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Interview: Madden NFL 15's The Gauntlet looks to teach you while challenging you

Madden NFL 15 Screenshot - 1166959

Last week, EA Sports released a video for Madden NFL 15 that introduced us to the Gauntlet, a new mode that offers a series of unique challenges to test your skills in all facets of the game. Set up like an old-school arcade challenge, you must complete 40 levels of challenging obstacles with a limited number of attempts (lives). If you fail, you start over. And every five stages of The Gauntlet, there's a Boss Level with a "unique, offbeat" challenge.

As EA explains, the purpose of The Gauntlet is to "provide a fun, approachable way for new users to learn Madden, as well as giving franchise veterans tools to make themselves better and truly challenge their Madden prowess."

But even with the video briefly explaining the new mode, we still had some questions. So we spoke to Madden NFL 15 assistant producer Danny Doeberling. Below is our interview.

Matt: Skills Trainer is great for newcomers to learn the basics, while The Gauntlet provides a fun way for franchise veterans to challenge themselves. But are there any other incentives to complete this arcade-challenge? Like, will it unlock any additional modes or special game features?

Danny Doeberling, Assistant Producer: For completionists, Skills Trainer rewards the player for earning bronze medals for every drill in each category. There are 48 tutorials and drills so it should be enough to keep a Madden player busy. Players can also earn achievements/trophies in both Skills Trainer and the Gauntlet mode.

Matt: I don't know why, but when I read about The Gauntlet and it's kind of zany twist on what is usually a very serious football game simulation, it makes me think about other fun things EA could do with the game. And what comes to mind are things like "Big Head Mode" or "Tiny players" -- fun little modes/settings you can turn on just for the heck of it. Has the creative ideas from Gauntlet sparked any conversation about this sort of thing?

Danny Doeberling: With an established brand that tries to capture authentic football, you have to be creative when it comes to doing something out of the ordinary. This started as a side project for us and people were having so much fun with it, we knew we had to get it in the game. Some of the things you mentioned we have done in the past on Wii or on Madden NFL Arcade. I always enjoy these offbeat, unique features, they’ve always been some of my favorites. Hopefully, the response from the Madden community will be positive and we can do more like this in the future.

Matt: What are the chances of incorporating elements from other EA-published games into The Gauntlet? We saw with PGA Tour elements from the Battlefield series being thrown into the fantasy course. Granted both of those are Frostbite, so there's a connection, but could we see something similar in Madden NFL 15?

Danny Doeberling: I love what EA SPORTS PGA Tour is doing. Mixing a bunch of fantasy elements and still having an authentic golf experience seems like the best of both worlds. While we don’t currently have any similar plans for Madden NFL, we’ll see how fans respond to the Gauntlet. If they enjoy it, I would like to do some more fun and crazy things.

Matt: Do you pick the player to use in The Gaunlet or is it just a randomly generated player specific to that level?

Danny Doeberling: In Gauntlet, you choose a team and opponent once you enter Skills Trainer mode. The challenges, aside from the boss battles, are randomly selected based on how far you have progressed. Challenges and difficulty will increase as you advance in the Gauntlet.

Madden NFL 15 The Gauntlet

Matt: So every five levels there's a "boss" challenge in The Gaunlet. What's the challenge like when you're not at these special stages? Are they just toned down versions of these over-the-top challenges?

Danny Doeberling: When you’re are not playing in a Boss Battle, you are taking all what you learned in Skills Trainer and facing off against random tutorials and drills. For instance, one of the hard drills might require you successfully run the Triple Option. If there is a certain challenge that a player struggles with, they can go back to that tutorial or drill and get better at that skill. Conquering Gauntlet will require you to master Skills Trainer, which in turn, will make you a better Madden player. There is also game situational challenges which will increase in difficulty as the Gauntlet goes on.

Matt: Will EA generate any sort of daily or weekly challenges for The Gauntlet that players can compete against one another in? Like a leaderboard challenge or something.

Danny Doeberling: We do not have full leaderboards this year but it is definitely something we want to do in the future. We do have social feeds, so if your buddy sets a personal high score we can update you on their progress. We also track across all Madden players what scores people are earning, so we’ll know how close the Madden community is to having its first Gauntlet champion.

Matt: I've read that Skills Trainer now actually educates the player on the strategic elements of football. For example, Madden NFL 15 will teach you how to read zone versus man defense. I've yet to actually play the game, so could you explain you guys are doing this? And more importantly, how are you doing it in a way that won't be boring for a newcomer?

Danny Doeberling: In Skills Trainer for Madden NFL 15, we are attempting to do something we have not done in the past, which is teach players basic football concepts. When we playtest Madden year in and year out, we found out that a good chunk of players are not familiar with some of the terminology and some of the intricacies of the Madden game and football in general. For instance, people will call a Cover 2 Defense but have no idea what that actually is. This year, we have tutorials to help explain to the user how to recognize different coverages, what are effective routes to beat those coverages, and areas on the field that should be open. We also cover 12 basic pass concepts, which show how and when to properly run different passing plays. We do this through on-screen visuals and voiceover from Coach Bill Courtney. On the strategy side, we drop the user in different situations like backed up against their own goal line or put them in the red zone, so they can develop different playcalling strategies in these areas. Our hope is that increasing a player’s football IQ will help make you not only a better Madden player, but also a more knowledgeable football fan in general. 

This interview was conducted by email.

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Matt Liebl You can follow Senior News Editor Matt Liebl on Twitter @Matt_GZ. He likes games, sports, musicals, and his adorable dog, Wrigley. And his wife.
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