Madden NFL 19 Interview -- Producer Talks PC, Longsnappers, RPM, and More
Madden NFL 19 Producer Ben Haumiller talks to DualShockers about the game's PC port, RPM, Longshot: Homecoming, and More
While EA’s Madden NFL series releases every year, 2018’s entry is making some noticeable changes. RPM tech has been implemented, vastly improving the animations, and the game will be available on PC for the first time. Last week, I played Madden NFL 19 at an EA Sports event on PC and PS4 and tried out the first hour of Longshot: Homecoming.
Afterward, I spoke to Ben Haumiller, Producer of Madden NFL 19. During our conversation, we discussed many of this game’s new features, including RPM tech, Longshot: Homecoming, and the PC version of the game.
Tomas: How did the addition of RPM tech impact Madden NFL 19?
Ben Haumiller: Real Player Motion has impacted just about every aspect from a gameplay perspective when it comes to how players move. They now feel a lot more grounded to the field when making moves and cuts. Player movement now just feels really authentic to what they actually do. Players no longer look like they are skating when they are making cuts.
There’s now an authentic feel with each foot placing on the ground as they’re making moves, slowing down to make a cut. The player will decelerate, cut, and then plant and make their turn and accelerate again. It really just makes things feel more grounded and more authentic to what you’d expect when you see a real player running.
T: So the team wanted to make the game feel more realistic with things like these new animations?
BH: That’s always our goal, to be as authentic to the sport as we possibly can. This was another way for us to improve on it from the animation side with how it looks and how it feels. That responsiveness, that’s what you want when you have that controller in your hands. You want to feel like you have complete control of this guy and that he’s going to move as you expect him to move. When I go out and I run, I know how people actually run and move, and I want it to feel that same way when playing the game.
T: There was a recent outcry after ratings came out and several Longsnappers were listed as Tight Ends with poor ratings. Would you guys consider adding a Longsnapper position or ratings to Madden NFL 19 in the future?
BH: This happens every year when our ratings come out. People look for the lowest rated player, and it’s always a longsnapper because you’re right, we don’t have a longsnapper rating and we have to put these guys at a position. A lot of them essentially are backup tight ends, though they don’t really do that in the NFL. Some of them are former offensive linemen as well, and we try to find the right position group and home for them.
We would make a Longsnapping rating, but it would really be a cosmetic rating alone just to give these guys a boost to their overall. Madden doesn’t have the concept of bad snaps because there are so few in the NFL and it’s still a game we want people to have fun with. If they get a dice roll resulting in a bad snap, we would be called out for that.
It’s funny, they take it with great humor, which is awesome because you don’t want people getting too angry about that. They get it, and we’ve discussed it, but we determined it’d really just be a cosmetic thing to elevate their overall. It wouldn’t actually have a noticeable impact on the game, so at this point, we’ve just chosen to leave that as it is and focus more on things that actually impact the game.
T: Was Longshot 2 always part of the original vision when the first story was being developed?
BH: Yeah. Mike Young, Creative Director and co-writer with Adrian Todd Zuniga had always envisioned it as being a multi-part story. That’s why we finished at the draft day last year. They wanted to tell Devin’s pre-NFL story, and then his story once he makes it into the NFL, which is where we pick up this year. So it was always the intent to carry on and see what happens with Devin and Colt and determining how you want that story to progress.
T: How will we see Devin and Colt evolve in Longshot 2?
BH: They both are going through that odd state of “now what do I do?” Devin’s made it to the NFL in one state or another and has to stay on as a fringe player. That’s another story that doesn’t really get told that often. If you watch Hard Knocks on HBO each year, they tell a good story about some of those guys who are fringe players and are trying to make a camp, and that’s kind of what Devin is, he’s a fringe player. For Devin, it’s about finding his way in the NFL and carving out his niche. He gets a couple of opportunities along the way that really help solidify his chances of staying in the NFL.
On the Colt side, it addresses what happens if you have all the heart in the world and want to do it but you just don’t have the skillset to make it to the NFL. What do you do there? His path has him making the choice of sacrificing everything to continue following this dream or looking at what his life can be post-NFL and how he can help others that way. So he has that interesting choice and parallels that go down his storyline.
T: With that, if you played Madden NFL 18’s Longshot mode, will your choices carry over?
BH: We had every intent in the world of having your choices carry over, but then we ran into some technical issues and that caused us to not be able to carry over your ending from Longshot 1. So if you finished that on the Seahawks, Panthers, Bears, or whatever, we weren’t able to carry that over, unfortunately. You do flash forward a year to where Devon picks up this season on the practice squad of the Cowboys. That was our chance to start the story again and move it from here on out even though we didn’t keep the original pieces going.
Where you can continue this year is in Franchise. You can move the Devon character from the end of the Longshot mode into Franchise, and your choices along the way during Longshot will impact how Devon comes into Franchise mode, his ratings, and what style of player he is. You can pick up from there and continue his career as long as you are able to in that single-player mode.
T: Why did EA Tiburon decide to add PC as a new platform this year?
BH: It’s been a decade, so many are asking “Why now?” I really think it’s that the timing was right. Looking around at the success that FIFA has had on PC and just looking at what people are doing on PC systems and us wanting to get out there and get Madden in the hands of more people. It felt like it was the right time to jump back in, and looking on Frostbite, we saw what we could do and how we could make the game look when someone is on a high-end PC.
There is so much more visual fidelity and the way the game can look, so we felt like it was time to jump back in. There wasn’t one linchpin that made us bring it to PC, but it just felt right to jump back into it.
T: So do you plan on releasing Madden annually on PC from now on?
BH: That’s the intent.
T: Now that Madden NFL 19 is going on PC, would that open up the opportunity for cross-play with PS4 or Xbox One?
BH: We are interested in getting players connected however possible. We don’t have any cross-play announcement or functionality right now, but we are always open to the future of getting people to play Madden together wherever they’re at.
T: So Madden NFL 19 on PC will be on par with the PS4 Pro and Xbox One X versions of Madden NFL 19?
BH: Yeah, it’s the intent to keep everything locked in, You’ve seen some PC ports where it seemed like it is an afterthought. Our version was co-developed with the console game and will get the same updates. There are a couple things we did specifically for PC to enhance the PC version, like the keyboard and mouse controls that wouldn’t apply to a console product, but it will be locked with whatever the console versions are doing.
They are being treated identically with the same feature set, so we won’t have a divergence where the PC and console versions exist in separate worlds. It’s all together.
T: How has Franchise been updated in Madden NFL 19?
BH: Franchise is where some of our most passionate fans live. Year in and year out, that’s where they want to see improvements, so we wanted to give them new things to do. The last couple of years, we’ve done a lot of maintenance and improved the usability of features, but we wanted to give you new things to customize and change in order to build your team the way you want to. The edit Draft Class feature gives you a chance to edit how you want your draft class to look.
That’s something we’ve never given people the ability to do before. In a mode where you could do just about anything, an open sandbox where you could go in and edit player ratings, this was one area where we had not exposed that toolset to the user. You can go in and edit all 450 players in every draft class if you want to, or you can just edit the name of one guy if you’d like. You can also download someone’s draft class file through Madden share, or you can upload your own.
There are definitely a lot of opportunities to customize what players want their draft to look like. Really, though, the player development side of things and team building has been improved, and that is the bread and butter of Franchise mode. You’ve got scheme fits, which determines what types of players you want on your team, and every positional group has different archetypes, with players having one of those four archetypes.
As you are going through progressing your players, making trades, and going through the draft, you are making decisions at all times on whether that guy fits your scheme or if you could progress him over time to become a scheme fit and best run your offense or defense. Those are the ways we’ve really increased the team building aspect of it. Another point of that is that players aren’t just locked to one archetype. If a quarterback is a strong-arm from the get-go, that doesn’t mean I can’t also progress him as a scrambler or a field general.
You have the option and flexibility at any time to change and choose how you want to progress him, so guys aren’t locked to a certain way. Over time, you will see players change their scheme fit. In real life, Larry Fitzgerald, a receiver in Arizona, would’ve been a deep threat in this past as he was very fast, very dynamic. Now we’ve reached the point where he’s towards the end of his career and is more of a possession guy. You’ll see that same sort of career arc in the game, where a guy might start out as one thing, and over time due to ratings regressions and things like that, may become a totally different player towards the end of his career.
T: Is there anything else you’d like DualShockers’ audience to know about Madden NFL 19?
BH: Ultimate Team is another huge mode for us and another one of those tent poles. In the past, it has been about a race to try and get the best overall team, and you do that by getting the best overall players. What players were doing a lot of the time was sacrificing their own affinity for a team or player to chase after a better overall. Now you are able to upgrade individual players and upgrade chemistries on players, so you can craft your favorite player to fit with the team you want.
There’s actually a lot of parallels with franchise there. You’re building your players to fit your team, it’s the same sort of team here. If you have an 85 rated Russel Wilson and you’re a huge Seahawks fan, but you get a 90 rated quarterback, you used to be disappointed because you’d want to use Russell still, he’s your guy! Now you can upgrade Russel along the way to make him a better player so you don’t have to throw him to chase another player.
You have the option to build him up and the same thing applies to Chemistry abilities as well. A player might not be equipped with a Chemistry that you want to run, but you can now add that overtime to make him better fit your team. So overall, there are lots of great changes, lots of huge things coming to Madden this year.
Madden NFL 19 will release for PC, PS4, and Xbox One on August 10, with Antonio Brown gracing the cover. You can pre-order the game on Amazon. For more on Madden content, check out our previews of both the PC version and Longshot: Homecoming.