Madden 13 Infinity Engine – “No Two Tackles Are Alike” and Other Remarks For a Hopeful Public

EA Sports’ Victor Lugo was recently interviewed by ESPN.  While this interview gives a lot of interesting details, it does leave us to wonder whether or not Madden 13 is going to be nearly as amazing as the developers are pushing us to believe it will or should be.

We are still of the opinion that real-time physics without real-time injuries is a lackluster feature.  What is your take?

No two tackles look alike? Sounds like a time to place bets.

Check message boards, tweets or sports gamer chatter from around the Web and all you’ll hear are the same complaints: “Madden” is nothing but a roster update every year, and “NFL 2K5” is still better.

“Everyone loves the underdog, and I think that’s where a lot of it comes from,” “Madden 13” producer Victor Lugo says when confronted with the complaints, admitting that the design team is all too familiar with them (especially the comparisons to “2K”).

But to Lugo, everything is about to change once gamers see the new real-time physics engine he helped develop. In “Madden 13,” no two tackles look alike, and the physics affect everything on the field, from the ability of running backs to roll off of a downed tackler and keep running to the way a receiver gets hit midair and helicopters his way back down to the turf.

“To not have an element that another game has gives people the right to complain, but I think at this point we have a lot of stuff that our competitors have had, and right now, we’re just concentrating on expanding ‘Madden’ and making the best simulation football we can,” Lugo adds. “It doesn’t really bother me too much what other people say, because we have brought a lot of the community guys in, guys who have been notoriously hard on our game for years, and they were really, really enjoying the game and how the Infinity Engine turned out.”
ESPN Playbook: Only a select few have gotten their hands on “Madden 13” so far, so for people reading this article, how would you explain the Infinity Engine and how it completely changes the game from “Madden 12” to “Madden 13”?

Lugo: “Madden 12” used a pretty interesting system. The collision system was more of your old-school collision volume around the character, and when the collision volumes intersected, an animation played out. Now, because of the Infinity Engine, you see a lot of variety in our hits because it’s not based around one collision box around a character, it’s based on individual limbs and individual muscle strengths and tensions throughout the whole character. Because of that, you see a lot more variety, and you see a lot more impact. It’s so different from last year’s game that now, when you’re playing, you can no longer recognize the outcome before it happens. The variety of interaction is what people want.

The way tacklers bounce off of running backs like Frank Gore, and the ability to spin receivers in the air with a vicious hit is pretty sweet. What else can gamers expect to see?

Because we factor in momentum and weight and we also factor in tensions based on what they’re doing, you’re going to see so much variety. You’ll see Frank Gore run over a lot of people this year. By the way, we went to college at the exact same time at The U, so I use him all the time to run people over and he’s featured in all of our videos. You’ll also see a lot of great stuff when receivers are up in the air. We set the tensions up so you don’t have a leg to stand on when you’re in the air, so that leads to all of the spins. There are all these immersive interactions that you just wouldn’t see in the past. You may be going to the ground, fall on somebody else and regain your balance and keep going. I can’t even anticipate for people what is going to happen because there is so much going on. It looks awesome, especially when you’re up in the air.

What’s your favorite sequence that you’ve seen in “Madden 13” so far that you’ve never seen in “Madden” before?

My favorite sequence so far was a short goal-line play from about 3 yards out. I ran up the middle, but I get hit and it looks like I’m stopped right at the goal line. But the guy hit me in the direction of the end zone and I end up rolling on an opposing teammate’s helmet, and I roll right into the end zone for the touchdown. In the past, I would’ve just hit the ground and that would’ve been the end of it, but I just rolled right off of this dude’s head to score. It was fantastic.

How about the Kinect controls in “Madden”? I know a lot of time, the hard-core community hears about Kinect being added to a game and they immediately start rolling their eyes. How have you guys made the voice commands an essential part of playing the game this year?
We had a couple of different goals in mind when it came to “Madden” and Kinect, and none of them involved forcing something cheesy or inappropriate to “Madden” in the game. We want to emulate what you see in real life, and that chatter is a big part of football on the field. A lot of our team has played football. I played football growing up and in high school, and chatter is a big part of playing, so we wanted to give people the ability to talk to their team and call out the audibles like you would in an NFL game. As a second goal, we want to make it easy for beginners to use it, so we put UI (user interface) on the screen to guide you toward what you can do and puts you in appropriate situations in context of the play. For hard-core people, we give you the ability to use both the controller and your voice in order to get that extra command in. A lot of the real hard-core players, and a lot of our really good players are taking advantage of the Kinect in order to do some of the commands that in the past have taken a lot of button commands or have been tough to get through before the ball is snapped, especially on defense. Trying to call man coverage on a specific receiver, for instance, takes a lot of steps, and with the buttons, you’re not going to get more than one of those before the ball is snapped. But with the voice commands, they’re able to get a couple of these commands in as well as adjust the line with the controller. People have been really enjoying it, and we’ve had some people who didn’t think they were going to like it at all now telling us they have to go buy a Kinect, so that’s great to hear.

How do the Kinect controls work with two players or with other people in the room? Can I just start shouting out player names and routes to throw my buddy off?

[Laughs.] Yeah, you’re going to need to tell your little brother to shut up, especially if he’s in the background. This year, we support the Kinect with single player, and with head-to-head online. What we decided to do with online is, you can talk and have a conversation all throughout the play and through play call, but then once you line up we mute you out for that 20 seconds before you snap the ball so you don’t hear what the other person is saying, and it also defends against you yelling hike through and having it get picked up through their surround sound speakers. We eliminate all of the trolling that way, but like I said there’s nothing you can do to defend against your brother. You’ll just need to find a way to shut him up.

People talk about the greatest “Madden” games of all time, and “Madden 2004” with Vick and all the offense and “Madden 2005” with the addition of the Hit Stick always seem to come up. With the addition of the Infinity Engine, where do you think “Madden 13” will go down on that list?

I think this is a revolutionary year for “Madden” both in gameplay and on the career side. In both cases, we’ve added something that is going to make the game bigger than it has ever been. With the physics, the Infinity Engine is something that we’re going to use moving forward forever. This is a fundamental change to gameplay that you will see forever, so this is a monumental year. This will go down in history, alongside some of those other games like 2004, because it’s a game that is bringing fundamental changes. You’re not going to forget “Madden 13.”

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Community Involvement Doesn’t Equal Community Development

In recent years EA Sports and some other publishers and game developers have started inviting select members of their hardcore gaming community and fanbase to come in and check out their game and give opinions and critiques as well as simply get a chance to play the game in its early build.  For the many people that don’t get a chance to visit places like EA Tiburon for Madden over the course of a game’s development cycle it is easy to think they might do a better job than those going down to Orlando.  There are a few things to consider before you let your mind run wild with envy if you aren’t among the invitees for Community Day (as they call it at EA).  As well, if you are among the lucky few – it will behoove you to pay attention as well.

Before we proceed, it is important to view one of the interactions from OperationSports.  This is between a non-Community Day participant and a Madden Community Day Participant –

Illustrator76 – “This was a great analogy sir, and I agree with what you’re saying. But I disagree with it as well, lol. Actually, I only disagree with the bolded part as it applies to Madden. I just feel like people need to remember why they are at the CD in the first place. Just because EA employees feed you, show you pictures of their kids, their peg leg, etc… that shouldn’t change your reason for being down there, or what you intend to say. Now, it may change HOW you say what you say, but it shouldn’t at all change WHAT you say.”

And the reply –

rgiles36 – “Just to offer a response, are you suggesting that people do forget the reason why they’re down there? And if so, what evidence is there that people go to Tiburon and don’t critique while in the studio?”

MY DIRECT RESPONSE

This is kind of a Catch-22 because there is no evidence that anyone can give that wasn’t there and the people that can give that evidence won’t likely speak freely about anything truly negative as it wouldn’t be beneficial if they wanted to keep getting a trip to Orlando.

I think it would be best practice for those that aren’t going to Community Day to remember that those invited are invited as guests and it is usually customary of a guest to show proper respect and gratitude toward their host(s).

If you go to someone’s house for dinner and the dinner tastes crappy – you (probably) wouldn’t stand up and yell “This tastes like sh*t!”.
However, if your guest stops eating after the first bite and says “This tastes like sh*t!” – you should feel slightly more inclined to either agree with them or give your two cents… otherwise, you hack down what you have been fed and you go home to a nice bottle of Pepto-Bismol.

MY MESSAGE FOR COMMUNITY DAY INVITEES AND PARTICIPANTS

You have to keep in mind that a majority of hardcore fans have no idea about what their favorite game is going to look, play or feel like until they pull it out of the DVD case on release day.  Chances are good that you will be criticized by an ignorant public because they believe that you have an inside track… because you do.  There is a certain level of responsibility that you have when it comes to being a sought-after member of the gaming community and you have to remember that while you have confidentiality clauses and other issues to worry about – you are still in a position of power among people in the community.

Also, as it is widely known among active members of the gaming community itself each person making the trip to Orlando must sign a Non-Disclosure Agreement (NDA) that legally prevents them from divulging any information about the game or development of the game without prior approval of the studio/company.

Be that as it may, any person that is invited to a Community Day needs to remember that they were once among the commoners.  While there are rules they must follow, there is also a responsibility for them to be a conduit that other people in the community can utilize to further the overall mission – making the game better.  In my view, Community Day participants have done an excellent job over the last few years and their efforts are much appreciated.

THE BOTTOM LINE
The bottom line is that when you bring in anyone to critique your product you are trying to get some feelers for what could be tweaked.  If the people being invited to give advice or suggestions were better at developing the game than the actual employees they would probably have a job offer to work at the studio.  (Keep in mind, this has actually happened in some cases with EA Sports and Madden)

There is a vast difference between being asked for your opinion and being asked for your help on any project.  For the most part, when people are invited out of the community to check out a game (of any sort) it is in a capacity of giving opinions and feedback but not much else.

Going to a community day is like helping someone hang a picture.  The developers picked the spot on the wall, put the nail in and they standing there holding the picture and asking you, “Does this look straight?”.

It is good to remember that people like Josh Looman pay close attention to forums and Twitter when it comes to community suggestions. Not just those from Community Day.

IN CONCLUSION

The main message here is that you must understand that people invited to give suggestions at Community Day are not there as developers.  They are there strictly on the basis of being valued consultants (at most).  They give opinions and they give suggestions when they are asked.  They give feedback and might even take some notes in order to give a detailed list that is comparable to proof-reading.  However, in the end it is up to the developer to take these suggestions and use them or ignore them.

So, before you accuse Community Day participants of ‘not doing their job’ or tell non-participants to ‘provide evidence’ that you know they don’t have – remember that this entire process is in the spirit of consulting at most.

Madden 13 E3 Information – Connected Careers Impresses… Initially

Connected Careers… finally something to talk about with career modes… you know, instead of screaming in all caps and bold.

The Madden team has recently had it’s feet put to the fire here at NoobTubeTV for some of the improvements that should be made either this year or five years ago.  Today the EA Tiburon dropped some of the best news they could have and it is connected to all career modes, literally.

Connected Careers (in short) is going to allow you to do everything you could do between Franchise Mode, Superstar and Online Franchise all in one swoop.

However, the only information missing is the actual logic in trades and how that valuation may or may not have been tweaked since last year.

Either way it goes, Madden 13 seems to have finally jumped ahead of NCAA Football for now… and it only took six years.

Madden 13 – Is It Worth $60 At This Point?

*We have had multiple posts about Madden since this article.  Please check those out for more details.  We will have full reviews of Madden as soon as it is released!

The improvements being made to Madden 13 are catching some eyes around the sports gaming world.  The problem is that outside of some improvements being made to make the game’s eye-candy stick out we are still waiting to hear about the much needed improvements to Career Modes.  They have already announced that there will be something that ties career modes to an interactive web-based experience.  However, the fact that Online Franchise Mode has been bare-bones for three iterations is something that really takes away from any sort of community experience.

Girls and Games Are Alike… Good looks only get you so far.

With the still struggling interactions between O-Lineman and D-Lineman rendering many plays broken (Play Action Passes, just for one example) and then coupling that with other poor AI and animations… you have many questions still left unanswered.  Granted, we still have a few months until the game is released, it is worth considering whether or not Madden 13 will be something you are better off buying pre-owned rather than brand new. Rest assured that the game isn’t something you will need to pre-order in most cases as it is often readily available on launch day.

Outside of the chance that Madden 13 blows everyone away with some sort of new gimmick that EA will remove (See ProTAK, Procedural Awareness, Tuners, etc.) it will remain as a game that should be approached as nothing more than a roster update with a slight graphical facelift.  You can find Madden 12 online for around $20 on Amazon right now; if you are having that football itch that requires Madden to fill the gap, you would probably be okay to spend $20 on Madden 12 before pre-ordering Madden 13 at this point.

The moments of truth will hopefully come around the time that E3 starts in June.  Keep in mind that in our last brief write-up for Madden we focused on the hype machine and how it can suck people in early on in a game’s cycle.  You should keep your hopes up but also keep your expectations low.  Even with the reactions from EA Tiburon’s Community Days and the ‘dedicated Madden fans’ being posted, it would be a good idea to take their impressions with a grain of salt.  Remember, they have to sign Non-Disclosure Agreements and you don’t often hear too much negativity coming from people that get preferential treatment (why would you bite the hand that feeds?).

Once we get to June and July there will be a lot more information out there that EA wants to release.  In that case, you shouldn’t lose total hope in Madden or NCAA Football just yet; but you should also keep yourself grounded if you are hoping for groundbreaking improvements.