Written by Madden NFL 15 Creative Director of Gameplay Rex Dickson.
When we took on the challenge of “making defense fun” in Madden 15, one of the biggest problem areas the team identified was tackling.
We broke the tackling problems down into several main categories:
1. Defenders were at a movement disadvantage vs. ball carriers
2. Inability for users to understand direction and spatial distances between defender and ball carrier, and how that affected tackling
3. Lack of UI feedback to help the user understand how the tackle mechanics work
4. Poor risk/reward component in the tackling mechanics
5. Forcing defenders to physically collide with ball carriers before initiating tackles resulted in too many missed tackles
To solve the movement disadvantage and the collision requirement, we made the decision to allow user-controlled defenders to 'match' tackles if they get close enough (ball carrier inside tackling cone). This eliminates the need to actually collide with the ball carrier before triggering a tackle. Any tackles performed with the ball carrier inside the cone will have heat seeker steering if this option is turned on.
Solving the spatial distance and facing direction issues is all about the tackle cone. This feature allows users to visualize the appropriate distance to the ball carrier as well as the direction the defender is facing.
Using the tackle cone to understand when to attempt a tackle dramatically increases the effectiveness of user tackling. A/X performs a conservative tackle, with LT+A/X performing a conservative 'breakdown' tackle. X, Square from distance (ball carrier outside the tackle cone) performs a dive tackle, while X (or flicking the Right Stick) in close performs a hit stick.
The lack of UI feedback is solved with new player ring graphics. On lower difficulty levels, the button icon is displayed above the defender’s head to let players know when to attempt a tackle, as well as what type of tackle to use in that situation. You can toggle these prompts on or off in the settings.
As far as risk/reward, the main risk in tackling (due to all the issues listed above) was how easy it was to ‘whiff’ and watch your player flop face first onto the ground. The bottom line is that players face planting on the turf doesn't look or feel authentic to the game of football.
As a result, penalties for whiffing or being slightly off the mark have been reduced or eliminated. Now the risk/reward is mostly about two things: which tackle to choose, and what the relevant ratings are for these interactions. Now the main risk is simply choosing the wrong tackle for the situation. The penalty for that is far less severe than taking your player completely out of the play.
While it may take some time to get used to the new tackling mechanics, we are confident that Madden 15 is the most effective implementation of tackling in franchise history, and we are very excited to have our fans get their hands on it come August 26.