Connected Careers Developer Blog

Hey Madden NFL fans-

I’m Josh Looman and I’m here to tell you about the most exciting thing to happen to career modes in sports games in a very long time. It’s called Connected Careers and it’s going to set the standard for career modes for at least the next decade. Our goal is simple…after you play Connected Careers, you’ll never be able to go back to the same old bland franchise or single player mode that you see in other sports games.

We’ve been working on Connected Careers since the beginning of the Madden NFL 12 development cycle and are so proud to finally be able to show it off. We’ve been given overwhelming support from our GM Cam Weber and Executive Producer Roy Harvey, and once more career modes are a priority for the Madden NFL franchise.

I’ve been pitching this mode in some capacity for the last four years and it’s great to see it finally become a reality.

Before I get to the details, I have to admit that I had a few good laughs over the speculation about Connected Careers when the mode was first teased a few months back on our website. I had fans on Twitter asking me if it was a new season mode that was entirely controlled by Kinect and I even had one guy ask me if it was a new addition to Madden Ultimate Team. I appreciate the passion, but most of the guesses were pretty far from the truth.

So what is Connected Careers? Without further ado, let’s get to the details…

Getting Connected

At the heart of it, Connected Careers is about connecting you and your friends, in the ultimate career mode, online or offline.

I know this might be a little hard to wrap your heads around and that’s understandable. When we announced it at the first community day, the reaction was one of pure shock. Afterward, I still had community guys coming up to me and asking questions about the salary cap being added to online franchise. When I explained that online franchise was dead and was being replaced by Connected Careers, they reacted like it was Christmas morning.

This is an entirely new mode. Franchise Mode, Superstar Mode and Online Franchise Mode are gone. They’ve been replaced by one complete mode that is deeper (in the first year) than those other three modes combined.

This new mode seamlessly combines Superstar, Offline Franchise and Online Franchise into an online/offline career mode that allows you to play as practically any player or coach and live out your NFL dream.

It’s got everything you expect and a ton of features that you aren’t going to see coming.

Let’s run through the basics:

Salary Cap and real contracts? Check.

Full offseason featuring the Draft and Free Agency? Check.

Rookie Scouting? Check.

Play for 30 years just like offline franchise mode? Check.

Play with 32 humans in a league? Check.

Something tells me that you’ve got a huge smile on your face right now.

Honestly…we’ve thrown in everything but the kitchen sink and while it took a lot of sweat, blood and tears to get here, we’ve done it in one year.

Ok, let’s start talking about individual features.
 

Getting Started

Just like you’re used to in Online Dynasty or the newly retired Online Franchise Mode, the first time you boot up Madden NFL 13, you’ll have the choice to start a new league as the commissioner or join a league that another commissioner has created.

As you advance through the process of creating or joining the league, you’ll have to make some choices.

Want to create a new player or coach from scratch that looks like you, thanks to GameFace? You can.

Want to play as any active player or coach in the NFL? You can. You’re no longer limited to only playing as a rookie in this new mode.

Or even crazier…Want to play as rookie versions of legendary coaches and players like Jerry Rice, Joe Montana, Barry Sanders or Bill Walsh? You can.

Pretty cool, huh?

So yes, this means that you have the ability to start a career with Tim Tebow, Tom Brady, Calvin Johnson, Ray Lewis, etc. The list goes on and on.

You can even start a career with Greg McElroy if you want. It’s your choice.

If you choose to create a new player or coach, you’ll be asked to select a player type as and then you’ll choose a backstory as a player or coach.

Your player type determines what you look like and what your initial ratings are. Choose to be a power back and you’ll look like Brandon Jacobs. Choose a big red zone threat wide receiver and you’ll look a lot like Megatron.

Your backstory modifies your initial ratings even more and determines what your expectations are from the start of the game. If you select ‘Undrafted Player’ as your backstory for instance, you’ll start with lower ratings but you’ll also have lower expectations.

We’ve talked a lot throughout development about Connected Careers being the first true sports RPG, and your ability to choose multiple roles and then have your player type and backstory define your strengths and weaknesses makes this new mode feel more like an RPG than any sports game you’ve ever played.

Goals and XP

As soon as you begin your career, you’ll notice that you’ve been given goals to reach. In fact, every player and coach in Connected Careers, whether controlled by a human or not, is given goals. In fact, there are over 1100 goals in Connected Careers.

There are three types of goals:

Season Goals

Season Goals focus on one stat for players (like season passing yards for Quarterbacks) and have four tiers. Tier one is the lowest tier and tier four is the highest. If you only hit tier one, your ratings will drop as a player and you’ll get fired if you’re a coach. If you hit tier four, you’ll earn a nice chunk of XP to use when progressing your player or coach. As I mentioned above, your backstory determines the XP you earn and how difficult your goals are from the start of your career.

Weekly Goals

Weekly Goals are around every week of the season and allow you to earn XP for meeting goals like rushing for 100 yards, scoring a touchdown, etc.

Milestone Goals

Milestone Goals are around all the time and cover everything from breaking records, winning awards, winning Super Bowls or meeting career stat milestones. You earn XP from meeting any of these goals.

Meeting these goals earns you XP, just like you’re used to earning in traditional RPGs. You’ll use that XP to buy progression packages that increase your ratings or traits. You have full control over what you progress and when you progress it. Want to save your XP to make your player faster? Go ahead. Want to upgrade your awareness as soon as you can? It’s all up to you.

Building Your Legacy and the Hall of Fame

In the past, there were only two ways to compete head to head in career modes. You either matched up on the field or you tried to win the Super Bowl so that you could prove to the rest of the online franchise that you were the best team in the league.

In Connected Careers, you have the ability to compete in a new way.

Everything you do in your career contributes to your Legacy Score.

If you break the record for rushing yards in a single game, your Legacy Score will increase.

If you win the Super Bowl, your Legacy Score will increase.

Make the Pro Bowl?  Your Legacy Score will increase.

Win the MVP? Your Legacy Score will increase.

At any point in your career, you can go to a screen that compares your Legacy Score to anyone else in your league. From active players to Hall of Famers, you can always see how you stack up against everyone else. If you’re a quarterback, track your progress against legends like Joe Montana or rookies like Andrew Luck or RGIII. If you’re a coach, compare yourself to Jim Harbaugh, Chuck Pagano or even Vince Lombardi.

And while your Legacy Score is a great new way to compete, it also determines whether you make the Hall of Fame or not. There’s a different threshold per position, so it might be a little tougher to make the Hall of Fame as a wide receiver these days than it would be as a running back.

Unlimited Replayability

And now for my favorite feature in Connected Careers.

We know that keeping a league going for multiple seasons is tough. People get bored and get tired of playing with the same coach or player and because they have no alternative, they just quit.

We’re giving you the ability to legitimately stay in the league for all 30 years and we’re doing it in a cool way.

Let’s say I start my career as Josh Looman, brand new coach of the Detroit Lions. I play three seasons and win two Super Bowls. In year three, I draft a running back in the 2nd round that turns out to be the next Adrian Peterson, but I’m getting bored being a coach and really only care about turning this new running back into a star.

I press a button, retire my coach and go back through the creation process, beginning my career as the newly-drafted Adrian Peterson clone.

All without restarting the league.

Retire as many times as you like and choose a new character. Want to try playing as a tight end five years into the league? Go ahead. Everyone else in your online league can continue their careers without any issues.

No other game has ever done anything like this. We jokingly referred to this feature as Reincarnation during development and I think you can see why it provides unlimited replayability for you and your friends in your online career.

Big Surprises

In Connected Careers, we wanted to make sure you always felt an overwhelming sense of immersion, and we’ll do that by keeping the league dynamic and fresh along the way so that you never felt like you were playing the same league twice. Here are a few of the surprises you can expect while playing the mode:

Dynamic Scouting Storylines

We wanted to make sure that scouting meant something in Connected Careers, so we’ve created storylines for specific players in each draft class that can dynamically change throughout the season. This creates an emotional connection with the players you scout throughout the year and gives them personalities that you can identify with. You can play the same draft class multiple times and you’ll never have the same experience twice. I can’t wait to see the look on your faces when the next Andrew Luck decides to come back for his senior year and actually pulls himself out of this year’s draft class and shows up next season!

In the Draft, Trey Wingo will recap each story as the player is picked to really drive home that connection.

Again, no other game has ever done anything like this. We’re changing everything.

Don’t Call it a Comeback

Every now and then a player or coach might retire and come back the following season. Who? When? How often? You’ll just have to find out for yourselves.

Don’t Call it a Comeback: The Sequel

Sometimes a player or coach who is not even in the rosters at the start of the game might come out of retirement in your league. Cue jaws dropping. J

 

Extended Injuries

Players can get hurt in Connected Careers and those injuries can sometimes last into the offseason or possibly into the following year.

Lower the Boom!

Players can retire in Connected Careers at any point in the offseason. You might think you had a great draft until you find out that your starting running back is hanging up his cleats for good and you need to scramble to find a replacement.

Game Over

In Connected Careers, you can get fired as a coach or released as a player. If you are not hired or signed by the end of the offseason, we’ll force you to retire your character. As mentioned above, you can always go back through and create a new character and keep going in the league.

Fair and Balanced: News

Connected Careers features a dynamic news system that reacts to everything that happens in your league AND everything that happens to you. If someone wins the MVP, you’ll see news about it. If Tim Tebow is traded, you’ll know right away.

And the coolest part?

We’ve got a virtual Twitter feed in game that provides personal, dynamic reactions to everything in your league. The virtual Twitter features more than 13 actual media personalities that react to things in their own unique way. Don’t be surprised if you see virtual Skip Bayless question whether you should have really been given the rookie of the year award in Connected Careers. No other game has ever done anything even remotely resembling this.

The Kitchen Sink

The list of other features is too long to break down piece by piece in this blog. Here’s a quick overview of everything else:

Team Specific Overall Ratings

Every team rates players based on their individual philosophies. Gone are the days of every single team thinking that the same running back is a 90 overall rating across the board. The Saints now prefer smaller receiving backs while the 49ers lean toward backs that can handle the load. This brings a whole new layer of strategy to the Draft, Free Agency, Trades and Scouting. You might think a rookie quarterback is an 80 overall but the Bears may think he’s a 76.

New sub overall ratings

Connected Careers features new overall ratings that take into account physical skills, intangibles, injuries, production (stats) and size. Teams weight these differently, so a team that prefers smart players might not put a lot of emphasis into size.

Manual and In-Season Progression

For the first time in the history of Madden NFL, you have the ability (as a coach) to progress your players whenever you want. CPU teams will progress their players throughout the regular season for the first time since the Xbox/Ps2 days. Oh by the way, potential has been removed from the game. Any player can become a star in Connected Careers. There are no limitations. And yes, we’re tuning it to make sure that doesn’t happen to CPU teams.

CPU Proposed Trades

CPU teams will propose trades to each other and to human controlled coaches.

Offseason Free Agency

Offseason free agency was designed with online leagues in mind, so it’s now a stage based event that allows you to offer a player a contract and then advance the stage. If I had to guess, this will lead to plenty of overspending in online careers.

Salary Cap

We have a fully functional salary cap that increases every year. Just like you’re used to in offline franchise mode.

Social Features

Keep track of your league on the web and check in on Twitter or Facebook to see all the news that’s happening around the league.

The Draft

We’ve got a fully functioning online draft that features special commentary from Trey Wingo about players that have storylines.

Cut Days

Cut Days allows you to sign up to 75 players in the offseason and then cut down in the preseason. We’ve removed the generated players and made the feature much simpler.

New Stat Engine

We’ve got a new stat engine that we built from the ground up that uses real team playbooks and tendencies to deliver the most accurate stats in Madden NFL history.

New Practice Mode

We added a new practice mode that allows you to play game scenarios (similar to Madden Moments) each week to earn some extra XP. This will help when you’re just starting out or if you want to grind to progress faster.

Trades

You can offer trades to any team or human user as a coach. As mentioned above, we also have CPU proposed trades.

So that’s it. Is your mind blown yet? I can’t think of much else to say and it’s time for me to get back to work.

When the game is released, I’ll be glad to discuss Connected Careers at any point on my Twitter account at http://twitter.com/Josh_Looman. Follow me for any updates throughout the year, too.

Thanks for reading and I really hope you enjoy playing the biggest addition to Madden in a decade!