Monday, December 14, 2009

Madden Patch #2

I've spent 8+ hours with the second Madden patch since it was released, and as I work on finishing the re-balancing of the sliders, here's a list of how the game has changed.

Things to like:
--it's hard to overstate how much better the game plays now that defensive coverage in the flats has improved. It doesn't sound like much, when you write it, but there's a huge difference when your checkdown receiver isn't always available for that guaranteed 5-7 yard gain.
--the defenses are saltier, both due to improved flats coverage and better pursuit angles. It's not that the pursuit angles are always optimal, but they've improved enough that the outside running game is no longer so dangerous (dangerous in a cheap kind of way).
--QB's take more sacks instead of throwing that little wounded duck pass when they get hit.
--in sum, the gameplay feels more "blended" now, with the various elements joining together in a more cohesive way.

Things not to like:
--there are still too many defensive touchdowns. The number has been reduced, but it still seems too high.
--the CPU seems to make defensive adjustments at halftime, but not during the game itself, or if they do, it's hardly noticeable.
--the CPU A.I. is still MISERABLE in the last two minutes of the half when they're already ahead. This is a particularly galling problem, because the developers are obviously football wonks. How hard can it be to have an intern compile a database for all games this year when teams take possession of the ball with three minutes or less in the half? Just record time remaing, field position, down and distance, and whether the team was passing the ball, running the no-huddle, etc. It would become immediately apparent that Madden's A.I. in that particular situation is way, way too conservative.
--I've also seen gaffes in the last few minutes of a game (mostly related to not letting the play clock run down) as well. This is pretty easy: if the CPU is ahead with less than four minutes remaining, run the play clock down to 1 second before snapping the ball. Seriously, what is that--ONE LINE of code?
--the CPU still has very poor logic when deciding whether to go for the two-point conversion. It's poor because it's extremely rare for a team to ever go for a two-point conversion before the fourth quarter, but in Madden, they'll do it in the first half, and it's done far, far too often. They're overthinking the room, essentially.

Overall, the second patch is a positive. It doesn't seem to break anything in terms of gameplay, and it improved quite a bit. The game already played pretty well, so that's a win.

If you're wondering when the new slider set will be available, I think it will be sometime this week, at least for the "play" sliders. The Coach sliders might take another week beyond that.

Oh, and here's a quiz question for the five of you who made it this far: there's something seriously wrong, in a realism sense, with the first down measurements done by the chain gang. What is it?

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