAA license, and under the new title, EA Sports College Football. I guess Bill Walsh wasn't available for licensing either? Expectations...

Random Post

'Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai' brings Japan (and the 'Total War' franchise) into the industrial era with a bang!'Shogun 2: Fall of the Samurai' brings Japan (and the 'Total War' franchise) into the industrial era with a bang!05/02/2012 I finally published my full review of Total War: Shogun 2 recently in preparation for writing this review of that game’s second expansion: Fall of the Samurai. Fall of the Samurai is the second expansion for Shogun 2; the first being a “prequel” Rise of the Samurai. I skipped Rise, but when I saw the trailers for Fall, I just...

Month List

Recent Comments

Comment RSS