Another year, another Madden
However Madden NFL 13 turns out, its undergoing a radical redesign everywhere audio, gameplay, presentation, and more. As weve chronicled here, here, and here, EA Sports Tiburon Studios are going all in this year, and are being loud and clear about it.
The big target for Madden 13 is innovation, audio designer Matt Bialosuknia told us when we visited Tiburon for a hands-on preview. A really high-end, elite broadcast presentation is what were doing this year.
This is the most excited Ive ever been with what were doing with gameplay, designer Larry Richart echoed. The amount of changes weve made is the most in this console generation.
So with that in mind knowing more announcements are coming at E3 - here are the improvements were the most excited about so far.
Over the course of last year, the team recorded more than 80 hours and 9,000 lines of Nantz and Simms dialogue, boosted by the latest technology as well as techniques like piping in crowd noise to better simulate game-day conditions. Weve gotten some sneak previews, and so far it sounds terrific.
We were nervous about starting from absolute scratch, Bialosuknia told us when he talked about the decision to rebuild commentary from the ground up. But we added a significant number of people to our team with a goal of best-in-class audio, and from the very first recording session we were confident we would get there.
Treasure trove of on-field sounds
For example, specific quarterback cadences the Blue! 32! Hut Hut Hike! before every snap have now been captured for most of the real NFL QBs for use in the game. When Tom Brady or Aaron Rodgers step to the line, youll be hearing their actual voices barking out the signals instead of a generic one. And thats just the tip of the iceberg.
As we sat in the audio rooms and NFL Films played us what they had, our jaws were on the floor, said Bialosuknia of his time at NFL Films. We wanted to bring everything back with us. These hits especially we would cringe when we would hear a 250 lb. guy and a 300 lb. guy collide at full speed. Its got a very unique and intense sound to it and thats going to be a big piece of our sound design.
Throw the receiver open
Teams are passing the ball more than ever in the NFL, Larry Richart told us at our hands-on session. We wanted to emphasize that, and now you can throw the ball to open areas of the field. Say you have a slot receiver on an In route against a Cover 2 defense; normally, you couldnt complete that pass. Now, you hold up on the L stick to lead your receiver down the field to the open area between the two safeties and itll convert it to a Post route.
The most intriguing aspect of this is that it should benefit casual players as well as hardcore fans, as its always been easy to see open areas to throw to, but tough to get the ball there.
Play-action passing gets legit
This is a big hit with our community, Richart explains. The first thing we did was speed up the quarterback. He now gets away from the center and turns for the fake much faster. Weve added more block and release routes, too. A couple of months ago we talked to (former NFL Head Coach) Brad Childress, who explained that you typically dont have all 5 receivers going out on play-action; offenses dont do it for a 2-yard gain, theyre trying to pull in the defense and go for the big play. Also, the running back will block first. If theres no one there, hell release to his pass route. Lastly, the QB can abort the handoff if theres a blitz coming.
Well see how well this turns out in the final product, but full disclosure we were actually able to throw a touchdown pass off a play-action pass during our hands-on session. Hallelujah!
Passing trajectories negate leapinlinebackers
This year, youll be able to do it, Richart told us. Last year, there was a lob pass, medium pass, and bullet pass. This year, weve added over 20 new pass trajectories and speeds, and have tuned the amounts for each. For example, you can throw medium lob passes to get it over those linebackers without fear of the so-called moon ball thatll get the safeties to come over and clobber your receiver. Similarly, a lob swing pass out of the backfield is now much lower, just enough to throw it over the defender for the receiver to catch it with plenty of time to get upfield.
We had a chance to test out the new mechanics and agree theyre looking stronger. In fact, we even threw some passes over the middle ones wed been trained never to throw in last years game with some success.
You gotta see it to get it
No more, says Richart.
Passing icons will be faded for receivers on certain routes until they would be expecting a pass in real life, he explains. Were trying to eliminate the snap and fire where the receiver is able to magically catch the ball. Its set up on a per-route basis, based on whats happening at the moment. Its not an open indicator, though, just a way to ensure the user knows that timing matters.
On defense, a new read-and-react system eliminates the psychic DBs, he continues. If a defender doesnt see whats going on, hes not going to be able to react to it.
This is indeed welcome news to Madden fans old and new, as nothing is more frustrating than a perfectly thrown ball that gets picked off by cornerback whos staring the other way.
Disguising the Defense
You always hear the announcers talk about how its a chess match between the coordinators, Richart says. In last years game it was really easy to tell. This year, if you put a man in motion, we have the zone swap. The players will still follow the man, so you dont know until you snap the ball what defense theyre in.
More than a new coat of paint
Were going for world-class presentation, and that starts from the beginning, presentation designer Patrick Bellanca told us as he walked through all the updates. From the moment you put the disc into the tray, Madden is fresh. Theres a whole new user interface and 3D intro that brings you to the new main menu, tons of new lighting upgrades, motion blur, and tuned depth of field. Plus, were going to bring our broadcast crew to life in a way that weve never done in a Madden game before.
While theres still much to reveal and 3 months until its late August release its obvious that theres been a massive investment of time and money in Madden NFL 13. Whether or not it all comes together remains to be seen, but our initial sessions with the game were promising. As regular players of any sports game know, even the best titles faults start to show themselves after dozens of games. Tiburon has listened to its vocal community, beefed up the development team, and attacked Maddens weaknesses with surgical precision. Were certainly rooting for it to be the best one yet.