Madden 09 Online League Impressions

Posted August 7th, 2008 at 9:30 pm

The first thing I wanted to delve into after getting Madden 09 was an area of the game that hadn’t been previewed first hand and that is the addition of online leagues. We had details on how it would work but it is always better to do a real run through of a feature, especially when it relates to online play. So I spent part of the evening along with Fred from SportsGamer to try everything out.

Ultimately this online league system is not going to be sufficient for anyone running a serious league. It was clearly intended more for those who join random leagues and probably don’t end up completing a full season. Continue on to view screenshots of the league menus and information on what the online league feature offers.

If you decide to be the league commish (that role can be passed on to someone else later) then you’ll be setting up the league. When creating a league a number of options are presented.

The number of users for a league is anywhere from 2 to 32. Since there are no divisions it can be any number of teams. This isn’t an online franchise so only user controlled teams take part.

The number of games to choose from is 1,3 5, 7, 9 and 11. This signifies the number of times a team will take on each opponent. For example an 11 game season for a league that has 10 teams would result in each user committing to 99 games in total. I had to double check this because that seemed ridiculous that a league could potentially be set up for 341 games (31 opposing teams @ 11 games) but that is how it is described. “Enter the number of games to play against each league member”. So a full league of 32 users would at minimum require each one to play 32 games.

If you enable “unique rosters” then you have the option of having a draft and trades. The fantasy draft is not a true selection process instead it is an auto draft. You can set your draft list and priorities but ultimately the CPU will be conducting the draft. Player trades are always one for one (though you could agree to more and go through multiple steps to complete a bigger deal). Setting it to “restricted” means that they must be done within teams that have played the same number of games, while “simple” appears to allow them at any time. Leaving unique rosters off means that there could be multiple of the same team used and there will be no player movement (draft or trades) allowed.

As mentioned in the news on the first patch coming for the game the default quarter length is being changed to 5 minutes. Right now it defaults to 1 minute which most everyone would be changing.

Game skill level lets you choose from Rookie, Pro, All-Pro, and All-Madden. Fatigue and injuries can be turned on, and random weather is available. I did not find anywhere to set custom league sliders.

Basically all you have to do to get a game in is find someone who is online from the league, that you still have open games against, and challenge them to a league game. The person who challenges will be the home team.

After having completed a game we returned to the league area to see what would be displayed. The most important thing to mention is that there are no player stats. That right there is probably all many of you need to know. You can view someone’s online player card and their personal stats but no where are the league stats for players or even teams. All that is seen are the final scores, points for and against, and record against opponents.

In the comments some people have suggested that possibly unique rosters have to be set to yes in order to have player stats. This is something we’ll have to look into. Even if true, the default when setting up a league is no to unique rosters, and if Fred and I struggle to figure this out I don’t feel good about the possibility that the general consumer using leagues will know that is necessary in order to have them. After setting up a league with unique rosters on there is still no section to view stats, though I suppose it may be that it is added after a game is played. We should be able to check for this tonight.

Update: Player stats are in fact tracked when unique rosters are turned on.

The GM options are relatively limited. Changing the password, adding news, changing the trophy/logo, ending the league, and completing the draft and trades if applicable. As far as I’ve seen there is no way to change or erase results.

The playoffs are based on seeding as there are no divisions or conferences. I’m unsure as to how many teams are determined to take part in the playoffs as there is no option for setting that.

The only redeeming quality of the leagues is that you can set your depth chart and it loads up for the league games. Given how EA inexplicably hasn’t given that ability to the standard online games it is a nice thing to have here.

The lack of a web accessible component is also a big deal. Originally there was supposed to be one through EA Sports World. That may come in the near future as NCAA is getting the Online Dynasties viewable on EASW in the second patch. Though for the Madden leagues without details such as player ratings I’m not sure how much value people would find in browsing the latest happenings in a league other than checking records/results.

General online play impressions are to come this weekend but I’ve noticed a few things already in the short time I’ve been playing that I’m hoping will be addressed at some point.

As with the NHL 08 and NBA Live 08 league systems this turns out to be more of a glorified tournament or competition rather than an actual league feature. The addition of the playoffs does make it a more viable option though compared to those from last year. For people who just want to jump into an open competition with little organziation or planning it can make sense to utilize this feature. But for anyone who is running a serious league they’ll need to continue playing standard online games and using a third-party service to keep track of it.