Josh Looman is the senior game designer for Madden NFL 25 and the lead designer of the game's new Connect Franchise mode, one of several different features in this year's game. I was fortunate enough to score some time with Looman back in May, well before the game's release.
Looman and I spoke via phone, and our conversation is yours to read below. Portions of our chat were edited for space, clarity and all that stuff. The game officially comes out tonight (Monday) at midnight.
Bleacher Report: You're the senior game designer on this version. So you're Lord of the Game Designers for Madden NFL 25? Is that right?
Josh Looman: I wouldn't say that I'm lord... I'm a little bit further down the food chain than that. The creative director of our game is Mike Young. And then I report to him, and I'm essentially the lead designer for the Connected Franchise mode.
B/R: I would love to know, among your team, what's the football IQ over there? I know you have a ton of players and consultants coming in, but how big of football fans are you guys, the guys that actually work on the game?
JL: In terms of the game designers, I think we're all crazy football nuts. Most of us growing up were memorizing stats and doing all kinds of crazy stuff.
From my perspective, if you work on Madden and you're not insane about football as a designer, then you're probably not a good fit for us. We religiously watch every game throughout the entire season. We've got artists and programmers on our team that just love football.
I think one of the things that makes our team unique is that we have a lot of people working on our game that do love football—but traditionally, even in sports games, you don't have a lot of programmers that are necessarily football fans. They might be huge fans of other role-playing games and that kind of stuff. It doesn't mean that they're not great programmers. It just means that they're not the biggest football fans.
But on our team, on Connected Franchise mode, on Owner mode, we're pretty lucky. We've got a group of guys obsessed with football and really want to make sure that we get the details right.
B/R: Connected Franchise and the owner mode are really making a sort of revival, and the feature is as robust as ever. What prompted your team to bring those earlier elements, like setting hot dog prices, and that level of detail back into this year's game?
JL: Honestly, people have been asking us to bring those features back. It was one of those things that I think people really...they love that ability to control everything about the franchise. When you talk about that level of detail, it was something we were missing in the past couple years' games that people really asked us to bring back.
I think the first thing we heard when we started talking to people about owner mode was (a) "Can I relocate my team or rebuild my stadium?" and (b) "Can I set prices?"
So it may not necessarily be...I don't know if Jerry Jones is going down to the concession stands every day and saying, "Hey, let's raise hot dog prices five dollars!" But we re-designed the mode this year, and we really tried to focus on it almost as a Tycoon type of game.
Not only are you running your entire team and making all the decisions about personnel and coaches and that kind of stuff, but there's a real benefit to maximizing your profit as a team. Those are the knobs you're given as the person playing the game.
B/R: You even have some of the NFL owners themselves involved in the game this year. And there are portraits of staffers for the new console as well. What's different from the last owner mode, and what's new?
JL: We took the concepts from the initial owner mode, and we wanted to carry some of those forward. We really looked at this as a reboot like Star Trek or Man of Steel, the movies out there that are still staying true to the ideas and the concepts of the source material, but taking it in a new direction and really expanding on it. So, we've added things that seven or eight years ago weren't as big a deal in the NFL.
We've got players that sell jerseys in their game. The most popular players, like RG3, you want to get them on your roster, because not only will they play well on the field, but they'll also sell jerseys, and that'll help your bottom line.
The game will track how popular your team is, making a big deal out of how successful you've been. It's not just about tweaking ticket prices and concessions anymore. You've also got to prove it on the field. You've got to win the big national games, the Sunday night games and Monday night games to improve the overall value of your team.
You can still play 30 seasons.
Last year when we sat down and started designing the Connected Franchise feature—and I'd been pitching this to different members of the Madden team for the last four years—and the whole goal was to try to create a brand-new mode last year that allowed you to play really any way you wanted to.
So if you wanted to play as a player, if you wanted to be a quarterback—if you wanted to be Tom Brady or create your own quarterback and start as a rookie, you could do that in Connected Franchise. If you wanted to be RG3, you could. You could still play all kinds of positions and still be in the same league as someone who wants to be a coach, and with someone who wants to be an owner.
So now, if you've got a buddy that wants to control his entire team, and another who doesn't really care about the profit of the franchise but he still wants to control his team and coach them on the field, and you have another buddy who wants to be the greatest running back of all time and break records, you can do that all at once in the same mode.
No other sports game does that, and we'd never done anything like that before. It just allows you a lot of different ways to play and connect with each other.
B/R: I see.
JL: When we created the name for Connected Careers last year, and Connected Franchise this year, we do really want it to feel like everything going on in the league is connected to you, whether it's being done by other human people or by the CPU teams. We spent a lot of time writing logic and tuning things. It's what I've been doing for the last three or four months, and I'm working a lot of late nights right now to get it right. (Author's note: Josh and I spoke in May.)
When you get into the offseason in this game, the draft logic makes sense. The trades between the teams make sense. We want you to feel connected to this living universe, as if it was the real NFL.
B/R: It sounds like you guys haven't finished the game. When is the game actually finished, compared to when it actually ships?
JL: We finish the game typically somewhere in June or July. And there are different aspects of finishing the game, as far as actually tuning the game and getting the logic to look right. We try to finish that as early as we can so we can finish on searching the game for bugs from a design perspective right now. And we're trying to go fast and furious to finish everything off and get everything as realistic as possible.
B/R: And you guys work on the game year-round, and we've seen significant jumps with each year, so I have to ask you about Xbox One. We've seen the demo for it recently. The Madden demo we saw was incredible. Are you guys foaming at the mouth to be creating a game for new hardware, or are you more concerned about meeting expectations for the new platform? What's the attitude toward Xbox One?
JL: Unfortunately, I can't say anything about it—
B/R: Aw, come on!
JL: I am very excited for "the future." We'll say it that way. I can't officially say anything about it. I think "the future" is gonna be bright.
By the way, I think your buddy Matt Miller is all over the game again this year. He is in our Twitter feed and Connected Franchise, in our virtual Twitter feed. He actually helped us write some of the branching stories for the rookie this year, so he brought some of his scouting and draft knowledge into the fold. He's been a huge asset to us and we all spend a lot of time on your site reading articles on that.
B/R: I'll pass that along. If you ever need anyone to write dick jokes for "Madden 26," let me know.
JL: [Laughs] Awesome, man.