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Madden Deep Dive: Gameplay and Real Player Motion

Gameplay in Madden NFL 19 was developed with two primary objectives:

1.      Player Control across the field

2.      Immersive NFL Experience from start to finish

To achieve these objectives, our goal is to deliver the most significant animation upgrade in Madden history. Madden NFL 19 introduces a package of features known as Real Player Motion – featuring authentic player movement, more player control and responsiveness, and player signature behaviors that will immerse players into the NFL each and every game.

Real Player Motion - Locomotion

Player Locomotion, or Run Cycles, is the feature that is going to have the biggest impact on Madden gameplay.  The Locomotion system has been rebuilt using technological innovations from across a variety of EA games and was designed in a way that intuitively balances the line between responsiveness and authenticity.

The new Locomotion system delivers the precision of making sharp cuts vs. rounded turns based on button inputs.  Want to make a sharp cut up the field before stepping out of bounds near the sideline? Let go of the RT/R2 Acceleration Burst and move the LS in the desired direction to cut sharply on a dime. Want to run at full speed, making minor movements to avoid losing momentum? Hold down the RT/R2 Acceleration Burst to carve through the defense.

Managing the Acceleration Burst mechanic will have the biggest impact on the way you play Madden. When used, Acceleration Burst will take your player to top speed based on his ratings but prevent you from making drastic direction changes without losing speed. When NOT accelerating and using ONLY the LS to move your player, you can make sharp, precise cuts and drastic direction changes, but cannot run at top speed.  This change in speed transitions allows you to be in full control over how you want your player to move on the field while offering the most visually authentic locomotion we’ve ever had.

In addition to the movement benefits, players’ Run Cycles will be visually and functionally separated based on each player’s height, weight, position, and ratings. There are multiple versions of Run Cycles in Madden 19 so that each player will feel and look unique. A big, bruising fullback may have to take a few extra steps to make that sharp cut up the field as opposed to a short, shifty scat-back, who can quickly put his foot in the ground and go.

One-Cut

Speaking of putting your foot in the ground and going, One-Cut is a new ball carrier move that does just that by leveraging the skill of the Acceleration Burst with the precision of the new Player Locomotion. Inspired by ”one-cut” backs in zone schemes, and further supported by Minnesota Vikings’ WR Stefon Diggs’ miracle play in playoffs, this mechanic unlocks the ability to burst out of a controlled cut on a drastic direction change up the field.

When making these cuts, there will be a small timing window open to activate a faster version of the Acceleration Burst as the outside plant foot hits the turf, simulating the burst ball carriers get when sticking their foot in the ground and hitting the hole. But be aware, this mechanic is so powerful, it comes with a heavy stamina hit, so you’ll have to be smart about when to deploy the move, as you’ll most likely only have the energy to pull off only one in a single play.  The speed and effectiveness of One-Cut is of course tailored to fit each player’s individual ratings and scales per your difficulty level.

Strafe Burst

The defensive counter to One-Cut, Strafe Burst is very similar in its look and feel, as it will allow your defender to have a similar ability to quickly accelerate out of a foot-plant to go make a play.

When holding LT/L2 to strafe on defense, you can accelerate out of the strafe and into a sprint by releasing the strafe button and quickly activating the Acceleration Burst on RT/R2.  It uses the same timing window system as One-Cut and mastering this mechanic will give your defender the ability to make a play on the One-Cut in the open field, while carrying a similar stamina hit.

Branching Special Moves

In Madden 19, you can chain together ball carrier special moves and make a smooth transition from one to another before each is completed. You want to quickly transition from a Juke to a Spin and back to a Juke? Real Player Motion allows the freedom and creativity for our players to take their best shot at putting out some of the best highlight videos ever seen.

Hit the Hole

Traditionally, one of the areas of the game where our players felt like they commonly lost control is when navigating through tight gaps in the trenches on running plays. Real Player Motion allowed us to make a new Ball Carrier mechanic to ensure more player control at this critical point in the run game.

Known as Hit the Hole, this is a Right Stick mechanic that is a contextual extension to the existing Juke system. When running through the line, if you want to make a quick direction change to get through a gap in the line, flick the RS towards that gap and you’ll see your ball carrier make a contextually appropriate direction change into the gap that will get him through quickly and efficiently, without tripping over his linemen or getting stuck behind them.

The player skill here lies with recognizing when an open gap exists or not. If you flick the stick towards a gap that has closed, your ball carrier will still make the direction change, but instead of squeezing through the line, he’ll be tackled instead.

Push the Pile

Building on the same area as Hit the Hole, Push the Pile is a new ball carrier mechanic that fits the same objective around player control.

Sometimes, on inside run plays, there are no open gaps to run through and you need your player to intentionally make contact with his blockers. Built specifically for these cases, Push the Pile is an extension of the Truck Stick mechanic. If you want to engage your running back into the back of a blocker to just push forward or guide the blocking engagement out of your way to gain space, simply hold the Right Stick up as you make contact with the blocker to get into a Push the Pile interaction.

Based on the player ratings of all three players involved (the ball carrier, blocker, and defender), there are a variety of results for these interactions. These include versions that fit a big, bruising RB who might truck right into the defender as he’s engaged and knock him down; versions for smaller, shifty backs who can just place their hand on the back of the blocker and guide him out of the way; and of course, situations for the defender to tackle the ball carrier as he’s trying to push through the line.

Catching Improvements

For catching in Madden 19, we really wanted to address some of our players’ feedback from the standpoint of delivering more freedom for the user. Common player feedback around getting pulled into catch interactions you didn’t ask for or watching a receiver jump high in the air and not being able to defend him when you’re trying to knock the ball out. To address those, we’ve introduced a new Mid-Air Collision system for receivers who like to high-point the ball and new additions to the Catching system to give more player agency when user-ing your receiver.

Defenders will have more control to decide between interacting with the receiver during the catch or afterwards. ”Play Receiver” is now all about hitting the receiver hard to make sure he doesn’t come down with the ball. On offense, you will have more time to make your decision about the catch you want and react later in the play to make your final choice. The catch mechanics remain the same, but no longer will you jump up in air while holding either Possession or RAC catch mechanics, as we’ve invested in staying closer to the true intent of those mechanics. But be aware that if you attempt to RAC catch a ball that is throw too high, you will most likely not be able to catch it. Choose wisely.

Animation Quality

In addition to making the game feel authentic, we also have done a lot of work on making the game look authentic. Real Player Motion is more than just stick mechanics and player control – this new technology also has allowed us to build features that keep you in the moment all game long. Check out a few of the highlights below.

Tackling

When looking at all the core fundamentals in Madden, tackling has far and away gotten the biggest visual upgrade.

Our players will see tackles influenced by momentum, speed, and weight with our new Momentum Tackle system that ensures tackles play out as expected based on how the players started the tackle. When a defensive back is standing still or strafing to make a conservative tackle on a big, bowling-ball type of back running at him with a full head of steam, you’ll see the defensive back get taken for a ride while getting that back on the ground. Conversely, if the running back is trying to change directions and gets popped by a big linebacker running downhill, the running back will take the force of that hit and fall down in the appropriate manner.

We also invested heavily on improving our Tackling Physics system so that players who add-on into a gang tackle or get involved in the play late can find the correct animations to use in these interactions. They will no longer go into a “rag-doll” state or fall down while looking unaware of the game situation. These players will remain active in the play and their bodies will act according to the laws of physics and momentum.

We did not overlook the end of the play either. Anytime a tackle happens in Madden, players need to get up off the ground. To ensure that players getting up looked just as authentic as the players during the tackle, we built a new Get-Up system that allows players to smoothly transition from hitting the ground to getting up off the ground, to keep you immersed the experience. You’ll see players athletically roll with momentum to get up quickly, or see players intelligently delay getting up while other players on top of them get up first.

Lastly, we did a complete refresh of all of the Hit Stick animations. Every Hit Stick in the game will be new and use the Momentum Tackle system to ensure the same visual quality we expect with all of our tackles. Some new features also come in with the Hit Stick improvements. You can now attempt to Hit Stick a receiver during a catch but be careful not to be early or you will be flagged for Pass Interference. And the timing window has been decreased so that the Hit Stick is a true skill mechanic that will come with a heavier risk of broken tackles than we’ve had before.

Signatures

Beyond the features we’ve built for in-game physical immersion, we also wanted to deliver some personality to go with it. There’s two features we’re introducing in Madden 19 that deliver on Player Signature; QB Pre-Play Signatures and User-Controlled Celebrations.

QB Signatures

We studied hours of film and watched QBs across the league to identify what makes each QB unique in his behaviors and mannerisms before the snap and have begun to reflect that in Madden. Green Bay Packers’ QB Aaron Rodgers adjusts his thigh pad all the time. Kansas City Chiefs’ QB Patrick Mahomes is very deliberate when making pre-snap adjustments. All of these behaviors will be reflected in Madden 19 on multiple levels, including Contextual (fidgets), Functional (pre-snap adjustments), and Audio (all supported QB’s will have contextually correct on-field wires associated with each signature animation).  We are launching with a handful of NFL QBs fully supported and will continue to update more via post-launch updates.

User-Controlled Celebrations

You are now in control of what type of celebration you want to use after making that game-changing player. After a touchdown, sack or safety, you will have the opportunity to choose one of five celebration options via the Right Stick:

  • RS UP – Team/Group Celebration
  • RS RIGHT – Spike
  • RS DOWN – Player Signature
  • RS LEFT – Dance
  • RS CLICK/R3 – Swagger: Steal a Signature animation from the opponent team

Just like with the QBs, we spent dozens of hours watching film to see what celebrations NFL players are doing and which are the most popular, such as “Duck-Duck-Goose,” “The Bobsled,” “The Safe-Breaker,” and of course the many versions of “The Gronk Spike.” You will see a wide variety of celebrations that you see on Sundays, and we will continue to update this content all year long via post-launch updates.

Coverage

We’ve made several additions and improvements to our Coverage AI logic. For starters we’ve added new rule sets for Cover 4, Cover 3, Cover 2, as well as other improvements.  Here are some of the changes we’ve made.

Cover 4 – We have two new versions of Cover 4 (Quarters and Palms).  Quarters and Palms are commonly referred to as “Man Match” defenses, which simply means the defenders in coverage can match up and play man-to-man. Both coverage concepts are similar but with two key differences.

Against a formation where a slot receiver is present, and if the slot receiver runs a quick out, the defense in Cover 4 Quarters will handle this route with the “Quarter Flat” player.  In the same scenario with Cover 4 Palms, the defense will handle this route with the cornerback who’s playing “Outside Quarter.”  In a sense, the coverage plays like a Cover 2.  

Cover 3 – For Cover 3, an emphasis was placed on improving the logic for Curl Flat defenders and adding rule sets for standard Cover 3 so it’s better equipped to handle route concepts from Trips and Bunch formations that traditionally give it trouble. When the offense aligns in a Trips or Bunch formation, Cover 3 Match, Cover 3 Sky, and Cover 3 Buzz plays will function more like the Cover 3 Mable play from Madden 18.

Tampa 2 The primary of focus with Cover 2 was adding new rules and logic for the Middle Read and Vertical Hook defenders.  The Middle Read player will now do a much better job of getting to the deep middle of the field to defend against pass routes that cross that area.  We also continued the work with our Cloud Flat players in regard to defending hi-lo route concepts and with new press animations.

Protect the Sticks – The Protect the Sticks mechanic has been overhauled and updated with new logic.  Now underneath defenders in zone coverage will spot drop the depth of the first down marker. 

New Plays – The defensive theme continues as we’ve added a new defensive formation called “Big Nickel Over G.” This formation uses 4-2-5 personnel which is (four down linemen, two linebackers, and five defensive backs).  Three of the defensive backs are safeties, thus the name Big Nickel. The formation contains new plays and coverage concepts. 

- Clint Oldenburg, Lead Gameplay Design


Madden NFL 19 launches August 10. Pre-Order the Hall of Fame Edition for three-day Early Access and loads of MUT content. Stay in the conversation by following us on Facebook and on Twitter.

 

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