When Art Director Tim Spangler took over the "Madden NFL 10" Wii product, he wanted to see the player models taken in a different direction.
"As soon as you look at 'Madden' Wii, we want you to say, 'Wow, that's something different, that's something new.' And it's something you could only find in one place, the Wii," says Spangler. "It's not like in years past where the Wii would look like the PS2 version. This year, these graphics are only on the Wii. The Wii console in general has its own personality and built in expectations, so we were able to take a look at "Madden" and honor that tradition, but at the same time have a little fun with it and add some of that personality from the Wii into it."
As soon as you look at 'Madden' Wii, we want you to say, 'Wow, that's something different, that's something new.'
”-- "Madden 10" Wii Art Director Tim Spangler
And what kind of fun and personality are we talking? How about a product developed from the ground up specifically for the Wii? And by that, we're not talking about twirling the controller over your head to celebrate a touchdown. The days of looking for any excuse to look like a moron with a Wii remote are thankfully over. In its place comes a game with a visual and gameplay style all its own.
The art team at EA Sports used inspiration from various sources, like the Yao/LeBron Coke commercial that aired during the Olympics, and Pixar films like "The Incredibles." They wanted to stylize the genre of sports gaming, and judging by the first look I received while in their Florida studio, it looks like mission accomplished.
Says Spangler: "We took a look at the various body types and physiques various players have who play certain positions. We did a study on that, then interjected certain traits that define the position, like a heroic quarterback or a showboat wide receiver. We then worked with our artists to take a real life person like Randy Moss or Tony Romo, then we sketched out how we could push their form and the shapes of their muscles and their physique in general so the quarterback could look more heroic. So Tony Romo looks a little more thin in the waist, then as you work your way up to the chest, it gets a little more massive and we gave him broad shoulders.
"Once we got to that phase, we would then try to model that out in 3D using polygons. We would basically sculpt that art into the 3D world. Then we took their uniforms and tried to remain as authentic as possible because NFL fans and "Madden" fans want to see all the right markings and logos. So we could have our fun with the body types and how they run, but we also stayed true to the flavor of the NFL and the tradition of "Madden." Once we got our character modeled, we worked it out with our animators so we could take our standard run cycle that you would see in a realistic game, then changed it up so you could see some of those traits, like the heroic or the showboat personality into the animation. If it's a wide receiver like Randy Moss, we pushed a little bit on his run so it seems like he could run faster than everyone else. It catches your eye right away that, not only does the guy look fast, he runs different than everyone else."
Now when you see an offensive lineman, he looks like a bodyguard out on the field with his hulking body type. Running backs like Adrian Peterson boast thick legs for speed, while defensive players like DeMarcus Ware flex muscles upon muscles to look like the intimidating forces that they are.
Next up is the addition of stadiums that look larger than life thanks to a significant push to the sense of scale. Additions include things like the Pittsburgh skyline built into the backdrop for the Steelers along with a significant upgrade to the crowd treatment. Now you see fans wearing different attire, and the variety really helps add to the depth of color in the background.
Even the team-select screen embodies the new look as now when you cycle through squads, you're given an example of the stars on the teams, and you witness up close and personal the new body types, from the heroic look of Peyton Manning to the showboat nature of Chad Ochocinco.
"There is always a game that will come out that sets a new bar," says Spangler. "Whether that's "God of War" or "Halo" or "Grand Theft Auto," you look at those games and you say, 'Wow, that part right there looks incredible. We need to figure out how we can get our visuals to that level.' It's always a matter of analyzing what's going on in the industry, who the trend setters are, and then figuring out the techniques they are using to get there."
And judging by what I've seen so far of "Madden NFL 10" Wii, it looks like Spangler and company are going to be the new trend setters as they've created one of the most unique-looking sports titles on the system.
But the improvements don't end with the visuals as "Madden" Wii also introduces some innovative new gameplay mechanics to the mix. Last year, "Madden 09" introduced the Call Your Shots feature where gamers were able to draw receiver routes on the screen using their controllers. "Madden 10" tries to even the playing field with a defensive version of the feature, Call Your Coverage. Now using your controller, gamers will be able to answer the offensive audibles by pointing at defenders and moving the controllers to point them to zone coverage or even signal them to blitz.
Best part is, if you bring an interception back to the house, like I said, there's no more goofy controller waving in the sky to celebrate. Simply run your character to a hot spot and watch him dance without looking like a total loser.
And while there are plenty more improvements being made to "Madden," these are the only significant ones I can mention at this time as EA Sports is still keeping a lot of the game under wraps. But if the rest of "Madden 10" turns out as promising as the initial phase, Wii owners might finally have a reason to get ready for some football.
Adds Spangler: "As technology changes, the expectations raise as well. You have to grow with that technology and those expectations and try to always be at that razor's edge in terms of ingenuity and making something that is high quality.
"This is the most rewarding job I've ever had. I come in every day excited because when the team is motivated and excited about their work, then you come in, you get motivated and excited about the whole project. That's contagious. And that's how we all feel about "Madden" Wii."