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NFL Quarterback Club 2002 Interview


We recently had a chance to interview Dan Baker, lead designer of NFL Quarterback Club 2002. Click here for a preview and screen shots.

What is your role on NFL QBC 2002? What prior games have you worked on before?

    I was hired on by Acclaim in March of this year as the lead designer on QBC 2002. My primary focus is to work with the programmers and artists to ensure that the entire team has a common vision of where we want the product to go. For this year, I am concentrating on the gameplay aspect of QBC. I have been focused on improving the artificial intelligence and user control since I joined the team. The design team is also responsible for creating the plays and playbooks, entering the team rosters, and rating the players in the game.

    I have been in the video game industry since 1995, where I started working for Electronic Arts on Madden NFL 96 and 97 for the Sega Genesis. After that, I moved over to work on NCAA Football 98 and 99 for the Sony Playstation and the PC. After a two year run on College Football, I moved back over to the Madden team to work on Madden NFL 2000. After Madden 2000 finished, I had an opportunity to move to Austin, Texas to work with Retro Studios on a football game that was going to be published by Nintendo.

What would you say the biggest improvement from 2001 would be?

    I would have to say the biggest improvement by far in this years game is the defensive artificial intelligence. That has been one of my major tasks since I started in March. We have made tremendous strides in the way the defense moves, reacts, and thinks. Zone and Man Coverage schemes have been totally rewritten and now provide a very realistic looking and playing defense. We have also focused a lot of attention on user control both offensively and defensively. For example, on defense you can tap up on the control stick while you are engaged in a block to quickly break free. This is especially useful on running plays, as it allows the user to escape a block in an attempt to contain the running back before he darts past your defender. On the offensive side of the ball, we added celebration animations to the right analog stick. You can hit the stick in a direction to get one of four animations while you are on your way to the endzone.

    Lastly, I have to mention the addition of the Quarterback Challenge in this year's version of the game. It contains four events (Speed and Mobility, Accuracy, Long Distance Throw, and Read and Recognition) that you and up to seven of your friends can compete in. It's a blast to play. You can even unlock several retired members of the Quarterback Club to use in the QB Challenge, or even put them on a roster and play with them in an actual game, which is very cool.

Looking at the fact sheet of NFL QBC 2002, I see that there is no career mode. How does NFL QBC 2002 expect to compete with EA Sports' Madden 2002 and Sega's NFL 2K2 without it?

    This is our first version on the Playstation 2, so we are concentrating on the gameplay. For this year, we have added a very in depth season mode that will also track career statistics if you play multiple seasons in a row. A Career Mode in which you draft rookies, sign free agents, etc. is definitely something we plan on adding to the game.

Building on the last question, what would you say the intended audience for the game would be?

    Our intended audience is any football fan that also enjoys video games. We want everyone to have fun whether you are a hard core football fanatic or just a casual gamer playing a football video game for the first time. It can be a very fine line to walk because the casual and hard core gamers are looking for different things in a football game. Our goal is to empower the user to make big and exciting plays. I've talked to a lot of gamers and they all agree that it's a lot more fun to make plays on your own than to let the computer catch the ball, knock the pass down, or make the diving tackle for you. If the user can pick up our game and feel like they make a difference in the outcome of the game because they are playing it, then we have achieved our goal.

Graphically the game looks pretty good, but as the past few years as proved, graphics aren't the problem of the NFL QBC series. How has the gameplay been improved? Is the same engine still being used?

    First off, this is a new engine specifically designed for the Playstation 2. We are using a lot of the cool graphic tricks the PS2 can perform to enhance the game's graphical look. Obviously the graphics are important, but to me, the gameplay is the most critical aspect of this year's game. Every part of the gameplay experience has been improved in this year's version of the game, especially the AI and user control. I know I stated this earlier, but I can't emphasize my focus on gameplay enough. I think football fans will be really excited about the improvements and changes we have made in these areas.

Has the collision problem from previous year's games been worked on?

    Collision has been a major focus for this year. Improvements have been made regarding ball collision and tackling. We have a great variety of wrap tackles that look very good. It is pretty much impossible to remove all collision issues with the current generation of game systems, but we are achieving excellent results overall. I think gamers will be pleased with the way the tackles look this year.

How comprehensive is the stat-tracking? Could you provide some examples?

    We have a good variety of statistics this year. The cool thing about our Season mode is that we record career statistics when you play multiple seasons. We track all the typical stats that football gamers expect, plus for this year we track 1/2 tackles and 1/2 sacks, which is a nice touch on the defensive side of the football.

How different will be GameCube and PS2 version be?

    This year will pretty much be a port of the PS2 version. We will have additional time to tweak the gameplay, but for the most part it will be very similar on both systems for this year. The stadiums will probably look a little better overall on the GameCube version of the game.

Will the play-calling be improved? Any new plays or formation added?

    On offense, our playcall method is pretty traditional, where you first choose a formation, and then you choose your play. On defense, we have implemented a very cool 3-step process that allows you to "build" your play. The first step calls the personnel set, such as a 4-3, 3-4, Nickel, Dime, etc. The second step is to call your deep zone coverage. This usually consists of Cover 0 all the way through Cover 4 depending on the formation that you called. Cover 0 means you have no defenders in the deep zones, Cover 1 means you have one defender in a deep zone, etc. The final step is to call a defensive play that contains various short zone or underneath coverage, line stunts, and blitzes. It is a very flexible system that went over really well when we showed it off at E3.

    The playbooks are also completely new for this year. Each team has been modeled around either a West Coast, Ball Control, or Conventional style of offensive system. We have some really nice 4 Wide Receiver offensive formations. The coolest one we added is where you have 3 Wide Receivers lined up right next the Offensive Tackle in a staggered formation, like the St. Louis Rams like to run. There are some really great plays out of that formation. I now understand why the Rams have such a potent offense!

How will the game account for the Houston Texans since they don't start this season? Will they still be in the game? If yes, will there be some sort of expansion draft?

    The Texans will make an appearance into the game. They will not be included in season mode for this year.

What new stadiums will be in NFL QBC 2002?

    We will have the new Denver and Pittsburgh stadiums. The stadium where the QB Challenge takes place has also been added, and it looks great. There might be another stadium or two tucked away if you know where to look...

Left footed kickers in the game?


Anything else you would like to add?

    We are really excited about this version of QBC. We have made key strides in a lot of crucial areas of the game that we think will provide the user with a great football experience. We are looking forward to building upon the foundation we have built this year, so we can deliver an even better experience in the future.

We would like to thank Dan Baker in taking the time to answer our questions for NFL Quarterback Club 2002 for PS2. Be sure to check out our preview here.

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