A good read for you Madden enthusiasts about how they determine the ratings:
What's in a Number? Find Out From EA SPORTS
September 04, 2009
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Madden NFL 10, the latest in the popular video game series by EA SPORTS, has been widely successful since it was released to the public—but it’s also been a bit of a point of contention for some players in the league who dispute their ratings in the game. In this interview, Donny Moore, Designer for Madden NFL 10, explains the nuances of what goes into the ratings. T.J. Houshmandzadeh had vented a little frustration with his player rating earlier this offseason.
Q: Take us to the very beginning of the process for Madden player ratings. Is it a daunting task to generate skill-specific ratings for over 1,600 NFL players?
A: It all starts when they come into the league. We look at NFL Combine data—it plays a significant role in slotting—as well as Pro Day and individual team workout data. We have already seen most of the major and mid-major college players on film in quite a few games over the course of their careers; we are avid college football fans down here in Florida as you can imagine. We subscribe to a number of different scouting services for information and insight. And finally, we read about anything and everything when it comes to player rankings and mock drafts from all of the major sports news outlets and sources. We then compile all of that information together, along with the incoming rookies’ final draft position to formulate over 54 player attributes and an overall rating.
From that point on, we follow the players’ NFL seasons and careers intensely and with high scrutiny. When the preseason starts, we then start updating the team rosters and adjust the ratings via online roster update. These roster updates go throughout the NFL regular and postseason. My end goal with the rosters and player attributes is to make sure these NFL players’ strengths and weaknesses are put on full display in the game of Madden NFL 10. We can’t make everyone rated 90-plus and have good, solid Madden NFL game play. If we shipped the game this year and we had Peyton Manning with a 90 speed rating just to make him good in the video game, I would get laughed out of the building—and the game would lose huge authenticity points the way I see it.
Q: Is there a scientific process or formula that goes into the ratings? Or do you just go with your gut?
A: Funny enough, but I view being responsible for the player and team ratings for Madden as more of an artist than a scientist. And the reason I say that is because the player attributes have to work hand-in-hand with the game play and animation systems in the game. I have to synchronize and balance the numbers in a way that gives our millions of loyal Madden fans the same great game, season after season. If we put too much of an emphasis on one rating and totally ignore another one, that might throw the game play off in a way that we would not want it to go.
That being said, some of the ratings are indeed scientific. Take speed for example. Most people are of the misconception that we solely base a player’s speed off of his Combine time. That is a significant factor of course, but it is not how we do it. We feel game speed is a better representation in Madden than 40[-yard dash] time. Jerry Rice is the classic example. He ran a reported 4.7 heading into the league as a rookie, but can you ever remember Jerry Rice getting tracked down? Rice’s game speed was what made him a 99 speed rating in my book.
And then there are some things are almost common sense. When someone tweeted (@Donny_Moore) me something about Mackenzy Bernadeau about winning a “strong man” contest, with Texans linebacker Brian Cushing finishing close as well, I knew we immediately needed to bump up Mackenzy’s strength and toughness rating. Or when Drew Brees beat the archery champion in an accuracy face-off on YouTube going a perfect 10-for-10 from 20 yards nailing bull’s-eye each time, I immediately went in and bumped him from 98 to a 99 short accuracy rating. There is no need to get scientific about something like that. That was unreal. Or, 290-pound defensive tackle Jarron Gilbert jumping out of a pool. These types of things really make an impact.
Madden NFL 10Q: When there are two players with nearly identical height, weight, speed and on-field production, which intangibles do you use to differentiate a guy? Or do you just rate them the same?
A: Well, I would want to know, how did this receiver get open? Does he run precise routes to get open or does he run average routes? Does he get pressed at the line of scrimmage or does he beat the press? Does he make catches over the middle or is he a spectacular, acrobatic type of wideout? All of these different player attributes make up the Madden video game character. If we are looking at cover athlete Larry Fitzgerald, he is not known for his deep speed (89). But he is known and dominates the sport of football with his 99 catch, 99 spectacular catch, 99 catch in traffic, 98 route-running and 99 jumping ratings.
Q: What is your reaction when players, such as T.J. Houshmandzadeh did this offseason, criticize their ratings in the game?
A: I know [that] once the game gets in the hands of the players, they will see what a difference it makes in terms of NFL realism and [the] fun factor. No longer are 185-pound cornerbacks able to take a bulldozer like Brandon Jacobs down in a solo tackle. Some QBs might not be used to seeing their accuracies in the 60s, 70s and 80s, but we really tried to make sure that our QBs in Madden were not throwing for an 80-percent completion rate very often—[it’s] much closer to 55 to 65 percent in most games—which is right where it is in real life in most games. So, quarterback accuracy was a huge focus for us this year in Madden NFL 10. No longer are we just taking one single throw accuracy rating to determine the accuracy of a pass at all levels of the field. Now we split it up into short, mid and deep accuracy ratings. Some guys like Donovan McNabb are known more for their deep pass and we think we have that captured in Madden NFL 10.
Q: When players speak out about their ratings in the game, how is that tied to the successful marketing of the Madden product? All news is good news, right?
A: I think it is great that the players want to participate in the accuracy or “getting right” of their player ratings once they see what they are rated. The Kerry Rhodes/Nick Mangold video was hilarious. You had defensive back Kerry Rhodes upset that he was rated a 21 in throw power rating, which was actually lower than center Nick Mangold’s 22. So Kerry and Nick staged a demo where they both threw as far as they could (in which Kerry crushed Nick and out-threw him by 45 yards). So I went right in and made Rhodes a 62 and dropped Mangold to a 14. I think things like this are great for everyone. It keeps it light and it keeps it good-natured, and at the end of the day, Kerry made his point and actually improved his rating.
Q: Who is the highest-rated player of all-time in Madden? What about for this year?
A: Ninety-nine overall is the highest rating you can get in Madden. This year, we have six players with the 99 overall rating: Peyton Manning, Larry Fitzgerald, Albert Haynesworth, Nnamdi Asomugha, Ed Reed and Troy Polamalu. All six of these players are clearly at the top of their position and are some of the best of all-time. I think it is safe to say we will see several of these guys as bronze busts in Canton, Ohio in 10 to 20 years.
Q: What would you say to Houshmandzadeh about the player ratings?
A: I think when T.J. sees how he plays in the game, he will realize you have to use the players to their real-life strengths and stay away from their weaknesses. T.J. is not a wide receiver you should be sending on 40-yard downfield streaks all day long. You should be sending him over the middle and he will catch everything. I played my first official Madden NFL 10 online game the other night and I ran with the Seahawks. I wanted to make sure that T.J. could still dominate despite his 82 speed rating. I won 34-31 against the Redskins and “Housh” went for eight receptions, 162 yards and one touchdown.
- Compiled by Ricky Medina for NFL PLAYERS
"Vincere scis, Hannibal, victoria uti nescis" -- Maharbal, 216 B.C.E.