Madden NFL 12 Franchise Mode Impressions

Posted August 26th, 2011 at 6:10 am

After taking a year off from improvements EA Sports made a strong effort to deliver with Franchise mode in Madden NFL 12 and have succeeded in doing so. With expanded rosters and cut days, scouting for the draft, a new free agency system, and improved logic in several areas Franchise mode is more compelling than ever. 

•I played entire season with 12 minute quarters, accelerated clock running the play clock down to 20 seconds, on default All-Pro difficulty. Those settings provided a realistic number of plays and a pace that didn’t feel rushed. I then also simmed through a second franchise in order to test out the NCAA Football 12 draft class.

Cut Days
The expanded rosters to 75 players is a great new feature but it probably could have been presented in a more upfront manner. A certain number of cuts have to be made after each pre-season game and it really isn’t evident until the user goes to advance and is warned that it has to be done or will be simmed. It was also amusing how some of the players give a text-based ‘reaction’ when cut. Yes, I’m really sure that cutting you, a 53 rated kicker, will be the “worst decision I ever made”.

The pre-season games allow for a chance to get acclimated with the players but beyond that there doesn’t seem to be much value to them. How the games are handled isn’t great. First string plays the first quarter, second string the second quarter, ect. It is jarring to switch the whole lineup at the change of quarter – in the middle of a drive – instead of at the start of a new drive. It also ended up putting players in odd positions.

A game against the Vikings saw Adrian Peterson who had been removed as a running back out at wide receiver since he is down the depth chart for that position and in doing so risking injury. Backup kickers and punters (usually position players or kicker doing the punting and vice versa) also made for some awkward moments. There is no unique pre-season commentary and ratings for rookies aren’t completely displayed until after the pre-season.

In-Season Scouting

Prospect scouting begins at the start of the regular season – I noted the weeks for this scouting as being 1, 9, 13, and 17. At each interval 15 players can be scouted for their “common” ratings. An questionable overall is also shown once any scouting has been done on a player but it is unspecific and seems to be a guess or at most an indication of what way a player may lean.

Player Roles and Traits
More so than Dynamic Player Performance I’ve found the ‘Player Traits’ to have made for the biggest on-field addition as it relates to gameplay. It is great to be able to identify certain players in their style of play. That is most obvious in the QBs but also evident with most of the positions.

The ‘Player Roles’ appear to work well as they relate to roster AI – the CPU will identify what they need or don’t need to address. With ‘QB of the Future’ on the roster they theoretically won’t be drafting one in the first round. It’s also neat that certain players can influence others with their presence but I’m unsure if that actually works. For my Titans Marc Mariani has the ‘Return Specialist’ role which is supposed to improve the blocking and weaken the opponent’s tackling skills slightly. My KR and PR stats were the worst in the league so it seems something like that may have more effect in the simulations.


While injuries for CPU teams were accounted for in what appeared to be an accurate fashion the user controlled team doesn’t seem to be inflicted with them in the same manner. Not once did a player on my team get knocked out for a short period of time. I had three injuries that extended beyond the game they occurred in and I ended up placing all three on the IR.

It was disappointing that there were no injuries that cost my players games otherwise. It’s why Chris Johnson was able to have so many carries. I’m fairly certain CPU defenders got injured several times in tackling Johnson but he was never knocked out of the game for more than a few plays. Also no concussions were witnessed through the entire season in user-controlled games.

Meanwhile as evidenced by a few of the team images below the CPU was inflicted with short term injuries as well as severe ones. At any given time the CPU teams appeared to have 2-7 injured players on their reports to account for.

‘Injury Prone’ (player role) players did seem to end up on being hurt more often in the sims. For example Matt Stafford found himself on the IR. Placing a player on the IR now opens up a roster spot!

Trades and Transactions
No trades were made by the CPU. It appears they don’t trade with each other outside of the draft. They are active however on the free agency wire (a few weeks below as examples).

Dynamic Player Performance and In-Season Progression
Dynamic Player Performance (DPP) has been championed as the most significant addition to Madden in years, especially as it relates to Franchise mode, but I just didn’t see it. There were players on hot and cold streaks at times and ratings were supposedly adjusting due to performance but it would be difficult to quantify how that impacted results on the field.

Now that might be a good thing. No one wants a receiver who’s on a cold streak to drop everything. But if he’s not dropping everything than how would anyone notice their performance is being hampered? So it’s quite possible that the streaks and ratings shifts do have some effect but it would certainly be more minor than anticipated.

It appears that there isn’t much in the way of progression over the course of a season. Intermittently I examined the ratings and found some categories that had received up to +3 or -3 but they were for entire position groups and not individuals. For example all of my running backs had gotten +3 in route running at one point. No overalls changed in the first season…as far as I noticed anyway. Those changes came after the season was complete.

Season Results

As you can see by looking at the scores I found the default All-Pro setting to be challenging and to produce varied experiences. Several of the wins were of the comeback variety with two coming in overtime. I also lost to some bad teams like the Panthers and Bengals.

Tennessee Titans: Regular Season 10-6
TEN 19-JAX 7
BAL 36-TEN 14
DEN 13-TEN 20
TEN 37-CLE 14
TEN 27-PIT 24 (OT)
HOU 10-TEN 13 (OT)
IND 34-TEN 14
CIN 14-TEN 17
TEN 24-CAR 34
TEN 19-ATL 14
TB 24-TEN 13
TEN 13-BUF 6
NO 27-TEN 23
TEN 34-IND 14
JAX 27-TEN 32
TEN 20-HOU 38
TEN 28-KAN 31 (Wild Card Playoffs)

Now for probably the most astonishing game of Madden I’ve ever been a part of: It came in week 13 against the Saints. After jumping out to a 23-0 halftime lead the win felt as though it was a foregone conclusion. When Drew Brees was knocked out with a fractured ankle in the 3rd quarter it just didn’t appear to be the Saints’ day.

Then here comes backup QB Chase Daniel and naturally I think I let off the gas and he absolutely lit me up. I got ultra conservative on offense and dared Daniel to make plays through the air and he was able to do it. Still it didn’t seem to be enough as I led 23-20 with only 4 seconds and a hail mary left for the Saints. Then this happened:

My brother was watching this one as I played and we both were in complete shock. Never did either of us comprehend an ending such as that would take place. It was reminiscent of the Jaguars hail mary win over the Texans last year. I may have lost but it was really satisfying at the same time to have played such as remarkable game.

It almost cost me the season too. That put me a game behind both the Jaguars and Colts at the time and I had to win those next two games against them to make the playoffs.

In three sims to the Super Bowl the Patriots won it twice and the Seahawks won it the other time (and by beating the Steelers). That was surprising to see considering the Hawks had been so bad they got the #1 pick in the first sim and the #2 pick in the second.

Team Stats
Here is a look at my stats for the full season. One oddity found is that defensive end Dave Ball showed up with a couple pass attempts and a rush. I played every single snap of the season and never did I put Dave Ball at QB or RB!

League Stats and Awards
Keep in mind that injuries will have affected stats for some players such as Tom Brady who was out for a portion of the season.

Playoff Atmosphere and Pro Bowl

The playoffs did seem to ramp up the presentation with the pre-game flyovers, a few new sideline cut scenes, playoff screen wipes, and on-field logos. I couldn’t get a feel for whether the crowd noise was any different. The biggest issue though is that the commentary was no different than a pre-season or regular season game.

The Pro Bowl once again features generic helmets which I’m sure will be a disappointment to some. Commentary there is also the same as any other game.

Here are some of the retirements following the season. The youngest retiree was 32, oldest 44 (Matt Turk), and the rest all fell in the 35-44 range.

Pre-Draft Scouting

Combine: Reveal physical ratings for 15 prospects.
Pro Days: Reveal key attributes for 20 prospects.
Individual Workouts: Reveal all the ratings for 5 prospects.

Re-signing Period

The team is given the opportunity before the free agency frenzy begins to re-sign their own free agents or extend contracts. This is pretty much handled in the traditional way of getting a contract proposal and immediately accepting it or making changes and seeing if the player will accept it. I didn’t find much success in moving the numbers around and had to give them pretty much what they wanted if I wanted to keep them. There is also the Franchise Tag that can be applied to one player.

Free Agency and Contracts
The addition that turns out to be the most enjoyable this year is the new auction-style bidding free agency period. Essentially all the players hit the market at the same time and teams vie for their attention by trying to outbid all the others. As the clock ticks down (90 seconds seems to be the standard) teams can bid to take the lead and whoever is in that position when the time expires wins the right to negotiate the structure of the contract as the terms are set during the bidding process.

Immediately it’s rapid fire as a bunch of players are on the clock and that makes things tense. These seem to be the top players – just like early in free agency in real life they get the early attention and typically the biggest signings happen right away. The ticking clock also means that it would be very difficult to grab every player desired. The key would seem to be getting a bid in on those players and flipping to the tab that houses all the players that the user has placed a bid on. From there it can be monitored and the necessary reaction to other potential teams jumping in the lead can be taken. Lower rated players can essentially be had for the initial asking price as the CPU did not seem eager to compete on them.

I would have liked to have been given a trial run or explanation ahead of time – instead you are just thrown into the fire. At first I didn’t even recognize that I had made a bid as I was expecting a second screen to pop up. It also would’ve been helpful to have been shown all the free agents before the bidding begins. I was able to find that by backing out at the prior stage and going to the main franchise hub and all the free agents could be viewed there but I suspect many will dive right into the bidding and not realize they could have planned ahead on who to target.

Here is a look at the top free agents that were available in the first off-season with the last shot showing who got the largest contracts when all was said and done. Players consider only money and no other factors in making a deal.

After completing all the free agency signings the user is taken to the ‘Contract Signings’. Here is where the contract terms are determined as there are three options available. ‘Evenly distributed’ will result in a cap hit that is practically the same for each year of the life of the contract, ‘Front Loaded’ which will result in the cap hit being heavier at the start and smaller later on, and ‘Back Loaded’ which will put those biggest cap hits in the later years of the contract and save space early on.

I did notice that Matt Flynn, who took over for the injured Aaron Rodgers and not only made the Pro Bowl but started for the NFC and was third in MVP voting, signed a 5 year deal for only $18 million with the Redskins and is slated to be a backup to a rookie. He should have been in far greater demand and gotten a starting job.

One interesting aspect to the free agency was that in the initial re-signing period with my own free agents I let a few players go as I found their contract demands to be unreasonable. I was able to pick a couple of them up during the full free agency period for much cheaper. It seems they learned their true market value!

NFL Draft

As mentioned earlier the NFL Draft seems to have benefited primarily due to the introduction of ‘Player Roles’ and the improved AI that will result in teams choosing to go after players that they would be expected to given the circumstances or their tendencies.

This is where all the scouting will pay off – though I found it to be difficult to distinguish players still and felt in the dark on a lot of it. Many of the players I had scouted were gone by my pick so I chose to trade down. Then I was looking at taking guys I was uncertain of or completely clueless about and just started going off their projected rounds then. I’m not immediately sure how to solve this dilemma and it may just be that I approached it the wrong way and there will be a smarter method discovered for how to handle the draft.

The presentation for the draft is still lacking as it is just the menus – I believe people are really looking for something like players walking to the podium in the first round or the commissioner showing up in a scene to kick things off.

The CPU made trades with each other during the draft involving picks!

Future draft picks can now be traded which is great to finally have. I picked up an extra 4th round pick in the draft as well as a 2nd round pick in the 2012 draft by trading down.

The problem with trades during the draft is that the CPU will accept anything it seems. Their interest meter does not change. I even offered a 2nd round pick to the Jets to move down just 8 spots and threw in Darrelle Revis and they would have accepted the deal. I’m not sure if there is a setting I missed on this or if trading is just flawed. The CPU does reject trades proposed during the season.

One frequent question relating to the auction style bidding was how it would work in a multi-user franchise. What happens is the clock pauses when switching team control. That still means only one user can bid as the clock is running and logistically looks to be difficult to pull off depending on how many users are involved. Players will probably be missed out as the clock hits zero since not all the users would be able to make those last second offers.

Rookie Contracts

The rookies are signed in the same way that the team’s own free agents are handled with the initial deal proposal that can be manipulated with the contract dollar amount, bonus amount, and length.

Player Progression
Here are the ratings progressions for the Titans going into year two.

New Player Roles and Traits

The new season brings about new ‘Player Roles’ and ‘Traits’. Even incoming rookies are given a ‘Role’ if they meet the criteria. It was fun to look at the changes league wide and of course how they impacted my team going forward.

NCAA Football 12 Draft Class
After simming through a year of NCAA Football 12 the draft class was saved and transferred to Madden 12. The import of the draft class and sim of the season in Madden 12 led to the NFL Draft. Check out all the selections from the first two rounds:

While I didn’t evaluate the results closely here (fell welcome to note anything significant) what stood out was the punter chosen at #10 and the two kickers selected in round 2.

The punter selection is just inexcusable and those had better be the best kickers ever right? Well it turns out they came into their rookie season with 76 and 75 overall ratings respectively so obviously those picks can’t really be justified in any way either. The Seahawks taking Brandon Weeden over Andrew Luck might make sense since the NCAA sim had Weedon win the Heisman while Luck finished in third place in the voting. Tough to imagine a safety being taken number one though but at least the ‘Player Roles’ kicked in and they didn’t take a QB!

Other Notes
•Noticed the opposition late in the season began putting out top receivers as returners. Andre Johnson was returning kicks for the Texans.
•Injured players still on the top of the depth chart appear in the starters graphic early in the game.
•Penalties are rare so adjusting sliders could help. My team had 16 on the season – the rest of the league varied from a low of 36 to high of 61.
•Practice mode is back within Franchise and being able to use those rosters in practice to get a better feel for the team is very worthwhile.
•There is now an option when setting up the franchise to allow for player ratings to be edited.
•Custom playbooks can be used in Franchise mode.

I’ve never been a huge Franchise mode guy for a variety of reasons but became absolutely wrapped up in it with Madden NFL 12. The additions and improvements are all positives – and just highlights how great an Online Franchise mode could be if everything were implemented properly. Until then this represents a great step forward for offline players who value Franchise mode with plenty of potential for improvement and expansion in the coming years.