Breaking Madden: tweaking the game to have the most unequal outcome

I’m a latecomer to the Breaking Madden series but here is what happens when you tweak the game to pit the two most unequal teams together on the same field:

I released every member of the Seahawks and Broncos that I possibly could, and replaced them with a total of 82 players I created…

Imagine also that this player is seven feet tall and 400 pounds heavy, and that there is no stronger, smarter, faster, or more skilled football player on the planet.

Now imagine 41 of them. In previous editions of Breaking Madden, I’ve made a small handful of these sorts of players — maybe one, or three, or five. Never 41…

In just about every way, these Broncos are the anti-Seahawks. They are as short (five feet tall) and light (160 pounds) as the game would allow me to make them. In every single skills category — Speed, Strength, Awareness, Toughness, and dozens of others — I assigned each of them the lowest rating possible…

I could not continue. My heart wouldn’t let me. I used the simulation feature to speed up the game to the end. I relinquished my ambitions of a 1,500-point game. Seahawks 255, Broncos 0. The machine and I agreed upon the final score.

The visuals are priceless: a team of giants overwhelming the team of scrawny players with the game just giving up at the end. I’ve never seen anything like it in my years of playing Madden football.

The premise of the project is interesting as well: just how much can the average video game be tweaked by the user to create different outcomes? I would count a lot of the newer games that have open maps and numerous playable characters as ones that can be tweaked a lot. Yet, there are still plenty of games that have you follow a fairly strict script. Both can be enjoyable but the autonomy of the gamer is quite different.

One thing I’ve always liked about sports games – and sports in general – is that the outcomes are somewhat unpredictable. Sure, there does come a point where the gamer reaches a skill level that overwhelms the computer every time but then you can set new goals: start a career team from scratch, play with some sort of handicap, or move up a difficulty level. This has been my recent quest: move up the ranks of English soccer in FIFA 2012 with Oxford United. At some point, the game can still be too easy or repetitive – this was the curse of earlier sports games when certain plays or players could just dominate – but playing a game within a game usually insures some flexibility.

The beauty (and pain) of baseball in a single play

One of my uncles once said he likes baseball because it is so unpredictable. On any day the worst team can beat the best, the best hitters fail about 70% of the time, and the best teams rarely win more than 60% of their games.

This was exemplified today in one play in the Cubs-Phillies game. In the top of the 9th inning, the Phillies trailed 1-0 with a runner on second with two outs. On a ball hit to left field, the rookie right-fielder threw home as the runner tried to tie the game. The throw bounced to the catcher, who had just enough time to catch it and tag the runner. Except the catcher dropped the ball, the run scored, and the Phillies tacked on three more runs to win it. (Watch the replay here from MLB.com.)

This is one big reason to watch sports: it can be hard to predict how a single play might alter the course of the game.

And on a related note, not completing a play like this seems like one that happens to teams that are not very good. A better team would make the out to end the game. In baseball, it is very interesting how good teams always seem to get the breaks – most of which they probably make for themselves.