I can't take credit for the initial idea on which this post is based, but it's about time that EA got their own replacement refs for their games. Why? It seems that, almost without fail, penalties just don't happen often enough in EA Sports games. With the release of NHL 13, that complaint is coming up again. A poster on another message board made the astute observation that EA's refs simply don't call enough penalties. Whether it is NCAA, Madden, NHL or Fifa, it is hard to find a reasonable amount of penalties being called. Why is this pattern so consistent? I'll offer a couple of hypotheses.
Hypothesis 1: Penalties can be hard to simulate when control schemes do not allow users to intentionally commit penalties. EA simply can't include penalties because they are very difficult to program accurately when the penalty isn't connected to a player's direct input. Players would complain too much about penalties they had not committed ("I didn't commit pass interference! I was just jumping for the ball!"). It may be entirely true that a player was just jumping for the ball. So if the game called a player for pass interference, it would literally be out of the gamer's hands. This possibility is more the case for EA's football games where one can't really grab a facemask or hold another player. However, even in the NHL series that offers a bit more control over possible penalties, it is hard to intentionally slash or hook an opponent. Fifa gives players the most control over intentionally committing fouls, but it seems that there is typically only two outcomes for a foul, a yellow or red card. The majority of real world fouls do not yield cards, but the opposite tends to be true in Fifa. Maybe EA needs to change their control schemes to allow users to commit penalties if penalties are going to matter. But I don't think that is a viable solution.
Hypothesis 2: The potential reason for the lack of penalties has nothing to do with the sport being simulated and more to do with EA's design philosophy. EA may actually purposely limit the number of penalties that are called in their games as a way to make the games more fun for a larger number of people. Fewer penalties definitely won't satisfy OS readers, but it might mean more sales from the more casual sports gamers who don't want their fun 'ruined' by the clipping, high sticking or obstruction call that would make the experience more realistic.
Whether the issue is just how difficult it is to program penalties or whether fewer penalties is actually an EA design philosophy, I think it's time EA got its own set of replacement refs.
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