Hardcore Madden heads should be happy to find out that our complaints have not fallen on deaf ears. While most of the “advances” in last year’s offering were geared towards making the game more accessible, 85% of the additions in Madden NFL 12 are features requested by the player community. We got a chance to sit down with EA Sports Senior Designer Josh Looman to get the scoop on changes in Franchise mode, Superstar mode, Gameflow, and more.
What's the biggest change in Madden NFL 12 that players clamored for?
Josh Looman: The big thing would be expanded rosters. That's probably the number-one community requested Franchise feature that people have been asking for, for a long time now. Now we have the ability to put 75 players on a team.
Was the revamped interface a result of constant bitching from Madden heads or just something the developers wanted to do?
Every year we revisit last year’s look and give it an update. We look at screens in terms of how they flow and how people used them in previous years to get an idea of what worked and didn’t work. A lot of our bugs are things that were in there last year that we didn’t like that we tried to get fixed and make the screens a little more usable.
There was a lot of thought—and changes—put into Franchise mode. Considering most players play online or head-to-head, what brought that about?
Actually, a lot of people that work on Madden were under that impression that a small percentage of the people who buy Madden actually play Franchise, but you would be shocked by the number of people that do. Our three most used features are Exhibition, online Head to Head, and Franchise mode offline. 90% of the people who buy our game play Franchise mode offline. The goal this year was to upgrade as much of the game as possible by adding features everywhere, and we realized we hadn’t done a ton last year in Franchise mode. Fans were clamoring for more features and we have a ton of new features in Franchise.
How did the NFL lockout affect how you put together the in depth draft process?
We worked with the NFL Players Association to work that out. Honestly, it didn’t affect us much. We’re still going to have rookies on the team. As far as Franchise mode, we’re approaching rookie contracts like they’ve been done in the past so they’re still going to pretty expensive until we really know the details of any changes in rookie salary scale.
Is the more in depth scouting feature something that you guys brought over because people love the recruiting function so much from NCAA Football?
That’s part of it. I’ve been the sole designer of Franchise mode since Madden 04 and I took a break to work on Head Coach for a couple years. I came back to focus on Ultimate Team and Franchise mode, and one of the things I didn’t like about last year’s scouting was that it was pretty boring too easy. If you looked at the scouting screen, you could see a guy's potential before you even scouted them once—all you had to do was right down the guys name, go into the draft, and basically pick every single great player. We wanted to make sure that the scouting aspect of Franchise mode was really deep and kind of drew you in and made you work.
How is the free agent bidding going to work, considering that we don’t know what the real NFL salary cap is going to be?
We’re sort of guessing what the salary cap is going to be right now. We don’t have any information on what it will be, but it’s probably going to be lower than what we think it is, so we’re shooting a bit high so you have a little bit of cap room to play with.
Last year, the cap was way too high so it didn’t become a factor at all. A lot of that had to do with the fact that there was no cap in real life so we tried to emulate that. This year we’re shooting for $145 million. When the bidding starts, each team takes a look at the guys they are interested in bidding on and only bids if they have the cap room. You'll see teams target 10 or 15 guys, but they are intelligent about what they are doing and they also save money for the draft. The goal for this year was to make it much more fun and fast-paced.
With Dynamic Player Performance, will the players ratings change based on Franchise play or their real life play?
Both, actually—it will be updated all the time. Whenever we release roster updates, we'll update the stuff that impacts Dynamic Player Performance. Throughout Franchise mode, the performance of the players on your team will also dictate the different aspects that change ratings. This is the biggest change we’ve made to Franchise mode, possibly ever! It makes it feel like you are playing a different team every time you play them. Players now have a consistency trait—you can play a Jay Cutler at one point and he may have had a bad week the week before and he is a 75 overall, or he could have had a good prior week and he’s now coming in as a 92 overall.
Will we get to a point where the coding is so advanced that player ratings can change throughout a single game?
I think we can eventually. I can’t reveal it just yet, but we are doing something this year similarly with player performance that can change ratings.
Why reset the player rankings (be it hot or cold) after 3 games?
We want to be careful about that. We want to make sure that if you have a hot streak with a guy that you eventually go back to normal. But you can turn around and throw for 350 yards and go back on a hot streak for another three games. What you’ll see in the mode a lot is the better running backs and better quarterbacks are going to do that anyway. We wanted to make sure we didn’t go overboard and make it too easy.
With the new retiring player function, can you talk the old guys into coming back a la Brett Favre?
We talked about maybe doing that this year, but it was sort of on the bottom of our priority list. It is something we’d like to consider in the future.
NFL defensive coordinators are always adding new wrinkles to defense why is it that this year new defensive formations became a big deal for Madden?
We’re always a tiny bit behind because we are reactionary to what happens on the field, but we watch a lot of tape of games and read what coaches and coordinators are talking about. They don’t typically give us a lot of information because they don’t want to give a lot away to opposing teams, but we do incorporate that stuff into making the game.
How will the new ball physics and details actually affect gameplay? Please tell us that the fumble mini-game is gone in Madden 12.
I don’t know if I can talk about how the mechanics change things because a lot of it is tied into things we haven’t announced yet. As far as the mini-game, it is still around. It’s been toned down a little bit but it’s still in the game.
How has the gameflow system been enhanced?
Again, I don’t know how much I can talk about on that but I can say it is better and it gives you more control to go through and find what you want. Different aspects have been tuned to make it more intelligent.
Lastly, how has Superstar Mode changed this year?
The biggest thing for Superstar is we allow you to earn points in practice; training camp and your games and you can use those points to upgrade your player’s ratings. Very similar to features you see in MLB: The Show and FIFA, it allows you to have more control. That is a whole new infrastructure to the mode and I think it’s going to be awesome.