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Problems with Madden's Running Animation 
Posted on April 27, 2009 at 02:25 PM.
Thought I'd summarize and repost the findings from the running animations thread before they got buried:

Like I said earlier, here is what I noticed:

1. Legs - The legs come up to a complete horizontal with the body (think hard right angle here). That's not how people run, unless they are running in place exercising, hitting their hands to knees. I tried to freeze frame it on a couple of examples to show how high the knees are coming up on the Madden portion of the video.

2. Shoulders - APF2K8 has both chest and shoulder movements (the chest is subtle, but there). Madden only has shoulders. APF2K8's pivot point in the center of the stomach gives more as well than Maddens.

3. Canned Animation - APF2K8 has varying length of stride when they run. In Madden, once they hit full stride, it's like a looped animation over, and over again. Add some randomness to the strides (random, not just 2 variations).

4. Camera Angle - APF2K8's camera angle is closer to the player so you get the opportunity to better appreciate the graphics. Simply put, it makes it look better.

5. Speed - Madden is playing too fast, giving the appearance of missing frames, and making a natural running motion look unnatural.

6. Bobbing Up & Down - This can be seen best from the rear view, not sure if I have that for both videos on there, didn't think it was important at the time, but now do. It appears that the Madden runners bob up and down, and the APF2K8 players bob from right to left. The right to left seems more natural. The up and down just looks weird (this is even more noticeable in the NCAA titles). You can kind of see this from the front view as well.

7. Lack of Different Running Styles - Madden doesn't support different running styles. This isn't on display in the video either unfortunately, but APF2K8 actually supports different running styles. If you ever want to see the difference, play a game with Freeman Mcneil (Bronze HB) and then Tony Nathan (Bronze HB). Tony Nathan has this funky head jut forward animation when he runs, like he's trying to get every last bit out of the run.

Here's a nice screen capture that shows how high the leg is going up. The thing is literally parallel with the ground.

Check the comparison between a real run capture and the Madden capture. Please note that the capture of the Green Bay runner is at the apex (highest point) of the leg lift/motion.

Bringing Players to Life
I was thinking the APF2K8 video looked like they were speed walking with as much as the waist / shoulders were moving. The APF2K8 video is definitely not 100% realistic, it's a little exaggerated, but the net result is that it makes the players appear more alive, and IMHO that is key to bringing the game itself to life. It doesn't have to be over the top likes Blitz the League (love both I & II of those games by the way), but it does need just a little extra to make the players feel less stiff and more alive.

Here's a couple more examples where things aren't exactly realistic, but definitely add entertainment value.

APF2K8 has crazy tip animations. Those are definitely NOT realistic, but they are ever so much fun and exciting to behold. Madden has tipped animations this year, but the ball still feels like a dead weight. Madden's implementation is probably closer to the real thing, but again, it makes the game feel dead, and there's no excitement when it's tipped because it's over pretty much as soon as it happens. Part of that is due to the game speed, and the rest is due to how little the ball is tipped. Once again, this is where a little exaggeration can add a lot of excitement and a lot of 'wow' moments to the game.

I can't say enough about the Game Speed. APF2K8 is slow. In fact, it's too slow. You can play it on fast speed, but the fast speed is too fast. The actual speed we need is somewhere in the middle of those two. Madden is just way too fast (I believe I timed Barber running a 4.3 in the game, that was after he was at full speed though to be fair). While there's a lot to be said to playing the game in real time, you lose a LOT of emotion and it reduces the opportunity for gamers to appreciate the graphics and game play. Madden will play and look a lot better just by slowing it down (this has me worried, as the videos I have seen look like they are the same speed). Again, you may have to suspend accuracy to increase enjoyment for the gamer. Personally, I don't care if it's not 100% accurate with regards to the speed, it should be played at a speed that allows gamers to enjoy the game, everything else is secondary.

Still hoping Ian will clarify the missing frames issue during game play.
# 1 Valdarez @ May 5
Agreed. Unfortunately they seem unwilling to address it or even acknowledge it as a problem. This is going to be one of the biggest problems with regard to drawing in the 2K crowd/supporters.
# 2 PlatooN @ May 6
good points here
# 3 MattIntellect @ May 12
The Madden team recently tuned their running animations.
# 4 Valdarez @ May 12
Ian said they were working on them, and posted a work in progress, but we haven't seen any more evidence since then.
# 5 MattIntellect @ May 17
My point is that it's not the same as the ones in those screenshots.
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