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Creating "next-gen" quarterback play in Madden NFL


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Two days ago we added a new blog detailing the addition of a lot of new sliders and options to Madden NFL 10. This was met with a seemingly luke-warm reaction by some, as most were expecting a much more juicy feature or more in-depth gameplay information. So after talking with our marketing partners, we were able to all agree that we could release one feature that we are really excited about to try and appease those that may have been upset with the customization blog post.

What is the new feature?

Madden NFL 06 debuted one of the most controversial features in the history of the Franchise – QB Vision (aka the Vision Cone). The concept of this feature was simple: in video-game terms, replicate the vision of a real life QB and force/encourage the gamer to go through real-life progressions that a QB would do. You could use the cone to “look off” safeties, or follow different receivers as they ran their routes and made cut moves. If you threw to a receiver that wasn’t in your field of vision, you would expect a much more inaccurate pass. Better QB’s had much wider vision cones, emulating the concept that they have a better inherent knowledge of where all their WR’s are at all times.

Vision_5F00_OLD.JPG

The vision cone in action

As Madden moved onto PS3 and Xbox360, this feature was slowly phased out. Many fans have asked over and over for the QB vision to return, but there were always mechanic conflicts and other reasons to bring it back to the forefront. Well we are happy to report that QB Vision is not only back, but it’s bigger and better than ever. It really is my pleasure to present QB Vision 3.0.

Vision_5F00_NEW.JPG

(Very early) concept mock of QB Vision 3.0

As you may have seen in one of our previous blogs [link], we added 3 new accuracy ratings for the QB. We knew that QB Vision 3.0 was our vehicle to convey these new accuracy ranges to the gamer, in a simple and intuitive fashion. In the concept mock above, you can see that the varying gradients of color equate to Warner’s accuracy rating. These colors are the most key aspects to making the feature truly feel “next-gen”.

Bright yellow is the most accurate range, while green is the second most accurate range. There has been a lot of debate on whether this should be switched, but being that the previous cone was yellow we all figured that it was more intuitive to keep that the same color as what people know.

The red and orange gradients show a less accurate range than green or yellow, and you will also notice some darker shades of those colors as well. These convey that a lob will be more accurate than a bullet in that situation.

The jagged edges represent the ‘danger areas’ since the lob pass has a higher risk of being picked off or swatted. This is a very key detail that the gamer can pick up on to help them make that split-second decision that can mean the difference between touchdown or interception.

The other major problem we had to overcome was with the control. Playmaker control (originally implemented in Madden NFL 2004) is currently the default R-Stick functionality while back in the pocket, and through gathering a lot of feedback from the team we knew we didn’t want to change this as it is a fan favorite. Also, when you are behind the line of scrimmage, we wanted to discourage the "sprinting out of the pocket" mindset (by holding RT/R2 to sprint), so we thought that the sprint button could possibly be utilized. L2 / L-Trigger are totally free, but those can be very hard to use. So we settled on RT + R-Stick to activate QB Vision 3.0. This may seem complicated on paper but it is extremely easy after you practice it a few times.

One other thing, we also realized that you may NOT want to use this all the time to give away where you are throwing to, so at any time you can hold RT (for QB Vision Control), and just CLICK IN on the R-Stick to make it disappear or re-appear.

Well folks, that is it for this week’s blog, and our first official new gameplay feature. We hope you are as excited for this addition as we are. Please post any feedback you may have in the comments.

- Ian Cummings

Lead Designer, Madden NFL 10

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They need to bring back the feature where you can bring a receiver back to you or streak them out, right, left, etc. I know people cheesed it, but if they just crippled the accuracy of a qb throwing on the run it could be salvaged.

You can do that with Madden 09.

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QBVision4.JPG

Here are the key details I thought would give it away:

- Calling the feature 3.0 when there hasn't been a 2.0

- Green being worse than yellow

- Different shading for lob / bullet

- Jagged lines seemed like a dead giveaway to me - that would be absolutely impossible to understand

- Removing the ability to actually run with your QB (eek!)

- Using an extremely complex button combo to even activate (or de-activate) the feature

In our first blog for the year we made clear that we weren't about delivering gimmicks...we wanted to deliver a PURE and authentic NFL experience. This went pretty much 180 against that vision. :)

To be clear, there will not be a QB Vision 3.0 in Madden NFL 10. But it looks like we still tricked a few of you. Kudos to Josh Looman for coming up with QB Vision as our piece to play the joke.

To extend an olive branch and show that we're not totally heartless, I figured I'd touch really quickly on a REAL improvement to gameplay for Madden NFL 10 (via new animation technology and AI) in the area of sideline catches.

If you have played pretty much any version of Madden, this has probably happened to you:

FAILSIDELINECATCH.jpg

You throw a nice pass to your receiver as he breaks open on an out route towards the sidelines, but your WR plays a catch animation that gets his foot just out of bounds, nullifying your perfect vision as a QB (sorry, bad pun). This is one of the more frustrating occurrences across all skill levels for every Madden player. We knew we had to fix this.

There are three main things that we will do for Madden NFL 10 to improve this area:

1. Added AI to make players dynamically slow down as they approach the sideline (instead of running full speed)

2. Allow early animation branching at the end of certain animations so they learn to better drag their feet

3. Dynamically "steer" the catch animation as he approaches the sideline. This emulates what a real NFL player does as he tries to keep his feet in bounds...he will try to 'curve' upfield to maximize his shot at getting his feet down where possible.

Check out the video below - an example from Madden NFL 09 is on the left while the new technology you'll see in Madden NFL 10 is at work on the right. You can pretend that the out of bounds line is the edge of the grid. In the example, you can see how just a slight bit of "steering" on a catch animation can mean the difference between a pass being incomplete and complete. You'll also notice how the same animation can branch into a more realistic "toe drag" ending and make the player look much more aware of his surroundings. We can also make players with higher awareness and agility ratings actually "steer" even more upfield, which could hypothetically even keep guys in bounds and able to keep running up field (probably wouldn't apply in this example though).

Video Link

In summary, we hope this makes up for our little April Fools prank. This new "steering" technology is being used in many other areas that we'll be talking about soon, but even in this simple example I think it's evident how we can really improve the passing game with this addition.

- Ian Cummings

Lead Designer, Madden NFL 10

Tagged: Madden, Gameplay, Ian Cummings, April Fools, sideline catches

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They need to bring back the feature where you can bring a receiver back to you or streak them out, right, left, etc. I know people cheesed it, but if they just crippled the accuracy of a qb throwing on the run it could be salvaged.

that feature is in madden 09, it's the playmaker feature

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glad that was a joke because the large colorful cone on the screen would take away from the beauty of the game....however I loved the vision cone.......at first it was awkward but once you learn how to use it you come to appreciate it.

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