Electronic Arts chief creative officer Richard Hilleman says the new leadership group at EA Tiburon is focused on making defense fun again.
Hilleman is no stranger to the Madden franchise, having designed the original game alongside Scott Orr and John Madden back in 1988. When I sat down with him at DICE, one of the big questions on my mind was what fans should expect from Madden NFL 13 given the large turnover at the top of the development team. Hilleman seems optimistic.
“They are doing big things this year,” he said. “They’re making big changes. Those are big changes that are going to break a lot of stuff, and they know that. What we’re after is a better defense that’s more fun to play.”
The defensive side of the football has been long overdue for a revamp. The last major change to the defensive controls came in Madden NFL 05 with the introduction of the hit stick. Hopefully this retooling will also address the poor awareness demonstrated by the secondary in last year’s game and mark the return of true gang tackling. If the new approach to defense was developed by EA Tiburon’s shared technology group, there is a chance these features could extend over to NCAA Football as well.
Though Hilleman’s current responsibilities extend beyond the EA Sports group, he still keeps close tabs on the division. I also asked him how he feels the new development team differs from last year’s group, which lost general manager Philip Holt, creative director Ian Cummings, and executive producer Phil Frazier in the span of a year.
“The executive producer on the product line is Roy Harvey,” he said. “Roy’s been at Tiburon a long time. He did NCAA, so he knows the product and the system really well. Roy was also building a lot of the online back-end systems that supported Madden and the ancillary and flanker products that helped it, so he was being brought into the team where he’s a pretty well understood player and he knows what he’s got. The Madden engine is an acquired taste that requires specific knowledge. We go through that all the time – I get phone calls I still shouldn’t get as far as I’m concerned. We brought Cam Weber on. Cam came from Fight Night and some other products. His cousin is Shea Weber from the Nashville Predators.
“What I like about the new team is that they haven’t accepted any of the conventional wisdom about the product. I found that when I went down there a lot and talked about change I wanted to see in the product, I was considered a raving lunatic because I advocated more change than almost anybody else did. I would take bigger risks than anybody else. I think Cam is built out of that same cloth. His attitude is “what can I be,” not “what could I lose”…I think Cam will do some pretty interesting things in that space so I’m pretty optimistic. I’ve loved the people who have worked on that game over the years.
“The other fact is Dale Jackson, who ran it for 14 years or something like that, he’s like 35 feet away. So in the larger scheme of things Dale is still around, I’m still around, Roy is still around, and a lot of the new team is bringing the right kind of ideas. I don’t think we’re likely to make a terrible mistake, and I think we’re pretty likely do so some things new that we needed to do.”