NFL Blitz Gameplay
Gameplay is the heart of NFL Blitz. Without its unique rules and mechanics Blitz would simply not be the action-packed and intense experience it needs to be, capable of bringing us back again and again for one more smackdown. So when we started putting the gameplay together, we knew we had to get it right. Getting it right meant tuning. Lots and lots of tuning. It took a lot of code, a lot of play time, and maybe a few curses, but the end result is true to the old series while bringing a new feel to the game. When you play it, you can’t help but know that this is NFL Blitz!
From day one our gameplay designers were clear about what parts of gameplay they needed to be able to tune. Specifically, ALL OF IT. As development progressed, this meant we were adding hooks into just about every area of gameplay, enabling them to directly modify the chances that control the game. The percentages that govern whether a spin knocks back a defender, a catch is bobbled, a receiver gets faked out, and much more, were all exposed. If the gameplay engine of Blitz was an actual machine, there would be switches, dials, and knobs covering every surface.
Once all the hooks were in, it was time to play the game. Now, we had obviously been playing throughout development, but only when everything was in place could we really judge and tune the game as a whole. We focused on every piece of gameplay, step by step. Crucial to this process was looking back at the old series, to compare what we were doing with how it was done before. Countless arguments about exactly how the game should play were settled by taking a close look at the original. Did you know the CPU moves the man in motion about one out of every three plays? That was just one thing we found out along the way.
Week by week the game got better. The most important aspects were tuned over and over, and every iteration got the game closer to perfect. Diving, for example, was very tricky. Just how far should a dive take a player? How fast should they turn? How accurate should they be? Subtle changes in the power and accuracy of dives had a significant impact in the overall balance of the game, and getting them right took patience and a lot of effort.
Another area that took some work was user catching. Each of the catches’ height and distance had to be hand-tuned so that skillful players would be able to trigger an interception when the opportunity arose. The timing of each catch has to be set just right, so that interceptions were not too rare or too common. Now that we’re done, a defender in the right position who hits the button at just the right time (one third, one half, and two thirds of a second are the sweet spots by the way) can knock the ball away or make a pick, and the chances of each is yet another part of the game that was tuned with care.
Let’s not forget the playbooks. The placement of every route, zone, and hook, the success chance of a fakeout, the distance between players at the line, the movement of the man in motion, and every other detail took a close eye and subtle changes before it was working as it should. We paid attention to every single play, from the 17 shared offensive and 9 defensive plays, to the 32 unique team plays, to the special teams’ plays.
Part of what makes football such a great game is its occasional unpredictability – the chance for a weaker team to catch a lucky break and turn the game around. At its core, football – and NFL Blitz – is a game of skill, but don’t let that fool you. We made sure you need to be on your toes every play if you want to win. One small mistake or unlucky fumble and all your hard work can go down the drain. (And isn’t it strange how many clutch fumbles seem to happen in the fourth quarter?)
Well, that does it for this look into how NFL Blitz gameplay came to be. If you have any questions about gameplay or comments in general, stop by our Facebook page or get on Twitter using hashtag #NFLBlitz. And remember, the best way to truly learn about gameplay is to play the game – so be sure to download it this January (XBLA – 1200 points/PSN - $14.99). I’ll be happy to school as many new players as I can!
NFL Blitz Gameplay Engineer,