We Interview: Connor Dougan, Creative Director for Madden NFL 24!

Recently, I was invited by EA to visit their Redwood Shores campus to try out the new Madden NFL 24. During that time, we had access to talk with a lot of their staff about everything from new gameplay to new modes to my favorite, Franchise Mode. I had the honor of sitting down with Creative Director Connor Dougan to discuss some of the new things we Franchise Mode players can expect from Madden NFL 24! Let’s jump in!

Interview w/Connor Dougan -- Creative Director for Madden NFL 24 discussing Franchise Mode

Adam Moreno: Hey, everyone, Adam Moreno here with Gaming Trend and we’re here with Connor Dougan, the creative director for Madden 24. I’ve gotten to play a little bit of it. We’re here to talk about some of the things that he’s done with Madden NFL 24. And first of all, franchise mode. I’m very excited to see what you guys got going on.

Connor Dougan: Yeah, you’re a franchise guy!

Adam Moreno: Yeah, I played a lot last year. I got all the way to 2037 in one of my. One of my leagues, yeah, I play a lot.

Connor Dougan: Solo, or do you or you play with others?

Adam Moreno: I’m not good enough at the game to play with others. I really play by myself because it’s one of those games that I can do other things while I am playing it. So it gives me that dopamine rush of, “I’m playing a video game. I’m succeeding at something or I’m failing at something, but I’m learning.” But I can also listen to an audiobook. I can be, you know, helping with something else.

Connor Dougan: No, that’s awesome!

Adam Moreno: So franchise has been very important to me. Every year you guys have gotten better and better at building the franchise mode and making it come back to where we saw it in, you know, 2011, 2012. And so this year, what are some of the things that you really wanted to focus on? When it came to growing the franchise as well as keeping the fan base in mind.

Connor Dougan: Well, I think the franchise is near and dear to my heart. One I obviously work on franchise, but I play it. I play mostly in connected leagues, but I have a young son. I have two young sonsMy older of the two, he’s a franchise player. So he just does like fantasy drafts. Playing through it gives me feedback.

Adam Moreno: You’ve got your own personal feedback at home, that must be great.

Connor Dougan: Oh yeah, but he said he’s really polite about it. But yeah, which is surprising because he’s not polite about anything!

But anyway, so when we talk about franchise, it’s important… our players are important to us and franchise is like when you think about Madden. And when you think about the history of Madden, franchise is critical and making that experience great. So one of the first things we wanted to do well, there’s really three big things. Find new ways for players to play and that one thing is we reintroduced mini-games and so if you played past versions of Madden back in 05 or whatever, games like rushing attack, Chase and tackle.

Adam Moreno: You got the new Backfield Survival.

Connor Dougan: Backfield Survival, where you have the ball and you just kind of need to stay alive and every, I believe, 10 to 20 seconds another player will run out. Additional players will run out and try to tackle you. So that’s just a lot of fun. We have coffin corner, some different kicking games, over 25 new mini games. And what’s cool about that is in franchise mode, we brought back training camp, so you’re going to start your preseason in training camp and you can pick up what drills, or what mini games they can play and based on how you perform, that’s going to give your players more XP. And then once you get into the start of of the season or you can preseason it, you can train players on a weekly basis in that weekly training, yeah. So, you remember, if you’re familiar with franchise, you know last year you could have up to three players from the jump that you could do focus training on

Adam Moreno: Because and then up to six by when you updated!

Connor Dougan: Yes because you’re a skilled tree person so you know exactly what I’m talking about.

So you have up to six focus players and now you can basically go through the process of playing, making your focus players going through the drill. And play with it. So that’s one thing with mini-games.

Adam Moreno: It’s giving you more control over sometimes some of the XP while also honing in your skills.

Connor Dougan: And then the other piece is just kind of, and I I don’t want to say break up the monotony, but like kind of switching the mode up a little bit where it’s not solely just playing and team building playing. Regular season games, and so it switches things up and I think, for me personally, that’s a lot of fun. But I don’t mind it makes my franchise a little bit longer to get to that season, but you can always SIM on that stuff anyway. But that’s super exciting. So 25 new mini games use that to progress your player.

Next we have core fundamental improvements. It’s really cool because we talk to our community and our community and we have obviously, you know, we have a vocal, passionate community of franchise players. And so we have this group of people that we call the Design Council and the Design Council are community members, and we meet with them multiple times a year, talk about what we want to build. Near term, long term, and they help us prioritize. Our feature set. Some of the improvements we made on sort of like what we call a core franchise enhancements #1, let’s start with the trades.

Adam Moreno: Yes, because that’s going to be a big new thing for people to be able to put together those packages?

Connor Dougan: Absolutely. So you know, trades obviously are a big fun thing for franchise players to do. So what we’ve done is we’ve added up to six slots and what that means is you can essentially package up to three players and up to and to a total of 6 draft picks. To recreate any trade you want and and the reason we did that is you know in the past we haven’t always been able to be sort of, Madden 23, we haven’t really been able to recreate those real life packages that are happening now, like Russell. Yeah, like whereas multiple players, multiple draft picks, we didn’t even have a system that could allow players to put those packages together. Now we do. We also allow you to trade up to two years in the future or three years in the future, two more years of draft picks. And then we’ve revamped draft and trade logic, which we needed to do because we have 6 slots. So there was a lot of work that was done there and then so that’s trades. Then we have, let’s talk about free agency next. So last year we did a lot of work.

Adam Moreno: It was a huge increase from 22 to 23 when it came to free agency last year.

Connor Dougan: And I think we’re super proud about what we did there, but I think that it needed room for improvement. And so it was one of the things we focused.

It’s a core community request, it’s an authentic thing that teams do to keep their key players and to manage their roster better. So we added that. Secondly, we added the 5th year option into the re-sign flow and then thirdly, we did a lot of work on the AI side to ensure that when you’re playing your solo leagues, that computer teams or CPU teams or AI controlled teams would use these features. See players kind of maybe leave their teams, CPU players leave their team, star players when in real life they would never let that player go.

Adam Moreno: I remember there being last year it was, I think 2028 or 2029 and all of a sudden Najee Harris is available in free agency right after his fifth year option was picked up and you’re like “he’s great breaking records. Would the Steelers let this guy go?”

Connor Dougan: Right!

Adam Moreno: And it’s just like it didn’t make sense, but.

Connor Dougan: It’s a bit of an immersion breaker for sure. But now that we have contract restructuring, the proper usage of the fifth year option and then the AI for all the teams to support it we want to give our players the tools to really, you know, ensure that as a person controlling a team, they have the tools to keep their core together for the future and then when they’re playing the league versus, you know, the other teams in that league have their own control that they do the same thing and it and it keeps it as authentic as possible. And as fresh as possible. Next we have.

Next, what we’ve done with talent trees, our staff trees. So we’ve added a third tree to every single staff type, so head coaches, offensive and defensive coordinators, we have. To 24 new coordinators are now position gurus. So like if you’re a specific let’s sound controlling the Chiefs are playing as the Chiefs, you know, I don’t need that quarterback guru. I’m set, yeah, but maybe I want to work on my offensive line. So I got to hire a position guru to help, you know, grow my offensive line.

Adam Moreno: Create that immersion even more with your gameplay.

Connor Dougan: Yeah, and then just having enough coaches and a variety of positions specialists. The list to help players kind of create the team that they want to create, whereas a little bit limited in the past and now there’s just new options for different talents.

Can I keep going? OK, so Next up we have new draft generators and somebody who likes to go deep in drafts.

So we have new draft generators and what a draft generator is, is new types of rookies that can come into your league, so some of the cool stuff that we’ve done there is creating new generational talent. For all positions. So you know you have now you have generational tight end, safeties, even punters. The next thing we did was expand our 99 club and what that means is you can find these gems. Where they’ll have. You might find it 99 running. Sorry, a running back with the 99 brake tackle. Or a wide receiver with the 99 Juke move or a linebacker with 99 hit power as a Rookie.

Adam Moreno: Wow. OK, sure, sure!

Connor Dougan: Or or the potential to get… so there and then the third piece which is really cool is we have new, essentially, generators that allow us to recreate some of the legendary players in the past, so you might find William Refrigerator Harry type player, so a little almost.

Adam Moreno: Like Easter eggs of like, hey, there’s this player.

Connor Dougan: Yeah. Yeah. Like that! Yeah. They’re like Harold Carmichael, like a 6 foot-9 inch wide receiver or Mike Alstott type. Yeah.

Adam Moreno: (To camera) Keep a lookout.

Connor Dougan: And then lastly, when it comes to draft generators, we have out of position players. So players might be good at one position, but you could see all these ratings, the traits could make him a better, you know, a better wide receiver..

Adam Moreno: Here’s something that I don’t know how many people are like this is their focus, but I really enjoyed the relocation aspect. Could you give me a little detail as to some of the changes that you guys have made because you made changes even to the relocation aspects when it comes to what teams you can choose where you can choose the countries you can?

Connor Dougan: So one of the things we know, customization is near and dear to our heart and to our franchise players heart, hearts and you know that. Relocation has been in the game for a minute now, and this year we’ve revamped all of the uniforms, so when you get a chance to check those out, they look sick. There’s 32 new uniforms, 3 variations. Home, Away, and alternate. You can mix and match. There’s multiple new cities. I won’t give an exact number because I don’t know, but it’s around 20 or so new cities, new logo options and then the other thing I forgot to mention is relocations always existed in owner mode. Now we’ve moved it to coach mode and we want to give our players more sort of flexibility and creativity within the mode, so we allow them to relocate their team at any time.

Adam Moreno: Including the first year?

Connor Dougan: Yeah, right away, just to get them, you know, off to the races.

Adam Moreno: OK!!

Connor Dougan: Because you know, it’s an important part of customization and so we’re super excited about just the new content and just the flexibility. If I play in my connected franchise with some of my EA partners. It’s going to be crazy to see where we can move like who’s moving where? Yeah!

Adam Moreno: So, you know the NFL is getting more international. Could you give me some examples, maybe of countries, because I believe last year we had London. And we had Mexico City and that was kind of it other than we had Ontario and so..

Connor Dougan: Yeah, yeah, Toronto. Yeah, there’s a few more. Let me get you something definitive because I don’t know off the top which new countries are fully locked in yet.

Adam Moreno: We’ll have that in the description.

Connor Dougan: We’ll get you a definite list of them!

Adam Moreno: I’m just so excited. You, you clearly have put so much love into trying to make franchise back to how exciting it was way back in the day but you know you can see the love that’s being put in and the fact that you guys are so committed to listening to your fan base and your community. And I think that’s where things have kind of shifted is you guys are so willing to just listen and understand “OK, cool. This was the intention, but people are not maybe using it in the way we expected or they’re not seeing it the way we initially expected.” And you guys are pivoting or moving or like changing things in a different direction. I think that’s such a cool thing to see. Every year you guys. Are taking more and more steps forward.

Connor Dougan: I mean, we’re excited about, we’re excited about franchise. Like when we think about it… You know, the Madden team as developers, we’re players first. And you know, we need to listen to our players and obviously, like I mentioned before, franchise is a huge part of Madden and our goal is to, you know, create the best franchise possible and by no means are we done with the investment in franchise. But we’re super happy about what we’ve been able to deliver for 24.

Adam Moreno: Something else and we’ll wrap it up that I really appreciated was your, very clearly, basing everything on timelines. So it’s not just, “oh, we figured out this one thing that the fan base wanted. We’re done.” It’s, “Oh, we’ve got a three-year plan for changing free agency, for changing drafts, for upgrading this and upgrading that.” I think that’s such a big deal. There is a plan for the future. Even with stuff like franchise mode where it’s, you know, sometimes people can think it’s stuck. But the fact that every single year you guys are pushing forward and making new content and allowing more control, even with Commissioner tools, that’s something we didn’t get to talk about. But the Commissioner tool list. Has expanded even then, so you’re doing connected franchise modes with your friends. You’re going to have even more.

Connor Dougan: Yeah, I appreciate you saying that and recognizing that like you see it that like we’re committed to making franchise awesome. It’s not going to stop anytime soon and I just hope people are super excited about picking up and playing Madden 24 and playing Franchise.

Adam Moreno: Connor, we appreciate your time. Thank you so very much and you guys can all check out Madden NFL 24 coming very soon.

Adam is a musician and gamer who loves his partner in crime, Regan, and their two pets Rey and Finn. Adam is a fan of Star Wars, Mass Effect, NFL Football, and gaming in general. Follow Adam on Twitter @TheRexTano.

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