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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.

If you watched the first episode of "How Madden Fails To Simulate Football", then you know that I'm a stickler realistic game pacing and clock management. Whether or not a football game is playable with full-lengt 15-minute quarters is one of my core litmus tests for whether the game is &qout;simulation" or not. With their accelerated clock features, both Madden and Axis Football allow 15-minute quarter matches to be played in 60 to 90 minutes, which I think is actually pretty darn near close to the perfect sweet spot for a football video game. Legend Bowl does have an accelerated clock feature, but its limitations make the game difficult to play with 15-minute quarters.

First off, the whole point of having an accelerated clock is to simulate the time taken in the huddle, since video games allow players to be instantly teleported to the line of scrimmage and plays can be called and communicated to the players much faster than in real life. The accelerated clock runs off a set amount of time between each play, as well as the same amount of game clock time (if the game clock is running). Basically, it pretends that the huddle happened, without the user having to actually sit through the huddle in real-time. So why then does Legend Bowl make me sit through the huddle in more or less real time?

Huddles can be disabled in the game's settings.

To be fair, the huddle can be turned off in the game's settings. But doing so creates its own problems, which I'll get to later. So bear with me for a bit.

Also, I want to be clear that I am not complaining about the pace of the actual gameplay being too slow. I actually like the slow pace of Legend Bowl's gameplay, and how it gives me more time to process what's happening, decide how to respond, and actually react on the controller to input the correct commands. I have a full-time job, family, pets, a personal blog, a YouTube channel, a Civilization podcast, and other personal hobbies all competing with video games for my time. I don't have the time to master every single game that I play. I'm also nearing 40 years old, and so even if I did have the time to practice games more, my hand-eye coordination and reflexes just aren't what they used to be. I actually wish that Madden would bring back its options for slower game speeds, as those options really helped make Madden much more playable and enjoyable for me. So I absolutely do not want Legend Bowl to speed up its on-field action.

What I am asking for is for Legend Bowl to cut down on its idle downtime. In fact, there have been plenty of times when I've wanted to play a match of Legend Bowl, but it's like 9:30 pm on a weeknight, and the match wouldn't finish until almost midnight. I just can't be staying up that late too often because I have to take my oldest kid to school and get myself to work in the morning.

Too much time with Legend Bowl is spent staring at players running in and out of huddles.

If huddles are enabled, then Legend Bowl makes the user sit through the following process every single play:

  1. The ref will pick up the ball and re-spot it at the new line of scrimmage.
  2. The play-call screen will open up, and the user can pick a play, while every player on the field runs to their respective sideline.
  3. After a play is selected, every player on the field runs from the sideline to the huddle.
  4. The players stand in the huddle for a few seconds before breaking the huddle.
  5. The players break the huddle (often with less than 10 seconds on the play clock) and line up for the play.

Now, to Legend Bowl's credit, sitting through this entire process actually does closely mimic the pace of play of real football. Real football teams do, indeed, commonly break the huddle with around 12 to 16 seconds on the play clock, and they really do tend to snap the ball with about 5 seconds or less on the play clock. So if Legend Bowl is going for realism here, it actually gets a lot of points for almost perfectly nailing the amount of time that it actually takes to huddle. And even better, since the time in the huddle is actually a function of how long it takes for every player to run to the huddle, there is also some variability in how much time teams have at the line of scrimmage, which can lead to delays of game, or force a team to have to burn a timeout if they spend too long in the huddle and don't have time to actually line up and get the play off. So kudos, I guess.

The problem is that making the user of the video game have to sit through all this fills the game with idle down time and drags out the time it takes to play a match -- probably even longer than it takes to play a real-life game of football. I'm actually not even sure because I've never played through a 15-minute quarter match of Legend Bowl. 8-minute quarters easily drags on for 2 hours or longer, so I can only extrapolate that a 15-minute quarter match would go on for 3 1/2 to 4 hours.

If it takes too long to play a match with huddles enabled, what happens if I do disable the huddles? Well, that speeds up the overall flow of the game, but the accelerated clock only runs the clock down to 16 seconds, at which point, the teams are already at the line of scrimmage, ready to snap the ball. Snapping the ball with 15 seconds on the play clock leads to more plays being run -- almost double, which leads to unrealistic outcomes. With this setting, a 15-minute quarter match will still take over 3 hours to play, and the number of plays run, the score, and all games stats will be wildly inflated. Thus, turning off the huddles reduces the down time in Legend Bowl, but it causes matches to drag out for other reasons anyway. Neither option is ideal.

I should be able to call plays while the ref is spotting the ball and players are huddling up.

Now, Legend Bowl could excuse this away by saying that this is part of the game's design philosophy, and they are going for simulation realness by requiring players to physically run to the huddle and line up within the play clock time limit. Sure, fine. That is a viable design philosophy. But even so, this doesn't have to be designed to feel like such a waste of time. For one thing, some of the events in the huddle sequence could be pipelined to occur simultaneously. Players should be getting to the huddle while the ref is still spotting the ball, and the play call screen could pop up while both of those things are happening. This way, by the time the user selects a play, both teams are already huddled up, the accelerated clock has hopefully already run the play clock down to 16 seconds or less, and the amount of actual downtime for the user is reduced to almost zero.

These huddles also fail from a simulation standpoint because they require every player to run to the sideline and then back out to the huddle between every play. That isn't how huddles work. In real football, only players being substituted need to run onto the field from the sideline, if, say the coach wants to run more wide receivers onto the field for a spread or empty set, and have the fullback and tight end run back to the sideline.

The Spike Ball play must be called from within the huddle.

Legend Bowl also does not implement a hurry-up offense to allow the user to skip huddles for late-game comeback drives. There's a spike ball and QB kneel play in the playbooks, but they must be called from within the huddle.

If Legend Bowl actually wanted to enforce personnel package substitutions as a mechanic that runs extra play off the play clock by forcing the substituted players to have to run to the huddle, that would be fine. I would be all for that! But you would have to design your whole play-calling system around that mechanic.

Perhaps plays are not called by formation, but rather by personnel package. The user would have to commit to a particular personnel package first, and then new players who weren't in the previous personnel package would have to run onto the field, and the players not in the new personnel package would have to run off the field. All this would happen while the user is picking a specific play for the chosen personnel package. And if you back out and chose a different personnel package, you would have to run a new set of substitutions onto the field, which would consume more of the play clock and increase the risk of a procedure penalty for Delay of Game or Too Many Players On The Field.

The speed of the accelerated clock during play-calling could then be configurable in the game's settings so that the user can custom-tailor how long they have in the huddle, based on how comfortable they are with this particular play calling methodology. If all this could be designed and configured such that teams are regularly breaking the huddle with around 12 to 16 seconds on the play clock, and are routinely snapping the ball with less than 5 seconds on the play clock, then we'd have ourselves a realistically-paced football sim that is also smoothly paced as a video game.

This would hopefully reduce the downtime, allow 15-minute quarter games to be playable in a more reasonable time frame, maintain a realistic number of plays run, realistic scores, and realistic stats, while also accurately simulating an aspect of football logistics that other mainstream football games don't attempt to emulate. It could be turned into an innovative feature, along with the pass charge mechanic and QB Vision, that challenges the user in aspects of football coaching that other video games have rarely, if ever attempted.

Perhaps plays should be called by personnel package, instead of by formation?

Now if we can also get pre-play motion, hot routes, and defensive alignment shifts, then we'd also be turning downtime at the line of scrimmage into meaningful game time as well!

So at the end of the day, is Legend Bowl even more poorly-paced than Madden? Well, I guess that kind of depends on how you look at it. Yes, Madden does have an accelerated clock setting that makes full, 15-minute quarter matches play in that sweet spot of less than 90 minutes; whereas Legend Bowl is so full of downtime that it's impossible to keep within that sweet spot with anything above 8 or 10-minute quarters. At the most basic levels, Madden is too fast, and Legend Bowl is too slow. But Madden also has the problem of its rushed pacing bleeding into every other aspect of the game's design, forcing the on-field action to play less realistically in order to compensate for the turbo-charged 20 or 30 minute pick-up games of Ultimate Team that EA wants Madden players to get hooked on. Legend Bowl at least doesn't have that problem. The slow pace of action, constrained camera angle, and inability to force the ball downfield may make Legend Bowl feel more like an old-school, ground-and-pound, west-coast style of football form the 80's, but at least it feels like some kind of football; which is more than I can say about Madden.

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