Curmudgeon Gamer
Curmudgeoning all games equally.
09 August 2007
Madden 08, 360 Price Drops, and Selling Next Gen Down the River
Help.

Here, via a URL at ign.com, is a Microsoft press release. It's full of less than clever rhetoric, like, "Xbox 360 is the only console on which consumers will be able to play all of this year's biggest titles: [game 1], "Halo 3" (Bungie Studios), [game 2], [game 3]." That it's straight from MS makes it more interesting that a link is made between the Xbox 360 price drop and Madden's release. Microsoft, not controversially, thinks Madden pushes "next gen" console sales.

Microsoft Corp. today kicked off the greatest holiday lineup in video game history by announcing it will reduce the estimated retail price (ERP) of Xbox 360 by $50 (U.S.) beginning Aug. 8. Soon to follow, Electronic Arts Inc. (EA) will release its blockbuster video game title "Madden NFL 08" on Aug. 14. "Madden NFL Football," one of the most important mass-appeal franchises in video games, was the top-selling game of 2006 and is the top-selling franchise of the past 10 years.


So now we have at least one good explanation why an EA Madden developer blog, here hosted by ign.com (conflict of interest, anyone?) says that the WinPC version of Madden matches the features of the "Current Gen" Madden engine instead of that of the "Next Gen" code. We wouldn't want to compete with next gen console sales, would we?

Strangely, the Windows Madden developer doing the blogging is trying to sell the Next Gen version down the proverbial river. Check this quote.

The first question that is going to come up from all the PC fans is about Next Gen vs. Current Gen. So rather then bore you with the details let me say that we are still closer to the Current Gen version of the game. Personally I've been a fan of this choice given the way the game plays.... This really is the great Madden PC debate for the last couple of years: Speed and Game play of Current Gen versus the Look and Graphics of Next Gen (FYI - it just has not been technically possible to do both to date, even though I've been trying).

... I hate looking at screen shots of a game, reading the features, and going "Wow, that is going to be amazing," only to get it home and have it be nothing more then eye candy. Now don't get me wrong I love to push my system at home (why else put two video cards in one PC right?), but really I want a game that will keep me entertained for 60 hours not 60 minutes.
(emph mine)

Two things occur to me:
1.) In the first bolded quote, it's impossible to have Madden on PC match "next gen" consoles' eye candy? Seriously? How many times have we seen engines start on the PC and have to be ramped down for consoles?

I've got to call bull on this one. The only out I can think of for Mr. Kiniry here is that if you have to start from a console engine and port it to the PC, EA's internal deadlines and resources allocated for the Windows version of Madden have created a situation where it would be impossible to port the Next Gen engine in time.

This tells us the PC version is [duh] downstream of the console versions. The issue is that Kiniry is [I assume] wrong to pass this off as a technical issue; it's all 0s, 1s, dollars, and cents.

2.) With the second quote, seriously, the Next Gen versions don't play as well? There's an eye candy vs. gameplay either-or here by definition? The hardware, programming libraries, etc. say that you can either have a game that plays great or looks great but not both? When and how did that happen? Even if you could port Next Gen in time, it'd be a boring game to play on WinPC and is a boring game on the 360 and PS3?

I'm not sure I'm buying that. In fact, I'm not buying it at all. I'll be eager to see how the Xbox 360 version plays (the 360's NCAA '08 is little different than the PS2's, imo, though here that's a sign for the worse).

In any event, if it's an advantage to be Current Gen, why wouldn't I buy the PS2 version over the Windows one and skip boot-up times, driver issues, etc? Ah yes, the Windows version is $10 less. So folks who have Windows boxes and Current Gen consoles get the option to pull in a discount?

I'm confused. If I hypothetically own three Madden-ready platforms, a Next Gen console, a Current Gen console, and a Windows PC, and I'm only buying one version of Madden, which does EA want me to buy and why again?

PS -- Where am I supposed to buy the Mac version again? It's not on ebstore.com, nor even on MacGameStore.com's "Coming Soon" list. What gives? A Google of "Madden 08" Mac gives me nuttin' useful.

Labels: , , , ,

--ruffin at 18:31
Comment [ 6 ]

Comments on this post:

Disclaimer: I don't play Madden or, really, any sports games.

That out of the way, my reading of the NeoGAF posts on Madden, All-Pro Football and so forth is that the games tend to fall into one of two categories:

1) Responsive controls but choppier animations

2) Smooth animations but less fine control

My guess at the first quote you bolded is that the "both" he's referring to is "Speed and Game play" (responsiveness) and "Look and Graphics of Next Gen" (smooth animations) which (again, from my reading of what the NeoGAF folks have written) hasn't been done in any game to date.

By Blogger jvm, at 09 August, 2007 19:37  

You'll have to give me some links and link to this guy, as your comment is certainly not what his post implies to me. NCAA 08, admittedly based on at least a slightly different engine afaict than Madden from the same year in the past, was smooth during, if not between, plays, when I played. You're suggesting that it's the choppiness that makes a game worth playing "60 minutes" rather than "60 hours". I think the developer's argument is a bit deeper here, as the Current Gen has exclusive gameplay modes, etc.

Still, I've obviously been wrong before. You've not convinced me yet, though. (And how do these posters know the framerates of 08?)

When I read the All-Pro review on IGN, it sounded like it's apparently the same engine as 2k5 minimally updated for Next Gen, which suggests to me there shouldn't be the same conversation. Surprised to hear players claim it exists.

In any event, my point is that the mutual exclusivity of the two (even if smooth and/vs. beautious) isn't a technical limitation, as this fellow claimed, but a culturally enforced one. Throw enough hardware (a la that Mac NASCAR port a while back) at a performance problem and it'll go away. To suggest otherwise sounds crockesque, and I wonder if it isn't a repeat of the EA party line to lean so heavily on the distinction.

By Blogger rufbo, at 09 August, 2007 21:09  

In the second bolded quote says that a game that's mostly eyecandy makes for a 60 minute game. Assuming an animations vs. responsiveness dichotomy and that next-gen Madden on consoles is the former while current-gen is the latter, then I'm saying (and I thought he was too) that the current-gen (PC) makes for the 60 hour game. (That's what I intended with my original comment, not the reverse as it apparently came across.)

Meanwhile, here's a guy who posts a bit in the football threads on NeoGAF talking about APF and NCAA (as in indicator of Madden):
"there is room for both APF and madden. while APF's animations can't be beat, if NCAA is any indication madden will be king in the gameplay dept"

Then this whole thread has a few comments along the lines of animation vs. control. Samples:

"With great animations comes loss of control Peter." (image of Uncle Ben and Peter from Spider-Man movie)

"Offense in APF is just plain fun, but the lack of animations in NCAA makes it alot more responsive on user controlled defense."

"The animations in 2k8 are really good. But that's ALWAYS been the case between these two developers.

VC = Graphics, presentation

Tiburon = Realism, gameplay

2k8 is a good football game, lots of fun because the AI is a lot better than 2k5, but the game controls like ass and some of the animations are play killers, especially QB animations trying to move around the pocket."

These are just the ones I've seen. It's entirely possible that, outside of the threads I've read, the discussion is entirely different.

By Blogger jvm, at 09 August, 2007 21:43  

Let me start by saying that, to me, your gross misinterpretation of the EA Developer's blog is moot within the larger context of my original post. ;^)

In the second bolded quote says that a game that's mostly eyecandy makes for a 60 minute game. Assuming an animations vs. responsiveness dichotomy and that next-gen Madden on consoles is the former while current-gen is the latter, then I'm saying (and I thought he was too) that the current-gen (PC) makes for the 60 hour game.

Not sure how that contradicts my sum of your argument...
You're suggesting that it's the choppiness [of animations, normal gameplay, whatever, in the next gen versions] that makes a game worth playing "60 minutes" rather than "60 hours". I think the developer's argument is a bit deeper here, as the Current Gen has exclusive gameplay modes, etc.

Again, I think the devver's arg is deeper than framerates and/during animations. That clear? There's more to the gameplay in the current gen versions in his argument [due to exclusive gameplay modes, more training minigames iirc, etc], regardless of your assessment of animations. Not only is the gameplay smoother (as in framerates) on current gen, there's more to play, as it were.

(Your use of the animation bit still confuses me here, as your forums posters in the quotes are talking AFP vs. [EA Sports via NCAA 08], which is different than comparing how two engines within the same franchise have contrasting framerates.)

Interesting responses by your NeoGAF folk. They seem to take a different approach to visual presentation than the IGN APF/"2k8" reviewer, at least. IGN seems to say the graphics aren't up to next gen standards. NeoGAF folk seem to prefer animations over lack of animations, whatever they are specifically, regardless of any poly-deficiency. From what I've seen of the two franchises, my initial impression would be to go with IGN here, and I'm not sure I'd let what the NeoGAF posters say cloud my reading of Kiniry here too much. Might be neat to email him if you think there's a 1-to-1 cxn here and see if I'm right.

Again, however, the most interesting issue here for me is that he's styling a cultural distinction as a technical one, and I wonder to what degree these cultural biases and their techno-packaging reveals EA Sports' [business] approach to Madden-capable platforms. My one explicitly suggested route of exploring the possible impact: To what degree does one tank the WinPC version to help sell Xbox 360s [versus the obvious excuse that, I assume, the WinPC simply doesn't move as many units as the 360s]?

By Blogger rufbo, at 09 August, 2007 22:16  

This is where I don't understand your interpretation of what I'm saying:

"You're suggesting that it's the choppiness [of animations, normal gameplay, whatever, in the next gen versions] that makes a game worth playing "60 minutes" rather than "60 hours"."

No. I'm saying that choppy animations make the current-gen game worth playing for 60 hours because it makes for a more responsive football simulation. By comparison, I took him to mean that next-gen has smoother animations (sequences) that leave the player with less control, and therefore a pretty game that you don't want to play longer than 60 minutes.

Am I supposed to email him? Or will you?

By Blogger jvm, at 09 August, 2007 22:37  

No. I'm saying that choppy animations make the current-gen game worth playing for 60 hours because it makes for a more responsive football simulation.

That it offers choppy animations makes the current gen more playable? That should be a puff on the package: "WITH 230% MORE CHOPPY ANIMATIONS THAN NEXT GENERATION VERSIONS!!!"

I'll assume you mean that the animations don't get in the way of the gameplay in the current gen engine like they ostensibly do in next gen, making for a more enjoyable game even though the visual presentation is less realistic/impressive/[other]. That's a more interesting argument, though "Look and Graphics" is a pretty poor way of saying, "realistic but less enjoyable animations." And I'm still not sure how NeoGAF references to AFP animations fits into what you're saying. Sorry to be late-night dense, if that's what's going on.

Regardless, I'm pretty confident he's talking about more than fluidity or animations. There's [also] more to play in current gen. Are you suggesting that his quote, "though I've been trying" means that he's trying to put next gen animations into the PC port of the current gen engine? That sounds ludicrous. My guess is that he's trying to preserve/recreate current gen gameplay on Windows with higher res, next gen-esque graphics, which MaddenPC has done with decent success (imo) in the past.

Again, in any event, my point of interest remains almost completely unchanged: If the current gen offering is [whatever we agree to define as] better, why not put it on the next gen systems? I still hear an EA party line telling current gen devvers (and this guy is doing the DS and maybe GC as well) to spit out this "more gameplay" argument to push what EA and the market feels to be an inferior product ("current gen") on Windows and some consoles. It's certainly not that the Windows platform can't do what the PS3 or 360 does, give or take. Windows can support the next gen engine. I'm confident of that. It's that EA Sports would, for [in some part] cultural reasons, prefer it doesn't, and then prefer to pass this off as a technical limitation. "Our hands are tied." Yeah, right. Economically tied? Sounds closer.

Alternatively, how do you explain that the hold-up for putting it (whether it's your/NeoGAF's dichot or mine) all together is purely technical?

You're welcome to email him, but I'm not even real sure what's being asked at this point.

(Fwiw, I'll cut my comment thread pollution after this one, I think, and, if I do, reply via email if you'd like a last public swipe on what seems a bit of a cantankerous red herring. This not being MoHK Gamer, continued cantankerousness arguably seems appropriate.)

By Blogger rufbo, at 09 August, 2007 23:18  

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