Fumble Dimension: Breaking 1,000 Points in Madden 22

It’s been about five months since we looked back at Jon Bois’ Breaking Madden’s Super Bowl game where they set one team up to maximum stats, the other team at minimum stats, and just ran up the score. They found out that Madden 2013 stopped counting score at 255 points. Counting manually, at around 1,500 the game called a penalty on a play that wasn’t run, and the instant replay presented the most frightening image a sports video game has ever generated, the Football Fetus:

Soak that one up for your nightmares.

They stored a team’s score in a single byte in 2013! It was a striking example of how EA Sports, without competition for decades, basically views Madden as a no-effort money printer. Licensed NFL football is either Madden or nothing. What are you going to do, play with no-namers? Pshaw!

Breaking Madden is like ten years old now, and the rights situation hasn’t changed. EA Sports continues to squat possessively on its golden football egg, with no end in sight. But Breaking Madden made some internet waves in the time since. Maybe they’ve gotten their development act together? Maybe?

In the time since then SBNation has switched these kinds of things that they do to Youtube videos, and rebranded them as Secret Base. Jon Bois has become quite the Youtube sensation there in the time since, making a lot of very well-regarded internet documentaries.

One of the Secret Base subseries is called the Fumble Dimension, which is a similar kind of attempt to break sports video games, just in video. About 11 months ago they (mostly Jon’s associate Kofie) again took a hammer to the most recent Madden, 22 at that point, and tried to run up the scoreboard. This time though they did themselves. No, they didn’t try to win against an inferior team. They played a team to lose, against a team set at maximum AI, and tried to let the computer score as much as possible. Here it is (23 minutes).

The good news is, the score no longer ceases to count after 255 points. The score is free to rise up over 1,000. The game’s final score broke 1,700, and didn’t break 2,000 only because Kofie was feeling hugely bored playing terribly on purpose for play after excruciating play. They theorize that 7,000 may well be popular with optimal sub-optimal performance, but they leave that demazing feat to some other intrepid failure.

But while they have wisely decided to store player scores in more than one byte now, there were several other hints that Madden 22 is just as haphazardly constructed as Madden 13 was. Players would try to run off the field, held back only by the walls of the stadium. The announcers announced a lengthening series of safeties each as the “second safety of the game.” And while the score counted correctly, an assortment of player stats were scored increasingly inaccurately as the self-induced drubbing continued, some dipping into the negative as they grew, a sure sign of uncapped signed values.

When I posted on Breaking Madden, I took the opportunity to diatribize about the decay of the Madden games, and how the series should either be given renewed resources or the license just be allowed to pass to other hands. I won’t bore you with yet more harping on the point now, I’ll just say, please NFL, hand your license over to someone who actually seems to care.

Fumble Dimension: We tried to break the Madden scoreboard (Youtube, 23 minutes)

Breaking Madden: The 1,500 Point Super Bowl

I promised I’d explain the origin of the Football Fetus. It’s from the Breaking Madden Season 1 Super Bowl, which is still one of the funniest bits of game writing in memory. Jon Bois does good work.

Half Denver Bronco, half Seattle Seahawk, all madness. It was spontaneously generated by Madden 2013 when Jon Bois set up an experiment to engineer the biggest drubbing that the software could generate. The Broncos fought the Seahawks for the Super Bowl that year, so he set up a match between them, and decided randomly which team would be the Gods, and which would be the Worms. The Gods, the Seahawks, would all have maximum stats in every category. The Worms, the Broncos, would all have the minimum stats.

Image from SBNation

In particular, all the Broncos had the minimum stat in Awareness, which affects their AI, and which seems intended by the developers to create improvised video game comedy. A low Awareness saps a player of the ability to function on any competent level, for any football-related purpose. A low Awareness produces people who willingly walk into tackles. A low Awareness stat produces men who can only say huh.

Further, durability stats were all minimized for the Broncos, so they kept getting injured, but they ran out of replacement players they could field, so they kept on playing, getting more and more hurt. Infinitely hurt. People don’t die in Madden. It would have been a kindness if they could. Oh also, all the penalties were turned off.

Just to make the obliteration complete, Jon took control of the Seahawks. He began to rack up points. Before the first quarter was over, he discovered that Madden 2013, a game for the Xbox 360, still tracked scores with a single byte. The Seahawks’ score froze at 255, although some places listed it as 256. I suppose we should be thankful it had bounds checking, and didn’t wrap back around to zero.

So Jon took a cursory count of score himself. Somewhere around 1,500 points, the game called a penalty even though they had been disabled. Viewing the footage on the play presented, not video, but a single frame, locked in time, of the Football Fetus, resting in the center of the field. A creature of chaos. A mandala of nonsense. Procedural generation at its finest.

While entertaining, still, things like this shouldn’t happen. Jon Bois is generally careful not to tear too hard into EA’s programmers, and truthfully I don’t want to either, they only have jobs to do. But EA Sports is the only source for sports games for multiple fields. If you want to play with pro players, if it’s the NFL, you can only get it from EA Sports, and it’s been that way since 2005. It’s a monopoly, and it’s inevitable that craftsmanship would decline. 2K Sports, these days, is the same with the NBA.

How sports games have been ruined by monopolies is a story for another time. There’s an article from a student newspaper from 2021, by Blake Malick, decrying their sorry state. Presumably I’ll weigh in in more detail myself someday, but that would require caring about sports games, which is something I am not prepared at this time to do. I will leave that to Jon Bois and the other inhabitants of the Fumble Dimension.

Anyway, still, bad craftsmanship in a game can be hilarious, and so it is in Breaking Madden. Please, enjoy. And here’s the rest of Breaking Madden, which includes the saga of Clarence BEEFTANK. Ah, BEEFTANK. We should look back on his storied career at a later time too.