Feeds:
Posts
Comments

Archive for the ‘Sports’ Category

The “official games” of major sporting events such as the Olympics and the FIFA World Cup have traditionally been terrible. Short on polish or features, the games have felt like they were made on the basis that people were buying them more as a souvenir and without any regard for whether they provided any actual entertainment.

EA Sports FIFA World Cup 14

“Official” games have often had wonderfully rendered stadiums but offered very little interest inside of them.

I had heard however that the 2010 FIFA World Cup game was actually quite good. So I decided to make the investment this time and see how the game is. The short answer is that it is a good game, but you can get that from any other review. What I am going to look at here, is whether the game actually makes the whole ‘experience’ of the World Cup better.

In my opinion, there are two main things that a game like this needs to do. Prior to the tournament it needs to enable you to get ready and hyped up about the games ahead, and during the tournament it needs to allow you to play the games you are about to/just watched as realistically as possible.

This game achieves both of those very well.

Prior to the tournament

The obvious thing which the game needed to do out of the box was make it possible to play through the World Cup tournament. Unsurprisingly, it does this quite well. All the basic things are there, the stadiums, fixtures, the 32 qualified teams and their correct uniforms.

Beyond that, it also needs to make it possible to play through the tournament with a few “what if” situations, for example, you should be able to play through with teams that didn’t actually qualify, or using players for whom your personal attachment doesn’t match the opinions of the actual real-life manager (e.g. Carlos Tevez). The first part of this it does quite well, pretty much every single nation in world football is represented. Unfortunately it isn’t so good on the latter. The squads for nations, while larger than the final 23-man selections, don’t go far and have some strange omissions, so you can’t call up Tevez for Argentina.

Want to experience the World Cup the way it is in Zlatan's head, now you can!

Want to experience the World Cup the way it is in Zlatan’s head, now you can!

In addition to enabling you to play the finals tournament itself, the FIFA World Cup game put a lot of attention into telling the story of the qualifiers. This is a common inclusion, but always a bit interesting, since qualification was well over by the time the game came out.

The game presented qualification in not one, but two ways. Firstly, it allows you to play a complete qualification campaign with any team from any confederation. The best part of this was the presentation, which came complete with excellent radio commentary between the games, talking through the significance of each match and providing general interesting banter. The low point of the qualifying campaign is that there are apparently some nations, particularly in North America, where the scheduling is broken, so they can’t actually qualify for the World Cup. A fairly fatal flaw, made reasonable only by the fact that those nations are for the most part the smallest of minnows.

The other qualification-related mode is the “Story of Qualification”, a series of scenario-based games which cover over 50 of the most interesting and significant games of the qualification campaign. For example, it allows you to play both sides of the decisive playoff game between Sweden and Portugal. For anyone who has played FIFA games in the last few years, these scenarios should be familiar from the game of the week scenarios that you get – typically they boil down to needing to score a crazy number of goals in a very short amount of time.

The Story of Qualification mode allows you to play through some of the great games and performances of the qualifying campaign.

The Story of Qualification mode allows you to play through some of the great games and performances of the qualifying campaign.

The game genuinely has absolutely helped me build hype and excitement for the tournament. I have played through three world cup tournaments, full European and South American Qualifying, plus a large number of scenarios. Between these, I have been able to get a much deeper understanding of the squads and how they have made it to Brazil. In particular the Story of Qualifying scenario mode was excellent. I don’t think many people, even fairly serious fans, ever truly get an idea of what qualification is like in confederations beyond their own. But now I feel I have a fairly good idea.

During the Tournament

As I hinted earlier, in my opinion the key function of the game during the tournament is to allow you to “play along”. Again, this is something that the game does quite well.

Firstly, it was quite easy to set up a tournament in such a way that I can play the World Cup as every team. This allows my mates and I to play an “alternate reality” version of the tournament where we play every game between us and see how it goes. As it turns out, our version is a little less interesting, the first three games were draws and then Spain beat the Netherlands 1-0.

It is also very easy to play one-off games. You can pick your teams, pick the right stadium and even select the right round of the completion (group stage, quarter final etc). The teams are quickly and regularly updated for injuries and current form, so if you want to play out tonight’s big game, or get revenge for last night, you can do that well. You just might struggle sometimes, because Casillas will probably be as bad for you as he was for Spain.

With regular form updates you too can put five goals passed Casillas in the World Cup.

With regular form updates you too can put five goals passed Casillas in the World Cup.

Finally, they have also extended the scenario system through to the Finals, called, unsurprisingly, “Story of the Finals”. Within hours of each day’s games finishing, they put up scenarios which allow you to play out the morning’s action. Sometimes this is about repeating reality, such as coming back against Japan as the Ivory Coast, and other times it is about changing it, such as winning the game as Australia, or making Argentine put four goals past Bosnia. In general this is excellent. I applaud them for making them available so quickly, and unlike in previous games, making them available permanently – previously they would just have the previous night, so you could miss out if you didn’t play them immediately.

I do find however that the whole “score lots of goals in a short time” which most scenarios tends to boil down to is not only samey, but also quite annoying, and only representative of the attacking aspect of a game. I often find I have to play the scenarios at a much easier difficulty level than I normally do, simply to make it possible to achieve without replaying the scenario 100 times.

I wish that they would make the scenarios either much longer, or much shorter. Allowing you to play the entire opening game with the objective “Win as Brazil” with bonus points for doing so without conceding a goal would allow you to actually appreciate the ebb and flow of the game. Alternatively cutting the scope right down to “Replicate Neymar’s stutter-step penalty” would show-off little features like that in the game which you otherwise might not notice or use. In both cases, it would also make it easier to simply enjoy playing the scenarios at my normal level, rather than have to get bored hammering in goals against the dumbest version of the AI simply to get through them.

Conclusion

Despite a few minor foibles, the game genuinely does make the whole World Cup experience more enjoyable!

Read Full Post »

The fans have much to be happy about at the World Cup, but do they know enough actual cheers? I say no!

The fans have much to be happy about at the World Cup, but do they know enough actual cheers? I say no!

It’s a good news/bad news situation.

The bad news about the EA Sports FIFA World Cup game is that it is only for the previous gen consoles.

The good news is that means you can include custom chants! (it isn’t possible to add custom chants to the PS4/XBone versions).

Here are some custom sounds I have cut, mixed and mastered for use in your very own FIFA World Cup. For instructions on how to insert them into your game, see my earlier post – the FIFA 14 Custom Sounds Guide.

Unfortunately the custom chants system in the FIFA 14 World Cup game isn’t without problems. Hopefully you will have fewer problems than me, but this is what I have observed.

  1. The chants play A LOT, I strongly recommend including one or more tracks of complete silence within your chant playlists in order to space things out a bit. I have included a link to 10s of silence below (just before the playlists).
  2. The game doesn’t seem to be able handle having more than a couple of playlists to consider. Any more than that and I’ve experienced problems with it retaining the attachment of playlist to event, laggy play and even complete system crashes. This isn’t having multiple playlists loading into a single game or team, simply having 3-4 teams with their own playlist seems to create issues. I suggest picking one or two teams that you want to have extra colour, and sticking with that.
  3. The game really doesn’t like attaching sounds to the first team, alphabetically, in each confederation. So teams like Argentina and Algeria are very problematic.

Once again, I give credit to the unknown people who sang and recorded these sounds. I have come across them from a variety of sources including fanchants.co.uk (who I strongly support you to visit for more excellent chants) and the legendary Pro Evolution Soccer modder Thommsen.

To download – right click on the name of the track you want, and choose “Save link as” you should be prompted to download a .wav file.

10s spacer (for use for spacing out chants, insert one or more times into each playlist)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Read Full Post »

Given that the european football season is now into its most interesting time of the year, it is perhaps unsurprising that I’ve been playing a lot of FIFA 11 lately.  There’s nothing quite like watching or reading about a game to put you in the mood to play a couple of quick games after work.

Over the past couple of years, I have particularly enjoyed FIFA’s  “Live Season” mode which allows me to play through the season of my team, one game at a time, with the correct formation, team selection and form, lovingly crafted for me each week by whatever funky gremlins they employ at EA.

Awesome as it is, the downside of this is that rather than being able to play a season at my own pace, I need to wait a week between games for the next one to first be played, then coded and finally arrive for download. This isn’t enough football for a natural obsessive like me and has required me to be more creative in my team choices.

My normal plan over the years has been to try to play with Grimsby Town FC, a lower-league English team from a town famous for being very cold and making fish fingers. Times have been tough for them lately, the fish-finger factory closed down after a fire in 2005 and I think that the team has dropped to a league so low that it no longer exists in the game. Even if they are still there, there’s simply too much of a time commitment involved in dragging them through 3-4 leagues to get to the top now, and playing with such poor quality players is fairly limited in terms of fun.

Plan B has been to try and find interesting teams from around the world. First up was Stabek of Norway. They were tempting because I’d visited their rather nice stadium recently, but after playing about a dozen games with them I realised that, like Grimsby, they were just too poorly skilled to have fun with in FIFA.

I then moved my attentions to the Russian league. This promised more skill, a bit of a transfer budget, and ultimately quite a lot of fun. I had a great time playing through a season with Rubin Kazan, terrorising Russian defences with the pace of Obafeme Martins.

But then what next? A little disappointed by the fact that Russia, like most leagues, has a massive disparity between the few good and many bad teams, I decided to try out the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is one of the most evenly matched and athletic leagues at the moment, and certainly contains a lot more skill than I’d seen in my teams on the coastline of the North Sea.

The only problem though, is that I’ve never even watched a Bundesliga game and had absolutely no attachment to any of the sides. I searched through the teams, trying to find one that matched the style I liked to play with a couple of players I liked. I didn’t have much luck.

Then a friend of mine heard about a cheat that allowed him to get 2 billion dollars in career mode, he went on a spending spree buying a bunch of talented youngsters (he set himself a rule of no-one over 25) and started having a lot of fun as Kaiserslautern.

I didn’t want to cheat, but suddenly I was inspired. I liked the youth approach, and the idea of starting off with a team built to play exactly the sort of football I wanted. I wasn’t going to “cheat” too badly to get it, but what if I could do it in some sort of fair way?

The plan

So, I picked a side to be the shell of the team I would use. I decided fairly quickly on Wolfsburg because;

a) I always thought it was awesome that around 1998/99 they were coached by a man called Wolfgang Wolf,

b) It was fun to displace Steve McLaren as their coach

3) they are owned by VW, and I own a VW

I set myself three rules for the project

  1. No players over 25 in the entire squad
  2. No players from other Bundesliga teams
  3. Every player transferred in must be replaced with a player out, of similar quality basic position (GK, def, mid, att), so the team should get younger, but not necessarily be much better in terms of ovr ratings.

Part I; building the team.

Wolfsburg had around 13 players under the age of 25, three of whom were a really solid foundation for the new team. These were

Dzeko, a lethal striker who in real life had been sold to Manchester City for big money mid season, I was not going to make that sale.

Diego, a skilful Brazillian attacking midfielder who also filled the valuable role of free-kick specialist

Kjaer, a monstrous Danish central defender, tactically sound and strong in the air.

It would be heartless to break this up.

Of the oldies I was trading out, the best were Benaglio, the Swiss goalkeeper, and Wolfsburg captain, and Josue a regular defensive midfielder for the Brazillian national side.  The rest were a mix of solid first-team regulars and fairly ordinary back-ups. I wasn’t going to be a galacticos, but as a 4-star (out of 5) rated side, I was going to be rather competitive.

After an afternoon spent scanning the FIFA player database I came up with the following side

GK,

Hugo Lloris (Lyon), taking advantage of the very high rating of Benaglio I snagged Hugo Lloris, despite being very young he’s captained Les Blues and is rated amongst the top few in the world between the sticks.

Mannone (Arsenal) a 6’3” keeper, currently on loan to Hull in real life.  22 yrs old and Italian, very much a back-up.

Marwin Hitz, young swiss goalie, already in the squad

Wing-Backs,

Kolarov (Man City), very good defensively and solid going forward, strength at left-back is important for dealing with the very fast and talented right-wingers I could expect in the Bundesliga.

Ilsinho (Sao Paolo) Capped once for Brazil, extremely skilful dribbler, an attacking threat of my own down the right.

Carlinhos (Fluminense), essentially a slightly watered down and left-footed version of Ilsinho.

Centre-Backs

Simon Kjaer, 6’2” Danish defender, 21 years old, already in the squad, has played 15 games for his national team.

Ranocchia (I got him from Genoa, in real life he’d been on loan to Bari and has just been bought out by part-owners Inter) 22 years old, 6’5”, has played one game for the Azzuri

Bonucci (Juve) 6’3”, 23 yrs old, can play centre or right, has played 8 times for the Azzuri

Zelao (Saturn Moscow) a 6’2” Brazilian centreback with good all-around ball-skills, figured he’d be useful for games where the other team sits back a lot and I need defenders to be able to open up space with passing.

Midfielders

Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), a direct trade for the defensive midfield prowess of Josue.  At 6’2” he gave me a very tall, strong, and happily in terms of keeping a Bundesliga feel, German presence in midfield.

Afellay (PSV, in real life has gone to Barca), don’t really need to say much about him, was happy for him to be eligible.

Montolivo (Fiorentina), I didn’t have a player to trade for him, but I was able to buy him with the transfer funds available at the beginning of the game. He’s my favourite young Italian player at the moment, 5’11” playmaker, 19 games for the Azzuri.

Marlos (Sao Paolo) Very skilful passer and dribbler, a back-up for Diego

Elias (Atletico Madrid), classic box-to-box type midfielder, good passing, dribbling, and stamina

Ja-Cheol Koo, only brought in because the club had acquired him in real life, was very much a back-up

Medel (Boca, although in real life has been traded to Sevilla) a defensively oriented Chilean midfielder, bit of a Mascherano type, has played 28 games for his country

Forwards and Strikers,

Diego

Dzeko

Doumbia (CSKA Moscow) speed, skill and finishing.  Shame he isn’t a little taller.

Hernandez (Palermo) 20 year old, 6’1” Uruguayan striker, a useful back-up with similar pace to Doumbia.

Diego Ifran (Real Sociedad) 23 year old 5’8” Uruguayan striker, a super-sub type player, quick, skillful and good at finishing, but not much of a physical presence.  Can also play in Diego’s slot behind the strikers.

John Rodriguez (Burnley) a project player traded with an old and slow guy that probably needed to be cut, not likely to start any time soon, but has some promising basic skills, he’s quick and 6’1”

Part II, Tactics and Formation

I grew fond of the team immediately. It was packed with players that I like, in the positions I needed to build my favourite strategies.

Over the course of the season I settled on three different formations, and a small variety of tactical set-ups.

4-1-2-1-2

A very narrow but effective formation. Made by slightly modifying the base 4-2-1-2 in the game by moving the CAM to CF. In my experience, CAM is actually quite poor in the FIFA AI, neither making attacking runs against the opposition defensive line, or hanging back deep enough to pick up balls deflected behind the strikers. By moving Diego up to CAM I had all three of him, Dzeko and Doumbia making dangerous runs through the middle of defense.

In terms of tactical settings, I borrowed the default settings for the German national team, with the small change of Chance Creation from Organised to Free Form. What this gave me was a high-possession but unpredictable structure as I passed through the centre of the field.

As a formation and tactical combination it was extremely effective against teams with a high defensive line, and most teams that played a 4-2-3-1 for some reason (which is a lot of the Bundesliga). It was terrible against teams playing 4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-1-2 as in all cases the midfield became too crowded to work in.

4-2-2-2

The Brazilian box formation. I’ve liked this formation in a lot of football games over the years, and once again it didn’t disappoint. The basic theory of it is that apart from the wing-backs, everyone has a central position, which provides a lot of strength defensively, and then a lot of room to run into down the flanks when in attack.

For this team it worked extremely well. Kolarov and Ilsinho thrived as wing-backs with all that space in front of them, while Diego and Afellay proved to be perfect LAM and RAM players respectively. Tactically I either used the same approach as above, or one that I’d modified with a much higher cross setting to make more use of the runs down the wing. This was a good formation for breaking down the 4-1-2-1-2 and 4-1-4-1 formations as shifting the creative midfielders to the outside moved them away from the defensive midfielder.

4-2-3-1

This is the vogue formation of the moment in real life, and particularly in Germany. It was the formation that dominated the world cup, being employed by Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Brazil each in their own way. I chose the Brazilian variant, created by modifying the 4-2-2-2 above by shifting the second striker back to become a CF.


The result is a formation with a lot of skill and numbers in the middle of the park. It works quite well with the modified German tactics, and the crossing variant discussed above, and also with a copy-pasted set of the tactics from Barcelona. Mainly I found this to be a good formation to shift to in games where either the 4-1-2-1-2 wasn’t providing enough width, or where I wanted to shut the game down by maintaining possession. I did also settle on it as the formation from the start of games against 4-4-1-1 because with a 5 vs 4 outnumbering in midfield I found that it was completely dominant.

Results

Building a team to my own specifications proved to be both very fun and extremely dominant.  I won the Bundesliga by 14 points with a record of 26 wins, 8 draws, 0 losses, 86 points..  It was all over when with 4-5 games to go, I had a rather well-timed match-up against second-placed Bayer Leverkeusen who I thrashed 3-0 in their home stadium.

Dzeko finished the season with 29 goals, 11 more than the next highest scorer.  Doumbia was the 5th highest scorer with 16 goals.  Overall the team finished with 63 goals for, 7 against.

The cup final was against Bayern, Dzeko scored early, within 30 minutes it was 3-0, and by the end of the game it was 4-0.

Overall it was a really great way of playing FIFA. A team I liked, playing the type of football I wanted, in a league that was actually really challenging along the way, despite the appearance of my dominance. As a play-style it fell neatly between the proper in-depth league simulation of career mode and the trading and grinding of Ultimate team. I strongly recommend it as an approach for anyone looking for a way to get a bit more fun out of FIFA or just to try out a wacky theory. In fact, right now I am in the process of setting up a second experiment, is it possible to win the English Premier League with an all-English team?

I love sports games, particularly how they provide their own, almost organic, heavily layered narrative. Every button-press matters not only in its effect on it’s own microsecond of play, but also in the context of a match, and ultimately a season. One late hit of the X can be the difference between scoring a goal that will decide whether many hours of play have been successful or in vain. It’s far more than any quick-time event will ever be.

 

Of late, my sports game of choice has been FIFA 11. I particularly love the “Live Season” mode which allows me to play through the season of my team, one game at a time, with the correct formation, team selection and form, lovingly crafted for me each week by whatever funky gremlins they employ at EA.

 

Awesome as it is, the downside of this is that rather than being able to play a season at my own pace, I need to wait a week between games for the next one to first be played, then coded and finally arrive for download. This isn’t enough football for a natural obsessive like me and has required me to be more creative in my team choices.

 

My normal plan over the years has been to try to play with Grimsby Town FC, a lower-league English team from a town famous for being very cold and making fish fingers. Times have been tough for them lately, the fish-finger factory closed down after a fire in 2005 and I think that the team has dropped to a league so low that it no longer exists in the game. Even if they are still there, there’s simply too much of a time commitment involved in dragging them through 3-4 leagues to get to the top now, and playing with such poor quality players is fairly limited in terms of fun.

 

Plan B has been to try and find interesting teams from around the world. First up was Stabek of Norway. They were tempting because I’d visited their rather nice stadium recently, but after playing about a dozen games with them I realised that, like Grimsby, they were just too poorly skilled to have fun with in FIFA.

 

I then moved my attentions to the Russian league. This promised more skill, a bit of a transfer budget, and ultimately quite a lot of fun. I had a great time playing through a season with Rubin Kazan, terrorising Russian defences with the pace of Obafeme Martins.

 

But then what next? A little burned by the fact that Russia, like most leagues, has a massive disparity between the good and bad teams, I decided to try out the Bundesliga. The Bundesliga is famously one of the most evenly matched and athletic leagues at the moment, and certainly a lot more skill than I’d seen in my teams on the coastline of the North Sea.

 

The only problem though, is that I’ve never so much as watched a Bundesliga game and had absolutely no attachment to any of the sides. I searched through the teams, trying to find one that matched the style I liked to play with a couple of players I liked. I didn’t have much luck.

 

Then a friend of mine heard about a cheat that allowed him to get 2 billion dollars in career mode, he went on a spending spree buying a bunch of talented youngsters (he set himself a rule of no-one over 25) and started having a lot of fun as Kaiserslautern.

 

I didn’t want to cheat, but suddenly I was inspired. I liked the youth approach, and the idea of starting off with a team built to play exactly the sort of football I wanted. I wasn’t going to “cheat” too badly to get it, but what if I could do it in some sort of fair way?

 

The plan

 

So, I picked a side to be the shell of the team I would use. I decided fairly quickly on Wolfsburg because;

a) I always thought it was awesome that around 1998/99 they were coached by a man called Wolfgang Wolf,

b) It was fun to displace Steve McLaren as their coach

3) they are owned by VW, and I own a VW

 

I set myself three rules for the project

  1. No players over 25 in the entire squad

  2. No players from other Bundesliga teams

  3. Every player transferred in must be replaced with a player out, of similar quality basic position (GK, def, mid, att), so the team should get younger, but not necessarily be much better in terms of ovr ratings.

 

Part I; building the team.

 

Wolfsburg had around 13 players under the age of 25, three of whom were a really solid foundation for the new team. These were

Dzeko, a lethal striker who in real life had been sold to Manchester City for big money mid season, I was not going to make that sale.

Diego, a skilful Brazillian attacking midfielder who also filled the valuable role of free-kick specialist

Kjaer, a monstrous Danish central defender, tactically sound and strong in the air.

 

Of the oldies I was trading out, the best were Benaglio, the Swiss goalkeeper, and Wolfsburg captain, and Josue a regular defensive midfielder for the Brazillian national side.  The rest were a mix of solid first-team regulars and fairly ordinary back-ups. I wasn’t going to be a galacticos, but as a 4-star (out of 5) rated side, I was going to be rather competitive.

 

After an afternoon spent scanning the FIFA player database I came up with the following side

 

GK,

Hugo Lloris (Lyon), taking advantage of the very high rating of Benaglio I snagged Hugo Lloris, despite being very young he’s captained Les Blues and is rated amongst the top few in the world between the sticks.

Mannone (Arsenal) a 6’3” keeper, currently on loan to Hull in real life.  22 yrs old and Italian, very much a back-up.

Marwin Hitz, young swiss goalie, already in the squad

 

Wing-Backs,

Kolarov (Man City), very good defensively and solid going forward, strength at left-back is important for dealing with the very fast and talented right-wingers I could expect in the Bundesliga.

Ilsinho (Sao Paolo) Capped once for Brazil, extremely skilful dribbler, an attacking threat of my own down the right.

Carlinhos (Fluminense), essentially a slightly watered down and left-footed version of Ilsinho.

 

Centre-Backs

Simon Kjaer, 6’2” Danish defender, 21 years old, already in the squad, has played 15 games for his national team.

Ranocchia (I got him from Genoa, in real life he’d been on loan to Bari and has just been bought out by part-owners Inter) 22 years old, 6’5”, has played one game for the Azzuri

Bonucci (Juve) 6’3”, 23 yrs old, can play centre or right, has played 8 times for the Azzuri

Zelao (Saturn Moscow) a 6’2” Brazilian centreback with good all-around ball-skills, figured he’d be useful for games where the other team sits back a lot and I need defenders to be able to open up space with passing.

 

Midfielders

Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), a direct trade for the defensive midfield prowess of Josue.  At 6’2” he gave me a very tall, strong, and happily in terms of keeping a Bundesliga feel, German presence in midfield.

Afellay (PSV, in real life has gone to Barca), don’t really need to say much about him, was happy for him to be eligible.

Montolivo (Fiorentina), I didn’t have a player to trade for him, but I was able to buy him with the transfer funds available at the beginning of the game. He’s my favourite young Italian player at the moment, 5’11” playmaker, 19 games for the Azzuri.

Marlos (Sao Paolo) Very skilful passer and dribbler, a back-up for Diego

Elias (Atletico Madrid), classic box-to-box type midfielder, good passing, dribbling, and stamina

Ja-Cheol Koo, only brought in because the club had acquired him in real life, was very much a back-up

Medel (Boca, although in real life has been traded to Sevilla) a defensively oriented Chilean midfielder, bit of a Mascherano type, has played 28 games for his country

 

Forwards and Strikers,

Diego

Dzeko

Doumbia (CSKA Moscow) speed, skill and finishing.  Shame he isn’t a little taller.

Hernandez (Palermo) 20 year old, 6’1” Uruguayan striker, a useful back-up with similar pace to Doumbia.

Diego Ifran (Real Sociedad) 23 year old 5’8” Uruguayan striker, a super-sub type player, quick, skilful and good at finishing, but not much of a physical presence.  Can also play in Diego’s slot behind the strikers.

John Rodriguez (Burnley) a project player traded with an old and slow guy that probably needed to be cut, not likely to start any time soon, but has some promising basic skills, he’s quick and 6’1”

 

 

Part II, Tactics and Formation

 

I grew fond of the team immediately. It was packed with players that I like, in the positions I needed to build my favourite strategies.

 

Over the course of the season I settled on three different formations, and a small variety of tactical set-ups.

 

4-2-1-2

 

A very narrow but effective formation. Made by slightly modifying the base 4-2-1-2 in the game by moving the CAM to CF. In my experience, CAM is actually quite poor in the FIFA AI, neither making attacking runs against the opposition defensive line, or hanging back deep enough to pick up balls deflected behind the strikers. By moving Diego up to CAM I had all three of him, Dzeko and Doumbia making dangerous runs through the middle of defense.

 

In terms of tactical settings, I borrowed the default settings for the German national team, with the small change of Chance Creation from Organised to Free Form. What this gave me was a high-possession but unpredictable structure as I passed through the centre of the field.

 

As a formation and tactical combination it was extremely effective against teams with a high defensive line, and most teams that played a 4-2-3-1 for some reason (which is a lot of the Bundesliga). It was terrible against teams playing 4-1-4-1, 4-4-1-1 and 4-2-1-2 as in all cases the midfield became too crowded to work in.

 

4-2-2-2

 

The Brazilian box formation. I’ve liked this formation in a lot of football games over the years, and once again it didn’t disappoint. The basic theory of it is that apart from the wing-backs, everyone has a central position, which provides a lot of strength defensively, and then a lot of room to run into down the flanks when in attack.

 

For this team it worked extremely well. Kolarov and Ilsinho thrived as wing-backs with all that space in front of them, while Diego and Afellay proved to be perfect LAM and RAM players respectively. Tactically I either used the same approach as above, or one that I’d modified with a much higher cross setting to make more use of the runs down the wing. This was a good formation for breaking down the 4-1-2-1-2 and 4-1-4-1 formations as shifting the creative midfielders to the outside moved them away from the defensive midfielder.

 

4-2-3-1

 

This is the vogue formation of the moment in real life, and particularly in Germany. It was the formation that dominated the world cup, being employed by Spain, the Netherlands, Germany and Brazil each in their own way. I chose the Brazilian variant, created by modifying the 4-2-2-2 above by shifting the second striker back to become a CF.


The result is a formation with a lot of skill and numbers in the middle of the park. It works quite well with the modified german tactics, and the crossing variant discussed above, and also with a copy-pasted set of the tactics from Barcelona. Mainly I found this to be a good formation to shift to in games where either the 4-1-2-1-2 wasn’t providing enough width, or where I wanted to shut the game down by maintaining possession. I did also settle on it as the formation from the start of games against 4-4-1-1 because it dominated that formation with more numbers in midfield, and an ability to completely shut it down defensively.

 

Results

 

Building a team to my own specifications proved to be both very fun and extremely dominant.  I won the Bundesliga by 14 points with a record of 26 wins, 8 draws, 0 losses, 86 points..  It was all over when with 4-5 games to go, I had a rather well-timed match-up against second-placed Bayer Leverkeusen who I thrashed 3-0 in their home stadium.

 

Dzeko finished the season with 29 goals, 11 more than the next highest scorer.  Doumbia was the 5th highest scorer with 16 goals.  Overall the team finished with 63 goals for, 7 against.

 

The cup final was against Bayern, Dzeko scored early, within 30 minutes it was 3-0, and by the end of the game it was 4-0.

 

Overall it was a really great way of playing FIFA. A team I liked, playing the type of football I wanted, in a league that was actually really challenging along the way, despite the appearance of my dominance. As a play-style it fell neatly between the proper in-depth league simulation of career mode and the trading and grinding of Ultimate team. I strongly recommend it as an approach for anyone looking for a way to get a bit more fun out of FIFA or just to try out a wacky theory. In fact, right now I am in the process of setting up a second experiment, is it possible to win the English Premier League with an all-English team?

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Defensively I had the option to play the very aggressive Brazilian right-backs, or shut it down by putting Bonucci there.

 

Midfield is probably my weakest area, but I’m expecting Khedira to be an absolute rock, and I can choose to attack in front of that with players like Afellay and Elias, or shut it down with Medel and Montolivo (who is also quite good going forward).  Up front I have a really nice mix that allows me to choose pace, height, strength and finishing.  Diego looks like he will score a lot of my goals, but the pace of Doumbia is very hard to handle, and he is great at setting up Dzeko with chances.  I’ve played two friendlies against a brazillian and a dutch side, won 3-0 and 4-0 respectively.

 

 

 

 

 

 

From what I can see, that means they have 13 keepable players, 4 or 5 of which might be solid starters, so a lot to replace.  Because the rosters don’t seem to have been updated for a while they might still have Dzeko, that’s a good thing, and in fact I might break the rule to bring him back, purely because at the start of the season he was there, and he certainly qualifies otherwise.  I’ll also claim Ja-Cheol Choo, because he was just signed by them, and is very young.

 

 

I’m half considering doing a season similar to yours, only with a team made of the under 25’s that you haven’t picked (helped by the fact that I will use the roster editing method to grab the ones you couldn’t), with a bit of fancy exporting I then might be able to set it up so that we can play games against each other with our respective teams.  If you give me a full list of your squad then I will work around that.  I might do it with Wolfsburg.

 

Ok, so it is;

 

GK:  Akinfeev, Scott Carson as back up (I may change this as I just selected anyone).

 

Def

Oscar Wendt,

Fabio Coentrao,

David Santon,

Micah Richards,

Per Mertesacker,

M Sakho,

Gary Cahill,

Adil Rami,

vd Wiel

 

 

Mid

Antoine Griezmann

Ganso

A Turan

Eden Hazard

Steven Defour

Nuri Sahin

 

Att

Lukaku,

Gervinho,

Neymar,

Toivonen,

Llorente

 

Hmm, that is interesting; I suppose I’d look at something like

 

GK, Neuer, Viviano, Romero

 

Def

Bonucci,

Di Silvestre,

Subotic,

Ansaldi,

Azpilicueta,

Beck,

Santon

Otamendi

 

Mid

Dimitri Payet

Brahimi

Sissoko

Pareja

Yarmolenko

Rudy

Reinartz

Trasch

Strootman

 

Att

 

Aguero

Podolski

Rossi

Berg

DongWon

 

 

Hmm, ok, I’ve decided.  I’ll play Wolfsburg and go with 3 rules;

 

 

From what I can see, that means they have 13 keepable players, 4 or 5 of which might be solid starters, so a lot to replace.  Because the rosters don’t seem to have been updated for a while they might still have Dzeko, that’s a good thing, and in fact I might break the rule to bring him back, purely because at the start of the season he was there, and he certainly qualifies otherwise.  I’ll also claim Ja-Cheol Choo, because he was just signed by them, and is very young.

 

It’s a different approach, but should create an interesting squad. I’ll try to build it tonight, I’ll let you know who I wind up with.

 

Well, there’s plenty of players to move, just how good they will be, I don’t know.  I reckon I’ll mainly pick the players based on searching the FIFA database for people that are going to match the formation and style that I want, so I really don’t know who I will wind up with.  That heightens the anticipation I reckon, it could be a very interesting squad indeed. I’m rather excited about it.

 

Oh, and of course there’s a 4th rule which we knew but I didn’t write below, none will be players that you have So it will be a case of a team built to match my style, vs a team of almost all the young players you wanted.  Could be a very interesting match-up.

 

Incidentally, the choice of Wolfsburg is a) because I always thought it was awesome that from 1998 they were coached by a man called Wolfgang Wolf, b) it’ll be fun to displace Steve McLaren as their coach 3) they are owned by VW, and I own a VW

 

Ok, so as it turned out, I couldn’t get those guys because a) they were better than what I had to trade away, b) Muller plays in Germany.

 

So, the two best players to keep were Dzeko, a slow but otherwise amazing striker rated 85 overall, Diego, who is happily an amazing free-kick taker (and despite being brazillian has a bit of a resemblance to Ballack), and Kjaer, a useful Danish defender.

 

The best guys I had to trade out were Benaglio, the Swiss goalkeeper, and my captain, he is rated 86, and Josue, a defensive midfielder who played 28 games in Dunga’s selecao (high praise to be picked to play Dunga’s position by Dunga), he is ranked 80.  The rest were a mix of mid-high 70s and a couple of high 60s, I also have a bunch of young guys from the club that are rated in the mid-60’s I kept them to give me depth, but won’t be getting any game time soon.  The best position to trade from was centre back, they had a pair of 79’s (one of whom was Barzagli, a player I’ve always wanted to see at Milan, he’s only about 26 and was sad to let go).

 

Unfortunately I left my pad with all my notes behind, but this is my team as I remember it;

 

GK,

Joe Hart (Man City), a decline of 4 points from Benaglio, but the best u-25 goalkeeper from outside the Bundesliga (would have loved to get Neuer).

Mannone (Arsenal) a 6’3” keeper, currently on loan to Hull in real life.  22 yrs old and Italian, very much a back-up.

Marwin Hitz, young swiss goalie, already in the squad

 

Wing-Backs,

Kolarov (Man City), very good defensively, wanted to invest in security there to be able to deal with right wingers, that’s an Italian thing

Ilsinho (Sao Paolo) Capped once for Brazil, extremely skilful dribbler.

Carlinhos (Fluminense), essentially a slightly watered down version of Ilsinho.

 

Centre-Backs

Simon Kjaer, 6’2” Danish defender, 21 years old, already in the squad, has played 15 games for his national team, is rated around 79

Ranocchia (I bought him from Genoa, in real life he’d been on loan to Bari and has just been bought out by part-owners Inter) 22 years old, 6’5”, has played one game for the Azzuri

Bonucci (Juve), as we discussed the other day, 6’3”, 23 yrs old, can play centre or right, has played 8 times for the Azzuri

Zelao (Saturn Moscow) a 6’2” Brazilian centreback with good all-around ball-skills, figured he’d be useful for games where the other team sits back a lot and I need defenders to be able to open up space with passing.

 

Midfielders

Sami Khedira (Real Madrid), biggest signing, but a fair 80 for 80 trade for Josue.  At 6’2” he makes it a very tall centre of my defence to break down.

Arouca (Santos) A back-up for Khedira at CDM, very different player, 5’6”, skilful on the ball, but fit and defensively sound.

Afellay (PSV, in real life has gone to Barca), don’t really need to say much about him, was happy for him to be eligible.

Elias (Atletico Madrid), classic box-to-box type midfielder, good passing, dribbling, and tireless

Ja-Cheol Koo (acquisition actually made by the club) rated about 68, I don’t know if he’ll get much of a game.

Medel (Boca, in real life has been traded to Sevilla) defensively oriented Chilean midfielder, bit of a Mascherano type, has played 28 games for his country

Montolivo (Fiorentina, not traded, purchased with transfer funds after the game commenced), my favourite young Italian player at the moment, 5’11” playmaker, 19 games for the Azzuri.

 

Forwards and Strikers,

Diego

Dzeko

Doumbia (CSKA Moscow), need I say more, speed, skill and finishing.  Shame he isn’t a little taller.

Hernandez (Palermo) 20 year old, 6’1” Uruguayan striker.

Diego Ifran (Real Sociedad) 23 year old 5’8” Uruguayan striker, a super-sub type player, quick, skilful and good at finishing, but not much of a physical presence.  Can also play in Diego’s slot behind the strikers.

John Rodriguez (Burnley) a project player traded with an old and slow guy that probably needed to be cut, not likely to start any time soon, but has some promising basic skills, he’s quick and 6’1”

 

 

When I bought Montolivo I also had bids in for Muller, Podolski and Banega (from Villareal).  Muller refused to leave Bayern, and of the remaining three I decided that Montolivo gave me the biggest bonus over what I already had.

 

I’m really fond of it as a team, it’s full of players that I like, and it gives me a bunch of strategic options. Defensively I can have the very aggressive Brazilian right-backs, or shut it down by putting Bonucci there.  Midfield is probably my weakest area, but I’m expecting Khedira to be an absolute rock, and I can choose to attack in front of that with players like Afellay and Elias, or shut it down with Medel and Montolivo (who is also quite good going forward).  Up front I have a really nice mix that allows me to choose pace, height, strength and finishing.  Diego looks like he will score a lot of my goals, but the pace of Doumbia is very hard to handle, and he is great at setting up Dzeko with chances.  I’ve played two friendlies against a brazillian and a dutch side, won 3-0 and 4-0 respectively.

 

Ozil must have been slightly too high (I had the search set to 70-80 overall, he must be a bit above that).  I was very tempted to grab Obafeme Martins (who is miraculously still 25) to go up front, but I wanted to try something a bit different and Doumbia looks like an equally perfect (and slightly lower rated overall) pick.

 

The team was 4* before I started, and 4* after all the transfers, but slid up to 4.5* after I purchased Montolivo.

 

Ok, so I finally managed to finish the season.  I won it obviously, 26 wins, 8 draws, 0 losses, 86 points, 14 clear of the next best team.  It was all over with 4-5 games to go, I had a rather well-timed match-up against 2nd place Bayer Leverkeusen who I managed to thrash 3-0 away from home.  I actually had a really strong finish to the season, a bunch of high scoring games as Dzeko just went off.  He finished the season with 29 goals, 11 more than the next highest scorer.  Doumbia was the 5th highest scorer with 16 goals.  My team finished with 63 goals for, 7 against.

 

Cup final was against Bayern, Dzeko scored early, within 30 minutes it was 3-0, and by the end of the game it was 4-0.

 

Then I got to have the off-season.

 

First things first, I re-signed with Wolfsburg, turning down offers from Bayern, Inter and Manchester United.  Between the tournament rewards and the general generosity of the club I had 43 million pounds to spend, which I immediately began augmenting by selling off players that I hadn’t used all season.

 

First things first, I spent 30 million on a little Argentinean guy from Atletico, a certain Mr Sergio “Kun” Aguero.  Gives me some more flexibility up front, I’ll be able to push Diego out wide if I want now.  It was a tough call to buy him, I was also strongly considering Bendtner and Falcao, who are both the “good in the air” model of striker that I was interested in, but I just couldn’t turn down Aguero.

 

The second guy I bought was a young Moroccan/Belgian, from Everton, Fellaini.  Again he gives me a bit more flexibility in the middle, should allow me to shut things down a bit more.  Also, he can play CF, so if I really want to cross into the box I can throw him up with Dzeko in the box.

 

I now have about 8 million pounds left, if I can sell one or two more of my fringe players then I intend to use the money to buy some more depth or quality at wing-back, my weakest position now.

 

My squad now looks something like;

 

GK

Lloris

Mannone

Hartz

 

CB

Rannochia

Bonucci

Kjaer

Zelao

 

WB

Kolarov

Ilsinho

Carlinhos

Karimow

 

CDM

Khedira

Fellaini

Medel

 

CM

Affelay

Montolivo

Elias

 

CAM

Diego

Marlos

 

Forward

Dzeko

Aguero

Doumbia

Hernandez

 

My best team is probably;

 

Dzeko

Aguero

Diego                                                    Montolivo

Khedira                Fellaini

Kolarov                                                 Ilsinho

Rannochia           Bonucci

Lloris

 

With Affelay and Doumbia on the bench

 

We both seem to have completely dominated our respective leagues, I think we’ve definitively proven that young teams can be uber-successful.

 

I think that there was a massive separation in my league too, although I think it might have been a case of me – daylight – Leverkeusen, Bayern, Bremen – daylight, everyone else.  Kaiserslautern came dead last.  I wouldn’t be surprised if Wolfsburg didn’t look so good in your league either (given that they are struggling near the relegation zone in real life).

 

I thought Aguero might give you some pause for thought.  I think he will do quite well, I have a theory that he will be amazing at making through-runs onto the ball, I also think Falcao has that skill set, but that Aguero’s dribbling and finishing skills made him more promising.  I did VERY seriously consider the heading experts, in both cases Falcao  and Bendtner fall about half-way between the level of Dzeko and Llorente (by my calculation, Lukaku is between them and Llorente).  The main thing that stopped me in the end is that I don’t have a team of amazing ball-crossers (highest are Diego and Montolivo around 80), and none of my 4 formations really make extensive use of crossing.  Fellaini does give me that back-up ability to throw him forward in games where it is really the only option for me, and should definitely be a force at set-pieces (by my count he is as good as Llorente).  Also I was reluctant to give away the pace of my attacks, which has been my primary source of goals with Wolfsburg and Rubin.

 

I’m definitely hoping that my maximum defensive box of;

 

Khedira                Fellaini

Kolarov                                                 Bonucci

Kjaer                     Rannochia

Lloris

Should be able to deal with even the most physical of attacks.  I think the shortest person in that list is Kolarov at 6’2”, a few of them are 6’5” and all of them have very high strength, balance and jumping ability.  They aren’t extremely quick (although they’re not bad), but with that sort of presence I should be able to hold them back and narrow, and that I’m hoping will allow me to deal with the various threats posed by the Champions League (and by your team).

 

I find that I can use skill moves in some games, but not others, it depends a lot on whether the formation and pressing settings give you the time and pace or not.  The goal in there with all the moves is actually scored by two subs that came on, they often are very successful with their high ball-control against worn-out defenders.

 

Read Full Post »

Let me preface this entire series of car-related posts with a statement. I know nothing about cars in real life.  Everything I know about cars comes from video games, and of course the laws of physics.  So if you’re expecting a romping-good conversation about cars or HP you’re in the wrong place.  Unless you mean Hit Points, in that case, welcome friend….


Gran Turismo coverBelieve it or not, once I was a teenage boy. An angsty and hormone-driven teen. Of course logic follows that I developed a fascination for cars. This wasn’t necessarily a new thing, I always collected model cars – mostly of European persuasion; but when Gran Turismo was released in 1998; it was Japanese cars all the way for me. Of course, this was a realisation that any male under the age of 35 had here in Australia, and it showed. Suddenly the streets of Melbourne were flooded with Silvias, WRXs and Supras.

And yeah, these are great cars (actually, I really hate Nissan Silvias…..sorry.) But its not where my heart was. Me – I was enamored with my first car. That car, was a second generation RX-7. It was black and handled like a dream.  That is, it handled well  until I upgraded some of the parts and in general threw the balance of the car out of whack.  But even then, she looked beautiful in my garage.

Second Generation Mazda RX-7

Second Generation Mazda RX-7

The second generation of the RX-7 was manufactured by Mazda in Japan between the years 1986 and 1991, before the more modern curvy look of the third generation that was followed and was discontinued by Mazda in 2002.  While a naturally aspirated model was developed for the export market, the turbo was the standard, and only model available in Japan.

.

Animation of a rotary engine (from www.japanesesportscars.com)

Rotary Engine diagram: 'triangle going spastic in a box'

From there, I developed an unhealthy fascination for the RX-7.  There was something about the rotary engine that someone once described to me as a ‘triangle going spastic in a box‘. Of course, the problem with this back in christmas 1998 was that, like every other 15 year old lad, I had no freakin’ idea how to begin tuning a car.  Hell, I had never even driven one, let alone opened the bonnet up and proclaimed  ‘mate we can get a few more horse power out of the old girl yet’.  And of course I had no interest in leaving any car untouched.  No matter the car, it was a Stage three turbo.  Cornering?  Who cares!  I’ll just speed down the straight, into the wall, turn, rinse and repeat.  Needless to say most of the cars in my garage (aside form the 4WD and AWDs) handled like a Dodge Viper with 13 turbo-charged V6 engines sitting in the bonnet. Of course I’ve come a long way since then…

.

Mazda RX-7 Print Ad, circa 1980s

Mazda RX-7 Print Ad, 1986

Truth be told, I like the curvy body of the third generation.  But I still fancy myself a bit of a fan of the 1980s era Mazda RX-7, and come Gran Turismo 5 and Forza 3 make no mistake, I’ll be reaching into my virtual wallet and laying down cold hard virtual cash to drive any virtual model RX-7 I can get my hands on. And god only knows that if I could afford one in real life, it would be a case of life imitating art…

Mazda RX-7: Third Generation

Mazda RX-7: Third Generation

What are you memories of Gran Turismo when it was released in 1998?  What was your first car, your favourite car, fastest car?  Whatever?  Tell us in the comments section below!

Read Full Post »

This year is a great one for us sim racing fans, with a number of big name titles seeing (and potentially seeing) a release in the lead up to christmas.  Rest assured, this gamer will be covering all aspects of all of them.  And here’s a little something that caught my eye in the upcoming Turn10 title, Forza 3.  This is the  the first in all likelihood of a series of blogs over the coming 12 months that will see us tuning everything from a VW Golf to the beautiful Audi A4 you see below (images courtesy of Microsoft Game Studios/Turn10 and are from the upcoming XBOX360 Game, Forza 3). 

Forza 3: Audi A4 DTM

Forza 3: Audi A4 DTM

 And now for a close up:

Forza 3 - Audi A4 DTM: close up of rear wings

Forza 3 - Audi A4 DTM: close up of rear wings

 And from the back…

Forza 3 - Audi A4 DTM from behind

Forza 3 - Audi A4 DTM from behind

Imagine the downforce on that thing – cornering bliss?  Who knows, but running off a modified Audi V8 engine outputting 460bhp and weighing at 1050 kg on the road (thanks wikipedia), you’d definitely hope they were doing something to keep it on the road.  Below is a picture of the DTS on the road in real life.

Audi_A4_DTM PP

Check back for more car-related yarns (from a non-petrol head) in preparation for the onslaught of Gran Turismo (PSP), Forza 3 (X360), Need for Speed: Shift (multiplatform – and making me break my sworn oath to never buy a Need for Speed branded game…) and Gran Turismo 5 (Ps3).  By the time this holiday season is over, I think I may have forgotten how to drive a real car….

The inspiration for this micro-post coming from an industrial designer by trade who maintains a great blog (bookmark: http://Flailings.blogspot.com) dealing with, as he calls it “all the additional stuff that makes life interesting“.  Definitely worth checking into regularly. Thanks Dan.

Old Gaulian

Read Full Post »

This is a continuation of the ongoing story of Moose McFadden, an Alaskan-born running quarterback who is living out my dream of taking a character all the way from high-school through NCAA Football and into the Pro simulation of Madden NFL. Previous instalments in the series can be found at;

The man from Wasilla, fulfillment of a gaming dream.

Moose McFadden, Part deux

Sophomore Shenanigans, Moose’s southern sojourn continues.

and,

Moose completes his college career

Very few people are able to live up to the hype coming out of high school but you have managed to do it. Your legendary college career is now over, it’s time to take your game to the next level.”

Would you like to export to Madden?

And that was it, the end of a college football career and an invitation to go pro. No final video, no statement of what you achieved (fortunately I’d already looked these up) or anything. In my last thought about NCAA Football 09, my only hope is that this aspect has been fixed up in the new Erin Andrew’s headlines presentation, Moose brought the legend to campus, the least EA can do is celebrate him as such.

Anyway, as I loaded up Madden I pondered, as I had been for the past week or so, what would happen to Moose in the pros, who was going to draft him? And what type of game will he be expected to play. Coming out of high school I’d had a choice of college, clearly articulated in terms of style and where on the depth chart Moose would be, now it’s all down to the draft, which depending on the sophistication of the game could well be little more than a dice-roll.

Once in Madden, I load the superstar mode, and import my campus legend, Moose is sitting there, all ready to go. Right off the start I am shown a calendar leading to the draft. In a couple of days I have an agent signing, then an individual workout and finally an IQ (read Wonderlic) test.

Moose decides to go with Pavel Petrenko as an agent, I’m told he is a former Russian Ice-Hockey player and works with players who have global media aspirations. Moose used to be able to see Russia from his house, so feels a bit of a connection with this man. Personally he is surprised to be able to hire an agent with access to the performance institute so early, winning those three Heismans counts for something after all.

The day after agent signing comes an individual workout, giving Moose the chance to build up one of his attribute. Currently Madden has determined that he has,

  • Smart QB 78
  • Cannon Arm QB 93
  • Accurate QB 87
  • Speed QB 96

Since the cost of improving skills increases with how high they are initially, Moose decides that he’ll get more bang for his buck working on his smart QB to start off with. The workout turns out to be with the Buffalo Bills, Moose excels but doesn’t get quite enough points to increase his rating. (all-madden was 7, needed 8). In the following week he gets another chance at a workout, and manages to add a point to his smarts.

Then comes an interview, the questions are fairly simple, does he place himself in the same category as Matt Ryan, does he care where he gets drafted, where would he like to play and what number would he like. Moose wants to stay positive but also show that he has confidence in his abilities, so he agrees he is as good as Ryan, says that of course he cares where he gets drafted, would like to keep his number seven (although he has to say because that’s how people know him, when the real reason is that it seems to have been lucky so far), and says that he’d like to go to Green Bay to be part of the history rather than go to a crap team or glamour team. A quick check at his superstar status afterwards and he has been declared “dependable”, which seems a good start. I also got an e-mail from mum saying I was a gentleman in the interview, but she probably would have said that anyway.

The IQ test is ten questions in 5 minutes. A lot of the questions seem to be “what’s the next number in the sequence”, indeed 9 out of the 10 questions are maths with one little English question thrown in. I forget I am roleplaying for a moment and Moose, the Wasilla High graduate scores perfect. Oh well, he did finish with a 4.0 GPA somehow as well!

The following week I get another workout, the IQ test in the meantime has worked wonders on Moose’s smart QB rating, he is now 83. Working this time with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers Moose again increases his Smart QB stat.

Next up comes the NFL combine.

  • Moose runs a respectable 4.29 in the 40 yard dash
  • In something that I have always found really difficult in Madden, Moose only gets 8 reps in the bench press.
  • Respectably he crosses 10000 in the QB challenge

After these efforts the training screen comes up again, while it says nothing has improved, I notice that the Speed QB stat has now increased to 98.

And then, the moment we’ve all been waiting for, draft day…

In somewhat of a major anticlimax the game sims the draft and gives me a screen saying “Congratulations, you are a member of the Detroit Lions”. As a team that in real-life went 0-16 in the 2008 season that I was about to entire, I couldn’t help but notice the irony in that statement.

Strangely, one of Detroit's more positive headlines from 2008!

With a photo and headline like that it doesn't really matter what I write in the caption does it...

The Lions are good fit for Moose, in recent times they have devoted their many early draft picks on a great group of wide receivers, and with only Culpepper and Kitna in his road it should be possible for him to fight for playing time early. It is also one of the closer teams to his home in Alaska. Unfortunately my memories of talented receivers turns out to be false hope, as my enthusiasm in keeping my rosters updated meant Roy Williams had already departed for the Cowboys and McDonald was injured for the entire season. This leaves Calvin Johnson and not much else, although Colbert looked like he had some potential. On the plus side, Detroit seemed to have traded away starting QB Kitna in order to draft Moose, making the starting job pretty much a guarantee.

Prior to the first training camp I have a look at the performance institute, it’s exactly the same as the combine, and I don’t quite know how it helps anything.

Training camp proves to be very confusing, I’m asked to hand off to the halfback Kevin Smith. The practice seems never ending, I try a few passes from audibles but without a great deal of success. The camera is very different from NCAA, locked in really tight so it is hard to see the receivers. Depending on how plays go my influence and ego appear to be being affected, but no idea what else. Eventually with 10 influence I quit.

If nothing else this is giving me an idea of the influence system. Sacks and intercepts really hurt my influence while completions are moderate gains. The aim seems to be to be fairly cautious. As for why I am doing this? What influence is even used for? I have been told nothing. Something else I learn is that the influence max seems to be 10 per practice. I am told by my superstar info screen that I will start the next game with this influence level.

I check my stats before my first preseason game. Moose was drafted in round 3! with the 96th overall pick. He’ll earn 10.2 million in his first year of a 2 year contract with the Lions. This pick is somewhat strange, in real life, number 96 in the draft was the first conditional pick and was Chad Rinehart of the Redskins, a look at him in-game (and he is there) declares that he was indeed picked in the 3rd round, but they’ve relegated him to the 160th pick, which is well outside the 3rd round. All very strange, you’d think if they were happy to draft superstars in the same position that actual players in the game were drafted then Moose might have been picked a little higher, given that he’s a 3 time Heisman winner and holder of every NCAA passing and rushing record worth holding. Actually, comparing Madden’s idea of overall picks and reality is strange across the board, it seems to be right for the first round, while a fellow Lions rookie who was picked mid-way in the second round (picks 33-65) is somehow declared to be pick 88.

For the first time I am able to see Moose’s full skill stats and they are as follows,

  • Speed – 98
  • Strength – 68
  • Agility – 97
  • Acceleration – 93
  • Awareness – 84
  • Truck skill – 56
  • Elusiveness – 82
  • Carrier Vision – 72
  • Stiff Arm – 59
  • Spin – 84
  • Juke – 84
  • Ball Carrying – 58
  • Catching – 40
  • Jumping – 63
  • Throw Power – 93
  • Throw Accuracy – 87
  • Kick Return – 98
  • Stamina – 90
  • Injury – 90

Interesting fact: Detroit plays on a “FieldTurf” field, similar to the one that Moose got injured on in the Georgia dome, it is a little unique though, being made from recycled Firestone tires.

Another interesting fact: Moose will wear the number 7 for Detroit despite it being retired for team legend Dutch Clark.

Dutch Clark, probably not too happy that Moose has been given his retired number.

Dutch Clark, probably not too happy that Moose has been given his retired number.

It’s now time for Moose’s first full-blooded professional snaps. The first preseason game comes against the perennially tough Indianapolis Colts, at least it will be at Ford Field.

In the battle of experience vs exuberance, Peyton Manning takes the first possession and completes 5 passes on his way to a touchdown. In response, the Detroit coach shows his trust in young Moose by telling him to go for a deep pass on the very first play. In a poor sign, Moose’s first three snaps are an offensive line false start, a sack, and an incompletion, this new view is terrible. At 3rd and way too many Moose runs away from his O-line and ignores the receivers, netting a medium rushing gain in the process, but it isn’t enough for a first down. In the next series, the coach calls 4 consecutive run plays, only going with Moose after a holding penalty leaves the Lions at 2nd and 14. Moose throws to Gaines the TE, but despite being wide-open he is unable to catch it. Finally, on 3rd and 14 he completes his first professional pass to new best friend, Colbert, who gets the first down. On the following 3rd down he attempts to net the remaining couple of yards with one of his famous bootlegs off a playaction, but is sacked hard by Dwight Freeney. Welcome to the NFL Moose. On the following drive, Moose finally gets into a rhythm, completing six passes and making a couple of decent runs, and with 1:12 remaining in the first half he barges over the line between the tackles for Detroit’s first points of the year. Moose is rested for the second quarter and the Lions lose 17 to 9.

Moose’s numbers for his first outing are 6 of 12 for 50 yards, but at least there were no interceptions. On the ground he managed 27 yards and a touchdown from 3 attempts.

After the game Moose gets an e-mail from his coach telling him not to worry about the loss and that he was happy with the amount of heart he showed out there.

The next preseason game is away against the Bengals. Moose settles into things a lot more in this game and starts to find potential superstar receiver Calvin Johnson a few times. Apart from a strange tendency to have passing plays end on the 1 yard line, things are going well, and Moose finishes off two drives with short rushing touchdowns to secure a 14-3 half-time lead that the B-team in the second half manages to convert into a 20-13 victory. This time Moose completed 11 of 17 for 143 yards and got 14 yards and 2 touchdowns from 4 carries. He even got to try holding the ball for a couple of field goal attempts in the second half, which was a lot more fun than it sounds.

Moose finally gets some passing touchdowns to his name in the 3rd preseason game against the Cleveland Browns when some overenthusiastic blitzes allow him to hit first Gaines and then Colbert wide open for long range trips to the end-zone. In this game he completes 11 of 14 for 174 yards and 2 touchdowns and gets 9 yards on 3 rushing attempts.

In the final preseason game against the NY Giants, Moose suffers a barrage of defensive linemen as his line completely fails to hold its own. He is sacked three times, fumbling once, and gives away two interceptions trying to air it out within the two minute warning. Despite this he is able to get the ball to Gaines off a short range playaction for the opening score and leave Detroit with a 7-3 lead from the first half. Ultimately Detroit wins it 30-3 with Moose completing 12 of 18 for 111 yards 2 interceptions and a touchdown. As a result of the sacks he only gets 1 yard rushing from 3 attempts.

In terms of observations going into the regular season, the gameplay is quite different from NCAA. The new camera really takes some getting used to and I’ve thrown into coverage a couple of times because I literally couldn’t see the defender on the screen. That said I seem to be adjusting to it.

The influence stuff seems silly at the moment, but it should start to become more interesting once Moose has a couple of roles to spend the points on. In the meantime it is annoying that you can’t link the trainings up like you can in NCAA and do them in one go rather than reloading all the time.

The box for Madden 09, you'll have to imagine the screenshots because Madden didn't let me take screenshots like NCAA did.

The box for Madden 09, you'll have to imagine the screenshots because Madden didn't let me take screenshots like NCAA did.

The Performance Institute seems useless, I’ve done it a couple of times for no benefit whatsoever, even when I clocked a 4.09 on the 40 yard dash, perhaps the fact I am already 98 ovr has something to do with that though.

It’s very nice to be able to finally call motion before the play to help read the defense.

Blitzes are far more brutal in Madden and the running back AI seems far superior – making yards up the middle and generally looking realistic. This is strange given that when playing the game normally, blitzes are more brutal in NCAA and running is far more difficult in Madden.

The wide receivers are a bit weird, I’m seeing a lot more drops (that might just be Detroit) and their AI around the edges of the field is worse (in NCAA they were really good at catching it and then falling out of bounds). That said they all respond better to where you throw the ball than they did in NCAA.

It’s also annoying that you can’t tweak the game length a little, 6 minute quarters would probably give a more realistic number of plays. This is particularly annoying since the number of plays was so close to perfect in NCAA and hence stat comparisons between Moose and other QBs were perfect. Finally, the most annoying thing is that despite all the effort on their presentation there is no photo taking option in Madden, and you can’t even save replays in Superstar mode!

Stay tuned for the next instalment as Moose and the Detroit Lions enter the regular season.

Read Full Post »

With NCAA Football 10 now released in the USA and my copy hopefully steaming in from Asia as we speak it seems the right time to actually finish off Moose’s career log. Unfortunately I have to admit that while I finished this game back in February I never got around to writing it up, still, better late than never.

For those just joining us, this is a continuation of a series that starts back here.

In his third/junior season Moose found himself having to deal with an almost completely rebuilt offense and defense around him. This led to some nervous moments early on, but things largely established themselves by the key Florida Gators and Alabama Crimson tide games mid-way through the season, and LSU retained an unbeaten record throughout.

One of the most interesting features I began to notice was that the game seemed to react to my previous performances. Opposing coaches were trying to “Moose-proof” themselves by increasingly sending linebackers on containment duty to try to hold him in the pocket, while the LSU coach became increasingly fond of calling QB run plays close to the end-zone. One can only assume that this is a scripted reaction to the growth of Moose’s overall rating, and a welcome one at that.

Back to the games, LSU was helped immensely by the emergence of a new running-back, Jackson, with a speed rating of 99. His presence allowed Moose to become more of a pocket passer and stop changing run plays into passing ones. In other words, there was finally enough balance in the squad to play properly!

At the pointy end of the season Moose’s third SEC championship game is against the Florida Gators. A quick scan of the Florida depth chart revealed two All-Americans in the secondary, and two defenders (interestingly not All-Americans) with overall skill scores of 99. I will admit to more than a little trepidation facing that defence on this particular stage as NCAA seems to really push up the difficulty for finals and bowl games.

The game starts off with caution from both offenses, neither wanting to give the ball away cheaply. On his second drive, Moose takes a lot more control of the game, reading the defence and audibling a lot, eventually Jackson was able to make a 1 yard run and finish off the 85 yard drive with a touchdown. Moose crashed over himself on the following drive as both teams traded touchdowns before and after the half-time break. The game ultimately ends with Moose and Jackson unleashing a festival of short yardage rushing plays to kill clock in the fourth quarter and lock in a 21-17 win.

The Heisman Trophy, as won by Moose three? years in a row.

The Heisman Trophy, as won by Moose three? years in a row.

After the Championship it is announced that Moose has won the Heisman for an unprecedented (and perhaps slightly unrealistic) 3rd consecutive season. It is also announced that once again LSU will finish its season in Arizona, this time playing Notre Dame for the BCS National Championship. The fact that two years ago this was the site of Moose and LSU’s last defeat is a thought not lost on Moose. Neither is the fact that, as Brady and Belichick will confirm, Arizona hasn’t exactly been the best place to go into a championship game undefeated.

A pre-game glance at the depth chart reveals that Notre Dame have an amazing linebacker core and defensive-line but a potentially vulnerable secondary. They also apparently have a decent kicker who gets them off the mark with a field goal in the opening drive of the game.

For LSU’s first offensive play the coach decides it’s worth testing out that secondary. Moose obliges with an 89 yard touchdown over the middle, the longest in LSU history. In the next few drives LSU unsuccessfully tries to establish the run, and only goes into the second half with a 10-3 lead. Moose comes out strong in the second half and returns the focus to the deep ball, quickly creating a 14 point lead, it looks like successive National Championships are in the bag. But through the fourth quarter Notre Dame storms home. First they score a touchdown, then they recover the ensuing an onside kick and score again. This leaves Moose with 15 seconds to try and get a winner.

Starting from his 20 yard line, Moose gets 40 yards on the first play, but is unable to make anything happen on the second, and the game goes into overtime. After winning the toss, Moose gets the first shot at scoring. After a couple of quick plays to settle in, Moose sees and takes a shot at the corner of the endzone off a playaction. Unfortunately this was the moment when the Notre Dame safety remembered what his position entailed, and he intercepts the pass, ending LSU’s first shot at points. After a short string of runs Notre Dame scores on their drive, winning the National Championship.

Moose had been near perfect to that point, throwing for 180 yards and two touchdowns, running for 100 yards and another, but in one throw ended a 23 game winning streak and a chance to be the first to defend a Bowl Championship title. NCAA predictably and sensibly declares the game to be an instant classic, and Moose enhances his reputation as somebody who chokes at critical moments.

As the season ticks over to its conclusion, NCAA informs me that it only took Moose 3 years to establish himself as a legend on campus (that’s a long time actually, most people just need 15 seconds of well placed nudity), and offers him the chance to move on to the NFL (aka export him to Madden). It was a very tough decision, particularly seeing as how the whole point of this exercise is to fulfil the dream of combining the games. However, in a move that may have been influenced by the fact that this all happened around the time Tebow was in real-life confirming his availability for another season of college football, Moose decided to stick it out for one more year and become possibly the first boy from Wasilla to complete four years at college.

The movement of players through the system sees LSU lose the heart of it’s running game, two running-backs and half the offensive line (again! Is this really what college football is like?). The result is that it looks like this will be a season built on the pass, and QB running. This suits Moose as he is chasing a number of pretty significant records:

  • The all-time NCAA career Passing TD record which currently stands at 121 (needs 28 more), and
  • Ricky Williams’ (Miami U 96-99) all-time NCAA Rushing TD record of 73 (needs 9 more).
Ricky Williams is chased by an overenthusiastic ballboy as he sets the NCAA all-time rushing touchdown record that Moose is chasing.

Ricky Williams is chased by an overenthusiastic ballboy as he sets the NCAA all-time rushing touchdown record that Moose is chasing.

In a season all about NFL preparation and chasing down those records, Moose started very strongly, carrying the team on his senior shoulders. By the end of game three, a 38 – 20 win against Auburn it was becoming clear that the LSU Tigers running game was little more than a distraction for the Wasilla Moose offense. From three games the new HB Smith had a total of 79 yards from 46 carries, compared with Moose who was well ahead with 461 yards and 9 touchdowns. Through the air Moose had stacked up 707 yards and 5 touchdowns.

Fresh off a win in Michigan where Moose had broken Ricky Williams’ touchdown record, Moose and the LSU Tigers faced the Vanderbilt Commodores. It was a mild October afternoon, the sun was shining, the stands were packed, Vanderbilt had a weak secondary, and a cheerleader winked at Moose as he took the field (ok, I made most of that up, but it’s what should have happened). Things felt good. To celebrate Moose decided to go for a record, the 9 year old LSU single game passing yards record of 528 set by Rohan Davey. Moose cut loose, audibling for pass play after pass play, only allowing a run where absolutely necessary. Despite a number of bad drops by receivers (who may have been complaining from sore hands given the number of balls thrown their way), Moose amassed 446 yards, 6 touchdowns and a massive lead by the end of the third quarter. Unfortunately the coach didn’t seem to agree with Moose’s record attempt and relegated him to the bench for the rest of the game. Annoyed, Moose sulked at the lack of a feature to petition the coach to let him back in the game.

Moose tried again to beat the record a week later, and was again denied, but at least managed to rope in the all time NCAA passing touchdown record while he was at it.

These two games were very important to this season. For the first time everything was becoming a bit tedious. I’d beaten all these teams before, and the only important games were to come at the end of the season due to a combination of the draw and the fact that NCAA seems to really ramp up the difficulty in Bowl games. But both of these games were very different. For once Moose was very much staying in the pocket, only running twice in each game. This would hopefully stand him well for his impending NFL career.

Which leads us to perhaps the greatest game Moose plays in his entire career.

The game in question is played away from home at Ole Miss in a raging snowstorm, I’d be curious to have some confirmation if it really snows there.

For the first time in Moose’s career his defence completely abandons him. LSU shoots out to an early 14 point lead as the big Alaskan reminds everyone that snow is his natural habitat. Ole Miss comes back, but at half-time LSU still leads 35-28. In the second half things get a little crazier as both teams trade long range touchdown after long range touchdown. Finally, Moose gets the ball on his 20 yard line, the score is 63-all and there is a minute to go. With a calm that he hopes his potential NFL employers will be watching, Moose marches his team down the field. Concentrating on winning the game rather than running the score he sets LSU up with a final run that leaves the ball nice and central on the 2 yard line with only 15 seconds left. Moose wants to let the clock tick down to 1 second before using LSU’s final time-out, but from the sideline the coach loses his nerve and calls it with 5 to go. LSU kicks the goal and has a 3 point lead with 3 seconds left on the clock. On the following play, disaster ensues as Ole Miss makes a 98 yard return for a touchdown and one of the more spectacular finishes in NCAA history. Unfortunately you need to beat running over a trombone player in the endzone to be the most spectacular, but this was up there. With a final score of 70-66, Ole Miss defeats the #1 ranked LSU Tigers.

During the game Moose completed 21 of 27 passes to 8 different receivers for 418 yards, 5 Tds and 1 int. He also managed 11 rushes, 198 yards, 3 touchdowns. The loss is bad enough to drop the Tigers from 1st in the NCAA rankings to 10th. Suddenly Moose is looking at retiring after an appearance in the Sugar Bowl rather than the BCS National Championship.

Once again the SEC Championship Game comes against the Florida Gators. Moose goes into the game with a 5-0 record against them and converts it to 6-0 after a well managed 28-24 win. One of the real turning points came on a long (15 yard) third down conversion on LSUs last scoring drive, with all defenders covered, Moose broke out to the left hand side, nabbing the first and running out of bounds in front of the LSU bench and supporters, as he crossed the line he held his hands aloft, pumped up the LSU faithful (this actually happened as an animation, I don’t know if it was a glitch or not, but it was a lovely touch), LSU never relinquished control of the game from that point.

Amazingly, despite having had his best season on record, where he collected TDs at a rate faster than his frat-house could collect STDs, Moose missed out on the Heisman trophy. Albert Richardson of Notre Dame won it by a huge margin (2302 to Moose’s 895). Richardson had completed 278 of 387 passes for 3614 yards and 45 total touchdowns (he also had 49 carries and 1 touchdown). In comparison, Moose had completed 266 of 342 for 3927 yards and 43 TDs (although he had 9 ints to Richardson’s 6). This was close as a pure passing record, but Moose also had run for 1151 yards on 114 carries and 27 TDs, which he felt should count for something. As consolation he did at least get the Maxwell and O’Brien trophies.

All in all it was a harsh season for LSU, that amazing loss to Ole Miss relegating them to a Sugar Bowl appearance rather than the National Championship to which they had become accustomed.

The Sugar Bowl game against Oklahoma started strangely. A sandwich of consecutive touchdowns to the Sooners (Oklahoma) wrapped around a touchdown return by LSU meant that the score was already 13-7 by the time Moose touched the ball for the first time. A couple of touchdowns and an interception from Moose turned the game the other way and at half-time the score was 21-20 in favour of LSU.

Moose managed to get himself injured on the first drive of the second half, but was able to watch happily as his protégé Rhodes finished the drive for him with a 3 yard touchdown run. Moose took over on the following drive and reminded Rhodes that he still had a long way to go, running over Oklahoma’s All-American safety during a 38 yard touchdown run. From there however Moose played nice and conservatively, he’d learnt his lesson in the Ole Miss game and didn’t want to leave so much as a second for a miracle to occur. He ended his college career kneeling the ball down on the Oklahoma 5 yard line to seal his second Bowl victory with a 38-26 point win.

At the end of his college career, Moose finished with a legend score of 3455 (for those keeping count), an overall rating of 99 and the following statistics,

2008 2009 2010 2011 Career Records
QB Rating 186.4 194.7 195.7 210.4 197.6 2011 was an NCAA record
Completions 209 234 244 285 972
Attempts 293 293 301 364 1251
Completion % 71.3 79.9 81.1 78.3 77
Passing Yards 3202 3075 3137 4155 13569 2011 was an LSU season record, Career was an LSU record as well.
Average yards per game 228.7 219.6 224.1 296.8 242.3
Passing Tds 31 31 32 46 140 Each year was an LSU season record, career was an NCAA record.
Interceptions 17 12 12 10 51
Sacks 19 16 12 14 61
Rushes 124 109 93 120 446
Yards Rushing 1487 1614 1360 1242 5703
Yards per game 106.2 115.3 97.1 88.7 101.8
Rushing Tds 22 24 18 27 91 Broke LSU season record three times, career was an NCAA record.
Fumbles 6 3 4 5 18

Keep an eye out for the next instalment (hopefully coming very soon) when I import young Moose into Madden.

Read Full Post »

Older Posts »