Longshot is the name of the single-player campaign included in Madden NFL 18, a surprisingly engrossing story about an athlete who learns to pick himself up after his football career seems all but finished. The game comes out of left-field, given what’s expected from the franchise — but by all accounts, it was a true team effort from the wider EA family.
EA Sports is just one part of a bigger company that includes the likes of Visceral Games and BioWare under its umbrella. When it came to Longshot, the Madden NFL 18 team took on input from all corners of the EA empire.
“I had never done this, so I didn’t want to assume I knew everything,” said Mike Young, the game’s creative director and the driving force behind Longshot, when he spoke to Game Rant earlier this month. “I wanted to make as many connections across EA as possible, people who’ve done it.”
One of the people he reached out to was Amy Hennig, the industry veteran who made a name for herself on the Legacy of Kain series, in the 1990s, then established her presence as one of the most talented directors in the industry on the Uncharted games.
“If there’s a literal legend working here, right over our shoulders — she’s up there making something amazing — why not reach out to her?” explained Young. “I had the privilege to meet her a couple of times, and she was interested in some of the stuff we’d done on Madden, with virtual cameras. I was able to go over the concept, and one thing she kept hammering home was ‘how do you play it, how do you play it, where’s your player agency?'”
Hennig also offered up some feedback on particular scenes from the script, and discussed technology like the game’s facial animation rig. Young also met with a swathe of other EA staffers, including members of the BioWare teams that produced Dragon Age and Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic.
“I sent the script to BioWare Austin, I had three guys who really dug into the story, and we spent the day going through notes,” said Young, adding that Mass Effect and Anthem scribe Drew Karpyshyn — a ‘huge football fan’ was among the members of the studio that helped out. “Their reaction to characters, pacing. I thought we got great notes. That was probably our second draft, and we did five.”
Young also went to senior management for some guidance, taking on EA Sports general manager Cam Weber’s thoughts on the story. However, he always made sure that development didn’t become a case of design by committee.
“It’s just hearing it and making a choice,” said Young. Even though some components of Longshot were ‘difficult’ for some people to get a handle on, there were certain elements that remained because the team felt they were essential, like the central conceit of a reality TV show.
These decisions paid off — Longshot is a unique addition to the Madden franchise, but it’s interesting and engaging throughout.
Madden NFL 18 releases on August 25, 2017 for PlayStation 4 and Xbox One.
Game Rant conducted this interview at a preview event for Madden NFL 18, for which Electronic Arts provided travel and lodging.