Madden NFL

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Madden NFL is an American football video game series developed by Electronic Arts Tiburon for EA Sports. The game is named after Pro Football Hall of Famer John Madden, a well-known former Super Bowl-winning coach and color commentator. The game has consistently been a best seller, and has even spawned TV shows where players compete. EA Sports has announced that the video game series will continue despite Madden’s retirement as a broadcaster in 2009.[1]

Evolution
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Screenshot of Madden NFL 2001 (Nintendo 64 version).
Madden NFL 06 Xbox 360 version.

The first version of the game was published in 1989 for the Apple II series of computers and titled John Madden Football. The development team originally wanted the game to have six or seven-player teams, but Madden insisted on having 11 players per team, stating “I’m not putting my name on it if it’s not real.”[2]

The game has improved and dramatically grown over the years, adding many new features. Among these is voice commentary, allowing players or watchers to hear the game being called as if it were a real game on TV.[3] This commentary was performed by John Madden and his contemporary broadcast partner. Initially, this was Pat Summerall (Madden’s partner during his days at CBS and FOX during the early 1980s on through the early 2000s) until Summerall retired; the role was then filled by Al Michaels, John’s current broadcast partner on NBC Sunday Night Football (and former partner from 2002 through 2005 on ABC Monday Night Football).

1990s

In the 1990s, EA producer Richard Hilleman brought in veteran sports game designer Scott Orr, who had founded the mid-1980s Commodore 64 game publisher GameStar, and had led the design of their best-selling sports games. The team of Orr and Hilleman designed and led the development of what is today still recognizable as the modern Madden Football, the highest revenue-generating video game series in North American video gaming history. Early versions of Madden were created by external development studios (including Park Place Productions and Stormfront Studios) but by the late 1990s development was brought in-house and centralized at EA Tiburon in Orlando, Florida.

Franchise Mode

In 1997, inspired by the franchise-management game Baseball Mogul, Electronic Arts added Franchise Mode to Madden, giving players the ability to play multiple seasons, make off-season draft picks, and trade players.

2000s

There are multiple modes of game play, from a quick head-to-head game to running a team for a whole season or even multiple seasons. Online play, which was a new feature for Madden NFL 2003 (in this versions there are also mini-camp challenges) was only available for users of the PlayStation 2 console, Xbox console, or a Microsoft Windows PC until early 2004. At E3 2004, Microsoft and EA Sports released a press statement announcing that games made from July 2004 on would now be Xbox Live-enabled. In August 2004, EA Sports released Madden NFL 2005 and this game and all future versions of Madden became very popular games on Xbox Live.

Madden NFL 2004

Also, starting with Madden NFL 2004, EA Sports created the new Playmaker tool, using the right analog joystick found on each of the console controllers. Playmaker allowed the gamers to make offensive pre-snap route adjustments previously unavailable in prior installments of the franchise.[4] One such adjustment includes the ability to switch which direction a running play will go without changing the formation. Prior to the Playmaker tool, the Player could only call one of four available “hot routes.” With Playmaker and the use of the right thumb stick the player is given 4 additional Hot Route options. When the quarterback has the ball the Playmaker Tool can be used to make receivers alter their routes mid-play. When running the ball on offense, the runner can control the direction in which the blocker is going. Defensive alignment adjustments, however, were not available leading to obvious unbalance in favor of the Offensive player.

Madden NFL 2005

In Madden NFL 2005, EA Sports ran a campaign with the Theme “Fear the D” emphasising their improvements on the “other side of the ball.” in this years installment. In an attempt to re-balance the players experience, EA gave a Playmaker Tool to the defense. Similar to the offensive Playmaker Tool, the defensive Playmaker allows the player to make pre-snap defensive adjustments. EA Sports further utilized the right analog joystick on defense by creating the “Hit Stick”, an option on defense that allows the controlled player to make big hits, with a simple flick, that increases the chances the ball carrier will fumble. Also introduced for the first time is the “Formation Shift.” This new feature allowed players to shift their formation in the pre-snap audible menu without actually changing the play. For example if you call a run play up the middle out of a goal line formation, you could then call a formation shift and make your players spread out into a four wide receiver formation while still in the same running play. The problem with this new function was that EA also added a fatigue penalty for the defense causing defensive players to get more tired each time there was a formation shift. This led to players on offense calling multiple formation shifts each play making the defensive players too exhausted to keep up and force them to substitute out of the game until they are fully rested. This led to more unbalance that could only be fixed by turning off fatigue and leads to an unrealistic football game.

2005 also added “EA Sports Radio”, a fictional show that plays during the menu screen of Franchise mode to provide a greater sense of a storyline during gameplay. It features Tony Bruno as the host, who often interviews players and coaches about how the season is going and also has quiz questions in which fake listeners call in to make attempts at answering football-related questions. It included mock interviews of famous NFL players and coaches throughout the in-game season. Some fans have criticized EA Sports for not including new features to the ‘programming’ as the radio became stale after only two seasons in franchise mode, but the feature drew acclaim for adding content to the Franchise menu. Also added was the Newspaper where the player could look at National News from licensed USA Today and Licensed Local papers for almost each of the 32 NFL teams. Lastly, 2005 also saw the introduction of multiple progressions during franchise mode. Previously NFL players in Madden would only progress or degress at the end of each season. Now at the end of Week 5, 11, and 17 the game would use a program to “progress” your players based on their performance in addition to end of season progression.

Madden NFL 2006

In Madden NFL 06, the “Truck Stick” was introduced. This feature allows the offensive player to lower his shoulder and break a tackle, or back juke to avoid one. Another new feature is the Superstar Mode, which allows the player to take control of a rookie, and progress through his career.[5] This includes an IQ test, interviews, workouts, the NFL Draft, hiring an agent, and other aspects of a superstar’s life.

EA also introduced the QB Vision feature in the 2006 instalment. With this feature, a cone of spotlight emits from the quarterback during passing plays, simulating his field of vision. To make an accurate pass, the quarterback must have his intended receiver in his field of vision. Passing to a receiver not in the cone reduces pass accuracy significantly. The size of the quarterback’s vision cone is directly correlated to his Awareness and Passer Accuracy rating; Brett Favre and Peyton Manning see nearly the entire field at once, whereas an inexperienced quarterback such as J.P. Losman or Kyle Boller will see only a sliver of the field. This feature also allows for “Precision Passing”. With Precision Passing, users can pinpoint where the ball should go. It can be thrown high, low, left, right, etc.[6]

Another defensive advancement was made in this instalment. Player assignments and “Man Commitment.” In prior Madden games offensive players could adjust their rosters to take advantage of personnel mismatches. For example, players would often place receivers with high attributes, such as Terrell Owens or Randy Moss, in the 3rd wide receiver slot so they would be matched up against the 3rd best corner on the defense causing a glaring mismatch. To counter this players were now allowed to assign a defended to a specific player. this way you could now tell your best defender to always cover their best player no matter where he lines up. “Man commit” allowed the defense to further disguise their coverage. In the play calling screen the player could press a button to toggle Man commit on or off. With Man commit on, the defensive players would line up in such a way to “show” that they were in man coverage even if they were really in zone. The Artificial Intelligence would then adjust the coverage and shift the assignments to make up for the new alignment.

Madden NFL 2007

In Madden NFL 07, EA introduced Lead Blocker Controls which allow users to control blockers during running plays. In addition, EA redefined the Truck Stick into the Highlight Stick. With the Highlight Stick, users can have their running backs perform different running moves and combos, instead of just bowling over defenders. Truck Stick features still exist for bigger backs, but not for smaller backs who would never realistically use them anyway. Instead, more agile backs perform acrobatic ducks and dodges to avoid tackles.[7]

EA Sports also introduced “Smart Routes” on offense. Previously receivers only ran the routes they were assigned and the only change that could be made is to change the entire route. Now the player is able to tell receivers to adjust their route to go past the first down marker. For example if it is 3rd an 11 and you have a 10 yard curl route, you will be short of the first. With a Smart Route you can now tell that receiver to run his route a little deeper and past that first down marker. Similarly if it is 3rd and 3 and you have a 10 yard route you can tell that receiver to shorten that route so you can make a quick pass play.

Option routes were also added in Madden 2007. Receivers now could be assigned routes that have two or three options that he can “choose” to run on his own. For example, you may have a route that is a curl that also has the option of becoming an in-route denoted by a dotted line. It becomes the receiver’s job to decide which route to run after the snap depending on the coverage and his awareness rating. Some times receivers would make the wrong choice and add realism to the game. This is referred to the Quarterback and Wide Receiver as “being on the same page.”

Madden NFL 2008

In Madden NFL 08, the Weapons feature was added, allowing superstar players to be noticed. Randy Moss, for example, is a Spectacular Catch receiver, allowing him to make amazing one-handed grabs. Peyton Manning is a Smart QB, letting him read the defense’s play after they repeat the same play. Reggie Bush is an Elusive back, making him more agile than most players. Devin Hester has Speed, making him faster than others, complementing the fact that he has 100 speed; the first to have a 100 speed rating. Also Hitstick 2.0 feature was added, allowing high tackles by pressing the right analog stick up and low tackles by pressing the right analog stick down.

Madden NFL 2009

Madden NFL 09 was released on August 12, 2008. Citing business concerns, EA chose not to release it on the PC platform. [8] The game features quarterback Brett Favre of the New York Jets on the front cover wearing a uniform for his former team, the Green Bay Packers.[9] EA Sports announced on August 7, 2008 that they would be offering a free download for the game which will include an alternative cover featuring Favre in a Jets jersey. The downloadable plug-in will also include the newly revised Jets 2008-2009 Squad with Favre at the helm. Madden NFL 09 will also be the first of the series to offer online, league game play, allowing up to 32 players to compete in an online, simulated NFL season. According to EA Sports Senior Producer Paul Frazier, up to 32 players will be able to participate in competitive games, the NFL Draft and conduct trades between their teams. The game will also be the first of the series to incorporate a Madden IQ. The Madden IQ will be used to automatically gauge your skills through a series of mini-games presented in a futuristic, hologram style. They will consist of run offense, pass offense, run defense, and pass defense. At the end of each of the drills, there will be a score in each category, ranging from rookie to all-Madden. The final Madden IQ is a mixture of those scores which is used to control the game’s difficulty. As a player’s skill increases or decreases the game will automatically adjust its difficulty ratings to coincide with his Madden IQ.[10][11]

Madden NFL 10

Madden NFL 10 is currently under development at the EA Tiburon studio. Compared to previous iterations, Madden NFL 10 has been extremely transparent with its development efforts, maintaining a weekly blog updates as well as a constant presence on various message boards. A new design team has also taken over the game, including members from NFL Head Coach 09. The direction of Madden NFL 10 has been shifted to much more of a realistic and simulation focus, with info already released including Procedural Awareness (a robust head tracking system), a new philosophy on player ratings, and big improvements to realism in QB play, WR/DB play, and other areas across the game. Madden 10 offers a series of multiple play packages. This allows for more options to score. Madden 10 also offers over 200 plays to choose from. Troy Polamalu and Larry Fitzgerald will appear on the cover of Madden 2010, as for the first time two athletes will share the cover space. [12]

Licensing

Until 1993, the Madden series did not have official licenses from the NFL or National Football League Players Association (NFLPA). John Madden Football ’93 was the first game in the series to include real NFL teams, and Madden NFL ’94 added an NFLPA license for real players.[13] The NFL Coaches Association sells the rights to have NFL coaches’ names appear in the Madden NFL games; Madden NFL 2001 was the first game in the series to feature this license.[14] Neither New England Patriots coach Bill Belichick nor Bill Parcells appeared in the game as they are not members of the NFL Coaches Association.

On December 13, 2004, EA Sports announced it had secured exclusive rights to the NFL and its players’ union for the subsequent five years, precluding any other third party from selling a football game using NFL players, teams, stadiums or other licenses. This was recently extended until 2012.[15]

Head Coach series

In August 2006, EA Sports debuted NFL Head Coach, which utilized the Madden engine to create a football management simulation. The game was criticized as buggy and unrealistic. EA Tiburon rebuilt the game from the ground up, addressing flaws and creating a proprietary engine, over the course of three years. NFL Head Coach 09 was released on August 12, 2008 bundled with the special edition of Madden NFL 09 and as a standalone game on September 2, 2008.

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