Home
Feature Article
Madden NFL 11: Ian Cummings Interview
OS recently had the chance to speak with Madden NFL 11ís creative director Ian Cummings during a conference call. Check out the interview below.

Operation Sports: How does the "shoulders squared locomotion" feature function? Can you comment on the philosophy behind it? It would appear that players naturally want to turn it up field -- when was this idea brought to the table?

Ian Cummings: The locomotion system for us was about really getting back to the core of the game, you know? We just had so many problems that we couldnít really solve with the old system, and so one of the big facets of locomotion is actually layered animation. And, typically a run cycle is a small clip of animation, but what we have been able to do with layers (we implemented a little bit of it in Madden NFL 10 with quarterbacks being able to throw out of sacks early) is really the ability to separate the parts of upper body from the lower body.

So what you see with locomotion is that [ball carriers] have the ability to still stay in control Ė- still be able to run left and right. You know youíre always in control. Youíre always in control of the same animation set, but his upper body can be kind of split off and turn to up field -- the illusion of cutting left and right to hit holes without turning your entire body. Along with that was the kind of dual-stick control of that with the right stick where you can lean your guy forward or twist his torso left or right. Those types of things were all done with layers. So the lower body is still fully in your control. Itís all on the left stick but the upper body is now totally kind of separate, and you can turn and twist and do all kind of cool things there that we just really didnít have the technology to do that before.

OS: I did the review for Skate 3, and I donít know if youíve played that, but the controls are amazing in that game. Itís very similar where you are controlling your board left and right with the left stick and you are controlling your weight and balance on the right stick. And you have the right bumper and left bumper as right arm and left arm. Have you guys looked into that type of control for future types of gameplay features and animations? Last week I was saying on our radio show maybe as a defensive back when you go to swat a ball use the left bumper with left hand and right bumper to swat with the right hand. Are these things that come to mind or have you looked into other controls of other games like this?

Ian: Yeah we definitelyÖ I play a ton of games, you know? I try to play everything. I am just a huge gameplay purist, too. I love kind of digging into the details of the way [developers] do stuff. We definitely talked about using triggers and bumpers, but this year we felt like we couldnít do anything new in that respect because we think we had to take a year to train -- a year to get rid of the sprint button. And so we knew if we added like, say as a ball carrier, say if we added right and left arms on the triggers. Every single person would be doing stiff arms all game because they are so used to holding the sprint button. So we wanted to take a year and basically keep all those buttons kind of free, at least the triggers -- the ones that people are used to -- and we will do some more separate arm stuff.

On defense weíve actually prototyped some things with the right stick for your different arms doing different things. Itís really tough because of the direction your player is facing and how the screen is tilted. Itís really tough in that split second to decide if I need to use my left arm or right arm or things of that nature. And so itís a really hardcore control that most people wouldnít be able to use. I mean what weíre looking at right now [with] the dual stick -- the torso twisting part not many people are using at all. People are using the truck stick and the one-to-one juking but itís so tough. The game is so fast that people donít get the ability turn their body away from contact in that fraction of a second. So you always just try to keep it simpler with a good layer of depth underneath it.

OS: I want to know how the auto turbo kicks in for the prioritized running lanes? Is the game programmed to know what lane you are supposed to be going to and does it kick in when you find that lane? How does that function exactly?

Ian: No, basically the way the locomotion works now is that [the ball carrier] just accelerates to top speed as long as you are running straight ahead. Any time you veer off of that path, [you] have to re-accelerate. We definitely have talked about that concept,of like, you know, if you hit the holes you get a burst of speed or things like that. When you take a pitch, you're always at full speed. But we just felt that once we got that core locomotion in there we didnít need any of that because itís up to you. If you hit the hole straight ahead, you hit the hole faster because you havenít had to turn your body. If you cut it back, you got to slow down and now thereís a whole three or four [defensive backs] running at full speed and are able to track you down. It all kind of evened out when we just sort of started obeying the real laws of momentum -- everything kind of worked itself out.

OS: The new player interest meter and interest list for top free agents in Franchise mode would appear to follow the path of NCAA Football 11ís recruiting interests. Do you plan to implement pitches, phone calls and a point system to recruit free agents in the future?

Ian: ...I donít know. The current franchise system we definitely are looking to revamp. I donít know if collegeís approach is the right approach to take but, I think we all know that the current free-agent system is lacking and we want to do something cool there. I mean NFL Head Coachís was pretty cool and the bidding war you would get into on a player -- weíve got a lot of options there. We know that the current way is not good and we are looking to improve it.

OS: NCAA Football 11 offers slider adjustments for online dynasties. Is this something you plan on making available for Madden NFL 12 online franchises?

Ian: I can never comment on when anything goes into a given year because I never know until the game ships [laughs] if itís going to make it or not. Thatís something [sliders] that we like a lot. I think sliders at this juncture have gained so much discussion and momentum -- so many people are so obsessed with tuning them to their liking that we need to find a way for people to share them across all modes. We need to have official ones. I think it is something you see a lot of in communities like Operation Sports or other places that will tune and tune and tune and tune and get these kind of officially approved sliders only for offline games.

It would be great if we could pull those up and we could make lobbies where people could play online games with those or drop them into online franchises or anything like that. I donít know when that will happen. I cannot comment on that. We are definitely seeing that sliders are a major deal. At this point, they have gained so much popularity I think we want to do something so people have an easier time sharing them and, you know, discussing them. Thatís part of the fun -- everyone debating which ones are the best ones.

OS: I donít know if you noticed, but personally every time I run a play-action pass the fullback is running around in circles blocking nobody [laughs]. Have you used the different play-action plays and is this something your team is looking into?

Ian: [Laughs] Iíve played our game, yeah. I use the play-action plays. I mean itís something weíre looking at. You know a lot of people are complaining about it. I think itís always kind of a balancing act in blocking, especially in locomotion -- we are trying to get everything solid. You know itís something weíll look at. Typically when I run play action, I run just a couple play-action plays that I like a lot and most of them have the fullback running out to the flat. I get rid of it really quickly. But yeah, play action is dangerous right now. I mean thereís no doubt about it -- you got to keep an extra guy in if you want to have a little extra time. Weíre definitely looking at it. Itís something that people are complaining about. Same with the kick return blocking.

OS: Yeah, a lot of people are complaining there are no wedges set up. So those are things you are looking at also?

Ian: Thereís no wedges in real life, too [laughs]. Itís funny, a lot of us on the team were actually complaining in the final weeks of the game that kick returns were too hard. So we all sat down and did 100 in a row -- each of us. And our average was about three yards above the NFL average on kick returns. So I think whatís happening is obviously people [are] not liking it -- having the same reaction that we did. But to be honest, the actual numbers are pretty close to realistic stats. Itís just that you are used to playing Madden and getting to the 25-yard line when you start five yards deep in the end zone. Everyone is used to doing that so now it feels like itís broken when itís actually a little more accurate. Regardless, I donít ever want to use that as kind of a cop-out. If people donít like it, then we want to try and fix it.

OS: Is anything being done to combat online quitters? People arenít being penalized as much.

Ian: Thatís one of our top issues we are looking at right now. Just so people know -- kind of like a back story. We had to switch our entire server architecture on the back end this year to get aligned. All the major EA Sports games had to incur some pretty major costs. So we had to re-implement a lot of our existing features. And so thatís why the whole "continue vs. CPU" was actually removed because we felt like this was the point where we could get rid of it. People typically just hated playing against the computer. But apparently itís some kind of weird bug going on in the server where people are quitting and they are not getting penalized, so we are going to make sure we get that addressed as soon as we can.

OS: Okay, in terms of the defensive AI I noticed that if defenders are in a zone, typically in a yellow zone, they are slower to react to the ball -- they are kind of at a standstill. This happens on All-Madden. But when you play man-to-man coverage, defenders are very quick to react to the ball, but in the yellow zones they are reacting slower. Is this something that is involved with the locomotion system? Do you have any comments on this?

Ian: Itís definitely the locomotion. I mean, defenders right now typically have lower acceleration ratings, especially linebackers. So if they drop back into zone and they happen to get to a standstill, then itís going to take a little bit longer to get them going again. Again, this is something that we are looking at. All-Madden theyíve got a little bit of a juice there to kind of help them speed up and get going faster. They have more awareness, they have better play recognition. Those get boosted. So we are looking to see if we can maybe fix that with code, or whether we can maybe just change ratings in a roster update or something along those lines. We want to get a balance.

A lot of feedback I am hearing for the most part is that the game is pretty offensive oriented, and I am seeing that, too. Especially we are looking at the stats that are coming in from the games and most of them are pretty high scoring. Itís something we want to address. Obviously youíve got to balance that. You want guys to have fun when they play the game and offense is typically more fun, but you donít want to balance it where you cannot stop anyone. Obviously, thatís another big problem. A lot of people look back to Madden 04 as like their favorite version of Madden. In that game, typically every game was about 75-70 in the final score. But we donít want to get to that again. We want it to be really fun to run the ball and have a successful running game and passing game, but be able to stop someone if you know how to stop them -- if you know how to use the strategy.

OS: Yeah, I noticed in the open field that guys are breaking tackles and wide receivers are breaking tackles more often than not. And not only that, they are breaking them to the house after they wiggle free.

Ian: Yeah, a lot of that comes from the ratings differentiation that we have. We make our guys spread out a lot more so that defensive backs tackling ratings are pretty low. They are not good tacklers for the most part so youíve got to kind of try and swarm around the ball. Again, that is something we are trying to tune and see if we can make it any better -- if it warrants it. We are just always listening to the community and the hot-button issues, and we go from there.

OS: Any chance something is done so that the AI doesn't snap the ball so quickly? Basically, some people want to have more time to make pre-play adjustments when playing against the computer.

Ian: Yeah, we are looking at that one, too. The one thing to do -- and I am not sure if a lot of people know this -- but as a workaround, if you turn off the accelerated clock, they will actually take a lot longer. So if people are extremely perturbed about that right now, thereís a workaround. Obviously, Itís not ideal, but it helps to not have that problem. A majority of the time, me personally, if I have to make five adjustments against the computer Iím asking do I really need to do that. Typically, I can figure out what the computer is doing and I donít have to be a super, hardcore crazy guy against them. And I think what you see is if we boost the CPU time that they wait, that frustrates way more people. The majority of people donít want to wait seven seconds and wait while the computer stands still. So thatís kind of a tough balance we have to figure out. We always talk about making a slider but that seems sort of like overkill [laughs].

OS: Thanks for the time, Ian.

Ian: Okay, thanks Steve
Madden NFL 11 Videos
Member Comments
# 1 EarvGotti @ 08/19/10 11:43 AM
Good read. Wish Madden 11 franchises' had slider adjustments. Hope they fix that online quitting bug soon!
 
# 2 DocHolliday @ 08/19/10 11:47 AM
Kid skated and danced alot there.
 
# 3 jim316 @ 08/19/10 11:49 AM
yea, hopefully madden gets patched soon with the season right around the corner....thanks for the interview Steve.....
 
# 4 LuGer33 @ 08/19/10 11:49 AM
Good questions and liked the responses. Glad they are looking into many of the issues the community is having w/ the game. Here's hoping most of it can be adjusted soon enough.
 
# 5 ChicagoChris @ 08/19/10 11:50 AM
Ian: [Laughs] Iíve played our game, yeah. I use the play-action plays. I mean itís something weíre looking at. You know a lot of people are complaining about it. I think itís always kind of a balancing act in blocking, especially in locomotion -- we are trying to get everything solid. You know itís something weíll look at. Typically when I run play action, I run just a couple play-action plays that I like a lot and most of them have the fullback running out to the flat. I get rid of it really quickly. But yeah, play action is dangerous right now. I mean thereís no doubt about it -- you got to keep an extra guy in if you want to have a little extra time. Weíre definitely looking at it. Itís something that people are complaining about. Same with the kick return blocking.


Good. At least they are aware of the PA and kick return blocking.
 
# 6 Senator Palmer @ 08/19/10 11:50 AM
Quote:
OS
Quote:
: Yeah, I noticed in the open field that guys are breaking tackles and wide receivers are breaking tackles more often than not. And not only that, they are breaking them to the house after they wiggle free.

Ian: Yeah, a lot of that comes from the ratings differentiation that we have. We make our guys spread out a lot more so that defensive backs tackling ratings are pretty low. They are not good tacklers for the most part so you’ve got to kind of try and swarm around the ball. Again, that is something we are trying to tune and see if we can make it any better -- if it warrants it. We are just always listening to the community and the hot-button issues, and we go from there.
The "if it warrants it" response to the tackle issue kinda has me scratching my head? If it warrants it?

And it's not just defensive backs that are getting shook off. I've seen smaller finesse back hit square in the hole by defensive linemen and 250lb linebackers who get brushed aside.
 
# 7 Gotmadskillzson @ 08/19/10 11:51 AM
Should have asked him when they going to put a QB scramble slider or tendancy in Madden and NCAA. Because as it stands now, mobile QB's don't take off like they should.
 
# 8 raguel @ 08/19/10 11:53 AM
This addressed most of my concerns with Madden 11. I hope that they realize though it's not just that defenders are slow to react, but sometimes take a step away from the receiver when the ball is in the air. This sometimes turn 4th and shorts into 1st and 10s. It's really annoying.

RE: AI snap. Ideally what they should do is give the user the control, like a slider. If I want the AI to snap the ball with only 1 sec left every time (sans no huddle) then I should have that ability.

I honestly hope that with any change to KO returns, one will think twice about running it out of the endzone. I kind of like that now, but if I get it at the 5 I should be able to get further than the 20.
 
# 9 mr_president @ 08/19/10 11:57 AM
1. i tried it and turning off accelerated clock does not force the Al into a longer snap count.
2. the fast throwing QB has been as issue for sometime, and they are just looking into it?? c'mon man, they tried to fix it last year with a patch, so they knew it was an issue then.
3.can we get some info on why the tackling is the way it is??

i don't know..he always seems to dance around questions during his interviews.
 
# 10 oneamongthefence @ 08/19/10 11:59 AM
No questions about pro-tak? Lol
 
# 11 jyoung @ 08/19/10 11:59 AM
There is definitely a lot of potential for this game if EA can patch the problems brought up in the interview.

Madden is almost unplayable right now without sliders (leaving online players SOL), but you can tell that there's a good game buried somewhere in there if only a couple of the defensive issues (tackling, pass coverage) could be fixed.
 
# 12 dannyr326 @ 08/19/10 12:02 PM
Does anybody know when they will re-implement the old pre-play adjustments back instead of being forced to use the strategy pad?

I really hope they bring back the old PS2 pre-play controls with the ability to shade an individual WR, bump an individual WR/ Double Cover. What happened to "spotlighting" a WR from last years game?? Why do they keep trashing the great pre-play controls?
 
# 13 Chivs @ 08/19/10 12:07 PM
I don't like this "Yeah, we're looking into that.." business. I mean, it's nice that they're looking into it, but does this mean they're looking to fix it for us soon, or for Madden 12, or is he just saying it even if they've not even thought about looking into it?

Hmmm
 
# 14 macaframa3 @ 08/19/10 12:21 PM
Most of you guys are babies. I mean yeah there are things wrong with the game, but if you have ever programmed anything you find there is always things that need to be tweaked once the general public gets its hands on it.

People need to understand the delicate balance it is for a sports video game between too hard and too easy. After they change one area it can adversely effect several others. Most of your complaints can be corrected with a little bit of slider work.

The issue that are the same year in and year out are very annoying but mostly these problems can be fixed with a patch. I think they spend so much time catering to all the whining people do that they dont fix the issues that are most important. A REAL defense doesn't make 3 or 4 changes at the line of scrimmage.

P.S. I agree with him about special teams, i thought it sucked at first but when you look at the stats, they are pretty on point.
 
# 15 boxboy99 @ 08/19/10 12:22 PM
Good read and Ian I actually love kick returns now. It is more relistic. No one would ever take a knee before this year. Kicking still needs revamped. It is too easy and almost always max power.
 
# 16 Hova57 @ 08/19/10 12:23 PM
chivis i don't know how long you been around here, but off all places you def don't want to say you are def doing something. its just a wild fire waiting to happen. i want to see the playaction, break tackle and man coverages and how the LB reacts fixed . i wish chris would have asked him bout tackles and that they are bout a second off the snap and the end is past them by then
 
# 17 bigsmallwood @ 08/19/10 12:24 PM
It is always interesting that no questions are asked about the Presentation....Come on OS.

And Ian seems to tap dance around the questions: In regards to broken tackles " Again, that is something we are trying to tune and see if we can make it any better -- if it warrants it. We are just always listening to the community and the hot-button issues, and we go from there"

If they were listening to the community, I believe we would have a much better game than what we are playing....
 
# 18 BezO @ 08/19/10 12:25 PM
There still "looking" at things? Everything sounds so up in the air like they're still wondering if these are problems.

And this...
Quote:
Ian: Yeah, a lot of that comes from the ratings differentiation that we have. We make our guys spread out a lot more so that defensive backs tackling ratings are pretty low. They are not good tacklers for the most part so you’ve got to kind of try and swarm around the ball. Again, that is something we are trying to tune and see if we can make it any better -- if it warrants it. We are just always listening to the community and the hot-button issues, and we go from there.
LOL. He mentioned OS, but I don't think he's listening to this board. Swarm around the ball for what? To get knocked over like a bowling pin? We needed a Pro-Tak follow up question right there.

He did say around the ball, not to it though.
 
# 19 jvaccaro @ 08/19/10 12:32 PM
they should have the CPU snap the ball 1 second after you make your last defensive adjustments, with a max time of maybe 6-8 seconds before they snap anyways. obviously this would be overridden in a hurry up situation.
 
# 20 BezO @ 08/19/10 12:36 PM
Quote:
And I think what you see is if we boost the CPU time that they wait, that frustrates way more people. The majority of people donít want to wait seven seconds and wait while the computer stands still. So thatís kind of a tough balance we have to figure out. We always talk about making a slider but that seems sort of like overkill [laughs].
Dewiel12,

Yeah, I'm not sure how they can ever make a sim if the game only caters to the "majority of people". Of course not everyone has the same concerns. But if you go arcade at every turn, what happens to the sim gamer? At what point do you alienate us?

And the computer doesn't have to "stand still". It can make adjustments, line calls, ect. It's called football.

But the bigger problem is always skipped over. Many of us wouldn't be as concerned with the CPU snap time if we could call the plays we want in the huddle. Tier the play calling!!!
 

« Previous1234Next »

Post A Comment
This thread has been closed for new comments.