The next-gen version of Madden NFL 21 will use real life player data collected over the past five years to make its players feel more realistic.
Madden NFL 21 will be using player movements tracked over 5 years of real world football to improve the quality of the game on PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X. The next-gen version of the game will be released on December 4th, and will hopefully serve as an upgrade to the current state of the game, which is rather poor. Reviewers lambasted the game for offering no real improvements or changes over its predecessors, and fans were even harsher, making Madden 21 the worst-rated game on Metacritic and demanding that the NFL drop EA due to the game’s low quality.
Madden‘s status as the NFL’s officially licensed football video game means that it and the real-world league have gone hand in hand for some time. Decisions made in the NFL have a definite impact on the course of the game, but they don’t define it; for instance, Madden recently introduced Colin Kaepernick to the game for the first time since his BLM protests got him shunned by the league in 2016. Despite this apparent disagreement, Madden and the NFL remain quite close. So close, in fact, that EA’s controversial football game is going to host a virtual version of the NFL Pro Bowl in 2021, since the real life version of the event was cancelled due to COVID-19.
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The exploits of the NFL are impacting Madden NFL 21 in a much more substantial way as well. For the past five years, the League has been using Amazon’s cloud computing service AWS to track and analyze player movements through RFID chips attached to their uniforms. This data helps coaches analyze their players for strengths and weaknesses in order to refine team strategies, and it also gives players and broadcasters more insight into the game as it happens. As reported by Polygon, these aren’t the only beneficiaries of this new tech; Madden NFL 21 is also making use of it. The next-gen version of the game will use this data to make AI player movements more realistic, hopefully addressing quashing players’ complaints of AI being either supernaturally fast or totally incompetent. The developers swear that the benefits will be felt as soon as the game starts.
A system like this would be a welcome change of pace for the stale football franchise. It also might give EA more credibility in the recent lawsuit that has been leveled against it, claiming that it’s using adaptive difficulty in sports games like Madden to make player teams feel inadequate and push the sale of loot boxes. EA has denied these claims, and intend to fight them in court. Evidence that AI skill levels are determined at least in part by an in-depth real-life data system like this gives the company might give the company more of a leg to stand on.
Regardless of EA’s loot box sales practices, this is still a remarkable system, and an impressive bit of innovation from a company that isn’t always inclined to innovate. Players have been complaining about the Madden franchise feeling stale for years now, and while expanded gameplay options would be a more ideal way of changing that, using machine learning to improve accuracy is still a remarkable first step toward improving Madden NFL 21.
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