Madden NFL 16: Improvements to passing

Posted June 18th, 2015 at 8:45 am


On Monday EA Sports detailed the work that had been done for defense, AI on offense, and penalties in Madden NFL 16. Now they’ve followed up with specifics on the passing game. We’ve known about the improvements to the battles between pass-catchers and defenders but there’s a lot more that has gone into the passing game than just that. 

Air Supremacy starts with the QB. We started from the snap, with a new handoff system that includes a large variety of new content and much tighter timing between handoff and blocking.

Each play type has a uniquely captured handoff specifically designed for the given play, resulting in hundreds of animations. This system also includes all new fake handoffs for the Play Action game, which ties in perfectly for the shot plays. More on those later.

The team completely re-worked QB pocket, scramble and rollout locomotion. Simply tap the RT/R2 button in the QB’s drop back, or when standing in the pocket. This allows players to “roll to pass,” and includes a completely reworked back shoulder roll out. These new mechanics work brilliantly with our boot and roll out plays.

One of the big benefits of roll out is that players don’t suffer the same accuracy penalties as “throw on the run.” The team also re-worked scramble (Hold RT/R2) to be more responsive, and allows players to toggle between pocket, rollout or scramble loco at the touch of a button. You can also branch out of any drop back instantly by tapping the LT button after the snap.

Finally, we made it a priority to ensure that all the new QB loco mechanics are utilized by the CPU AI. Expect QB’s like Marcus Mariota and Cam Newton to offer a substantial threat on the ground this year.

For many players, the most requested change for Madden NFL 16 was an overhaul to the CPU QB AI. We spent several years developing a new AI architecture called “Behavior Coordinator,” which allows us to create a more granular set of behaviors to a given situation.

This not only helps deliver the most challenging CPU QB’s to date, but also creates a clear distinction between different types of QB’s. The game you get from Tom Brady (pocket passer) is dramatically different than the behavior you will see from dual threats like Mariota or Newton. Each style of QB will now react to situations differently, based on their traits.

This new QB AI also represents improvements to Robo QB, Dink-and-Dunk offense, pressure awareness, play calling and situational game management.

One of the big additions in Madden NFL 16 is the “body relative” throw, which allows players to throw a high jump ball (like on a fade or streak route) or a low throw where only the receiver can make a play on the ball.

We have also re-worked the new touch pass (now double tap receiver icon) for easier execution of dropping the ball behind linebackers and in front of safeties.

The most revolutionary addition this year is the new catching system. Previously, players had just one option (Y/Triangle button) to catch the ball. In Madden NFL 16, there are three different catches types to choose from.

The mechanics work by HOLDING the catch button as soon as the QB makes the pass. You no longer need to hit B, as catch control is now automatic on the intended receiver. However, it’s still possible to have more control by clicking on with B and steering the receiver with the left stick. Here is a break down each of the new catches, the risks and rewards and situational applications:

A RAC (run after catch) is a catch where the receiver turns up field during the catch with the intent to gain yards. RAC catches drive the receiver up field, to catch the ball in stride.

Players perform the RAC catch by holding X/Square once the pass is released. RAC’s have a higher drop and knockout chance, and are susceptible to interceptions when the pass is thrown into traffic. RAC’s are primarily used when a receiver is open in space or has several steps on a DB with a vertical route.

The aggressive catch, or high-point catch, drives the receiver back to the ball to go up and catch it at the highest point possible. They can be used to fight back to the ball and challenge a defensive back going for an interception.

Players perform aggressive catches by holding the Y/Triangle button once the pass is thrown. Aggressive Catches are best utilized in combination with the high throw mechanic. Aggressive catches have lower catch chances and higher knockout chances, but can be a formidable weapon when thrown to an elite high point receiver like Dez Bryant or Calvin Johnson.

The possession catch is where the receiver protects the ball with his body and secures the catch at the expense of looking to gain yards after the catch. Possession catches are best utilized in traffic, and can also be used to force receivers to perform “get the feet down” catches near the sideline or back of end zone.

You can perform a possession catch by holding the A/X button once the pass is thrown. They are most effective with the low throw mechanic, and when thrown to slot/possession trait receivers. They come at the expense of RAC yards, as receivers frequently go down immediately after the catch.


Each WR has a new series of traits that determine which types of catches they look for when under AI control. This includes the RAC, Aggressive, and Possession traits. Throwing the right route to the right receiver and using catch mechanics linked to traits is a critical strategic component in Madden NFL 16.

The Multiplayer Catch System is based on technology in development for more than two years, and allows receivers and defenders to go up for a catch simultaneously and battle for the ball in the air while using ratings, mechanics and positioning to deliver the appropriate outcome

The team added more than 400 new multiplayer catch outcomes, which includes knockouts, tip ball, simultaneous possession catches, offensive/defensive PI, interceptions and more.

The system also account for double coverage situations. We have spent countless hours tuning and balancing this system extensively to ensure players cannot exploit the system.

The team also added hundreds of new receiver/defender interaction animations, including new press interactions, zone chuck interactions and hand fighting during route running.

This includes a complete overhaul to our defensive pre-play alignment system, as defenders now align to the inside or outside of the receiver based on the coverage and where they want to force them.

Working in concert with Madden NFL 16’s Air Supremacy theme, we met with legendary coach Tom Moore to work on a new addition to our playbooks, authentic NFL “Shot Plays.”

In the real world, a shot play is primarily play-action based and usually keeps backs and tight ends in to block, while receivers go deep.

We have added more than 100 new shot plays (600 new plays overall), including team-specific shot plays in each team playbook.

Building off the success of Madden NFL 15’s pass rush and tackling feedback, the team created a new feedback system around passing and catching.

Pass feedback tells players if the pass was under pressure, on the run, or off the back foot in order to provide context as to why the pass came out the way it did.

Once the pass has been released, the catch UI displays the catch that the AI is looking for. The user can override this choice at any time by tapping or holding down one of the three catch buttons. Finally, after the catch is made, we will display the type of catch the receiver performed.

♦The passing game isn’t the only thing that got love. We added two mechanics to help move through the line as a ball carrier. The first is “get skinny” (hold RB) when running through the line, as well as context sensitive ‘cut step’ juke (LS left/right) performed behind the LOS to cut off blocks.

♦Ball Carrier AI has been completely overhauled with new “hit the hole logic,” resulting in a real and tangible running game from the CPU. Ball carrier locomotion and True Step have also been revisited to ensure responsive controls that are still grounded in the realm of authenticity.

♦Contextual Awareness has been revisited with several new animations and much tighter registration with other players

♦New extra point rules are in! After scoring a TD, players can kick the PAT from the 15-yard line, or attempt the two-point conversion from the 2. The new rules also allow the defense to score two points on returns. Penalties are fully supported on these plays, so teams can change their decision if a penalty occurs.

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