This year, the folks at EA Tiburon fundamentally changed franchise mode in Madden 17. How so? By encouraging players to let the game play itself.
See, football is one of those games where the clock isn’t really indicative of the length of the game. Sure, each quarter is supposed to be fifteen minutes long but all sorts of rules stop the clock. Despite the fact that the ball is only moving for about 11 minutes, there’s so many stoppages that a real life game can take over three hours to play. Madden first attempted to curb this by shortening the quarter lengths down to six minutes, making many games take about an hour.
Madden 17’s “Play the Moments” feature squares the circle between the big play excitement of football and the other three hours of stuff that’s going on by asking players to just, well, play the big moments of a game. The game will simulate itself until it decides that player intervention could have a major outcome on the game.
These moments chart a middle road between playing every down and simulating the entire game. Though it was always possible to manually stop a simulation and jump in, Play the Moments attempts to make those stoppages as meaningful as possible and, generally, succeeds.
But Play the Moments is more than an in between. For many, it may become the main way that they’ll play the game. It’s not only a much quicker way to play, it’s a quicker way that always feels consequential. Similar to MLB The Show 16’s career mode ability to focus in on only moments where your character might impact the game, Madden 17 encourages you to accomplish specific things like keeping the drive alive, make a big stop, or come up with a crucial score.
This is the kind of feature that Madden was sorely lacking. People are busy, and to hold their attention you need to get to business. There’s plenty of room for sprawling, meditative games but Madden isn’t one of them. Sometimes you just want to get to the goods without a lot of hassle.
In fact, Madden isn’t the only game that needs a “distilled mode.” Last spring there was a kerfuffle over whether or not games like Dark Souls should have an “easy mode” and Madden 17 proves there should at least be a “get on with it” mode. Some people don’t have the time and patience to slowly build up, to kick over every stone. And that’s okay.
Play the Moments is more than another way to play Madden. It’s a way for old lovers of the game to engage with a fresh experience and for those who have always been turned off to find a point of entry. And that’s what more games need, points of entry for the uninitiated and lapsed players while giving longtime fans something new to fiddle with or put aside.