In celebration of Madden NFL 12 launching today, ea.com sat down with Donny Moore, the Madden Ratings Czar and a Live Content Producer for Madden to find out what made this year’s edition of the game extra special.
So Donny, what was your role in creating this year’s edition of Madden?
Anything to do with live data support – online roster updates, NFL.com Fantasy projections, Madden Moments Live, Madden Ultimate Team…that’s my department.
I know you’re a big sports gamer. What feature are you most excited about in Madden 12?
Yes, I am a huge sports gamer. I play FIFA, NHL, NCAA Football, obviously Madden, and a few others each and every season. This year in Madden 12, my favorite features this year all revolve around Franchise Mode. We added Expanded Rosters to the game this year (75 man rosters – which was fun for me adding all these new players to the game for the first time ever!), an all-new free agent bidding system, future draft picks, Cut Days, team specific draft logic, and much more. It has really given some personality to franchise mode and now I feel like I have the tools at my fingertips to craft a Super Bowl contending team.
What else is new about this year’s Madden?
We added a ton of new features for Madden 12, so I will only rattle off a couple of my faves. For online, we have a brand new feature called Online Communities which allows gamers the ability to create their very own community to compete online against, with your own community leaderboards, settings, and message board. This is going over huge in the forums like Operation Sports for example, where they have their very own OS Community with custom rules and can have up to 2000 gamers inside the one community. Gamers can also join multiple communities as well. As far as Madden Ultimate Team goes, we have added some major additions this year in Madden NFL 12. First off is Trades, for the first time ever in MUT, you have the ability to trade card for card. The other huge feature for us this year was the addition of Legendary Players. We have a total of 13 former superstars and Hall of Famers including Walter Payton, Barry Sanders, Dan Marino, Marcus Allen, Jerry Rice, Rod Woodson, Deion Sanders, Gale Sayers, and more. These cards will be extremely rare and will be some of the most valuable cards in the game this year. Last but certainly not least, is gameplay. Just run the ball in Madden 12 and tell me you can’t feel the changes in the new collisions and impact engine. This major improvement in gameplay has really opened up the running game in M12 and this is my absolute favorite version of Madden of all-time in terms of fun factor and realism.
I heard that some things like flat passes have been pulled back some so they can't be abused as much. Is that true, and have any other abused tactics been fixed as well? For example, I have one friend who plays the Ravens and he loves to hike, scramble backwards a few steps, and then quickly turn around and launch the ball, oftentimes managing to land a good chunk of yards.
Yes, the flats are much harder to attack in Madden 12. In fact, zone coverage has undergone a major overhaul in terms of tuning and AI. The gameplay guys spent hours and hours looking at the latest game film from our NFL Coaching Film Database and made improving zone coverage the focus for Madden 12.
What I really wanted to talk with you about is the ratings in Madden 12, and how the NFL lockout affected them. What was the game plan decided for If the lockout did happen?
With the NFL lockout, it was certainly a challenge for us on the rosters and ratings side of things this off-season. Due to the fact that players were literally locked out of the team facilities, we did not have the luxury of years past where we could evaluate what was going on in mini-camps and make adjustments based on that. This year, the rookies are really at a disadvantage versus other years because of that lack of time with the playbook and in practice. We tried to simulate this year with slightly lower than average rookie ratings. Most Madden years, you would have the top rookies come in rated around 84 or 85…you would have a half dozen to a dozen rookies above 80+ OVR. This year in Madden 12 because of the lockout, the rookies come in at 82 (Patrick Peterson and Marcell Dareus, both tied at 82 OVR) and we only have a handful of rookie above 80 altogether. If the lockout would have continued in place however, we still would have had the rights to have the players (including the 2011 rookie class) in Madden 12.
Once you knew that the lockout wasn’t happening, how much work had to be done, and what was done? Did the lockout have a negative impact on ratings?
It was crazy!!! What usually takes place over the course of the entire NFL offseason (approx. 2-3 months), took place over the course of one and a half weeks. Players were getting traded to a team, then the trade would get rescinded, then the player would go back to the original team. I was moving players from team to team at a breakneck pace. We will have another huge roster update right before the regular season starts. Teams are currently at 90 men. We’ll be cutting final rosters down to 53 men per team…so safe to say I will be pretty busy the next week or so!
Did the lockout have a negative rating impact on non-rookies as well?
In some isolated cases yes, but for the most part, players and their ratings remain pretty close to how they finished in Madden 11 (our last roster update was in February of 2011, post-Super Bowl). There have not been any games or data to make any new evaluations on players – since we missed out on mini-camps due to the lockout. Once we start seeing preseason action, then regular season play, we will then start to make the appropriate adjustments based on the play on the field.
Wow. Have you had any time to enjoy the game? What team do you use? And based on your analysis of all the players, what are some of the teams this year NFL fans should look out for?
I might be one of the busiest guys in the building, but I absolutely make sure I find time to get in the lab to enhance my Madden 12 game! If I am starting a franchise, I use my favorite team, the Tampa Bay Bucs. If I am playing to win, I will use either the Packers, Jets, or Patriots. They have too many weapons on offense each of those teams, as well as stout defenses. As for the Bucs, look out for the Tampa Tripletts…Josh Freeman at QB, LaGerrette Blount at RB, and Mike Williams South at WR give the Bucs the ultimate building blocks in franchise mode. Don’t forget about that young, up-and-coming defensive line too! Gerald McCoy, Clayborn and Bowers, watch out league, here comes the Czar and the Bucs in franchise mode!