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'Madden NFL' called for unnecessary roughness

Fans of EA's hit football game protest a scrimmage-line glitch.

Armchair quarterbacks want leading video game publisher Electronic Arts to give up 20 yards and replay the first down, after discovering a vexing glitch in the latest version of the company's top-selling "Madden NFL" football game.

Owners of "Madden NFL 2005," the new installment in one of the biggest franchises in video game history and a perennial cash cow for EA, are complaining about the glitch in online forums and demanding various remedies. An online petition--with 300 signatures and counting--essentially calls for a recall, in which EA would replace current game discs with ones in which the glitch is fixed.

The glitch involves one new feature and one old one--both intended to make the game a more realistic recreation of professional football. The new "formation shift" feature allows a player to move offensive players at the scrimmage line, potentially confusing the defensive line. It apparently works too well, tapping into the older "fatigue" feature meant to recreate a team's gradual decline on the field. Keep punching "formation shift" commands during a game, and the opposing defense will get so fatigued that it all but falls over.

The glitch is an annoying curiosity for those experiencing the game in single-player mode but a potential joy killer for those looking to compete against other players online.

"If this (formation shift) is used several times before the ball is snapped, the entire defense will be exhausted, therefore hindering their ability to compete," according to the petition. "A person can very easily do this to their opponent without their opponent even realizing that they are being 'glitched'...This glitch may have very well ruined this year's version of the game."

An EA representative said players can either turn off the fatigue feature or use a work-around that bypasses the glitch by calling an audible play before the ball is snapped.

The former solution is mandatory for most online games since EA patched the servers used to host online games for the Microsoft Xbox and Sony PlayStation 2 consoles. The patch requires owners to turn off the "fatigue" setting during online play, a solution that spoils the realism of the game, some customers have complained. "Playing with the fatigue off takes away some of the strategy and realism of online games," one player wrote in a posting to EA's online discussion forum for "Madden." "The running game almost becomes useless...Where's the fun in that?"

Cheating and "cheese play" have been an ongoing issue for game publishers, as consoles have acquired Internet capabilities, with online miscreants discovering untold ways to suck all the fun out numerous games.