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Madden NFL 12 Online Communities
Posted by EA SPORTS at 09:03AM on Monday, July, 25, 2011

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I’ve been waiting for this day for months now, and it’s finally here, the debut of Madden NFL 12’s newest online feature: Communities. Around this time each year, the design team starts getting together, kicking around ideas and looking at priorities for what we want to add to next year’s game. We started Madden NFL 12 by looking at the core online experience and Ranked Head-to-Head, in particular. For years now, we have been hearing complaints about how hard it is to find a good matchup online. Opponents quitting games, cheesing or running the same play again and again, and gamers looking for creative ways to cheat their way up the leaderboard have really been plaguing the online space. We listened to our fans and found a very large group of gamers who only play against their friends and use our Ranked Invites and Leaderboards to track their progress against each other. We talked to our hardcore fans and found a lot of sim-football players who only want to play against guys who play sim-football and we talked to even more who just wanted to find an opponent who would finish a game. Finally, we asked ourselves, what is the correct solution to these problems? How can we let our gamers play ranked games against their friends, play the way they want to play it, and create a safe environment where you don’t have to worry about cheaters, quitters, or grievers? The answer became Communities.

Madden NFL Online the Way You Want It

At its core, Communities is similar to clans in a first person shooter. Madden NFL 12 will allow you and up to 2000 other like-minded gamers to create or join a Community where you can play head-to-head games against each other. All games will be ranked on your Community Leaderboard, individual stats will all be tracked and ranked, and recent game results will be displayed for your entire Community to see. What makes Communities different is that the creator of the Community will be able to create Community “house rules”. Every single game option and slider in Madden NFL 12 will be editable and will apply to all head-to-head games within your Community. If you want to create a sim-football Community that plays 15 minute quarters on All-Madden with no accelerated clock, go for it. If you work long hours like myself and just want to play quick games with your brother across the country you can set your house rules to three minute quarters, turn the game speed all the way up, and turn up CPU AI blocking. Our goal was simple: give the gamers the power to create the experience they really want.

What I’m most excited about is all the different ways Communities can be used. We’re giving you the ability to be a member of up to five different Communities, so personally, I’ll have one large Community made up of EA SPORTS employees, another smaller Community made up of all my college and high school friends (and all of their friends), and then a two person Community for me and my cousin. The two of us play game after game against each other online every year, but there has always been a debate about who’s the best. He claims to win the majority of the time, while I know that’s a dirty lie. This year, with Communities, every game will be tracked and every stat recorded so by this time next year there will be no question about who the better player is when I am ranked ahead of him on our Community Leaderboard. The Madden NFL franchise is fortunate to have a great fan base that already bands together on websites like Operation Sports and Madden Bible and I hope to see those guys go out and create some large Communities with some fierce competition. I also encourage you to create Communities for your local high school, university, or workplace and make the best of your opportunity to win bragging rights over your peers.

Team Play Evolved

While it seems like I have said a lot about Communities already, I’ve really only talked about half of the experience. Last year, Madden NFL 11 introduced Online Team Play (OTP), a feature that was generally very well received but in the end, really suffered from not having any leaderboards or stat tracking. The people we talked to said it was fun to play, but lacked any real incentive to play it. In Madden NFL 12, you’ll be able to play Ranked Team Play from within your Community for the very first time. Instead of playing against members of your Community, you will be able to team up with members of your Community to play three vs. three games against other Communities. Since Communities can potentially have up to 2000 members, we gave each Community its own private lobby room where you can chat with your fellow members and of course gather your favorite Community teammates to take on other Communities. If you get into the lobby a little late and your friends already started their game, you can view a box score of their game in progress that shows you which of your fellow members are playing, what the current score is, and how much time is left in the game so you can decide whether to wait for them to finish or if you want to start a game of your own. Every Community will be ranked against the rest of the world on the Community Team Play Leaderboard. Squads are back, boosts are gone, and all of your stats for all six squads will be recorded and ranked in the Squad Stats Leaderboard. Your individual Team Play squad stats in one Community will carry over into all your other Communities as well, meaning if you win 25 games in Community A as the QB Squad and you win 15 games as the QB Squad in Community B, you will appear on the Squad Stats Leaderboard with 40 wins as the QB Squad. We have also added grieving rules to ensure individuals who cause excessive delay of game or encroachment penalties get kicked out of the game and don’t ruin your experience. Finally, in the most requested Team Play feature of them all, we did away with the behind the back camera on defense so that you have your classic Madden NFL camera on both sides of the ball.

So by now, you may be thinking “Hey guy, this is a lot of stuff, how am I going to organize all of this, and what if one of the guys in my Community is a jerk or starts breaking the rules?” Well, when you create your Community, you have the option to leave it open to the public and send invite messages to anyone you like, asking them to join your Community. If you know exactly who you want to play with, you can set a Community password that must be entered when other users try to join. We also provide the Community Creator with the ability to give members “Manager Permissions” that allow them to promote other members to Manager, kick out members, and change Community options and sliders. Every effort was made to give you the tools you need to self police and regulate your experience. The power is yours!

Improving Your Core Online Experience

While I still have your attention, I have to mention a few of our smaller (that doesn’t mean less important) upgrades that we made in the online space. We started by changing our matchmaking to use Skill Points rather than matchmaking by Skill Level. The amount of Skill Points you have drives your Skill Level, but Skill Points go up and down based on your wins and losses while Skill Level never decrements. Say you bought Madden NFL 11 on launch day and won your first 20 games or so, earning enough Skill Points to improve to Level 10 and then found the competition at Level 10 was too tough and you lost your next 50 games. Those 50 losses in a row would have lowered your Skill Points to almost nothing but you would still be a Level 10 player getting matched up against Level 10 competition for the remainder of your experience. Matchmaking by Skill Points, which are a much better representation of how good you are, will ensure users get matched up with the most even opponent possible. We also made efforts to give you more feedback about when your Skill Points go up or down and by how much after every game. When you finish a Ranked game online, you will be presented with a Postgame Progression screen that will tell you how many points you and your opponent gained or lost. Hopefully this will go a long way towards informing users of exactly what is happening to your ranking after games and will forever answer the question “what happens when my opponent quits or disconnects?” Speaking of guys quitting or disconnecting, we are providing you more information about why your opponent left the game, whether that be a disconnect, grieving, or quitting.

I know I’m excited for all the new features coming in Madden NFL 12 and have already started planning who is going to be in my Communities. I sincerely hope that the hard work we did is just as exciting for you and that you are as excited as I am to get your Communities started when Madden NFL 12 hits stores on August 30th.



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