At Under the Code, we have a staff of writers and gamers who bring to the table very different sets of insights into the sports video games which we all play and enjoy. At various times over the course of the year, we will be gathering ourselves to answer questions in a “roundtable” format where each member shares their thoughts on a title, either pre-release or after the game has hit store shelves. Today’s roundtable looks at Madden NFL 13 from EA SPORTS.
1. What is one sentence you would use to describe Madden NFL 13?
Smitty: A true entry-level Madden NFL title on next-gen.
CoreySA: A breath of fresh air.
OneEighth: Madden NFL 13 is a huge step above Madden NFL 12 and a real solid foundation to build future games.
Paakaa10: An unexpected leap for gameplay, with some issues elsewhere left in the wake of that addition.
Kev5890: Madden NFL 13 was a step in the right direction with the addition of physics with the Infinity Engine.
Buckeye: Madden NFL 13 took several steps in the right direction but still falls short in a few areas.
Romo Time: Madden NFL 13 was the start of the return of a hurting franchise.
2. What is the one aspect of last year’s game that you believe deserves the most praise? Why?
Smitty: The addition of the Infinity Engine, as it was very unexpected. Madden NFL over the next-gen era has struggled with efficient innovation and to see it done moderately well at its base level of functionality deserves credit accordingly.
CoreySA: While I give full credit to the innovations CCM made this iteration, I still felt as if it felt a bit rushed and unfinished. It was still a fantastic innovation but it didn’t feel nearly as innovative as the Infinity Engine did—which deserves all of the praise it has received. Sure the physics had its awkward moments—especially post-plays—but it brought a feel of newness to Madden NFL, which is something I haven’t felt in years. More importantly, I feel like this engine can grow and only get better with time. Comparing FIFA 12‘s physics engine to what they were able to accomplish in one year with FIFA 13, just shows you what developers can do once the systems are in place and they have time to fine tune it. I was amazed that the team at Tiburon was able to pull this off in one year.
OneEighth: The obvious answer here is the Infinity Engine. Physics has been asked for by almost everyone’s wish list threads. Sure, it was a little goofy with players post-play, but I will give them the benefit with year one. It was still a success in my opinion.
Paakaa10: All you have to do is play NCAA Football 13 and Madden NFL 13 back-to-back to understand the importance of the Infinity Engine, even in its very early incarnation with tweaking left to be done. After multiple years of similar gameplay since the series jumped to Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, Madden NFL 13 finally gave players a new experience in gameplay and a lot of hope for what might be done when we get to the next console generation and the development teams have better hardware to work with.
Kev5890: Connected Careers Mode deserves the most praise this year. The feature was in its first year and delivered an in-depth experience. With more time, I can see connected careers becoming the next NFL Head Coach.
Buckeye: Connected Career Mode deserves the praise out of any mode this year in my mind. While CCM was far from perfect, it was a highly ambitious project that was a much need leap forward in how career modes are created. The base of CCM makes it a easily expandable and built on from year to year, and puts Madden in great shape going into the next generation of game consoles. While we did lose many staples from the old franchise mode of past years (roster editing, imported draft classes, multiplayer offline careers), those items paled in comparison to the fresh new look and feel of the more dynamic Connected Career Mode.
Romo Time: The engineer that did the Infinity Engine! By far it was the biggest and best improvement of the Madden NFL franchise in the last 6-8 years, and with the ground work laid it is only right to have high hopes for this year’s coming installment.
3. What is the one aspect of last year’s game that you believe was the least successful? Why?
Smitty: Zone play. Regardless of the color of the zone or the play-call selection/adjustment, the defensive personnel (both user and CPU) are mechanically inclined to play their zone and nothing further than that. This in turn nullified other gameplay aspects like Read & React and player ratings such as ZCV, Pursuit, Play Recognition, Awareness, etc.
CoreySA: While the physics really helped Madden NFL feel innovative, I still feel like there are glaring gameplay issues that the Madden NFL series has yet to fix. First and foremost, the offensive line interactions are still downright horrible at times. This has become a legacy issue that hinders more hardcore players and I can’t imagine that the development team at Tiburon will let this slide for much longer. Other gameplay issues such as running backs running into their blockers and falling down, an incredibly too easy kicking meter and some cover-killing bugs on the defensive side of the ball on the PS3 version make this Madden NFL fall short of reaching an elite status.
OneEighth: Well I can’t go without mentioning one of my favorite features that was missing, Imported Draft Classes. If speaking on what was in the game that I felt was lacking I would go with player editing during CCM. Flaws of editing ranged from weird glitches with body sizes, ability to have the same numbers on one team, and the inability to switch positions of players. If I wanted to move a 3-4 LB to a 4-3 DE I couldn’t because LBs can’t be switched DEs. Same for CB’s to Safeties, Tackles to Guards, and so on.
Paakaa10: For me, some of the disappointments I had with Madden NFL 13 had to do with details. Not being able to play the Pro Bowl game itself in Connected Careers Mode, while a small part of the overall package, was a disappointment. Not seeing time-specific logos on the field for Madden Moments Live entries (such as Breast Cancer Awareness, Military Appreciation, or Playoff logos) was a disappointment. But there were also issues left over in gameplay, especially with regard to the difficulty settings of this year’s game; for players used to the All-Pro difficulty setting, that difficulty became too easy while All-Madden remained as hard as ever and required a different gameplay philosophy to go up against. In all, it was a sum of smaller issues which stood in opposition to the positives of the Infinity Engine and CCM.
Kev5890: While the Infinity Engine was in a step in the right direction, I felt like it lowered the quality of gameplay and made it the least successful addition. I feel like the concept of the Infinity Engine is much better on paper than it played in Madden NFL this year. I became distracted and disengaged and the majority of plays because the Infinity Engine does not accurately represent the action we see on the football field. However, I do welcome this addition and I am excited to see how it evolves in Madden NFL 25.
Buckeye: From my standpoint the least successful mode was the Online Community. While it is a great concept, it is not user friendly and the difficulties communicating and setting up games outweighs any beneficial aspects the mode brings. You can’t have a “Community” without Communication.
Romo Time: Online Communities to this point is one of the most disappointing modes ever put together for Madden NFL. This mode was first inspired by other franchises like FIFA and NHL who have been very successful, but in this case it fell really short of the mark. If they would make this more of a team-based mode like NHL, with something to play for monthly, this would become a more popular mode within the game.
4. What potential change or addition to Madden NFL 25 do you think would be the most important improvement to what we saw in Madden NFL 13?
Smitty: Core gameplay refinements such as the fundamental integration of proper foot-planting/player movement on both offense/defense, tandem pass blocking/improved blocking logic and higher quality animations altogether to more authentically replicate the game of football at a pro level. WR/CB jostling for position on route running as well to just name a few.
CoreySA: Again, if the guys at Tiburon could plug up some of these on-going gameplay issues, I think Madden NFL 25 could be a real winner. Give us better O-Line and D-Line interactions, give us better locomotion to help the running game and tune physics so our running backs don’t fall over at in-opportune times. A new, challenging kicking meter would help as well – maybe a more sensitive swing stick that resembles the Tiger Woods PGA TOUR series. If they could fix these issues then Madden NFL‘s gameplay would reach a level to which we have never seen and that would excite people more than anything.
OneEighth: I think better player movement and interaction within the Infinity Engine would benefit the game as a whole. These aspects would include better player awareness when moving among a group of players post play, interactions between the OL and DL as well as WR and DB, and HBs having the ability to navigate behind blocking players.
Paakaa10: Tuning of the Infinity Engine to provide more authentic player movement would be a huge “get” for Madden NFL 25. I look at the “restrictions” of momentum on skaters in NHL 13 from this past year as a great example of how a similar system could be put in place to rein in some of the issues like “zig-zag” running in Madden NFL while providing a more authentic overall experience to real football.
Kev5890: If the Infinity Engine is tuned and works more realistically, it will be by far the most important improvement to Madden NFL 25. Gameplay is king and this technology could change the way we play football games forever.
Buckeye: There are several I can think of but know my fellow roundtable members and what they will cover so I’m going to think outside the box and go with player ratings. Don’t get me wrong now, there is absolutely nothing wrong with the player ratings system we currently have, I think Donny Moore and company do a great job. What we MUST have is MORE ratings. We need more categories for player ratings and more player traits to help differentiate between players, to make each player feel and perform different. We don’t quite get the separation needed between players, stretching the ratings won’t do that and will only make the speed attribute more dominant than it already is. Adding ratings such as “Drive Blocking” for offensive lineman, “Jump Route” for a defensive back, and “Push” for defensive lineman is the key to making players feel and react different when placed in the same situation as other players with different attributes.
Romo Time: I would like to see a few things added to this game but two things that could be done stand out in my mind that would change the game in so many ways. On-field player interaction is lacking tremendously in the game and the two biggest areas are WR/DB and OL/DL interaction; there is just something about this part of the game that is lacking. We also need ratings that truly mean something! It seems that all that is relevant is speed, acceleration, and maybe a few other ratings but there is no real connection; my thought is along the lines of DNA, like how each strain of human DNA makes up the body and how it is formed and operates. If each rating were like a DNA strain, other ratings would be directly involved and determine which player would have an advantage over the other; with this said, there would need to be a lot more rating types for this concept to work.
5. Which game mode did you spend the most time with in last year’s game? Why was that mode so compelling for you?
Smitty: CCM (offline). I liked the depth that the inaugural installment of the mode brought forth. It presented a modest amount of depth in respectful regard depending upon the role taken (either coach or player). Like stated earlier, it’s a nice entry-level mode that I’d like to see expanded upon even further moving forward.
CoreySA: Madden NFL 13 was the first sports title to really make me dive into online leagues and franchises. I’ve always been a primarily offline player and Franchise Mode freak, but Connected Careers just has so much going for it. The offseason activities such as the draft and the free agency bidding added depth and the stories and Twitter comments are always fun to read. I credit Madden NFL 13 for turning a once faithful offline season guy to an online player.
OneEighth: For the first time I choose Online Career over Offline. It was a no-brainer considering you got live updates via server side patches. This year I was only unable to connect to the servers maybe 3 times and that was for less than 5 minutes and I got booted from one game all year in CCM. The servers held up very well for me and I will do Online again next year. Online Mode boasts the more features than Offline if you count all of the web features that allow you work your coaching magic from your desktop or smart phone.
Paakaa10: After many years of not getting too involved in the career modes for Madden NFL, I actually played an Online Player CCM as RGIII of the Washington Redskins. While only in its first year in the game, I was impressed by what the mode had to offer in terms of providing a career experience which did not require too much of a time commitment from the user. Though the practice scenarios got a bit stale over the course of a season, there was certainly a lot of information and tidbits to track in the game menu to keep engagement up. It will be very interesting to see what year two of the mode brings to the table.
Kev5890: I spent most of my time playing as a cornerback in Connected Careers Mode. I have always enjoyed the single player aspect of just controlling your player in career modes. I did enjoy the XP system and comparing your player against the greatest who have ever played in the NFL.
Buckeye: Hands down I spent the most time with CCM. That’s a given every year I spend my time in career modes. While I do dabble with offline somewhat, I must have real human competition both on the field and off to get the most out of the game. Let’s face it, I’m a Browns fan; we are terrible every year in Madden NFL. There is no better feeling than trying to build my team into a competitor while other users are trying to do the same.
Romo Time: This is a tie for me; I spent equal time in Connected Careers Mode and Madden Ultimate Team. With CCM, even though I felt the mode lacked a little with interaction, it kept me coming back enough to enjoy the mode more than I first thought I would. With MUT, it is a different story; in a way, I feel like I’m running my fantasy football team on the field and every time I unlock or purchase a pack of cards, it’s like getting free agents whenever I want. It’s a great mode to get into.
6. Which game mode did you spend the least time with in last year’s game? Why do you think this mode didn’t appeal to you?
Smitty: MUT. I was never into that mode, but I did give it a try though. I might be more interested in the mode once there’s an established level of player personality/authenticity regarding how they perform in the game.
CoreySA: It was built into CCM, but I didn’t use the ‘My Player’ mode at all. To me, pretty much every sport other than football has the ‘Player’ modes figured out. NBA 2K‘s My Pro, MLB‘s Road to the Show and FIFA‘s Be A Pro in career mode all give us more in-depth and exciting features then the football titles do. I just feel as if they have to do something revolutionary here in order to make it feel fresh and worth playing again.
OneEighth: I am a career guy so anything outside of that didn’t get much from me.
Paakaa10: Madden Ultimate Team, as I didn’t play it at all. This is less of a commentary on the mode in Madden NFL 13 as much as a commentary on the suite of Ultimate Team modes in general, however. As someone who feels a strong connection to the play of the real-life season, it’s difficult for me to get involved in fantasy draft or any kind of fantasy roster mode.
Kev5890: I spent the least time being a coach in Connected Careers Mode. I do the same thing every year and start up a franchise with the Chicago Bears. After a few weeks, I become disinterested and never play again. I would rather spend time playing as a player in connected career modes, playing madden ultimate team or online against an opponent.
Beuckeye: I guess you could call it a game mode but I never touch “Play Now” either offline or online. I see no point in it really. Playing a meaningless game versus the computer or an online opponent just does nothing for me. I don’t care what my ranking is; I care much more about keeping the purity of the sport and challenge of solid strategy.
Romo Time: Online Communities never got my attention; why go play in a small community with nothing to play for? I’d want to see an online championship, trophies, or recognition from your peers to make it worthwhile.
7. The biggest change to gameplay came with the addition of the “Infinity Engine” which brought a greater degree of physics to the game; what is your take on this change and how it exists in Madden NFL 13?
Smitty: The introduction of the Infinity Engine brings forth a new dynamic in the sense that the canned/uninterrupted animations are nullified to a great extent. The variation of outcomes presented is great to see in its first level integration. For example, a defender can accidentally dislodge his own teammate that was in the midst of tackling the ball carrier, and would lead to a gain of more yardage. Also, the rare instances where the ball carrier would get tackled, but land on another defender and kick back up and keep running as he was never downed by contact. So, it definitely brought forth a much needed dynamic to replicate what’s depicted on the gridiron, it’ll be interesting to see how this tech evolves in future Madden NFL titles.
CoreySA: As I stated earlier, the Infinity Engine was fresh and innovative. Cornerback and Receiver interactions felt great for the most part and there are always new tackles to see. I mentioned how issues pop up post-play quite a bit, but I was surprised just how well it looked during game action. Football is a complex physical sport so I could only imagine the work that went into this and the tuning that had to take place. The question here shouldn’t be how it impacted Madden NFL 13, but how it’ll impact the series in the future – especially moving into a new generation where physics design will be made easier by the raw power and memory devs will have at their disposal. This engine will grow and will be a staple for the Madden NFL series in the years to come.
OneEighth: As a feature in its first year it has me extremely excited for the future. Tighten up the post play player awareness is a big thing they need to do. Another aspect I would like to see is more of a variation between weight and strength of players. Players should have mass and momentum.
Paakaa10: My enjoyment of the Infinity Engine was cemented the first time I had a play where, in years past, my player would have been tackled without hope of gaining more yardage; when that player continued to fight for balance and broke through to get a touchdown, I was sold. The physics system was not without issues which certainly could make the game look silly at times—especially when it comes to post-play interactions and some interactions between linemen on running plays—but overall it provided a significant enough breath of fresh air to allow many of those things to slide. It’s certainly not perfect, but as a first effort it leaves a lot of hope for the franchise’s future in gameplay.
Buckeye: The Infinity Engine changed the player collisions to a more believable outcome. It was only partially implemented in Madden NFL 13 however. To me it was a good start even with some of the wonky animations and outcomes that came from it. When they full put it into the offensive and defensive line interactions then I will be happy.
Romo Time: This was the biggest innovation to Madden NFL in a long time; the last major innovation like this was the “Hit Stick” in Madden NFL 2005. Even with that said, this needs a lot of tuning and must be taken to the next level for it to truly help the game excel.
8. The biggest feature change came with the move from “Franchise” and “Online Franchise” to the new “Connected Careers Mode”; what is your take on this change and how it exists in Madden NFL 13?
Smitty: CCM is the marriage between NFL Head Coach and Superstar mode. Josh Looman of the development team brought out a nice conceptual mode that while a fair number don’t feel it at the moment, may gradually warm up to it as the depth and functionality enhances down the line. I personally am not a big fan of Superstar mode, but was impressed at the immersion and functionality as you stick specifically to your role at your respective position. Same applies as the head coach. Whether you’re negotiating contracts in mid-season, checking Twitter feeds to see whether to spend your SP on that possible draft choice after his solid performance, or adjusting your coaching style to get more suited personnel to your team. CCM gave a lot of variable control and the growth of the mode will become greater with time.
CoreySA: While this change upset some of the community, it was a change for the good of the series in my eyes. The ability to have some users play as players and some as coaches was an amazing innovation. With that said, it isn’t all perfect. There were some features taken out as they re-build this mode and it does still feel a bit empty. Sure the Twitter feeds are a nice touch and so is scouting, but I still don’t understand how we’re 9 years or so removed from NFL 2K5 and still can’t have video highlights of other games around the league in Madden NFL. I also feel like the UI is messy and clunky. Too many stats and features are buried in the menus and I’d like to see them brought to the forefront a little more. With that said, CCM is a step in the right direction and I’m sure a few years in we’ll see amazing results as the team continues to build to mode.
OneEighth: I think this was a very good thing. I know it caught some flak for some features that were taken away when this new mode was built but even so this feature to me is better than what we have had since this generation of games has been out. The addition of more CCM stories and bringing back some things that were taken away will do much to aid this very well thought out year one mode.
Paakaa10: As I said earlier, CCM brought me back into career mode gameplay for the first time in many Madden NFL installments. The mode still has some warts to be taken care of in the future, including the addition of more varied practice scenarios; I would love to see practice scenarios being generated as a direct result of your on-field performance as a player or team. A quarterback who throws multiple interceptions in a game should be put in a practice scenario the next week where they have to go a full game without throwing a pick, as an example. If gameplay instances could be varied and menu browsing made a bit simpler, then future versions of CCM could start winning back those people who were put off by the “loss” of Franchise/Online Franchise.
Buckeye: Despite the fact that quite a few popular features from the old franchise mode were removed, I give CCM a standing ovation in terms of direction. Connected Career Mode is the most engrossing career mode we have seen in sports gaming. The league news feed is very well done, the draft scouting is top notch, and the draft itself is great. There are a few areas that need work: the menu screens are tedious in CCM.
Romo Time: I see it as a potential masterpiece but in Madden NFL 13 it was pushed through, and lacked the finished quality that we all hoped for. I still think we need to see how it looks in Madden NFL 25 before people break out the pitchforks and come down too hard on the changes.
9. In presentation, a significant change was made with the switch from a commentary booth with Gus Johnson and Cris Collinsworth to the pairing of Jim Nantz and Phil Simms. Was this a positive change in your eyes? Why or why not?
Smitty: The addition of Phil and Jim was much needed, as Chris and Gus sounded like they were in two different places and lacked chemistry. Having a true broadcast team was much needed, as when you hear the commentary it sounds like an actual broadcast to a modest extent. It would be nice to see the presentation and commentary further evolve to rank with the likes of what’s been done in years past (NFL 2K5, All Pro Football 2K8 halftime and post-game shows).
CoreySA: I really enjoyed the change. It is still far from how good NBA 2K and FIFA‘s commentary is in comparison, but far better than Gus and Cris. If they can add more dynamic commentary and continue to build the dialogue, then I can see this group lasting.
OneEighth: The current crew of Nantz and Simms is light years past Gus and Collinsworth. I really enjoyed the rendered crew in the booth and hope to see more of them throughout the game. Adding more lines to the banks will help keep things fresh. I would also like to hear more lines for quarterbacks and more season stories to be told during the game about the teams that are playing.
Paakaa10: When Gus Johnson was added to Madden NFL 11, there was much joy at the thought of one of the sport’s newer and more dynamic voices coming to the game; unfortunately over two installments, implementation was never where it needed to be, in large part because there was no chemistry between Gus and Cris. Using Nantz and Simms—real-life broadcast partners—provides that chemistry, even if Madden NFL 13 suffered at times from repeated lines/anecdotes or play-by-play calling the wrong name for a player. The commentary was a solid improvement over recent history, and the presentation package improvements which accompanied it—especially a more CBS-style graphics package—were a welcome change. While there are still some down points in the presentation—it would be nice to see more replay angles which replicate real-life broadcasts instead of a “video game broadcast”—it was a good change overall.
Kev5890: I thought the change was a great addition. Jim and Phil sound more organic; although it helps because both of them actually announce games together during the NFL season. Gus and Cris was a very odd pairing and Jim and Phil make it feel like “Sunday” when playing Madden NFL.
Buckeye: Phil Simms and Jim Nantz were a welcomed upgrade over Collinsworth and Johnson. After several years with the old commentary team, it started to become a bit stale and more of a distraction to gameplay than a compliment to it. It would have been nice to see them use both teams as a change of pace however. The biggest drawback is that you don’t have the extensive library with Sims and Nantz that they had built up with Collinsworth and Johnson over the last few years so they are sort of starting from scratch.
Romo Time: Without any hesitation, this was one of the better moves for Madden NFL, and could not have happened at a better time. I hope we see a telestrator soon!
10. What new mode would you add to Madden NFL 25 that was not in Madden NFL 13? What game mode might you take out of Madden NFL 25 that was included in Madden NFL 13? Why?
Smitty: Being a gameplay-first sports simulation player, the core has to be firm, solidified, and stable first and foremost to innovate efficiently. So, I wouldn’t exactly add modes to Madden NFL 25, but I’d remove MUT for the exact reason stated in the first sentence. I’d rather sacrifice a mode and focus on solidifying the core gameplay mechanics first and foremost. Then, the following year or two later MUT could be brought back in an efficient manner that won’t compromise any of the core gameplay integrity.
CoreySA: To be honest, I still miss the Owner Modes of past Madden NFLs. Let me set ticket prices, build new stadiums, re-locate my team and stick to off the field duties. I want strategy to the max and this is something I’d want to see Madden NFL explore again. Another mode I’d like to see is FIFA‘s Online Seasons brought over to Madden NFL. FIFA‘s online mode is incredibly addicting, with promotions and relegation, trophies and an addictive spirit. I think this could change the way we play Madden NFL competitively online.
OneEighth: CCM is perfect for how I play the game and if they continue to build on that I would be happy.
Paakaa10: I would like to see a “Play Now > Playoffs” mode to go along with the “Play Now > Super Bowl” which has been in the past few Madden NFL installments. This would allow users to set up the playoff brackets for the NFC and AFC and play as many or as few games as they want on the path to the Super Bowl. This would be a great way to allow all users to see the playoff presentation, instead of “locking it away” for only those people willing to commit time to CCM. As for removing a mode, nothing in the game right now feels superfluous; if I were forced to choose one, it would be Madden Ultimate Team, but that would be a selfish decision simply because I don’t play it, and that would be a disservice to the large community which does enjoy that mode.
Kev5890: A new mode I would add would allow the user to set up their own playoff bracket. I would love to jump in a game of Madden NFL and go on a “Road to the Playoffs” scenario with my team. I think only good can come from giving the user more options. I stated previously that I never get through multiple seasons in Madden NFL. However, I would definitely play this mode multiple times, especially come January when the NFL playoffs begin.
Buckeye: If I were EA I would further capitalize on the popularity of MUT and bring in the ability to have an online MUT CCM. I was very skeptical of MUT as a money grab when it first came out. While it may still be that, it is a highly addictive and fun mode that still hasn’t reached its potential. Having a Connected Career Mode or something of the sort with MUT would extend the appeal and cause people like me who hate playing against randoms, the incentive to get deep into MUT. What mode would I remove? Online Community to start with, then make the choice on if they are going to upgrade Online Team Play and if not, remove that too. Not that there is no value in either mode, both are fun and have good potential but if they aren’t going to flesh them out then its time so save space and cut them out until next gen when they can be installed completely.
Romo Time: I would like to see an all-out Online Team Play club mode with the ability to have six players on each team. Having six players on the same team might not be popular in everyone’s eyes, but having all of the skill position players controlled by human players would be fun. I would not take away any mode at this point; all we have to look at is what happened with the drastic change to CCM instead of Franchise and the loss of uploading rosters from NCAA Football to see how taking something away can have a negative effect.
That’s our staff take on Madden NFL 13; what did you think about last year’s professional football game? Let us know in the comments below!