Game Informer recently had the chance to interview three key members of the creative team for Madden 17; creative director Rex Dickson, lead designer of franchise John White, and presentation designer Michael Hoag.
If you want to spend 45 minutes watching the full interview, be my guest. But if you don’t have the best part of an hour to spend listening to these guys then you’re in luck, because I already have. I’ve even picked out some of the important things you might want to know as we race towards the release of Madden 17.
If you do actually decide to watch the video, skip to the twenty-minute mark, because the opening exchanges are as dull as they are expectedly disappointing.
No gameface, although they’re looking at it for future titles. No create a play for playbook, although they’re looking at if for future titles. No teamplay, but they want to bring it back in future titles. No cross-platform play, but it’s something they’d like to see in the future. No assistant coaches, no coaching carousel, no new contract options, no defensive assignments. See a theme? Maybe the interviewer opened with the questions he knew would receive disappointing answers in the hope Dickson, White and Hoag would open up a bit out of pity.
And it just might have worked.
There are a number of important things we can tease out of this interview. A lot of the tweaks they have made are to do with keeping the game up to date and cutting down on the ‘hacks’ that the high-end competitive players both use and complain about.
Celebrations are something they’re looking at, incorporating new animations like the dab, as well as trying to make it more dynamic when you score. One idea is to allow the camera to move as though the cameraman could come onto the field.
Halftime will also continue the steady improvement it has seen since its implementation. This year, the main features to look out for are scrolling scores and stats from other games around the league. It’s just another feature to add to the immersive feeling of simulation. This year they made it harder to accidentally skip the halftime show, so they want to make it more of a feature and not waste all of Larry’s good work.
It’s the minor tweaks to gameplay that really stand out. When asked about players abusing 4th and longs, and the overuse of Hail Marys, Dickson explained that his approach to balancing this issue was not to “nerf it artificially… under the hood,” but to put the power in our hands. Namely, through the slot system, which allows you to counter a player who is abusing the aggressive catch.
Another way they have tried to improve catching is through increasing the penalty on catch chances when there are nearby defenders, as well as scaling down the number of receivers who can perform spectacular catches.
Perhaps even more important is their work on ball physics. Dickson said that “maybe more than anything else, ball physics has changed… catching this year.” If a defender pushes the receiver, or hits his arm, he is far less likely to hold on. This also adds to the feeling of simulation and the realism of the game.
QB sack fumbles look set to increase this year too. The timing of a sack is more important, just as in the real NFL, so players will be less successful it they wait until the very last moment and quickly release for an incomplete play. Now, if he’s tackled before his arm comes forwards, it’s a sack. Basically, as soon as you see the block shred you’re going to want to release instead of waiting like you have in Maddens past.
Formation subs are now also in the game. This is something the community has been calling for, and was apparently one of the most requested additions in Madden 17. Now it will come in the day 1 patch. You will be able to go into a screen and set up all the subs you need to your heart’s content.
Formation subs carry from game to game unless you switch your playbook or resets the formation sub. You can still make formation subs when in game by using our legacy playcall screen formation sub feature. This is done by picking plays by formation when at the play call screen by pressing RB when highlighting the formation you want to edit.
They were also asked about other consoles and platforms, and the answers will probably disappoint you if you’re not on the current gen of consoles. Ps3 and Xbox 360 have their own small NCAA coaches feature, but get none of the new exciting features announced for the new gen. PC users get nothing at all. Dickson explains that this is not so much to do with demand for the game on PC, but issues surrounding piracy and security. A Madden game is much more damaged by a coding hack than, say, an RPG, and they do not have the resources to set up the required security. It’s disappointing, but games have been hurt by bad PC ports before.
The interview concluded with a few things Dickson, White and Hoag were most excited about, and what they hope to do next.
Apparently we have something “epic” to look forward to in the first interactive – the first thing that loads when you put the disk in. It’s a surprise.
Gameplanning was something that excited John White, the lead designer of franchise. It’s a feature in seasons both online and offline, allowing you to boost certain plays based on the tendencies of your upcoming opponents.
They understand that there are areas where Madden is lagging behind other sports titles. Player mode “deserves to be a little bit better,” and they conceded, “it’s more and more inexcusable that Madden doesn’t have [story mode and team play]”. Remember, these guys work extremely hard to bring you entertainment and joy every year, and they want it to be as good as possible as much as you do. Sometimes time, technology, or money get in the way.
Finally, Dickson announced that Madden 17 is the culmination of the Cam Webber plan. They’ve figured out the core fundamentals, and with a strong foundation they can build more exciting structures on top of it.
Keep up to date with all your Madden NFL 17 news here at Sports Gamers Online.