Madden 23 Devs promise “the most polished version in a long time” after years of buggy versions

Madden NFL has undeniably been stuck in a rut this generation. Since the release of Xbox Series X / S and PS5, EA’s longtime NFL sim has consistently hovered around 65 on Metacritic. The complaints were the same: crude presentation, lackluster and modalities that failed to keep up with the competition.

Many fans trace Madden’s decline back to Madden 13, which formed the base model for the current version of the series. Others go back even further. Wherever it started, it’s hard to ignore the sense of unease that has taken root in reviews, social media, and elsewhere. EA has protested in previous years that it’s just a vocal minority and that the series is actually doing quite well with the average player not being extremely online. This year they are embracing it.

“As a game developer, especially on an annual sports title, it’s not so much having thick skin as it is [needing] to have a great filter, because there is a reason these players will say everything they say about the game, and you have to understand why, “senior producer Clint Oldenburg tells IGN.” And even if there are a hundred words there inside that they don’t tell you why, there may be one or two that will tell you why, and that’s what you need to focus on to make sure you deliver the experience on the inside, what those players are asking for. “

“A little too much animation based”

Oldenburg and fellow producer Mike Mahar say they went through the reviews and social media posts “line by line”, grouping bugs and other issues, and trying to separate legitimate criticism from the usual noise around annual sports games. What EA Tiburon has come up with in response to all these criticisms is basically to go back to basics. It’s not an exciting approach on the surface, but take away all the usual marketing words like “FieldSENSE” in confusing capital letters and you’ll find what seems like a rather fundamental – and much needed – rebalancing of action on the pitch.

Madden NFL 23 screens

In other words, EA may finally be moving away from what made Madden “Madden” for so long and towards something more like real football. At its core is a desire to move away from gameplay which is “a little too animated” – the feeling that you constantly play with Madden’s mechanics every time he picks a play or takes a shot.

“Our players have been telling us very loudly, their words, not ours, Madden has become a little too much based on animation, which means they feel like they are losing control at critical moments and are watching fast-paced events,” for lack of a better word, “Oldenburg says.

In Madden NFL parlance, this means moving away from the so-called cash games and lineups that dominate YouTube every season with a system that is “emerging, organic and natural”. The defense received most of the improvements, with an increased focus on gang tackles, pass coverage and quarterback containment.

“I think, from a high level, only the changes we have made in the deep zone and running pass this year help combat the problem of cash games, especially those deep crossing routes that I have already talked about. We have added zone drift logic that provides our depth zoner the awareness of not continuing to ascend the field unless they have a vertical threat so that we can take advantage of that deep crossing route, “says Oldenburg, referring to a pattern that was devastatingly effective for several years due to Madden’s various defenses. Weirdness of the AI.

As a game developer, especially for an annual sports title, it’s not so much having thick skin as you need to have a great filter

Oldenburg also talks about fixing formations like Gun Bunch, which have been overwhelmed for years due to the ease with which they can be adjusted to open large parts of the court, as well as the often overwhelmed QB rollouts used to extend plays.

“We think we have achieved a pretty good result this year,” says Oldenburg.

Feedback from the beta so far confirms the impact of these changes. If Madden 22 was similar to backyard football in how easy it was to roll out of your pocket and throw the ball at a wide open receiver that broke into the corner or apartments, then Madden 23 should prove to be a rude awakening for many players.

“I think it would probably be arrogant on our part to think that some experienced level player in our community won’t find a glitch in the matrix, so to speak, but we definitely went play-for-play, feedback- for feedback, with all the things we’ve heard up to this point to try and deal with it, ”says Mahar.

One way or another, it’s clear that most of Madden 23’s goal is to rebalance gameplay this year. It’s very necessary: ​​if the moment-to-moment gameplay isn’t fun, it doesn’t matter how much work goes into Franchise or Madden Ultimate Team mode.

The real test is whether EA Tiburon can make a fine game. Madden NFL has been heavily criticized in recent years for its weird bugs and glitches, which are continually made fun of on social media. To that end, Oldenburg says that refinement is a “top priority” in Madden 23, “especially from a gameplay standpoint.”

EA Tiburon hopes to catch bugs using something called “vision hooks,” which uses a blend of robots and other technologies to quickly reproduce annoying problems. The Madden team is also allocating additional resources to fix bugs during production.

“We are very confident that our game for Madden 23 will be the finest version of Madden we have had in a long time,” says Oldenburg. “What I’m not going to say is that it will be perfect, but I will say that the team is still struggling to achieve perfection, however difficult it may be to achieve. This is our goal. The Pole is our top priority and we know that we can’t achieve our goals if our players believe our game is a buggy experience. “

The question marks still remain

Elsewhere, Madden remains a question mark. Face of the Franchise – Madden’s tutorialed story mode – is doing away with elements like its college football mode, while arcade modes like The Yard are receiving only superficial updates, with resources instead going to review free will in Franchise Mode.

PC gamers, meanwhile, continue to receive little attention. Asked why the PC version is not keeping up with the console versions, an EA spokesperson said, “We have a passionate group of gamers who like Madden NFL on PC. It is important to our team that the PC version. of Madden becomes comparable to the current generation versions and we are working towards the future. ”

When Madden 23 arrives later this month, it will be EA’s latest attempt to firmly establish the franchise on the current console generation and bring some luster back to its faded heritage as well. Fans will be able to see for themselves if it will be successful when Madden 23 launches in Early Access on August 16.

Kat Bailey is IGN’s Senior News Editor and co-host of Nintendo Voice Chat. Do you have a tip? DM her to @the_katbot.

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