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 Madden 's Strauser: 'We're Still Unlocking The Power' Of Current Hardware

Madden's Strauser: 'We're Still Unlocking The Power' Of Current Hardware Exclusive

August 10, 2010 | By Leigh Alexander

The motion gaming offered by upcoming motion control interfaces like Microsoft's Kinect and Sony's Move have some of their most promising initial applications in fitness activity games, which suggests it's an area of focus for the sports genre.

But Jeremy Strauser, executive producer on EA Sports' Madden franchise, echoes the sentiments of label head Peter Moore that stress a measured approach.

"When you get into the movement-based controls, it almost becomes tougher, as a sports game developer," Strauser tells Gamasutra. "Because there are some sports where it's going to make perfect sense to have an object in your hand and swing it."

For example, EA Sports' Tiger Woods PGA Tour games found success on the Wii because the Wii Remote movement was a natural fit with the swing of a golf club, making it ideal for PlayStation Move. "But it's not necessarily a great experience to mimic all the moves of a professional football player," says Strauser. "Where we've found success is not trying to mimic one-to-one human motion; it's more what are the other types of things that can become gaming mechanics."

The EP's not ready to discuss the future of Madden on new interfaces, but speaking strictly theoretically, he suggests there are more options for developers to possibly employ the new input devices in ways beyond motion mimicry: "I think the future's wide open there, in that we could approach those not only as a physical-movement replication of the sport, but they can become gaming mechanics... both [Kinect and Move] have cameras involved, so there's ability to bring yourself into the game, to be really immersive and get into that augmented reality perspective."

Again, while explicitly stating he's speaking to general possibility and not any ideas under consideration for his own franchise, Strauser sees the ability for facial recognition tech in games to respond to emotions like frustration and celebration, the shouting and cheering people engaged fans naturally do to their television when watching sports -- or playing sports video games. "I think we'll see truly drop-dead, innovative stuff two to three years in," he says.

The platform-holders have long touted evolution on the interface side, such as with these new motion control solutions, as a way to prolong the console lifecycle. Even prior to Kinect and Move, Nintendo spoke often about how Wii, with its innovative scheme alongside a relatively lower-powered hardware, took the pressure off of developers to push cutting edge graphics and tech and instead focus on creative design.

But if the current generation of platforms does truly become the longest yet seen, as many analysts and industry watchers suggest it could, does topping each previous installment in an annual franchise like Madden get harder from a technology side, if innovation is happening outside the hardware box instead of inside it?

Not in Strauser's view -- he believes the current hardware platforms have plenty of life left. "I think we're still unlocking the power of this current technology," he says. "In our sixth year on this hardware platform...I'm kind of lumping PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360 together, although they're different in their capability -- each year we seem to accomplish more and more."

"When I talk to our technologists here at the company, they say we have a ways to go until we tap out," he says. "And that's even before you start adding new controllers or peripherals or whatever you want to call things like Kinect and Move. When you start adding that to the user experience you'e got a bright future for this round of hardware."

So Strauser says he's nowhere near ready for new platforms: "I really do hope as a developer it will last for several more years, because I think we can do more," he says. "I think we can create more experiences for the user with this power."

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