Its fine to admit you are among the vast sum of sports gamers who simply do not play multiple years of franchise modes.
It is also perfectly fine to admit that while you are one of the many who also simulate huge chunks of time in the hopes of playing more than a few years, you want more control when you do that.
Over the years, franchise modes have been built with tons of features in mind to build up a team and see how you would fare over multiple seasons as a GM-type of roster builder (but still controlling the action on the field). That being said, I don’t think it’s shocking that since players don’t progress much through the mode itself that game companies don’t spend as much time trying to make franchise modes hold up over many seasons.
The problem is simple: 162 games, or 82 games, or 41 games, or even 16 games are tough to slog through season after season, especially for the growing number of gamers who are feeling the time crunch thanks to doing the blasphemous thing of growing older. But there are far better ways to save time, allow for more control over the experience than is available now all while still simulating chunks of a season.
Here are some ideas.
End The Game-Menu-Game Flow
One of the biggest complaints I have about franchise modes is that there is a necessity to go back to the menu before hopping into the next game. I feel like it’s not crazy to expect to be able to finish one game, and then have some basic options in between to manage basic items while loading up your next game without returning to a main menu. Other genres seem to have mastered this flow.
The Show allows this for series of games, but you still have the same old game-menu-game flow to go from series to series.
A franchise mode that one day offers near-instant movement between games is one that’s going to capture a lot of hearts.
A Better Super Sim
The super-sim model has been a fantastic addition to sports games and makes progressing through games WAY better than it used to be. What I’d like is to see a better super sim that gives users input on when they want to jump into games and when they want to leave them alone.
Let’s roll with an NBA franchise mode as an example for this section. What if it were possible to set sim stops to allow you the option to jump into a game if you got down big at halftime so you could attempt a comeback or jump into a close game with six minutes left? You can already jump into simmed games as they happen in certain titles, so this is just a way to further quicken the pace by setting benchmarks for when you want to jump into a game but allow for super fast simming otherwise.
On that same token, this fictionalized sim engine would also be customizable for roster moves. If a guy gets hurt, you can stop the sim and seamlessly adjust your rotation without halting the whole sim up to go and make these changes before starting it back up. And of course, just like with the in-game flow of a franchise mode, you’d move from game to game seamlessly without having to click the controller a bunch of times.
Such an engine put into any sport’s game would allow the folks who like to sim chunks of their experience (*raises hand*) to move through much more time in each sitting, and would still give you a lot of control over how your team is doing.
Compressing The Offseason
Offseasons can sometimes be terrible slogs in sports games. I get the importance of the offseason, but I’d think a two-tiered option for an offseason experience would be ideal.
For the gamer who wants to move through an offseason quickly but still retain control, what about a “Quick Offseason” setting?
In this option, you’d move through options piecemeal to set up your franchise. NCAA Football did it this way vs. the calendar system many games use today. Basically you’d have some combo of draft then free agent signings then staff signings as a three-step-or-so process that’d be a lot more streamlined than the current model.
I get the desire for realism, but a truly realistic experience would have you waiting sometimes weeks in real time to hear back from players. We’re already compressing the timeline a lot, so why not go all-in on that but still give players the ability to retain the same control they’ve always had? Just a thought.
Ability To Allow The AI To Better Manage Aspects Of The Franchise
A real GM doesn’t do everything, but it seems like sports games sometimes force you to do everything.
My idea here is a better model that allows you to set individual options for what you want out of each department within your franchise — like in real life. Scouting is something that, if you want full manual control over it you can have it.
But if you are in a hurry and want to simply move through seasons, why not have the ability to set the AI to fully manage the scouting based upon the priorities you set?
This could be the same for things like lineups and rotations for coaches.
The crazy thing about this is it would also really add a touch of realism in the sense that who you hire as a coach, assistant coach, etc. actually matters when it comes to things like player morale, and how effective rotations are. Some games are closer to achieving this than others, but it’s hard to find a game where you trust the AI to effectively do these things currently.
A Simplified Attributes Exterior
I can’t be the only one that thinks that sports games sometimes get a little too detailed for their own good for the more casual user.
And to be clear I’m not arguing for getting rid of attributes or hiding any — I am a believer that if full transparency is what someone desires they should get it. But what about a simplified player attributes view?
For a game like Madden this would look like some combo of the following:
- 83 Ovr
- 69 Speed (Combo of Speed Attributes like Acceleration, Speed, Agility)
- 78 Strength (Combo of Physical Attributes)
- 82 Passing (Combo of All the Passing Attributes)
- 74 Football IQ (Awareness and Perhaps Ball Security Type of Attributes)
Either way as it stands now you are going to be clicking a lot of buttons to get the full attributes, but for folks in a time crunch just wanting the basics, they’d get that. For those wanting a deeper view, they would have a better overall ability to see attributes parsed by skill type.
Simplify Roster Management To Just A Couple Of Screens
How many franchise modes have screens for lineups, depth charts, contract information, trades and free agents?
What if you had a single menu that was able to combine all of these into a single view to allow you to see more information at once, but in a cleaner and more simplified method?
As a bonus point, your scout or coach could give you their assessment of each position and your team needs all in one spot where you could then push a button to see all available free agents or trade targets for that position.
Imagine looking over your depth chart and seeing your manager say your infield depth sucks and you need a secondary infielder. You then push a button to open up the “find player” view where you are greeted with a list of players that would fit this need within your budget (which this list is determined by how good your scouts and coaches are because…realism!).
Of course you could expand the view to all available players and sort them how you like, but having the AI help you out on some of this stuff makes a lot of sense to simplify and expedite a lot of the processes gamers in a hurry will find very helpful and not overwhelming.
Franchise Modes Are Great, But They’re Built On A Model Founded In The ’90s
The biggest beef I have with franchise modes is they are largely built on a model that was originally coined in the ’90s. The spreadsheet based, multiple button push combination with multiple menus to accomplish singular tasks is a model I think we should have evolved beyond by now.
NBA 2K has done a wonderful job with MyGM in terms of adding amazing new features for gamers willing to stick out several seasons, but the basic model of the mode is still built on a very familiar foundation, as one example.
I think it is time for sports games to innovate the very fundamentals of what make a franchise mode a franchise mode, and for companies to rethink even the most basic aspects of the modes.
For many gamers, franchise modes are effectively season modes — and for franchise modes to thrive in the future, more gamers need to find themselves on season 10 vs. season one eventually.
What ideas do you have to improve franchise modes in sports games?