Sports and video games go together like quarterbacks and cheerleaders, and that's why we at Nintendo Life are excited that Madden NFL, one of the longest-running and most popular American football franchises, is among the 3DS launch line-up. We've been tossing the pigskin back and forth across the office to get ourselves pumped, and our first-string reporters Christopher Ingram and Zach Kaplan sat down with Anthony Marinello, Associate Producer on Madden NFL Football, to talk about the upcoming title, how it utilises the powerful handheld hardware, and exciting elements like GameFlow and the dynamic new "Call Your Shots" feature. We also found out why you won't have to worry about any footballs flying toward your face as you play.
Nintendo Life: For those unfamiliar with Madden titles, what makes them stand out from other football video games?
Anthony Marinello: For more than 20 years, the award-winning Madden NFL video game franchise has been delivering players a robust and authentic NFL experience. Madden NFL Football brings each of the 32 NFL teams and stadiums to life like never before with a presentation optimised for viewing in 3D, including 3D specific cameras that provide new levels of depth, making Madden NFL Football the perfect on-the-go game for every football fan.
NL: How does this title improve upon the Madden formula and compare to the recent home console release of Madden NFL '11, and how does it take advantage of the 3DS hardware to do so?
AM: The power of the 3DS hardware, its processor and graphics capabilities, really allow us to bring an authentic console experience to a Nintendo handheld for the first time. That means we're bringing the elements that players expect from a Madden game: the responsive gameplay, the broadcast-style presentation and commentary, the authentic stadiums, teams, and playbooks.
The big differentiator for the Nintendo 3DS is, of course, that 3D top screen, so we focused on making sure we were giving players some outstanding views for Madden. One of the things we learned about working with stereoscopic 3D is that it's more impressive-looking when the camera is nearer to its subject, so we worked on bringing the player in closer to the action. If you compare against previous versions of Madden, for example, you'll see when you're running with the ball the camera is in tighter on the ball carrier here because it helps draw out that 3D effect.
NL: We’ve seen all kinds of creative uses of the touch screen with the DS. Will we find any new ways to use the touch screen in the game?
AM: Besides using the touch screen for playcalling and other menu navigation, we have a "Call Your Shots" feature where you can use the touch screen pre-snap to change up your plays. You can make new assignments for your defenders, maybe switch someone to a flat zone or a man assignment, or draw new routes for your receivers if you're doing a passing play. You just tap the player and drag to where you want him to go.
NL: What modes will we find in Madden NFL Football? Can we expect the franchise mode to make the jump to the portable system?
AM: Madden NFL Football features the standard 11-on-11 quickplay, as well as a fast-paced, arcade-like 5-on-5 mode. You can play through Season mode with either of these game types. We've also included a Practise mode for polishing up your plays. It's also got in-game features such as Spotlight Moments, different playcalling styles including GameFlow, and the Call Your Shots feature for changing player assignments on the fly. Because the 3D element of the 3DS is such a big deal, we designed Madden NFL Football to focus on on-the-field NFL action where you're going to get the most impact.
NL: What is the GameFlow system? What it brings to the experience?
AM: GameFlow is a new playcall system that we introduced to Madden this year, where the game will call the plays for you based on the current situation. It cuts down on how long it takes to play the game, which is a great fit for the on-the-go portable gaming the 3DS provides, keeping you in the on-field action where you're going to stay immersed in the 3D visuals. Of course, you can still choose to call plays the traditional way if you like, but GameFlow has been such a great fit in the game that most players haven’t realised they weren’t calling every play until we point it out to them.
NL: Will Madden NFL Football appeal to the casual gamer looking for hot 3DS launch titles, or mostly the core Madden fans?
AM: If you're a long-time Madden player, you're going to feel comfortable with this title. We're staying true to the franchise by delivering an authentic NFL experience. We also knew that the 3DS launch was going to get a lot of attention and bring a lot of players to the game who may not have played other versions of Madden recently, so we made sure the game is accessible so they can have a great time right from the start. That means we have some simple context-sensitive controls that read the field and perform the best move based on your situation, whether it's a stiff-arm, spin, or juke, all based on a single button. It's been satisfying to see both long-time and new players be able to pick the game up and feel like a pro right away.
NL: Sounds great! Were there any exciting moments or breakthroughs in development of the game that you could share?
AM: Learning how to make effective use of the stereoscopic 3D was a great experience. There's a special set of rules for making the 3D really work properly, and some of them weren't what you'd expect. For example, we originally thought, "Hey, wouldn't it be great if we had a camera shot of the quarterback throwing the ball directly at the camera, so it looks like it's popping right out at the user?" Turns out that sort of thing doesn't work well, so we learned some other techniques to get the effects we wanted. Using what we learned, we were able to tune all the game's cameras to deliver a really nice 3D presentation.
NL: Interesting – on a similar note, what are your impressions of the 3DS as a handheld console, and what do think the future will hold for the 3DS?
AM: The 3DS is a really unique piece of hardware. It takes all the great features of the original DS and makes it even better. It's not often you get a brand-new sort of experience coming along like the glasses-free 3D. We're really looking forward to the US release and expect people to be impressed with the system.
NL: Is there anything else you'd like to share with our readers?
We're excited that the 3DS launch day is just around the corner on March 27th and that players will be able to see this whole new Madden NFL for themselves in 3D. Thanks for playing!
Nintendo Life would like to thank Electronic Arts and Anthony Marinello for taking the time to answer our questions.