Madden NFL 17 on Xbox One and PlayStation®4 brings even more authenticity to Broadcast Presentation this year. From the beginning sequence of heading into game you will notice the “rock concert” feel that you see so often on real NFL Broadcasts.
I once asked a friend if he was looking forward to the next Madden NFL, as he is a huge Raiders fan. He told me he can’t play Madden due to vision problems; he couldn’t see anything that moved quickly and was small – like the pass icons. I decided that if I ever had the chance, I would try to improve the game so a wider audience could play Madden.
A couple years ago, Tiburon had an internal game jam to brainstorm new ideas. I took my accessibility research and put together a concept list. Madden NFL Game Accessibility won as the best new feature set.
Here’s what made it into Madden NFL 17 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.
All accessibility settings in Madden NFL 17 are available on the “Visual Feedback” screen, via the “Settings” menu. These new options are all at the bottom of the list; you’ll go directly to them if you hit “up” once. All settings are optional, and your online opponent will not see whatever settings you have chosen.
Coming into the Madden NFL 17 on Xbox One and PlayStation®4 development cycle, the team wanted to go big when it came to commentary. As the game jumped to the current generation of consoles, several systems received overhauls, with our core commentary engine remaining roughly the same as the previous console generation. This meant that we were able to tell new stories through gameplay, presentation, and our modes, but our commentary logic imposed a set of limitations that never truly allowed us to pay off the many advancements across the game.
In order to add a deeper level of immersion on the field for Madden NFL 17 on Xbox One and PlayStation®4- we took a new approach to sound design in-game. In order to achieve this, we turned to Foley – a technique in which every day sound effects are added to the game to enhance the audio quality. The technique is named after Jack Foley, who established the basic modern techniques still used today.
Hardcore Madden players have a passion for the game that goes beyond down & distance. Whether it’s all-day MUT streams or climbing leaderboards for the Madden NFL 16 Challenge, it’s clear these guys enjoy the game as much as we do here at the studio. There’s a lot of additions we don’t want you to miss, and they’re sure to make gameplay fresh for even the most experienced Madden Player. As a former tournament competitor, here’s what I’m looking forward to the most in Madden NFL 17on Xbox One and PlayStation®4.
Madden NFL 17 on Xbox One and PlayStation®4 is the culmination of community feedback and years of technological advancements. In our previous blog, we detailed the lead feature in the ground game. Today, we will cover updates within special teams and a top community request, pass defense. We are also excited to be introducing game changing ball physics.
Special Teams. The third phase of the game. This is an area that hasn’t changed much in Madden for quite some time. To be honest, special teams in Madden was largely a non-factor. Kicks were too easy and blocks were almost impossible without exploits. We felt pretty strongly that this was not representative of what we are seeing in the NFL. Our goals in this area were to add strategy, risk and reward elements, and the potential for game deciding plays in special teams.
New Kick Meter
When we reviewed game tape of the 2015 NFL season, we came to the realization that it was far past time to make kicking in Madden ‘less automatic’. We felt like we needed more of a challenge than just flicking the stick up. We also felt that kicker ratings needed to have a much bigger impact on the game. After reviewing other sports titles, we quickly adopted a 3 button approach, very similar to what you would see in a golf or baseball game. You click the button once to start the kick, click again at the top of the meter to set power and finally again at the bottom of the meter to set accuracy. The harder you try and kick it, the more difficult it will be to hit the accuracy window. We have also restored the squib kick mechanic based on community response and new to M17 are ‘sky punt’ and ‘backspin’ options for situational strategies in the kicking game.
One aspect of special teams we knew we had to get into Madden NFL 17 is trick plays. Some of the most exciting and unforgettable highlights in football are of those rare trick plays that have the potential to change the outcome of any game with a single play. Who could forget Seattle’s trick field goal for a touchdown vs. the Packers in the playoffs! While Madden has had special team trick plays for years, we have not opened up the playbook to some of the modern takes we see in today’s NFL. Offenses will now have several trick play options (both run and pass) from Field goal and Punt formations. These generally will only have a chance of working against all out block formations so pick your moments carefully!
Speaking of all out block formations, at long last we have a designed system for blocking kicks. Gone are the days of user created exploit kick blocks, now replaced by a system that has very tight control over frequency and success chances. When you call one of several punt or kick block formations, the players who are designated as ‘kick blockers’ are marked with a B icon in pre play. Select one of these players and use the jump the snap mechanic to have a small chance at breaking through the line and driving in for a kick block. The win chance is only the beginning, successfully steering yourself in for a block and timing the block attempt are all necessary to achieve one of the most dynamic and exciting plays in football. Rest assured there are cap systems in place to ensure users do not exploit this new implementation of kick blocks.
Multiplayer Catch Outcomes
Despite all the success of Madden NFL 16, we’ve heard from our hardcore competitive community we needed to further tune the aggressive catch to not be so overpowered and available to every type of wide receiver. We’ve listened and made several tuning changes along with the addition of a Swat mechanic to help address these concerns.
First off, we received many complaints that all players were capable of making spectacular catches. We got it loud and clear that you were getting tired of seeing all the one-handers by a litany of different players with vastly different catching abilities. We now restrict those extremely athletic, high degree of difficulty catches to the more elite ball in air receivers only. OBJ, Julio, A.B., Hopkins and Dez are the type of players who will have the ability to do those spectacular catches consistently, while a Running Back or Slot receiver will trigger a catch that is more reflective of his catching ability.
Next up, we heard in some cases the defender would trigger animations that would not match the users input. This year, we have added significant animation coverage to both play receiver and swat to ensure you will get an animation that matches your intended action.
Another piece of feedback from the community was that there was never any injury chance on receivers who exposed their bodies and took consistent hits while performing aggressive catches. Injury chances have been increased in these situations for Madden NFL 17, so repeatedly targeting your big threat WR on jump balls in traffic now comes with significant risk of injury to that player.
Finally, we want to once again reiterate, there is a user bonus for clicking on and using the defensive mechanics. Win chances on catch outcomes are given a significant bonus for users who click on to defenders and use the defensive ball in air mechanics, with each mechanic bringing its own risk and reward.
The lack of control options on defense to effectively defend the aggressive catch became a major point of contention throughout the year. We spent a lot of time discussing this specific issue with the community and decided that the right way to attack the problem was not to nerf the aggressive catch, but rather build an effective counter mechanic on defense. Thus, the new SWAT mechanic was born for Madden NFL 17. Defenders now have 3 options when the ball is in the air. Play Ball, Play Receiver or Swat. If you are willing to give up the chance for an interception in order to stop the shot play, the swat mechanic is for you. It has been custom designed as the counter to the aggressive catch on defense.
The integration of physics into Madden has been an extended multi-year process. One of the biggest outliers was ‘the ball’ which was running what we refer to as ‘legacy physics’ from the Gen 3 era. With Madden NFL 17, the ball has been fully integrated into our Ignite physics engine and the results are game changing. This feature will have a significant impact on several major systems throughout the game. Here is a breakdown of just a few areas of the game impacted by ball physics:
1. Organic Knockouts and Tipped Balls
A huge legacy flaw in the Madden catch system is once a player has ‘matched a catch’ the ball will stay in the receiver’s hands regardless. With ball physics, if a defender collides with the ball during the catch animation, the ball has a chance to be organically knocked out. This also applies to hands and limbs. If they get an arm between the ball and the receiver, the WR will no longer be able to pull the ball through the defender. This is quite a game changer for catches in traffic, and strategic use of the possession catch is critical.
In those cases where a ball is tipped, swatted or broken up, the path the ball takes is purely momentum and physics based. Players can react to it in real time and will attempt to catch it off the tip. As a result of this, we have tuned catch chances and tip ball catch chances accordingly. Dropped INT’s are much rarer this year and passes that get broken up, swatted or tipped have the potential to be caught off the tip. We have added several diving, sliding and below the knees type catches to cover these scenarios.
2. Blocked Kicks
As part of our special teams theme, we knew blocked kicks were a must have. Achieving realistic, organic behavior of the ball after a block was a big part of the plan. Ball physics ensures the behavior of the ball after a block is not animated or scripted. It is organic and unpredictable.
3. Onside Kicks
With the organic nature of ball physics, onside kicks make a big comeback in Madden NFL 17. We have restored the ability to aim your onside kicks to give users a little more control over placement. The unpredictability introduced by ball physics makes onside kicks another thrilling aspect of special teams in Madden NFL 17.
4. Loose Ball Recovery
Fumble recoveries in Madden have been one of the many long standing legacy issues that desperately needed attention. We knew by introducing ball physics and organic behaviors, we would need to completely revisit our loose ball and tip ball recovery logic. This includes a set of new animations for loose ball recoveries that cover both in air and on ground scenarios. Players are smarter, react to loose balls faster and have tons of new animations dedicated to loose ball recoveries.
5. Throw out of Sack
Throw out of sack is how Madden has previously handled situations where a defender triggered a sack animation on a QB who already started his throwing motion. In these cases, the ball would often appear to simply fall out of his hand as the sack animation triggered. With ball physics, we now have organic outcomes in these situations. They can result in fumbles and strip sacks. If the QB’s arm is going forward when he is hit, you are also going to see that outcome play out organically. This all plays a big role in fumble vs. incomplete pass. It is now more important than ever to get the ball out quickly under pressure.
In addition to all of the improvements made to the running game, we’ve also given you more tools on the defensive side of the ball on Madden NFL 17 on Xbox One and PlayStation®4. Zone coverage is fundamental to pass coverage in the NFL. In Madden NFL 17 we’re propagating a core piece of technology we call “Behavior Coordinator” to our zone coverage defenders – more on that below.
Prior to Madden NFL 17, our zone coverage logic was written independent of the play. Simply put, our zone assignments didn’t work together and therefore had no concept of a global scheme. It was a priority based system that evaluated the coverage level of each receiver in order to determine who to pick up. Additionally, we only had three underneath zone coverage assignments (flat, curl flat, and hook) and we had to use those three assignments in a variety of coverages, that in real life, ask the players carrying out those assignments to do drastically different things.
When we began to discuss the improvements made to the QB AI in Madden NFL 16, we detailed our new AI architecture called “Behavior Coordinator”. Behavior Coordinator gives us the ability to create new sets of behaviors for a given situation. At the beginning of the Madden NFL 17 production cycle we decided our underneath zone coverage was the next logical choice that would benefit most by the new AI architecture.
Defensive AI has gotten a complete reboot in Madden 17 for both run defense and pass defense. Not only has the coverage gotten an overhaul, but for the first time in Madden history, the defense will have a Defensive Gap control system that makes defending the run more engaging and authentic.
When implementing the run fits system, we installed it the same way the defensive coordinators install their defenses in the NFL – Alignment, Assignment and Technique – and what this amounts to is every defender on the field having a specific job to do on each play the user calls.
Running the ball is one of the most common things you do in Madden whether returning a kick, getting yards after a catch or simply taking the handoff. It can also be one of the most rewarding aspects of the game when you leave a defender in the dust with a perfectly timed special move. So we set out to give new creative controls for all levels of Madden players on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. Let’s start with Special moves.
Ball Carrier Special Moves
Each on-field player in the game will perform special moves that fits his playing style and ratings. Special moves are now spread out across all the different player-types in the NFL: Bruising backs have better trucks & stiff-arms while smaller backs have better jukes & spins and all are new animations for Madden NFL 17.