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EA rushes Michael Vick into Madden NFL 10 in surprise overtime session [Updated]

August 14, 2009 |  1:17 pm
Michael Vick
Michael Vick, No. 7, is back in the game (the video game). Credit: Jim McIsaac / Getty Images.

Where were you last night when the Philadelphia Eagles announced they would sign Michael Vick?

If you were with some senior developers at Electronic Arts Tiburon, you would have been caught halfway through your meal at Buffalo Wild Wings in Orlando, celebrating the launch of one of the year's biggest titles, Madden NFL 10, which began selling at midnight.

Instead of high-fives, though, the development team had to regroup. The announcement meant they had to make one more pass at the game to add Vick into the virtual lineup. 

“I looked at our product manager and said, 'Couldn't he have just given us just one more day?' " recalled EA Tiburon spokesman Rob Semsey, who was part of the group at the restaurant. But it was after 8 p.m., and there was no time for deep philosophical discussions.

The game's art director, Mike Young, immediately abandoned his wings and headed back to the studio. Donny Moore, Madden's designer, who was en route to the restaurant, made a U-turn right back to the studio.

The rest, about eight others, got to work at the restaurant.

"I have an iPhone," Semsey said. "It's disgusting now. It’s got greasy thumbprints all over it from me making calls and texting on it while trying to eat our hot wings."

What's the big deal? some of you might ask. Can't EA just pop in their model from when Vick was in Madden in 2007, before he was banished from the NFL and sentenced to 23 months in federal prison for running a dogfighting ring?

Not so fast, said Semsey. For one thing ...

... it's been two years since Vick played. In those intervening years, the studio had added a number of features to the game to make it seem more realistic. And its player ranking system had become much more sophisticated. So while some stats on Vick are available, there have been new stats created for which there is no information on the former Falcons quarterback.

"We have art assets from when he was in Madden a few years ago," Semsey explained. "We have some player ratings and face maps from that. We used that as the foundation. But a lot of things have changed since then."

Not the least of which is the big question of whether Vick is in the same shape as when he was the No. 1 draft pick by the Atlanta Falcons in 2001.

That, however, will be a temporary concern. Each week, EA gets film clips of every NFL game played that week. EA feeds the performance data of every team and player into its player ranking system, tweaking their strengths and weaknesses to keep up with the actual game. Games that are played on Internet-connected game consoles are able to download the latest stats and rosters into Madden's digital gridiron.

So how long will it take Vick to get back into the game -- the video game, that is? Semsey said Vick is on track to land in the Philadephia Eagles' lineup Wednesday, August 19. 

Updated: This post has been updated to include the release date for Michael Vick's addition to Madden NFL 10. And thanks to an eagle-eyed reader, we also corrected the release date to Wednesday.

--Alex Pham