With Madden NFL 17 approaching closer and closer, we wanted to continue with our Madden 17 new features wishlist for the upcoming title. If you missed it you can find our new features Part 1 here. For now, let’s talk preseason and follow its impact through training and actual gameplay.
The preseason actually ends up being my favorite part of the Franchise mode, so making the preseason meaningful and fun should be a top priority for developers. It gives me an opportunity to try out my new draft picks and free agents, and it’s one of the few times when I feel like I get to make genuinely meaningful decisions–the kinds of decisions that real coaches and managers have to make.
So, even though NFL fans and analysts keep considering shortening or eliminating preseason, I actually want EA to make an effort to make the preseason more fun and interesting from a mechanical standpoint. Experience for younger players should be easier to come by, and playing them in the preseason should maybe even provide bonus experience. Not only this, but there should be more drive goals, weekly goals, and preseason goals for rookies, free agents, and other young players to accomplish.
Big plays should award even more experience to those players. I’m not saying that 55 overall players should be able to suddenly turn into 90 overall players over the course of 4 games, but a 70 overall third-string rookie should have an opportunity to progress enough to compete with the 80 overall starters ahead of him. Having the possibility of quickly turning an undrafted rookie into a superstar might give users the incentive to play the preseason and actually get excited about the possibilities that it allows, and it would make those dreaded cut days all the more meaningful.
In Madden 16, the draft is basically the last offseason event before starting the preseason. The game completely ignores training camp. This gives the user no way of evaluating your new free agent acquisitions or draft picks other than their given overall ratings. It also means that you have no way prior to the first preseason game of developing or improving those players to work better in your system, and that’s if you play the first preseason game at all.
Although Training Camp is a welcome inclusion, I can’t say for sure what form it should take, as Madden has tried training camp modes before and none of them have really worked all that well. Ideally, I’d like to see something that is actually playable so that you can see your new players in action as opposed to staring at a spreadsheet. That said, I think that the Skills Trainer could serve as a viable template for how to implement a training camp.
This would also be a good place to insert some playbook and strategy customization options. You have new players, and so your play-calling strategy and maybe even what plays you can viably call might change for the upcoming season. For example, if you pick up a very speedy WR in the draft, you might want to throw some extra vertical passing plays into your playbook in order to exploit him, resulting in schemes based on your scheduled opponent’ off-season personnel changes.
In addition to specific scheme practices, Training Camp could maybe also include some options for strength training and conditioning to improve or maintain your players’ inherent attributes and improve their injury resistance. Time spent in conditioning or strength training could be budgeted against time spent training rookies and practicing your scheme.
This could allow for some trade-offs between different priorities. If you decide to spend extra time working on developing your draft picks because you want them to start in the regular season, then you run a higher risk of having your returning players be in worse shape or regressing in skills than if you had dedicated more time to maintaining them.
The game could even impose restrictions on how many hours you can spend with veteran players. This would emulate some of the NFL Players’ Union rules regarding training camp for veterans. This could hopefully help prevent exploits involving users just pumping more experience and points into already-elite players and would force you to spend some time with your draft picks and free agents.
Improved Substitution Logic, Options, and Progression
A closely-related improvement is that the A.I. should sub deeper into depth chart during preseason. Currently, the CPU team subs out their starters at the beginning of the second quarter and then that’s it. Those players play the rest of the game unless someone gets hurt or fatigue forces a temporary auto substitution. The CPU coach will never substitute in his undrafted rookie wide receiver in the second half, so that character doesn’t even have an opportunity to make a big play and possibly gain enough experience to develop himself any further.
Another option is to make substitutions after a certain number of possessions instead of after a quarter. Starters could play one or two possessions (more in the later preseason games), then the second string can play six or eight possessions, then deeper reserves can be subbed in. If decent substitution logic is just too hard to code, then just give the user control over the CPU’s depth chart during preseason games!
Madden‘s Franchise lacks any mechanics for creating exciting break-out players year to year. First round draft picks might have decent enough ratings to get good playing time and improve their skills, but that’s about it. We all know Madden 17 has a great opportunity to work on these details. After all, more accurate preseason and training is bound to have a positive impact on simulating the reality of playing in the NFL. A good start would be leaving room for teams to experiment more with their rosters in the preseason.
After all, Madden should give us the potential to follow through with potential talent, starting with ourselves.
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