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INTERVIEW: Equipment Guru Talks Future Facemask Creator, Madden 22 Process, and More

Creativity is part of the reason we love sports games. The ability to alter reality and see something from your mind’s eye play out in front of you is, in a word, incredible. In our sit-down with Madden‘s Dustin Smith a.k.a. Equipment Guru, the EA dev fielded questions from the SGO community about the process of adding equipment in Madden 22, a future creation suite (and Facemask Creator?), and much more. Here’s some of what he had to say below.

Dustin Smith Interview: Does the NFL Limit What You Can Do?

The Natural: It’s been a while since we’ve had the chance to sit down and talk about this.

Dustin Smith: Yeah, I mean I love talking equipment and its hard to get me to stop talking about it. So, I’m always down [laughs]

The Natural: Alright, let’s get right into it. So one of the things we’ve talked about in the past is the NFL is very stringent on what they approve and don’t approve in the game. Are you still limited by, you know, that process?

Dustin Smith: I mean they have loosened it up some and, I mean, that goes for the players on the field too on certain things. Like they’re a little bit more lenient with their sock rules now. But they still hand out fines and what not. So yes and no I guess is the short answer. We still can’t do certain things. Like the NFL wants the uniforms to look a certain way… we’re not supposed to be able to break it in terms of the way… like if a player is going to get fined for it we’re really not supposed to have that in the game. So that’s essentially where we’re sitting at. You have the small hampering that they’ll leave in, but they have gotten a little bit more lenient.

Who Decides What Equipment Makes the Cut?

The Natural: How do you pretty much determine what equipment goes in the game each year?

Dustin Smith: So I’ve got a list that I’ve been building for year-over-year and year-over-year. And essentially they say, “Here’s the budget. What can we get in?” You know, “What can we make work?” I go and I prioritize that with… it sounds like, “Hey! We don’t have that much budget for this particular area this year. So do you want to do a bunch of small little things? Or do you want to do like one or two big things?” It’s just kind of that way of what’s your best payoff here? Do we get a bunch of little low-hanging fruit that may have been passed-by in the last year or so? Or just its new but its still low-hanging fruit. Or do you really go and you want to focus on, I don’t know… doing a whole bunch of big things but you know, you only get one or two of them.

Madden Equipment Process

So, you go and pick through and you align with all you want to do, everyone comes to an agreement and says “I like what you picked.” We move forward with it, and we just keep that backlog of everything we didn’t get to and that just keeps climbing up and climbing up the list. Some things get de-prioritized in a year. Like, maybe players stop wearing them. Maybe something else new is coming in and is more popular and it jumps ahead of an item that we still hadn’t got to. So there’s all sorts of things that you kind of have to focus in around that.

The arm tape jumped up after really not being used on players for a long time. All of the sudden, more and more players are wearing it. It’s back. So, that jumped up on our priority list, for example. So, all of those kinds of things basically determine what we’re going to get to and it all works off whatever budget you’re given each year.

Madden Customization Suite

The Natural: One thing people ask about a lot is customization. Will we have the ability to change color within all the equipment? Or a potential suite for creating different visors, or facemasks, or even tattoos?

Dustin Smith: This one’s on my list. I mean, personally, its a Facemask Creator. But, I mean, we start somewhere and then you expand it to then maybe potentially include visors, create your own tattoo… One of the guys we just added to the team was working on Forza so he knows about creation suites and all that. So when I had shown him some of the things that I had on my list as we’re moving forward, obviously, he’s in that space already. He loves a lot of these ideas. Its just really going to come down to priority of what we want to focus on and what we’re given.

How far we can go, you know, if we get a huge budget next year to just blow it all out… we’ll get a bunch of really cool stuff and unique things. And its not just budget! Because it also comes down to the amount of people you have to. You need a good size team, especially if you’re going to do a whole bunch of stuff. It adds up quick when in you’re in the space of not just making an asset but creating a new way for that asset to work, etc., etc.

Want more of our interview with Madden 22‘s Equipment Guru? Check us out on Youtube to hear Smith talk about adjustable kneepad height, tattoos, and more customization in Madden. If you like the work we do here at SGO, consider supporting us by becoming an SGO Insider.

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