Tuesday, September 18, 2012

EA to add replacement officials to Madden 13

In a shocking yet perhaps unsurprising bit of news, EA has announced a future update for Madden 13 will add replacement officials to the game. This will NOT be a form of DLC and will instead be instituted via a mandatory update that cannot be avoided. We reached out to EA for more information on a move that will surely spark a wildfire of abhorrence. Whether the hate was focused more toward the actual replacement officials or EA is still up for speculation.

Being the first full off-season since the lockout last year, players and fans were looking forward to this NFL season having no hitches. Unfortunately, this widespread hope was swatted down when the officials for the league entered into a lock-out of their own. For the uninitiated and football deprived out there, this means the normal officiating crew that judges games are completely unavailable. Since a game without officials would basically reenact what we saw from Mutant League Football all those years ago, the NFL has commissioned replacement officials, who have limited to no experience in professional games, to take over until the lock-out is lifted. Why is this important? Well, they're... in a word - horrendous.


Botching calls, missing plays directing in front of them, taking years to make seemingly simple calls, there's a lot to dislike about these officials, but at the very least we get to watch football. However, much like what the NFL is doing to protect their property, EA would also like to protect the integrity of their game. To do this, EA is pushing out a patch that implements these replacement officials which, without a doubt, will change the way Madden 13 is played.

When contacted about these changes and how they'd be for the better, an EA representative was on hand to comment:

"As most people know, Madden is constantly being updated with new rosters, player injuries and other exciting, dynamic changes that attempt to mimic what people are actually doing on the field. We feel that the officials and their lock-out is a significant change to the game right now and that Madden 13 should emulate that change."

We asked EA about why a change like this is needed at all and how consumer response may take the change:

"Obviously people aren't exactly happy with the officials because of their inexperience. We also understand some players might not be happy with these changes, but we're committed to balancing the game as much as physically possible to make it fair for everybody. If anything, some of what we're doing will make Madden more exciting for all. We're just happy we can bring such a realistic experience to the forefront with the Infinity Engine and now with updates like this one."

The EA representative went on to explain how some of the new changes will work:

"Mistakes have been paramount in the league this year and that's the first thing we're going to change. I think there's a 25% chance now that when the crew is announcing the call, they'll forget which team the call was on, look over at another official and then try again. There's an even rarer incident that can happen where an official simply never turns on his microphone when making the call. I think it's somewhere lower than 10%. There's other things too like accidentally getting in the way of a receiver or runningback. Those issues don't happen very often, but making the chances an actual possibility was important for us."

Under the circumstances, I can't post every little change EA is attempting to make, but here are some of the other "fixes" they've disclosed that I'm currently aware of:

According to EA, these numbers are subject to change
45% chance a call will take twice as long to deduce
30% chance the officials will simply miss the penalty altogether
25% chance officials will forget the call (5% chance they'll change the call into something else entirely. ex: pass interference to false start)
10% chance officials place the ball in the wrong spot
8% chance officials will forget to turn on the microphone

Rare on-field occurrences (EXTREMELY rare, but still a general possibility)
- There's a chance players can run into the officials if they're too close to the play
- Sometimes if a team is out of timeouts, you can call for another giving one team FOUR timeouts in a half
- If there's a pile-up for a fumble recovery, there's a stronger chance they could end up giving the ball to the team who didn't recover it
- Certain officials can sometimes make calls up to help a certain team* *EA would NOT elaborate on this


That last bit is interesting because over the weekend, official Brian Stropolo was removed from the Saints-Panthers game due to pictures he displayed on his Facebook account. The official was supposedly seen wearing Saints attire, prompting the league to remove him for obvious reasons. When asked about whether or not this incident helped in the decision to include something similar into the Madden 13 patch, EA declined to comment.

If that wasn't enough, EA went on to state that they're aware of balance issues toward one team or another and elaborated on a specialized system for the patch:

"We are aware that chance sometimes may not fall in your favor with these new "bad" calls we're implementing. The idea we came up with now is a system almost like the NFL's own challenge system. Each team gets three "challenges" but really it just means that either player can make a call happen that never existed or maybe, say, remove a call on the field." The representative went on to clarify. "So say that you get a pass interference call and that turns out to be really bad for you. By using this system, we're calling it Playback for now, you can get an official to walk over to his flag and just pick it up. No call on the play. You only get three of those a game though, so we're still playing with it."

Sorry Tebow, not even your prayers can help us now.

It seems very odd to me that players are going to be able to basically make up their own penalties or make certain ones disappear. This is Madden, not Prince of Persia where you can rewind time to fix your mistakes, but hey, what do I know?

EA hasn't quite nailed down a timeframe for the new patch, but by our estimates look for it early next week. The NFL has plans to keep the replacement officials in up until week five of the season, making a very compelling reason to get the real officials back in action ASAP. What do you all think? Has EA gone too far? Sound off in the comments!

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