With NCAA Football 13 hitting stores this week we here offered the chance to talk to the development team about what people can expect from this iteration of the game. The interview questions were answered by Ben Haumiller, the producer, of the game.
We know the college football season is still a few months off but who looks good to you right now?
There are a lot of people jumping back on the USC bandwagon this year and with that offense it’s easy to see why, but until the SEC West is removed from their throne it’s hard to not consider LSU or Alabama two of the top teams in the country.
The NCAA has just approved a playoff system for the 2014 season, what are your thoughts on the new system? Is this something that we’ll see in the game next year? Have you had any contingencies around this ever happening or not?
I think the playoff system is going to bring a new level of excitement to college football, and as a game developer it’s exciting to be able to replicate that new experience in our game. As for the actual implementation of the playoff, that’s something we are still discussing internally as to when it will make its debut. There are still a lot of details to be ironed out before we can make any changes to the game. While it’s known that there will be a 4-team playoff, details like the selection of those teams and the locations of those games are still being determined. Since the development team is made up of college football fans the topic of a playoff has come up a lot over the years, and there are a lot of guys on the team looking forward to seeing a working playoff in the game.
What steps have been taken to ensure that most of players' complaints have been addressed, such as the "psychic" and "super" linebackers? What’s the biggest community issue that you’ve addressed in this year’s game?
Above anything else, Gameplay rules the day, so I think the end of the “psychic” DB’s and “super” LB’s would be the biggest community issue addressed. Those issues led to more frustration from players than anything else in the game because you would see it in situations where you did everything right, but then out of nowhere the DB would jump a route and pick off the pass, or a LB would swat the ball down without looking back for the ball. Forcing the CPU controlled defenders to look at the ball before they can make a play on it, combined with the new passing trajectories, has given us the best passing game we’ve ever had.
Draft classes have been a staple of the franchise for several games. Why was the decision made to eliminate them? How long have you been thinking about making the change?
With Madden NFL 13’s new Connected Careers Mode they had to build that experience from the ground up. With an extremely tight development schedule there were certain features that were not able to be a part of this year’s version of Connected Careers; however, they are looking at reintroducing the feature a part of future iterations of the mode.
What do you think is the greatest improvement in this year’s game? What’s the biggest change that most people will overlook?
For the greatest improvement my personal favorites are the Studio Updates with Rece Davis. As a college football fan it’s hard for me to watch just one game at a time on a Saturday, and we felt that experience was missing in our game. So now you have the ESPN Bottom Line always running giving you the scores of the day during your game, and Rece Davis will cut in from the studio to tell you about some of those great games going on around you. These two additions totally change the way I consume a game, as I’m often keeping an eye on the bottom of the screen to see when that Upset Alert comes up to find out which Top 25 team is on the ropes and how that might affect the next week’s polls. As for the biggest change that most people will overlook, I would have to go with the new throw on the run animations. It looks so fluid to throw a pass while on the move that I don’t think people will remember that the QB used to set his feet before throwing the pass previously; these new throwing animations are such an underrated improvement to the game.
The new Heisman mode has garnered some great feedback from demo players so far. What was the reasoning for implementing this mode? How many design iterations did you go through before landing on this mode?
The Heisman Challenge was created out of a desire to add a brand new experience to the game. Since college football players are amateur athletes we are not able to include them in the game, so we have never been able to have that association that other sports games take for granted, which is the experience of controlling a real person in the game. With the Heisman Challenge you can play as one of the all-time greats of college football, instead of playing as “HB # 21” you can be Barry Sanders, instead of scrambling with “QB # 10” you can be Robert Griffin III. In addition to controlling these Heisman winners, you can also learn about their Heisman winning seasons in their own words through a series of interviews we did with each of the athletes. As a college football fan it’s great to hear these guys reminisce on their historic seasons. As for how many design iterations we went through, the mode you see in the final game is pretty close to the initial design that was pitched for the mode. The birth of the concept really should be credited to Eddie George; we were talking to some reps from Nissan and they told us a story that Eddie told during a recent commercial shoot. He said that when he played the NCAA series he always created himself and made himself a freshman at SMU and played out the scenario of “what if I went to SMU?” From there the basic concept of the mode was in place. Then came the addition of Reaction Time, which is the new gameplay mechanic that allows you to “slow the game down” and really see the field as these Heisman winners did. From there it was just a matter of signing our Heisman athletes, creating their models, interviewing them and putting everything together.
Dynasty players have complained about how stagnant the mode has been the last couple of versions. What will make them really enjoy Dynasty mode this time around?
I think fans of the Dynasty will really enjoy the Studio Updates and Bottom Line ticker I mentioned above, but the improvements to recruiting will also go a long way in making Dynasty mode a more fun and dynamic experience. New features like scouting allow you the ability to find out the actual ratings of prospects while you are still recruiting them. This allows you to evaluate prospects and find the gems of the class while avoiding the guys that might not be as good as advertized. We have also made the recruiting pitches dynamic and pitch grades can change as often as every week. You will now know how a grade is determined, and what you need to do to improve your grade, which gives recruiting a new dynamic feel because your grades can fluctuate as the season progresses, and in turn that may change your recruiting and possibly even on-field tactics.
Reflecting back on the series on the current console generation, what do you think is the most important change you’ve made? Outside of graphics, what will the next console generation offer that you can’t do now?
I think the most important change during this console generation was the addition of Online Dynasty. Dynasty is far and away our most popular mode, and by putting that mode online and allowing fans to participate in a persistent mode against each other you saw a rebirth of interest in the mode. Recruiting is so much more fun when you are beating out a friend to get the commitment from a recruit, and winning that national championship is always sweeter when you know that by you winning the trophy it means that all of your friends are going home with nothing. As for what the next generation of consoles will bring, that’s a great question. It’s still too early to know exactly what new experiences the next generation will bring, but we are excited to see what these new consoles will be able to do.
I'd like to thank Ben for taking the time to answer our questions as well as Matt for coordinating the interview. Sean Cahill helped contribute questions to this interview