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The pros know that you need to keep updating your playbook or you’ll get creamed.

It’s true in the NFL and it’s true in video games. Gamers want more features and better graphics each year, which explains why games like "Madden NFL" and "Tiger Woods PGA Tour" are incredibly deep — and incredibly intimidating to beginners.

However, EA Sports has learned a lesson from the advent of the Wii game console: Beginners wanna have fun, too.

Last year, EA opened the door to newcomers with simplified Family Play features in many of its sports titles for the Wii. This year, EA goes further with All-Play for the Wii.

At its most basic, All-Play lets the Wii console do all of the hard, confusing or tedious work that can inhibit enjoyment for a new gamer.

In "Tiger Woods," All-Play selects the golf club, eliminates the wind and even shows the player a white line indicating where the ball will go.

"All you have to do is get the power right," said Travis Sailer, assistant producer for Electronic Arts Tiburon. Sailer worked on "Tiger Woods PGA Tour 09" and offered demonstrations of the All-Play mode at the E3 Media & Business Summit in July.

"Madden NFL 09" features similar simplifications in All-Play. Perhaps the most intimidating aspect of "Madden" is the play-selection system that features numerous screens containing dozens of options. In All-Play, gamers can let John Madden — or actually the console — select their plays based on probability of success.

If even that seems a little too tough, players can play five-on-five football games featuring big-headed cartoony players.

However, EA Sports hasn’t forgotten hard-core gamers. They can still use settings that permit them to make all of the decisions and control every aspect of the game.

Since family members often have differing skill levels, developers also created a balancing system that lets both experienced and new players compete on the same field using the controls they prefer.

"Everyone can play at their own settings," Sailer said.

It also helps that the games have been built specifically for the Wii. In addition to accommodating the console’s motion-sensitive controller, the games rely more heavily on a point--and-click interface and offer many newcomer-friendly graphics, Sailer said.

"Everything’s a lot brighter and a lot cleaner-looking," he said.

Although this is great stuff for Wii fans, creating accessible games for Nintendo’s feisty little console isn’t really big news anymore. What’s more impressive is the "beginner" mode in "Madden NFL 09" for the Xbox 360 and PlayStation 3, which have long been the bastions of hard-core gaming.

EA Sports has taken some of the lessons that it learned from its Wii experience to create a simplified set of options specifically for those who own the more-powerful machines but have been too embarrassed to admit their rookie status in "Madden." Like in All-Play for the Wii, much of the complexity has been stripped away. That means that players who can’t identify a flea-flicker — or who can but don’t know their X button from their Y button — can still compete and have a lot of fun.

In this mode’s most basic form, the console selects your play. Before the snap, it draws lines on the field to show where your players are supposed to run. It also gives you hints on which buttons to press to make good plays — of course that’s part of the standard game, but it can really help here.

My only gripe concerns the kicking game. It still relies on flicking the joystick backward and forward with precise timing, something beyond the skills of many newcomers.

As in the Wii, players using different styles of play can compete head-to-head. Once again, a handicapping system also ensures that no one has an unfair advantage.

EA Sports has learned there are plenty of new gamers who are ready for some football — or to take a swing at golf. These games are likely to win them over.

On the Web: www.easports.com/madden09/www.easports.com/tigerwoods09/


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