Behind the Scenes Look of Longshot Mode in Madden NFL 18

By Will Cruz,
Not every sports title will appeal to every gamer. The basketball target demographic may not enjoy playing titles from the hockey series and vice-versa. However, one noticeable trend in sports titles is newly added (and extremely popular) story modes. EA has caught wind of how essential this mode is and is now implementing it in their upcoming title, Madden NFL 18.

Madden NFL 18

Madden NFL 18 will featured a new mode called Longshot. In Longshot mode, you start as a former high school quarterback trying to break into the NFL. This mode will feature a single player experience with cinematic cut scenes. Major stars such as Mahershala Ali, Dan Marino and Chad Johnson are featured, just to name a few.

Creative director Mike Young and Producer Robin Cowie gave gamers a bit of a sneak peak of how they brought the mode to life. Check out the interview below.

How long ago did the team start working on Longshot?

MIKE: Longshot as a concept is four years in the making. I worked with NFL Films to make a short concept video following a quarterback from the regional combine to draft day. This was before FIFA had its success with The Journey. I think the Madden leadership group saw potential when we delivered our opening playable cinematic in Madden 15.

What were some of the areas of focus for a producer on Longshot? How did you prioritize your time?

ROBIN: My primary job was removing blocks to enable the best possible creative experience. The guide for Longshot was to always tell the most cinematic story possible. We wanted to come as close as we could to a playable movie.

You produced The Blair Witch Project. How did producing Longshot compare to a movie?

ROBIN: There were many similarities—we worked with terrifically talented actors, like Mahershala Ali, and Mike was very prepared as a director. The biggest difference for me is the amount of creative control you have during the animation and digital camera parts of production. For most of a film, what is in front of camera accounts for 80 – 90% of the finished content. Only 20 – 30% have digital effects or digital manipulation. Creatively it gives you great freedom but it is a bit of a producing headache.

What are the similarities between producing TV and film in a traditional setting and creating new, movie-like experiences for games?

ROBIN: Much of the storytelling language is universal. We have a terrific cinematographer, Brian Murray, who has brought over a lot of the same craft. But then you introduce player agency. Gamers need that hands-on control. This forces us to alter the storyteller’s controls.

Take us through your day-to-day in developing the mode. What did you and the team focus on?

MIKE: The focus from day one was that we had to tell a good story. The approach was to write it like a movie then go back and rewrite it to make it playable. Choices had to go beyond just allowing people to express their personality. We wanted the decisions to not be black and white.

What were your creative inspirations in writing the story for Longshot?

MIKE: Good Will Hunting for their character dynamics: a hero who self-sabotages, dual mentors, the loyal best friend who is wiser than you think. There’s also The Assassination of Jesse James for lighting and cinematography. Musically, my inspirations include Jamey Johnson, Chris Stapleton, Eddie Vedder (Into the Wild), and Willie Nelson's cover of Just Breathe.
What was one of the challenges the team faced during development?

ROBIN: One of the challenges was editing that story. We designed a unique edit pipeline that integrated many film editing techniques with a traditional game development pipeline. The goal was seamless narrative with little taking you out of the story. We wanted the story to flow from one point to another, in and out of gameplay.

What was the overarching challenge in bringing a single-player story mode to a Madden game?

MIKE: The biggest challenge was getting people to totally buy into building a sports story mode that wasn’t following the path set by previous games. I felt like others had a more traditional menu-based superstar mode bolstered with some story scenes. Ours is a story you play.

In terms of shooting Longshot, what was the focus for the team to make it look and feel like a movie?

MIKE: Most animated features and games shoot most of their content in a sound booth with voice actors and then animate the bodies separately. Too many games have stationary characters exchanging dialogue, making it feel like a soap opera. Reacting to other performers is a huge part of acting, it’s not just about delivering lines. I think we were able to achieve real chemistry and emotion.

How long did the Longshot project take? How did the team’s focus change over time?

ROBIN: From concept to completion roughly 4 years, although the team in the early years was tiny. I became involved a year and a half ago. My job was largely helping Mike bring his vision to life. In the end, you are concerned with making detailed moments better, whereas in the start it is the broad foundations – both for story and tech.

What is the most exciting aspect of Longshot to you and the dev team?

ROBIN: One of the actors brought their 12-year-old son into the office. He is a huge Madden NFL fan. We let him play the first act and several of the dev team gathered around to watch. It was so much fun to see him become completely wrapped up in the story. Every day, we pick relentlessly at what we are doing, and that moment really spoke to why we do what we do. It was pretty fulfilling.
Madden NFL 18 will release on August 25th for consoles.

We've got the full list of Madden NFL 18 trophies - check the list for guides to unlocking them.
Will Cruz
Written by Will Cruz
I make videos, tell bad jokes and censor myself frequently. Currently a member of the TrueGaming Network YouTube team, TA Playlist and Newspuppy. Outside of that, I'm a college student in NYC. I love video games (even though I'm terrible at them all). I'm hoping one day I can make a difference. Not sure how I got to where I am but I'm proud I made it here. Add me.
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