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Madden 2003 Interview


1. Can you explain your role with Madden 2003 and how long you have been with EA?

    I am Phil Frazier, an Associate Producer on Madden NFL 2003 focusing on the PS2, NGC, and XBOX versions. I work very closely with our development and art partners to come up with the game design and help to see it through completion. I've been with EA now for over 5 years, starting as a tester on NCAA Football 98.

2. What kind of new animations were added this year?

    Where do I start?

    In Madden NFL 2003, we focused a good amount on tackles, broken tackles, and catches. I'll quickly hit each of the major areas we made significant additions to in the animation area. We added lots of gang tackles, 2 players tackling the ball carrier at the same time. These occur quite often and look great. New standing catches, if you throw to a receiver that is almost motionless, he'll perform a standing catch instead of a catch that may take him out of bounds or into the arms of a defender. New stiff arm animations, lots of new animations were added here and they look nice. This is definitely my favorite addition because they can be very effective. Signature Moves, we added a side-arm QB throw that features a quicker release and many signature celebrations. While running, you'll notice some new animations. As you run up the middle, you'll see your back 'get skinny' as he trying to squeeze through the hole. This has greatly helped with our inside running game. We added a new spin animation that is much faster than before. I will warn you however, the CPU uses this move very well. There are many more but I don't want to ruin the surprise for you when you purchase the game.

3. Will there be in-game saves?

    Yes. The PS2 and XBOX versions allow you to save your game's progress. You can then quit and return at a later time.

4. In the franchise mode, will the CPU initialize trades that include draft picks? Will there be a trade block feature?

    In Madden NFL 2003, we chose not to focus on trading as you don't see many trades in the NFL. Instead, we added franchise features like preseason games, export franchise team, rookie scouting, and an all new player progression system. Combine these features with adjustments to our simulation engine, improvements to the CPU player management system, etc…, and you have the deepest Franchise mode in the history of the Madden.

5. Will the game store player stats even after they retire?

    Just like last year, a player's career statistics are dropped once he retires. Doing this allows us to provide the current depth we have in our stat engine.

6. Can you tell us a little more about the rookie scouting feature?

    Sure. Fans of the recruiting feature in NCAA Football 2003 should love this feature. Rookie scouting gives you the ability to better scout players before the draft. You can select a handful of players in each round of scouting to get more data on. Each round your coaches will provide more accurate information on your player. During this process, information such as 40 times, bench press reps, vertical... help you to draft the player that best suits your needs.

7.Will pancakes be portrayed more realistically this year?

    Yes, pancakes will be more realistic in Madden NFL 2003 than ever before.

8.Has the challenge feature been improved from last year? Will that feature be available in head-to-head play online? If not, why not?

    The challenge feature has been greatly improved. There is the occasional bad call, challenge audio has been beefed up with better explanations, and the replay booth chooses better plays to challenge late in a half. It feels nice to challenge a fumble play, watch the replay in super slow motion, and see that his knee was down before the ball came out. Challenges are not available in online. We removed very little from our online game but replay, and in turn challenges got cut. Replay was removed to prevent players from going in and forcing his opponent to wait while viewing each of his replay.

9. What new tweaks to the DB AI logic were done? Will we see occausion DBs bite on a fake when a WR does a hitch and go route?

    DB AI logic was hit really hard this year. We re-wrote our zone coverage system so that players in zone coverage react realistically. We improved our man coverage AI which will give the better corners the ability to cover a top notch receiver. We spent a fair amount of time on our double-coverage AI as well. We paid a lot of attention this year to our 'fake out' logic. You should now see players on defense biting on all types of deceptive plays. Play action can be very effective at freezing the linebackers, pump fakes can be very effective against the secondary, and reverses actually work. Of course all of the changes above are hinged on the awareness of each defender.

10.Will the AI playcalling be improved? In 2002, the computer hardly ever ran the ball even if they were only down by one TD.

    We are always looking to make the AI play calling more intelligent. We have taken steps to solve this specific problem. Teams will now run the ball, and run it effectively against you in Madden NFL 2003. In addition to this fix, we added new support for AI coaches. They now take more things into consideration before calling a play. Things like weather, player abilities, and wind will play a role in the CPU's decision making process.

11. Will the mini-camp feature be available for franchise and season mode?

    This feature has not been integrated into Franchise mode this year. It is set up to be a fun, quick way of getting your football fix without having to give up a full hour of you day.

12. How has the running game been improved? Will users be able to run up the middle at a more realistic pace?

    Running up the middle has been greatly improved. With improvements to our blocking and the new skinny run animation, you should be able to hit the hole consistently this year.

    Based on games being played around the office, hitting the hole is much easier than last year and is a great way to shut down the offense of your opponent.

13. How difficult was it to implement gang tackling properly?

    It was only difficult because we wanted to do it right. We did not want to implement a gang tackling system that would only allow a user to see an occasional gang tackle. With the system we have in place, gang tackles are fairly common and look great.

14. Can you explain some of the more important features of the online feature for the PS2 version?

    I think THE most important feature within online is stable, fast game play while playing online. We have worked very hard to ensure that users with a 56k connection can enjoy the online experience as much as somebody with a better connection.

    In addition to the online game play experience, we support roster downloads, online stat tracking, and a basic chat system. We even support USB keyboards to help make chatting more enjoyable. Roster downloads will occur throughout the season. Online stats are tracked with each online game played. We even have a ranking system so it will be interesting to see who ends up being ranked #1 in the country.

15. Will users be able to send AI slider settings to each other for the PS2 version?

    AI sliders work much like they did last year. You can set slider setting for CPU or Human controlled teams in a variety of categories including offense, defense, and special teams.

16.Will the problem of players imported from the NCAA game creating disproportionate players be addressed?

    We have done extensive tuning on our import draft class feature with the hopes of squashing this problem. At this point I can say yes, we have solved the problem. Players drafted from NCAA should come into the draft at a solid level. You won't see any super star ratings on draft day but with preseason progression, your rookie QB can be a solid QB his first game out. It will be important for players to use their rookies during the preseason to fully maximize their potential.

17. To confirm, will the PC still have the online franchise mode? If not, why would such a big feature be removed and not just left the way it was? Will there still be IP-to-IP play?

    I don't work on the PC product directly however I can confirm that there is no online franchise mode. As for the reasoning behind the removal of this feature, I think Steven Chiang summed this up best in his recent interviews online.

    “…Our focus this year was two-fold, get the in-game to be exactly the same as the 2003 console versions and create online features specific to the PC that will get more people to play online, and create a bigger and stronger community. From our research and server stats, online franchise was only used by a small percentage of the population and because of everything we are adding to Madden NFL 2003, online franchise didn't make the cut….”

    As far as IP-to-IP, the answer is yes. You can still connect via IP.

18. Regarding the PC version, will all the customizable features, such as the AI sliders, importing images, using mp3s

    All of these will be available in Madden NFL 2003 for the PC.

19. Will the PC feature have a scouting feature during draft time?

    Just like the its console brothers, the PC version will have the rookie scouting feature. This makes a very nice addition to the already deep PC franchise.

20. Anything not touched upon you wish to add?

    In addition to the topics discussed here, we have numerous other new features. You can now create your own playbooks on offense and defense. Mini-Camp allows you to get a quick fix of football in eight highly addictive drills. Audio was completely re-done and now features Al Michaels in the booth with John Madden, as well as Melissa Stark on the sideline. The list goes on and on…

    The team at Tiburon worked very hard to provide our fans with a version of Madden that is unmatched. With lots of new features, and classic Madden game play, we think we have an excellent football title. In my eyes, Madden NFL 2003 is the best version ever.

Thanks a lot for your time.

    No problem. I hope you and your readers enjoy the game as much as our team here does.

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