Friday, June 30, 2017

Madden 2018 - EA Sports Banks on a "Longshot"

Last year I had a great opportunity to revisit EA Sport's Madden Franchise where I was once-upon-a-time an Art Director.

A strong factor in being hired by EA many moons ago was to integrate cinematic storytelling into sports video games. In this, I faced many technical and leadership obstacles across the team and the studio. EA Sports had been a heavy Producer-dominated culture back then, and giving the Art Director ownership over visual game features was viewed with much skepticism by the old guard. In time, the Art Director community grew into a united front, gaining influence and resulting in dramatic cameras, improved visuals, and better storytelling. Until now, however, Madden never truly reached a complete cinematic narrative combining film, gameplay and programming.

With the unveiling of Madden 2018's "Longshot" story mode, users can control the story path and progress of Devin Wade as he navigates the challenging prospect of the NFL Draft. Unlike earlier story modes, the "Longshot" feature doesn't rely on stat screens and user interface controls to display results. Unfolding like a film, users play mini games and compete in drills to influence Devin's performance, his career prospects, and ultimately his failure or success.

I am proud to have been reunited with two former Disney colleagues in designing storyboards for this new feature.  Before he achieved recognition for his story contributions on worldwide animation projects, my pal Woody Woodman and I were budding storyboard artists toiling for promotions under the Disney roof. "Longshot's" Head of Story, Tom Labaff, was my former animation mentor during my training period on Mulan, and has since crafted boards for Blue Sky and Digital Domain, while somehow managing to squeeze in a hefty bunch of published illustration gigs! If you want something done, give it to a busy person.

The ultimate bonus for me was reuniting with Writer/Director of "Longshot," EA Art Director Mike Young. Mike helped elevate AD efforts across NCAA Football and Madden year after year. I learned a great deal about Art Direction from him, and enjoyed his effortless style of leadership. I should also mention, he put up with and often encouraged my goof-ball sense of humor. "That's right, Sizzlechest!"

I look forward to the release of Madden 2018's "Longshot" on August 25th.  I promise to keep my "showboating" to a minimum.

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