Tuesday Treasures: Madden Turns 25

With the release of Madden NFL 25, series owner Electronic Arts is celebrating 25 years of a football gaming dynasty. Named after Hall of Fame coach and sports broadcaster John Madden, the Madden NFL games have been had a yearly release since the first game of the series, John Madden Football, debuted back in 1988. As of February of this year, Electronic Arts reported that total sales of the Madden series was roughly 99 million units.

In celebration of Madden‘s milestone, we’ll look at the first game in the series, John Madden Football. Before the Madden series had a juke rating, before the official teams and players and even before Madden himself provided the commentary, it began as a young man’s desire to create a computer football simulation game.

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BOOM!

When he was a kid, William “Trip” Hawkins created a football game based on the paper-and-dice Strat-o-Matic games. While in college, Hawkins would create a football simulation for the PDP-11 minicomputer. In 1982, Hawkins founded Electronic Arts after leaving Apple, and soon set out to make a computer football gameHawkins first approached Joe Montana to sponsor the game, but he couldn’t because of a prior deal with Atari. Hawkins later reached out to then University of California coach Joe Kapp, but that deal feel through because Kapp wanted royalties.

In 1984, Hawkins approached Madden for his project, and Madden agreed, the caveat being that the game had to be as authentic as possible. Along with programmer Robin Antonik, Hawkins and Madden begin work on the game that would eventually become John Madden Football.

The game was developed for the Apple II series of computers, which gave programmer Antonik some gauntlets to run. Due to the Apple II technical limitations, the game originally was supposed to feature only seven players on the digital field for each team, but Madden insisted that the game support the standard 11 players. This proved to be a difficult demand for Antonik, who found that the gameplay became very sluggish with eleven players to each team. Despite this, the final version of the game includes eleven players for each team.

The development time for Madden was unusually long; it took three years to make whereas other titles took about a year and half. Finally, on June 1, 1988, John Madden Football debuted on the Apple II. Unlike future entries in the Madden series, John Madden Football featured none of the actual NFL teams and players of its time, which was due to the game lacking licenses by both the NFL and the NFLPA (National Football League Player’s Association).

The game has several customizable features, among them options to set the weather (which, despite not being visible, can hamper players during a game), change the quarter length, edit plays, and even customize an entire team. The game tracks several statistics (such as total yardage and number of fumbles) and came packaged with both an offensive and a defensive playbook, each of which were modeled after actual NFL plays. However, games can only be played one at a time as there is no season mode, but there is an option for multiplayer gaming.

Hopefully Jay Cutler throws plenty of these this season.

Hopefully Jay Cutler throws plenty of these this season.

Madden would later see release on the Commodore 64, the Commodore 128, and MS-DOS systems in 1989. In 1993, the series was licensed by the NFL and the NFLPA, and has been ever since.

Here’s to twenty-five years of a legendary franchise. For more information on the first Madden title and the series as a whole, do check out Patrick Hruby’s 2010 article “The Franchise” on ESPN. Until next time.

Go Bears!

Edit: The images for this article come from Moby Games.

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Lego Breaking Bad

Tonight, the final eight episodes of Vince Gilligan’s Emmy-winning show Breaking Bad will air on AMC, chronicling the fate of chemistry teacher turned meth dealer Walter White (portrayed by Bryan Cranston). The writers of Breaking Bad have had no shortage of gauntlets for White and his associate Jesse Pinkman (Aaron Paul) to run through, and these last episodes will likely continue that trend.

While searching YouTube for Breaking Bad videos, I came across an excellent short by Brian Anderson, which re-imagines Breaking Bad as a Lego-style video game. If you’re a fan of the Lego video games, Breaking Bad, or just savvy entertainment, do give this video a watch.

Legos are children’s toys after all, so this game will likely never get made. Lego will almost certainly not license a game based on a show with such dark themes. One can hope, though. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels

Six Figure Saints

Have you seen the movie Scarface? If you haven’t (for shame!), it stars Al Pacino as the foul-mouthed Tony Montana, who’s insatiable appetite for wealth transforms him from an impoverished Cuban immigrant to one of Miami’s most notorious drug kingpins. Montana’s drive for success is sonically encapsulated in Giorgio Moroder’s song “Push it to the Limit,” which is part of the film’s soundtrack.

The song is a nice bit of 1980s cheese, with its distorted guitar rhythms, pulsing keyboards and bellowing vocals. It’s all a little bit dramatic, but perhaps that’s the point; the song can be seen as part of a greater theme about the desire for material wealth. Maybe that’s why I thought of the song when I read that Deep Silver’s upcoming game Saints Row IV has a $1 million dollar limited edition bundle.

Yes, you read that correctly. That’s a 1 followed by six zeros.

Not even Bushnell could have imagined this

Named the “Super Dangerous Wad Wad Edition” this is the most ridiculous limited edition of a game yet. Since its inception in 2006, the Saints Row series has become infamous for its ludicrous, over-the-top gameplay, which includes silliness such as diving into traffic to commit insurance fraud and beating up folks with a dildo bat. This limited edition package falls right in line with the series’ absurdities, but when you actually stop and read what it  includes, it’s actually quite impressive. There are a number of expensive items, among them a Lamborghini Gallardo, a seven night vacation in Dubai, a trip to Washington D.C., and a trip to space courtesy of Virgin Galactic. The cheapest thing in the bundle is the game itself (the bundle includes “Commander in Chief” version of the title), which is $60.

So is the cost for such a package at all justifiable? Daniel Nye Griffiths of Forbes crunched some numbers in his article on the matter, and came up with a figure just north of $800,000. The things Griffiths found hardest to quantify were the costs of the plastic surgery procedure (which is chosen by the purchaser), the spy lessons, the hostage rescue experience, and the limits of the shopping spree (the wardrobe capsule’s cost was a little confusing as well). The package is set to be delivered via helicopter, so that cost added in with all the labor wages and other fees will probably round the total price out to a million bones.

So where does one order such a ridiculously lucrative package? It can only be purchased through UK retailer Game, although Koch Media (the owner of Deep Silver) must be emailed directly in order to actually purchase the bundle. There’s only one available, so whoever gets it will truly have made a one of a kind purchase. I just can’t wait to see if that person try to resell it on eBay. Until next time.

Peace & Pixels