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Madden 12 News Post


It would be putting it nicely to say that some people were unhappy about Madden's Online Franchise mode not being updated this year. But since I had the chance to speak with EA designer Anthony DiMento about Online Communities, I figured it would probably be wise to ask about the oft-discussed Online Franchise mode as well.

Below you will find the excerpt from my interview that details what the thought process was going into the development of this year's online feature set:

Quote:
Operation Sports: There's a lot of people that are unhappy about not having any updates to Online Franchise mode this year, so was it a choice between Communities and Online Franchise this year, or was it nothing like that?

Anthony DiMento: I know everybody's excuse for Online Franchise is that they look at the numbers, and nobody plays it, and it's a vocal minority of guys. But at the beginning of the year, Ian's mandate (Ed. note: Ian Cummings is the former Madden creative director) was that we had to do something for Online Team Play (OTP). So if we're going to do something for OTP, it's got to be the Clubs feature -- that's in FIFA and NHL, basically what this whole foundation is built on. So there wasn't going to be time for Clubs and a full upgrade to Online Franchise, so rather than making a few minor tweaks to Online Franchise, we were able to manipulate the Clubs feature to create Communities -- you know create that head-to-head experience that goes along with all the ranked team play stuff that Clubs brings.

I mean I think what Online Franchise is all about from what I hear, and from my experience, is about playing together -- playing with your friends and playing against a group of guys you like playing with. And the biggest complaint we hear, other than it not being updated, is that it's really hard to schedule your time; that's been the problem here at the office, too. I have a Week 6 game, and I have one guy I have to play against. I'm just like, 'Hey, John, meet me online at 8:30. We're going to play our Week 6 game because the commissioner is going to advance the week tomorrow so we have to get this done.' And then either I have to work late and I don't it make in time, or he has to go pick up his wife at the airport or something like that. Guys just aren't able to coordinate.

It's frustrating already, so we felt like Communities is still giving people that experience they want playing together without having to worry about thinking about figuring out that I have to wait for that one guy. Now you can be in a situation where you can have 2,000, or if you're in five communities, 10,000 other guys potentially that you can get a game against, and people you want to play against. So it was a matter of priorities, too. Everybody plays ranked head to head, and we had more guys play OTP last year than we had play Online Franchise mode. Basically that is what it comes down to.
My Take: This explanation doesn't let EA off the hook for things that were said about improving Online Franchise mode well before this year, but it certainly seems wise to focus on the majority of football gamers first and foremost. In many ways, it reminds me of the way Criterion tends to do things with their online features. The folks at Criterion, who are responsible for the Burnout franchise and Need for Speed: Hot Pursuit, have had a great amount of success focusing on core online experiences that you are simply able to hop in and out of quite easily. Criterion's racing games sometimes get criticized because people look at them on the surface and see something that does not really look that deep. In the end, it's really more deceptive than anything. Something like Autolog is sometimes easy to dismiss at first glance because it's a part of every single portion of the game rather than being a set mode; the same goes for "Easy Drive" in Burnout Paradise. However, if you stick around and actually play the games, you realize the simplicity gives way to a complex idea that was just implemented in such a way that it's easy to enjoy.

If Online Communities works correctly, then it should simply become a part of the way you play the game online. Imagining a scenario where you can easily hop online and get a game in against likeminded gamers either by going head to head or by going through the OTP lobby would add so much to the Madden experience online. At the end of the day, it's about ease of use. If you hop online, and then have to deal with various barriers of entry before finding a quality game, you're going to be less likely to come back. If everything is streamlined, then you come back day after day because it's quick, easy and you're having fun.

Again, it doesn't solve the problems people have with already having a small, built-in group they want to play Online Franchise mode with on a daily basis, but it seems like that's a very small number of people in the grand scheme of things for EA. So if EA can bring more people back to the online features throughout the year, then it makes more sense that those formerly unconnected people will eventually want more from their experience, and thus a greater demand will pick up for more in-depth experiences like Online Franchise mode. Lastly, if Communities somehow enables EA to further streamline the ways you can connect with potential opponents, then that will help Online Franchise mode when it does inevitably get updated.

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Member Comments
# 1 druez @ 07/25/11 03:22 PM
Weak arguement. I wonder how Online Dynasty is doing for NCAA. It seems pretty popular to me. Nobody plays the Online Franchise mode, because it was weak in features.

I have 4 guys I like to play with, we do head to head already. What we want is for us all to experience the single player franchise mode, but with all of us playing. That means, trades "AI" for the computer teams, salary cap etc...
 
# 2 Stick skills @ 07/25/11 03:23 PM
It's all lies... Just looking at your link there are 15 pages of filled with comments about the anger over EA refusing to improve it online franchise and this is not the only sports gaming site with those sentiments. Its obvious to me that EA is lying about how many people play or at least tried to play online franchise. Just wait and see the kind support online franchise gets once it is fully functional. The truth is they need something to sell Madden 13 mark my words online franchise will be a MAJOR selling point for the next Madden
 
# 3 druez @ 07/25/11 03:23 PM
The worst part of all of this. They had a working franchise mode back in 2k for the computer version and they actually took it out. It was pretty solid.

Custom league sizes and everything.
 
# 4 falconfansince81 @ 07/25/11 03:24 PM
"I mean I think what Online Franchise is all about from what I hear, and from my experience, is about playing together -- playing with your friends and playing against a group of guys you like playing with. And the biggest complaint we hear, other than it not being updated, is that it's really hard to schedule your time"

well is is what you make it, a barebones feature that has been neglected for two years. if EA really focused some resources in improving this feature they could eliminate many problems and actually make it a premier worthy aspect of madden that rivals or surpasses the ncaa dynasties. add flex scheduling, league chat rooms, spectator mode and i guarantee you see a resurgence of more successful leagues.

a big reason a lot of franchises fall apart is lack of communication, and perhaps online communities can benefit online franchises by uniting more active sim gamers...but there is no way in hell it should have ever taken precedence imo. tho i agree it wouldn't be fair to just throw a couple upgrades in and call it a day, so i supposed looking at communities as a stepping stone towards creating a better pool for the success of future online franchises would be the optimistic route.
 
# 5 dkp23 @ 07/25/11 03:27 PM
Delusional. What does the difficulty of scheduling an online franchise game have to do with anything? Has nothing to do with the lack of features of online franchise which probably is the reason why everybody drops after a few months. Communities is just another version of online ranked match with sliders and some stat tracking. Why couldnt that be implemented in online franchise? Communities is not going to eliminate cheese, quitting, and all that stuff. People have their own version of sim and all type of people rage quit anyway...

From reading the boards, update to online franchise was probably one of the most talked about things, being able to experience a full franchise experience online as well as offline. Again, EA trys to add something new to justify buying the game because for years, they just add junk for no reason. How bout scrap superstar and focus on online chise.

Yes EA is listening alright. Slap some new animations to replace old ones and call it gameplay "improvements". Talk about a new tackling system which puts it back to previos versions of one man tackles and pinball effects. There is still no gangtackling and the initial tackler lets go before the 2nd/3rd tackler finishes the runner off. Change the kicking meter again and redo some of the navigation and select screen decor and yes, we got a brand new game.

This is why EA reps get trashed on the boards. They make excuses to add b.s and ignore what is wanted by everybody. Another bad thing is the community people that go and play these games have no choice but to praise or they get left out in the cold. I've already lost faith in EA and lost faith of many of these community guys that get to play early builds because they say good things and when the game comes out, there are so many things that do not work.

Just unbelievable. Lucky for the license deal with the NFL or Madden would of gone the way of NBA Live. It was already happening and luckily, the NFL offered it up..
 
# 6 jyoung @ 07/25/11 03:33 PM
Quote:
And the biggest complaint we hear, other than it not being updated, is that it's really hard to schedule your time
So no one at EA has heard of flex scheduling?

It has been a standard feature in most sports games that have had online leagues.

Heck, back when 2K Sports first debuted online leagues in all their 2K5 Xbox sports games, they had flex scheduling as an option for league commissioners.
 
# 7 ChaseB @ 07/25/11 03:37 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by wEEman33
So no one at EA has heard of flex scheduling?

It has been a standard feature in most sports games that have had online leagues.

Heck, back when 2K Sports first debuted online leagues in all their 2K5 Xbox sports games, they had flex scheduling as an option for league commissioners.
I think you're still sort of missing the point here. It's hard to get people together in general for something like Online Franchise. If Communities is successful in bringing folks together, that's the first tangible step for folks evolving to Online Franchise.

I don't think OS is the best spot to really pitch why Communities is more important than Online Franchise, but in the grand scheme of things the logic seems to add up.
 
# 8 falconfansince81 @ 07/25/11 03:40 PM
we use AOL blast chat and require members to have it, it makes scheduling a breeze and is equally great for trading and getting to know the guys in your leagues. why can't there be a chat APP on the website...or in the game? there are a TON of ways to make OF more accessible and successful, problem is the thought of improving it has yet to even be mentioned.
 
# 9 Yankees_CT @ 07/25/11 03:42 PM
Actually while it doesn't let them off the hook as Chase mentioned (especially with the Online Chise guys) it does make a lot of business sense to bring in the people who do not play online first and then go back to improving the deeper parts of the experience.
I am an offline guy and the communities feature really does have my attention. So in that regard I guess they are doing something right. Again though I do feel for the online franchise guys. It took a while for us offline franchise guys to get any updates whatsoever.
 
# 10 yanknicks @ 07/25/11 03:46 PM
If online franchise is that bad to EA, why don't they just take it out completely but its not. I guarantee you if there was competition to EA (NBA LIVE VS 2K) and they had online franchise fully functional, EA would fix online franchise in a heart beat. They just need a selling point next year, so they had to leave one feature out.
 
# 11 aceoye @ 07/25/11 03:49 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by dkp23
Delusional. What does the difficulty of scheduling an online franchise game have to do with anything? Has nothing to do with the lack of features of online franchise which probably is the reason why everybody drops after a few months. Communities is just another version of online ranked match with sliders and some stat tracking. Why couldnt that be implemented in online franchise? Communities is not going to eliminate cheese, quitting, and all that stuff. People have their own version of sim and all type of people rage quit anyway...

From reading the boards, update to online franchise was probably one of the most talked about things, being able to experience a full franchise experience online as well as offline. Again, EA trys to add something new to justify buying the game because for years, they just add junk for no reason. How bout scrap superstar and focus on online chise.

Yes EA is listening alright. Slap some new animations to replace old ones and call it gameplay "improvements". Talk about a new tackling system which puts it back to previos versions of one man tackles and pinball effects. There is still no gangtackling and the initial tackler lets go before the 2nd/3rd tackler finishes the runner off. Change the kicking meter again and redo some of the navigation and select screen decor and yes, we got a brand new game.

This is why EA reps get trashed on the boards. They make excuses to add b.s and ignore what is wanted by everybody. Another bad thing is the community people that go and play these games have no choice but to praise or they get left out in the cold. I've already lost faith in EA and lost faith of many of these community guys that get to play early builds because they say good things and when the game comes out, there are so many things that do not work.

Just unbelievable. Lucky for the license deal with the NFL or Madden would of gone the way of NBA Live. It was already happening and luckily, the NFL offered it up..
What great post even though I highlighted something in specific..thats why only communities wont mean much.. madden is still a videogame everyone has their own approach as to how to play it and whats fair..Just because so and so can user pick better than me does that make him less sim cause I cant do it as good? oh he audibles every play because hes making reads of my defense is that less sim? everyone will have their own definition of sim play or whatever even in the OS community someone is bound to complain over someone elses play style although they both say they play sim style and are all for it something is gonna happen the other user dislikes..Its still a game and people play how they play..Just like cod for instance should I be crazy mad just cause someone camps? even if they had a game option to play with no campers type of players.. your gonna see someone camping eventually..
 
# 12 Yeah...THAT Guy @ 07/25/11 04:14 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Yankees_CT
Actually while it doesn't let them off the hook as Chase mentioned (especially with the Online Chise guys) it does make a lot of business sense to bring in the people who do not play online first and then go back to improving the deeper parts of the experience.
I am an offline guy and the communities feature really does have my attention. So in that regard I guess they are doing something right. Again though I do feel for the online franchise guys. It took a while for us offline franchise guys to get any updates whatsoever.
This post kinda goes along with what my thinking is. I did an online franchise where it was just like 4 guys pretty much just ****ing around, and did one online franchise that was supposed to be serious, but it died after like 10 weeks or so. It was ok, but personally, I kind of lost interest in playing online because it feels like half the time you end up playing against guys just looking to find all the exploits in the game, so for me, this feature will probably renew my interest in playing Madden online. Further more, I've never really gotten the chance to play against any of the OS guys online before, so this will be a completely new experience for me.
 
# 13 TDKing @ 07/25/11 04:22 PM
They just don't get it... We want a real online franchise mode not an enhanced play now stat tracking friends list.
The community thing is not a bad idea, IT's just NOT an online FRANCHISE MODE. Finish the online mode you started 3 years ago and let the commisioners worry about getting the games scheduled! Oh and OTP will not work in a football game but you guys can keep on trying LOL...
 
# 14 StL_RamZ @ 07/25/11 04:32 PM
Too me it's looks like this took a week 2 finish and put up...I still prefer online Fran.
 
# 15 SHAKYR @ 07/25/11 04:33 PM
ChaseB, thanks for the not letting EA off the hook comment. EA producers are going to defend a decision if they agree with it or not.
 
# 16 Trojan Man @ 07/25/11 05:03 PM
More people played OTP than OF? Wow! Is that in terms of raw numbers of people who actually logged on and tried that mode once? Over time? If that's a legit statistical statement, then that's fine. You have to cater to your user base. I found that statement surprising, though.

I'm not sure I buy the argument that what OFs are about is playing together, therefore Communities effectively meets that need while also negating the drawback of scheduling difficulties. OFs are about playing together, but they're also about year-over-year GM moves in FA, the draft and trades, competition for division titles and playoff births, SB wins over the years, and such. It's certainly true that scheduling can be a bear, but I don't think Communities as its described is a proper surrogate when all those things are taken into consideration.

Honestly, I get tired of picking up and playing games online outside of the online franchise context after a month or two because the teams don't change. By that time in an OF you're looking at a draft and an influx of new players.
 
# 17 jyoung @ 07/25/11 05:12 PM
Exactly, most of the fun of online franchise comes from the managerial aspect of it.

The actual week-to-week games are the weakest part of the experience.

Which is why I never bothered to play regular ranked games in Madden.

Plus you mostly just see the popular teams over and over again (Eagles, Patriots, Cowboys). At least in a full online franchise, you face a different team every week instead of just playing against the same handful of top teams all the time.
 
# 18 Danimal @ 07/25/11 05:25 PM
Again I have this feature already it's called a friends list and you know why it works better? Is I know everyone on my friends list. There is no way to actively make sure community members play the way you want them too no matter how many configuration options they give you.
 
# 19 number1thumbs @ 07/25/11 05:26 PM
online communities would be great if they werent done halfway. As of now, there is nothing stopping a cheeser from joining a sim community and exploiting the game. If you have hundreds of members it will be really hard for the manager(s) to decipher who is telling the truth when it actually comes down to kicking someone out.

Also, Like others have stated, there are many, many different definitions of sim. As it stands now, it will be extrememly hard to get the specific rules across to everyone unless they're the rare message board frequenter. But even then it will still be a "he said, he said" debate.

EA should have set up a number of different types of communities ( sim, tourney, beginner, etc.) where rules/policies are already set.
And If they(EA) were really ambitious, they could have made it so that league managers have a numerous list of options to choose from to customize the rules of the league(same playcall frequency, run/pass ratio, etc.) Think customizable '05 fair play but with a lot more options.

But the fact that yet another barebones feature took precedence over giving an already installed feature more much needed depth seems like a poor decision
 
# 20 CreatineKasey @ 07/25/11 05:32 PM
Quote:
Originally Posted by Trojan Man
More people played OTP than OF? Wow! Is that in terms of raw numbers of people who actually logged on and tried that mode once? Over time? If that's a legit statistical statement, then that's fine. You have to cater to your user base. I found that statement surprising, though.

I'm not sure I buy the argument that what OFs are about is playing together, therefore Communities effectively meets that need while also negating the drawback of scheduling difficulties. OFs are about playing together, but they're also about year-over-year GM moves in FA, the draft and trades, competition for division titles and playoff births, SB wins over the years, and such. It's certainly true that scheduling can be a bear, but I don't think Communities as its described is a proper surrogate when all those things are taken into consideration.

Honestly, I get tired of picking up and playing games online outside of the online franchise context after a month or two because the teams don't change. By that time in an OF you're looking at a draft and an influx of new players.
Even with roster updates EA's football games hold very little replayability when it comes to ranked matches. I wish they'd do something where people would select their team before entering matchmaking, and maybe each user was allowed to "ban" one or two teams so they don't face the two teams they play so much.

I think OTP and online franchise hit two polar opposite demographics for EA. They chose casual this time around for online modes. Fortunately, Derek Adams' website kind of saves us in a lot of ways. If it wasn't for that, I think OS would be blowing up with rage posts.

Hopefully the OS community makes the most of the feature by tracking weekly leaders, creating leaderboard seasons, and designing ideal settings for sim football. We ran that APF leaderboard and it went pretty well. Maybe this one can hold some weight. The key will be finding someone willing to put the time in and run the community.
 

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