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.”