Monday August 25th, 2014

The Madden NFL 15-playing public wants everything “in the game,” including what the game is in -- stadiums.

Mike Young, Madden’s Creative Director for Presentation, says stadiums took on a renewed focus for this year’s title, set for release on Aug. 26. They've introduced more detail than ever across the league and customized jumbotron and ribbonboard displays with actual assets from NFL teams.

EA’s new pregame broadcast necessitated a detailed look at all 32 NFL stadiums and Fawcett Field in Canton, Ohio. An ESPN booth segment starts each Madden game, followed by a couple wipes using chromed copies of the broadcast booth and stadium before the rendered stadium is revealed in all its glory. Cameras fly-through the chrome transition, turning the visual into a real stadium scene for the start of the game, which you can see at the 0:53 mark in this video:

“It required more detail, because if you shoot something chrome, you need to have a lot of rich detail,” Young says. “We needed to add a lot of things like trussing and brick and to make them look real, we got a lot of geometry detail. Otherwise they look like cheap toys.”

In Philadelphia, for example, the fly-over of Lincoln Financial Field includes passing through highly-precise wind turbines on site.

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But how much detail is enough? Young says EA is quite exacting about the important things around the field -- the pieces that get seen in close-up shots. “Each stadium has something really special about it and we make sure that is preserved,” he says. “Whether you are a season-ticket holder or have been there once, you notice certain details and they become important.”

At EA, each NFL team has its own developer who is passionate about that team and that stadium. “They all respect each stadium to make it authentic,” Young says. “Not (adding) fake stuff." Whether it's the Steelers Country banners in Pittsburgh or endzone flags in Seattle, the small details help create a television-broadcast type feel to the stadium. 

Sometimes, though, big changes are needed, such as adding two entirely new stadiums. Madden NFL 15 includes Levi’s Stadium, the new home of the San Francisco 49ers, and the University of Minnesota’s TCF Bank Stadium, the temporary home of the Vikings. “We did a lot of work to make that as authentic as possible,” Young says.

While actual NFL stadium renovations in Jacksonville, Carolina, Cleveland and Buffalo required upgrades to the Madden design and jumbotron sizing, EA took those jumbotron changes to another level, getting nearly 20 NFL teams to send in-game assets for use in Madden.

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“It feels just like you are there,” Young says. The assets include 24 events for each team, everything from “be quiet, offense at work,” defense chants, overtime animations and a drive home safely animation, each one fully custom per team.

As the owner mode grows in popularity, so has the popularity for stadiums within Madden. Along with all 32 teams’ home stadiums and the Hall of Fame field in Ohio, the owner mode contains a practice field—which underwent a complete facelift this year to change away from a “lower-tier high school to a higher-end facility like the Seahawks or Jets”—and the option to build one of 10 new stadiums.

The art and concept teams designed each of the 10 stadiums in-house. From classic stadiums, gigantic Cowboys-esque stadiums, throwbacks and even a stadium inspired by European soccer, EA “designed what we thought was cool and represented a lot of different styles.”  Expect the customization aspect of new stadiums and stadium renovations to increase in future Madden titles as Young says the idea of taking over a team and building a new stadium within Madden has continued to soar in popularity.

It's so popular, in fact, they’ve even considered adding an architect into the game to help with stadium design. After all, stadiums certainly remain in the game.


Tim Newcomb covers stadiums, design and gear for Sports Illustrated. Follow him on Twitter at @tdnewcomb and Extra Mustard at @SI_ExtraMustard

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