Is there any franchise and developer more polarizing in all of the video game industry than EA and their Madden franchise? Madden NFL Football is a truly “Love it or Hate it” series with some of the most hardcore fan boys as well as some of the harshest critics. April saw the departure of development team leader Ian Cummings as well as a few other high-ranking members of the Madden development team. Now the Madden franchise has an even bigger target on its head. However, the developer shuffle might not necessarily be bad for the franchise.
Development team producers like anybody else have priorities, and particular aspects of a game that they focus their attention on. With new blood running the show for the development of Madden 12, there is sure to be major overhauls added to the game, which likely wouldn’t have been implemented or handled with as much care with Cummings still in charge. Which is not to say that Cummings in any way held the franchise back? Ultimately, Ian left the franchise in a better place than when he found it. He added tons of new features to the series during his time as the lead producer such as, Game planning, Dual Stick controls, etc. What will Madden 12 add to the franchise’s legacy?
Last week EA Sports finished its “Madden 12 Cover Vote” Tournament which was won by Cleveland Browns Running Back Peyton Hillis. The tournament lasted over a month’s span and featured a 32 man bracket, (1 representative from all 32 NFL Teams) with NFL fans voting via espn.com and Facebook for the winner. After the cover athlete reveal, EA also released two huge trailers for Madden 12. These trailers were the first official reveals of what Madden 12 would offer in terms of Graphics, presentation, and gameplay. Previously EA had offered only a Teaser trailer that showed nothing.
The first of the two trailers was a Presentation trailer that showed a smorgasbord of new visual upgrades added in order to make the game closer in resemblance to the real life NFL product we see on Sundays. Beautiful shots of NFL Stadiums, team mascots and field entrances. Who doesn’t love cheerleaders? The last 15 seconds of the trailer showed the NFL’s Comeback Player of The year award winner and Madden 12 cover vote runner up Michael Vick leaving the sideline and entering the huddle. That small clip gave good clues into what EA has cooked up for Madden 12’s visuals and in-game presentation. It has yet to be seen whether Madden 12 will exceed its predecessors, however EA Sports is clearly on the right track. EA’s other trailer reveal was much more important to fans of the game, as well as critics.
The Gameplay trailer for Madden 12 gave good insight into where EA wants the franchise to go from here. Gameplay additions such as new collision animations, new and more realistic Zone coverage’s, and realistic ball physics highlighted the trailer. Madden 12 clearly has a strong emphasis on attention to detail in terms of graphics, as well as gameplay. Better lighting, field grass, and player models and upgraded animations shown in both trailers illustrate that. Probably not enough revealed to satisfy critics, but the game is still months away, so we’ll see what else EA has planned. Will critics ever be satisfied with a madden game?
Since the early 2000’s the Madden games have been criticized for the lack of innovation. This notion in itself is shortsighted. For example, anybody who actually plays Madden could immediately tell the difference between Madden 2009 and Madden 10. It’s easy to criticize the franchise when you’re comparing it to games of other genres like Call of Duty or Assassins Creed that go through 2-4 year development cycles at minimum. Sports games are released on an annual basis; therefore they have a 7-8 month development cycle, which makes it difficult to make huge changes. It is not realistic to expect EA to mess with the core gameplay of arguably their most successful title now that game sales are more important than ever. (Economy)
Madden 12 is still a long way from its scheduled August 30th release date. EA shouldn’t worry about critics, but focus on creating a solid, functional, unique, realistic NFL experience for their audience. Madden 11 though not perfect, added some interesting new potential dynamics to gameplay with Game Planning. However, despite the creative idea, it was unrefined, and typically went unused by most hardcore Madden players. If the development team is able to make this gameplay function simplistic, accurate to game situations, and more useful than a user selecting plays themselves, they can potentially change the way Madden is played forever.