It's that time of year, baseball season is winding down, football training camps are winding up, and back to school ads are starting to pop up in newspapers and on TV. All of these things can mean only mean one thing. The new Madden game is right around the corner. This year's Madden football game is the 15th year for the franchise and the game looks better than ever. We were lucky enough to get some of Phil Frazier's time to talk about the upcoming game (Phil is the producer of this years game).GN :
On a recent ESPN Sportscenter piece, John Madden talked about curbing fourth and long situations. Can you elaborate more on what he said? If I'm not mistaken, he said something about reducing odds of plays being pulled off in these situations and does this only happen at certain times like quarters 1-3?EA:
When playing an online ranked game, our players will have to use a feature called Fair Play. With this enabled, we prevent you from going for it on 4th down in certain situations. The only time you will be able to call an offensive play on 4th down is if it’s 4th and short and you’re past the 50, or if you are losing by a large margin. In addition to preventing you from going for it on 4th downs, we also restrict onside kicks and 2-point conversions to situations that make sense for that team. All this was implemented to help create a more realistic football experience when playing online.GN :
Does the Madden team and the NCAA football team do any collaborative work on each other's game or are you two pretty much separate entities?EA:
The teams are completely separate however if both games are adding a similar feature, there will often be some collaborative work involved. We often share animations and other minor things throughout the game (interface elements, sound FX, etc…). It’s important for the NCAA product to feel like a college game and not like the little brother of Madden. To do this, we create completely separate product goals and have completely separate teams working on them.GN :
What do you think is Madden's biggest addition this year?EA:
We spent a lot of time adding a ton features throughout the game so it’s often difficult to pick just one big addition. Storyline Central is a great new feature in Franchise mode that lets you look at local and national newspapers, listen to the Tony Bruno radio show, and even read team emails. Create-a-Fan allows you to completely customize a fan for your favorite team so they can cheer you on as you play through games. Adding XBOX Live support and lots of new features to PS2 online will greatly increase the size of our online community.
If I had to pick *the* biggest addition, it would be the improvements to defensive play. With the Hit Stick, the user can completely change the momentum of the game by laying that huge hit and possibly causing a fumble. Be careful though because if you time it poorly, the defender will be watching the ball carrier running over him from the ground. Defensive hot routes allow you to completely customize the defensive play you just called. All new DB AI really has an impact as shut-down corners can now dominate offensive players that line up against them. And much, much, more. Defense really has an impact this year.GN :
How was it working with the NFL players, getting them into the game, and recording their voices? They seem to be a pretty enthusiastic group and some are pretty hardcore gamers.EA:
It’s a blast working with players from the NFL. They are indeed very enthusiastic and love being involved in making the game. Whenever we get a chance to sit with a player or a coach, we enjoy the opportunity to pick their brains about everything football. They provide valuable insight on playbooks, AI, and everything else in the football world.
It’s also fun watching them play our game. Some of the players will take it almost as seriously as a real game.GN :
Has the blocking been improved? A lot of times the offensive lineman will allow a defensive lineman run straight through unblocked because he isn't his "assigned" person to be blocked, so has this been fixed in 2005 to where the offensive lineman will actually engage him rather than watch him sack the QB?EA:
We definitely spent time with blocking in Madden NFL 2005. Because of the improvements to defense, we had to make sure the offense kept up so the defense wouldn’t completely dominate every game.
You shouldn’t see an offensive player *watching* a defender sack his QB. We added a lot of new blocking animations so that offensive players could even attempt a block if they had poor position. We’re confident we addressed all of the blocking issues that existed in previous versions. GN :
Is EA going to respond to the aggressive pricing of the Sega ESPN franchise?EA:
We're extremely pleased with how the football videogame season is shaping up. NCAA Football 2005, which shipped July 12th, is off to another record-breaking start and is the #1 selling football game in July. At the same time, pre-orders for Madden NFL 2005 are tracking double vs. last year, which was a record-breaking launch for the videogame industry. We're looking forward to breaking that record this year when Madden NFL 2005 ships on August 9th.GN :
Were there any features you wanted to get into this year’s release that didn’t quite make it?EA:
We work hard to make sure Madden hits the stores right as the football is ramping up. Because of this, we will always have to skip features because of a limited amount of time. These skipped items always make the list for the next iteration. Once we wrapped up Madden NFL 2005, we already had a huge list of ideas for 2006 and beyond.GN :
What kind of league functionality can Xbox Live users expect?EA:
While we don’t provide typical league functionality when playing online, we do offer several other features that provide a similar experience. We’ve beefed up our online tournament features and have also added quick tournaments for those that can’t invest several days or weeks to an online tournament. The Messenger has extended functionality and our Play Now feature provides more options for matching up against a player that meets criteria that you set. You can now voice chat with a player in the interface instead of using the standard keyboard. Scouting options have improved as well. You can now view tons of data on potential opponents that really gives you an idea of how they play the game. In addition to the features above, there are several other online features that our fans will enjoy once Madden NFL 2005 comes out.GN :
Will users be able to download updated rosters online? Will Ricky Williams be included in the game (given his recent retirement)?EA:
Madden NFL 2005 will provide updated rosters online. With the addition of XBOX Live support this year, XBOX users will be able to download the most current roster updates as well.
Because we finished the game before he actually retired, Ricky Williams will be included in the shipping version of the game. He will be removed from the first downloadable roster file we provide. We’re hoping to provide the first roster update as soon as the game gets released.
We'd like to thank Phil for taking the time to answer our questions and to Wendy at EA Sports PR for helping to coordinate the interview.
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