Hey Madden fans, it's that time again...time for another weekly blog update! I’m Josh Looman, senior designer on Madden NFL 10. First some background on me…my most recent role was as the lead designer on NFL Head Coach ’09. Prior to that, I was the ‘Franchise Designer’ on Madden 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 for PS2 and Xbox. When the opportunity was presented to me to re-join Phil Frazier, Ian Cummings, and Donny Moore on the Madden team, I dropped everything and came aboard.
This week I wanted to give you an update on what we’re addressing in franchise mode this year. We’re probably going to have a few blogs about franchise mode from now until August, so I’m just going to touch on a couple of things we’ve been working on since I joined the team.
One thing we learned on NFL Head Coach ’09 was that in order to have a great franchise mode, you need a solid base. You wouldn’t put a 2nd or 3rd addition on your house if the foundation is crumbling, right?
Since our ‘foundation’ is the logic behind every decision made in franchise mode, we knew we really wanted to address that foundation before anything else major was applied. I know some folks may be expecting the entire NFL Head Coach ’09 game to be dropped into Madden this year, but that’s not going to happen. We have a lot of work to do and it’s going to take us some time to start with the core of franchise mode and take it where we all want it to be.
I’ll break down some of the problems we’ve encountered so far and talk about how we’re addressing them below.
Offseason Player Signing Logic
When we sat down and started taking a look at the logic, the #1 area that stood out to us was how teams handled player decisions in the offseason. After a simulated season, many teams were cutting players left and right in free agency to upgrade much lesser needs (like punter and full back). In fact, that first year we saw the Colts cut Peyton Manning to sign a punter.
We dug through some of the logic and found out that CPU teams were just being too rigid when it came to upgrading positions on their team. They all felt like their #1 priority was to field the best team possible, but when it came to clearing cap room they could possibly just cut the player who would save them the most. Thankfully, this has been addressed. Teams are much more mindful of the amount of cap room they have in free agency now…if they have no room, they’ll pass on that new punter.
Another thing we addressed was contract amounts. We’ve scaled player ratings differently this year, so we needed to make sure a starter in the league was paid like a starter. It’ll be tougher to cherry pick in free agency now, as an 80 overall defensive end is going to ask for the money he’d be paid in real life. We also increased signing bonuses and salaries for elite players. We found that the max a player could get paid was about 60 million over 7 years in previous versions of the game. We fixed that so you’ll see elite players like Asomugha and Haynesworth sign those $100 million dollar deals.
We’re also focusing on the re-sign player stage, making sure that teams intelligently decide whether to keep or release their upcoming free agents. If a team cannot afford to re-sign a player, he’ll become a free agent. It’s that simple.
The other big thing we’ve looked at so far is everything surrounding the Draft. After joining the team, I ran through a season and started doing some in-season scouting. Three issues presented themselves immediately:
• When I scouted a player, it was a pretty cumbersome experience. I had to click on a player, enter a sub-screen and then click on him again just to start the first level of scouting.
• After I scouted a player for a few weeks, the comments never seemed to change. Beyond that, they were pretty vague and really told me very little about the player.
• The screen for in-season scouting was actually quite buried as well. Placing it within the “owner mode” sub-menu meant that very few people would necessarily know to go use it.
To fix these issues, we first made the interface a lot easier to use (which we’ll show screenshots of quite soon). Second, we re-vamped the scouting system so that you unlock more comments as you scout the player longer. The comments can go from being broad (We think his awareness is no higher than 80) to telling you exactly what his key ratings are if you scout him the entire time. It won’t tell you his overall rating, but it will give you his potential, which is what you should make your decision off of.
One nice addition that we were able to take from Head Coach was how we handle the rookies in the Draft. We now create every rookie by hand, just like you saw in NFL Head Coach ’09. You might even see a few famous rookies make a re-appearance from those drafts.
In addition, we also have the ability to determine where a player SHOULD be drafted and what his potential is. So we can create busts and sleepers just using those systems. Drafting a player in the top 10 will no longer guarantee that he is a great player in Madden NFL 10. Unless you do some scouting (like the real teams do), you might just pick up this year’s Vernon Gholston. On the flip side, you might also find the next Tom Brady or Marques Colston in later rounds. One piece of advice…don’t be enamored with workout warriors. Running a 4.2 forty or benching a small concrete block does not automatically make you a good football player.
The big thing we’re working on as we speak is the Draft logic. I promise you…you will not see the Colts take a QB in the first round and then in the 3rd, 5th, etc. These type of logic tweaks are happening across the board and the draft is no different.
NCAA Import Draft Class tuning
We have been doing quite a bit of tuning on the NCAA Import Draft classes, as we saw a lot of feedback on the forums regarding this area in general. Here are a few of the changes:
• Added the 5 new QB ratings (Throw on Run, Play Action, Short Accuracy, Mid Accuracy, Deep Accuracy). Since NCAA Football does not have the new ratings in their game to use as a base, we will be using Throw Accuracy for the 3 Madden Accuracy ratings. For Throw on Run, we take a combo of their Speed + Throw Power. For Play Action, we use a combo of Awareness + Throw Accuracy.
• Tuned the import draft class feature to be more superstar based. The community feedback matched our own in the feeling that were too many superstars coming in from NCAA. There was not much of a difference from the 1st Round Picks to the 5th round picks. Nearly all the players were 75+ OVR rated and we felt like that was too high for your average draft picks. We have tuned this quite a bit to ensure that the elite guys will still be elite, but you should expect the middle and lower round guys to be rated much lower in Madden 10 (with a few gems buried in there as well).
Finally we get to progression, easily one of the most often-discussed areas of Franchise mode in the community for Madden NFL 09. Donny Moore did a lot of good work with progression prior to my joining the team and I’ve been able to keep tweaking it since. Here are the major changes we’ve made so far:
• Older players will digress much faster. In fact, when a running back hits 30, he’s going downhill at warp speed.
• Younger players will progress quickly if they play well. We’re talking up 10 points in overall if he has a great year.
• Veteran players will still progress, but not substantially. They can also digress if they play poorly.
• We added more stat categories to determine a player’s success/failure for a season. For example, if you lead the league in rush TD’s but don’t do all that well in total rushing yards, you’ll still be able to progress accordingly. And it’s not just yards, and TD’s, it’s other stats like rushing attempts and rush yards per carry. This was done across the board for all positions.
• Removed age from ranking players. Some people may not know this but our previous progression systems would ranked each player statistically against players around the same age. Meaning that older players would only be ranked against other older players when determining how well they performed. This often created the situation where those older players never dropped even with sub-par years because other players in their ‘age group’ weren’t performing well either. Now, all players are ranked against all other players at that position, regardless of career phase.
The “potential” rating is another sort of ‘hidden’ addition that we are changing up this year to impact progression (and Franchise mode overall). Every player in the game has a potential rating that he cannot exceed (a la NFL Head Coach 09). This year, we’re actually exposing that rating so you’ll have an idea why your player is not progressing - typically a situation where his potential is maxed out. Exposing this rating also help quite a bit in making personnel decisions when contracts are up. One key detail here is that you’ll only see potential for players on your own team. CPU player potentials will be hidden.
Ok, guys…I’ve probably gone on long enough. Next time I’ll talk about trade logic, hall of fame logic, regular season free agency, salary cap tuning, coach boosts and tons of other franchise stuff.
- Josh Looman
Senior Designer, Madden NFL 10