San Francisco, March 9th, 2010 -- EA Sports invited members of the media to the open doors of the luxurious and serene Press Club in downtown San Francisco Tuesday night to get a sneak peak at this year’s lineup of titles. A number of games were featured on display in the classy, yet contemporary winery in the form of playable demos. I had the chance to get some developer walk-throughs on Fifa Soccer: World Cup 2010 South Africa, Tiger Woods 11 on both the Nintendo Wii and Xbox 360, and I was able to view a live demonstration of EA Sports MMA with developer insight.
Before I dive into breaking down each title’s upgrades, first a few insights on the direction of EA sports football titles.
The GM of EA Sports Tiburon Philip Holt discussed the key approaches and outlooks for NCAA Football 11 and Madden NFL 11 with their respective developers during the evening’s 30 minute presentation.
Holt touched on how the fans of the two major series will shape how the game is made through fan insight and forum feedback. Holt emphasized the importance of the discussion occurring online on forums such as ours, OperationSports.com. Holt mentioned Madden NFL 10’s Developer Ian Cummings blog, and his response to lack of pass rush on the OS forums through patch updates.
Other trends that EA Sports has taken akin to are the number of users now connected online – a good 75 percent and higher for both Madden NFL 10 and NCAA Football 10 players were connected online at some point in their game play.
NCAA 11 Outlook
NCAA developer Roy Harvey spoke about the direction of this year’s title. A great emphasis is being placed on creating the most diverse and realistically executed variety of offenses that are on display every Saturday in college football. Harvey is targeting the unique college offensive systems such as the spread attack in attempts to reflect and mirror the NCAA authenticity in the game as close as possible.
Harvey stated that NCAA 10 featured over 5,000 teams created in the Team Builder feature and 87 percent of the game was played in franchise mode by gamers. Moving forward with these trends, EA Sports is using their immense data tracking and stats to develop the games in ways that make sense to the fans of the franchise. The number of stats they have is unfathomable – millions of numbers were gathered.
In summary, Harvey stated that NCAA 11 is going to focus on the authentic college offensive systems, the core game play of course, and they are looking to appeal to and capture the emotion of the college game.
NCAA 11 Screenshot – it looked awesome in High Def.
A Faster Madden
Jeremy Strauser of Madden NFL 11 was next in line for the opening presentation at the Season Opener. Strauser stated that Madden NFL 11 will be data driven – and once again touched on how the OS forum feedback is much appreciated (Got to enjoy the love we received in a packed house full of the game industries best editorials)
Strauser threw some crazy numbers around regarding the data tracked in Madden NFL 10. 173 million data reports are made per day in Madden. Cool note: 7.5 million interceptions have been thrown by Brett Favre.
Here is where it gets interesting. When playing Madden, stiff arms and truck/highlight sticks are being implemented on the fly by the millions in-game around the world. During my review for the game (8.5/10 second opinion), I found the success rates to be a bit random in nature, with my running backs breaking tackles occasionally on the truck highlight stick; but not always. Sometimes I would even have the momentum advantage and catch a defensive back off guard at a tough tackling angle, but I still would get tripped up. Other times, I would break through three tackles in a row with Beanie Wells. Confusing.
The data that EA has collected is being used to drive the current Madden updates, and Madden NFL 11. Strauser stated in Madden NFL 10, gamers had a 23 percent rate of success on stiff arms – very close to the target rate of 25 percent that the developers established.
On the other hand, the truck/highlight stick had a success rate of 46 percent – which is supposed to be a much bigger risk in using. The developers immediately addressed the success rates on these moves to put in one of the Madden updates.
It will be interesting to see how this affects player ratings – can we count on players having a success rate of 23 percent on his stiff arm, even if it’s the best stiff arm in the game by a guy like Peterson taking on a smaller defender? These approaches open the door to a lot of questions on how the ratings come into play that Strauser did not discuss.
Another nice stat was that with the 330 plays in the game, users chose to run on average a total of 13 while playing online. Harvey explained that while the average Madden game takes about 63 minutes to complete, the actual in time playing amounts to a total of 17 minutes.
The goals for Madden NFL 11 is to make the game simpler to choose the plays you want, a deeper game play experience, and quicker in its accessibility.