Victor Lugo is a designer for Madden NFL 25 on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. He has worked on the Madden NFL franchise for the last three years and has been a central creative of the teams that designed the Infinity Engine, Precision Modifier, and now True Step.
This overview also features insights from EA SPORTS Tiburon’s first Creative Director for Central Gameplay, Rex Dickson. For more, click here.
ON TRUE STEP PLAYER MOTION
True Step is the all-new, step-based locomotion system which calculates the steps ball carriers take on the field. The old-school running cycle has been replaced by a system constantly evaluates weight momentum and desired direction with 4x the precision. This allows steps to be selected from hundreds of new running animations on the fly. This creates an innovative new locomotion system that replicates decisions NFL players make on the field.
We achieved True Step through a collaborative process with FIFA that came out of a mutual desire for realistic running on the part of both dev teams and our fans. Two small groups collaborated throughout the Madden NFL 25 and FIFA 14 cycle to detail all of the basic technology and steps required to have realistic running. We then motion captured thousands of steps specific to each sport.
ON HOW TRUE STEP AFFECTS GAMEPLAY
The main thing people will feel is the responsiveness and how smooth it is. People will feel more connected to their player and anything they do on the stick will be reflected in their player’s feet and the way they move. No matter what you do with the stick, the player will respond with accurate steps and weight transfer. The game is not only more responsive, it is also more realistic with running animations that we have never had before.
We’ve shared this technology with FIFA, and there are core engineers on both teams that have been working on this for the last year and a half to two years. So they’ve had a pretty good head start of introducing this technology.
ON THE IMPACT OF EA SPORTS IGNITE
There are two sets of expectations on Gen 4. The first expectation, obviously, is that the game will look better. The other is that it will feel more realistic.
We’ve been given EA SPORTS IGNITE physics, which gives developers a lot more control to build mechanics and help differentiate player behavior and physics. We were able to experiment with some organic interactions such as trucks and tackles that rely solely on physics, so the extra layer has been a huge positive.
Here is where EA SPORTS IGNITE technology comes into play. Our proprietary animation engine and the central piece of IGNITE technology, as it pertains to gameplay, is our animation engine ANT. Within ANT we were able to map our captured steps to realistic acceleration and run curves. We also used ANT to tune and tweak steps so they feel right. Once the steps got into a good place we were able to import them into game and test them out.
ON PHASE MATCHING
After these moves were imported into the game, the team spent more time making sure that the steps worked well with ball-carrier special moves and it was as this point, Madden collaborated with FIFA again on a phase match solution. Dev got phase match working perfectly. There were no longer any unrealistic moves or mid-air warps in locomotion. However, the responsiveness needed to be improved, so we went back to ANT and added the gather steps that players to get a foot down quickly in real life. We tuned and tuned until it felt right.
One key component of True Step is that every single move players do is in perfect phase. If a player’s foot is in the air, he won’t be able to do a move until the foot is planted. This makes ball carrier moves look perfect on the field and eliminate instances of unrealistic actions and timing. In order to make sure the system is still responsive, we have added a stutter step system that allows players to quickly get themselves into phase in order to do a move.
ON THE PRECISION MODIFIER AND TRUE STEP
The Precision Modifier from Gen 3 has been given the Step Locomotion treatment. Ball carriers now take different steps, and his speed will slow down more dramatically thanks to retuned run curves that better model real life. This gives more power to the concept of using the right and left triggers as “gas and brake” to fake out opponents and hit holes harder. The “pedals” also allow defenders to more effectively slow down to make open-field tackles against their opponents.
ON THE GEN 4 LEARNING CURVE
Realistic locomotion will be a slight adjustment for players that now have a better ability to speed up and slow down due to newer curves and more steps than ever before. They will, however, have to consider momentum while trying to make precision turns and stops at full speed. One thing to really practice this year is slowing down and using the Precision Modifier to get a faster, more comfortable move. Timing will be an adjustment, but with some practice, people will become very comfortable with True Step.
Our team has refined the weight of our characters on Xbox One and PlayStation 4. In the past, the players felt light, which led to some unrealistic behavior. Now, players will feel that weight as it’s carried into the run. Momentum will carry through a lot more, and players will need to slow down in order to execute moves like 180 degree spins. It’s important to go through the tutorial to learn the speed changes and most importantly, the different moves at each ball carrier’s disposal.
ON RUNNING STYLES
One of the key goals was to not only have Madden NFL 25 feel authentic, but also look pristine. The EA SPORTS development team captured different types of running styles for the new locomotion system. We have lots of different backs represented in terms of how they chop their feet and make their cuts. Weight, momentum, and speed ratings will also depend on how running backs choose their steps. Players won’t have to chop their feet as much if they’re running slower, and vice versa. Players are differentiated by the moves they make, so certain players will have different jukes and hurdles compared to others.
ON THE EXCITEMENT OF GEN 4
What excites me the most are the possibilities based on the number of mechanics we’re giving people. We’ve revamped all of our blocking (more on that later), which is a perfect complement to all the moves. We’re going from eight moves to more than 40, and it’ll be interesting to see how people change their running games based on that. It’s going to be a great year for highlight videos. This is the most polished, most fun Madden NFL to date.