Madden 18’s Longshot Mode Is ‘A Football Movie You Can Play’

madden 18 longshot
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One of the many surprises at E3 2017 was the reveal that this year’s Madden 18  will have a story mode called Longshot, featuring an all-star cast and an original story.

Story modes are nothing new in sports video games. EA Sports is in its second year of storytelling over at FIFA while NBA 2K has created different narratives set in the basketball world, and has recruited director Spike Lee to helm the story one of those years.

However, Madden is the grandfather of modern-day sports games, with years of pedigree and diehard fans, so the news was a big deal. But Longshot has been in the works for a long time; it’s not just some add-on.

“Four years ago, Mike Young started writing a script as just an idea he had that he thought was very interesting,” Josh Looman, senior designer and producer, told Player.One. “He kind of wanted to go away from the normal, cliche sports story. He worked on that script for two years, got it to a point where he thought it was very solid and then the team started working on prototypes. and then I came on and Mike and I started talking about, ‘how do we turn this into a game?’”

Young is also the mind behind the opening cinematic scenes that have been a part of Madden since Madden 16. However, it wasn’t until EA Sports switched over to the Frostbyte engine, the same engine that EA has used in games like Battlefield, that Longshot could be realized.

“He was the guy who came up with those stories in the beginning of the game and while he was doing those, in his spare time, he was writing the script for [Longshot],” Looman said. “He was building this idea of a football story about a kid from Texas who tries to figure out what it takes to get in the NFL. We were able to create those in the old engine, but it took a lot of work. Now that we have Frostbyte, we can create a lot of them so it’s exciting to be able to pull that into one cohesive story.”

madden 18 longshot town
The small Texas town you'll be visiting in Longshot Photo: EA Sports

Looman revealed that the previous Madden engine couldn’t handle what EA is doing with Longshot this year. The team is now about to build more than 100 cinematic scenes with 40+ characters, and tons of environments and props. The team even traveled to Texas to scan homes and vehicles to make the story feel as authentic as possible. All of those elements will be essential to tell the story of Longshot.  

“It’s got a lot of heart, twists and turns. One of the things Mike wanted to tell was that this wasn’t a cliche story of ‘a guy comes out of nowhere, all of a sudden he’s a massive star in less than a year,’” Looman said. “The story of Devin Wade and his best friend Colt Cruise. Devon had talent in High School, went to college as a five-star recruit but things kind of went wrong, life got in the way and at the time he had to put his dreams on hold. We’re four or five years later in his life and he has one last chance to see if he can get recognized for the NFL draft.”

Academy Award winner Mahershala Ali, Scott Porter from Friday Night Lights and a list of past football greats will bring the story of Longshot to life. When writing certain dialogue, he would go and speak with coaches like Pat Kirwan and Pete Carroll to get the lines and situations right. Questions like “if this guy is coming in for a tryout, or if he’s in a regional combine, what would happen here? How would this make sense?” were posed to football minds to make the story as authentic as possible.

madden 18 longshot dan marino
Dan Marino will appear in Madden 18's Longshot Photo: EA Sports

Certain games tell a story with a create-a-character, but Madden 18’s Longshot is going the FIFA route and creating an original character that players will control. While FIFA has Hunter, Madden will have Devin’s life for players to navigate.

“A lot of games have a generic create-a-character and you don’t have dialogue, that’s one way to tell a story and that’s fine but from our standpoint, we really wanted to tell and treat this like a movie,” Looman explained. “You wouldn’t go into a theater and watch some generic guy where you don’t know him or anything about him, so that’s how we approached this. Tell a really good story, great acting, amazing characters and really what we found is that they get sucked into the story. They start to really feel for Devin.”

Devin’s position of choice was also an important detail for the Longshot team to get right. What better position than quarterback, usually the face of a franchise, to build a story around?

“The quarterback, from my standpoint, is the lifeblood of the team. I mean, Tom Brady is on the cover this year and the team is really focused around him, he’s the leader,” Looman said. “There’s some interesting paradigms in terms of storyline where there’s a lot of pressure to always be the leader and even if that’s not your personality type you have to reconcile as a quarterback that I'm leading a team. And thoughts of ‘do i have what it takes to put myself in a situation where i have to be the leader’ come up and that leads into some interesting storylines.”

madden 18 longshot wade qb
Devin Wade being a quarterback is important to the story of Longshot Photo: EA Sports

If Devin wasn’t a quarterback, the story of Longshot would be completely different. But if players are fans of other positions like wide receivers or linebackers, Longshot may just be the beginning of a new era in Madden.

“What Longshot does do is open the door to tell more stories in the future. Seeing the next chapter or whatever, we’re going to have to see what the fans think first,” Looman said. “There's so many storylines in football and sports right now from different positions and perspectives that you can write different things. This specific story and the emotional tone of it, was really important to connect with a player like Devin who is a quarterback who’s been down and out, have things happen to him and has to figure out.”

But how about the gameplay? The story of Longshot will be very cinematic, but what can players expect?

“We did not want to do a formula of play a game, talk to someone, practice, talk to someone, play a game,” Looman said. “We wanted to make sure the gameplay felt unique. We have a lot of special gameplay situations and there are some gameplay mechanics and situations that may not repeat. We wanted it to make sense in the context of the story so you’re going to see things like seven-on-seven games, high school games with a brand new commentary team just for those games. There’s quicktime events, there’s mini games like steering the ball into someone’s hands. There’s a ton of stuff. I always describe it as a football movie you can play.”

Longshot will be about six to eight hours, with more than three hours of cinematic scenes. Looman said players won’t just be watching the cutscenes, they’ll be interacting with them with dialogue choices that will shape the story and your decisions. The story will also change based on how you play in certain games.

“These aren’t a choice about your personality,” Looman said. “The choices you make shape the story, and we have three different endings that depend on choices and how you perform, so we want to make sure that when you make a choice that it’s noticed and it matters.”

Madden 18 releases Aug. 25. 

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