The Madden franchise, over 21 years and running, has been the most successful football sim to date. With the recent release of Madden NFL 10, gamers have been sucked in, once again, to the most addicting Madden yet.
Gamer Limit was given the opportunity to interview one of the many reasons behind Madden’s continued success. EA Tiburon’s Creative Director, Ian Cummings, recently took time out of his busy schedule to answer a few questions for us.
Read on for some enlightening information behind Ian and the past, present, and future installments of Madden.
GL: Tell us a little about yourself. How did you get to the position you are in today?
Ian: I, like many others in the gaming industry today, started at the ground floor as a game tester. I moved from Tennessee to Orlando to test Madden NFL 2001 for the PC. I stayed in Quality Assurance until Madden NFL 2003, and got my first shot in a design role for Madden NFL 2004 for PS2/Xbox/GameCube. I’ve been burning the midnight oil ever since to get myself where I am today.
GL: Does having no competition in the pro football video game genre bring you more or less pressure?
Ian: For me personally, it is actually a lot more pressure. When the main comparison that reviewers or fans use against your game is “real life”, that’s a lot of pressure to live up to.
GL: Was there anything that was planned to be in Madden 10 that didn’t make it?
Ian: Each year, there are always a ton of ideas that don’t make the cut – that is the nature of game development. Due to the aggressive dev schedule, some things get tabled. That said, we always revisit the great ideas and consider them for future versions. We never want to release a feature without it meeting our high quality bar.
GL: What are your thoughts on the micro-transactions in Madden 10? Is this something Madden fans should begin to get used to?
Ian: I feel that if you can add something that’s worth the value, then you’re doing something right, regardless of whether it’s free or if you have to pay for it. Microtransactions are totally optional – if you don’t want to buy them, you don’t have to. I wouldn’t say it’s something Madden fans should begin to get used to, I think every single gamer in the world should expect these offerings to continue across every genre.
GL: On your personal blog, you had noted that you haven’t been “addicted” to Madden for five years. Why do you think that is? Since this year has changed things for you, can you speak to those older Madden fans or even 2K fans as to why this year would be the year to return?
Ian: There are a lot of reasons that I think Madden NFL 10 “hooked” me again, but the main reason has just really been the overall “feel” of gameplay. I am EXTREMELY critical of our gameplay, animations, and AI in general (that’s my job in essence), but this year really was the year that I could play a game and have a really great time. I think, before this year, the game was just too fast, and I wasn’t able to get into a good rhythm. As a “sim” or old-school Madden gamer, this year really gives me that feeling of the glory days.
GL: You recently tweeted that some people are saying that the core of Madden has remained unchanged. Do you feel this is a misrepresentation or simply a sign that Madden has hit its peak in terms of gameplay where this is something we will hear each year?
Ian: Obviously it’s frustrating when you pour all your effort into the game and make a ton of key changes to the core game itself (game speed, momentum, player control, etc) and see someone say it’s unchanged. I think we’ve realized that this sentiment probably won’t go away…the game is still football and our goal is still to create a realistic and fun representation of the sport. If our game played exactly like a real life broadcast I think people would still say “the gameplay is largely unchanged” because it’s still 22 players, there are still passing and running plays, there are still tackles and touchdowns, etc.
GL: When you play Madden, do you play smart football or smart Madden football?
Ian: I think it’s a combination of both. Having played Madden over each and every version for the past 20+ years, I’ve learned what plays and styles work better than others, but I definitely center my play around real life strategies – like trying to eat up clock with a balanced offense and mixing up my play calling. I hate exploits and money plays – even if I knew of one I wouldn’t use it.
GL: If you were given unlimited resources and budget to do one thing to improve Madden what would it be?
Ian: Though it doesn’t really classify as one thing, I would continue to focus on gameplay. Our goal is an authentic and realistic representation of the sport, so we always have room to improve in animation, authenticity, and AI.
GL: Any hints into what we can expect from Madden 11?
Ian: Other than you can expect it being totally awesome? Nope, not really.
Thank you again to Ian for taking the time to answer our questions. Best of luck burning the midnight oil for many successful Madden years to come!