EA planning Madden plus other games for Wii

29 April 2006
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John MaddenWhile E3 is nearly a week away at this point, EA has announced that they are hard at work with a brand new Madden game for Nintendo’s upcoming Wii console, which will be shown at the show, in playable form. More game titles are also in development by EA for the Wii console, most likely more sports games as well. All will be revealed soon, but for now here’s some details on the new Madden.

– The game will be built from the ground up specifically for Wii, and will incorporate the new controller into all aspects of gameplay.
– For the first time in years, development on a major console version of EA’s marquee franchise football series is being taken outside the doors of the company’s Orlando, Florida-based EA Tiburon studio. The game is instead being handled north of the border, by a special Wii-focused development group within EA’s Burnaby, British Columbia studio.
– Players will hike the ball by mimicking a quarterback receiving the ball from the center, and then pass it to a receiver by making a throwing gesture with the free-hand controller. The faster the passing motion, the more of a bullet pass it becomes (in previous Madden editions, bullet passes were made by holding the passing button down longer).
– Kicking the ball will be accomplished by sweeping the controller up as if it were a kicker’s leg striking the ball. A fast, level swing will make for a hard, straight kick.
– The Revolution controller will also come into play when running the ball, as jerking the controller left or right will make the ball-carrier juke to either side, while shoving it straight ahead will make him stiff-arm the opposition.

EA has a dedicated team that is doing nothing but optimizing games to run specifically for Wii, taking advantage of it’s unique controller to change the gameplay and innovate in brand new ways.

GameSpot interviewed John Schappert, formerly EA Tiburon’s top guy and now head of EA Canada. He talked about implementing the new control scheme for the Wii version of Madden, as well as the publisher’s approach to development for Nintendo’s new system. Below are some excerpts from the interview, which you can read in it’s entirety here:

GameSpot: A lot of the gestures sound pretty instinctive, but at the same time they’re things that gamers have never had to do with any kind of precision before. Are you noticing much of a learning curve for the game even though it’s with this supposedly instinctive controller?

John Schappert: It’s still relatively early on so I can share that we’re just getting the gestures and getting them testable…we’ve had multiple focus group sessions. At first we had the hike mechanism where you actually pulled the controller back, so if you think about gesturing your hand forward and pulling it back as if you’re hiking the ball, which kind of looks more like a hike, [it] was very hard to do and wasn’t something that was comfortable for people. So we actually moved it to snapping the ball up, as if you’re receiving the ball. So part of it is new for all of us. It’s also new for consumers.

We need to make sure that we’re delivering on something that’s innovative but also really, really fun. The gesture of throwing was something that we worked on a bunch of different control schemes and settled on one. Just to get that gesture recognition working is nontrivial, because people throw different ways. It’s easy to say, “you just gesture a throw,” but there are so many different [types of] throws. So to have that working and hopefully pretty recognizable by E3 time–and it looks pretty good now–we’ve got a whole bunch of different throws that it’s interpreting.

GS: In the past, I imagine EA would be happy if everyone would buy Madden on one of their systems. If you have it on the GameCube, EA’s not expecting to sell it to you on the PlayStation 2 also. Is the Wii version of Madden going to be aimed as a supplement for the PlayStation 3 or Xbox 360 versions?

JS: I think Madden for Wii is unique and would complement any version of Madden as well as stand on its own. What’s neat about it is we’ve taken a different approach with the Wii than we have in the past. We’ve created a separate group that we have in Canada here that’s doing Madden and some other titles, and they’re just focused on Wii development. Their whole mantra is to create Wii-specific versions of these games that are created just for the system. So the Wii version of Madden will be very different from any other version of Madden you play. It’ll be tailored just for the Wii system, which means we’re spending a majority of our time making the control, which is very unique and different…specific for that machine.

GS: So we won’t be seeing straight ports to the Wii?

JS: I don’t think Wii consumers want straight ports. We want to bring out games that are great for the Wii. And that’s what we’re trying to do. We’re trying to take our expertise, and, happily, having a great football engine that we can count on solves a lot of problems. You don’t have to sit there and worry about, “Let’s get the game to play great football AI.” It’s more about, “Let’s get the game to play great on the Wii with a brand new, unique control device.” Which is really the problem that we think all of our games should be solving on the Wii.

GS: Will we see more franchise-driven Wii games from EA, or will it be a chance to try out new IPs specifically built around Wii?

JS: When we talk about a new platform, what would the Wii be without having Madden there? I think users expect some of our core, big franchises to be on Wii and we understand that. I think you’ll see EA support Wii with our strong franchises, but at the same time, it’s such a unique machine with a unique controller that it certainly gives us opportunity to think about doing new things and specific games just for that platform. At the same time, we have such a wealth of franchises that to me what’s kind of cool is when you think about taking a franchise like Madden and doing that on Wii –while people have played football games before, they’ve never played Madden this way. Yes, you’ve seen a football game before, but you’ve never seen anything like this before.

So that’s what excites us. Even though we are expected to bring over some of our big franchises [to Wii], we’re bringing them over and there’s massive innovation in them. I think you’ll see a lot of innovation in all the franchises we bring over. At the same time, in the future I wouldn’t doubt that maybe there are some originals we can do, but I would hope that you look at the games we’re bringing over, and even if you’ve seen the franchise before, you think that it’s an original in and of itself, too. I hope you look at Madden for Wii and say “Holy cow! That’s unique, that feels like an original game just for the Wii!”

GS: Do you think people will be surprised at all when they first get their hands on the controller?

JS: It’s a completely different controller than we’ve ever experienced before, so I think certainly. It’s going to be innovative and different, and I think it’s cool. I can tell you that the Tiburon guys came up today and they played Madden on Wii. They had been spending some time with our group but hadn’t gotten hands-on with [the game] until today. They couldn’t get the controller quick enough and said, “Don’t tell me anything! Let me do it myself!” They loved it. It was great. They weren’t expecting it to be as unique and original. “Unexpected” is the best way to describe it. I think we’re surprising people with how unique and different the offering is, just because that machine is unique and different. And I hope people are going to be very pleasantly surprised by what we have to show.

Keep your eyes peeled here for more info on EA’s upcoming Madden game for Wii and much more at E3.

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Josh Romero By Josh Romero: He is a lover of videogames, as well as metal music, Gilmore Girls, chatting, social networking, Phoenix Suns, reading, writing and many other nerdy things. Read his posts here and connect with him on Youtube.


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