The flawless revealing, two weeks ago, of the NFL's new uniforms and their designs required an unusual level of secrecy. But it was a particularly nerve-wracking process for the Madden NFL developers, the game's creative director told me.
That's because last year, a Madden teaser video — the kind everyone picks apart for clues about the new game — briefly featured the Buffalo Bills in recognisably different uniforms. New getups are a no-lose publicity opportunity for most any professional team, and parading players in throwback designs can see a few ticket packages sold the next day. But a Buffalo TV station noticed the slip, and there was no way to put the toothpaste back in the tube.
"Had to answer some tough questions on prematurely revealing a team's new jersey," the executive producer at the time said over Twitter.
Mike Young, the Madden creative director, remembered the incident, and said there was a big sigh of relief on April 4, when everything went public without a hitch. Only a handful of design staff had knowledge of the new looks, and worked on them for about a month in near-quarantine.
In the past, the Madden got the same kind of uniform design schematics that go out to other media, Young told me. So some details weren't apparent — such as the way in which the stripe tapers in the back on, yes, the Buffalo Bills helmet that the Madden team leaked last year.
This time, Young said, they came back with images of the uniforms, from dozens of angles, highlighting details such as the new stitching, two-tone collars and sleeve trim, and the distinctive Pro-Combat padding design. The Oakland Raiders also have brought back laces to the front of their pants, a throwback look Young especially admired.
These were actual photographs, too; nothing was transmitted digitally, Young said, to eliminate the potential for stray copies.
Perhaps EA Sports' inclusion was aided by the fact this was a new uniform designer, who had no history with the Bills fiasco and, in the debut of a new product, absolutely wanted it in the game for the promotional value. Young indicated that Nike was beyond cooperative in providing full details of the new looks.
EA Sports, for its part, set aside a "clean room" where everyone who was supposed to have access to the designs worked in solitude. Its internet connection was cut, too. Testing how they looked in-game required a separate build of Madden NFL 13, as well. Young told me there were some very senior members of the team who had no awareness of the uniform project.
Pro Combat designs have been seen in EA Sports football products before — the sometimes garish alternate designs of college teams in NCAA Football. So if the term was used around EA Sports Tiburon, it wouldn't necessarily raise eyebrows.
Still, those threads weren't as detailed as the ones going into Madden. Some of the changes haven't gone over well with some fans. Metallic-coloured pants, like the Detroit Lions' silver, become a matte colour with the Pro Combat fabric. Some teams refused the Pro Combat look on their pants in order to preserve a glossy metallic finish.
The new uniforms in Madden 13 will reflect nearly every new detail, except for one: The "Sweatbox", as Paul Lukas of Uniwatch puts it. This is a rectangular area on the back of the uniform that seems to enhance a player's belly- and backsweat as a game goes on.
Young said the "sweatbox" will not darken in Madden 13. No grody backsweat in this game.