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Innovation Through Simplification – The quiet revolution at EA Sports

I’m not usually one to gush endlessly over a game’s label, but I have been incredibly impressed with some of the things EA Sports has been doing with its titles, finding ways to simplify mechanics and open up hardcore titles to new players without alienating existing fans. Right now that innovation is taking place most notably in Madden and Tiger Woods PGA Tour – two games that really couldn’t get much more specialist.

Madden NFL 11 was the first to show the way within EA Sports with its Gameflow system. It’s a shame it had to have such a gimmicky name because it distracts a little from what is actually a superb game mechanic. By taking play decisions our of your hands and putting your ‘coach’ in charge this system first and foremost takes away the pressure of picking plays from those who have no understanding of them. It also speeds up the game, making it a much more kinetic experience. But most importantly it also has the coach speak to you about he play choice and explain what you should be looking out for.

For a new player that’s an amazing educational tool, but for a seasoned Madden pro, it’s a new layer of authenticity that takes them closer to how NFL players work and the pressures of executing the well laid plans of your superiors. That’s some proper smart thinking as say. A new feature that gives hardcore and new fans something worthwhile. Probably not an easy thing to translate to other sports, but it seems EA is trying.

Tiger Woods PGA Tour 12: The Masters (or TWPGAT12TM for short) is introducing a Caddie system for you to take advantage of for the first time. This second character, who appears on screen with your golfer, will pick your clubs as you would expect, but will also give you two shot choices (safe and aggressive), set the draw or fade for your shot as needed and give you an explanation of why he’s done it. As such you get something close to the real life relationship of a golfer and his/her caddie (you can always over rule their choice if you want to of course) and new players get a useful tool to help them into the intricacies of the game.

Where will EA take these ideas in the future? I wish I knew. FIFA doesn’t immediately lend itself to such additions as on the fly tactical changes tend to be broader than you would see in sports such as golf or American Football. Perhaps adding more of a narrative to the Player mode, getting specific roles to play from the manager before the game (mark that guy, drop deeper this match, hug the touchline) with rewards for performing those duties? NHL is so fast paced that also has some problems, but it is certainly a sport that outside its core regional strongholds could do with some explanation.

Fight Night is certainly somewhere innovation of this type could work wonders and from what we’ve seen it could well be getting something of this type with Fight Night Champion.

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