Today we are back for the second installment in our three-part interview series with the developers of Madden. In our first interview, we sat down and talked all things art and presentation with Madden NFL Art Director, Michael Young. We had a great time talking with Mike and that made us even more excited to get to our second interview. This time we are chatting with Madden NFL Senior Designer, Josh Looman, to talk about franchise mode and several of the new additions to this year’s game.
ZoKnowsGaming: Dynamic Player Performance is set to turn gameplay in franchise mode on its head. What we want to know is what have you done to make sure it doesn’t have too much of an affect or too little affect on gameplay?
Josh Looman: Tuning will be the key to this mode, we wanted to make sure that it was noticeable and meant something every week. We didn’t want to make it so that if a rookie QB got on a cold streak it was so bad that it made the game unplayable. We have played lots of games to make sure that things are balanced and I think it feels really good right now. We really wanted to capture the element week to week changes in the NFL and I think we did that.
Additional Thoughts: The big thing that I took away from this part of the interview was the fact that EVERY week, EVERY player’s ratings will be slightly different. Josh noted that tuning has been a big focus from the start and depending on community response it may require additional tuning. In an interesting side note, did you know that they actually came up with the concept for Dynamic Player Performance five years ago at lunch.
Alright so next we talked player roles. Lots of our readers sent us questions about this and we promised we would ask. Josh confirmed that while a player can qualify for as many roles as their skills make them eligible for they will only ever have a maximum of two of those applied. All the roles have a preset value and the game dynamically applies them in terms of highest value first. So for instance the Tennessee Titan’s Chris Johnson might qualify for Feature Back, Offensive Playmaker, and Team Leader. If Feature Back and Offensive Playmaker are more valuable than Team Leader then Johnson will have those two roles applied. Just in case you were wondering, the Injury Prone role is the least valuable role, so if a guy has two roles it will always be the lesser of the two.
We also found out that different roles don’t have different value depending on the player, so the attribute bump that you get for having Chris Johnson as your feature back will be the exact same that you would get for turning Knowshon Moreno into one so sorry to disappoint on that. The final thing we asked Josh about player roles was whether or not there were a maximum number of specific roles per team and he answered yes but says it varies by role. A team can only have one Franchise QB or Feature back but they might be able to have multiple players will the Team Mentor or Defensive Playmaker role.
ZoKnowsGaming: The salary cap has always been the bane of some folks existence. You guys have already mentioned some small changes to salary cap, what are they?
Josh Looman: Every year we have to make trade-offs and most years it is the small things that get overlooked. We didn’t get a chance to focus on this as much as I would have liked this year but hopefully we will get to it next year. Speaking of the salary cap, last year we had a tough call to make do we default the salary cap to off which would be the most realistic or take another approach. Ultimately we chose to make it easier to work under the cap by adding lots of extra money to play with. Going forward regardless to what happens in real life, Madden will have a cap. This is another area where we spend a lot of time tuning and it’s still a work in progress. We want it to be more challenging but still fun.
Next, we wanted to talk to Josh about the all-new scouting system as well as the improvements to free agency. As you all know, scouting has been completely reworked to include combines, pro days and individual workouts. What we wanted to know was whether any of this was interactive or was it all just a bunch of screens. Unfortunately, it’s a bunch of screens but Josh said that they plan on developing these concepts in the future so there is a good chance they will become more and more interactive. Interactive or not they will still be key to building your franchise. In each phase you can only choose a few guys to target so you have to be smart about how you focus in on. As the phases progress you can get more and more information about a player, so you get only basic attributes about a player unlocked during the combine, then even more stuff at their pro day, and then if you decide to bring a guy in for an individual workout you unlock everything about them.
He said the that he thought the draft has been too easy in recent years, you would just look at a player’s potential bar and that pretty much took all the skill out of it. Josh says that he actually been trying to get it removed for the last few years. He wanted the whole draft process to be more challenging and to make the draft as hard in Madden as it is for teams in real life. The team wanted the fact that you ran a good draft and identified good prospects to mean something, they wanted players to have a sense of accomplishment when it was all said and done.
ZoKnowsGaming: Free agency has been streamlined to be much more rapid with the CPU being much more aggressive. What was done to make sure it’s not too fast and overwhelms the player?
Josh Looman: This was a tough thing to balance. Lots of time went into tuning it, I almost wanted it to be too rapid and a little overwhelming. We wanted to create that same feeling that real teams have right before free agency starts, they are waiting to pounce. Players will have to focus in on the players they want and go get them. In the past, I felt like players had an unfair advantage, too much time to just evaluate. This year the first thing you will get is a pop-up, whenever you are ready to go, press start. The bidding notice will start, remember there are lots of players and the shortest time for any player is 1 minute. Don’t panic right away, instead figure out what your needs are prior to free agency. Focus in on your key players and put in a bid. There is plenty of time to look at the list and make a decision, never feel so overwhelmed that you don’t get a bid in on the guy you want. This year free agency is more frantic than last year, more overwhelming by design, the more you play it, the more you will get used to it. Remember you don’t have time offer 35 free agent contacts, target your guys, be smart and get YOUR guy. Sometimes you are not going to make the right decision, it’s like real life. We think it’s a much more fun experience; you really have to earn it.
As a long time Madden franchise fanatic the thing I really have been waiting for in franchise mode is some way to size up my GM skills against other franchise players. Josh agreed and says he thinks this is definitely something that they need to do in the game at some point. He thinks that franchise mode would really lend itself to something like this, they just need to come up with a good rating system to make it work. As you can tell Josh really agreed with this concept but I wouldn’t expect to see it in a game for a few years.
As we prepared to close out our conversation with Josh he reiterated the fact that his goal was to make franchise mode much more of a challenge this year and he thinks he has done that. He said that this year “the CPU is a lot more dangerous and a lot smarter, you need to be on your game”. For his part, Josh says that his work for Madden 12 is mostly done and he is now actually already focusing on Madden 13 if you can believe that. That is the highly condensed development cycle they work in though.
Another interview in the books, we want send a really special thank you to Madden NFL Senior Designer, Josh Looman, not just for taking the time to talk to us but for coming in from paternity leave to do it. You guys can find him on Twitter @josh_looman. Don’t forget to stay tuned for the third and final installment in the series when we talk all things Madden, with Madden Executive Producer, Phil Frazier.