How Madden NFL 17 Will Change In-Game Commentary

For the Madden franchise, developers have always wanted to recreate the sport of football as authentically as possible, of course beginning with gameplay. I vividly remember playing, for hours, my copy of “John Madden Football ‘92” on Sega Genesis. Thinking back to the graphics, players were incredibly box-like in shape and slid across the field as if it were a hardwood floor recently cleaned with Pine-Sol (cue Pine-Sol lady).

Flash forward to today and gameplay can look almost identical to its real-life counterpart.

But what the dev team prides itself on is not perfecting just one area of the game. They want to bring the entire experience that surrounds it: the looks, features, and very importantly, the sounds on and around the field, and one of those areas being focused on is commentary.

On that subject, I had the rare opportunity to interview two developers for Madden NFL 17: Producer Christian McLeod and Analyst Charles Davis, who currently works with Fox Sports and is an analyst who has covered football at both the college and pro levels. Play by Play Commentator Brandon Gaudin, of the Big Ten Network, is the other half of the new Madden commentary team, but wasn't able to be interviewed due to baseball-announcing duties. This will mark the newest commentary team since Jim Nantz and Phil Simms took over for Madden NFL 13.

The process of landing this new team for the booth sounded more like actors trying out for a part in a new Tarantino film. A large number of broadcasters went into the studio and read scripts with other broadcasters, auditioning for the part that other big-name announcers before them have. After a thorough search, Davis and Gaudin were assembled—the combination was all about chemistry. Davis, as of the 2015 NFL season, has called a number games and will be somewhat of the veteran of the two, as Gaudin, being more geared for the college game, hasn’t called a match at the pro level. But as Davis says, he had absolutely no worries when it came to working with his partner, since Gaudin is prepared and a man of his craft.

John Madden, towards the end of stint as commentator, had said recording lines for the game had become boring and tedious. Of course, we can imagine a lot of the process being mundane and feel like it would drag on, but Davis seemed to be extremely satisfied with the process. Sessions in the recording booth would have both Davis and Gaudin reading together, which seemed to help more when bouncing off ideas, as well as solo sessions. When recording alone, it didn’t seem to hurt the experience much, especially for the fact that many lines called for each individual to go over them many times, for all the different game situations. As a rough estimate, they completed all commentary sometime under a month. Not bad with all things considered.

Over the years, fans have complained that the announcers were repetitive and lacked the substance needed to feel truly a part of the game. To combat these complaints, the new scripts have made longer and more expansive. But folks still felt that wasn’t quite enough. This year, the addition of in season updating will be implemented. Throughout the season, when applicable, Davis and Gaudin will re-enter the recording studio to add top stories and interests from the NFL season. Injury updates, trades, signings, marketing deals, and so on will continue so that the authenticity of the game's ecosystem stays current and active.

McLeod stated that the Madden NFL series as a whole has gone through many changes and updates over time and one of the last areas to be dramatically revitalized has been the commentary. It seems that it has now caught up to the future. At least that’s the hope. It’s always refreshing to hear perspective and enthusiasm from a new play-by-play duo.