General Method

The actual process of creating a good formation in Madden 2003 or 2004 is quite involved. While it is possible to simply select the Create Formation menu item and modify the default Singleback-3WR (on offense) or 4-3 (on defense) set to your liking, this is not a good way to do it. The problem is that these template formations by themselves do not contain information about how each player can go into motion or respond to unit shifts or coverage audibles. While I personally don't use motion very much in passing plays it is very important to a successful running attack, especially when the actual number of available running plays are limited. On defense the ability to shift players and alter coverages is even more crucial to counter the deployment and motions of the offense.

Motion information is actually embedded into each of the formations built in to Madden, and while we cannot manipulate the motion characteristics of our formations or plays directly we can use these built-in motions to our advantage in creating new formations. The process I use and recommend for creating new offensive formations goes like this:

  1. Find a typical play in any built-in formation that closely matches the one you want to create and add the play to your custom playbook. This is done through the Add Plays menu option. Players in the new formation will keep the same motion/shift/audible characteristics even if you change their assigned position (e.g. in Speed Quarter at least one of the two linebackers will move into a down lineman position on defensive line shifts, because there is no built in formation with only two down linemen to modify, so one LB started out as a lineman), so try to find a formation that will require minimal shifting of player icons. On defense you can usually just pick a formation with the right personnel count in each unit (line, linebackers and secondary), but on offense you need to be a bit more selective. Try to pick a formation that keeps the ends (either tight ends or wide receivers on the line of scrimmage) on the line and on the same side of the formation, this should prevent motions from making your formations illegal.
  2. Adjust the formation by moving players into the desired grid locations. To do this go to the Create Formation menu option and select the newly added built-in formation. At this point don't worry about the actual position assignments, for the reasons mentioned above.
  3. Once the layout is set, go ahead and modify the player position assignments. If you need to actually swap assignments (e.g. switching the #1 and #2 receivers) set the first player to an unused position such as WR5 or TE3, set the second player to the position just released by the first, and finally set the first player to the original position of the second player.

Even with this method you won't get everything the way you want it. If there is no defensive formation with the exact personnel you desire you might have to move one position "out of unit", which makes shifts and/or coverage audibles a little messed up. On offense the motions you get may not be exactly what you want, and cannot be modified for individual plays. Unless EA makes the Create-a-Playbook feature more powerful those are the limitations we have to deal with.

Planning for Gadgets, Gimmicks, and other Surprises

If you follow the method above you will have a formation that will work well with any standard play you might want to develop. But, what about non-standard plays, like play action passes, wide receiver reverses, and so on? This FAQ entry describes the process for creating plays with actions not available in the Madden playbook editor. The basic process is to copy a play of the desired type from a built-in playbook and modify the not critical aspects of it, as well as the formation it's in.

This works well enough, but requires adding a new formation to your playbook each time you want to add a new specialty play! Obviously this is not acceptable. If you want to have a complete offensive playbook with a large selection of these plays, you'll need to plan ahead (it sucks, but there's not much choice in the matter). This is what you need to do:

  1. Scout the existing playbooks. In the playbook editor select Add Plays from the menu and look through each formation. Based on the method described above, look for formations that might be modifiable into formations you may like in the future. In addition, look for formations that have lots of special plays. Specifically, look for plays with the following characteristics that cannot be programmed manually:
    • Play action
    • WR reverses
    • HB passes
    • Screen plays with special blocking routes
    • Block-and-go routes out of the backfield (the blue routes)
    • QB bootlegs/sweeps
    Watch out for draw plays though, I haven't had much success getting these to work. Most formations appear in several team playbooks, so make sure to check out several teams.
  2. Add specialty plays from the playbooks into your custom playbook. Plays belonging to formations not present in your playbook will add the formation to it automatically. Remember you can always delete formations and plays later, so it's best to fill up as many of the 11 formations and 81 plays as you can now.
  3. Start modifying formations and plays into the customized versions you want. Once a formation is modified or renamed you can no longer add plays from built-in playbooks to it, so make sure you've added any play you might want before taking this step.

Contact Arkaein with any comments or questions regarding the Monstrous Madden Playbook.