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EA Revives  Blitz  Under NFL's Watchful Eye

EA Revives Blitz Under NFL's Watchful Eye

October 20, 2011 | By Kyle Orland

When EA acquired the exclusive rights to the NFL license in late 2004, now-defunct publisher and former Blitz owner Midway used the opportunity to effect a bold change in direction for its popular football series, which originally debuted in arcades in 1997 as NFL Blitz.

2005's Blitz: The League and its 2008 sequel featured fictional players and teams engaging in the kinds of activities that the real-life league would never approve of in an officially licensed game. Players earned bonus money for brutal, injury-inducing hits, which they could use to gamble on game results, buy drugs to treat injuries and even hire prostitutes to distract the opposing team.

Now, with the rights to the Blitz franchise in the hands of EA, the NFL imprimatur is back on the series' coming relaunch, which has been in development for over a year by EA Tiburon.

"I think that without the NFL license, the game wouldn't be NFL Blitz," project lead Dave Ross told Gamasutra in a recent interview. "It's kind of the hyper-real NFL football experience where you've got the 32 teams, 32 stadiums. For me it's a lot of fun to choose my favorite team and go up against their rivals and opponents as I work my way through the game, so I think the game absolutely has to be NFL Blitz."

While the license allows individual NFL stars to be referenced by name, players will probably have trouble differentiating between the performance of their favorite quarterbacks or receivers. Blitz designer Yuri Bialoskursky explained to Gamasutra that individual player statistics are rolled up into overall team-level ratings for speed, skill, power and recovery, to help streamline the experience.

"There are stats by player, but it's an arcade experience," Bialoskursky said. "When you can get into that level of detail and minutiae in a Madden game, we're not that, we're more about pick your team, get your guy and play against each other."

Having the NFL license comes with its baggage as well, though. In recent years, the league has become increasingly image conscious and concerned with making sure officially licensed games show it in a positive light. Most recently, this manifested in a move to prevent in-game players from returning to play after a concussion in Madden.

This is potentially worrisome for Blitz, a series that historically reveled in over-the-top tackles and late hits. That said, Ross insists the league has been understanding in allowing Blitz to go a bit farther than a title like Madden might be allowed.

"Even before we had anything to show [the league], we kind of gave them a look at the old versions of Blitz and reminded everybody about what it was and where we wanted to take it, talking to them about how they felt about certain aspects of the old game and mitigating any concerns that they might have," he said.

"[They] understand that it's an over-the-top action game, not a simulation like Madden is. They understand this is just having fun with the NFL and not a serious recreation of what the game is on Sunday afternoon."

Ross cited potential league concerns on everything from how players and cheerleaders are presented in the game to how power-ups and unlockable fantasy characters are used. Working through those concerns has been a back-and-forth process that's still underway as the game approaches a January release.

"They certainly have concerns -- they're not the same organization today that they were when the original versions of Blitz were being released," Bialoskursky added, "but any issues we've always worked through them together and come up with something that still helps us to deliver that Blitz experience. They've been good partners all along."

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