If you look today, Madden NFL 16 gives you modes like Skills Trainer and The Gauntlet, both reminiscent of the ground-breaking Mini-Camp mode. However, Madden 16 could potentially benefit from the old model of Madden 2004.
One of the biggest complaints in current versions of Madden, as it pertains to Franchise Mode, has been the XP progression system. Starting with Madden NFL 13, the very game that removed mini-games, an XP reward system was put in place to allow you control over who progresses on your team and when. In Madden NFL 16, Drive Goals were introduced, which not only fundamentally changed how many played any given game in Franchise Mode, but also was a huge intrusion on the presentation, both in the game and in the menus.
The issue I see with this system is that we’re focusing too much on individual performances. Instead, we should be focusing on how our team matches up with our upcoming opponents and developing a gameplan around that. In it’s current form, most players are spending time looking through their roster, figuring out when to spend XP and game-planning on how to get their Tight End three touchdowns next game, instead of focusing on the strengths and weaknesses of the other team. XP and Drive Goals takes such a front seat during the regular season that most players can’t help but be drawn towards that. Sure, we can always decide to delegate XP to the CPU, but XP is so crucial to Tiburon’s design of Franchise Mode that the mode feels even more shallow without it; deciding to do that essentially gives you even less to do.
However, if Tiburon were to shine the focus of player progression on Mini-Camps and Training Camp just before the season, we could all focus on game-planning and what is going on around our league during the regular season. It’s a matter of immersion, and Mini-Camp mini-games could not only be a fun break from practice and games, but could also take the ham-fisted nature of XP and Drive Goals and turn controllable progression into a digestible system. You don’t have to necessarily copy Madden’s of the past, either. You could add a risk/reward system in Training Camps where the more you train any given player, the higher chance they have for injury. If replicating real world football is the ultimate goal, which has been stated by Madden Creative Director Rex Dickson, then this system should be looked at
Mini-Camp Mode is a feature that is often forgotten, and with the way it was implemented in Madden over the past 5 years it was included in the game, it’s easy to see why. However, in a game that has a yearly release and having one of it’s biggest complaints be the staleness of the product, looking at features like this (a different way to play that uses the same core gameplay as regular games, but has an impact on career modes) is definitely worth discussing.