Following the ratings reveals for the QBs in Madden 23, OS user canes21 started a thread talking about QB play in Madden 23 and asked fellow OS folks what they thought EA could do now and in the future to continue to make QBs feel different from one another. It’s a question that comes up in various forms every year, and I think it’s actually one of the more complicated questions out there to answer because of the various factions who play Madden. It’s also one of the most important questions to ask almost every year because it’s quite likely the most used position in the game by a mile. In the real NFL, no position gets more focus (and has more money poured into it), so logically it’s probably what a majority (or at least a plurality) of gameplay development time should go into each season to make it continuously feel new and unique.
That said, what constitutes a good idea for differentiating QB play in Madden 23 and beyond might depend on who you ask. A sim player might want more restrictions on audibles and so on, but we also know in the competitive scene it’s more or less frowned upon if you don’t let your opponent set their audibles at the start of the game by rejecting delay of game penalties — Madden not having a system in place to save audibles online also seems archaic if this “house rule” needs to exist. Regardless of what side of the fence you stand on here, I have come to believe over the years that splitting the users up when it comes to game mechanics is probably a bad idea. It splits resources, and while I like the idea of sim vs. arcade for stuff like how often to call penalties, I like it less when it comes to actual game mechanics like “you can call all the audibles you want in arcade but you’re limited by your awareness rating in sim mode.”
Either way, I think there are some great ideas in this thread (and feel free to add more!), so I want to run through some of them now.
Madden 23 QB Play Differentiation
Of course, it’s first best to call out what EA is doing this year with skill-based passing. Josh wrote about his feelings on it, and if you played the beta you probably have some thoughts now as well. I’m not going to talk much about the mechanics of skill-based passing here, but I do think it leads perfectly into the first “issue” with a lot of this stuff that user CM Hooe brings up in the thread.
A more recent example is the skill-based passing in the Madden 23 beta. One of the most common responses I saw in the impressions thread on here was “how the hell do I use this, the game doesn’t tell me how”, lol.
This isn’t just a Madden problem. The sport of football has always had an extremely secretive and insular culture, and up until the past five years or so, it has been tough to get knowledge of the game out to the public. Keeping on theme, I didn’t understand how pass protection worked in football until this past year. I didn’t really begin to have any clue what was actually going on in football until about five years ago.
When it comes to video games, football remains the most complicated one to discuss because it’s the most popular American sport, but it’s simultaneously the least understood sport as well. EA does need to teach every single concept introduced in Madden because most people who watch don’t really understand what they’re watching beyond the entertainment value of it.
You can say the same thing about a lot of sports, but the “misunderstanding” reaches a whole other level with something like the NFL. This complicates things because you get diverging viewpoints on what’s important. Rex Dickson, a former creative director on Madden, summed up some of that struggle in a tweet last month:
The aggressive catch mechanic.
I knew I was in trouble when an executive producer told me how much his 8 year old nephew loved throwing streaks to Gronk for TD's every play.
Still have nightmares about it till this day.#timmytarget #willywalmart https://t.co/zIfnsHSL6V
— Rex Dickson (@Rex_Dickson_) June 3, 2022
Shade aside, there is a balance to be considered here with this stuff, and part of that balances goes back to education itself. The NFL has finally started to open up in recent years and give more insider knowledge to the general public, and so I do think the discourse about the game of football is being elevated. However, it’s a long process to get to a point where this knowledge gets to enough people to make “teaching football” less of a priority in video games and beyond.
A New Sort Of Vision Cone
As always, there is discussion about the vision cone and its legacy in this thread. In a general sense, I would say OS users appreciate what the vision cone tried to do, but they tend to think it was sort of ugly. They want something like it, but they don’t want exactly that concept back. One of the ideas thrown out there for a “modified” version of the vision cone comes from Broncos86:
Tie awareness to how many routes a QB can throw to and the adjustments that can be made at the line. It makes no sense that a QB with a 50 AWR can effectively be put into the hands of the player and have 5 routes accessible and readable and every audible the player wants.
Make low awareness QBs have less options on the field. A rookie QB with low awareness will be lucky to get through more than 2 progressions. This would make designating the primary WR important on the field and it would simulate a low AWR QB effectively “staring down” his WR. Maybe he goes to his 2nd progression, and lucky if he has a third.
Then, make audibles limited. You shouldn’t have the entire playbook at your fingertips at the line as a rookie QB. Limit which audibles are accessible and limit that audible to ONE. No changing the play 3 times at the line.
I think this is where you would run into the first fight between sim users and competitive users. We’ve gone down the audibles and hot routes road before with limiting them based on certain factors. In general, the competitive crowd does not like it. Again, I don’t like splitting the users up when it comes to this stuff, but I do think there might be some wiggle room here if it’s simply tied to bad quarterbacks. I don’t think many competitive players are tanking their QB position, so it might not be often that an awareness rating would be in the dumpster. It gets trickier if you start tying it to certain traits and so on, but I especially like the component here about limiting progressions. It does feel out of place for a rookie QB to come to the line and have five receivers he could throw to when we know it’s usually a one or two read system for these quarterbacks.
Even if folks can’t agree on what to do with how many receivers should be eligible to be thrown to on a specific play in “play now” games, one franchise mode wrinkle that Broncos86 and CM Hooe both touch on to various degrees would be really cool to see. Here’s CM Hooe with an explanation:
Apply a tag to quarterbacks who spent their time in college playing in simplified offensive systems and limit their ability to make certain throws on pass plays. For example, one of the main knocks on Panthers rookie passer Matt Corral was that he played in an RPO-heavy system which did not ask him to perform full-field reads. Add a tag to him which, while his AWR is below a certain threshold, hides the passing icons for all non-backfield receivers on the side of the formation opposite the primary route, and (if they are still in the game) prevents him from calling motion or hot routes to any receiver on that side of the formation. Once his AWR progresses above whatever threshold value is set, the tag is removed and the passing icons on the backside of the play no longer disappear. (This limiting of QB vision would be a more authentic solution for limited QB vision than the old Vision Cone, which I have stated many many times was terrible and IMO it should stay buried and dead).
If people can’t agree on what should be competitive games/play now games, a workaround for getting in some of this cooler stuff for at least offline/franchise mode play would be simply tie it to concepts within franchise mode itself.
Read The Defense
One of the more in-depth ideas thrown out there comes from user iMac2307. In football terms, it basically sums up how a QB is reading the defense before the snap in terms of what coverages he thinks are out there versus the routes that are about to be run. In video game terms, it’s a sort of cheat sheet where you find out where the QB thinks the ball should go, and now it’s up to you to decide if he’s right or not once the ball is snapped.
While at the LOS, similar to hot-routing or calling an audible, an input can be pressed that would allow for the QB to ‘Read the Defense’. All this simply provides, after a short animation, is visual feedback within the play art on who the QB thinks their primary receiver is. This shouldn’t be locked behind an ‘ability’, or made into a gimmick behind a set of rules as to when it can or can’t be used. Attempting to read the defense at the LOS is something that should be expected out of a professional QB.
Here’s the caveat….this feature would rely upon a rating that determines the QB’s ability to read the defense. This means, when the input is pressed, players such as Tom Brady and Joe Burrow, who score really high in their ability to read a defense, would consistently provide the user (and CPU) reliable feedback on who is best to target on that play. This doesn’t mean it’s an auto-completion, as ratings such as accuracy, WR vs DB match-up, pressure, timing etc still impact the outcome. It also doesn’t mean it’s 100% correct every time.
On the other hand, if I take a QB like Sam Darnold, or a rookie QB who’s ‘Read Defense’ rating may be low, the feedback I receive on who they feel is the primary receiver is could very well be wrong. You’re now much more at the mercy of bad reads of lower rated QBs, or at the mercy of a young guy who’s still getting the grips with NFL defenses. Should you trust their judgement? Should you improvise and target someone else? Should you tailor the game plan if you notice they consistently read the defense wrong?
This input at the LOS would be optional, so you can play more ‘freestyle’ and make your own reads, or if you want to play really sim to your QB’s ratings, you could utilise the feature as often as you like. And for those who play competitively, it’s a feature that is simply turned off.
While there are maybe details or renditions of this concept that could work better than what I’ve proposed, what I ultimately want to see is the outcome of a play being about more than just the accuracy ratings. There’s much more to success at the QB position than just how accurate you are. Madden currently does nothing to reflect this.
OS user IlluminatusUIUC chimes in to explain why he likes this idea as well:
I like this, because there are some QBs (Goff and Ryan Fitzpatrick come to mind) who do decently at reading the play pre-snap but then can get real confused during the play. It would allow for disguised coverages to affect QBs differently based upon their pre- and post-snap reads.
Hottest Take: Remove Hot Routes
Hot routes tend to be the thing where the competitive crowd and sim crowd diverge the most. However, I think part of it isn’t so much because there’s a massive disagreement, rather it comes back to general user control. The competitive crowd (and sim crowd for that matter) have bones to pick with the number of plays in the playbook, and really what the competitive user is looking for is certain route combinations that can be hard to find in the base plays. CM Hooe would kill hot routes entirely, but he also would replace hot routes (and tweak audibles) with some new mechanics.
Starting with audibles, he brings up a system where you call two plays in the huddle.
Gate the current audible system behind the AWR rating and adjust the play call system in turn. Adjust the current play call system to require two calls in the huddle; a primary play call and a Kill / Can play call. By default, a quarterback (user-controlled or not) would only have the option to swap between the default play call and the Kill / Can play call at the line. Ideally, this system would also support formation shifts built into the primary play call. An example play call might be Zebra (11 personnel) Gun Empty Y-Trips Rt (original formation) Shift To Gun Y-Trips Rt (shift call), Y-Stick (called play) Can Zone Read (Kill play). Higher-AWR QBs would be afforded access to more audibles, similar to what functionality exists now.
This concept existed in old 2K football games to some extent, as xCoachDx calls out:
You could could hold RT when selecting a formation and that would be the formation you come out in, but then would shift when you were at the line. Also, you could only audible within your formation, but you could select “on the fly” audibles that would be set for that play only.
As for how to replace hot routes, instead of drawing the play up at the line like we do now, CM Hooe wants to tie it to offensive systems:
Add the idea of offensive system verbiage into the game, with certain benefits and drawbacks of each system. Give each system benefits and drawbacks. For example, an Erhardt-Perkins offensive system might require an extremely high-AWR players across the board to run, but a QB in this system would have the power to call whatever route combinations he wants at the line of scrimmage with simple keywords. This is what Tom Brady did in New England for two decades. His Pro Reads Zone ability could be subsequently adjusted to automatically call a beater route combination for whatever coverage concept the defense calls, as opposed to merely highlighting the first open receiver.
Again, I think changing the hot routes system is tricky for a variety of reasons, but I do think CM Hooe is onto something here for at least franchise mode.
QB Play Beyond The Normal
Of course, there’s always more to do to simply make QBs feel like real QBs beyond just gameplay. They need to look and sound like their real counterparts, and while this aspect probably takes NFL buy-in to get certain assets, Madden can always use more of what user Detroit Tigers mentions below.
I think QB differentiation isn’t any kind of major problem. There are enough ratings, skills, and traits with enough tangible effects to see and feel. They’re on the right track there already IMO.
What I want is way more unique cadences and way more unique throwing motions, especially as it relates to incoming rookies. There’s only so much you can do with QBs, just like there’s only so much you can do with pitchers in MLB The Show. They need better quality, more unique throwing motions, and better hand/ball physics when the throw comes out of the hand.
Like, make the QBs move, throw and sound f’ing sweet for once. That will go a lot farther than people think, I bet.
More gameplay-related but on that same track, CM Hooe also mentions snap counts. We have heard unique snap counts in the game before, but CM Hooe would like more done with these audio assets on the gameplay front:
Add game mechanics around the idea of snap counts. In addition to a play call, you also call a snap count in the huddle. Add Superstar abilities around snap counts. “Commanding Voice” prevents offensive false starts, “Hard Count” increases defensive offsides penalties, “Megaphone” prevents audibles and pre-snap adjustment calls from failing during road games, etc. etc.
Don’t Forget About The AI
I want to end by pointing out that most of this topic relates to you as the quarterback. But there is the AI component that can matter here. CM Hooe points out the first elephant in the room by mentioning that the AI QBs need to use more of what’s in the game (users do more than the AI in terms of pre-snap reads and such right now).
The note I was making about the CPU was specifically that they don’t do these manual actions. The CPU lives with whatever Mike the OL IDs, cannot call a pass blocking hot route for a back or a tight end, cannot call a slide protection (it relies solely on the OL doing that post-snap based on the Mike ID at formation set), and so on.
Fixes and adjustments need to apply to franchise mode, plus how QBs progress/deteriorate as JoshC1977 points out
There’s another element here; and I am looking strictly at CPU QBs: the ‘sense pressure’ and ‘force passes’ traits. These are both fairly critical to QB behavior but I think there is one flaw that stands out to me.
These traits need to be dynamic in franchise based on specific ratings combinations. As QBs evolve or regress, these traits (IMO) should change over time as well. Seeing game-generated players with high-awareness still exhibit the paranoid trait (because it is locked, barring a user edit) doesn’t make a ton of sense IMO. (As an aside, ‘tight spiral’ should also be dynamic based on throwing power and possibly the accuracy ratings)
If not changing the current ratings in the game, I would think that force passes would be based on a combination of awareness and throwing power (argument here is that QBs with big arms tend to force passes more). I think ‘sense pressure’ would be based on awareness, TUP, and maybe break sack.
To really do this well though, the approach to how regression is handled for QBs needs to be modified as well. I’d like to see older QBs take bigger hits to athletic skills and throwing power while losing less in the “mental traits”. Watching Drew Brees age is such a good recent example – he was still savvy, still pretty accurate with his throws, but he just couldn’t get the ball downfield very well. He was a far different player than when he was in his prime.
Watching regression in Madden, QBs get dumber too…which doesn’t make sense to me.
User Mattanite also wants the offensive scheme tag system back, and how that can play into tendencies. I like how he points out how it could build into the scenario system in franchise mode as well.
Bring back the Offensive Scheme tag for each player that used to be in the game which comes with a set of personal throwing zone tendency % (low, medium, high, outside left, inside, outside right, backfield = 10 zones). CPU QBs are more likely to throw preferred zone routes even if slightly more covered than more open routes in less preferred zones (would need an under the hood recognition system for balancing open-slightly covered-covered-doubled vs tendency/preference).
When a QB signs with a team their personal scheme tendency combines with a team offensive scheme tendency map. So a matching scheme cpu QB will “look” at a lot more routes that fit the scheme and other player archetypes (e.g. Spread QB looking at even more backfield and short outside throws in a Spread Scheme to a Receiving HB).
A mismatch could result in a wider range of thrown areas that might not always fit the WR archetypes (Vertical Power Run QB throwing it deep more in a Spread scheme where Playmaker WR look to get open short but not great deep, ignores the Receiving HB more or vice versa, a Spread QB throwing it down a lot to a poor catch Power HB in a Vertical Power system).
Scheme match or mismatch could also then trigger scenarios where a disgruntled WR wants more short routes or a Receiving HB wants more catches, Power HB wants to scheme more runs and less catches.
Lastly, user Fall_DIFH wants to point out that the AI QBs with similar attribute profiles need to be more unique. He calls out some tendencies/frequencies to try and keep that ball rolling.
In 2K you can have two players with the exact same stats and the tendencies will have them acting wildly different. Why can’t we get something as simple as:
- Check down frequency
- Step up in pocket frequency
- Move outside pocket frequency
- Scramble frequency
- Throw on run frequency
That’s not even scratching the surface, but would differentiate people like Josh Allen from Justin Herbert despite their physical profiles being pretty much identical.
As usual, the OS folks have plenty of good ideas when they’re not just in “burn it all down” mode, and so I do think folks should head to the thread and continue the discourse. I want to end on a positive post as well because I do think QB play has been a priority for the development team in a positive way, so I would just reiterate that it should remain a major focus every season.
User ijumpedthegun sums up my general thoughts below:
I love all the ideas from this thread. I have to say, however, that this is one area where I feel like EA has actually done a decent job in recent years. Adding the different QB release timings, changing the motion for cross-body throws, changing the throw power ratings, and superstar abilities have brought Madden a long way from where it was 3 years ago in styles of QB play.
Still room to grow, but credit where it’s due.
Here’s to Madden 23 and beyond continuing to evolve QB play.