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Madden NFL 2005 Interview

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| Sports in Gaming | Posted: Jul 20, 2004 4:00 am

Please introduce yourself and your position on the development of Madden 2005.

I'm Phil Frazier, Line Producer for Madden NFL 2005.  I worked closely with the Madden design team to answer these questions.  This includes Ian Cummings, Matt Frederick, Josh Looman, Damion Banks, and Jim Preston.

Franchise mode seems to be getting a complete overhaul to say the least. With all the details released at E3 it would appear gamers can now franchise tag players, deal with restricted free agents, witness game by game progression, not to mention the pre season battles, newspaper subsystem and the radio show. Specifically, how indepth are these new GM features (Franchise tag and restricted free agents), and how close will they represent the real world implementation, will there be the different types of Restricted Free Agents and draft pick compensation for when a team loses a RFA?

Every year our goal is to make Madden as fun and as realistic as possible.  RFA and franchise tags are new elements to franchise this year that signify this desire. We only have one type of restricted free agents and those are the players that sign three year deals as rookies.  The feature mirrors real life, as it does provide draft pick compensation based on the offer tendered to the free agent.  We hope you enjoy these features because they add a whole new level of depth to franchise.

Now onto the progression, it is said Madden NFL 2005 will have game by game progression. How much does a standout or disappointing week influence a players rating, and will we also see the traditional end of year progression as well for total season performance?

It's actually in-season progression.  Our goal was to evaluate each player three times during the season, to determine how consistent his level of play is.  In the offseason, the players will experience physical progression, meaning only their physical attributes will change (speed, agility, throwing power).  The thing I love about this year is that you can really take a guy like Ken Dorsey and turn him into a superstar if he has a Pro Bowl caliber season.  Nobody has been able to do that in any other sports game to-date.  He'll obviously be limited by his physical ability, but his awareness and accuracy will improve as he proves himself on the field.

What if a player has obvious talent but his team is bringing him down (say, a poor offensive line or receiving corps), will his progression rely solely on performance or is potential a considerable factor that will possibly allow him to develop into becoming the team's savior and maybe even the a MVP?

Progression is solely based on performance. Certain positions receive credit for how well the offense or defense does as a whole, but it's really up to the player to prove he belongs in the NFL.

Presentation also seems to be a key feature for the new franchise mode. What depth can we expect from the newspaper system and the radio show? Obviously not every session can be unique, but do you feel gamers will be skipping these segments a few weeks into play or is it something that most gamers will still enjoy up until Madden 2006?

How deep is Storyline Central?  It's one of the deepest features we've ever created.  We literally created a newspaper from scratch, writing every headline and article for any situation that happens in the game.  If you change your depth chart, you'll read a story about it.  If your star player is sitting on the bench, you'll read about it.  And The Tony Bruno Show on EA Sports Radio is just as deep.  Tony not only touches on what's going on around the league, but he also gives his take on different aspects of the NFL.  He even takes calls from coaches, players and fans and provides you with his signature brand of humor and insight.  I think it's much more interesting than what other games out there are doing in terms of presentation.

Actual in-game presentation is also a growing desire with many NFL gamers, how does Madden 2005 handle the in-game broadcasting? Can we expect more commentary, interviews, etc?

This year we totally re-designed our post-play system so that everything would happen more seamlessly.  Players will react immediately after the play is over, whether it's crossing the goal line or knocking a ball down.  You no longer have camera cuts and waits in between these cool animations. We also captured hundreds of new post play animations, including tons of cool new player specific ones.  Overall, the in-game presentation is better than ever.

Preseason battles are a promising feature that will no doubt create more conflict within teams. How is this feature implemented, could it potentially effect any team that has a good preseason performer or more likely just teams with actual position uncertainties, such as the QB in Dallas, and HB in Pittsburgh?

The way position battles work is pretty cool.  We first determine if a position warrants a battle based on the personnel.  Then the players are ranked the entire preseason based on their stats in preseason games.  There hasn't been much of a reason for playing franchise preseason games in the past, but this gives me incentive to play every game.  If my recently drafted rookie is in a battle at HB and I want him to start, I have to make sure he has a great preseason.

Can we expect in-game gameplay enhancements relating to such aspects as the engine, movement/momentum, playbook, AI etc?

There have been numerous improvements across the board.  The first change that you will notice is the changes to the running system, whereby the player will turn, pivot, and cut much more realistically, rather than the jerky 8-way movement in other games.  Playbooks have had tons of additions and changes, we use our license with the NFL Coaches Club to meet with real NFL coaches, and this really gives us an advantage in getting ultra-realistic playbooks.  A.I. has been dramatically improved across the board as well, with defensive coverage getting the most attention.

How in-depth is the 'create-a-fan' feature, and how does the gamer get to see his/her creation in-game?

The create-a-fan feature is quite deep.  You can modify several portions of the fans body including: the face, hands, head, torso, and lots of misc. objects.  In addition to these zones, you must choose a favorite team for this fan which will unlock team specific objects for that fan.

Once created, your fan will appear in the game during cut-scenes as your team plays.  Play well and he'll be cheering you on.  Play poorly and he won't be happy.

With last season's celebration issues and recent post season events involving the Terrell Owens trade situation, NFL player emotion is more obvious than ever. Will Madden 2005 address this reality of NFL life? If so, what aspects will player emotion influence?

The biggest addition is that the players actually have personalities this year and they react to their situation.  They get excited about rivalries, worry about their performance, think about their contract, gripe about playing time and generally react to everything.  They want to play with Icons, they want to win, they want to be stars, you name it.  Make sure you keep your stars happy though.  They can really affect the overall morale of your team.

How about random occurrences that you don't often see? For example, Eli Manning's stance on being drafted as a Charger. Can we expect outbursts like this that may only happen once in every 10, 20 seasons on average?

This didn't make the list for Madden 2005.  Definitely something to consider for future versions however.

The new defensive focus is a relief for many Madden gamers including myself who know defense wins championships. What possibilities exist with the new defensive coverage controls?

The defensive controls basically allow you to create your own play on the fly. You can change an assignment to fix a weak spot in your current defense, or to shade to an area that you think your opponent is going to go. Well placed zones, blitzes, and QB spy assignments can infinitely mix it up for you on defense. We went back to 2004 and don't know how we lived without these features.

The Hit Stick is an interesting feature that poses new options for gamers on defense, but could possibly create an arcade feel if overused. What stops gamers from using the Hit Stick as the default tackle function, or am I overstating its impact?   

The impact is there, it definitely can change the way you play Madden. The balance that keeps it from being overused is that it can run a huge risk if not timed correctly. We feel it really naturally mimics NFL football, as you often see guys go for that big hit to really swing momentum and juice up their team. You also see guys miss these and get burned for a touchdown, and Madden emulates this very well.

What sort of new animations can we expect in the final build, ranging throughout the entire game - Mid air collisions? Diving catches? More gang tackles? Can you say the total amount of new animations?

We are really proud of the work that went into this year's animations for Madden.  We added over 1000 new animations this year alone.  You'll see new diving swats, new turn and run standing catches, strip ball tackles, strip ball sacks, tons of huge hit tackles, nearly a hundred new tackles that also take momentum into account, new DB/WR jams, new passes, more catches, more regular swats, big broken tackles, and just countless more animations to list.  I would definitely also keep your eye out for some monster collisions with a player trying to dive over the pylon.  We captured hundreds of new post play animations, including tons of cool new player specific ones.

What's new for online Madden gamers on all platforms? Will there be any sort of online franchise mode?

Unfortunately, there will not be online franchise this year. We have improved our tournaments massively, but most of our focus has been on improved matchmaking in a cheat-free, lag-free environment.  You'll also be able to preview your opponents more by looking at their scouting report.

It is said a few changes have been made to various aspects to prevent "cheese" and exploits in online play. Can you outline some of these enhancements?

Playing against our fans online gives us some great insite on the exploits used out there.  Yes, we're playing too. J  We've removed the jet-packing problem that was widely used in 2004.  We've also made some tweaks to the audibling system so you have to wait until your team is lined up before you can call that audible.  Our Fair Play rules changed as well to allow for some better "go for it" situations or onside kick situations.  Those are just a few of the specifics... We're confident the game will be much harder to cheat than 2004.

Ever since the reality of Football gaming, it seems no one title has really managed to fully capture the spectacle of the Superbowl. Will Madden 2005 feature any improvements as far as Superbowl atmosphere and presentation is concerned, pre-game and in-game?

Pre and Post game Super Bowl events have been added.  Before the Super Bowl, player will run out of large helmets.  You'll see smoke and more overall energy than before.  After the big game, the coach gets hit with some ice cold liquid, the team celebrates as confetti falls, and you get to see the trophy presentation.  The Jacksonville dresses up well and looks fantastic with all of the Super Bowl banners everywhere.  Definitely more of a big-game feel this year.

Each and every year Madden NFL seems to set new heights of visual quality. Can you elaborate on the technology behind 2005? Specifically, will the PC version feature DirectX 9 Shader Model 2.0 support?

Yes, PC supports Pixel Shader 2.0.  We have also bump mapped the player models this year.  We have also redone the player models, just take a look at the new arms and shoulder pads.   We have also redone the stadium lighting and added volumetric lighting.  The stadium feels more organic at night with the full depth of the stadium lighting.  This year we also have new skies with continuous weather, during the game you will see the skies change as the game goes on.  For example, if you start a game at 4:15 you will see the sky turn to dusk and lights come on, the lighting changes with this as well.  Not only that, you will see weather changes, when there is a slight chance of rain you will sometimes see the rain start, then stop and on and off during the game.  With all of these improvements, this is sure to be the best looking version of Madden ever.

Finally, what do you feel is the biggest single attraction to this year's Madden NFL?

In one word, Defense.  We really wanted our fans to have as much control over the defense as possible.  We worked long and hard to make sure you could actually impact the game while playing on that side of the ball.  Because of this, you need to use actual football strategy instead of chucking the ball deep every other play.  It's a brand new ball game.

Thank you for your time, it seems 2005 is the year of the Features when it comes to Madden and we look forward to its release with great anticipation.

No problem and thanks for the great questions.  We're sure you'll enjoy everything mentioned above plus all of the other features that weren't mentioned.

 

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