E3 is upon us, which means I finally get to talk about the “big secret.” Over the past few months I’ve watch as you’ve speculated and debated what it could be. As the Designer for Infinity Team, I am very proud to announce that Madden NFL 13 will be shipping with the all-new Infinity Engine and the real-time physics that you’ve been requesting for so long. More than just a new engine, it’s physics you can feel.
Let’s start off with a brief introduction to the engine. The Infinity Engine is a system that augments animation based on contact with other players or objects on the field. This system dynamically follows the action on the screen to keep your attention squarely on the action. It is a system created to add more variety, emergence, and an extra level of authenticity to Madden NFL 13.
Team and Goals
The Infinity Team is made up of an all-star team of engineers who have backgrounds in mathematics, interactive entertainment, and physics (3 Physics PhDs to be exact) from EA Tiburon as well as EA Physics in Guilford, England. We set out on a multi-year plan to deliver something that would fundamentally change the way football was played. Even with all of the talent on the team we didn’t know if we would be able to release any features this year, but we all knew it was a goal worth striving for. Towards the beginning of the year it became apparent to us that if we pushed hard enough we would be able to implement the first stages of our plan in Madden NFL 13. For this year we chose to focus on primarily on character physics interactions, muscle strengths and tensions, and a balance system.
Interactions will never be the same again. Characters will now move and react to contact organically, creating unlimited visual and functional variety to your gameplay experience. A quarterback who gets his arm grazed throwing a pass will now have his throw affected. A running back that falls on a pile and never actually touches the ground will get back up and keep running. Other players now have the ability to disrupt two-man animations to create unforeseen outcomes. The sheer amount of variety in our interactions still amazes me. I wish I could tell how your interactions will play out but due to the emergent nature of the system, I just can’t. Just play smart football. In previous versions of Madden NFL many of the outcomes were predictable, and players could tell based on what animation was triggered what the outcome of the play would be. Now, thanks to the Infinity Engine every interaction is unique and instead of putting down the controller when a tackle starts you’ll find yourself continuing to interact with the game in the hopes of extending the play. I will be looking forward to the cool moments you discover when you pick up the game in a couple of months.
Balance is another key area we worked on. Every character in the game has a balance score that we calculate based on several factors including physical attributes, actions, and where contact is made. This balance system takes these factors into account and causes characters to stumble and fall in appropriate directions with appropriate momentum. All of this seems straightforward; HOWEVER, when you consider the fact that falling forward into someone else can stop you from hitting the ground and may actually help you recover, things get very interesting. For me there are two very important things to remember with this system:
1. Watch where you run– Wait for holes to open up rather than crashing through characters that are in your way. Watch your feet so that you don’t stumble over fallen characters. Make smart cuts and hurdle when necessary.
2. Fight for every yard – Forget the days of predetermined two-man tackles. You need to continue to run and find ways to stay on your feet.
One of the coolest things about the balance system is how it affects players based on their body type. It’s a lot of fun to devise new defensive strategies by trying to take out the legs of smaller players who may not be able to recover from a stumble as well as a guy with longer legs. Suddenly it makes sense to go after a guy like Maurice Jones-Drew differently than you would Calvin Johnson.
Muscle Tensions are the third area of focus. We are still in the process of tuning this area of the game, but the basic idea is that we can tune tensions based on player actions. This lets us craft spectacular blindside hits, and also allows characters to rotate realistically when they are hit while jumping. Functionally, we are also tuning actions such as hit stick tackles, protect ball, and truck animations to make the character very tense. This, in combination with the interaction system and the balance system, will allow you to affect the outcome of your tackles based on if you choose to use the hitstick or not. It will also affect overall balance while running and creates an interesting risk/reward mechanic of slightly better balance at the cost of speed if you choose to protect the ball while running through the line.
Well that’s what we’re working on this year. It’s a foundation for the future that we are very happy to share with you. Enjoy!