Patrick Mahomes is arguably the best player in the NFL today lighting up scoreboards and putting up gaudy numbers weekly. If you asked Mahomes how he became so good he’d probably tell you it was the result of practice. This answer would seem logical to most but in the world of Madden franchise mode that isn’t quite the case.
There has never been a shortage of people who dislike Madden’s player development system inside of franchise mode. In fact, the way EA chooses to approach development, using outcomes to deliver the majority of the XP, is a relatively universal mechanic in the sports gaming world. The problem with this philosophy is that it is the opposite way that development should be occurring.
Positive outings yield positive results
If you’ve ever played franchise mode you know that “stat chasing”, force-feeding a player to hit statistical goals, is pervasive. This behavior is a result of the current development system we have in place that rewards positive outings by players. Weekly, seasonal, and yearly award XP gives users a reason to force a player into their game plan. Using this mechanic, users for years have been able to take low rated players and hit certain milestones to make bad players good for no other reason than they wanted to.
This mechanic allows a player to become good, not from the work put in during the week, but rather from their performance on Sundays. This idea flys in the face of sports in general, where it’s the practice you put in that leads to the development of the player and in turn, creates the outcomes on gameday. For a mode that looks to create a sense of realism, this development mechanic could not be further from it.
The compounding effect
One of the bigger issues with this mechanic is that it creates a compounding effect where good users, by virtue of being good, can more easily develop players because they are more likely to hit goals. This ends up creating a roster talent disparity between the upper and lower tier of franchise users. Essentially, good players hit goals and upgrade their talent. That upgraded talent then makes it easier for the good players to win future games. As they win more of those future games their players get even better, and the cycle continues in perpetuity.
For some users, this disparity can never be overcome leading to a less than ideal franchise experience. The development mechanic as it stands takes two separate concepts, player development and gameplay, and incorrectly merges them into the same path. A player’s performance on the field should not affect his long term development, while his development should impact the performance of the player on the field. Madden needs to flip the script refocusing training as the key to development while removing player outcomes from the equation.
Finding a way to make development a skilled mechanic separate from gameplay is the key. The training mechanic as it currently stands is more of a chore than an integral part of player development. After initially completing the drills for the areas you want to upgrade, a quick click on sim each week is the extent of most people’s preparation. There is no skill in the current system because there are not enough choices to have positive and negative outcomes. By adding more choices to training with positive and negative outcomes, it creates another mechanic that gives lesser users gameplay-wise a chance to compete in terms of player development.
A way to achieve this could be through various levels of intensity in training each week. A walkthrough could be a low XP return with no chance of injury to your players. A mid-tier option of a helmets only practice could yield a mid-level return on XP with a similar chance of injury. The most rewarding, as well as dangerous, would be full-contact practices where player XP was highest and their chance of injury was as well. This new intensity layer could be paired with a team fatigue indicator. Users could look at the team fatigue indicator and then make their choice of intensity knowing the more fatigued your team was, the higher the risk of injury.
Improving franchise mode development
As it stands today EA has made franchise mode player development more about being a good user than being a good talent developer. The idea mentioned above is simply one idea to fix the issue, however, there are plenty of other options out there that can achieve the same outcome. No matter how they go about correcting the issue, one thing is for sure, players shouldn’t get better because they perform well they should perform well because they have gotten better.