Tomorrow the new Madden launches, and I think it’s safe to say that this new Madden, Madden 15 to be precise, is the ‘newest’ Madden in the history of new Madden games. Yeah, I know that’s a weird analogy (also a new analogy), but Madden 15 offers the biggest visual leap for the series since 2001. Beyond the aesthetics, Madden’s physics truly shine and help the series come one step closer to the ultimate sim.
One thing you can always count on when you boot up the new Madden in August is the epic intro video highlighting the previous year’s greatest plays while the cover athlete makes you pound your chest like a broker from Wolf on Wall Street. But this year, there’s no video. What? How can this be? Madden 15 features the first cinematic intro in the series history featuring Cam Newton driving on the Seahawks. The NFL hipster in me scoffs at this scenario, but talking to Creative Director Mike Young about his new baby sold me on the future opening moments of the franchise.
I’ve played the interactive experience a few times now, and I would love to know the motivation behind doing something like this for the first time in Madden history?
We felt really good about the game and the graphics and gameplay upgrades. It felt like there was a lot of things to show off. The effort catches that really do some amazing things with the animations and the wide receivers are lunging for inaccurate passes. We really wanted to kinda, for the first time, drop you into an exciting interactive experience and play off the emotion. We wanted to ease people into the product with story. We’ve had some good intro videos in the past and they were cool and brought out the emotion, but we really loved the idea of making you a part of it and making it interactive instead of just a passive experience. I think that kind of helps you with people that are new to the game or haven’t played in a while see all of the new stuff and get a little taste of all the new game mechanics. All while not being too long of a commitment or too scary. I think it’s working!
It really shows off the game. It’s interesting, the first thing I actually noticed was that there was no opening video which has kind of become an institution for Madden. Were there any worries for you guys getting away from that video or were you all-in?
Completely all-in. It’s been cool to work on some of them. I wrote the Ray Lewis one which is still really popular. Cam Newton came in and worked on this and said, “man, I love the Ray Lewis one!” Those are cool but I think what we tried to do is capture that excitement and the intimate and personal connection with the athlete like the ones with Drew Brees… They had the same intention – show off what’s great about Madden, get you pumped. And we usually have the twist of having the cover athlete or a great athlete represent what we’re going after every year. Ray Lewis was all about creating your legacy as we had just introduced Connected Franchise mode. This had the same goals, but we’re a game. If we can make that same experience but put you in it, that’s it. You read the messageboards and people said words like, ‘exhilarating’ and ‘nervous’ and that the moment felt important, I feel that you can combine the quality that we’ve gotten to on some of the intro videos and make it even better.
It makes sense featuring Seattle as the defense with Sherman on the cover and the emphasis on the Legion of Boom, defense and the physicality of the Ignite Engine, but why Carolina?
Well, there’s a few reasons. We were going to start out with something traditional that everyone would expect, you know? San Francisco vs. Seattle. You have the rivalry, it was the best game last year. You know, put it in Levi’s field which is new to the game this year and looks fantastic, and the first script I wrote was that matchup but the Panthers kind of emerged for a few reasons. They were a cool underdog, they were a team that was kind of bad a few years ago, then they emerged as a surprise great team last year. The playoffs, a great record, the defense, a winning streak. It was somewhat inspired by the cover bracket, you know we do the vote. We also work with who we have access to and some are more interested in being involved with the product. Cam had come in second before and lost to Calvin Johnson. He came in an expressed interest in not just being a cover athlete that gets his picture taken, to do more. We thought he could add so much to this not just from an emotional standpoint, but you’ve seen his personality and for him to come in and be part of the skills trainer, the gauntlet and the “what’s new’, it kind of added more than just a Niners/Seahawks matchup.
My follow-up to that is the zoomed in camera and the vastly improved defense are the focuses of this release, so was it Cam’s involvement that made you want to put the ball in his hands? Why wouldn’t you be controlling the defense and the cover athlete in this scenario instead of driving on the Super Bowl champions with a group of relatively unknown offensive players?
It was definitely talked about internally and it was designed before the cover vote was over and before Newton and Sherman advanced in those brackets, so I think it really came down to that, we’re putting everyone through this. When you put something on the line like this and don’t make it too long. The original design had you getting the ball back on defense and then scoring, it was iterated on quite a bit. But then we felt comfortable with; everyone knows how to pass the ball to receiver and feel the success in this moment. So you can beat the defense and then move to the Skills Trainer to see how different the defensive camera is before you are in something that makes you feel desperate to win.
Is it an issue of rights to go back and maybe do some of the more famous moments in NFL history like in previous moments? The Catch, the David Tyree moment against the Patriots. Would you be interested in branching out to these moments?
I would be. Internally I pitched that, but it’s about priority and what the audience is clamoring for. I like this in the way that it’s not repeating history and you don’t know the outcome. I think it’s a different mechanic if you have to relive the catch or the David Tyree catch you brought up for instance. The game mechanic surrounding that would be very different. You wouldn’t play Madden, it would be more like a quicktime event. I love NFL legends. I watch 30 For 30… I eat that stuff up. It would be up my alley but it has to go towards what we decide everyone would want.
Yeah I love the NFL Films style. THe presentation is well done. I just love NFL Films so much…
Me too haha.
So in ten years… It’s going to be 2025…
What is Madden 2025 going to be called? Madden 25 2?
Ahhh. Haha. I guess I’m hoping to be here in ten years haha. It’s making the marketing director squirm because that was his big idea last year, calling it Madden 25. We’ll see what they come up with.
You’ve got time.
Yeah we’ve got time. They’ll come up with something clever, they always do.
I really think this is the best Madden in a long time.
Glad you like the game and I enjoyed the response to it. I’m glad people like the mic’d up on the field presentation. For so long the focus was broadcast, broadcast, broadcast and I think we made some really good strides to change the presentation package to not only showcase the broadcast but to introduce cinematics in the game. It’s fun to talk about.
Who was your favorite person to work with on the voiceovers?
Definitely Cam Newton because it was way less stressful to work with him… He’s such a big fan, we were able to show him a cut and he was like, “wow, this is all about me and my team!” He actually wrote his own lines. I would write what I wanted in general from him, but he would take that and put it in the Panthers lexicon then he wrote a speech. He brought in about ten different ones, so we picked the speech that had the best energy and worked the best in the situation. We were pumping crowd noise into his headset so when he’s running up and down the field screaming, “I love it!” That’s just him. It was cool. With Richard it was a more of a high-stress, you only have 5 minutes for him to get this line done and you’re showing the cover athlete a scenario where you beat his team… U, he was super-gracious about it but his role was much smaller and were under the gun to get things on his end going while being panicked rather than enjoying it and having fun with it.