Madden‘s Franchise Mode is one of the deepest modes in gaming today. It’s arguably the deepest RPG on the market, just without any swords, elves or definitive bad guys. You create your own story, and sometimes, Madden itself gets in the way of your epic tale of football greatness. This year, the Madden 17 team is adding some major changes to the franchise mode. Changes that have been years in the making, and on the wish-lists of fans since the PS2 era. We were able to discuss what’s in store for franchise freaks with Chris White of EA.
What can fans of Franchise Mode expect to change this year?
For the big improvements this year, the first thing that will pretty drastically alter the way you play Franchise if you chose to use it, is Play the Moment. Essentially you can play Madden faster than you’ve ever been able to play Madden before. So you load into the game and you basically get to play out a Red Zone channel-like experience where you pop in throughout the game, key moments that you can choose to jump into and play. Otherwise, it’s simming the plays and the drives and then it prompts you when to jump in. You jump in, you play that moment, and it pops you back out and then sims some more, and then drops you back in. So essentially what this does is throwing you into the Red Zone, it’s throwing you into the two-minute drive at the end of the half, it’s throwing you into game-winning drives at the end of the game. It’s throwing you into big third downs where your offense is trying to keep the drive alive, it’s throwing you into moments where your defense needs to stop and try to get them off the field. It throws you into these really intense moments and you end up having a really intense Franchise game experience. Also, because we’re simming so many plays, so much of the playtime, that you can get to your next game faster. You can blast through a season in Franchise in a weekend and get to the offseason and do all the player management and the draft and your free agency and then get to your next season. So you can really build your team throughout multiple seasons much easier than you could in the past.
So you’re watching out for the Super Sim player.
Exactly. We have a whole new screen where you could follow along easier than ever before. And we’ve added a lot of controls to this. We’ve added the Play Key Moment for Play the Moment, so you can also choose to play offense only, defense only, and it will pop you out so you don’t have to keep backing out to the sim screen or trying to find it. Just makes it really a seamless experience if you just want to offense, for example. So we have even more controls, you can load into a key moment, you get to about half time say, “You know what, I just want to play the full game, I want to play every snap.” You can back out of that mode and you can just play the rest of the game as a full game if you want. Or you can jump back again, so it’s a really flexible way to play. It’s this option you can go in and out of as you want. Trying to give a lot of control to the user to play how they want to.
I like to play years and years down the line. Simming and having my team win seems validating to me. So with the seasons flying by more quickly, what will make players want to spend more time in the menus?
We’ve added a lot of menu options in the front UI. So the first one is Game Planning. That’s the other big pillar that we have this year in terms of improvement that you’ll definitely notice right off the bat. We’re suggesting gameplans for you based on your opponent’s tendencies. You’ll get an offensive and a defensive gameplan assigned to you and you can change that, obviously, and chose something else. But if you see your opponent running a certain type of defense frequently, the computer AI will suggest you play an offense that will take advantage of that. So you’ll load in the game and you’ll be able to play those drills, an offensive and a defensive drill, each week and it will remember how well you did. So you load into the drill and you get a gold medal, for example. You’ll load back out and it will remember that you got that gold medal for the entire season. So you don’t have to play that drill over and over once you’ve mastered it. Because you got that gold medal, you’re given XP, and also, the other really cool thing that makes it more like preparation for the upcoming game, is when you load into the game that week, all the plays that are tied to that gameplan are highlighted green, you have a little icon, so you can see that this play for your Game Plan play, and you get a little bit of an attribute rating for this for players during that play. So gameplans are now being carried into the game and especially have a meaningful impact on your gameplay experience as well.
Does the Game Planning change? Is it fluid? Does it react to players getting injured or retiring?
That’s what makes the choice really interesting. So you can go in and choose based on if you want to bolster up your defense lines or pass rushing, you can do the pass rushing drill or some of the other drills that we have. But if you say, “I’m in rebuilding mode, I want to focus to get our team better because we have a bunch of young players that we’re trying to develop into an actual stable squad.” You get to choose drills to try to focus on them and you’re not as much worried about the drill that end up in the game. Or you have a really big game coming up that you’re really trying to strategize, maybe a user-user game you’re trying to focus on, you can focus on a specific drill because you want that bonus in the game. So you have all of these decisions that you have to make in terms of what you want to go after. You have the Game Plan, but you also have three focus players that you can choose each week as well. In your case, if you have a couple defensive players coming in to replace some of your starters, or there’s a player for the future that you want to develop to make a great player, you can choose three players each week. It defaults to your three highest rated rookies, but you can switch those out at any point in the season if you want to focus on your backups when your players get injured, you have that option as well. So there’s a pretty robust system and you get to take advantage of it based on if you’re in rebuilding mode or if you’re in a win now mode.
So you can draft a rookie and develop him outside of just shoehorning him into playtime situations.
That’s exactly it. You focus players. You really get that choice each week about how you want to focus your players. So in your case, yeah, a rookie wide receiver, a second-year wide receiver, I’m sure a lot of Bucs fans are going to be and Titans fans are going to be focused on their second-year quarterbacks, trying to make sure that they develop quickly. So those are definitely strategies that people will play. Get those guys into starting caliber players.
I was told the entire way you handle your franchise is refined. The depth chart is moving to the forefront of the menus. Injuries and free agents as well. Can you discuss that?
There are Big Decisions and that helps you make a lot of your decisions as a coach. So when you first start your season you’ll be able to set, as a coach, what type of season you’re gonna have. If you have a great season or you plan on having a great season and you plan on making the playoffs, for example, you’ll have an XP gain based on hitting those goals. But if you’d make the playoffs, you do have a higher chance of getting fired. So you now have the choice of setting goals at the beginning of the season, but also in terms of team management, we’ve added in when you go to cut players, the UI, you’re not just looking at a list of players, it’s like players card versions of all the players. So you can quickly and easily get a few recommended players to cut during the preseason to you can focus on them. And also, part of that, which was one of our top community features, is you can move players to the practice squad. You now have a ten player practice squad that you can manage and develop. And as you start playing the season, those practice squad players are going to be that much more important as injuries take hold of your team. So just like in the real NFL, injuries are a big part of the mode and it turns out being a lot more realistic this year, so you’ll see more injuries. Of course, if you want to tune those down we have a slider to do that, but you will have big injury decisions and these injury decisions will be realistic. Basically, the doctors will clear those players to play not quite 100%, so if you want to, you can bring him back a little early or do you can wait until he’s 100% healed up. So you get a whole Tony Romo decision that the Cowboys made last year. If you decide to bring him back early, some of his attributes and his ratings are hit a little bit lower. Also, his chances of getting injured again are higher. So just like in the Romo case, he did get hit and he was out for a lot longer because of that. So you get to make those decisions now and because of all these new injuries, you’ll be able to bench people and pull up guys from the practice squad to help fill in positions and develop them there. There’s a really big team management part of that. Our re-sign system has also been integrated as part of all the Big Decisions initiative.
Sometimes you offer a player enough years and money on a winning team and they still decline the offer, seemingly illogically and unexplained. Has that been addressed?
We have the idea of a fair offer this year. So default will be the fair offer and if you go with the fair offer, it’s essentially the fair market price for this position for this player. So if you submit that offer, it will then maybe he comes back demanding more or he may accept if right off the bat. But there’s a small chance that he may, and I do mean really small, that he may just decline you. If he comes back and he tells you that he wants more money and then the next week you don’t give him more money, he may walk at that point too. Or you can offer him the more money, then he may accept it then too. So that whole system has been tuned so that it’s a little more realistic and gives you that choice. If you want to lowball a guy and not give him a good contract, you have that chance of him just walking, just being upset, like “What are you doing here?” But if you give him the fair offer, it’s a small chance that he wants to go to free agency. But, just like in real life, there are players that want to test free agency, “I want to see what I’m worth now on an open market.” It’s a very small percent that may happen on a fair offer. But they may want more and if you don’t want to pay them more, they may walk then too. To help you make those decisions, we’ve surfaced a lot of info to the user that you used to have to use previously. So sometimes you had to back out of those menus and look at the team screen to say “OK, I have a good backup that I’m OK with starting next year, I don’t need to re-sign this guy.” So you’re able to quickly compare how these guys are compared to your depth chart guys. That’s a decision you can make right there, you can sign him right there on the spot. No more do you have to go to the trade screen and then look at the trade block guy and then look at the free agents list and look at the free agents list. It’s all a nice one condensed space that gives you all the information you’re looking for as you’re trying to improve your team. Your grades this year are front and center so you can quickly jump to your positions of need until so you can quickly jump there. We’ve also added pluses and minuses to the grading, so there’s a little bit more fidelity in your positions. You can see if you have a C- or a C+, you may want to go improve the C- before you go improve the C+.
Can you offer contract extensions?
No contract extensions this year, but you should be able to retain the players you want to now.
Restricted free agents?
We do not have restricted free agents.
Currently, the system is a bit difficult to navigate because I can end up not getting guys I want and then, for example, end up signing two big wide receivers because I bid on two since I can’t risk it. Are you addressing this guessing game?
Yeah, I think you’ll be really happy this year with what we’ve done. We’ve really tried to set it up so players are signing properly. So stage one of free agent bidding, all the high-caliber guys who are going to have a lot of bids on them are going to clear out and make their decisions week one. Some may carry over into week two, but not as many. Most of the high-quality players will clear out week one, and then you go to the next tier of players. Then you make your bids on those, and then those guys will clear out the next week. Last year, some players carried through the whole time period and then that last week you’re trying to figure out who you want to go after because all these players still haven’t signed yet, you have that choice of, “Oh no, I need this player at this position, which one do I go after?” It’ll be a little bit easier now because of the way that the players are gonna sign are a lot more realistic.