Madden 19 is out and has been receiving rave reviews, even from tough critics like me. It’s undoubtedly the best Madden ever made, and I’m personally having a blast playing in our 32-man PS4 CFM.
But what if Madden were different? What if it started to head off into a new, yet familiar, direction?
This is part of a project I’ve thought about a lot over the past few months, and it’ll be less writing and more design/mock-up work, with a focus on community discussion. Whether this project is viewed as a future Madden, or a completely new first-party licensed game, the direction isn’t as important as the discussion around it. I’m well aware that none of this may ever see its way into a game, let alone one released next year, but I figured there’s no harm in brainstorming here with you all.
I’m tentatively calling this thread/project Jon Gruden NFL Football ’19, but please understand that this is a purely fictional exercise. Further, I’m hoping to explore a concept I’ve been referring to as Franchise Mode 2.0. What is Franchise Mode 2.0? That’s exactly what I’m hoping this series can help figure out. Thanks to the evolution of online modes, we’re in the midst of a sports-gaming revolution, yet if you asked most folks, franchise modes have taken a back seat. Franchise Mode 2.0 is what I aim to be a community initiative to help get franchise modes modernized and back on top of sports gaming, not as a replacement, but working in conjunction with the shift in gaming we’ve seen these past few years.
Online modes do not need to be exclusive, nor should they go away. However, most folks are drawn to sports gaming because of the professional/college leagues they emulate, and that connection is still at the core of these games. It is my goal here with all of you to brainstorm ways in which to reconnect franchise mode to the modern gamer.
Concept 1: Storylines
First, I wanted to pitch a concept that expands a bit on the successful “Longshot” story mode introduced in Madden ’18. Storylines is a concept that allows users to create their Devin Wade-esque character, but in a more organic way through customization. Storylines also allows for the sharing of characters for others to use for more replay-ability and to even go as far as create an entire fictional league of Storyline characters. Storyline characters would work within an actual franchise mode, and would not be their own separate mode.
Here you can see some of the pre-made templates that would ship with the game. These are being cataloged by three difficulty tabs, and you can see that one is even designated for a coach-only mode. Users would have the ability to edit an existing template if they want to tweak the defaults some before starting.
On the Create tab we see the first page of the creation process. Users can create an endless number of combinations using each of the three tabs, and can then refine a player further before saving and exporting. This is where the majority of shared Storyline players would originate, and as I mentioned earlier, entire leagues could even be created quickly using this tool.
Concept 2: Leagues
We all know that card-trading/team building modes have ruled the day of late, and the popularity of these modes is undeniable. I started to think about what is it that might be able to top such momentum? How could franchise mode possibly bounce back and compete?
Community and Storytelling
I came up with two simple terms both of which pre-date well before video games and is something ingrained in our DNA as human beings: Community and storytelling.
It’s the same reason why we get engaged in books, or when a friend is recalling a crazy story from their weekend, or even when we’re browsing through Netflix looking for something to entertain us. It’s the same way humans have connected with one another for thousands of years.
Community and storytelling are ingrained in all of us, and the way franchise can tap back into gamers of today is to integrate community and storytelling features into these modes.
So what might a franchise mode built around “community” start to look like?
Leagues Home Page
Below are just a few mock-up screenshots covering a mode called Leagues.
This is the Leagues home page. The Home section would show the basics such as standings, stats, etc. It’s also where games would be setup to be played/simmed. I may put that screen together later on, but you get the idea. Options is the other screen not mentioned below, but this is where you could adjust the size of your league as well as other rules and settings.
Let’s start by clicking on the Media button.
This is the media page which is almost entirely created by the members within your league. Each week, members can create various forms of content to share with their leagues. Whether it be simple recorded messages covering your latest team news (top middle), chatter from any of the active plugins (such as Discord and Slack, top right), podcasts which can be created by any member (bottom left), and even an NBATV-esque weekly show that covers the real NFL and the actual game with tips, plays of the week, etc (top left).
This is where the storytelling and community integration would really shine for the top leagues. This page can also be customized, much like the NHL series has allowed people to design their own dashboard.
The weekly NFL show would also cover some of the most active and creative leagues to help give them some deserved publicity.
Let’s back out of this screen and head back to the Leagues primary dashboard. Next, we’ll click on the Workshop button.
Leagues Workshop is inspired by the Steam Workshop that has helped reinvent customization in gaming. This screen is fairly self-explanatory, but this is where league members and commissioners could download, create, share, etc. their own designs to customize their league. Looking for some community-created college jerseys, helmets, and logos for your ambitious 130 team league? This would be the place to do that and would function similarly to the wonderful 2K Share.
I will continue to update this series in future posts. I’d love to hear your feedback, your ideas, and your suggestions. Thanks for reading!