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    The Sports Desk – EA Examines Madden Ultimate Team

    By GameInformer,


    The football season may be over, but Madden's Ultimate Team mode is still going strong with new solos, programs, and cards. Given that we're in the official football offseason, however, I thought now would be a good time to take a look back at how the mode fared this year. What better way to do that than talk to one of the people behind Madden Ultimate Team – producer Jake Stein.


    What are some of the programs that did well this year?
    It's important to outline how we define a successful program. For us, we really look at how much people are engaging with the content as well as what the community sentiment is. One that exceeded our expectations was MUT Heroes. That program is a great example of what can happen when you have time for iteration. The team spent a long time trying to develop the right theme for the program and landed on this concept of "superheroes" with "superpowers." It resulted in players being really strong in one particular rating and the art treatment for the program might still be my favorite of the year.

    Another program I want to mention is with Gauntlet Unleashed. It was a great way for players to engage in Solo Challenges and get rewarded on a weekly basis. And players who engaged in that program from the beginning had a great reward waiting for them at the end. There's been a lot of positive sentiment around this program, and it's something I'm sure we'll see make a return in one form or another.

    Do you think it cost too much to power players up?
    Power Ups is probably the thing we hear the most feedback on this year. A lot of it is extremely valid as well. The way the content is setup does not give the players the flexibility they are used to having (between the Sets being non-repeatable and the players being Non-Auctionable/Tradable). The team has taken a long look at what it takes to improve upon the idea of powering up players. We feel like there's a path to making this successful in the future.

    MUT is accessible to casual fans, hardcore solo grinders, and competitive players. Is it possible to balance MUT on the whole in order to serve these different kinds of players – as well as players who start playing at different times in the year?
    This is one of the tougher challenges we face every year. What's ironic is that it can always feel like we are building the game for someone else – hardcore solo grinders could care less when we spend time developing something like Weekend League, competitive players are vocal when we have content that takes a lot of time to engage with especially if it takes playing Solo Challenges to get to the finish line, and casual fans are always trying to understand the nuances of the mode.

    So what does this all mean? It means we are trying to maintain a balanced mode. Not every piece of content or feature development will be dedicated to the space that each type of player cares about the most. But just know we are doing everything we can to make sure we are serving each type of player who steps into Madden Ultimate Team.

    Many fans did not like that there were so many NAT cards. Are there too many? What was the thinking behind having as many as there are?
    The team decided that rewards from Solos should be NAT this year. It's something that both rewards the players and gets them engaged with new pieces of content as well as helps maintain value for players who are opening packs. Additionally, having NAT content has allowed us to offer up higher OVR rewards on a more consistent basis. With Thanksgiving you could get a 93 OVR Michael Irvin, with Snow Beasts you could choose one of four players to get to 93 OVR, with Team of the Year you could get a 94-96 OVR player for both offense and defense, and with NFL Playoffs you got to earn a Playoff Elite player from each of the 12 teams. I don't think we've been able to offer anything close to that in the past.

    The other one worth calling out is MUT Master. Again, the team had some very strong feelings about only players who went on that long journey to acquire MUT Master should be the only ones who get to play with that player. We knew that would rub some players the wrong way, so we made sure to add a path that gave the players the opportunity to earn one million coins in addition to the MUT Master. And finally we added a set that let you upgrade your MUT Master and choose his chemistry which was something that was received extremely positively.

    Can you talk about the decision to replace/drop some programs this year like Ghosts? Was this planned from the beginning of the season?
    For your specific question about Ghosts, no it wasn't planned out at the beginning of the season. This year we took the approach of assigning a particular program to each of our content designers, and they were given the freedom to pitch whatever they wanted to the rest of the team. Designing programs in MUT is a classic Catch 22 – you'll get criticized when it's structured too similarly to the past but then you'll also take some criticism when we take some chances and it's not exactly what the players are used to.

    Our two programs around Christmas personify that challenge like no other. We launched with Out of Position Players (OOP), a staple for MUT during Christmas. The initial reception from the community made it feel like there was a little bit of fatigue around that concept and wished that we did something completely different. The second half of Christmas introduced Snow Beasts, a name that is new to MUT. However, the players were exactly the same mix of current-day players and legends that would've filled the same buckets had we actually called them "Ghosts of Madden." In the end, we are going to continue finding the right balance of innovation and familiarity to MUT.

    Some players have difference-making thresholds like 91 Zone Coverage defensive players. Do you mind that people have noticed the importance of these thresholds and other powerful traits? And do you mind that this has influenced the market/people's lineups in that these players are coveted?
    These thresholds are definitely something that have influenced the market. As for the conversation around thresholds in general, it's something that we're continuing to discuss with the gameplay team.

    How flexible were your plans for the season in terms of rolling out programs, rewards given, packs sold in the store, which players were getting cards, etc.? Did you adjust any of these variable during the season due to something unexpected happening like a player getting hot or the general flow of the mode/NFL events?
    We started what I would consider a "best practice" about halfway through Madden NFL 17 and knew we would continue that into this year. At the start of every kickoff design meeting for a program, we were required to detail how this program is appealing to each type of MUT player. That exercise really helps us define the experience we want to deliver which includes rewards and packs.

    As for the players part of your question, it's another really challenging part of the job. We have an idea of who might "headline" a given program, but you really can't pick a majority of the players until you're 2-3 weeks out – and believe me, even then you are going to have some last-minute changes. This challenge is the most difficult during the season when we have Team of the Week which is based off of real-world performances. The players selected in that program must 1) not have a recent release 2) meet a specific OVR range and 3) not be at a position that we just recently showcased and 4) ideally isn't somebody that we have already slotted into an upcoming program. It's definitely an inexact science.

    Where there any particular player cards that were stronger/viable for longer than you anticipated?
    None that I would say exceeded my expectations. I'm really proud that a lot of our "Masters" felt like Masters. Most Feared Ray Lewis and Randy Moss, Madden Blitz Night Train Lane, and Madden Harvest Barry Sanders all continue to show up in lineups that I'm playing against online.

    Are there any tweaks to the auction house, reward payouts, or overall economy of the mode for next year that you're going to change due to feedback or what's happened post-release that you can talk about now?
    Nothing is really being discussed with the auction house. We have floated the idea of defaulting a player's auction house value (when you go to auction it away) to the median value from the previous 24 hours. That would be a nice accessibility feature to limit the amount of scrolling players have to do for every single auction, but nothing really noteworthy beyond that.

    As for reward tweaks and overall economy I'll say this – I take pride in being a group that takes feedback very seriously. You can see that with the amount of iteration we've put into Weekend League rewards this year. Every year will present a new set of challenges. We don't just take this year's game and drop into the next and optimize the things that didn't go as well as you wanted. But we can absolutely take the data and knowledge that we know and apply them to better serve the players.


    Missed some of the previous Sports Desk entries? Take a look at the past installments via our Hub page by clicking on the banner below. 
    Have a suggestion or comment? Put it in the comments section below, send me an email, or reach me on twitter at @mattkatosportsdeskhubbanner.jpg


    A quick rundown of some of the sports news from the week 
    Game Informer's Interview With UFC President Dana White About His Inclusion In UFC 3 
    We talked to White about his excitement about letting gamers punch him in the face.

    EA Creates Info Portal For Disable Gamers 
    The site currently lets games know how what kind of disability features are available for Madden 18, UFC 3, and NHL 18. More games will be added over time.

    Super Mega Baseball 2 Closed Beta Planned On Xbox One 

    MLB The Show 18 Franchise Details 

    Out Of The Park Baseball 19 Features Trailer 

    New V-Rally 4 Announced 
    Check out a teaser trailer for the title available in September.

    View the full article

    Fortnite Streamer Makes Over $500,000 A Month

    By GameInformer,


    Streamer Tyler "Ninja" Blevins has joined the millionaire club, emerging as one of the most prominent streaming personalities in a sea crowded with them. Ninja made news last week for shattering Twitch viewership records by streaming Fortnite with rapper Drake.

    The streamer recently chattered with CNBC about his experience as a professional streamer, where his income comes from, and what its like to play Fortnite with celebrities.

    Tyler '@Ninja' Blevins says he makes $500,000 a month playing video games. pic.twitter.com/jk9fvOiNZV

    — CNBC (@CNBC) March 19, 2018

    To watch our own streaming escapades with Fortnite, head here.

    Our Take
    Regardless of your own feelings about streaming, that's a heck of a lot of money, and yet another sign that the way we consume game content and the audience that consumes it is changing.

    View the full article

    New Gameplay Today – God Of War

    By GameInformer,


    Sony Santa Monica invited us over to its studio last week, where we got to play about three hours of the upcoming God of War. Join us for today's episode of NGT, where Joe Juba and I talk about our hands-on experiences with the game – and Leo listens.

    Sony provided us with more than 15 minutes of new footage, which includes plenty of scenes of Kratos and son wrecking monsters, as well as a glimpse at some of the upgrades and crafting opportunities. There's a lot to absorb, but Joe and I do our best to provide some context for what you're seeing. And Leo is great, too!

    (Please visit the site to view this media)

    For more of our thoughts on God of War, take a look at our recent feature, where we discuss five of the biggest overall surprises from the demo.

    View the full article

    Speedrunner Clears Hitman 2 In Under Four Minutes

    By GameInformer,


    For anyone who grew tired of all the waiting in Hitman , we've got a speedrun for you. Speedrunner inkblowout utilized a save glitch in Hitman 2: Silent Assassin to set the record for the any-percentage category at three minutes and twenty-two seconds. This isn't inkblowout's first foray into speedrunning Hitman 2, as he currently sitting in second place for his 49 minute and 45 second run of the game on Professional difficulty with a Silent Assassin rank for each level. After hitting the 3:22 mark on multiple occasions, inkblowout has decided he can let someone else try and beat his time, even though he says there are spots where he could improve his timing.

    (Please visit the site to view this media)

    For more on Hitman, check out our Virtual Life column on the latest game.

    View the full article

    Calling All Devs

    By RSI,

    Every week, designers, engineers and other developers from our five offices around the world answer backer questions submitted on SPECTRUM and voted on by YOU. This week, we get answers on Market Tracking, Radar Displays, High-Velocity EVA and various types of Electronic Warfare.

    You can submit your questions for consideration in future episodes of Calling All Devs here.

    And for info on becoming a subscriber, go to: https://robertsspaceindustries.com/pledge/subscriptions

    View the full article

    This Week in Star Citizen

    By RSI,

    001_16-10.jpg Top of the mornin’ to you Citizens!

    We hope you had a wonderful St. Patrick’s weekend – or in case you’re living in Ireland, still enjoy a fantastic Paddy’s Bank holiday Monday! But as all enjoyable things must come to an end eventually, so have our green festivities. Our St. Patrick’s Day Screenshot Contest is over, and we’re currently in the process of selecting the winners of our fabulous prizes. With 695 entries, this is no easy job, even more so with all the 695 entries being as good as they are. A big thank you to everyone who submitted a screenshot!
    Our special St. Patrick’s Day promotion is also coming to an end today, so grab those ships now before the promotion is over and upgrade your wardrobe with a “Cal is my Wingman” Squadron 42 T-shirt for a discounted price.
    And everyone that is attending GDC in San Francisco this week: make sure to stop by the Intel booth to chat with some of our team members and don’t miss Sean Tracy’s GDC talk on Thursday, March 22nd.

    Let’s see what’s going on this week:

    On Monday, Jared will put on his headset for a brand-new episode of Calling All Devs. This week, we’ll answer YOUR questions about EVA between fast-moving ships, the future of real-time commodity tracking and more! You can watch the full episode here once it goes live.

    Tuesday spells L-O-R-E! Our magnificent Lore Team will expand on the lore and narrative that makes up the Star Citizen universe. To shorten your wait, you can check out previously published lore posts here.

    No Bugsmashers this Wednesday, but that doesn’t mean those pesky bugs are safe this week. We’ll be smashing in the background while our show will return on the 28th!

    Psst! Listen! Thursday will bring us an episode of Around the Verse that will focus on all things audio in Star Citizen. Hear us out; this will be a sound episode!

    Make sure to tune in to our Twitch Channel for a new episode of Reverse the Verse on Friday. We hope to see you there!

    Ulf Kuerschner
    Community Manager

    The Weekly Community Content Schedule

    MONDAY, MARCH 19TH, 2018
                Calling All Devs   (https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertsSpaceInd/)

    TUESDAY, MARCH 20TH, 2018
                Weekly Lore Post   (https://robertsspaceindustries.com/comm-link/spectrum-dispatch)


    THURSDAY, MARCH 22ND, 2018
                Star Citizen: Around the Verse – Audio Special   (https://www.youtube.com/user/RobertsSpaceInd/)
                Vault Update   

    FRIDAY, MARCH 23RD, 2018
                Reverse the Verse   (https://www.twitch.tv/starcitizen)
                Roadmap Update   
                RSI Newsletter   

    Community Spotlight: March 19th, 2018

    Storytellers.jpg We are constantly amazed by the contributions made by the Star Citizen community. Whether it’s fan art, a cinematic, a YouTube guide, or even a 3D print of your favorite ship, we love it all! Don’t forget to submit your content to our Community Hub for a chance at seeing it here!

    Baily’s beads during the Stanton eclipse by Corsair62

    Eclipce1.jpg Astronomy amateur Corsair62 witnessed Baily’s beads, a short-term optical phenomenon, during the full phase of the eclipse. Always keep your eyes open for that kind of shots while in the ‘verse!

    Check out his pictures on the Community Hub.

    Letters From Vega – Part 1 by Alex_S189
    Letters-From-Vega.png Dalynn Cross and Eddie Daniels are sent to Aremis, Vega II, to visit one of the planets military installations and document the base operations.

    Will this be ‘just another job’? Visit the Community Hub and find out.

    View the full article

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