Judging from the emails some of you have sent and different comments I’ve read I felt like I had to write this, wanted to have a conversation with my hardcore franchise folks. As a game’s journalist I was lucky, I got my hands on Madden 13 two weeks ahead of release and thus I have had a lot more time with it than the average person. I’m not going to lie, it was a shock to my system on some fronts, remember I’m the guy that told you that Madden isn’t just a game, it’s a way of life. I’ve been a fan of the franchise for nearly 20 years and have owned every game since 1994. I’m the guy that spends hours putting my team together before I ever even play a game, I’m evaluating free agents and rookies, trying to think long-term about the development of my team. I analyze every move and try to determine if its smart move, is a trade worth the cap penalties I might incur, should I resign a guy that I love in real life but in terms of the game might not be the best fit for the team. I’m that guy. I just love the GM side of it, always have. Recently someone asked me did I think that Madden 13′s Connected Careers Mode (CCM) was really better than Franchise mode. I had to think really hard about that but ultimately I had to answer yes and in this post I’ll tell you while.
Connected Careers mode is a huge experience, providing more variety than any franchise mode has done before it. Honestly, I think that the biggest mistake that EA Sports made with Madden 13 is that they did a piss poor job of really explaining CCM to hardcore fans. There are things that we’ve become accustomed to doing a certain way and either you can’t do it anymore or its done a different way. CCM has a lot going on and there are a lot of things that you run into that you don’t necessarily know why it is the way it is. For instance, depending on if you are playing offline or online CCM, some things are locked. The problem I have with that is that they don’t tell you why they are locked. As I said in my review of Madden 13, on initial setup I had accidentally turned of trades but didn’t’ know it and couldn’t figure out why trades were locked. It would be nice if when something was locked it told you why so you could quickly correct it. While you still have a lot of control over your team, you are more like a coach/GM than an owner and honestly I’m alright with that. Setting ticket prices, doing stadium upgrades and things of that nature were great, but I think most of us would agree that it just became tedious after a couple of seasons.
With CCM EA Sports tried to streamline franchise mode and while some good things came from that, they did mess up some things that simply weren’t broken or they removed things and didn’t explain clearly enough why. Here are a couple of the top complaints I have heard from Franchise players so far.
- No Fantasy Draft
- No Editing Players
- No Importing Roster from NCAA Football.
- No creating players
This is definitely a feature that I know a lot of franchise folks really enjoyed, though I personally didn’t’ use it. I think the solution here may have been to allow people to do it, but by doing it they lose certain dynamic functionality. If they agree, let them have at it.
No Editing Players
This is one that I think we all do and enjoy and while in terms of making this a real football simulation I can understand why they wouldn’t want you to edit player attributes, I don’t know why they would block you from editing their gear.
So this is one that they were up front about but I don’t think they reiterated it enough and more importantly why they had to do it. They couldn’t do it because it broke the dynamic and branching storylines that develop over the season in CCM in relation to college players. The game supports up to 30 years of play and they have calculated dynamic logic for that time-frame based on players that will be automatically generated, but they just couldn’t account for the unknown players that could be brought in from NCAA and so it was left out. They have said they will try to get it back in next year and while I don’t know if it would have been for the best, they could have again given players an option to lose functionality to be able to do it.
No Creating Players
Again, this goes back to I think accounting for known entities and how do they give you a dynamic experience for a character that they don’t know how you are going to make him.
The bottom line with all of these changes is that they are all tied to creating the most realistic football simulation that was possible and I can respect that. I’m not going to front, I enjoy the dynamic storylines that develop about college guys during the season and then its cool to hear their backstory during the draft. To me it adds to the overall immersion of playing Madden 13. I think the biggest problem that most franchise players feel is that they took control away from them and in some cases that is true. I think though that by dropping a lot of stuff, they were able to more fully focus on some core things. I always say that “you can’t do everything great”, so you have to choose what you want to be great and concede the rest and that’s what EA Sports did. They decided to focus on some key areas and try to do them really well and just cut out stuff that they couldn’t really focus on and develop properly.
My current beef with Madden 13 is a combination of bugs and unnecessary changes. In terms of bugs, there’s the depth chart bug where you can’t move players around like you could before. For instance, you can’t move a Tackle to Guard or vice versa. This affects your ability to put the best team on the field and is annoying as hell. Then there is the issue with resigning your own players where you clearly have enough money but it tells you that you don’t. I actually lost Dominic Rodgers Cromartie off my Eagles team because I thought he just didn’t want to resign before hitting up the EA Sports guys to confirm that was actually a bug. I have heard that you can actually “Delegate” the resigning to the CPU and they will actually do it, some I’m trying that and will let you know if it works. I also hate that you can’t pull up a player card with a button click anymore, I shouldn’t have to go through multiple screens just to find out a guys attributes or contract status. You use to be able to perform multiple actions from the Roster screen and you can’t do that anymore either which is a pain, I honestly think that menu navigation is a pain in Madden 13. Another issue for me is with attributes, they have all these new attributes like Size and Production and while you can infer what they mean, why didn’t they just clearly tell us what they mean. There are several other small bugs but those two are the biggest ones to me and the good news is that EA Sports is aware of them and it looks like they will get fixed in the first update but the downside is that it affects how I play now.
With all that said though, I still think it’s the best game in the franchise to date. I don’t like everything they added and I definitely don’t agree with some of the stuff they left out but when judging my experience as a while playing Offline Connected Careers vs previous years playing the old Franchise mode it’s no competition. I absolutely enjoy CCM more, I just wish EA Sports would have more clearly communicated, what we lost and what we gained with CCM vs Franchise mode, why they did it, and whether or not they had any intention of incorporating it into future games. If they had done that, I think they would have a lot less angry people on their hands. They are getting the idea now though as they added a popup that says, “Are you looking for Franchise Mode” that explains CCM and how it is the new franchise mode so they are listening.
So there you have it folks, is CCM perfect, not by a long shot but is it a step in the right direction and ultimately superior to franchise mode? In my opinion yes but I realize that everyone wont’ feel that way so I want to hear from my Madden franchise fanatics. Hit up the comments and let us know what you love about CCM and what you hate about it. Can’t wait to see what you guys think. By the way, if you are experiencing any bugs I didn’t mention, share those too and any workarounds you might have found. Madden franchise fanatics are a family right?