All New Collision System in Madden NFL 12

Hey there, Madden fans.  Welcome back for another great year of Madden NFL Football!  With the NFL Draft upon us, it’s a sign that the NFL season will be here before you know it.  That is, of course, if the owners and players can work something out before the season begins.  But, have no fear Madden Nation, no matter what happens this year with the real NFL , Madden NFL 12 will have a full season ready to go come August 30th.  The development team here at Tiburon has been hard at work and we are excited to talk about some of the new gameplay features and improvements that we have been working on for Madden NFL 12. 

Don't forget to check out the Gameplay Playbook here for more information.

There’s an old cliché in football that has seemingly been around forever:  Defense Wins Championships.  That, however, hasn’t always been the case for the recent versions of Madden.  So thinking about what we wanted to do for Madden NFL 12, we decided that it was long overdue to give the defensive side of the ball some love and attention. 

 One of the areas of the game that we felt needed some major improvements was tackling on defense.   The amount of warping, sliding and suction that occurred during tackles was painful and frustrating to watch over the past few years.  With that in mind, we created an all-new collision system in which tackles will only trigger once contact is actually made with the ball carrier, which of course is how tackles occur in real life.  With suction, warping and sliding being removed from the game, you will no longer see ball carriers get sucked into tackles by engaged defensive lineman when trying to run through a hole.

This new tackle collision system also allows us to factor in momentum.  In previous versions of the game, there were situations where a ball carrier and a defender would be running full speed at one another only to see them collide and fall gently to the ground as if it were a regular tackle that played from a foot away.  This year in Madden NFL 12, momentum will be factored into play and will be an important part of which direction the tackle will carry the ball carrier.  The momentum of the tackle will be figured by a variety of factors including the size and weight of the players involved, the speed at which the players are moving, and the direction the tackle triggers.   For example, if you have a smaller back like Chris Johnson running straight ahead and he gets hit head-on by a bigger defender like Ray Lewis, more than likely, Lewis’s momentum will cause Johnson to fall over backwards. 

This all-new collision system would not work properly without adding several new tackles.   Our terrific animation team has added more than 100 new tackles including 40 new gang tackles.  These new animations give the game a completely fresh look on the defensive side of the ball.  These new gang tackles tie in with the momentum system to help create some of the most authentic tackles that we have ever had in Madden. 

Another new feature that we have added to the new tackle system is a tackle button.  The old dive button has been replaced with this new tackle button.  This button will help the guide the defender towards the ball carrier.  With suctioning and warping no longer in the game, this button will be very important in helping the user wrap up and bring down the ball carrier. The key here is the timing of when this button is pressed. As a user, you will have to position the defender close enough to the ball carrier so that when you press the tackle button he will be able to lunge towards him and wrap up.  If you press the tackle button when you aren’t in position, you will likely lunge and miss the ball carrier completely.  You will also be able to dive with this button if the ball carrier is ahead of you and want to try for a shoestring tackle. The new momentum-based collision system along with the addition of a new tackle button and brand new animations, will give the defense a brand new look and feel in Madden NFL 12.

 Another area of defense that we focused on was a total revamp of zone defense.  This was another part of the game that needed some attention, as many of you-- and including me--have been hesitant to call zone defenses in the past few years.  We've added brand new zone AI logic so defenders have a much better idea of what their responsibilities are for whatever zone assignment that are assigned.  Hook zone defenders will now leverage receivers as they run through their zone and point them out to their teammates as they move into another one.  Deep zone defenders will also play more aggressive as they won’t sit back and wait for the ball.
 
With all these zone AI improvements on the field, we've also made some major improvements to the playbooks and playcalling.  We went through every defensive play in the game to make sure zone assignments lined up correctly and were evenly spaced.  Zone blitz plays were also tuned so that they will be much more effective at getting pressure on the quarterback.  Along with this play tuning, we’ve also added some new formations including: 4-3 Over Plus, Sub 2-3-6, Sub 3-3-5 Odd, 6-4-1 Goal Line (that is to be used exclusively versus the goal line offensive formation) and few others that you’ll have to wait and see down the road.  We also added several new authentic plays that were drawn up directly from the NFL coaches’ film.

CPU defensive playcalling will also be much improved as we have added some new AI groups to allow the CPU to be better prepared for specific formations such as Empty sets (no RB's), Overloads and the Wildcat.  We have also spent some time of fixing some of the alignment issues that have been in the game for several years, as well.
 
Now it may seem like with all this time that we have spent helping the defense get better that we totally forgot about the offense.  Well, I can assure you that is definitely not the case.  One new feature that is exclusive to Madden NFL 12 is the ability to pump fake to a specific receiver by holding the L-Trigger + the receiver icon.  You may be asking yourself what is so cool about this.  Well, here's why...
 
During our motion capture shoot we captured brand new wide receiver cut moves with an emphasis on double move routes.  Double move routes are very common in the NFL and when they are utilized correctly they can lead to a big play for the offense.  Within these new double move cuts is a pump fake window that will sometimes get a defender who is in man coverage to bite on the first part of the cut.  For example, the sluggo route (slant and go) that has been in our game for a few years now never had a fakeout chance for the defender since it didn't have a specific cut or the new pump fake window.  Without these two things the route was pretty much useless.  Now, in Madden NFL 12, we have added a new sluggo cut that allows you to try and set up the defender and go down the field for a big play.  We've also added new In/Out N Up cuts, Hitch/Curl N Go cuts and Post Corner cuts.  All these new cuts have pump fake windows and a chance for the defender to be faked out if you time it correctly. 
 
Before you start worrying that these new cuts will break the defense because people will be pump faking on every play in hopes that a defender will bite and give up a huge play, we've made sure that the more you pump fake, the more likely that it won't have an effect on the defender.  Other factors for whether the defender will bite include: his man coverage rating versus the receiver's route running rating, as well as the skill level that you are playing on. Defenders will be much less likely to bite on the higher levels as compared to Rookie and Pro.
 
Another new feature to Madden NFL 12 is a new Dive Catch mechanic.  You will now be able to trigger user controlled dive catches (if timed properly) by pressing the X button/Square button.  We’ve added brand new dive catches that can trigger from a variety of angles if you press the button at the correct time.  Another major improvement to catching is that we have reduced the amount of warping/sliding on catches by adding several new catch animations.  These new catch animations, or what we call sprint catches, were motion captured with receivers running at top speed to make the catch.  With these new catches being triggered at full speed, we don’t have to artificially speed up older catches that were needed previously in order to match a catch.  These catch warping fixes help address an issue that was especially prevalent on drags and crossing type routes.
Blocking has also been positively impacted by the all-new collision system.  Defenders will no longer be sucked into a block.  This is huge because for years we have all seen the crazy videos where defensive lineman who are in position to make the tackle, get warped into an offensive lineman only to see the ball carrier run right by him for a huge gain.  So now, just like tackles, the block cannot trigger until collision is actually made with the defender.  This not only helps the game from a visual standpoint, but it helps make the game feel more realistic, as well.  
 
Offensive playbooks have also received some major updating with the addition of more than 200 authentic new plays along with several new formations that are exclusive to Madden NFL 12 including Gun Empty Eagle, Gun Normal Y-Flex Tight, Weak H Close Flip, and Gun Y-Trips Cowboy.  These new plays and formations, just like the new defensive plays and formations, are the exact plays you see on Sundays, as they have been created directly from the NFL coaches’ film. 
 
Another improvement we have made to Madden NFL 12 is with Run Styles. We have three Run Styles this year:  Long stride, Normal stride and Short stride.  Taller players with long strides, like Calvin Johnson, will use the Long stride run style.  You’ll notice these players will have a long gait and take fewer steps to travel the same distance as the Normal and Short stride style guys.  The “vertically challenged” players, such as Maurice Jones-Drew or Ahmad Bradshaw, will use the Short stride run style.  They will use quicker, choppier steps as they sprint past defenders.  The Normal stride run style will be used by almost everyone else.

We’ve also added five different Ball Carrying styles for Madden NFL 12.  First, we have the standard Default Carry style, which the majority of players will use.  Next is the High and Tight Carry style, like Michael Turner, for players who like to keep the ball closer to their bodies.  Then we have the Loose carry style that players such as Adrian Peterson, Terrell Owens and Hakeem Nicks use where they keep the ball away from their bodies while they run.  Fourth we have the “Loaf of Bread” Carry style which is like a quarterback scrambling or a DB returning a pick six ala Deion Sanders style.  Finally, we have the Awkward Carry style which you will see being used by big defensive linemen, who really have no business running with a football except if they are lucky enough to pick up a fumble and head for the end zone.

These new Run Styles and Carry Styles are another way to really help differentiate the look of different players in Madden NFL 12.

Well, that’s just some of the Gameplay improvements that we have been focusing on here at Tiburon over the past few months.  Thanks for taking the time to read this blog and I hope it has made you as excited as we are for Madden NFL 12!  Now it’s back to work to make sure we finish strong…

-Larry Richart
Designer, Central Gameplay