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'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."
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