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Ian Cummings posted his yearly Super Bowl Halftime blog yesterday during, well, halftime of the Super Bowl.   Anyway, he shows off one spanking new feature of Madden 12...Surprise Onside Kicks.

Hmm.

Hello Madden fans, this is Ian Cummings, creative director, and welcome to our third blog in the tradition of posting news during halftime... I apologize in advance for forcing you to miss a performance by the Black Eyed Peas.

When you're done with the blog, make sure you listen to the very first Madden NFL 12 developer podcast too! Myself and “Ratings Czar” Donny Moore ring in the new product year with some discussion around the newly announced features (below), and the addition of Walter Payton to Madden Ultimate Team. Download it here.

We wanted to use this blog to take the opportunity to do a few things:
1. Talk specifically about the overall "vision" for Madden NFL 12
2. Introduce you to some new team members
3. Provide a sneak peek at a few additions that are already being worked on

 

TRUE TO THE GAME
If you've been following the development team since we all (re)joined forces back in Madden NFL 10, you probably know that our overall vision for the Franchise has been "Everything You See on Sunday". I'm happy to report that this vision is still 100% intact for Madden NFL 12, and to be honest it's more valid than ever. Over these past two years we have been working on many new frameworks and back-end technologies - from presentation to franchise to online - that we feel will really pay major dividends this year.

With that knowledge, we've tried to come up with a phrase to help us sell the vision of Madden NFL 12, both internally to the team and externally to the fans. That vision is "True to the Game." This is our ‘razor' - a phrase we can always think back about to help us make the tough decisions and choose the correct features, additions, and improvements. We always want to keep everyone on the team focused on the same goal - an authentic representation of simulation NFL football. "True to the Game" also reminds us to pay homage to what established Madden the video game as a significant influence in pop culture that we all know today. This helps renew our focus into all areas in the game, like offline franchise mode, online play, presentation, and the core fundamentals of gameplay and AI - the things that made Madden the must-have game for millions. We want to be 100% recognized as a leader in the sports genre again, and the only way to do that is to improve the game across all major aspects.

 

LEADERSHIP
The core development team remains largely intact for Madden NFL 12, which again I believe will pay major dividends when it comes to improving core aspects of the game. We have also re-aligned our management structure to have one "General Manager" sitting atop ALL of the football games within EA SPORTS to ensure that both teams are aligned on core technologies and pushing the envelope for innovation. Cam Weber, the executive producer previously in charge of the Fight Night franchise (and former college quarterback), has taken on this role to help Phil Frazier (Madden NFL) and Roy Harvey (NCAA Football) shape the direction of both football franchises for the long term. We're all excited to have Cam on board and are looking forward to utilizing his football knowledge and expertise to help grow the business.

 

NEW FEATURES
We have debated internally for weeks trying to decide what we would be the best things to show to you the fans as a "kickoff" to Madden NFL 12. As everyone knows, we are still a LONG way away from shipping the game, and undoubtedly some fans may be expecting major feature announcements even though we just aren't at that point yet. Remember, WE aren't even 100% sure what's going to end up in the game yet. I won an arm-wrestling match and everyone finally agreed to let me release one feature to you, the masses. The caveat is that they wouldn't let me get any high-res footage because that might give away too much. Anyway, we're kicking off Madden NFL 12 with a surprise... (no pun intended)

 I'll post the reminder again that this is very early...we know quite well that there are bugs shown in this video.

(quick backstory) For those of you that may not have been following me closely on Twitter or anything, I fiercely debated against this feature for a while with many members of the community. This wasn't because I didn't want the feature (as of course it does happen on Sundays), but because I thought frankly that there were just more important tasks to do before we got to it. More importantly, I was worried about the exploitation of the feature online. There were multiple members on the design team that kept bugging me about it because they also wanted the feature in, and we went back and forth for weeks on all the problems it might cause and the time it might cost to implement. After much debate, I just decided to take a look at the code myself and see if I could bite it off. I came in on a Saturday and hacked away, just trying to get some semblance of it working.

 
This is what I look like working on kickoff code on Saturdays.

After one long day, tons of broken builds, and an animation request from the FIFA team to borrow a new kick animation, it was done!

So by this point, I had obviously changed my tune, and was actually excited to show it off. I brought some gameplay guys over and within five minutes, they were able to recover it 90% of the time. As Larry and Mike's disappointed scowls struck fear into my heart...

...it occurred to me that after I spent some time re-tuning it, I could actually totally put this worry to rest with a bit of new tech that we will be featuring in Madden NFL 12:

"Tuner Sets", introduced in the NHL series and brought into NCAA Football last year, are hugely important to the development of sports games in that they allow us to tune and tweak many existing parts of game code without the major delay that comes from a full title update requiring 1st party console manufacturer approvals. A quick addition to my hacked surprise onside kick code made this feature easily tunable post-ship, and thus much safer against any exploits that may crop up. This isn't the only thing in the tuner sets obviously...we are in the process of moving as many items into these as possible, from gameplay tuning to franchise data to even presentation aspects. We are excited to the possibilities this will open up to our fans in being able to provide live feedback and having us act on it in near real-time. The days of shipping a disc in a box and forgetting about it are long gone, and we want to be at the forefront of blazing new trails in reacting to our audience and improving the game quickly.

Well, that's it Madden fans. We hope you've enjoyed this halftime blog for Madden NFL 12. I would have loved to go into more detail about the improvements and additions to things like franchise mode (some nice big tidbits coming there), online, presentation or many other areas, but alas, it's only February, and we have a LONG way to go! This is merely a slight taste of what's to come. In the meantime, feel free to hop over to our official EA forums and talk about these new features. Do you like the addition of the surprise onside kick? How about tuner sets? We are always interested in hearing and reading your feedback.

From here until August you can always stay in the loop of what's going on behind the scenes with the development team by following me on Twitter at @ian_cummings, or the main Madden NFL account at @EAMaddenNFL. Thanks for tuning in, now enjoy the rest of the Super Bowl!

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