10:33 AM - May 16, 2011 by jmurphy31
Josh Looman, Senior Designer for Madden NFL 12, has released a detailed blog on all the changes to Franchise Mode.
Hey Madden fans-
I'm Josh Looman, senior designer on Madden NFL 12, in charge of everything new in Franchise mode this year. First, let me explain how much I care about Franchise mode to give you some insight into how excited I am about this year’s features.
I was the sole designer on Franchise mode for Xbox and PS2 in Madden NFL 04, 05, 06 and 07. A lot of the features we added back then are some of my all-time favorites. I left Madden to be the lead designer on NFL Head Coach 09 and with my team, we created the most in-depth career mode game ever (as far as I’m concerned). I came back to Madden with the goal to provide the fans with an experience similar to Head Coach 09…tons of features and depth within the Franchise and Superstar modes.
This year, after talking to Phil Frazier (Executive Producer), we agreed that it was imperative we get our depth modes back to where you expected them to be. That’s why writing this blog is so important to me. I feel like it’s my responsibility to give you as much as I can in these modes…and that includes tons of community-requested features.
I honestly hope that what you read in this blog floors you! Ready? Here we go…and remember, this year is for you…the fans!
Franchise Mode Dynamic Player Performance
“The biggest thing to happen to Franchise mode since you started playing it”
That’s not an exaggeration. This IS the biggest change we’ve made to Franchise mode in years and it’s the feature I’m the most excited about.
I play every sports game on the market and I’ve always been frustrated by the fact that when I play a career or season mode, every game I play feels exactly the same. The players always play exactly like their ratings and there’s no such thing as having a good or bad day. It’s the one thing that has always ruined the immersion factor for me.
In the NFL, when you go to a game or turn on the TV, you never know what’s going to happen. Is Michael Vick going to have the game of his life or struggle the entire game? We don’t know…and that’s why we love sports. They’re unpredictable.
In Franchise mode this year, we’ve captured that unpredictable feeling and it makes each game feel different every time you start it.
Here’s how it works…
Each week, every player’s ratings will be different from the week before and will vary based on specific traits tied to our all-new Dynamic Player Performance feature, which we’ll discuss at E3.
Think of it in the old adage of “Any Given Sunday” – there are a multitude of factors that impact how a player performs each week, and this is now replicated in Franchise mode.
If a player is inconsistent, you could see pretty significant rating swings from week-to-week.
One week you might get the 90 overall Michael Vick and the next week you might get the 70 overall Michael Vick. Or you could just get the 80 overall Michael Vick.
If a player is very consistent, their ratings will only change slightly each week and you’ll typically always know what you’re getting (example: Peyton Manning or Tom Brady).
Building around these players (and finding them in free agency and the draft) provides an entirely new layer of strategy to the game.
A player that is coming off of a terrible game is “on a cold streak”. That streak ensures that they’ll go into their next game with ratings lower than normal.
The opposite is true for a player on a hot streak.
Players on streaks can only continue those streaks for a maximum of three games before they are re-set to original ratings.
We’ve also added tendency and trait progression to the game this year, so players actually change throughout your franchise. Some players stay the same (since that’s what defines them), while others will grow.
If a player is inconsistent as a rookie, they can become more consistent as they get older and mature (example: a QB sensing pressure better as they age).
Expanded Rosters and Cut Days
“The feature you’ve requested the most”
This is definitely the most requested Franchise mode feature in at least the last five years.
Every day on Twitter or the forums, I read at least one comment where someone asks if the game is ever going to get expanded rosters.
Well, you’ve got it. We allow 75 players per team in the preseason now.
Here’s how it works…
In year one, the shipped rosters will probably be pretty full. I’m guessing each team will have around 70 real players on the roster.
In future years, we’ll add training camp invites to the rosters to expand them up to 75.
All of those invitees and any rookies on the team will have their ratings locked at the start of the preseason. Each week that those players stay on the roster, we’ll unlock a few ratings for them. Their overall rating will evolve as we release those ratings, giving you a better idea of how good they really are. Just because a training camp invitee’s overall rating says it’s a 99 in week one doesn’t mean that his real overall is that high.
By the end of the preseason, if you keep a rookie or training camp invite on the roster for all four weeks, his ratings will be completely unlocked and you’ll know his true overall rating. At that point, you’ll know if you made a mistake by keeping him or if you found a diamond in the rough.
As we unlock those ratings, we also ask you to cut the roster down each week.
In week one, we may only ask you to cut three players but by the end of the preseason, you’ll need to cut eight or more.
The balancing act is determining whether you should cut a veteran to keep one of these camp invitees or rookies.
We also do an interesting thing with rookies you draft beyond year one in franchise mode.
Let’s say that you went through the scouting process and never scouted a QB who was projected to go in the top 10. You get to the offseason and head into the draft. That QB falls to you at pick #15 and you pull the trigger and draft him. When you sign him to a contract, his ratings will not be immediately unlocked. He’ll have to go through the rating unlock process in the preseason just like the training camp invites. If you scouted a player fully and then drafted him, his ratings will be unlocked going into the preseason.
This really makes you focus on scouting some of those late round picks instead of just blindly drafting them.
And one more thing…in the game, we swap out depth charts to match what teams typically do in real life in the preseason (let the backups play the entire fourth game or take the starters out at halftime of the third preseason game).
This allows you to get a really good look at the players you’re thinking about cutting every week.
New Rookie Scouting System
“A much needed upgrade to the scouting system”
When we were sitting down and talking about what new features we wanted in Franchise mode this year, a new scouting system was pretty high on the list.
Last year’s system was neither fun or challenging…it made the draft ridiculously easy since it gave away a player’s potential before you even started scouted them.
All you needed to do was keep an eye on that potential rating during the draft and you’d draft every late round sleeper in the game.
That’s gone and it’s been replaced by a much more simple, yet challenging system.
There are now several scouting stages, including the regular season, Pro Days, NFL Combine and individual workouts.
At the start of the regular season, every draft rookie’s ratings are locked.
During each stage, you’re allowed to select a limited number of players to scout and the stage itself determines which ratings will be unlocked.
If you scout a player during the Combine stage, you will unlock his physical ratings like speed, agility and strength. If you scout them in Pro Days, you’ll unlock some of his intangibles.
If you choose to scout him during individual workouts, you’ll unlock everything…including his potential and traits. The catch is that you can only scout a small amount of players during individual workouts…so you’ll need to unlock as much information as you can before you get there.
Trust me…this makes the entire process much more challenging and rewarding this year. I’ve gone through a draft and because I scouted poorly, I ended up with a class full of busts. I’ve also found my future Hall of Fame QB in my 49ers franchise by scouting the right players.
New Free Agent Bidding Feature
“Offseason Free Agency is now fast paced and interactive!”
Another feature that had become a little stale was offseason free agency.
We knew from the first planning stages that we needed a new take on the process and since I was a big fan of the free agent bidding feature from NFL Head Coach 09, we re-created it in Madden NFL 12 this year.
When you enter free agency, you’ll need to be ready to go. This year’s feature is very fast paced and it’s designed to be hectic. You need to make decisions quickly as you target players since the other teams are not waiting for you.
You’ll face off against the other 31 teams in an interactive bidding environment as you try to win the rights to sign the player to a contract of your choosing.
If another team outbids you, just press a button to increase the bid and become the leader.
Keep an eye on your cap room. We’ve made the cap a lot more challenging this year, so you can’t just sign every free agent. You’ll still need to save room to sign your draft rookies. The screenshot below was taken before we started tuning cap room. You’re not going to have $100 million to play with this year.
“One of the favorite features from the last generation is back!”
One of the most requested community features from the PS2 and Xbox days is back and since it’s also one of my favorites, I was excited to include it in Franchise mode this year.
I know a lot of people like it because it adds a bit of an RPG element to the game.
There are more than 20 different roles that players can earn in Franchise mode, including “QB of the Future”, “Mentor” and “Fumble Prone”.
We’ve even added a handful of new roles like ‘Playoff Performer’, ‘Trench Warrior’ and ‘Iron Man’.
Most of the roles will have an in-game impact. Shutdown Corner, for instance, impacts the ratings of the player that has it AND the QB on the opposing team.
The roles are earned or lost based on defined criteria every offseason so players will not keep them forever. Most of the roles come with logic that changes how teams approach the draft and free agency. If a team has a ‘QB of the Future’ on the roster, they will not draft a QB in the first round of the draft.
If you have a mentor on your roster, he makes the young players better as long as he’s on the team.
Bringing this feature back is just a great way to adding depth to the mode and making individual players stand out a little more.
This is another one of those features that has been a community request for years.
Right before the offseason starts, you can change the team you’re controlling to any other team.
You can even choose to control all 32 teams at that point if you want to.
Future Draft Picks
I can’t mention community requested features without talking about Future Draft Picks, which we’ve also added this year.
It’s pretty simple…when making a trade, you can trade away the current year draft picks or next year’s picks.
This allows you to mortgage the future for a player you want to trade up to get in this year’s draft.
Or pretend you are the Patriots and trade down throughout the NFL Draft for next year’s picks.
This is one we talked to you about on Twitter and the forums.
After some discussion, we agreed that Franchise mode is yours to control and that we needed to give you the ability to edit the ratings of any player in Franchise mode, whether they are veterans or the rookies you just imported from NCAA Football.
If you want some QB you imported to be an 85 overall because you won the Heisman with him, you’re welcome to edit him to be that high. It’s all up to you.
This may seem like a small addition but, to me, it’s big. Being able to practice with your Franchise mode team at any point in the preseason, regular season or playoffs without having to export them allows you to get a look at your team at any time.
Increased Injury Chances and Injured Reserve Fixed
If expanded rosters is the most requested community feature, fixing injured reserve is a close second.
It’s great that adding expanded rosters actually allowed us to fix IR since the game can now handle having more than 55 players on a team.
This year, players are automatically placed on IR and that opens up a roster spot for the team to sign a replacement for him.
CPU controlled teams now place players on injured reserve and sign a replacement if they need to.
Franchise Mode Dynamic Gameplans
We’ve also added a pretty cool new feature that makes teams re-evaluate their game plan based on their starting QB in future years.
Take the Colts for instance. In year one, if you control them or face them as an opponent, they will naturally throw the ball more based on their real life tendencies and because they have Peyton Manning on the roster.
In Franchise mode, if Manning gets hurt or retires, the team will adjust their play calling so that they run the ball more if they have a lower rated QB at the helm until he progresses enough to be able to throw the ball 30-40 times a game.
Revamped Import Draft Class Tuning
This year, AJ Dembroski (our newest rookie designer who some of you may know as one of the biggest Madden fans in the forums) worked a lot on getting players imported from NCAA Football to be more consistent.
Last year, if you imported someone who in your mind was a sure top 5 pick, he could enter your franchise as an 85 or a 65 overall player. There was just too much randomness in the system.
Now he enters the game every time you import him between an 80-87 overall if he’s one of the best players in the import class.
30 Brand New Draft Classes featuring Realistic Player Profiles
We created 30 brand new draft classes from scratch and added a new twist this year.
We’ve created player profiles (scrambling QB, 3-4 DE, power HB, speed WR) that are mixed in with the random guys so that you’ll find players that fit your offensive/defensive scheme and provide a more realistic experience.
Teams in the draft have a preference toward those players and will lean towards drafting them if they have the chance. That means the Raiders will draft a Speed WR if given the choice between him and a possession WR.
We’ve also randomized names and numbers this year so that you won’t recognize individual players each time you start a new franchise.
Another one of AJ’s tasks was focusing on progression and making it more realistic this year.
Last year, players would go up automatically regardless of their season stats. This year’s tuning is much more predictable. Players will go up or down based on their performance and age.
One thing to remember is that players are judged against players around their same age when deciding who should progress or not. So, if a rookie running back rushes for 500 yards and that is the best among his peers, he will progress the most in his age group.
Most players who are 32+ will decline every year unless they had the best years vs. their peers. If they did, they will typically stay the same or go down slightly.
Players in the prime of their careers can go up or down, but they can’t go up as much as young players or down as much as old players. And…yes, you guessed it. They are also judged only against the players around their age.
Revamped Team Re-Sign and New Cut Dead Weight Logic
This is another one of my favorite changes/features this year.
Last year, a team like the 49ers would always re-sign a player like Alex Smith because they had no other alternative on the team at his position. They would never take his potential into account and keep him on the roster for years.
This year they’ll make decisions more intelligently, getting rid of Smith and addressing the QB position in free agency or the draft.
They’ll also try to keep a young player with lots of potential under contract as long as it makes sense.
Along with rewriting the re-sign logic, we’ve also added some new team management logic in the offseason that forces teams to make realistic decisions.
In last year’s game, the Redskins would have signed Donovan McNabb to a 7 year deal and kept him on the roster until 2017 until the deal expired.
This year, they take a look at the roster every offseason and evaluate every player individually. If they feel like McNabb is over the hill, they cut him and move on. This leads to plenty of player movement in the offseason and makes the FA Bidding feature a lot more realistic.
We’ve been careful about teams cutting stars and we discussed this in length with the group of Franchise fans that have joined our Facebook Franchise Discussion Group.
We all agreed that we should make sure someone like Peyton Manning never gets cut, but if a 88-91 overall HB gets cut or not re-signed every now and then, that’s pretty realistic ala LaDainian Tomlinson with the Chargers.
New Salary System
After hearing complaints about how the old salary system was hard to deal with last year, we added a new salary system for players, which apply to veterans and draft rookies.
Last year, rookies would sign contracts based on their positions and ratings…so if you took a 70 overall HB #1 in the draft, he would ask for a 3 year/15 million dollar deal as the 1st pick (which is extremely unrealistic).
Rookies now sign contracts based solely on their position and their draft pick. If you take a QB with the first overall pick, expect to pay him a lot.
As far as the re-sign stage goes, players now sign contracts based on their age, overall rating and potential. Older players will always sign shorter deals for less money as their careers wind down while teams may try to lock up a young player with lots of potential with an expensive deal.
Re-Tuned Simulation Stats
We’re working on fixing OLB sacks, rushing yards and all of the other small issues we had last year.
As always, trying to replicate what 32 teams and 1800+ human players accomplish over a five month period in the NFL is tricky…but we’ll get it as perfect as we can.
This work isn’t done yet…it’s always one of the last things we fix before we ship the game.
Last year we had lots of issues with weather. It would never snow in Green Bay in January, etc.
I put AJ on this task to make sure that you’ll see more weather changes in climates where inclement weather is common.
Revamped Player Retirements
Last year, very few players retired each year in our game. We’ve addressed that by making sure that older players retire at a slightly quicker rate, allowing for young players to take over and get a chance to contribute.
Revamped Player Award Logic
This is a small change but the tuning makes the players that win yearly awards more realistic. We’ve tuned Pro Bowl logic, MVP Logic and all of the logic used for the other awards.
New Player Portraits for Draft Rookies
Rookies now look just like the real NFL players with a new portrait system that removes the cartoony look in Franchise screens.
We tried to add as many portraits as we could so that the way the rookies look in the menus no longer ruins that immersion factor for you.
New Depth Chart Logic
We also changed the depth chart logic this year to be more realistic.
Last year, teams would start a FS at the nickel corner spot if his ratings were good enough.
This year, that player would stay at FS while the real nickel corner would take the correct place in the depth chart.
New Coach Impacts
This is a small feature, but it brings some strategy to signing a coach.
Coaches now impact players on the field positively AND negatively by a small amount.
This is meant to emulate the strengths and weaknesses that each coach has.
The gameplay mechanic is deciding which positive/negative impact you are willing to take on.
Do you want to make your QBs better while your Defensive Line suffers a bit or make your corners better while making your O-Line drop a bit?
So those are the major changes to Franchise mode this year. Excited yet? I am!
I know it’s a lot to digest at first, but I bet you’re much more interested in reading a really long Franchise mode blog than a short one, huh?
As you can see, we’re committed to improving our depth modes going forward and this year’s Franchise mode is just the start.
When the game is released, I’ll be glad to discuss any of the features we added or just talk about Franchise mode in general on my Twitter account at http://twitter.com/josh_looman.
Thanks for reading and I really hope you enjoy all of the new additions for Franchise Mode in Madden NFL 12.
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