Madden NFL 17 on Xbox One and PlayStation®4 is the culmination of community feedback and years of technological advancements. In our previous blog, we detailed the lead feature in the ground game. Today, we will cover updates within special teams and a top community request, pass defense. We are also excited to be introducing game changing ball physics.
Special Teams. The third phase of the game. This is an area that hasn’t changed much in Madden for quite some time. To be honest, special teams in Madden was largely a non-factor. Kicks were too easy and blocks were almost impossible without exploits. We felt pretty strongly that this was not representative of what we are seeing in the NFL. Our goals in this area were to add strategy, risk and reward elements, and the potential for game deciding plays in special teams.
New Kick Meter
When we reviewed game tape of the 2015 NFL season, we came to the realization that it was far past time to make kicking in Madden ‘less automatic’. We felt like we needed more of a challenge than just flicking the stick up. We also felt that kicker ratings needed to have a much bigger impact on the game. After reviewing other sports titles, we quickly adopted a 3 button approach, very similar to what you would see in a golf or baseball game. You click the button once to start the kick, click again at the top of the meter to set power and finally again at the bottom of the meter to set accuracy. The harder you try and kick it, the more difficult it will be to hit the accuracy window. We have also restored the squib kick mechanic based on community response and new to M17 are ‘sky punt’ and ‘backspin’ options for situational strategies in the kicking game.
One aspect of special teams we knew we had to get into Madden NFL 17 is trick plays. Some of the most exciting and unforgettable highlights in football are of those rare trick plays that have the potential to change the outcome of any game with a single play. Who could forget Seattle’s trick field goal for a touchdown vs. the Packers in the playoffs! While Madden has had special team trick plays for years, we have not opened up the playbook to some of the modern takes we see in today's NFL. Offenses will now have several trick play options (both run and pass) from Field goal and Punt formations. These generally will only have a chance of working against all out block formations so pick your moments carefully!
Speaking of all out block formations, at long last we have a designed system for blocking kicks. Gone are the days of user created exploit kick blocks, now replaced by a system that has very tight control over frequency and success chances. When you call one of several punt or kick block formations, the players who are designated as ‘kick blockers’ are marked with a B icon in pre play. Select one of these players and use the jump the snap mechanic to have a small chance at breaking through the line and driving in for a kick block. The win chance is only the beginning, successfully steering yourself in for a block and timing the block attempt are all necessary to achieve one of the most dynamic and exciting plays in football. Rest assured there are cap systems in place to ensure users do not exploit this new implementation of kick blocks.
Multiplayer Catch Outcomes
Despite all the success of Madden NFL 16, we've heard from our hardcore competitive community we needed to further tune the aggressive catch to not be so overpowered and available to every type of wide receiver. We've listened and made several tuning changes along with the addition of a Swat mechanic to help address these concerns.
First off, we received many complaints that all players were capable of making spectacular catches. We got it loud and clear that you were getting tired of seeing all the one-handers by a litany of different players with vastly different catching abilities. We now restrict those extremely athletic, high degree of difficulty catches to the more elite ball in air receivers only. OBJ, Julio, A.B., Hopkins and Dez are the type of players who will have the ability to do those spectacular catches consistently, while a Running Back or Slot receiver will trigger a catch that is more reflective of his catching ability.
Next up, we heard in some cases the defender would trigger animations that would not match the users input. This year, we have added significant animation coverage to both play receiver and swat to ensure you will get an animation that matches your intended action.
Another piece of feedback from the community was that there was never any injury chance on receivers who exposed their bodies and took consistent hits while performing aggressive catches. Injury chances have been increased in these situations for Madden NFL 17, so repeatedly targeting your big threat WR on jump balls in traffic now comes with significant risk of injury to that player.
Finally, we want to once again reiterate, there is a user bonus for clicking on and using the defensive mechanics. Win chances on catch outcomes are given a significant bonus for users who click on to defenders and use the defensive ball in air mechanics, with each mechanic bringing its own risk and reward.
The lack of control options on defense to effectively defend the aggressive catch became a major point of contention throughout the year. We spent a lot of time discussing this specific issue with the community and decided that the right way to attack the problem was not to nerf the aggressive catch, but rather build an effective counter mechanic on defense. Thus, the new SWAT mechanic was born for Madden NFL 17. Defenders now have 3 options when the ball is in the air. Play Ball, Play Receiver or Swat. If you are willing to give up the chance for an interception in order to stop the shot play, the swat mechanic is for you. It has been custom designed as the counter to the aggressive catch on defense.
The integration of physics into Madden has been an extended multi-year process. One of the biggest outliers was ‘the ball’ which was running what we refer to as ‘legacy physics’ from the Gen 3 era. With Madden NFL 17, the ball has been fully integrated into our Ignite physics engine and the results are game changing. This feature will have a significant impact on several major systems throughout the game. Here is a breakdown of just a few areas of the game impacted by ball physics:
1. Organic Knockouts and Tipped Balls
A huge legacy flaw in the Madden catch system is once a player has ‘matched a catch’ the ball will stay in the receiver’s hands regardless. With ball physics, if a defender collides with the ball during the catch animation, the ball has a chance to be organically knocked out. This also applies to hands and limbs. If they get an arm between the ball and the receiver, the WR will no longer be able to pull the ball through the defender. This is quite a game changer for catches in traffic, and strategic use of the possession catch is critical.
In those cases where a ball is tipped, swatted or broken up, the path the ball takes is purely momentum and physics based. Players can react to it in real time and will attempt to catch it off the tip. As a result of this, we have tuned catch chances and tip ball catch chances accordingly. Dropped INT’s are much rarer this year and passes that get broken up, swatted or tipped have the potential to be caught off the tip. We have added several diving, sliding and below the knees type catches to cover these scenarios.
2. Blocked Kicks
As part of our special teams theme, we knew blocked kicks were a must have. Achieving realistic, organic behavior of the ball after a block was a big part of the plan. Ball physics ensures the behavior of the ball after a block is not animated or scripted. It is organic and unpredictable.
3. Onside Kicks
With the organic nature of ball physics, onside kicks make a big comeback in Madden NFL 17. We have restored the ability to aim your onside kicks to give users a little more control over placement. The unpredictability introduced by ball physics makes onside kicks another thrilling aspect of special teams in Madden NFL 17.
4. Loose Ball Recovery
Fumble recoveries in Madden have been one of the many long standing legacy issues that desperately needed attention. We knew by introducing ball physics and organic behaviors, we would need to completely revisit our loose ball and tip ball recovery logic. This includes a set of new animations for loose ball recoveries that cover both in air and on ground scenarios. Players are smarter, react to loose balls faster and have tons of new animations dedicated to loose ball recoveries.
5. Throw out of Sack
Throw out of sack is how Madden has previously handled situations where a defender triggered a sack animation on a QB who already started his throwing motion. In these cases, the ball would often appear to simply fall out of his hand as the sack animation triggered. With ball physics, we now have organic outcomes in these situations. They can result in fumbles and strip sacks. If the QB’s arm is going forward when he is hit, you are also going to see that outcome play out organically. This all plays a big role in fumble vs. incomplete pass. It is now more important than ever to get the ball out quickly under pressure.