Madden NFL 15 Interview: Living The First Interactive Experience
With Madden NFL 15 reviews now out in the wild for the world to see, we had some questions for EA Tiburon about the First Interactive Experience, the surprising new intro to the game that pits players in a fictional NFC Championship Game and gives them control on how it plays out. We spoke to EA Tiburon Creative Director Mike Young about the new feature, and he was willing to answer our questions.
ArcadeSushi: First off, where did the idea of the First Interactive Experience come from? Was this something the team wanted to do for a few years or was this the first year for it?
MIKE YOUNG, CREATIVE DIRECTOR: This is the opportunity I have been waiting for most of my career. I’m a fan of sports movies and documentaries and story-based games. For a while I have felt sports gaming would benefit with a greater focus on storytelling. The opportunity grew out of a simple question our Executive Producer asked; How would a team like Rockstar start its game? To me, that was an exciting question. In pre-production I wrote a script and Brian Murray cut together a rough that we were all excited about. Our ambitions were a little too big for the project, but we knew where we wanted to go. A couple months later we were all feeling like we needed something special, a hook to introduce the game. Instead of going back to a non-interactive intro video, I wrote a new script and presented it the next day.
How much did the addition of Brian Murray and his NFL Films experience contribute to this mode?
Brian and I have been working together for years and would have long conversations about bringing more storytelling to the sports game genre. We pitched the other cinematic intro I mentioned above, but it was simply too big. Midway through the cycle, I wrote this story, and turned it over to Mike to figure out how to shoot it. Obviously his skill as a cinematographer translated directly to our execution as he was able to physically shoot several of the cameras.
We noticed that this moment shows off everything that’s new in Madden 15: the video shows Luke Kuechly shedding blockers for a sack, we play as Cam Newton to learn the new Accuracy mechanics, and we’re playing against Seattle for a taste of the new defensive AI. Assuming that was intentional, how difficult was it to implement everything into such a brief portion of the game?
Our goal with this piece was to show off the best of Madden NFL 15 from the beginning, so I worked on a script that would naturally allow us to highlight those elements. If we had tried the reverse (write a story then force cameos from all the great additions) that would have been more difficult.
Why go forward in history and predict the future instead of using Seattle and San Fran from last year’s NFC Championship Game?
That game was amazing but there is no element of surprise with replaying the past. We wanted our fans to be surprised when they got dropped in, to see something they’d never seen before in a Madden game. I think it is more engaging when there is a sense of discovery and the game player can own the outcome.
We understand Seattle hosting the game in this scenario, since their defense is the best in the game and Richard Sherman graces the cover, but why was Carolina chosen as their opposition?
With Seattle, it was about beating the Champs in their own backyard. I often said Richard Sherman and the LOB were our version of Mike Tyson in Mike Tyson’s Punch Out. Carolina kind of emerged based on how much our fans love Cam Newton (He’s been a Cover Vote finalist twice) and the fact that the Panthers had a breakout year. Cam Newton also had the personality we wanted for this role as the underdog. With Cam I think we found a person that a lot of people like and find exciting even if he isn’t on your team.
This scene plays out just like a NFL Films special, where the player hears all of the in-huddle conversation and talk between players and coaches. Would you like to see the core Madden gameplay take this cinematic approach in the future, or do you think it would be too difficult to implement?
I believe we will continue to push for opportunities to feature the personalities of the NFL players and coaches and have more cinematic presentation. There is no reason the game needs to restrict itself to exactly what is being broadcast on Sundays, we’re always examining ways to create a unique presentation package. The tricky thing is balancing it with the core of the game, which is the on-field experience. Ultimately you don’t want cinematic elements to intrude on the gameplay.
If the First Interactive Experience proves to be a popular feature in Madden 15, could we see an entire mode like in future Madden games, where you guys make up different scenarios and the player can live them?
I’m obviously hopeful that fans love it and possibly new fans are intrigued. I can’t say exactly what will do next but I do think we will continue to evolve how we present the game and surround gameplay with story.
Madden NFL 15 launches Aug. 26 for Xbox One, PlayStation 4, Xbox 360, and PlayStation 3.