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Interview with Matt Read, Lead Designer for Madden NFL Arcade

Will this game score a touchdown with football fans?
Will this game score a touchdown with football fans?
Photo courtesy of EA Sports

I was lucky enough to spend a few minutes with Matt Read, Lead Designer for Madden NFL Arcade which will be released soon for both XBOX Live and the Playstation Network.

Thanks for joining us Matt, can you compare the process of working on a game like Madden NFL Arcade to that of a regular Madden release?

As you might imagine, Madden NFL Arcade’s team size and production schedule were much shorter than a typical Madden release. The overall process remained pretty much intact just compressed to a accommodate the shorter production cycle. Like every team here at Tiburon, our team was comprised of very talented and passionate development members.

It’s got to be great coming up with the “perks” or Game Changers as they are called in this game. How did you decide on the final 13?

Designing the Game Changers was a blast and the process to reach the final 13 was riddled with tons of great feedback and suggestions. If I remember correctly, we started with around 20 Game Changers and implemented majority of them. We held internal and external playtests to help refine and tweak their implementation and design. After the first couple of playtest rounds, we decided to cut some of the Game Changers and add new ones that weren’t in the original design. Those new ones were spawned by studio and playtest feedback after asking the simple question, “What Game Changer would you add?” In the end, we are very happy with the final 13 because each ones has its own unique personality and adds a layer of depth to the experience.

Can you explain how your team’s “entourage” will work?

Entourage is one of my personal favorite Game Changers. You can earn this one either on offense or defense and when activated brings the rest of your offensive/defensive line in for the play. So if you’re on defense and want to add a TON of extra pressure just activate Entourage and watch your opponent panic. That great thing about this Game Changer is that you don’t have to activate it before the snap. At any point during the play, you can materialize your line onto the field and catch your opponent of guard. It always gets a great reaction.

I’ve always been curious what it is like to select what a games achievements or trophies will be. How hard is it to whittle down the list?

I look forward to coming up with the Achievements and Trophies on every project I’m on. It just lets you think about the game a little differently and create unique challenges for the player. We start by brainstorming a bunch of different situations for the achievements/trophies and then pick out the ones that sound like the most fun. Now that list doesn’t always end up in the game. Like everything else, we run the achievements/trophies through extensive playtesting to determine if they are fun and challenging. Once we get the final list, we move on to the naming stage. This is where things can get crazy, we open this up to the entire team and get a ton of different suggestions for every achievement/trophy. Some are absolutely insane and others even crazier. We whittle the list down to our favorite names and put it in the game. Needless to say, it is a very fun and interesting process.

I remember playing games like NBA Jams in the arcade and wondering how they picked which guys you could choose from. Aside from picking the obvious big names, how did you guys go about selecting the remaining players on a team?

You would think identifying the top players from every team was a relatively easy task to accomplish. Most teams have very recognizable and standout performers that any team’s fan can easily list out. Unfortunately, it wasn’t as easy as we thought. With only five slots available, we quickly ran out of depth without exhausting the stable of talent that most teams have. Luckily, we had the Madden community to help us out when the starting job didn’t have a clear winner. We turned to twitter and asked the fans who they would start. The responses came in and quickly resolved all the interoffice debate. Every time we would start arguing over a starter, we just asked the fans and they always seem to have the right answer.

Will Madden NFL Arcade play and/or feel at all like playing a regular Madden game or is it a complete 180?

Madden NFL Arcade provides a fast-paced experience deeply rooted in twitch gameplay. We wanted the game to feel like an arcade game so we retooled pretty much every aspect of Madden to satisfy our goal. You will instantly notice the game favors twitch more than realism.

Have any NFL Players tried it out and if so, what did they think?

Not that I know of but I can’t wait to hear what they think.

Thank you so much for joining us, good luck with the release, we are excited to check it out!