Madden 11 Introduces Online Scouting
I like to throw the curl route on first down in "Madden." Prefer to throw it to the receiver on the right side of the screen. I have the timing down so perfect in my head that I can usually do it without even looking. Eight yards to open the drive.
As John Madden used to say, "Boom!"
And its funny, I know my tendencies, a couple of my best friends know what Ive been up to for years, but when I go online and play random people, that curl route is still always open.
But not for long.
With "Madden NFL 11," EA Sports is tracking your every play in order to deliver scouting reports to your online opponents. So now, whether Im playing against a "Madden" vet in Sacramento or a newbie in Denver, all they need to do is order up my report and theyll know my tendencies as well as the people Ive been playing "Madden" against since high school.
"Online scouting tracks all of your play-calling and what you like to do in different situations," explains producer Donny Moore. "Were tracking every online game that you play: online ranked, unranked, and Madden Ultimate Team head-to-head."
And according to Moore, there are ten different situations that the game is tracking: First down, second down and long, second down and medium, second down and short, third down and long, third down and medium, third down and short, fourth down, goal line, and red zone.
"On defense, the first thing youre going to unlock is the run/pass percentage of your opponent. The next thing youre going to unlock is the field location," says Moore. "Where on the field does your opponent target in this given situation. If its a run, its broken down into three zones: right, middle, and left. If its a pass, its broken down into more zones: right, middle, and left, and then also short, medium, and deep."
The final thing gamers unlock on defense is the player-specific target. Who does your opponent like to throw to or hand the ball off to in these certain situations.
"On offense, youre going to be scouting the percentages on how often your opponent likes to play man or zone versus the blitz in certain situations," adds Moore. "The other thing youre able to unlock on offense is to view your own tendencies. This adds to that chess match where you can see that on third down and short, you actually run the ball 87% of the time, and during those runs, Im running to the left 68% of the time. So now that I know what I do, Im actually going to flip my play and run to the right because my opponent might scout me and know what Im doing."
So now, not only will my opponent know about my curl route on first down, but Im reminded of that fact myself, leading me to change my gameplan and maybe call a draw, or even an out and up to catch my opponent off guard. Says Moore: "By changing your gameplan, its actually making you a better player."
But how do you unlock these scouting reports? "Madden" producer Phil Frazier provides the details: "Scouting is a consumable. So you earn coins in every online game that you play as long as you dont quit or disconnect. You can then spend these coins on scouting reports or other things within the game (gamers will also be able to use real money to buy coin packs or scouting packs, but the prices are not final). Its the same economy that drives Madden Ultimate Team. So you can literally be playing Madden Ultimate Team online, earn some coins, then turn around and either buy a pack of cards or a scouting pack. The economy drives a lot more this year than just Madden Ultimate Team, but were not talking dollars per scouting report here. Youre earning these coins by playing Madden online, so this isnt a money-grab for us. This is about building up your online skills. Were trying to provide a competitive advantage and were presenting it to you in a way thats authentic to the sport of football."
And to give gamers a taste of the strategy, everybody who buys the game new will receive 50 free scouting reports with purchase tied to the new EA Sports Online Pass initiative.
"When you total everything up, there are 45 different pieces of scouting report information that you could buy per game," explains Moore. "Or you can just buy the full game purchase option before the game for just 25 coins so you can just have all the scouting before the game without having to buy every piece of information separately. Its a pretty good discount. Then when youre in-game, if a scouting report is available to be viewed, you just hit a button to activate."
Adds Frazier: "What ultimately drove this feature was the hardcore, competitive, head-to-head gamer who wanted the ability, just like NFL coaches, to have a tool to understand what their opponents are doing. And thats why weve focused this feature on online head-to-head and not carried it over to online franchise which we feel is a more social aspect of gaming."
As for how the new scouting works with "Maddens" GameFlow play-calling system? Frazier believes the two work hand-in-hand. "With GameFlow, youre giving the A.I. the ability to choose for you, so maybe the statistic of pass versus run isnt as valid as the others, but even when a pass play is called, its up to you on how to execute that play. When we call out the primary receiver who is running a streak route, you can choose instead to throw to the receiver on the other side of the field who is running the corner route. So the information on where the play is run, who is favorite target is, how deep he likes to throw, all of that information is very much relevant even though the play was called by GameFlow. And since you can also audible out of GameFlow, were also tracking those plays that youre calling. Theres no way to circumvent the system as were tracking the final result."
In addition, Moore sees the advantage coming from how online opponents like to constantly change playbooks. "The computer doesnt change his playbook, but online, gamers are always adapting.
"And just because you have the information on what your opponent likes to do, that doesnt mean hes going to do it. Its just some great, useful information that could help you gain that edge in your game. And its cool, because when someone is scouting you, a pop-up appears on your screen that reads, Youve been scouted. So you know when somebody is watching you and it gets back into that chess game where he thinks youre going left, so you throw a deep ball to the right when hes least expecting it. But to me, the scouting I find most useful is field location. This lets you know if a guy likes to throw those screens and drag routes across the middle or if he likes to throw deep more often."
"I agree," adds Frazier. "I was playing a game against (Madden producer) Ian Cummings the other day, and when I play defense, I like to play safety, and the scouting enables me to cheat a little one way or the other. But at the same time, Ian was using his own scouting to target places on the field he doesnt usually throw to because he knew I was cheating my safety deep. It really added an extra element to the gameplay.
"We have high hopes for this feature because of this. Now if youre being shut down, its not because of your stick skills. Its because youre not calling a good game. You wont be able to get away with calling the same plays over and over anymore. Its geared to make the average Joe play a more serious game of football and call the game more like a real coach."
Looks my days of first down curl routes are coming to an end. Then again, now that you know whats coming, and you know that I know that you know whats coming, you never really know whats coming.
And thats what playing "Madden" is all about.