All Access: Madden NFL 2012 1

ORLANDO — The Madden franchise is used to being the only game in town. Following an exclusive $300 million agreement with the NFL and NFLPA in 2004, the franchise became the only game that could use the NFL’s teams, players, logos and stadiums — but this year was different.  With a potential lockout threatening the entire season, Madden NFL 12 came close to being the only football this year period. The goal of EA Sports and Tiburon was clear then, create the most authentic game of football ever. One that looks, plays and sounds different than any that came before. Blast sat down with Madden NFL 12′s  Creative Director Mike Young to talk about what went into this year’s game and that pesky lockout.

To create a better and more realistic football title, EA knew that the first thing they needed to do was ramp up the series production values, which turned out to be quite the extensive process according to Young.

“We put a lot of effort into improving our presentation this year.  Our goal was simple:  Matching TV shot for shot,” Young told Blast.

“Our philosophy was bring in the experts, so we had NFL Films filming our cameras, CBS teaching us broadcast, Troika (MNF, SNF, Sports Center)designing our broadcast graphics.  Through the NFL we were able to arrange relationships with CBS crews to really understand how they execute the broadcast.  How they chose cameras, how they tell stories, etc.  We were able to attend pregame meetings with the director and camera operators.  We sat in the trucks during the games learning how all the elements come together.  We even brought in directors later in the year to critique our work.  The access was incredible. On one trip to Philadelphia we got to drive the wire camera.  We were given production bibles, diagrams for camera placement, and director instructions for each operator.  On top of the camera direction several other pieces were needed to make the content feel authentic to TV.  We added several scenes to the game like exterior blimp shots, cheerleaders, players running on and off the field, pregame runouts, etc.   I think people are really going to notice the attention to detail.”

The difference in the presentation is instantly noticeable from the start of a game. Team specific introductions (mascots and pyro included) start each game and the camera now employs a more broadcast style, much similar to that which you’d see on Sunday afternoons.  Also included this year are player specific celebrations and while you won’t be seeing T.O. taking out popcorn during a touchdown celebration, you do get things like Aaron Rodgers’ championship belt and Ray Lewis’ signature strut. It’s elements like these that according to Young were a culmination of the Madden team’s work over the past few years. ” Several of the features we delivered this year were several years in the making. 

For instance our realistic TV Broadcast style presentation was the result of three years of planning and building better presentation and camera tools and systems.   Some of that work manifested itself in previous versions of the game but I think Madden NFL 12 was the first time we were able to pull it together and make a huge leap forward.”

But football isn’t just about flash and show, and EA knew that it had make its players as realistic as its presentation and created the Dynamic Player Performance system as a result. Essentially, Dynamic Player Performance allows players to act more like their real life counterparts and not just a rating; how they play will be effected from everything from injuries to weather and even fatigue. It’s a system that according to Young, will change how players play Madden entirely.

“Adding Dynamic Player Performance is the biggest change we’ve made to Franchise mode in years and it’s the feature we’re the most excited about. In most if not all sports games including Madden in the past every game feels exactly the same. The players always play exactly like their ratings and there’s no such thing as having a good or bad day. In the NFL you never know what’s going to happen. Is Jay Cutler going to have the game of his life or struggle the entire game? That is why we watch the games.”

So just how realistic are these new dynamic player ratings (Jake Cutler jokes aside)? Young believes that the system makes this the most realistic and true to the league Madden yet.

“We feel like they are very true to life.  In fact Dynamic Player Performance is allowing us to capture intangibles and behaviors of players that we never truly represented before.  I like to think we had previously captured only the raw skills each player possessed, things you would measure at the combine, but now with Dynamic Player Performance we are capturing how players respond in situations.  When you played against Mike Vick in previous Madden’s he wouldn’t play like Mike Vick. He would stay in the pocket just like Peyton Manning.  Now we are able to not just represent the abilities that make players unique but now we ensure they use those abilities just like they do in real life.”

As odd as it may sound, Young believes that the pre-season in this year’s game is another one of the big changes that players will love, especially those that bury themselves deep in the game’s franchise mode.

“The second biggest enhancement in my opinion is the addition of expanded rosters and cut days,” Young said. “Finally the pre-season is meaningful in the game.”

The expanded rosters and cut days gives players the ability to fully access their team during pre-season games and drills, making risky cuts when needed.  “Now there is a real challenge to evaluate the talent on your team and fill the holes.  It’s all about finding the next Danny Woodhead.  Should you keep a veteran that you are familiar with or stick with a rookie to reveal his true potential? By the end of the preseason, if you keep a rookie or training camp invite on the roster for all four weeks, his ratings will be completely unlocked and you’ll know his true overall rating. At that point, you’ll know if you made a mistake by keeping him or if you found a diamond in the rough.”

Madden NFL 12 launches for the PS3, Xbox 360, Wii and 3DS on August 30. A demo is available on PSN and Xbox Live Today.