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lilyoder6 04-29-2009 10:36 AM

'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know
As I was previewing the upcoming "Madden NFL 10," one question kept crossing my mind. What really happens at the bottom of a fumble pile?

According to the NFL players I've talked to, it sounds as though the craziest action of every game doesn't even make it onto cameras.

Ronnie Brown of the Dolphins simply described it to me as "a scuffle."

Cardinals wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald told me, "Spitting, stepping on your hands -- whatever it takes to get the ball out of your hands, they'll do it."

Rookie Mark Sanchez even broke down how USC practiced the mayhem: "When you coached on it at any school, they call it a dog pile, and anything goes -- pinching, scratching, biting -- that's the way it is. And if you're not good at it, then you're not protecting the football, you're not competing to get it back. And then it's about the guys on your team when they know you have it, pulling guys off the pile and stalling the refs so you can get it if you don't have it. There's a right way to go about it, and I think they taught us that at USC."

Luckily for Madden gamers, they'll be able to experience the chaos without the controller poking them in the eyes, as the fumble pile is one of the new features in the game.

For the first time in series history, when the ball hits the ground, it doesn't just go to the guy who randomly touches it. In "Madden NFL 10," players will pile on the ball, and gamers will need to pound the button that is shown on the screen to try to wrestle away the rock. As the button commands change on the screen, the ball can switch hands numerous times until the refs actually dig through the bodies and declare a winner.

"That sounds a lot more fun than being in a real pile," Brown says, laughing. "Guys will do just about anything to get that ball."

But the fumble pile isn't the only new addition to "Madden NFL 10," and ESPN sat down with the game's senior producer, Phil Frazier, to get all the dirt on the new game. Click to the next page to see the five things you need to know about "Madden NFL 10."

"Madden NFL 10" introduces a new technology system called Pro-Tak. The biggest addition this advanced technology brings comes in the form of gang tackles. In "Madden NFL 10," up to nine-man gang tackles can take place (up from three in last year's edition), and they can be played out in any fashion, as in eight defenders versus the runner, or even four offensive players trying to push four defensive players as they try to move the pile toward the first down. On some plays, the running back gets stood up by a couple of defenders and pushed back to the point where the refs on the field blow the whistle even though he never went down. And on the goal line, if a runner looks to be stopped before reaching pay dirt, you will even see offensive linemen try to hit the pile to help push the ball into the end zone. It's all based on size, strength and the number of guys in the pile.

This might be the most significant difference to the way the game looks and plays this year, and it's a change that definitely helps improve the franchise's realism.

Pro-Tak is a new animation technology that helps drive several new features in the game ... nine-man gang tackles, a brand new pocket for the offensive line, steerable blocks, steerable tackles and the fight for the fumble feature that really lets you fight for that ball at the bottom of the pile.

"This technology is amazing. It allows us to procedurally move players into gang tackles, it allows us to procedurally move the pile, and the nice thing about it is it's not just one offensive guy against eight defensive players. You can have two guys try to wrap the ball carrier on defense, then have an offensive lineman hit the pile from behind and try to move the pile. It's all dynamic, all procedurally done, and it really allows us to blow out the animations."

Frazier broke down how Pro-Tak handles those fumble piles. "You don't literally try and bend a guy's fingers back or anything like that, but that's the background intent. You hear all these stories about what goes on at the bottom of the pile, and we like to think of the button-mash for the ball as one of those things that you're doing. It's not like the X button is twist the wrist, but you have to pound the buttons in order to fight for the ball.

"The ball hits the ground, and this doesn't happen with every fumble, but if there is a situation where two or three guys are right there, then they'll jump on the ball. You're unclear over who has the actual possession, so we cut to a cut scene, and that cut scene will show players jumping on the pile and fighting for the ball. Then, during that cut scene, we are going to flash a button, and that button you have to button-mash as fast as you can. We are also going to show a meter, and that meter represents possession, and it will either point one way or the other. You basically fight throughout the cut scene, then when the referee comes in and pulls the players off, we finally reveal who recovered the fumble."

One of the toughest aspects of playing quarterback in Madden (or real life) is trying to look down the field during a heavy pass rush. You're trying to spot the open man while at the same time watching the pocket collapse around you and looking for someplace to run.

"Madden NFL 10" introduces a new quarterback avoidance system that should go a long way toward helping solve this issue.

"When I play the game, I have a hard time looking in two places at the same time," Frazier said. "My eyes want to look at the receiver, but then you also have four or five defenders trying to sack your quarterback. It's a tricky situation when you're trying to throw a pass. So now, when your quarterback is under pressure, your controller will actually start to rumble. And now, when you feel that pressure, you feel that rumble, you can flick the right stick and do an automatic avoidance move. You don't have to think too hard, you just flick the stick, and he'll try to avoid whatever pressure is there. And it is direction-sensitive, so if you press to the right, he'll try to move to the right. And hopefully that avoidance will give you that extra second you need in order to get the pass off.

"And this is all based on player ratings, so if you have a guy like Ben Roethlisberger, you hit the QB-avoidance stick, and he is going to break out of more of those situations than the average quarterback. But the goal is to give most players that extra second to get off that pass, and while that extra second or third attempt might not work for everybody, we typically want people to have success. When they hit that stick during pressure, they will typically have success the first time, but if you keep holding the ball and try to hit the stick a second or even a third time, it's going to be tricky."

lilyoder6 04-29-2009 10:36 AM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know
When I first heard that EA Sports was adding the Wildcat formation to the game this year, the first emotion I felt was panic. If anything will break the game this year and become the most overused formation at the Madden Challenge, the Wildcat is it.

Not to worry, Frazier promised. "I understand the concern, and if we were adding it as a part of downloadable content or something after the fact where we didn't have the time to fix the AI [artificial intelligence] to go with it, then the Wildcat could be a real problem. But the fact that we're adding it during our developmental cycle and we have a chance to take a look at those AI issues that you're concerned about, I don't think it's going to be a problem.

"Just as we're adding the Wildcat, we're also making sure our defenses are ready for the Wildcat. Just as you saw with the Dolphins, they had great early success with it. Ronnie Brown was putting up huge numbers with it. But then throughout the season, teams started to adjust and they figured out ways to stop it. We had to program that same logic into our defense as well, so you don't see the same five-touchdown performance out of the Wildcat like the Dolphins had early on.

"We have a guy by the name of Anthony White, and he does all our playbooks. He is kind of a playbook hobbyist and he buys coaching books, coaching schemes, and he tries to get his hands on black-market copies of playbooks. All he does is watch NFL tape and read playbooks, and he really nailed the Wildcat."

The more I talk to players, the more I realize how important these video game ratings really are. These numbers are talked about in the locker rooms and even on the practice field. When somebody misses a block, guys will joke about how his rating just dropped five points.

But nothing has prepared the NFL for what's about to happen with "Madden NFL 10." The producers of the game have decided to create a bigger gap in the ratings between the elite players and those who ride the pine.

That means that although quarterbacks such as Peyton Manning still strut around with a 99 overall rating, backups such as Matt Leinart can only watch as their overall rating drops from a 85 to a 62. Ouch.

"Quite frankly, we were getting to a point in the game where elite players just felt like every other player in the game," Frazier said. "Brandon Jacobs, who is just a beast, wasn't able to break that many more tackles than the average running back because almost all of the ratings ended up between 80 and 99.

"Our intention this year was to make the elite players stand out. We're pretty sure a lot of players are going to be extremely unhappy about this, but the result is, there are a lot of guys who are coming down in ratings across the board. Every single rating is being adjusted. The elite guys, they're safe. Peyton Manning, Randy Moss, Larry Fitzgerald, guys like that are going to be saved. But the average guy is certainly going to come down. Guys in the 70s are now average. You may even see some guys in the 40s.

"And the game-play impact is absolutely huge. Now the teams actually feel like they have a personality. When you're playing as a team like the 49ers who don't have that elite quarterback, you're going to have a hard time throwing the ball. It's going to feel like you have a problem at that position, and that's a great change."

One look at the new screens of "Madden NFL 10" tells you the differences are almost too many to count. "Green gloves in Seattle, all the new jerseys that have been announced, Super Bowl patches for the players -- it's all about authenticity," Frazier said. "We're even looking into fixing Troy Polamalu's hair. Little things like that, we're really trying to bring home. We want everything you see on Sunday to be seen in 'Madden NFL 10.'

"If you see a kicker warming up on the sideline, that's the type of detail we want you to see in Madden as well. All those details, from little things like the right stripes on uniforms to the kickers warming up, that's what you're going to see in the game. We've also slowed the game down a bit this year, and when people first hear that, they don't understand what that really means, but I think that now, it just feels right. When you're running the ball, you can see the holes and you have time to react and hit those holes. When you're going to turn upfield, you actually need to plant your foot and turn upfield. You can't just turn on a dime. There's no more Mario running. I just think the game is really starting to feel like an NFL simulation should feel, and that's really what I'm most proud of.

"And as much as it would be fun to Hit Stick the referees, I don't think our league insiders over at the NFL would be too pleased. Although we did plan to have an achievement in the game if you were able to play an entire game of Madden without knocking over an official. But it's so hard to do, we had to take it out. But no, you can't Hit Stick them, and even when you run into them in the game, they won't stop your progress, you just knock them over and keep going.

"This year, the focus was just getting the officials on the field. We've never had seven officials on the field before as in the old days, we only had five. So we have more officials on the field, and we're running at 60 frames per second. Maybe in the future you'll be able to knock their hats off with passes or something like that, but we're not quite there just yet.

"And here's the thing, we're not even showing everything about the game just yet. This is just a taste. We have some pretty big online features that will appeal to both competitive gamers and cooperative gamers, we have a lot more presentation features to come, as well as new Dynasty features.

"Everything I just told you, that's only really scratching the surface."

RoethlisBURGHer 04-29-2009 05:33 PM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know
OMG, I cannot wait for this game to come out!

Steelman16 04-29-2009 05:47 PM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know
It's a shame they won't make a PC version.

ShutDown24 04-29-2009 10:42 PM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know
I'm probably more excited for Madden this year than I ever have been before. I can't wait for August to roll around.

(Shouldn't this be in the gaming section instead of the locker room?)

Crushzilla 04-29-2009 11:15 PM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know

They are actually making upgrades to the game?

I was wondering how long they could release the same game with updated rosters...

ShutDown24 04-29-2009 11:18 PM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know

Originally Posted by Crushzilla (Post 599505)

They are actually making upgrades to the game?

I was wondering how long they could release the same game with updated rosters...

Tell me about it. It seems like (and it's still early so the jury is out) that EA is actually going to make some significant upgrades to the game this year.

I_Bleed_Black_And_Gold 04-29-2009 11:37 PM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know
They supposedly added a lot of things to the last Madden, and it was god awful. I will rent it first this time...First time I haven't pre-ordered it.

lilyoder6 04-30-2009 12:12 AM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know
so far it looks to be interesting in what they are doing,.

i like the fact that they are acually going to create a gap between the elite's and starters and non-starters...

Hammer67 05-01-2009 05:40 PM

Re: 'Madden NFL 10': Five Things to Know
I don't care about any of this...until I rent it and actually play it, I ain't buying it. Like someone said, I am tired of paying for a roster update every year.

They patch things and call them "new features"

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