Connect with us

Madden 21 Beta: Are You For or Against the 'Film Study' Ability?

madden 21 film study

Madden NFL 21

Madden 21 Beta: Are You For or Against the 'Film Study' Ability?

In terms of gameplay debates, the two biggest ones emerging from the Madden 21 beta have to do with how strong “clicking” on for users should be right now, and the introduction of the “film study” ability. I won’t spend a ton of time on the “usering” debate because I think it’s a more straight forward one (and one we’ve had many times in the past). However, the “film study” debate is fresh and so I want to put both sides of the argument out there while also stating up front that I’m in favor of keeping the film study ability in the game — at least at launch.

(For the uninitiated, the film study ability allows defenders with this ability to see the offense’s play art after a certain play is called three times. In effect, it’s the defensive version of Peyton Manning’s “Omaha” ability from last year, only it’s just a base ability now rather than an X-Factor.)

How Good Should “Usering” Be?

Right, let me first quickly tackle this user debate because, again, I have concise feelings on this one. First, I think it’s relatively easy to argue Madden 20 gave users the most control ever in terms of impacting the action. A good user vs. someone letting the AI handle things had a massive advantage. I would even go as far as saying Madden 20 was maybe the most user-dominant year ever.

madden-21-4

With that in mind, it’s also easy to say “usering” in Madden 20 was overpowered. Even very average players could user and cover two routes on a lot of passing plays without much trouble. This also meant you could blitz seven and still feel safe in the secondary. You didn’t really have to make a difficult choice most of the time. You could just react and get to the spot even when out of position.

On top of that, the AI was just overmatched and could not really deal with users in any great way. What this also did was make players like Taylor Mays and Troy Polamalu two of the best linebackers in the game. Speed and agility were all that mattered because as a user you could just zip around and get to spots with ease. Now with the beta, the opposite is happening to some degree and some are freaking out. I would say have patience. The skill gap between good users and bad users needs to widen, and you also shouldn’t be able to make every play if you did not set yourself up to succeed to some degree before the snap.

madden 21 beta

So while Madden was arguably forward thinking in a sense making Polamalu and Mays dangerous because a lot of real NFL defenses are now looking for speed and positional versatility, users being overpowered came at the cost of the passing game being very boring and easy to defend. The balance between what you did pre-snap and what you did after the snap was out of whack.

(I am not saying there are not AI issues right now or the AI is not botching things in the secondary. I just don’t want that to be used as the main reason we need superhuman users.)

In addition, we’re still getting clarity on the new “change of direction” rating and how that plays against agility and speed. Maybe give a slight bump to users in the final release, but overall, I think we need to keep things closer to how they are now than go back to Madden 20 all over again.

The Case For Film Study

Alright, so now let’s talk about this new ability.

On the most basic level, the argument is basically that people want to see more than 2-4 plays called per game. They don’t want to defend an inside run, an outside run and one rollout pass play all game. The most basic argument on the other side is “you stink if you can’t stop a couple plays.”

So I would start here and say it’s valid to say that sometimes you know what’s coming, but because Madden is Madden, it doesn’t matter and you still get beat by it. This is true for a lot of people who play the game, so on some level whether you see the play art or not is moot. Sometimes I know what my opponent is going to do, and I still get beat by it. The meta becomes the meta because even when you know it’s coming, it’s hard for most people to stop it.

madden-21-gno

The concept of seeing the play art is really more to get in the head of the offense. If my opponent knows I can see the play, maybe that makes him or her decide to do something else. Even if I have zero confidence I can stop the play, my opponent might back down and bail me out by going to something else. It’s certainly more a video game strategy than a real football strategy, but it’s something that plays into the mental side of things all the same.

The case for film study also goes to the idea of what’s entertaining to watch. This is a weaker part of the argument to me because there’s a lot of issues that need to be cleaned up to make Madden more interesting to watch than just playcall variation. It’s not very interesting to watch people call plays against each other or make adjustments at the line because it’s not visually interesting, and it’s barely tactically worth discussing a lot of the time, especially when quick snapping starts ramping up.

The idea that Madden is some deep chess match is a thing when it comes to high-level pro play, but even that sort of chess match is not interesting to most of the audience from a visual perspective, and it’s not happening very much in standard head-to-head games beyond the usual stuff (assuming someone will run it a certain direction, or thinking a pass is going to X receiver on a certain route). This is not even a real shot at Madden because most people who watch the real NFL are not obsessing over pre-play adjustments and kill calls. They’re watching what happens once the ball is snapped.

madden-21-gp

Returning to the point, what happens after the snap is what drives the entertainment. So if instead of watching 30 runs a game, we start to see more play-action passing and so forth then it’s probably a net positive in that respect. Does it inherently make the game more fun to watch? I still only think that’s a maybe. Plus, there could be other ways to make people run more plays that are not as obvious as play art reveals.

The Case Against Film Study

The best argument against film study that I’ve seen comes from long-time Madden player ZAN. So I will say to just watch that video if you want the entire argument against film study. I also want to mention he is clear in stating he’s looking at film study from a Madden 20 perspective not a Madden 21 perspective. In other words, he admits what he’s saying is not a perfect argument against film study because we don’t yet know how Madden 21 will look at launch.

The strongest point he makes to me is that playbooks are filled with a lot of useless plays. It’s fair. The playbooks in Madden could be much better. What happens a lot of the time is new plays get added, some of the old plays get tweaked, but really we have a lot of legacy plays that no one uses or no one trusts. I do not know what all the metrics say on playbooks for Madden, but I know EA has data saying what plays get called a lot or not at all. If certain plays are not being called at all, then they should be removed. In general, playbooks in Madden have to become much more fluid and they need more rapid updates from EA.

On top of this, ZAN makes the point that instead we should get more repeat concepts within multiple formations to make more plays viable. He talks about money routes and how he trusts a certain route much of the time, so he looks for plays with that route combination — or has a QB with hot route master — to configure certain setups. The same goes for simply looking for plays with three-step drops rather than five or seven-step drops to avoid the insane blitzes that come your way in Madden 20.

madden-21-st

If you give users the film study ability, it also eats into playcalling realism from the real NFL. Teams do not run 200 plays a week. They have certain route combinations they run a lot, and what ZAN is saying here is that he goes to the line with certain combos in mind on pass plays, but those are only in so many plays. What he’s talking about is less “cheese” and more read-and-react stuff, and unless these route combinations exist in enough formations, he would need to find new concepts to run. It’s true that certain routes sometimes just suck in Madden, which means users start to focus on the routes with success and use them most of the time.

The new custom zones also maybe stunt the reason for “film study” needing to exist. While I think it’s primarily in the game to stop run cheese, if we’re confident we know a certain play is going to be called, we don’t need the play art if we can now make these zones much more customizable. If we can actually find a way to defend corner routes with more ease this way (or whatever money play/route) — and trust the AI to do its job — then there’s less necessity for film study on that front.

The last big point here is the concept of how much what you do matters before the snap vs. post snap. I mentioned the idea of the chess match already, but this also ties into my earlier mention about the user control argument. If Madden 21 has a greater focus on how you set a play up to succeed before the snap — rather than just usering your brains out after the snap to make the play on defense — then maybe film study takes away from that.

However, maybe instead of the game being a rock/paper/scissors guessing game, film study makes it so there’s a lot more mystery about what your opponent is going to do play to play. ZAN is focused on the highest level of play and how pro players will get around film study if it’s in the game. I am in 100 percent agreement with him that they will find a way around it, but I think the “chess match” is overstated when it comes to most user vs. user games.

Bottom Line

The reason I want film study to be in the game at launch is not because I think one side makes a stronger argument than the other. Instead, I think the community is generally too quick to reject change. We so often plead for Madden to feel different year to year, and while film study is not what most of us mean by making the game different, it’s still an example of something EA is trying in order to alleviate an issue. Is it the best “football” way to solve a problem? No. But this is a video game, and it’s an imperfect one where band-aids are sometimes needed.

madden 21 franchise mode

We can’t both ask for changes and then immediately freak out and ask for them to be removed after a single weekend of gameplay. When we do that, EA (and most other game developers) just end up screwing up game balance as a reaction to the reaction.

If it ends up not working out or destroying the meta, then fair enough tune film study or remove it. You could make it an X-Factor. You could make it so it only applies to runs. You could make it so it only applies to plays where no hot route is called. You could make it so the AI gets increasingly more psychic each time you run the same play. Yes, you could even just remove it.

But let’s give it time.

Just like I don’t want to see the user control go back to Madden 20 levels right away, the beta should be more about fixing obvious bugs and issues, not just wholesale rejecting changes that are working as designed. Changes like that need more than a weekend of gameplay, and we need to see how the whole game shakes out.

26 Comments

Leave a Reply

Discussion
  1. For - brings more value to a specific player - perhaps make it to where it shows one side of the field instead or maybe the previously targeted receivers route only?
    Let me preface this by saying I think the trait is gimmicky as basically all of the traits are. It's a system that does bring about player differentiation, but not in a way I feel is authentic or that I really support. That being said, I think the idea of having a trait that allows the user to counter someone who is running the same plays over and over is a positive.
    You might say, why not punish a player that cannot adjust or doesn't know X's and O's properly enough to counter something. I 100% understand where you are coming from and that is where I'd typically come from as well, but the truth with Maddenball is that this game is not a true X's and O's simulator. It's a very gamey brand of football that has metas. Madden scripts the way defenses react to certain offensive play calls, the defense does not truly read and react. Nearly every play is scripted, which is must be to some degree, but Madden uses scripting to the extreme and, like I said, there's virtually zero read and react in the game. This leads to real football knowledge not always working.
    Granted, that isn't always the case. Stacking the box will still typically make running the ball harder, but Madden does not provide a game of checks and balances. Every year we see people are able to find a handful of meta plays that are just about unstoppable or on the defensive side these plays have nearly zero weaknesses. We know that isn't how real football works. When you tune your scheme to stop one thing, you open up another hole. Madden fails to capture that side of football and that is why I think a trait like this is a positive if we are stuck using the system we have. It gives users a counter for meta plays and it does bring about player differentiation.
    If Madden was more organic and had true read and react defense and meta plays were nearly non-existent. If we the X's and O's were the king in the game, not labbing to find broken plays. Well, then I'd be all against a trait like this, at least in the way it is implemented. I'd typically prefer to see the AI have the "smarter" players sit on routes, jumping them, which could cost them, too, if the offense plays off of that like with whips/slants, outs/out n go's, etc., and I'd like to see smarter AI lead to them recognizing formations, tendencies, patterns, which leads to them leaning pre-snap. If a player is predictable, I'd love to see the AI organically pick up on their tendencies and lean in ways that shut them down. On the contrary, I'd love to have the ability to set up plays because I act predictable with the intention of getting the AI to sit on a route so I can go over the top, or I get them leaning strong side so a counter can rip off a big gain.
    We don't have that level of AI in the game, so I guess if we are stuck with traits and Maddenball, Film Study isn't all that terrible with context.
    I am for the Ability. Some are opposed to it based on the premise that a good player would counter what their opponent is doing and such an Ability should not be in competitive.
    I feel as long as it is available to everyone it is fair. I wonder if some of the opposition to the Ability are more concerned about opponents recording the results of the Film Study and posting key plays on Youtube which could reduce revenue from some of the e-book sellers.
    Sure there are YouTube videos explaining top plays that beat "X" coverage, etc. But competitive players seem to not advertise their big play schemes for free. Plays that are revealed resemble advertisements for the better schemes.
    For it it helps with repetitive play calling. And also it forces opponents to call different plays if they see someone has a player with that ability. Tho there should be a limit to the number of players on a team that has that ability
    Sent from my Pixel 3 XL using Tapatalk
    Until the AI also utilized these features/mechanisms on par with the User, I’m “AGAINST”.
    Madden is in the state it’s in partly because there’s so much manipulation thrown in to appease the H2H game and it’s all guesswork while dumbing down the AI.
    All this does is lead to gamers finding ways to manipulate a hamstrung AI Logic.
    For the Ability to have a purpose, there has to be some type of “penalty” applied against the same play call.
    The only logical area to apply the penalty to is via the Non-Usered 10 AI players.
    The driving issue with the way EA applies gameplay penalties no matter what feature/mechanism they use, is it’s counter productive to Player Differentiation because it’s applied upon all Offensive players no matter their abilities/skillset.
    I don’t want an Offense fielding better personnel to take a negative hit just for feature sake.
    There are already too many additional under-the-hood game manipulators at play already.
    Until the AI Logic is improved to utilize what’s available to the User as well, it’s just another addition added into an already convoluted player Ability/Ratings mess.
    I'm for it for passing plays only.
    For run plays I don't like it. Teams don't "mix up the playbook" as much as a lot of people think. They will call the same run play many, many times throughout the course of a game. But they will also keep the defense at bay with the threat of playaction.
    This does have the potential to hurt the playaction game in head to head games.
    ggsimmonds
    I'm for it for passing plays only.
    For run plays I don't like it. Teams don't "mix up the playbook" as much as a lot of people think. They will call the same run play many, many times throughout the course of a game. But they will also keep the defense at bay with the threat of playaction.
    This does have the potential to hurt the playaction game in head to head games.
    I thought it was passing plays only - certainly shouldn't be for running plays as these play books aren't robust enough
    Find_the_Door
    I thought it was passing plays only - certainly shouldn't be for running plays as these play books aren't robust enough

    It's tied to specific plays, not concepts. So you can still run the same concept over and over, just run it from various formations and it'll take longer for you to hit the 3 play trigger.
    I'm not a huge fan of showing the play art. I'm hoping the CPU will play the play as they know it and not just the user.
    Totally against. Also despise threat detector, pro reads, or anything else that plays the game for you.
    These would be fine teaching tools on the practice field but they have no place in real games.
    Film study should be tied to the same system that allowed you to be able to see plays like they had in NCAA 14 when they tied it into the coach ability that have you that ability. They had the rubric set with coaches skill trees. Who the hell is working up there in EA. Get your heads out of your asses people!!
    I would prefer instead for the non-user AI players to figure out repeated play calling and shut it down, like what would happen in the NFL. If you keep calling the same play in real football, it isn't going to be just one guy that figures it out. All 11 players will, and so will their backups, from 2nd string to practice squad guys.
    I'm leaning more towards against. Or maybe make it a probability thing where the defense or offense can see the playart but it can "lie" to the user when running playaction or fake pass handoffs or with rpos. The offense has this ability and it could "lie" to the user when the defense gives the same look but blitzes instead for example. Make it more of a chess game. Or just have adaptive AI that gives the defense an awareness/play recognition boost on repeated plays.
    #fixmaddenfranchise
    So, if I understand how it works, if a player has this ability, he can see the artwork after a play has been run X number of times.
    Why not just require that player to be 'player locked' before it kicks in? Then it becomes a decent little chess game. If you think your opponent is running the same play, you make a commitment to user that position. If you are correct, you see the artwork, if not, then you don't and face the "penalty" of having to user that guy without knowing what play is being run (and being unable to switch). In that scenario, it combines a user's ability to diagnose a play, making the ability more confirmatory vs a crutch to lean on.
    drugsbunny
    Film study should be tied to the same system that allowed you to be able to see plays like they had in NCAA 14 when they tied it into the coach ability that have you that ability. They had the rubric set with coaches skill trees. Who the hell is working up there in EA. Get your heads out of your asses people!!

    I'm for the ability, but totally agree with this right here. Pull in that system for coaches, especially in franchise. Make coaches matter.
    mvb34
    It's about time EA start using the play recognition rating...
    Sent from my VS996 using Operation Sports mobile app

    That's what partially blows my mind about the entirety of Superstar and X-Factor Abilities: so many of them just seem like they should be natural extensions of regular ratings to the point where having both seems like one (actual Player ratings) are becoming meaningless.
    Instead of one defensive player being able to see the called play, why doesn't the Play Recognition work in function with repetitive plays i.e. the higher that rating is, the more of the Play Call is revealed for whichever player you are usering (if they have a low rating they don't get any of the play, if they have an average rating they can see two-three versions of the play, if they have an above average rating they can see what route their offensive counterpart is running, if they have an elite rating they can see the whole play all?).
    It's very, very rare to actually feel like the ratings in Madden have an impact in the game. They're on the right track with abilities but they should be related to a player's ratings, not just randomly determined or assigned via the development trait.
    Cory Levy
    It's very, very rare to actually feel like the ratings in Madden have an impact in the game.

    Maybe in past Madden games, but I don't feel this is true in Madden 20 at all.
    Abilities generally take precedence over ratings, and the merits of that can be debated, but I've played enough games to see with my own eyes that player ratings very obviously affect the on-field outcomes in Madden 20. I've been able to do things with my personnel in franchise this year (All Madden, sim game style) that I wouldn't have dreamt of doing in past Madden games.
    Most notably, I've had great success with how I deploy highly-rated press-man cornerbacks in my Cover 4 defenses against Trips sets. Depending on the formation, I call Quarters or Palms to make sure my press-man CB gets the man-wherever-he-goes assignment in the Solo or Special trips check built into those play calls (respectively). I then use defensive hot routes to put that CB in press-man. With rare exception, that CB just erases lesser receivers. With the Solo check in particular, having a CPU-controlled CB lock down his assignment on his side frees me up to user the weak-side inside quarter player (typically the free safety) to jump the hell out of crossing routes (which users in particular love to run). This past season I led my online league in interceptions with my free safety doing exactly this.
    I would not be able to do this if my CB's Press and Man Coverage ratings had no effect on the on-field outcomes.
    Cory Levy

    It's very, very rare to actually feel like the ratings in Madden have an impact in the game. They're on the right track with abilities but they should be related to a player's ratings, not just randomly determined or assigned via the development trait.

    I'm with CM Hooe here, M20 is a different animal in that regard. Ratings are quite impactful on sim mode for many (though not all) positions in this game. You can really see them play out 15-20 years into franchise (default XP) once the "real" players are purged. But even on base rosters, it's still quite obvious when a player excels in an area or is deficient in one.
    Obviously, if you adjust sliders, then that impact will obfuscated greatly.
    Cory Levy

    They're on the right track with abilities but they should be related to a player's ratings, not just randomly determined or assigned via the development trait.

    I agree with this point wholeheartedly.
    This seems like a fantastic idea to me.
    I'm so sick of hearing about how it's going to mess with someone's "scheme".
    Like seriously, give it up. Calling the exact same AI abusing passing plays on every down, then "mixing it up" by adding a hot route doesn't make you Norv Turner nor does it create a "scheme".
    I watched a video of a Madden YouTuber talking about how it was going to impact his "scheme" and he was talking about a specific play that "almost always gets me 15 yards". And somehow, the fact that 10 of the AI players are so bad as to not recognize this wasn't the complaint. The complaint was, "this might take away my 15 yard money play."
    What?
    Ueauvan
    how about film study for coaches and prior play tendencies
    The coaches don't play but that could help with a real weekly gaming playing system. Coaches help but it be really up to players have good film study skills.
    Sent from my VS996 using Operation Sports mobile app

More in Madden NFL 21

To Top