Skip links

Changes To The Passing Game in Madden NFL 16

Madden NFL 16 is significantly different than Madden 15.  Electronic Arts is going to great lengths to show that at E3.  From the new Draft Champions mode, to changes in connected franchise, they want to make this year’s game better.

Let’s move on to how the passing game has changed in Madden 16.

Here is an interview with Madden NFL 16 Creative Director Rex Dickson and Designer Larry Richart.

Why did the team decide to focus on the “Playmaker” in Madden NFL 16?

Rex Dickson: The Playmaker theme grew organically out of a larger theme we wanted to attack in Madden 16, internally referred to as “air supremacy.” This includes WR/DB interactions, QB mechanics and AI, as well as a number of other supporting elements.

Once the features were integrated and playable, the Playmaker theme surfaced as people utilized elite players and the new mechanics to create some truly remarkable outcomes. Additionally, our QB and receiver AI were combining to beat users in ways we had never seen before, by leveraging their key “playmakers” to extend drives and put up points.

What are the first steps the animation and design teams took in re-designing the passing game?

Larry Richart: First off, we motion captured all new rollout movement and passing animations. We never had a “middle” QB locomotion set of animations before, just had regular pocket locomotion and scramble. The rollout locomotion allows the QB to be under more control and throw more accurate passes while moving.

After adding the rollout mechanics, we added the new pass mechanics – there’s now a high pass, a low pass, and a medium/touch pass. These new mechanics add a whole new feel to the total control passing feature that we added in Madden NFL 13.

Dickson: Some of these things are new mechanics, others are evolutions or iterations on existing passing mechanics, but almost all are derived from community feedback.

The community made it clear that they wanted more contact between WR’s and DB’s. That includes features like press interactions, zone chucks, hand fighting, and the multiplayer catch outcomes, but the most unexpected design change is the catching system itself.

We wanted to give players more control over the type of catch you want to go for. We’ve gone from one catch button to three different types of catches than can be performed, each with its own risk/rewards and situational applications. They also tie directly back to the passing mechanics, so that certain throw types are linked with certain catch types.

What role do you play in helping to create a “Playmaker”?

Richart: I’m the designer that’s responsible for all the new Quarterback mechanics as well as the new handoff system. The Core Gameplay team — Engineers, Animators, and Designers — all work closely together to make sure each of our features work well with the other gameplay features.

This year there was more crossover than ever, as the new pass mechanics tie in directly with the new catch mechanics. We needed to make sure that the pass was thrown in the right spot to help trigger the new multi-player catch interactions that are the highlight of our game this year.

Dickson: As creative director, my job is to establish the overall vision for the game and then provide oversight and creative direction during the execution of that plan. My primary role is making sure that all the pieces come together to deliver our playmaker outcomes at the highest level of quality possible.

If I do my job right, the various systems come together to deliver amazing and organic playmaker highlights that are not the result of one system, but many working together in seamless harmony.

You can read the whole interview on EA’s website.

Here are some of the exact changes made to the passing system in Madden 16.


The team completely re-worked QB pocket, scramble and rollout locomotion. Simply tap the RT/R2 button in the QB’s drop back, or when standing in the pocket. This allows players to “roll to pass,” and includes a completely reworked back shoulder roll out. These new mechanics work brilliantly with our boot and roll out plays.

One of the big benefits of roll out is that players don’t suffer the same accuracy penalties as “throw on the run.” The team also re-worked scramble (Hold RT/R2) to be more responsive, and allows players to toggle between pocket, rollout or scramble loco at the touch of a button. You can also branch out of any drop back instantly by tapping the LT button after the snap.

Finally, we made it a priority to ensure that all the new QB loco mechanics are utilized by the CPU AI. Expect QB’s like Marcus Mariota and Cam Newton to offer a substantial threat on the ground this year.


For many players, the most requested change for Madden NFL 16 was an overhaul to the CPU QB AI. We spent several years developing a new AI architecture called “Behavior Coordinator,” which allows us to create a more granular set of behaviors to a given situation.

This not only helps deliver the most challenging CPU QB’s to date, but also creates a clear distinction between different types of QB’s. The game you get from Tom Brady (pocket passer) is dramatically different than the behavior you will see from dual threats like Mariota or Newton. Each style of QB will now react to situations differently, based on their traits.

This new QB AI also represents improvements to Robo QB, Dink-and-Dunk offense, pressure awareness, play calling and situational game management.


One of the big additions in Madden NFL 16 is the “body relative” throw, which allows players to throw a high jump ball (like on a fade or streak route) or a low throw where only the receiver can make a play on the ball.

We have also re-worked the new touch pass (now double tap receiver icon) for easier execution of dropping the ball behind linebackers and in front of safeties.


The most revolutionary addition this year is the new catching system. Previously, players had just one option (Y/Triangle button) to catch the ball. In Madden NFL 16, there are three different catches types to choose from.

The mechanics work by holding the catch button as soon as the QB makes the pass. You no longer need to hit B, as catch control is now automatic on the intended receiver. However, it’s still possible to have more control by clicking on with B and steering the receiver with the left stick.


The Multiplayer Catch System is based on technology in development for more than two years, and allows receivers and defenders to go up for a catch simultaneously and battle for the ball in the air while using ratings, mechanics and positioning to deliver the appropriate outcome

The team added more than 400 new multiplayer catch outcomes, which includes knockouts, tip ball, simultaneous possession catches, offensive/defensive PI, interceptions and more.

The system also account for double coverage situations. We have spent countless hours tuning and balancing this system extensively to ensure players cannot exploit the system.


The team also added hundreds of new receiver/defender interaction animations, including new press interactions, zone chuck interactions and hand fighting during route running.

This includes a complete overhaul to our defensive pre-play alignment system, as defenders now align to the inside or outside of the receiver based on the coverage and where they want to force them.

You can check out all of the improvements to Madden 16 here.

Notify of

1 Comment
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
8 years ago

these guys are the worst game developers in the history of gaming.