For those who have had enough of the random online ranked game in Madden NFL Football, Online League (CFM) has become an option to still play the game in a competitive environment but in a controlled manner that puts them in a world with like-minded people who play the game according to rules they are comfortable with.
There are leagues to suit everyone’s style of play. From very restricted “sim” with many rules to very open “anything goes” with practically no rules at all – and just about every conceivable setup in between.
Online CFM league play has seen spiked growth over the past few years and it’s fantastic that EA Sports has started paying more attention to it. It had gone too long as the black sheep. We’re now at a point where there are some necessary items missing from the mode that need to be added starting with the next Madden release.
1. Play Exhibition Vs Another Owner
This is the #1 item that needs to be added. If nothing else in this article is done, this one has to be. The previous attempts of Create A Team and Export Team were very disappointing.
Create A Team was an arduous task. You had to use the fantasy draft in Create Team to re-create your online league team. You were then able to use that created team in online unranked games but your opponent will only see uniform numbers of your players, not their names and you won't be able to view player stats after the game.
Also, those players did not have any ratings progression that your players may have had if you created this team halfway through a season or were in a season past the first one. Online leagues that were in a second or third season couldn't add the rookies from the draft, they were obviously non-existent on EA rosters.
Export Team would not allow you to export an online league team, only an offline franchise team.
The solution is simple. Allow us to go to the League Users, scroll to an owner and have the option to challenge them to a non-league, unranked exhibition game under the CFM’s rule settings (but with injuries automatically toggled off). It’s a link to a game launch within the CFM connecting two team users in a game that doesn't count for anything. This cannot be that difficult to add.
2. Normal Practice Mode
There is a Practice Mode to earn XP points for your CFM team but there isn’t a free style Practice Mode like we have from the main game menu. This doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to CFM players. The obvious reason is clear – we’d like to run the normal practice mode with our CFM teams.
3. XP System/Player Progression and Regression
We’ve seen the XP point allocation change from Madden 13 to Madden 25 in the Practice portion of CFM. The latest iteration is basically an automatic 2,000 XP gift across the entire roster in every play week. The only decision the user has to make is how much time they want to spend doing it with the available scenarios. There’s no challenging aspect for the user here. If it looks like you aren’t going to achieve the goal, simply quit the practice before the clock expires and do it again.
Too easy. Way too easy.
XP Practice - It would be better served if this XP allocation was more position focused with different scenarios applying to different positions. If you wanted to progress your QB and WRs, then a scenario that is geared towards passing achievements would accomplish a successful turn.
For example, a QB/WR Drill where you complete 5 of 5 passes to 5 different receivers and finish the drive with a passing touchdown. This would add XP into QB and WRs. Another one would be Offensive Line Pass Protection Drill where the CPU sends every blitz in the book and the QB cannot get sacked while completing a drive for a TD from your own 20.
Once you start a drill, that’s it. You should not be able to quit it and start over. If you fail, allowing a lesser amount of XP should be fine because your players did put the work in.
Regression - As for player regression, this has been typically tied to a player’s age. Once they hit 30 years old, we begin to see a drop in their ratings. And this makes sense, older players lose physical skills. But the key word there is “physical”. It baffles me a bit when a player loses mental trait ratings such as Awareness. I don’t believe players get dumber as they get older. They become slower and lose some strength but they certainly do not become dumber – unless there have been too many concussions?
Adjust this regression to apply to their physical skills, not their mental abilities.
Custom Playbooks - These need to be available for XP practice and normal practice within the CFM.
There are several items to address when it comes to the draft in CFM mode. Some leagues choose to go with fantasy drafts to start their league and others like to go with default rosters. Whichever way a league decides to go, they can all use some serious upgrading for this part of the online league experience.
Draft Board - First and foremost, we need to be able to set a draft board. It’s nearly impossible for a 32 member league to schedule a live draft where all 32 members can show up. There are a bazillion fantasy football sites out there that implement a draft board for this type of situation. EA Sports needs to add this for CFM as well.
Ideally, allow the user to set positions to draft for a particular round. When that round/pick comes up in the draft, their preset draft board would go to the player’s ranked list of that position and have the highest available player selected. This is a standard setup for most fantasy football websites. It’s not some new, ground breaking technology. It already exists and we should have it in Madden by now.
Draft from Website - Next is the ability to draft from the league website. For some reason this was available in a previous Madden but now it’s gone. Bring this back. It will allow the opportunity for more people to participate in a live draft. Also allow the draft board to be set from the website as well.
Pick Timer - Another item that used to be in the game but is now gone is the Commissioner’s ability to set the Pick Timer and change that time at will. This needs to be brought back.
Draft Classes - Now, let’s talk a little bit about the quality of players in the rookie draft classes. The generated draft classes have been the brunt of many jokes over the years, mostly concerning a few players that come out as superstuds, a few usable players and the rest of the draft class consisting of 150 or so scrubs. Typically, once you’ve reached the 3rd round of a draft you there isn’t much to choose from and most people will just try to hunt down the fastest player available.
These draft classes need to be a little deeper in talent for a couple of reasons. One being, it has to have some value to the user past the second round. We should be able to get a worthwhile player in the 3rd and 4th round without being subjected to a 40 or 50 Awareness numbskull. The guy is a middle round pick, he can’t be in a realm where it looks like he has never touched a football before. Those guys should be the 6th/7th rounders.
This would also give value when trading middle round picks. As it stands now, it’s difficult to strike a deal for an existing upper level player if that deal does not contain your first or second round pick. Considering that there is nothing good after the 2nd round, it hinders that guy who trades one a first or second round pick from still getting something decent in a 3rd or 4th round selection. When that happens, he doesn’t care about the draft. And once people stop caring, it can affect others.
5. Highlight Replays
In every other game mode, including Offline franchise, there is an option to go to Recap and select Highlights to view plays in the game and even upload replays. Why this was removed from Online CFM is confusing. Of all the modes that would make use of putting together a highlight package of a game, Online CFM would be the one. Users love to engage themselves in their teams. Being able to upload and share the highlights of a league game to the other members is huge. This is yet another item that needs to come back in the next Madden.
6. Save Points For Disconnected Games
Disconnected games are one of the most frustrating things a Madden player can encounter. In league play, it is even more frustrating. After going through the effort to schedule a day and time to play your opponent, it can drive someone to the brink of throwing a controller through their TV when a game is disconnected and they need to go through the process of playing the game again from the beginning. Many times, the users just says "screw it, sim the game" or "put me on auotpilot". This kind of disengagement isn't good but it can be prevented.
We need to be able to have save points in the game for CFM. Auto saved after each score and after each quarter would be a great place to start. If a game is disconnected, either user can initiate Play Game from the menu and given the choice to Start Over or Start From Last Save Point.
7. Deeper Commissioner Tools
I purposely saved this for last because it has been a battle fought by those of us who run online leagues since the beginning of online Madden league time.
Designate Winner - Probably the most sought after feature over the years is the ability for the Commissioner to designate a winner of a game. It doesn’t need to sim and create stats for the game. It just needs to allow the Commissioner designate a win or loss for the week.
Reset Game - Next on the list is Reset Game. Give the Commissioner the ability to reset a game to be played over again. Undo the game stats, win/loss and save points (if we are given those wonderful save points).
Suspensions and Fines - The ability to suspend a player and fine owner’s money against their cap space is next on my list. Given this ability, we can apply infractions on users who break our in-house rules.
Roster Control - Also, let’s allow full roster control of every team with an Undo feature. This will allow a Commissioner the ability to undo trades and FA pickups that shouldn’t have been done according to that league’s rules. It will also allow the Commissioner to manage rosters of non-user, CPU owned teams to keep a level of fairness that their particular league is comfortable with.
At this point in time, we’ve been happy with the progress made in Online Leagues after years of being a black sheep. With its popularity growing more every year, we really need to have the features above added so more people can enjoy this experience to its fullest. CFM hits to the very soul of the NFL for Madden players who enjoy playing online.