Madden NFL 15 Feature Deep Dive: Connected Franchise

Posted August 5th at 12:00am.

Written by Senior Designer Josh Looman

EA SPORTS is excited to finally bring you news about the big changes we made in Connected Franchise Mode (CFM) this year. I hope you agree that we definitely saved the best for last!

This is the stuff you hardcore fans wait all year to hear about, so it's time to break down every major change we made this year.

Game Prep and Confidence
The biggest change to Madden NFL 15’s Connected Franchise are the additions of Game Prep and Confidence.

These new systems replaced two features from Madden NFL 25: practice and hot/cold streaks. Game Prep allows players to make sure their team is prepared every week, AND allows them to earn valuable XP for backups and young players.

Confidence
Every player now has a confidence rating between 1 and 99. That confidence rating is dynamic and will change based on what happens to the player and his team from week to week, and is is NOT an indication of how confident the player generally is in real life.

Among the things that can change a player’s confidence are losses, poor performances, trades, etc. How much confidence fluctuates is determined by several different factors: whether the player is a starter or backup, their consistency rating, and how big the game was. Get blown out by a rival at home? Confidence drops more than a one-point road loss.

Wondering how much each player’s confidence changed after a big win? There’s a screen that shows every player’s individual changes, allowing players to go back and track the changes in confidence.

So what does confidence do? Simple. If a player’s confidence is high, their key ratings temporarily increase. If it gets too low, those same key ratings drop.

This was done to represent players that outperform their expectations, as well as players that are struggling. Before last season, did anyone think that Josh Freeman would be a free agent at the start of October? That’s what Madden 15 is trying to capture with this new system.

Quick Tip: Every player starts Connected Franchise with a “normal” confidence rating of 50. Once confidence start dropping to below 25-30 or increasing to 75-80, that’s when ratings changes will occur. 

Game Prep
Game Prep replaces Madden 25’s practice mode, and was designed to allow you to make the ultimate choices in developing your team. Each week, players are given a set amount of time to prep each week.

This time fluctuates based on season schedule, so bye weeks or Monday night games will impact preparation for the following week, just like the real-world NFL.

Players have multiple activities to choose from each week, and each activity costs a specific amount of time per player.

There are two types of activities in Game Prep – one increases players’ confidence, while the other earns XP. If you’re trying to develop a young team like the Jaguars or Bucs, focus most on getting your players XP. If you’re a team like the Seahawks or 49ers, it’s better to focus on increasing confidence, so that the team is prepared each and every week.

CPU teams have extensive logic that determines what they work on every week. Bad teams will focus mostly on developing their players, while contenders will focus on confidence first and then earn XP if confidence isn’t an issue.

How much XP or confidence each player earns depends on factors such as coach traits and a player’s development trait. If a QB possesses the “Superstar” development trait and has Jim Harbaugh as a coach, that player will earn more XP or confidence than a player with an average coach/trait. NFL coaches like Andy Reid and Jim Harbaugh are known for developing QBs, and that is what the development team attempted to capture.

Players also have the choice to run in-game skill drills for XP or Confidence, with points rewarded based on success in the activity. We want to reward players for putting in the time with in-game skill drills, so those are more valuable than activities that do not occur in game.

Game Prep is not designed to be a grind. If players choose to ignore Game Prep on any given week, we’ll use the same logic that CPU teams use to automatically reward a player with XP or Confidence. It’s up to you when you want to jump in and control how players are developing.

Quick Tip: Check out the depth chart to see which key ratings have increased or decreased.Ratings that have increased will be green, while decreased ratings are red. This carries into games, as well.

Free Agency Redesign
Offseason Free Agency has undergone a redesign that adds several different factors when attempting to sign a player. When a player evaluates whether they want to sign with you, they no longer take only money into account. Now they evaluate your team’s needs, scheme, coaching ability, etc. All of those factors are displayed on the screen, which makes it easier to see why a player spurned an offer. The other team may have just been a better fit.

Random Draft Classes
For the first time in CFM, draft classes are entirely random. Every name, rating, trait, face, etc. is randomly generated every season. No two classes are alike or predictable. This is something we’ve wanted to do for the past few years. Our fans have been very passionate about random draft classes, and this addition adds unlimited replayability to Connected Franchise.

Random Branching Storylines
Rookie Branching Storylines are now completely random. This allows us to have more players change throughout the season, and also opens up the ability to have a lot more commentary during the NFL Draft. All storylines are based on the storylines we’ve added to the game over the last two years.

In-Game Overall Ratings
Another big change in Madden NFL 15 is seeing the same overall (OVR) ratings in game as the depth chart. If a QB is an 85 overall in your scheme in the front end, they’ll be an 85 OVR in game as well.

Completely ReDesigned Relocation Uniforms
The uniforms shipped with last year were not up to our team’s quality standards, so I took it upon myself this year to learn how to make uniforms in Madden and redesign every relocation uniform in CFM.

You’ll no longer see the same uniform style for every team; each team has different styles that reflect what future uniforms might look like. We also were very excited to work with the community in the Uniform Design Contest, and incorporated several of the winners’ designs into the game.

Redesigned Buy Packages Screen
One of my favorite changes this year makes it easier to buy packages as a player, coach or owner. Players can now buy multiple packages at once and commit to changes with one press of a button instead of having to buy one package at a time like previous Madden games. We’re hoping this change makes it easier to upgrade players going forward. We’ve also added a filter to the coach buy package screen that should allow for easier navigation.

Owner Mode Financial Model Changes
Our team listened carefully to fans, and made big changes to Owner Mode. Every sellable item (concessions, merchandise) now has a sweet spot that determines the maximum amount of profit that can be earned. If prices stay at their default levels, you will always leave money on the table.

Owner Mode is now much more challenging when it comes to making a profit, and teams with older stadiums in smaller markets may be better off building new stadiums or relocating altogether.

As always, the best solution in Owner Mode is winning. Win and the fans will spend money. Our goal was to make Owner Mode much more challenging this year, and we feel like we’ve accomplished that.

Sim To
One of Madden 15’s late additions is very helpful to players that like to simulate multiple seasons at a time. Players can sim to a point in the future (the next draft, the offseason, next season), and the game will advance weeks until it reaches that point. We even added an option to simulate ten years into the future! In online leagues, only commissioners can simulate to a point in the future.

Removed FOURTH Down Watching
Last year, Madden kept you on the field on fourth down if you were a holder on extra points or blocker on a field goal. We’ve removed that, creating a more seamless experience.

Progression/Regression Recap
We’ve added a screen that tracks when players regress or progress in Connected Franchise. This should provide clarity as to why player regress in the offseason, whether it’s failing to reach season goals or losing a step because of old age. There are also news stories that talk about players “losing a step.”

Redesigned Weekly Goals
Weekly goals for players and coaches have been completely revamped with refreshed goals that, react to player status, team ratings, types of games, etc. Goals now take into account where you are in the depth chart. You will no longer be expected to rush for 100 yards as the third-string running back.

Multiple Commissioners
The team sat down early in the development cycle with our EA SPORTS Game Changers, and one of the things that came out of that meeting was a new commissioner tool. Online commissioners can now assign other league users as commissioners so that you always have someone who can advance the league if the primary commissioner is away.

Autopilot Control
Another suggestion that came out of our discussions with the Game Changers was allowing players to determine how long to put a team on autopilot. If you’re going on vacation for one week and want autopilot to turn off after one week, you have that ability.

Relocation Tuning and League Setting
Along with creating all new uniforms, we tuned CPU relocation so that it very rarely happens early in CFM. Teams still rebuild stadiums in their home city, but it’s pretty rare for a CPU team to up and move. At the request of the Game Changers, we also added an additional setting that allows you to prohibit CPU teams from relocating at all.

Injured Reserve (IR) Changes
Users can now remove an injured player from IR if they heal quickly. Use this functionality carefully, as it’s only allowed once per season.

Hire/Fire Staff During the Season
In order to give owners more control, it’s now possible to hire or fire staff members (head coach, trainer or scout) during the season.

Pro Bowl Update
The Pro Bowl now mimics real life, as conference affiliations have been removed in favor of two legends serving as captains.

CPU Uses Alternate Uniforms
CPU teams now have a chance to wear alternate uniforms in a regular season game. There’s also a news story that reacts to the team doing it.

Sim Engine Changes
The simulation engine now includes things like consistency, confidence and development. In Madden 15, young players with great development traits will have slightly better “simmed” stats than normal. This allows great young players to progress quickly and become stars in the league.

There you have it! We’ve made tons of changes to Connected Franchise Mode in Madden NFL, and we’re already at work on designing ideas for next year’s game!

 

Preorder Madden 15 to see all of the Connected Franchise improvements in action on August 26!