This is a complex one. It requires quite a bit of knowledge which I won't go into here, and assume you know some of the basics already of how to use specific programs, but I'll go over some basics and semi-advanced background. This is going to be a long post.
First off, on the game disc, in the DATA folder, are a series of DAT files. DAT files are storage container files, much like a common zip file. They contain more files within them. For reference, DAT files are also known as TERF files. This is the official EA terminology for it, but they are typically named with the *.DAT file extension.
Our good ol' friend @JDHalfrack created a DAT read/write tool in the mid 2000's that was originally designed with Madden PC games. It's called DAT File Replacer (DFR) and has up to 5 released versions now. Version 3 may be the most useful for most things as it seems to work the best for all-around usage.
With the use of DFR, we can open DAT files, extract contents of it, and also replace contents with mods, or even append to it and add more data to the DAT containers. This is how we achieved a lot of the NEXT mod features like new teams, modifying stadiums, cloning uniforms for unique gears, and a wide host of other interesting things.
But more on that for another day...
Schedule Generation in the game is found in a file called TEMPLATE.DAT.
TEMPLATE.DAT as the name implies, is a series of SAVE templates, and other "templates" the game uses. The THIRD file in the DAT is the SCHEDULE template. For reference, other important ones are Fifth and Sixth files, as these contain the FBS and FCS default rosters. The first file is the Heisman save file, the second file is the Dynasty Mode save file template, and so on.
Ok back to SCHEDULE templates...
Now you can use DFR to extract the third file and then use Madden Xtreme DB Editor to open up this Schedule Template file and it'll show you a series of databases.
Each of these databases are a template for each conference, as well as SANN (Annual OOC rivalry matchups), SKWN (Known Schedules), and SCHD (which isnt really needed at all, but its what a schedule looks like). The conference schedules are pretty easy to decipher (SACC is the ACC, for example).
Now, how does one of these conference or annual schedules work?
Well, its basically shows a schedule rotation for X amount of years. The number of years will depend on the desired years it'll take to complete a full rotation of round-robin play. In a 10 team conference, with 9 conference games per year, its a pretty simple 18 year schedule rotation to achieve home and away vs every team. When it comes to a 12 or 14 team, with 8 opponents per year, it gets trickier and then you have to deal with rivalries and all sorts of stuff.
You can create your own, or just use my templates I made, which I will attach a zip file here for. You look at tab 2, fill in the teams you want on the right side, and on the first tab, the right side makes a rotation schedule!
Here's what the columns mean:
- GTOD: Game Time of Day
- GATG: Away Team
- GHTG: Home Team
- SESI: Season Year Number (starting with 0)
- SEWN: Season Week Number
- GDAT: No idea.... its either 5 or 3.
- SEWT: Season Week Number.... Not sure, but its the same value as SEWN
Anyway, once you make your conference alignments, you can then use these templates to make a CSV file to import into Madden DB Editor to the appropriate schedule for each conference.
Then, you wont have to rely on an external Schedule Generator tool, and the game will make schedules automatically!
Now what are annuals?
Annuals are annual rivalries. This only requires a 2 year rotation (home and away). This is for things like Notre Dame vs USC or Army vs Navy or whatever typical rivalries there are. For the NEXT Mod, I put all the major out of conference annuals already into it.
SKWN - Known Schedules? This is pre-determined games in the future. Its not necessary, but it is if you make a new ISO from scratch like our NCAA NEXT Mod, but this requires quite a bit more work to League.DAT which maybe I'll get to in the future....
To wrap it all up, this new Template.DAT file mod requires you to modify the Schedule File 3 in DB Editor, then re-insert it back into the 3rd slot in the DAT file using DFR. Then make a new ISO Image or DISC using IMGBURN to play with the new schedule generation tool!