We are back with Part 2 of our exclusive with Madden Authenticity Producer Dustin Smith as we discuss the Pro Bowl, Helmets & Facemasks as well as Customizable Uniforms and Team Relocation in Madden NFL 18.
At EA Play this year in June Clint Oldenburg, Madden gameplay designer, made a “controversial” comment regarding the reason why the pro bowl isn’t in the game due to memory limitations.
“Yeah, I’m going to back him up there,” Oldenburg told Sports Gamers Online’s The Natural. “We could easily add in pro bowl the way we did before, and make the boring uniforms with the AFC helmet and the NFC helmet. But I think our team, especially under the direction of Clint and Rex and a lot of our figureheads, we don’t like to half-ass shit. We’ve half-assed shit in the past, and it’s come to bite us in the ass, and we always tend to get rid of stuff that we half-ass.”
Oldenburg is a firm believer that if he’s going to do it, he should do it right. He continued saying, “I just had some people ask me on Twitter today. ‘Hey, what do you think about adding some more throwback uniforms?’ And I’m like, a lot of our current throwbacks still need a lot of work. I’d rather fix what’s there before adding anything new.”
“John White said it last year, ‘It’s really important to fix the foundation rather than building on top of a crumbling foundation.’” He said it was like a mantra for the whole team: don’t build on something that has faulty materials at its base.
“We have to load all variations of helmets, which I believe is twelve right now,” Smith said when asked to clarify why implementing the pro bowl would be so difficult, also stating that the game has to load twelve variations of helmets and face masks twice, once for each team. “Now you got to do sideline characters in a pro bowl. And they’ve all got to have a similar uniform, they all need the different helmets, all the players on the field need a different helmet, so you have to load thirty-two now instead of two.”
That becomes a costly task when you’re loading in the other assets like the media people, coaches, refs, and crowds that he mentioned earlier in the interview.
“On top of that, which is something Clint didn’t touch upon, with the pro bowl jerseys, they have the pro bowl sleeves which indicate which team you play for,” Smith said. “So, that’s another challenge that you have to try and keep up with and make dynamically work.”
With the sheer amount of different assets that require their own memory, the game simply can’t run properly while everything is present.
Smith continued saying that reason older Madden titles had the pro bowl was partially because the assets were so much less complicated and graphically inferior.
“I go and look at it, and I’m like, ‘Wow. That doesn’t actually hold up that well visually.’,” he admitted. “It’s good the amount of stuff they have, but you can start to see how low-quality it was which allowed you to have more of it.”
Because of the focus on better graphics, things like the face and helmet scans require more polygons and a higher resolution thus not allowing for the same amount of extra content.
Smith said that the more clarity the developers start to get to, the more memory the team needs available on a machine to be able to make it all look good and run cleanly all at once. His plan is to be able to do more in the future, but the technology just isn’t quite there yet, even in 2017.
He mentioned the face scanning Madden is using and that adds so much more to the realism but takes a lot of graphical memory.
“I’m sitting here looking at it, and I’m like, oh wow, his face isn’t moving at all,” Smith said. “When I cycle through a lot of these different heads, the geometry of the head is the exact same shape. There’s nothing to contour this to. You just make it one piece and color it. And it works for everybody because there’s no differences between each head other than the skin color. And maybe the texture is slightly different.
“In our world now, with face scan heads, lips and lip placement and where the head lands on the body varies from every single player that we have, whether it be a generic head, a unique, a scan head, whatever,” he added.
When talking about getting new jerseys and shoes and things of that nature into the game, Smith replied that they will try to get with companies to scan products and get them into the game. A pair of shoes could take a few weeks to scan and get into the game, which can pose a problem for a development team on such strict deadlines.
“Let’s say, you know, Nike’s going to send us a pair of gloves and shoes,” he said. “We get them scanned, then we clean them up, then you get the model, you get all the geos right. You get everything exactly the way you want it. Then they come to me, and they’re like ‘Alright. So how do we want the colors to work here? How do we want this to palletize?’”
After all that is when Smith takes the implementation over, and painstakingly makes sure the new gear looks as authentic as possible within the game.
When asked about new helmets and facemasks, Smith said that “as of launch” there won’t be any new helmets or facemasks in the creation suite. He did so laughing and remaining slightly cryptic, adding that after launch “who knows?” This includes the requested Vicis ZERO1 and Xenith EPIC helmets.
“We don’t have customizable uniforms yet,” Smith said when asked about relocating teams.
He added that it has been an idea they’ve wanted for some time, but there are a lot of complications and challenges involved.
“Look at what Forza has to deal with with all of their custom stuff. Which is why we had team builder kind of locked down the way it was in NCAA, to my understanding,” he said. “We had one guy monitoring what was uploaded there for years even, just to make sure nothing was going up there that we couldn’t allow in game.”
Smith said there are a lot of other issues that pop up when dealing with implementing custom content. He also mentioned they’ve “cleaned up issues” with relocation teams, but there are no massive changes to it.
When speaking about coach apparel, Smith stated that nothing new was added for Madden 18. He did make mention, however, that the plan was to “get on a better basis” within the next couple of years, but keeping up-to-date with the changes that the NFL and Nike have implemented makes adding brand new content more difficult.
Asking about if there are any additions to announcers and them mentioning the special uniforms the player selects, Smith said, “I think they’ve had a lot more time to do some unique stuff this year…” He added later, “I do know they have made it a point on their side to talk more intimately about unique details and stuff that’s happening in the game.”
Madden 18 launches on Xbox One, PlayStation 4 on August 25th. Those who pre-order the G.O.A.T. Edition of the game can get access three-days early on August 22.