Technology

Madden 23 Devs Promises ‘The Finest Build In A Long Time’ After Years Of Buggy Releases

Madden NFL is undeniably stuck in a rut this generation. Since the release of the Xbox Series X/S and PS5, EA’s long-running NFL sim has consistently hovered around 65 on Metacritic. The complaints are the same: unpolished and dull presentation and modes that failed to keep up with the competition.

Many fans trace Madden’s decline back to Madden 13, which was the baseline for the current version of the series. Others go back even further. Wherever it started, it’s hard to ignore the sense of unease that has taken root in reviews, social media and elsewhere. EA protested in previous years saying it was just a vocal minority, and that the series is doing pretty well with the average player who isn’t extremely online. This year, they adopt it.

“As a game developer, especially on an annual sports title, it’s not so much about being thick-skinned as [needing] have a great filter, because there’s a reason these players are going to say everything they’re going to say about the game, and you have to understand why,” senior producer Clint Oldenburg told IGN. “And even if he there’s a hundred words in there that don’t tell you why, there might be one or two that will tell you why, and that’s what you need to focus on to make sure you’re delivering the experience to his base, which these players are asking for.”

“A little too animation-based”

Oldenburg and fellow producer Mike Mahar say they went through reviews and social media posts “line by line”, grouping together bugs and other issues and trying to sort out legitimate reviews from the usual noise around sports games. annual. What EA Tiburon has come up with in response to all of this criticism is to essentially go back to basics. It’s not an exciting approach at first sight, but remove all the usual advertising words like the Confusingly capitalized “FieldSENSE” and you’ll find what feels like a pretty fundamental – and much-needed – rebalancing of the action on the pitch.

Madden NFL 23 Screens

In other words, EA could finally move away from what made Madden “Madden” for so long and towards something more like real football. At its core is the desire to move away from gameplay that’s “a little too animation-based” – that sense that you’re constantly playing Madden mechanics every time you choose a play or roll.

“Our players told us very strongly, their words, not ours, Madden got a little too animation-basedwhich means they feel like they are losing control at critical moments and watching fast-paced events, for lack of a better word,” says Oldenburg.

In Madden NFL parlance, that means moving away from the so-called cash games and rosters that dominate YouTube every season with an “emergent, organic, and natural” system. The defense received the bulk of the improvements, with more emphasis on gang tackles, pass coverage and quarterback containment.

“I think, from a high level, only the changes we’ve made to the deep zone and pass rush this year are helping to combat the gambling problem, especially those deep crossing routes. which I’ve talked about before. We’ve added zone drift logic that gives our deep zoners the awareness to not continue to drift down the field if they don’t have a vertical threat so they can take advantage of this deep traversal path,” says Oldenburg, referring to a scheme that has been devastatingly effective for several years now due to Madden’s various defensive AI quirks.

As a game developer, especially on an annual sports title, it’s not so much about having thick skin as having a great filter


Oldenburg also talks about fixing formations like Gun Bunch, which have been mastered for years due to the ease with which they can be adjusted to open up large parts of the field, as well as frequently overpowered QB deployments used to extend plays .

“We think we nailed that one this year,” Oldenburg said.

Beta feedback so far confirms the impact of these changes. If Madden 22 was like backyard football in terms of how easy it was to get out of the pocket and kick the ball to a wide open receiver breaking into the corner or the flats, then Madden 23 should turn out to be a rude awakening for many gamers.

“I think it would be, probably, hubris on our part to think that an expert-level player in our community isn’t going to find a problem in the Matrix, so to speak, but we definitely went to play to play, feedback- to get feedback, with everything we’ve heard so far to try to address that,” Mahar says.

Either way, it’s obvious that Madden 23 is primarily focused on rebalancing gameplay this year. It’s a must – if instant gameplay isn’t fun, it doesn’t matter how much work goes into Franchise Mode or Madden Ultimate Team.

The real test is whether EA Tiburon can release a polished game. Madden NFL has been heavily criticized in recent years for its bizarre bugs and glitches, which are endlessly ridiculed on social media. To that end, Oldenburg says buffing is a “top priority” in Madden 23, “especially from a gameplay standpoint.”

EA Tiburon hopes to catch bugs using something called “vision hooks,” which uses a mix of bots and other technologies to quickly reproduce annoying issues. The Madden team also allocates additional resources to fix bugs during production.

“We’re confident that our game for Madden 23 will be the most polished version of Madden we’ve had in a long time,” Oldenburg said. “What I’m not going to say is it’s going to be perfect, but I’m going to say the team is always striving for perfection, no matter how hard it may be. That’s our goal. The Polish is our top priority, and we know we won’t be able to achieve our goals if our players think our game is a buggy experience.”

Question marks remain

Elsewhere, Madden remains a question mark. Face of the Franchise – Madden’s didactic story mode – drops elements like its college football mode while arcade modes like The Yard only receive cosmetic upgrades, with resources aimed more at free agency revamp in Franchise Mode.

PC gamers, meanwhile, continue to receive little attention. When asked why the PC version isn’t keeping pace with console releases, an EA spokesperson said, “We have a passionate group of gamers who enjoy Madden NFL on PC. It’s important to our team that the PC version of Madden becomes comparable to current-gen versions, and we’re working on that in the future.”

When Madden 23 arrives later this month, it will be EA’s latest attempt to firmly establish the franchise on the current generation of consoles – and breathe some shine back into its faded legacy as well. Fans will be able to see for themselves if it succeeds when Madden 23 launches into Early Access on August 16.

Kat Bailey is senior news writer at IGN and co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have any advice? DM him at @the_katbot.

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