Monday, August 2, 2010
11:57 AM - August 2, 2010. Written by MMChrisS

To anyone who read my Backbreaker Review, you know I've royally trashed the game's quality in the past. But I've also tried to remain consistent with the game being a lasting lesson to sports game developers that there is a different approach than the 'God-angle' many of the games have gone with in the past few years.

To truly simulate a sport, the best way to do so is to get you closer to the action, Backbreaker did just that. However, the game couldn't get the basic tenets of football down, so while the effort was to be honored -- it was still a very bad game at the end of the day.

Until today.

Backbreaker's patch, announced today, looks to completely change the game from the bottom up. Those rule snafus? Mostly fixed. Gameplay issues? Addressed. New plays and formations? Yeah, they threw in the kitchen sink as well.

The improvements will almost certainly take Backbreaker from a completely atrocious game to at least a somewhat passable game and possibly beyond that. However, what I feel the patch really does is leave a lasting legacy in the minds of gamers on how a company should handle the position of being in the wrong.

You never once heard a Backbreaker spokesman or developer say anything to deflect blame nor did you ever hear any excuses. There were no 'limited development times' or 'we were saving that for next year's' thrown out.

All you heard was, "Our game has serious issues and we are going to make it right. Major patch coming, see you in awhile."

And today, we see how a company should handle major defects in their game. Backbreaker's new patch not only fixes issues, the company decided to add in some extra features for free to show that they really do care about their customers. That kind of support for one's customers is as refreshing as it is revolutionary, at least in the sense that treating your customers like people who spent their hard earned money on you instead of a number is how things should be.

Perhaps quality won't follow with this Backbreaker patch like I hope, but I do know I can see a company that really cares for their customers. And to that I say bravo to the Backbreaker crew, with customer support and appreciation like this, I can't help but feel optimistic about the series' future.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS
Friday, July 30, 2010
04:42 AM - July 30, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: What are your weekend plans, what games will you be playing?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

Aerodynamics (46), Flesheater (27), JoeMimic (26), Matt Young (26), buddy321813 (20)
Blog: Steve_OS
Thursday, July 29, 2010
05:03 AM - July 29, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: Which demo impressed you more, Madden NFL 11 or NCAA Football 11?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

Jistic (40), Jonesy (30), tc23 (30), kennyacid (27), Cj7298419 (26), aldogabd (24), alex96
Blog: Steve_OS
Wednesday, July 28, 2010
Tuesday, July 27, 2010
As many of you may know already -- and if you don't it's ok I'm about to enlighten you -- NCAA's dynasty mode is horribly broken this year.

Since EA Tiburon made the decision to rate recruits lower coming into school (but yet I guess forget to work on the progression of the game), most teams end up with middle of the road talent after years 4 or 5. It's like all of the football talent in America dries up after this year and all you are left with are a bunch of players rated in the 70s. I did a sim to see how bad it was and my Oklahoma Sooners went from a team with A ratings to a team with C+ ratings, yet they still won the Big XII in Year 7 with that kind of talent. Mostly because Texas had slipped to a team with C-s across the board. Baylor actually was rated as D+ (roughly where such powerhouses as UL Monroe and Western Kentucky lie today).

To me -- this just shows how horribly stale Dynasty mode is in NCAA.

It's a lot like how the signs that we are running out of cheap and easy to extract oil become rather evident when companies are having to resort to drilling thousands of feet down underneath a mile of water already. In the same way, the signs that this version of dynasty mode are running it's course (now going on 13 years) are abundant everywhere. NCAA's developers are having to resort to new tricks to keep the mode fresh which are starting to really hurt the mode's quality in more ways than one. People I have talked to hate the new recruiting system anyways, and then you add in the broken ratings coming in to keep users' teams from being too good, and you see the risks really aren't paying off.

So what does the NCAA team do from here? In this guys' opinion they go back to the drawing board and figure out how to recreate dynasty mode -- and I have the answer right here: You are the coach.

That's right, rebuild dynasty mode as a simulation of what's it's like to be a coach in one of the best sports in the world. College football is built around coaches personalities and programs more than it is players, so Dynasty mode should be about coaches.

You should be able to start dynasty mode with career goals such as win more National Championships than Bear Bryant or win more overall games than Joe Paterno did. And for those achievement freaks -- there should be big time rewards for doing these things.

This would go along with you having a real coaches market where you have to hire and fire coordinators and whatnot. Each coordinator would have ratings which effect player progression and a system which would determine your playbook. This coaches market would also include your coordinators getting offers to go coach elsewhere and also you getting offers as well. Each school has different budgets, which you set at the beginning of the year to pay your coordinators as well as to set towards recruiting. These are all real decisions coaches have to make to keep their program in check.

And EA Sports' can set up a website with a NCAA Football 12 Coaches Hall of Fame, showcasing players best careers in their hall. Shoot, set up a competition or two and give away from free swag towards the players who compete and complete some career goals over time.

And dare I say it, you could even set up historical challenges where the year is 1947 and your name is Bud Wilkinson and you are now in charge of the Oklahoma Sooners. You have 13 years to complete certain challenges which would match what Bud did (win 47 in a row, win 3 national championships, go 131 - 13 -3 overall). And what about a Bill Snyder challenge at Kansas State? How cool would that mode be?

It just takes a little imagination EA. Revamp dynasty mode, we beg you.

Viva la revolution NCAA'ers.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS
I sometimes feel like a round-earth proponent in a room full of flat-earth ascribers -- or was it a Climatologist trying to explain Global Warming to a room full of Republicans?

One thing that's always brought up is that my argument doesn't ascribe to basic capitalistic principles, I ask why don't they? Someone who says it doesn't certainly doesn't understand economics if games on a store shelf aren't competing against one another for the consumers dollar. Let's take a game which gets a lot of flak for a lack of competition in the same sport -- Madden.

The majority of sales of Madden come from people who are most likely just as likely to buy the new Call of Duty or even another sports game. This basically means that the Madden team has to develop a game of sufficient quality to be a viable purchasing option for the majority of their potential sales against the other games on the shelf: regardless of what sport, planet or genre that game represents. Every game faces marketplace competition like this, and in a marketplace with constrained dollars to be spent, you are fighting to a piece of the bigger pie because that's your mission in business. So needless to say, capitalistic tenets are completely followed despite all claims to the contrary.

And just remember: my argument is based upon my finding that same-sport competition is completely overstated when it comes to why a game is the quality of game it is. I'm not saying it doesn't contribute to end-game quality, because there are good examples of where a new feature helped a game which originated from another. But from year to year, a game's quality is pretty much set already due to corporate decisions before a single line of code is written. Investment into the product, developmental talent and imagination, overall marketplace conditions, and most of all -- the existing base of code developers are working off of all determine the quality of a game before another game in the same genre enters the picture.

Indeed, we see good examples all throughout history of two games in a sport where one succeeds in quality and the other one fails. We even see that same example in this current crop of games. So let's take a look through a few examples and ask a few questions along the way.

First on our tour is NCAA Football. NCAA has been free of same sport competition for nearly 8 years and the latest NCAA release was the best playing football game ever in this writers humble opinion. If same-sport competition was the SINGLE GREATEST factor in game quality which many argue, how did Tiburon ever create a game so good with a lack of same-sport competition to drive developers onwards?

Again, another anecdotal example: NBA 2K. The game has been stuck in a rut and not innovating much at all the past couple of years to the point the game was getting really stale -- even though EA Sports' product has been fast approaching 2K. If single-sports competition was the single greatest factor in overall game quality, why was 2K meandering sideways in quality for a couple of years with same-sport competition fast approaching their product in quality? I'd argue that a lack of developmental talent/imagination along with a lack of new investment into the product had far bigger impacts on the game's quality than anything Live was doing.

I can also point to Soccer, where FIFA has soared while PES hasn't. If same sport competition was the single biggest factor in sports gaming quality, why didn't both games continue an upwards tick in quality?

What about Hockey? Why has one game (EA's NHL) become one of the best playing games on the market while another (NHL 2K) hasn't even come close to producing anything nearly of the same quality for several years? If same sport competition was the single greatest factor in why games succeed or fail, both games would have improved to keep up with one another over time, correct?

We can also point to baseball, where our two current games have been on different paths at times. MLB 2K's quality was down or sideways at best until recently beginning an upwards movement. MLB: The Show's quality was good to great and now sideways at best. In a lot of ways, The Show and 2K's battle is mirroring the basketball genre where one game was of high quality but not improving and the other took awhile but rapidly began to catch it. It makes you wonder if perhaps there is something bigger than same sports competition driving why sports games are the way they are?

I know it's hard to let go of old and tired ways of thinking, but if you just look at the evidence sport by sport, you see compelling signs that same-sport competition is merely a crutch for people to somehow justify why a game wasn't getting better during a few years period. In this day and age, the more simple-minded and blame-giving against the system an argument is, the more readily accepted it becomes: despite any evidence (oftentimes overwhelming) to the contrary.

Even though the evidence is compelling that factors well beyond same-sports competition have a far greater impact on game quality, I fear we'll be hearing the same old tired arguments on same-sport competition as we head towards a future where the market can only support one game per sport (and on a rare occasion two). I think the above real world cases overwhelmingly show that same sport competition's impact on game quality is highly overstated.

As I said yesterday, for the consumer: same-sport competition is good. The variety two games gives to the purchasing decision at the store is just excellent and can make even two stale games seem fresh much longer. However, when it comes to the actual game quality -- same-sport competition is best left at the door. It doesn't begin to scratch the surface of factors which determine the quality of a game once it hits store shelves.

Perhaps this debate will be brought up again in the future, but until next time OSers: remember the world is indeed round (and despite all claims to the contrary by big oil companies, the earth is indeed getting warmer each year).
Blog: MMChrisS
Monday, July 26, 2010
About 16 months ago or so, I wrote a column that was so inflammatory I actually had people threatening to come find me and beat my rear end. As a writer, I couldn't help but chuckle that I had most likely stirred a hornets nest of giganto proportions. I felt that I had done such a thorough job of enraging the mob, I haven't revisited the issue until today.

And I still firmly believe that in terms of what creates better sports games, same-sport competition still isn't close to the reason I'd point to for why any specific game is successful or not. Let me lay out my case again:

  • Generally, reviewers on a whole get it right. There are aberrations, and different folks value different things, but when a game gets an 80 vs. another that gets a 90 on Metacritic, almost without fail is the latter game the better game. So downplay this factor all you want, but there is no critical evidence that same sport competition creates better games than sports without that same type of competition -- if anything the evidence shows the exact opposite is true. And hey, if multi-billion dollar companies use Metacritic to judge how they did quality wise, I think it's good enough for us to use too.
  • On an even more important note to companies, sales aren't affected much, if any, by same sports competition. There are bigger factors which go into how well a game sales, and it all revolves around economic conditions -- micro and macro, marketplace competition, and the advertising plan behind it (better doesn't always mean more sales). NBA Elite's biggest competition isn't NBA 2K on store shelves when gamers see the latest Call of Duty and Rockstar's newest creation sitting next to them. Basically put: Little Johnny Casual is wondering whether he should buy NBA 2K or Call of Duty more than NBA 2K or NBA Elite. And whether we like or it not here at OS, little Johnny Casual's sale is the type that'll make or break a release sales wise.
  • There are numerous other factors I'd rate ahead of same sports competition which determine how well a game will end up on the quality spectrum: 1)Money available for investment into the game, 2)corresponding developmental talent/imagination present, and 3)external factors in the development process which are hard to quantify. These external factors include things such as developing for new hardware or corporate decrees on how to develop marketable games. And let's not forget that in competition: there are always winners and losers -- just ask NHL 2K.
Finally, I do think same sports competition is better for sports gamers, because having a choice with two varying takes on a sport is always more desirable than a single choice for the gamer. Games seem less stale over time since you can change up the formula. And yes, from time to time, we see 'idea borrowing' go on between games in the same sport -- which could be the only real quantifiable positive aspect of same sports competition. But as far as does same-sport competition above all other factors create better quality games at the end of the day?

I still don't believe it, but same-sport competition is still definitely good for the consumer.
Blog: MMChrisS
Friday, July 23, 2010
01:38 PM - July 23, 2010. Written by MMChrisS

In case you missed it, and I blame you totally for missing it, myself and Christian conducted a Madden Demo Review Roundtable this morning.

A lot of people got the feeling I was being down on the game, which I guess is understandable since my thoughts followed Christians who was rather down on Madden. For me though, I really think Madden is shaping up to be nearly on par with NCAA in terms of gameplay. Considering I think NCAA is the best playing football game released ever, that's a pretty big compliment to Madden.

However, there are some things which bug me about crowning the final build of Madden as the greatest thing since sliced bread -- namely the lack of any innovation in Franchise mode (or any modes for that matter), the potentially stale or awesome presentation/atmosphere (no real feel on it yet), and the definitely going to be repetitive commentary.

While EA looks to have basically nailed the gameplay like they did with NCAA -- I'm sure sliders will fix the pass rush issue this year or at least alleviate it -- they haven't done anything to make the rest of the game shine. Which is funny to this writer, because the same people who always complained about Madden not being good in the gameplay department are now complaining because Tiburon did nothing to innovate in the modes and focused almost exclusively on the on the field gameplay. Some people will just never be pleased.

However, I've been calling for a reset of both of Tiburon's football game's career modes for quite some time: I only hope this year everyone else catches on and we get some wholesale changes in both modes next year.

Until then, we'll be able to enjoy a couple of games with excellent gameplay. However that ranks on your list of priority items is probably how you should base your buying decision on Madden NFL 11, along with whether you prefer the pro or college game. No need to buy two games which play very similar, but no need to completely skip on an excellent year of football gameplay as well.
Chris is the Executive Editor of Operation Sports and maintains this blog on the site. He is also a native Oklahoman and avid storm chaser. You can follow him on Twitter @ChrisSnr.
Blog: MMChrisS
Thursday, July 22, 2010
03:01 PM - July 22, 2010. Written by MMChrisS

Hockey fanatics are pretty darned excited about NHL 11.

Our resident hockey gurus on staff are already planning a cage match to the death for rights to review NHL 11, and I don't blame them. Besides: it's hard to see NHL 11 not being an extremely good sports game.

The real time physics mean the game will essentially be what Backbreaker attempted but yet still wasn't even close to being: a realistic game with real time physics -- obvious I know. Let's not even forget the other additions to the game such as broken sticks, enhanced Be a Pro, 200-ish gameplay enhancements and the new additions to EASHL.

Quite simply: I'm wondering if NHL 11 might just reclaim the crown here at OS for Game of the Year. Here are some things I see working against the game:

1. It's still hockey, and Americans largely don't care about the sport still...at least not how we used to. It'll be tough for NHL 11 to power over strong competition in baseball, basketball and football.

2. Could a bug or two spoil the fun? More times than not, small bugs or oversights have brought down a game from OS Game of the Year consideration, even though the overall package was still quite solid.

3. With posts like mine, could the hype train get ahead of the final product? A lot of times, you see people get way too hyped up for a sports game and it ends up playing pretty similar to it's predecessors even though there are notable and key differences.

As for me, NHL 11 and FIFA 11 are my two most anticipated games for the rest of 2010. So I guess this writer has bought into the hype. So what do you think OSers? Is NHL 11 going to be a legit Game of the Year contender? Sound off with your favorites!
Blog: MMChrisS
05:05 AM - July 22, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: Are you a "game resetter" or do you play through, no matter what?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

wlawrence67 (43), Lintyfresh85 (25), mmorg (24), goodfellagator22 (24), DMT1809, SpacemanSpiff, Forged in Steel
Blog: Steve_OS
Wednesday, July 21, 2010
04:46 AM - July 21, 2010. Written by Steve_OS
If any of these links interest you, talk about them.QOTD: What is the longest gaming session you have ever had?

Happy Birthday to the following OS'ers!

coffeeholic, gallandro (43), ecantona99 (35), Smiley79 (31), PlayaHataSupreme (28), Guffers (27), KleShreen (23), jackel2168 (23), Leon (22), GoDawgs211 (22)
Blog: Steve_OS