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adembroski's Blog
Blog in Progress I 
Posted on May 19, 2017 at 12:48 AM.
I. Introduction

Since I arrived at EA in January of 2011, one thing excited me most about the future of the game; the then yet time in development test bed, FranTK. This was a tool that would allow on-the-fly changes to data, allowing the designer to test tuning virtually in real time. I thought this would be the key to redefining the sports game franchise mode, and I thought we were on our way to bringing the career experience of NFL Head Coach 09 to Madden without all the logic problems.

That, well, didnít happen. But FranTKís potential still excites me. I canít get too much into the details of what FranTK is exactly as it does fall under the NDA I signed while still at EA. Suffice it to say, itís what franchise mode needed all along and, sadly, it hasnít been used to its potential yet.

Now, understand, Iím preaching to the choir on this site, and Iím well aware of that. I will, however, endeavor to make this more than simply a wish list. This will include the philosophical and practical grounding for each of these features, as well as the concessions that must (MUST) be made for the casual fan. I am not going to tangent into arguments about the validity of that statement, if you donít know, read some Adam Smith or Milton Friedman, theyíll clear that up. Reality is good.

An actual Game Design Document (GDD) would not be organized the way Iím going to present this. First off, I have no plans to make any mock screens and Iím not going to link map the mode. You wonít see any button assignments either. All a waste of time, and a lot of it, when this is just hypothetical, meaning only to give the community a center point around which to base discussion, in order to present a united front in terms of our priorities. So what Iím writing here will have some small elements of a GDD, itís really more of a detailed outline that digs a bit more into the why and how, whereas most wishlists just stick with the what.

So, all that said, lets dig in
II. Design Philosophy

Sports games largely lack philosophical foundation. Gaming at large does as well, but itís especially pronounced in sports gaming because it has to serve so many masters. Developers concentrate on two primary audiences; the core and the casual. But within those two, there are dozens of smaller categories large and broad enough to be useful market designations in and of themselves.

Virtually everyone on this site falls into the core category, but how many of you are sim gamers, and how many are competitive? Among the competitive crowd, how many are pure tourney gamers and how many prefer the context provided by online franchise? How many are social gamers, ostensibly ďcasualĒ by your tastes, but you associate and play with core gamers, making you a ďcoreĒ by other measures. Itís just not a simple question.

I prefer to adjust perspective. I want to design based around a philosophical foundation, not target markets. Designing around target markets leaves your design unfocused, your features slipshod collections of hacks each designed for a different market but with no unifying foundation.

Think of the NFL Draft in Madden NFL 17; it completely changes the way you evaluate players away from every other time you must in the game. Whether youíre an overall rating guy or someone who looks at individual ratings, from preseason roster cuts, to injury replacements, to off-season free agency, that method of player evaluation is employed at every stage; but not the draft.

I know some of you are thinking, ďBut the draft should be different,Ē but should it? Watching tap of a 21 year old QB at Notre Dame is so different from watching your own game tape the previous week? It really isnít, the problem is you have to evaluate against a different, lower standard with the rookie. Therein lays the difficulty. Heís playing with worse players against worse players, so the key to draft scouting is not that players have a bunch of unknown, unknowable traits, but that you cannot know precisely how much the level of competition effects the playerís performance on that tape.

A philosophical approach to franchise mode would guide a designer to unify player evaluation. Perhaps overall ratings should be hidden, perhaps they should be converted to something more ambiguous, or maybe they should just be fully visible, but whatever is chosen, that same method should be applied in all areas of the game. One should not be asking the user to play hours of franchise mode developing his own approach to things that works, only to have some small corner of the game make all that experience invalid.

So, whatís my design philosophy? It comes in two parts; verisimilitude and attitude.

Verisimilitude is a believable secondary world, and my philosophy is as follows;

I want the results of my designs to produce a 30 franchise mode that someone could dig through, look at every stat, trade, win, loss, champion, and transaction and believe it. They need to believe that this could realistically be the results of 30 years of NFL history in some alternate dimension.

Attitude is how we face the user, how we decide what is an appropriate feature and what is not, and it is stated as thus;

Think like Bill.

Bill Walsh or Bill Belichick, doesnít matter, theyíre pretty similar here. These are the two most analytical, tactically minded head coaches in NFL history. I could have said, ďThink like Vince Lombard,Ē or ďMike Ditka.Ē I didnít, because that would have me designing Mass Effect style motivational half-time speech simulations over halftime gameplan adjustments.

So a believable secondary world and an analytical, tactical approach to team management is our starting point. Now, we need to identify the core features of a presentable franchise mode, and start to build those out, always remembering our core design philosophy.
Comments
# 1 jWILL253 @ May 19 (5 Days Ago)
"adembroski"... well, there's a name I haven't heard in ages. Good to see you back, man!
 
# 2 adembroski @ May 20 (4 Days Ago)
Hiya, jWill, yeah, long time.

I stayed away primarily due to lack of interest. Madden's made some strides the last couple years IMO so I'm interested again.

Also, I spent some time working for a legal aid firm and was able to verify precisely what I can get sued for and not:P EA legal likes to act like they own your soul when you sign an NDA, so I wanted to know what I'm allowed to talk about before I started putting my opinions out there again.
 
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