Tag Archives: Xbox

Scribblenauts game developer makes a risky bet on being original

Everyone loves original games. But few developers take the risk of making them in the video game industry.

Enter Jeremiah Slaczka, the creative director at game developer 5th Cell, dropped out of high school in his junior year. Working with his partner Joseph Tringali, he made a string of licensed cell phone games to get their company off the ground. Then they decided to risk everything they had to make an original video game called Drawn to Life, and they did it again with another game, Scribblenauts.

scribble-1

In 2006, while living with his parents in Bellevue, Wash., Slaczka successfully pitched the game Drawn to Life to THQ, one of the biggest makers of video games. The drawing game was an original Nintendo DS handheld game that went on to sell more than a million units. Drawn to Life spawned a sequel and a spin-off, rewarding the studio with success and empowering Slaczka to proclaim 5th Cell would never work on a licensed game again.

In the video game industry, Slaczka’s proclamation is bold. For many developers, it’s just a pipe dream to work on their own original titles. The hit-driven video game industry, like the movie business, regularly relies on sequels and licensed properties to generate sales. This year, after a slew of recession-leery publishers have pushed their games out of the competitive fall lineup, only a few original games remain.

One of those original titles belongs to 5th Cell. Scribblenauts, the company’s fifth DS game, is an innovative puzzle-action title enabling players to use tens of thousands of words, which turn into objects to solve puzzles. The inventive Scribblenauts won best original and best handheld game at the E3 game trade show this year by the Game Critics Awards. The game shipped Sept. 15 to mostly positive reviews, scoring an above-average 81 on the review aggregator, Metacritic. Here’s the story of how the company survived, first by making crappy mobile games just to get its foot in the door, and then eventually investing everything it could in making games that nobody else was doing.

See the full story at VentureBeat.com.

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Red Dead Redemption: Three Things

An open world Western by Rockstar? Sold!

An open world Western by Rockstar? Sold! (Image courtesy of GameSpot.)

Oh, impressions of impressions, you’re so bloggy.

Just read GameSpot’s Red Dead Redemption impressions. I played and reviewed the original and liked it well enough (gave it a 7.5 on IGN Xbox and 7.0 on IGN PS2)  The idea of a good Western game is always intriguing to me, as surely it is to a great many people. During the preview, a few things caught my attention: 1) An Open World, 2) Wildlife and random encounters, and 3) The lcoations: The great Plains, the Frontier, and Mexico.

If the vastness of GTA IV’s NY City was exciting to explore, how cool will the Frontier with its packs of hungry coyotes, friendly campfires, and stagecoach hijacks? (Very.) One of the best parts of Neversoft’s GUN was its open world aspects, so with Rockstar’s uncompromising desire to fill its games with little details, these open worlds will be wild, indeed.

The wildlife seems like a little thing, but just like the weird old ladies in GTA III (“I’m going to Aruba!”) stick in your head, so will the vast ecology of wildlife. Should be fun to see the Wild West come to life Rockstar style.

The locations: How often do you get to play a game in Mexico? Obviously, and I’m getting this from the trailer as well, there will be a gang of evil, stereotypical Mexican bandits involved, but thankfully Rockstar evenly distributes its caricatures amongst all folks (white men are often the most evil and dispicable people in their games, so they’re not prejudiced).

Oh and I guess there is one more point that got me intrigued: The trailer itself. One of the greatest aspects of the old West is its morale ambiguity, and just like the moral decisions and scenarios confront you in GTA IV, so assuredly will they in Red Dead Redemption.

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The Best of Madden

In light of sports commentator John Madden’s retirement from the booth, coupled with the summer release of Madden NFL 10, a sudden overwhelming feeling made me stop and think: Which Madden rules over the rest?

The question is subjective in nature. There is no empiric evidence that points to a clear winner during the last 21 years of EA’s Madden series. The question itself might even be considered questionable –Does there have to be a best Madden? And, who cares?

Sports fans do. They rank and compare the numbers on everything. Given the series’ immense history, EA’s annual output of a new Madden, and the series’ evolution from 1989 to the upcoming Madden NFL 10–an evolution that itself is an insight into the video game industry–delving into the series makes a lot of sense.

But if there isn’t a single “best” Madden, which ones stand out from the pack? There are Madden games that have risen above the rest in each era, from the 16-bit Genesis games to the knockout 2000 PS2 launch title. Which ones stood out graphically? (What about them virtual polygons?) Which made the biggest tech leaps? Which ones failed?

THE ROSTER

I’ve interviewed Madden specialists, including a handful of select journalists, each of whom has followed, played, and reviewed the series (and many other football games) for more than a decade.  I’ve interviewed a Madden competitor, a guy who’s appeared on Madden Nation and who runs a Madden fan site. I’ve included interviews with Tiburon’s producers to get a deeper look at the series from the inside. And I’ve included an interview with a former Visual Concepts producer and designer.

These folks include ESPN host and analyst Aaron Boulding, Game Informer’s sports experts Matt Bertz and Matthew Kato, and former long-term EGM sports writer (and current Insomniac community manager) Bryan Intihar. I also grabbed some time with EA’s Steve Chiang, senior vice president and group GM of Tiburon Studio, and Jeremy Strauser, Tiburon’s executive producer, each of whom have helmed the series through countless iterations. For a counter-point to EA, Dave Zdyrko, I spoke with former gameplay producer/designer at Visual Concepts and current lead designer at Quick Hit, Inc. And finally, we spoke with Raymond “Shopmaster” Goode. He was a contestant on Madden Nation (the TV show) and runs the fan sites Maddenwars.com, MyMaddenPad.com.

THE PROS’ ANSWERS

In email interviews with the aforementioned group, I asked the same set of questions, which is the best overall Madden game in the series? What is your top five list of Madden games? Which made the biggest improvements graphically? Which versions made the biggest gameplay advancements?  Which was the worst version? And which gave you your first “a-ha!” moment? For the purposes of this article, I pared down their answers to their favorite game, plus their top five all-time favorites. For the full set of individual interviews, click on the names of each contributor.

Which Madden games made the pro’s top choices?

Aaron Boulding is a host and analyst for ESPN.

Aaron Boulding is a host and analyst for ESPN.

Aaron Boulding (ESPN): Madden NFL 92 (Genesis: until Madden NFL 10)

“With the exception of Madden ’06, which was an insult to video game football fans everywhere, the best version is always the most recent version,” explains Boulding. “All of the lessons, mistakes, improvements, enhancements and innovations of previous games are put to good use in the game that’s out right now. Even bad ideas like the quarterback vision cone (Madden 06) went to a halfway house in subsequent editions of the game before being banished forever (Madden NFL 10).”

Boulding’s Top Five

1. Madden NFL 92 (“Genesis: It had ambulances on the field thanks to Randall Cunningham’s brittle ass,” said Boulding. “JJ Birden and Neal Anderson were unstoppable.”)

2. Madden NFL 2005 (Xbox)

3. Madden NFL 09 (Xbox 360)

4. Madden NFL 08 (Xbox 360)

5. Madden NFL 2001 (PS2)

Matt Bertz is the content manager for Game Informer magazine.

Matt Bertz is the content manager for Game Informer magazine.

Matt Bertz (Game Informer): Madden 99 on Nintendo 64

“‘Best overall game’ is a tricky term when you’re talking about an evolving series,” said Bertz. “One the one hand you have to go with the latest version, which features most of the gameplay improvements and innovations that made the game great over the last two decades. But if you use the term ‘best overall game’ to point toward the version that introduced the most innovative ideas I would have to go with Madden 99 for the N64. I think the debut of the franchise mode is the pinnacle achievement in the series history, and Madden 99 also marked the series transition to 3D and motion-captured animations.”

Bertz’s Top Five

1. Madden 99 (N64)
2. Madden 04 (PS2)
3. Madden 94 (Genesis)
4. Madden 01 (PC)
5. Madden 95 (Genesis)

Matthew Kato is the senior associate editor at Game Informer magazine.

Matthew Kato is the sr. associate editor at Game Informer.

Matthew Kato (Game Informer): Madden ‘06 for the PS2

“Madden ’06 had QB vision, Superstar mode (where you get to control one player on and off the field), and was a fast-playing title that had honed some of the series problems through the years,” said Kato.

Kato’s Top Five

1. Madden ‘06 (PS2)
2. Madden ‘04 (PS2)
3. Madden ‘94 (Genesis)
4. Madden ‘99 (PS)
5. Madden ‘96 (Genesis)

Bryan Intihar is the former sports writer for EGM.

Bryan Intihar is the former sports writer for EGM.

Bryan Intihar (Insomniac): Madden NFL 2001 (PS2)

“Even though the later PS2/XB/GC iterations continually improved gameplay, Madden NFL 2001 (PS2) will go down as my personal favorite,” said Intihar. “I’ve already commented on the visuals, but it was one of the first sports games that really started concentrating on the subtleties. No matter which NFL team you were a fan of, you knew the players—from their body proportions to extra gear—were going to be unbelievably accurate.”

Intihar’s Top Five:

1. Madden NFL 01 (PS2)
2. Madden 92 (Genesis)
3. Madden NFL 05 (PS2/Xbox)
4. Madden 93 (Genesis)
5. Madden NFL 08 (Xbox 360)

Dave "Z" Zdyrko is the lead designer for Quick Hit Football.

Dave "Z" Zdyrko is the lead designer for Quick Hit Football.

Dave Zdyrko (former producer/designer, Visual Concepts): Madden NFL 2001 (PS2)

“I wouldn’t necessarily call them the best, but my fondest memories are with Madden ’98 for the Sony PlayStation and Madden ’94 for the Sega Genesis,” said Zdyrko. “My level of enjoyment with Madden typically came from playing with my boys and these two versions happened to garnish some of my all-time Madden moments.”

Zdyrko’s Top Five

1. Madden NFL 2001 (PS2)
2. Madden NFL ’98 (PS)
3. Madden NFL ’94 (Genesis)
4. Madden NFL ’93 (Genesis)
5. Madden NFL ’08 (Xbox)

Steve Chiang, image courtesy of Jim Carchidi

Steve Chiang, sr VP & Group GM, EA Tiburon (image courtesy of Jim Carchidi)

Steve Chiang (Tiburon): Madden NFL 2004 (PS2)

Excluding current PS3/Xbox 360/Wii, Madden NFL 2004 for the PS2 with Michael Vick on the cover was a great one,” said Chiang. “We had an awesome feature set with Playmaker control, Owner Mode, and things like the EA SPORTS Bio, which was an EA SPORTS version of the Xbox 360 achievement system… we tracked achievements for all of your EA SPORTS titles.”

Chiang’s Top Five:

1. Madden NFL 2004 (PS2)

2. Madden NFL 2001 (PS2: it took the franchise to the next level)

3. Madden NFL ’96 (Super NES: first football game made by Tiburon)

4. Madden NFL ’97 (PS: first 32-bit football game, and when Tiburon took over future versions of the game)

5. Madden NFL ’99 (first version with Franchise mode)

Jeremy Strauser is the executive producer on Madden at EA Tiburon

Jeremy Strauser is the executive producer on Madden at EA Tiburon

Jeremy Strauser (Tiburon): Madden NFL 2004 (PS2)

“This is a tough question,” pondered Strauser. “It is like asking to pick our favorite child.  If forced to pick just one, I would have to say Madden NFL 2004 for the PS2 and Xbox would be it.  The graphical and gameplay engine were in its fourth year, which is about what it takes to reach peak capability, online play was going strong, we had a solid base feature set and then added two huge things in Playmaker Control and Owner Mode.  Madden NFL 10 has the potential to be that version for our current generation of engines.”

Strauser’s Top Five: 1. Madden NFL 2004 (PS2)

2. Madden NFL 2001 (PS2: this launched Madden into a new level)

3. Madden NFL 09 (Xbox 360/PS3: Amazing graphical engine, feature set filled out nicely)

4. Madden NFL 96 (Sega Genesis: My first credited Madden game, for purely sentimental reasons)

5. Madden 93 Championship Edition (Sega Genesis: classical best gameplay, top historical teams, cool and rare cartridge)

Jeremy "Shopmaster" Goode runs MaddenWars.com

Jeremy "Shopmaster" Goode runs MaddenWars.com

Raymond “Shopmaster” Goode (Maddenwars.com): Madden 06 on PS2

“I would have to say that last year’s Madden 09 for the XBOX 360 was one of the best Madden game in the series,” said Goode. “Madden 09 had made so many strides from 08 that it was hard not to like the game. Running a close second has to be Madden 06 for the PS2.  Madden 06 with McNabb on the cover was a very good game also because it introduced the vision cone, which was a good in my opinion but wasn’t as well received by the community.”

Goode’s Top Five

1. Madden 06 (PS2)

2. Madden 05 (PS2)

3. Madden 09 (Xbox 360)

4. Madden 03 (PS2)

5. Madden 92 (Sega Genesis)

The Pro Winners: It’s a three-way tie between Madden NFL 06 (PS2), Madden NFL 2001 (PS2), Madden NFL 2004 (PS2).

THE AGGREGATE SCORES

While aggregation sites like Metacritic.com don’t always accurately reflect media outlet scores, they do a good job of providing a baseline average. The best average score on MetaCritic is Madden NFL 2003 (with Rams running back Marshall Faulk on the cover) for PlayStation 2, with a 95 overall ranking and which collected 10 perfect scores.

Tied for second place are Madden NFL 2002 (with Daunte Culpepper) and Madden NFL 2004 (with Michael Vick) on PS2, both of which scored an average of 94, the latter of which collected 11 perfect scores from media outlets.

GameRankings.com‘s top accumulated Madden review is Madden NFL 2004 on PS2 (91.75%). It is followed by Madden NFL 2002 on PS2 (91.66%), Madden NFL 2004 on GameCube (91.54%), Madden NFL 2003 on PS2 (91.40%), and Madden NFL ’96 on the Sega Genesis (91.25%). These are all aggregated scores from select media outlets.

Metacritic.com “winner”: Madden NFL 2003

GameRankings “winner”: Madden NFL 2004

MADDEN BY THE NUMBERS

Publishers use NPD’s TRSTS data to track unit sales in North America. Sales numbers help publishers determine whether to create a sequel. For Madden, that’s not really an issue, since there is always a sequel! Sales numbers aren’t good, however, for determining which games are best. If quality was equal to quantity than Britney Spears (a Mousekateer) would be a talented goddess of dance and song, instead of a popular pop singer who stole all Janet Jackson’s dance moves.

Sticking a wrench in evaluating sales numbers is the fact that newly launched consoles have poor installed bases. When the Xbox 360 arrived in fall 2005, EA could only sell as many Maddens as there were consoles in homes, and that’s assuming that every single Xbox 360 owner bought Madden NFL 06 (which they didn’t). To make up for early systems, EA also made Madden on existing systems (PS2, GameCube, Xbox, PSP, etc.), which is why the numbers (below) look they way they do. Also remember that Madden NFL 07 arrived in summer 2006, and it probably sold more units on PS2 than on Xbox 360.

Still, looking at Madden’s best selling games helps us determine the most popular Madden games in the public’s eye. The best selling Madden titles in North America across all SKUs (systems) are:

1. Madden NFL 07

2. Madden NFL 08

3. Madden NFL 09

4. Madden NFL 06

5. Madden NFL 2004

Some other interesting facts–according to NPD, year to date:

–Madden NFL 09 is the third highest selling title across all SKUs combined

–Madden NFL 09 is the fourth highest selling Xbox 360 title

–Madden NFL 09 is the second highest selling PS3 title

–Madden NFL 09 is the fourth highest grossing title across all SKUs combined

–Madden NFL 09 is the fifth highest grossing Xbox 360 title

–Madden NFL 09 is the second highest grossing PS3 title

Sales “Winner”: Madden NFL 07

MAKING SENSE OF MADDEN

The Madden NFL franchise is a remarkable series in the history of video games. It’s popular; very, very popular. It’s developed an incredible brand name; many gamers know “Madden” first as a game, second as an announcer. It’s not always the best football series, as early versions of GameDay and a handful of NFL 2K versions have shown. “Madden ’06…was an insult to video game football fans everywhere,” Boulding explains.

Furthermore, many gamers see EA’s exclusive NFL licensing as a negative. “Whether it was Tecmo Super Bowl, NFL Gameday, or the 2K series, competition has always made Madden better,” says Bertz. “A rivalry-based league like the NFL should realize that competition breeds success, and I hope they lift the exclusivity agreement when the option presents itself.”

But  since 1989, EA has cranked out a new Madden game each year, every new version full of new feature sets, improved gameplay and production values. “I think the series usually does a good job of trying to including things–like franchise innovations, superstar mode, QB Vision –that go beyond just being a yearly sports title that non-sports fans thinks is just churned out with new rosters,” says Kato.

To wit, Madden NFL 09’s player IQ feature is one of the more intriguinig features in years because it’s useful for both new and veteran players: it teaches players where they messed up and how to improve their game. The improvement to the game’s online functionality, added leagues,  and Tiburon’s constant focus on improving player control push the series each year to a potentially better game.

By looking at sales numbers, aggregate scores, and the pro picks, there was no clear winner. If any game surfaced to the top, Madden NFL 2004  was among the bigger favorites. Can Madden NFL 10 top them all?

Perhaps Boulding put it best. “With the exception of Madden ’06, which was an insult to video game football fans everywhere, the best version is always the most recent version. All of the lessons, mistakes, improvements, enhancements and innovations of previous games are put to good use in the game that’s out right now. Even bad ideas like the quarterback vision cone (Madden 06) went to a halfway house in subsequent editions of the game before being banished forever (Madden NFL 10).”

WHAT DO YOU THINK? Let me know what your favorite Madden games are (and include your top fives).

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The Pros Weigh in on Madden: Matt Bertz

In light of sports commentator John Madden’s retirement from the booth, coupled with the summer release of Madden NFL 10, a sudden overwhelming feeling made me stop and think: Which Madden rules over the rest?

In conjunction with the cover story, The Best of Madden, I’ve included individual interviews with each of the pros. I asked each pro the same set of questions: Which is the best Madden, which version made the biggest strides? Which ones were the best graphical leaps? Which were the worst Maddens? Was there an “a-ha” moment for you? What is your favorite Visual Concepts football game?

Matt Bertz is the content manager for Game Informer magazine.

Matt Bertz is the content manager for Game Informer magazine.

Here is the full interview with Matt Bertz, content manager, Game Informer.

Doug Perry: Starting in 1988 on the Apple II, the Madden series has drastically evolved as one of the longest-lasting video game series in the industry’s history. What were a few of the most impressive gameplay advancements you’ve experienced in the series?

Matt Bertz: To me, there are different standout achievements for different eras. In the days of couch competition, the introduction of bluff playcalls in Madden 94 was huge. You no longer had to worry about your friend sneaking a peak at your offensive playcall. As the game progressed over the years, the evolution of on-field strategy like audibles, formation shifts, hot routes, and man locks helped push the competition to higher levels, allowing players make quick adjustments to exploit or shut down their competition.

Doug: What were a few of the most memorable graphic improvements?

Matt: The ambulance coming on to the field after you murdered your friend’s quarterback in the early Genesis versions is the standout graphic in my mind. I wish they would bring those back. The addition of motion captured animations like pump fakes, sideline catches, and big hits also stand out.

Doug: Which iteration, in your opinion, is the best overall game in the series? Why? List the year and the platform.

Matt: ‘Best overall game’ is a tricky term when you’re talking about an evolving series. One the one hand you have to go with the latest version, which features most of the gameplay improvements and innovations that made the game great over the last two decades. But if you use the term “best overall game” to point toward the version that introduced the most innovative ideas I would have to go with Madden 99 for the N64. I think the debut of the franchise mode is the pinnacle achievement in the series history, and Madden 99 also marked the series transition to 3D and motion-captured animations.

Doug: Create a top five list of Madden games, including the year and system.

Matt: 1. Madden 99 (N64)

2. Madden 04 (PS2)

3. Madden 94 (Genesis)

4. Madden 01 (PC)

5. Madden 95 (Genesis).

Doug: Which Madden version was the worst one you’ve played? Why? Make sure to include the platform.

Matt: I have to go with Madden 06 for the Xbox 360. Missing game modes, no play-by-play announcer, graphic glitches, animation locks—EA should have never released a game this half-baked. When the version for older consoles is better than your next-gen debut and it also happens to be the year you sign an exclusivity deal, you have problems. I think the release of Madden 06 for the 360 marked the start of a growing sense of disgruntlement among the fan base that still haunts the franchise to this day.

Doug: What was your first “a-ha!” moment with Madden? (In other words, what was the experience that hooked you on the series?)

Matt: I’m a huge football fan, so I’ve always played the series. On a personal level, the biggest moment in the series history has to be the introduction of the franchise mode in Madden ‘99. Since the days of Tecmo Super Bowl, I loved guiding a team through a season. But when EA gave me the ability to call the shots for my organization over several years—taking on the responsibility of drafting, trading, signing, and releasing players—the time I spent playing the game in my free time skyrocketed. The success of franchise mode is evident in the fact that it is now mainstay across all the major sports titles.

Doug Perry: Is there anything else you’d like to add to this Madden story?

Matt: Whether it was Tecmo Super Bowl, NFL Gameday, or the 2K series, competition has always made Madden better. A rivalry-based league like the NFL should realize that competition breeds success, and I hope they lift the exclusivity agreement when the option presents itself. I think EA would devote more resources to the game and Madden would be better if the company had to fight for sales against other football games.

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The Pros Weigh in on Madden: Matthew Kato

In light of sports commentator John Madden’s retirement from the booth, coupled with the summer release of Madden NFL 10, a sudden overwhelming feeling made me stop and think: Which Madden rules over the rest?

In conjunction with the cover story, The Best of Madden, I’ve included individual interviews with each of the pros. I asked each pro the same set of questions: Which is the best Madden? Which version made the biggest strides? Which ones were the best graphical leaps? Which were the worst Maddens? Was there an “a-ha” moment for you? What is your favorite Visual Concepts football game?

Matthew Kato is the senior associate editor at Game Informer magazine.

Matthew Kato is the senior associate editor at Game Informer magazine.

Here is the full interview with Matthew Kato, senior associate editor, Game Informer.

Doug Perry: Starting in 1988 on the Apple II, the Madden series has drastically evolved as one of the longest-lasting video game series in the industry’s history. What were a few of the most impressive gameplay advancements you’ve experienced in the series?

Matthew Kato: I’m a big fan of the QB Vision passing mechanic introduced in ‘06 on PS2, which went away for a while, but I hear is going to be in the new Madden. I liked it because it made which QB you were important because your QB Vision cone was smaller and slower if you a rookie, for instance. That kind of skill-based addition also helped tone down those button-mashers who would just chuck it long blindly a la Brett Farve.

Franchise mode in Madden ‘99, of course, is a big benchmark. Like a lot of Madden fans, Franchise mode is where I live and breathe. Later editions of the game added minicamp mode minigames where you could train young players, and recent years have seen the addition of free agency vagaries such as tendering restricted free agents. In my opinion, Franchise mode could approach the hardcore levels of some of those PC sim-manager titles out there and I wouldn’t complain. In that vein, I appreciated being able to create my own stadium via the introduction of Owner’s Mode in Madden 2004 on PS2. Yeah, the hot dog pricing is the definition of useless, but I appreciate being given the option!

Going back a bit, I’ve got to give some credit to the first Madden title I ever owned –Madden ‘94 on Genesis. I had been out of gaming since the NES days, and my brother started telling me about how the Genesis was the place to play sports games. Accordingly, I went out and bought a Genesis and Madden ‘94 instead of a SNES. I had played the series before then, but with ‘94’s inclusion of all the real teams and a regular season, I stepped on at exactly the right time.

Doug: What were a few of the most memorable graphic improvements?

Kato: I remember the killer Madden ambulance from Madden 92 – something all Madden fans still want to see come back. It’s unwavering, single-minded focus on getting to injured players – STAT – regardless of who it mowed over on the field (or the hippocratic oath) was commendable. Also back then, I really liked the passing windows. Although it was a gimmicky, at the time it was cool to see a “close-up” of players on the field.

Towards the end of the PS2 era, the game included head-tracking for defensive backs and receivers, which was a nice way to tell if someone was open or not. This year they should be bringing it back, and it’s about time!

On a smaller note, I used to love Madden 97 on PlayStation using real video sequences for brief pre-game chats between Madden and Summerall. They never were that different, but it was cool to see.

Doug: Which iteration, in your opinion, is the best overall game in the series? Why? List the year and the platform.

Kato: Madden ‘06 for the PS2. It had QB vision, Superstar mode (where you get to control one player on and off the field), and was a fast-playing title that had honed some of the series problems through the years.

Doug: Create a top five list of Madden games, including the year and system.

Kato: 1. Madden ‘06 for PS2.
2. Madden ‘04 for PS2
3. Madden ‘94 for Genesis
4. Madden ‘99 for PSX
5. Madden ‘96 for Genesis

Doug: Which Madden version was the worst one you’ve played? Why? Make sure to include the platform.

Kato: Madden ‘06 for Xbox 360. I should have been worried when the E3 before the game’s release, all EA would talk about was how great their stadiums looked. The thing was, the players themselves didn’t even look that great. The gameplay was slow and had basically been taken back to square one, and a number of features were dropped.

Doug: What’s your favorite Visual Concepts football game? List platform and year.

Kato: NFL 2K5 on PS2. It had first-person football, the crib, virtual Mel Kiper hosting a draft show, and awesome presentation – including being able to choose your own stadium music. The game wasn’t perfect like some would have you think, but it was one sweet football game.

Doug Perry: Is there anything else you’d like to add to this Madden story?

Kato: Madden gets a bad wrap, and I’m certainly one who thinks that lately the series has been letting some of its fans down – including myself. However, I think the series usually does a good job of trying to including things – like franchise innovations, superstar mode, QB Vision – that go beyond just being a yearly sports title that non-sports fans thinks is just churned out with new rosters.

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The Pros Weigh in on Madden: Dave Zdyrko

In light of sports commentator John Madden’s retirement from the booth, coupled with the summer release of Madden NFL 10, a sudden overwhelming feeling made me stop and think: Which Madden rules over the rest?

In conjunction with the cover story, The Best of Madden, I’ve included individual interviews with each of the pros. I asked each pro the same set of questions: Which is the best Madden, which version made the biggest strides? Which ones were the best graphical leaps? Which were the worst Maddens? Was there an “a-ha” moment for you? What is your favorite Visual Concepts football game?

Dave "Z" Zdyrko is the lead designer for Quick Hit Football.

Dave "Z" Zdyrko is the lead designer for Quick Hit Football.

Here is the full interview with Dave Zdyrko, former gameplay producer/designer at Visual Concepts, and current lead designer at Quick Hit, Inc.

Doug Perry: Starting in 1988 on the Apple II, the Madden series has drastically evolved as one of the longest-lasting video game series in the industry’s history. What were a few of the most impressive gameplay advancements you’ve experienced in the series?

Dave Zdyrko: I think going away from the passing windows was one of the biggest for me just because it opened up the field more.

Doug: What were a few of the most memorable graphic improvements?

Dave: Declined to comment.

Doug: Which iteration, in your opinion, is the best overall game in the series? Why? List the year and the platform.

Dave: I wouldn’t necessarily call them the best, but my fondest memories are with Madden ’98 for the Sony PlayStation and Madden ’94 for the Sega Genesis. My level of enjoyment with Madden typically came from playing with my boys and these two versions happened to garnish some of my all-time Madden moments.

Doug: Create a top five list of Madden games, including the year and system.

Dave: 1. Madden NFL 2001 (PS2)
2. Madden NFL ’98 (PS)
3. Madden NFL ’94 (GEN)
4. Madden NFL ’93 (GEN)
5. Madden NFL ’08 (XBOX)

Doug: Which Madden version was the worst one you’ve played? Why? Make sure to include the platform.

Dave: It’s been hard for me to adapt to the new control schemes when it moved to next-gen, so probably the first one on the Xbox 360 (Madden NFL 06).

Doug: What’s your favorite Visual Concepts football game? List platform and year.

Dave: ESPN NFL 2K5 (Xbox) since it was the best overall game because it was so feature-packed and had the ESPN and NFL licenses. While I do believe the pure gameplay was far superior in All Pro Football 2K8, there just wasn’t enough there features-wise to top 2K5, particularly the ESPN-ified online leagues, halftime show, weekly show and overall presentation.

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