Strategy Pad. Most Reviled Feature Since The Vision Cone?

Posted July 27th, 2010 at 10:06 am

Going into the Madden 11 demo I expected a somewhat flat response but what we have gotten (albeit in the early hours) is much more negative. While there are a number of things factoring into that the main one centers on the “Strategy Pad”. There is essentially no benefit to the pre-snap adjustments being changed in this fashion and it has thrown a wrench into the level of comfort gamers have with Madden.

The Strategy Pad now houses all the pre-snap adjustments via the D-Pad. The most commonly used functions such as hot routes, shifting, and individual assignment changes are now completed with the D-Pad. I can’t remember a reaction towards a single feature so overwhelmingly negative since the introduction of the “Vision Cone”. Part of that may be due to it catching gamers by surprise however the complaints are primarily based on its functionality.

The biggest issue arises on defense where there is literally no time to assess the offense and then make changes. I’ve never wanted the CPU to sit at the line of scrimmage just for authenticity sake. Even if its Peyton Manning. However with how quickly the CPU snaps the ball there just is no opportunity given because of the lengthier process in completing a single change combined with the necessity to learn the new functions that make each happen.

This is saying something considering that I’ve always been very basic in pre-snap adjustments. On defense I might press the corners and/or adjust the alignment of the defensive line or linebackers. Now though I can’t even complete the most basic of adjustments. There are now more actions required to accomplish less which as a design decision just fascinates me.

This change also really messes with the symmetry between NCAA Football 11 and Madden. While there have always been differences in the two series EA Sports attempted to keep them just similar enough that gamers could go from one to the other without having to make huge adjustments. Some may argue that over time the Strategy Pad will become second nature. However when the two games are so drastically different in something that needs to be done almost unconsciously due to the limited time allotted it becomes much more difficult and really alters the enjoyment had with the games.

The only logical explanation anyone has been able to offer as to why the move to the Strategy Pad was made would be to prevent exploits from being set up by limiting the number of them that can be completed. That wouldn’t apply though to head-to-head games where the snap time may still allow for the necessary changes to be made. Even if this was the intention it represents nothing more than a cover-up of fundamental issues with the game. Instead they need to focus on fixing the exploits, otherwise why wouldn’t their eventual solution be to prevent all pre-snap alterations? After all that would “fix” the exploits that are accomplished through specific or massive movement before the snap right?

Interestingly with Madden 11 attempting to target the casual crowd along new consumers to the product the Strategy Pad goes firmly against what they want to accomplish. It does not fit in the “simpler, quicker, deeper” mantra and is by no means accessible. It has irritated the veterans of the Madden series immediately. It would be difficult for someone less experienced to even grasp the purpose in general let alone them trying to complete any actions on defense leading to eventual frustration. If anything non-hardcore gamers may be more inclined to just ignore the feature than actually utilize it.

I’ve never been one to complain much about a certain feature being removed or a certain feature being changed on a year-to-year basis. However that is because in most cases there was a decent explanation to back them up or it was intended to be an improvement. I am simply baffled by this change and it has me feeling even stronger that over the long haul I’ll be playing much more NCAA than Madden.

While I’ve been following all the discussion on the topic in the comments on the demo posting, through different communities, and on Twiter and Facebook, I’d like to get a more focused take in the comments now. How do you feel about the Strategy Pad in Madden 11?