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Why Madden 15 Should Bring “Fair Play” Back

Should "Fair Play" make a big return in Madden NFL 15 or beyond?
Should "Fair Play" make a big return in Madden NFL 15 or beyond?

The concept of playing fair in Madden has always been one of contention, and one that has polarized the community for years. With Madden 15 just around the corner, we think now is as good a time as any to explain why the “Fair Play” system of old should make a comeback.

Fair Play, for those that don’t know, is a gameplay rule system that used to exist in Madden that put limitations on actions that weren’t deemed in the spirit of NFL football. Things like going for it on 4th down on your own 20 early in the game were not possible under Fair Play rules, nor were constant two-point conversions or endless onside kicks. These kinds of actions were still possible, of course, but only in the right context defined by the game.

It was while listening to Game Changers radio last night and digesting the views and opinions of the community that I’ve come to my own view on the matter: Fair Play is good for the game, and it should return, but only with the right execution.

What Does “Fair Play” Do For Madden 15?

Before we get into exactly how Fair Play should be implemented, it’s a good idea to take a step back and appreciate what Fair Play brings to the game.

• Improves defense
A major focus in Madden 15 is being put on defense, and while it’s yet to be seen how much of a dent that will make in the onslaught of offense that was rolled in with Madden 25, one thing is for certain: Fair Play would slow down offenses and keep point totals in check. The inability to go for it on every fourth down means defenses will have more breathing room, mistake-prone offensive players will put themselves in better field position after a punt, and third down stops will have much more significance.

• Cultivates a “better” community
One oft-overlooked factor of Fair Play is that it conditions players to play within the spirit of the game, by forcing them to do so. Players learn to appreciate the value of punting and playing good defense, and rage-quits are a lot less likely since there are no awful fourth-and-forever decisions that were tried and failed (how many times have you met this guy online?). I would also propose players feel less cheated during a game when opponents are not converting one fourth down after another on their way to a close victory, which ultimately creates a more enjoyable user experience.

• Teaches players fundamental football
Let’s face it: As much as you are probably a serious Madden-head for reading this site, there are undoubtedly millions of players playing Madden every year that never get far online because of their own backyard-football style of play. While “good” players are well-known for going for it on 4th down quite often in Madden games (and benefit greatly from it), newer or more casual players do so just as often, but to their own detriment. These “work in progress” players simply don’t yet have a refined enough offensive skillset to outweigh the field position risks involved in such a decision.

Why DON’T Players Like a “Fair Play” System?

While there are plenty of reasons to like Fair Play, there are certainly a few reasons why players would prefer to steer clear of such a system in Madden NFL 15, and it’s important to bring those into light before moving on to execution.

• Players worry it will be too restricting
While many players would like to play in an environment where fourth downs in bad field position require punts, there are those that feel this could be too limiting. There are certainly moments in NFL history, or in the context of your game where it might make sense to go for it on fourth down, and yet Fair Play prevents you from doing so. It might be that you are in a fourth and short on your own thirty against a player with a great offense, and you know you need to get points on your drive to compete. Or, you’ve worked really hard on a two point conversion that you are willing to risk and run on occasion, but you are effectively eliminated from doing so for most of the game.

• Some players just prefer the wild west
There are certainly quite a lot of users in Madden that might consider themselves “freestyle” players, and in the world of freestyle essentially anything within reason is permitted. These types of players often dominate the top of the leaderboards every year, and they’re not afraid to put a receiver at TE, or go for it on every fourth down under the lights that they see fit. This isn’t necessarily a wrong way to play, just a different one, and for these members Fair Play might be a fun thing to dabble in, but for the most part they won’t enjoy being so restricted online.

• Fair Play isn’t “sim” enough
In a shocking turn of events, the feature that is designed to make the game feel more sim, actually has some complaining that it isn’t sim at all. The reality is that coaches and coordinators make decisions on the fly about things like fourth downs, and they aren’t told by the NFL “no, you have to punt, it’s the rules.” Fair Play takes away this critical strategical decision from the player, and in that sense it’s true that there’s nothing realistic about it, as good as its intentions may be. While this is a purist point of view, and not one I entirely agree with, it’s still a popular one worth bringing up.

How Should Madden 15 Bring Fair Play Back?

With all of the above in mind, there’s quite a lot we need to account for. There are many players that will certainly enjoy Fair Play, some that certainly won’t, and plenty more that won’t feel strongly either way, but will surely benefit from Fair Play. With this in mind, here’s the GoMadden Fair Play system.

GoMadden’s Fair Play System

• Fair Play is Enforced For First 25 Games
For the first 25 games online, Fair Play is enforced. This will greatly help new players whose offense might not be so refined from digging themselves into a bottomless pit. Quitting should be less common with Fair Play on, as players will be guided on matters of when it’s appropriate to go for it on fourth down, or onside kick.

Die-hard Madden players will pick up 25 games in no time at all online, while casual players will be given time to grow and enjoy a more NFL-inspired style of play. This will create a better environment for new players to enjoy the game, cultivate better game ethics in the meantime, and still provide flexibility for different styles of play at higher levels of game time commitment.

• Fair Play Becomes Optional After 25 Games
After the required 25 games have passed that introduce players to the concept of Fair Play, players will no longer be forced into this ruleset. Instead, players can choose to accept or deny a Fair Play request from the match lobby. It works like this: Before you select your team, click the right bumper to extend a Fair Play offer. If your opponent accepts, Fair Play is enforced just as before. If it is not accepted, the players have the option to select their teams and continue forward as normal, or to leave the lobby. It’s important not to automatically eject players after a Fair Play is denied because there are quite a lot of people that might prefer Fair Play, so they will extend the offer, but are willing to play under any ruleset.

Note that you could do this a bit in reverse for greater continuity, by instead making Fair Play default, and allowing players to extend “Freestyle” offers to opponents. I don’t think this method is a good idea, because it will likely come across unsavory to players when offered in such a way. As well, there is something attractive and sportsmanlike about extending an offer to “Fair Play” that I think will give off a better impression in the community.

This could also be the standard for Fair Play execution, rather than enforcing it during the first 25 games, however I think a combination of the two in at least some capacity solves more problems than either would on their own.

• Fair Play Allows For 4th and 1 Anytime, Anywhere
It doesn’t matter if you are on your own ten yard line, or your opponent’s goal line, fourth-and-one should not be restricted by Fair Play. While it’s not exactly realistic to have NFL teams go for it on 4th and 1 in the first quarter on their own 25, it is very much something coaches will consider based on the context of the game and the personnel involved. While the NFL may often lean towards punting in this scenario, I believe it’s a close enough call that players should have the right to make this decision, especially because it adds a small element of risk-reward to the game when football is very much about risk-reward decisions.

It’s also important to allow 4th and 1 scenarios anywhere, anytime because of the impact it will have on the running game. With a hard-set three-and-out system, players will be strongly compelled to pass the ball and will feel running is not a serious option. The mere knowledge that you can’t go for it on fourth down will scare away many players from running in situations where it should at least be an option — such as third and three — and would serve to hurt the run/pass diversity in the game. With a more forgiving system that incorporates 4th and 1 from anywhere, the running game should be relatively unaffected while still encompassing the vast majority of situations where Fair Play is needed.

The Bottom Line About Fair Play

Fair play would bring a lot to the Madden 15 community, and could go a long way to help curtail the quitting problem that has plagued the game for years. Our solution to Fair Play, or a solution similar to it would help guide newer and more casual players in the right direction and create a better foundation for Madden’s online experience, while still giving flexibility to the players that want it.

Without getting too philosophical, I have a pretty strong belief in freedom of speech and freedom of expression in all matters, including the freedom to call the plays I want when I want in a football game. It would be a shame if Fair Play returned with such tight restrictions that players found themselves unable to enjoy the game in the way they wanted, but it would be an even bigger shame if Fair Play never returned to Madden in any capacity at all. I believe a marriage between these two universes is inevitable and essential to a good online experience, and this is just one way to go about it.

Should "Fair Play" make a return in Madden 15?

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  • cordell

    yes fair play would be good

  • gobolts21

    what fun is a game if you can’t do what you want? ppl can go play sim leagues if they want that stuff.