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Published on August 10, 2006 By terpfan1980 In XBOX
Couple of notes here at the top:
1. I don't work for Microsoft, Electronic Arts, or any other gaming companies mentioned here-in. My only affiliation with them is as a paying (and sometimes b-tchin') customer.
2. I don't get referral discounts or any other payment for any comments I may make here.
3. This article is being posted via JoeUser.com in the Gaming -} console games area yet may be cross posted to other affiliated sites (sites affiliated with JoeUser.com, Stardock.com, etc.) If you aren't interested in the content here-in, then please ignore and peace be with you.
4. Opinions and comments here-in are strictly the personal opinion of terpfan1980 and are not endorsed by any other parties except as they may answer and speak for themselves in the comments area.

It's that time of year again when I get to do some sports gaming. In this case just doing a rental via Gameznflix.com (see other articles by me about that company if you are interested) as I figure that after a few weeks (at best) of playing the game I'd be fed up with it and want to trade it in (and take a huge loss if I went to Gamestop/EB Games) or sell it used (via eBay or similar). Better to do a rental and save my money and just get my enjoyment with much less wasted up-front cash.

As it turns out, I'm pleasantly surprised at this year's NCAA football entry, put out by the usual folks at Electronic Arts. Some people consider the game "Madden, Jr." or "Madden Lite" (or more appropriately, Madden with the option play included), but it does of course have a good deal of college flavor. EA's NCAA game this season, at least on the Xbox 360, has added some nice bonus "eye candy" with mascots for the teams, and land marks and special characteristics from the stadiums and locations included. If you are playing on an HDTV screen it looks great, and I'm told that it doesn't look too bad on standard definition screens either.

The gameplay is typical college football though. Option play for those that enjoy it, and play books from the colleges that are included (most majors) in the game.

What I'm gonna fault in the game -- big time -- is the apparently completely stupid Artificial Intelligence, or application of AI in the game. EA has failed in this area for years, and choose not to break the streak this season. I'm not necessarily talking about the basic AI in the game when a human plays the game. Those settings revolve around a difficulty setting that is fairly easy to control and does scale the game difficulty when you are playing the game against the CPU. Where it doesn't scale at all is when you decide you want to be a sim-monkey and just simulate your way through some seasons doing the Dynasty mode.

Rather than applying the settings that a player has invoked, the defaults seem to go into play and the favoritism and weighted scale that was granted when the game was created is used to determine who will win the games that simulated.

I fault this on several fronts, and believe it's just absolutely lazy programming. If the sliders and other settings that are used for adjusting difficulty will be applied to games under a human's control, then they should also apply when a human "sims" the game. It only makes sense that whatever settings you put into play when you are controlling the individual players should be in effect when you simulate through a game.

The bigger issue in this area is that the game completely fails -- at all times -- to take the current team streak and any prestige or honor that should come with a good winning streak and factor it into games in the future, most especially not in simulated games. Again, if you have a team that has been crushing it's opponents while under manual control, then it should be doing the same thing while simulating games. If you just rolled off say a 6 game win streak and were handily beating your opponents, then the game should factor that into your remaining games and you should probably wind up winning most, if not all, of those games by similar margins.

2KSports had made some serious progress in these areas, or at least gave serious lip service to making progress in these areas. Thanks to their VIP technology, they created virtual intelligence packages that were built using an individual players tendencies and game history. As you played along and built up a VIP history, you could then trade/upload a VIP to another person and they could play a game against a player that was using your tendencies and strategies. It was a very interesting concept and fairly well implemented.

Unfortunately, EA opted to make very expensive deals with groups like the NFL and apparently has paid away so much money for their exclusive deals that they didn't have any left to pay the developers to work on the a.i.

I expect Madden will similarly disappoint me, and am leaning ever more towards a rental of that game rather than a purchase this season. I expect that after a few weeks I'm going to be completely bored with that game too and want to trade it for something else. Hopefully the rental company I deal with will have a copy for me in a reasonable time frame.

on Aug 10, 2006
If E.A. ever did put some effort into the A.I. in their games they might actually have a legitimate market leading game again, instead of one that is the market leader only because of exclusive deals that prevent any competition.
on Aug 10, 2006
The only sports game from EA that I play is NHL 2006. I've never tried to sim games so I can't comment on that particular aspect of the AI.

However I play a lot of BF2. I do understand the game is supposed to be played MP, but I was still very disappointed when I fired up SP mode and found the AI to be completely inept and stupid.

I personally believe that EA is not a publisher that has the quality of it's games at heart. As an example, BF2 has 2 updates which created more issues than it fixed (v1.1 and v1.3). In both cases problem were quickly spotted but a fix was rather long in coming.

It's too bad. EA releases games that have great potential that is never fully exploited.
on Aug 10, 2006
As long as people buy EA, EA isn't going to change anything.

on Aug 11, 2006
publisher dont make game AI

EA is a publisher they do nothing with the game coding.

Its like saying Stardock made a bad AI in GalCiv2. (its by paradox.)

There are few cases when the 2 are the same. Such as Steam.

But you dont blaim the producer a band is signed to when the band puts out a bad album.

Seriosly should do some more research before posting something like this.
on Aug 11, 2006
Seriosly should do some more research before posting something like this.

Let me turn that right back on you a bit.

You say the publisher isn't to blame and then city GalCiv2 as an example: you realize that Stardock did do all of GalCiv2, no?

Regardless of that, and to the point of turning this back around - who collects the checks for EA's products? Who pays the developers? And who determines (thanks to paying those developers, who pay the programmers, etc.) what goes into the game?

I don't give a rat's rear-end that EA didn't personally program the game -- they are responsible for it. I know that in the past Tiburon did Madden for EA, and their other games are programmed by other groups as well, but in the end they (EA) are the ones that determine if the game is ready, if they can sell it with the feature set it includes, etc. They are responsible for it, no matter how much you want to give them a free pass and no matter how badly you want to attack my position and claim I haven't done the research.

If you know your product is a stinker and you sell it anyway, no matter where you are in the chain, you are responsible for it and should do the right thing to make things better.
on Aug 11, 2006
Its like saying Stardock made a bad AI in GalCiv2. (its by paradox.)

You have your example completely backwards, or worse. Stardock developed and published GC2 themselves. Paradox was just contracted to localize it and distribute it in Europe.
on Aug 11, 2006
As long as people buy EA, EA isn't going to change anything.

Oh, I didn't want to let this comment slip by without some additional thoughts. The point is valid, but sadly worsened thanks to exclusive deals made between Electronic Arts (EA) and the NFL or others like NASCAR. Where customers used to have a choice between Madden football and 2KSports football, now there is none. The NFL got greedy and somewhat stupid and decided that they'd take the megabucks that EA offered them for exclusive rights to producing third party football games on all platforms.

That exclusive deal hasn't stopped Sony from being able to put out their own game (Gameday) on their platform, and it doesn't preclude Microsoft from putting out a title of their own (such as the old NFL Fever franchise they had back on the old Xbox platform). Sadly Microsoft hasn't seemed inclined to put out a title of their own, and that leaves gamers on the Xbox and Xbox 360 platform with little or no choice.

Worse still, on the Xbox 360 platform there's really a dearth of choices because of the lack of backwards compatibility modules for the older series of games (such as the old 2KSports football). Even if there was a backwards compatibility module, 2KSports wouldn't provide Xbox Live support for it (they only promised to support the title through one full season, basically one year, after that they ceased support for the old title).

For the record, 2KSports joined EA in the war by firing off a heavy salvo of their own -- they went for the MLB exclusive license once EA signed the NFL. Their product was also full of bugs and broken features and has never been fixed completely. Some major features remain broken badly, and there are so many little glitches as to ruin a game that has promise. It may be better next year, but this year it was basically junk (at least on the 360 platform).

I loath exclusive deals, but especially loath them when the developers/producers get lazy and don't go through complete test cycles. They obviously cut corners and rush to meet deadlines that needn't have been so stringent. Either way, it's not a good thing for customers as they are left with a choice of buy crap or buy nothing at all.
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