But somethings always been missing.
The NFL is all about the men who play and coach the game. While fans root for their teams above all else, theres a human element to the game that we all follow thanks to the pervasive 24-hour news cycle. Television, social media, and technology have given us unprecedented access into the lives of those in the league for better or worse. Madden football, though, has remained focused on what takes place on the field.
At E3, EA Sports announced Connected Careers, a massive overhaul of the narrative of Madden - eliminating the separation of traditional game modes, integrating them into a single universe, adding a massive amount of backstory to players, all inside a virtual social media infrastructure.
Oh, and did we mention theres also an entirely new physics engine that alters that core mechanics of how players smash into each other every play?
Read on you dont want to miss this.
Welcome to the multiverse
If you decide to change things up at any point, you simply retire then do something else. Bored with coaching and want to be that new rookie QB? Do it. Had a nice run as a wide receiver? Retire and go coach a team.
We were never able to make the three modes great in one year; they were all three different tech bases, Creative Director Mike Young told us. This time, we had an opportunity to build one system thats really deep and can be online, offline, doesnt matter. You play the way you want (player or coach), get goals and XP, aspire to the Hall of Fame, and this can become everyones favorite mode however they decide to play it.
A collective experience
Its kind of mind-blowing when you think of play how you want and connect with people how you want, Young said. Stories are meaningful because people share them together. When you hear people talk about their video game experience and you werent involved, you kind of zone out. Its the same as listening to somebody else tell you about their fantasy football games.
Now, youre just as blown away as they are about their score because it affected you, you were part of it, he continued. I really feel passionately about connecting people in their experiences. For example, my friend and I can have an experience where we both want to have the next Manning and Brady rivalry. Were going to play our ten seasons together and see which guy gets to the Hall of Fame and which is considered by the media as the best of all time, how many Super Bowl rings we got.
The media is watching - and reporting
Young explained to us how the games new Twitter and news feeds flow with an example of someone on the trading block.
People put in different offers for a player, he said. Youll see breaking news, some speculation from the media, then different rumors that the guy is going here or there. Its like insiders breaking news about whats going on and it helps drive the pressure. It starts to be really fun.
Another great example is injuries. Most injuries happen in games youre not playing, but now youll be aware of any and all of them as part of the experience. With tons of variety, this is one of the interesting things weve seen yet.
Your legacy awaits
What we wanted to do is add in another layer of competition, Producer Josh Loomis told us. Everything you do in your career as player or coach is reflected through your Legacy score. If you win the rookie of the year award, if you rush for 200 yards in a game, if you break an NFL record, or as a coach make the playoffs or win the Super Bowl, all those things are going to give you Legacy Score points. The points accumulate and you can compare yourself to all the human users in your league, Hall of Famers like Joe Montana or Jerry Rice, current players like Peyton Manning.
Taking a page from the addictive Need For Speed Autolog seems like a good idea to us.
The ultimate thing that your Legacy Score decides is if you make the Hall of Fame or not, Loomis continued. The Legacy Score is our way to help people be rewarded even if they dont win every game.
The human element
Ive always been passionate about bringing story elements to the surface, Young told me. People love the NFL and they love it all year round not just game recaps. Thats why were obsessed with Brett Favre considering unretiring, the Tebow trade to the Jets will he or wont he be traded? and thats never been in Madden.
The draft classes of fictional players get even more interesting.
We make these guys feel real and make you fall in love with them, he continued. Just like the real draft trying to find that first rounder who slipped but will have that big payoff or that guy in the fourth round whos sneaking up and may be a steal. You get details in the bios about the guys that makes you like them. When you like somebody, that may make you move up to get him because you just have to have him. The drama of that competition to get a pick, for example, is awesome.
Talkin bout practice?!?!
Ive never been a big fan of Practice in Madden, admitted Loomis. While we were talking about it, I kept thinking Cant we do something innovative with it? So we finally did. You can do something every week to get better even if youre not playing that week.
Lets say, for example, that youre playing as a rookie QB thats sitting behind an established superstar. You wont be getting much playing time on gameday, but you can build up your attributes in practice as much or as little as youd like. Whether you want practice to be a game-like four quarters or just a series of scenarios, its all customizable. This holds true if youre coaching a team too with the added bonus that youll be playing against the specific teams playbook that youre facing the following week.
The infinity engine
But what, exactly, does that mean?
What were doing is driving a large part of what happens in the game and augmenting pretty much everything you do and see with physics, Victor Lugo, a producer for the game, told us. The animations are altered and all your interactions are altered in ways that produce unpredictable results that people will recognize as what you see in the NFL on Sundays. The interactions are a lot more organic; theres a lot of variety.
Its no joke to implement something like this, as upwards of eight people including engineers, mathematicians and Ivy League-schooled physicists have participated in the engines development and testing. Even better, the foundation that the Infinity Engine is creating should put the initial next-gen Madden titles in great position something that wasnt the case at the start of this generation.
The Infinity engine, continued
When the Madden development team took some initial builds to their trusted consumer groups, the results were even better than they were hoping for.
We had a Community Day, and the guys playing it just totally lost it, Lugo continued. They said its nothing like it used to play, it feels completely different, and its just more fun overallI felt like I couldnt just enjoy the moment by myself, so I took the team and the community guys applauded. It was a really big payoff for those of us whod been working on it.
The end zone
The crazy thing is that wasnt even half of it.
With the massive addition of Connected Careers and the Infinity Engine, Madden 13 is shaping up as the defining football game of this console generation if it comes together. Thats a big if, of course, because a nearly-incomprehensible amount of things need to work in harmony with each other to make that happen.
Having said that, theres no doubt that were extremely excited for the final product more than any Madden we can remember.
Is it August yet?