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The Future of Madden's Commentary

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Madden NFL 23

The Future of Madden's Commentary

One of the threads that has remained popular on OS during the last week or two has been about the future of Madden‘s commentary and what people want to see out of it moving forward. This thread was started by EAGLESFAN10, and it’s something that has gone various directions. EAGLESFAN10 started it as more of a wishlist thread, citing NBA 2K for some of the things that game does and why Madden should do those things as well. But it’s also verged into talking about whether AI voices or AI-related innovations could help the commentary as well.

So let’s go through what the community has been talking about here.

The Future of Madden’s Commentary

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Getting back to EAGLESFAN10, let me put some of their thoughts forward here since they kicked it off:

I just want the commentary to actually reflect and be aware of what’s going on in my franchise. NBA 2K commentary talks about both teams upcoming schedules (next 4-5 games), teams current standings, players current and previous stats, teams stats from the current and past seasons, they have sideline reporter updates , pre/halftime/post game. They have a slight halftime show, they introduce the lineups (Madden actually had this and randomly took it away…typical).

I just want Madden to feel like a universe when I play and have actual meaning besides what goes on during the main tabs in franchise!

These are all fair and reasonable things to want. The general discussion around presentation in Madden overall has been the lack of a real “world” you feel like you’re playing in within franchise mode. It feels like a vacuum where only you exist most of the time.

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There are some layers of contextual knowledge in Madden, and a couple folks also brought that up while still agreeing with the general point.

First, we have Kanobi:

I don’t know if it’s because I’m in year one of my CFM, but I’m hearing a lot of contextual commentary relevant to what’s happening in my franchise. You can see the vids here:…es-x-s-27.html

One major one that stuck out was how, in the Jaguars game, my OLB sacked Trevor Lawrence and they made mention of how he was voted Defensive Player of the Week for the week prior and appeared to be building on that performance. In that same game, they also kept track of Jags WR Marvin Jones closing in on his 500th career reception.

MattyIce also chimes in:

Everything you said and more is true…I will note a few things

-Commentators acknowledged Randall Cobb’s 600th career catch.
-Acknowledged Cooper Kupp’s historic year he’s currently having when I played the Rams

Those are the only two moments that come to mind that truly felt organic. I have also noticed that some plays go completely unannounced because they are too busy wrapping up the side conversations. Watch any NFL broadcast and once the ball is ready to be snapped the color man is silent (except Romo).

Lastly, we have malky:

Everything you asked for has been asked for time and time again and they for the most part ignore doing anything for immersion commentary.

Although I give them credit for their Super Bowl dynamic commentary as it updates you on how your team has been doing in terms of Super Bowl appearances and wins as your franchise goes through the years in franchise. I don’t think NBA 2K or MLB commentary actually does that.

Overall, it’s not so much that they never nail stuff “in the moment” it’s more that Madden does not put it all together to put you into the “league” as one of a number of teams playing each week. Plus, most of the stuff mentioned is very fleeting and so this could also be why many people probably miss even the good stuff that’s in the game.

Are Voice Actors Worth It?

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There was some discussion around adding more commentary teams, plus a sideline reporter to add more spice to things. There was also a discussion around adding “bigger name” announcers, which then rammed into the idea of voice actors actually being the play to get more and more lines recorded. I’ll let Kramer5150 sum things up:

Sorry to say, but no it wouldn’t be any better adding bigger names. The only thing it would be is different. Aikman and Buck would in no way have the time needed or required to record lines and keep doing it throughout the season to keep things “fresh”.

IMO, the only way to have the commentary needed to keep franchise “interesting” would be to hire voice actors as I’m sure they would have the time needed to continually update lines needed in order to keep things fresh and interesting.

However, I was happy roadman pointed out the perks of Gaudin and Davis already:

Jumping on top of this, Gaudin and Davis are not far away from the Tiburon Studios to record up-to-date commentary. That was one of the selling points for EA when they hired them.

This is true. I’ll get more into the “more recording hours” thing when we get to the AI section, but I don’t think voice actors are going to give you appreciably more time that matters in relation to Davis and Gaudin. Instead, I think fnz21 more hits the issue that comes up here:

I feel like the commentary is barely set up to be for franchise mode. I started a franchise mode where Russell Wilson was on the Saints instead of Denver, and Gaudin talked at length about a Monday Night Seattle/Denver matchup featuring Russell Wilson vs. his former team. They put all this effort into updating the commentary throughout the year, but it only really applies to Play Now games. I don’t want to hear about a big real-life game from Stefon Diggs last week if he’s been hurt for the entire season in my franchise.

The stuff in 2K isn’t hard-coded conversation, it’s more fluid and adaptable to situations that arise. They’ve actually put real effort in in that department.

This is also true. 2K does have banter that will exclusively play for Play Now games like Madden, but once you get into franchise mode, the banter that remains from Play Now isn’t so specific to certain contexts that it feels out of place even if it were to play in franchise mode. So while both games have a lot of recorded banter that’s for very specific moments that just happened in the NBA/NFL, 2K spends more time massaging their commentary system to be able to handle the dynamic nature of franchise mode while still keeping some of that banter around to fill space.

Regardless, it’s a fair point to say that almost anything Madden does after the game comes out is for Play Now. I think NBA 2K is in the same boat there, but it doesn’t matter as much because 2K starts from a better spot. There also must be something that makes adding commentary to franchise mode “scary” from a development standpoint since both companies mostly avoid doing it — maybe to avoid introducing new bugs — at least in comparison to the amount added to Play Now after launch.

Is AI The Savior?

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For fun, JBucc asked ChatGPT how AI could help Madden.

There are several ways that AI like ChatGPT and other AI programs could be used to improve the commentary and other voice acting in a game like Madden:

    1. Natural Language Processing (NLP): AI models trained on NLP could be used to generate realistic commentary that matches the context of the game, such as players, teams, and in-game events. This would provide a more engaging and dynamic commentary experience for players.
    2. Dynamic Dialogue Generation: AI models could be trained to generate dialogue in real-time, allowing for a more natural and improvisational commentary that adjusts to the flow of the game.
    3. Personalization: AI models could be trained on player data, such as their favorite teams and players, to generate commentary that is tailored to their preferences.
    4. Emotion Recognition: AI models could be used to detect the emotions of players and adjust the commentary accordingly, creating a more immersive experience.
    5. Voice Synthesis: AI models could be used to synthesize realistic-sounding voices, allowing for a more diverse cast of commentators, or even the option for players to provide their own commentary using their own voice.

Overall, AI has the potential to greatly enhance the commentary and voice acting in games like Madden, creating a more immersive and personalized experience for players.

There is some fun stuff here. Do I think any of it is really viable right now? It depends. Beyond the ethical and legal issues of trying to mimic real NFL announcers in the game via AI, I don’t think this is a problem solved by adding more and more audio to the game. All of this stuff sounds fascinating, but implementation is not clear on any of it. That said, I do think there’s an inflection point where if you could have all the NFL announcers in the game, then that’s all you would need to keep people invested even if Madden was just talking about all the same stuff it does now.

However, short of that overwhelming brute force of talent (and money), this still comes back to doing better with what’s there right now. Adding billions of new lines sounds cool, until we have to actually think about how you actually get all them recorded, edited, put into the right contextual banks so they play at the right time, mastered so they sound right, and so on. There’s a lot of “under the hood” stuff we probably are not thinking about even with this AI concept, and it would be the bottleneck in the process.

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In other words, we would need AI to solve the process of, well, making the whole game for us rather than the developers to speed this up. On top of that, most of these ideas are things developers could already theoretically tackle if they want to:

  • I do think the idea of “emotion recognition” is fascinating for example, but really all it’s saying is “realize that you just blew a game and talk accordingly about it.” In theory, we can do that now.
  • With “personalization” it’s just saying to realize what teams you like playing as, which you can do now. Also, you’re playing in a franchise mode with one team over and over already.
  • The wow one is the “dynamic dialogue generation” and that would be cool. However, this comes back to who is saying all this, and the AI has to know what to read into. Again, these are things we can already do — it’s hard, but you could track the ebbs and flows of a game and react accordingly. It would be pre-planned recordings rather than dynamic, but it could be a thing.

I’ll call it there rather than go through the last couple ideas because I think I’ve proven my overall point. This is not something that is going to just be solved by AI or any new technology. At a certain point, it still comes back to priorities and “how” you go about tackling commentary as an idea. This is really what we should think about rather than how AI can save us from being frustrated by Madden’s commentary.

Lastly, I’m all in on what toodles2you90 thinks should happen:

I want Peyton and Eli awkwardly talking football with Lil Wayne for a quarter or it just isn’t football to me anymore.

And if Peyton doesn’t ask a question and then cut the answer off to answer it himself it just isn’t realistic.

Slap that on the back of the box, baby.

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