At Under the Code, we have a staff of writers and gamers who bring to the table very different sets of insights into the sports video games which we all play and enjoy. At various times over the course of the year, we will be gathering ourselves to answer questions in a “roundtable” format where each member shares their thoughts on a title, either pre-release or after the game has hit store shelves. Today’s roundtable looks at the announcement of Gameplay details for NCAA Football 14 from EA SPORTS.
Please note that Romo Time and OneEighth have actually gotten the chance to go hands-on with NCAA Football 14 at Community Events at EA Tiburon so far this year. Their answers are highlighted in blue text to note this.
1. The first news on the NCAA Football franchise, historically, has been about graphics or improvements to in-game traditions. With NCAA Football 14 sharing its gameplay news first, what does this mean to you as a sports videogame fan?
Buckeye: Hopefully that means they put game play first this year. I think the presentation elements are great and all but seriously… we purchase the game to play it, not put it on autopilot and watch.
CoreySA: First and foremost, it tells me as a fan that the team realized that they made a few missteps and underachieved last year. Clearly there is a lot of pressure on them with lower sales and a lower Metacritic score in 2013. I think they want to show right off the bat that they’ve put some love into the franchise this year and a lot has been said for only one day of info.
NatureBoy: I was very excited to hear that gameplay was first out of the gate. Usually, gameplay news is released later in the month.
OneEighth: Although I think graphics are in a desperate need of a tune up in terms of atmosphere like crowd and sidelines I don’t see that happening until next-gen. With this iteration I truly believe the focus is deeper into gameplay this year. Graphics do not make a game great, gameplay first, always.
Paakaa10: From the moment I learned that Madden NFL 13 would be getting the Infinity Engine and NCAA Football 13 would not, it started an internal countdown for me until NCAA Football 14. Seeing the news cycle for NCAA Football 14 start with gameplay details—and confirmation of the Infinity Engine coming to the game for certain—helps to erase many concerns about the college game’s gameplay getting left behind in the wake of the professional game.
Romo Time: To me this means they are very confident in their product, and being a part of the community for the last 10 years this is one of the most asked for feature sets every year. To me this pumps me up more about a game than if it is saved for the last, and even though it is early there remains hope with this announcement the game will have improved leaps and bounds over NCAA Football 13.
2. The first big announcement for NCAA Football 14 was pretty much already confirmed last year when Madden NFL 13 took center stage at E3: that physics will make its way to NCAA this year in the form of Infinity Engine 2.0. What are your initial thoughts?
Buckeye: NCAA Football 13 was a pretty good game, but not having physics and knowing full well that Madden would absolutely killed it for me. The physics we will see in NCAA should be a large upgrade from what we got last year in Madden NFL 13. Hopefully it will be fleshed out to the point of a complete impact engine in all facets of the game. Time will tell…
CoreySA: I have a wait and see attitude on just how much more advanced the system is. One noted improvement has me excited however – the ability for RB’s to push through the line or push off teammates with their arm. This is something that’ll be warmly welcomed after Madden 13 struggled with RB’s running into linemen and falling down in the backfield.
NatureBoy: From everything I have read about the new Infinity Engine 2.0, it sounds much better than what is in Madden NFL 13 right now. No more players tripping over one another after the play is over would be a welcome addition to both NCAA and Madden.
OneEighth: Huge, and much needed. What makes this really impressive is they didn’t settle for just taking the version Madden had last year but they took it and kept working on it to make it better. With all the other improvements to player locomotion in conjunction with Infinity Engine is going to make for some fun football.
Paakaa10: The Infinity Engine was a big first step towards gameplay evolution in Madden NFL 13, but it was not without its warts that had an effect on the overall enjoyment of the gameplay experience. Seeing the first footage of NCAA Football 14 in action—with an emphasis on enhanced footwork, directional changes, and more tools for the offensive player to try and outrun and outplay the defense—makes me very hopeful for the end result and very much interested in the day that I finally get my hands on the game.
Romo Time: I saw first-hand back in January what they had planned for the Infinity Engine 2.0 and I have to say it was impressive, and from what I saw from the video they have improved it quite well even from what I remember there at the studio. If they have truly replicated real life movement we “may” have something big on our hands. The jury is still out though!
3. How do you feel about the acceleration burst feature and how it will work in conjunction with other game play mechanics?
Buckeye: It’s about time they removed “Speed Burst”, hopefully Madden follows suit. The acceleration burst should be just a single button press that jolts the ball carrier to his top end speed in a short amount of time based on his acceleration rating. I’m not sure if that is how it will work but hopefully it is. This feature in itself should help nullify zig-zag running even further as well as make one-on-one moves easier to pull off in the open field.
CoreySA: Sounds like a solid improvement over the auto sprint, which I was never a fan of. It’s more realistic for a guy to burst into the open field then to have a sprint button. I have always been someone who would prefer to see turbo buttons and sprint buttons removed from sports titles completely.
NatureBoy: This one of those things I have to see and play for myself before I can make a comment on.
OneEighth: I really enjoyed how this feature played in the version I had my hands on. This combined with a more realistic player fatigue is going to make things real interesting through the course of long tough game. Depth and formation changes are going to matter more than ever now.
Paakaa10: The “Speed Burst” mechanic has always been a gameplay feature that I’ve not been the biggest fan of; I actually went through a few PlayStation 3 controllers because the R2 buttons eventually gave up due to too much holding down to get football players to speed up between NCAA Football and Madden NFL. The new “acceleration burst” mechanic sounds very intriguing, and if it works as described I can see a whole new style of gameplay opening up for those of us who like to run the ball between the tackles. I feel like there could be an element of risk and reward involved as well, since choosing to accelerate at the wrong time could lead to a collision with the offensive line or being forced to juke and potentially end up on the receiving end of a Hit Stick tackle.
Romo Time: I feel this was a great feature for certain type of players IE. Scat Backs, Wide Receiver, and others. What I don’t want to see from this is big body type players beating quick/fast players to the edge all the time when they both are starting off from the same spot. This feature could be nice if it has been done the way it was presented, and could be a game changer.
4. With the new built in avoidance mechanic feature, how do you seeing this benefiting the game?
Buckeye: You mean I won’t get stuck on my lineman when I’m running through the hole?!? It’s about time!!! Enough said.
CoreySA: I pretty much answered this for question #2, so I’ll avoid repetition here.
NatureBoy: To me, it sounds like the running game will be getting a workout this time around. As a guy who likes to run the football a lot, I’m looking forward to it.
OneEighth: This is something Madden NFL 13 needed dearly last year. I am glad that the guys working on NCAA saw that and made sure to not repeat the same mistake when implementing the new engine. This is another feature we got to test out at community day and the feeling of getting behind your lead blocker and being able to put your arm out against him instead of running up his back was really awesome to see.
Paakaa10: Even before the Infinity Engine was introduced in Madden NFL 13, one of the great frustrations of the running game in both EA SPORTS football games was getting stuck behind one of your own blockers and not having any tools in place to get around those players and try to gain some yardage in spite of the obstruction. The new “avoidance mechanic” sounds like it will not only make the game look better in terms of how the ballcarrier approaches other players on the field, but also make the game play better once you’re behind the sticks and controlling the action.
Romo Time: This has me more excited than any for this year’s game. I love to run the ball that sets up the pass, but in NCAA Football 13 and Madden NFL 13 running was almost impossible inside the tackles as players always seem to get caught on each other making an easy target, so with this feature you will get the running back putting hands out to push his way around the line of scrimmage. I have played Assassin’s Creed and I believe this was brought up that this feature would be like that which will be a breath of fresh air to experience.
5. What are your feelings on the reworked option game (including visual cues on when to pitch)? How will it improve your Option Offense?
Buckeye: I don’t run the option… we are the Buckeyes! We hit you in the mouth and run play action. That option stuff is for schools without real football skills (Michigan).
CoreySA: I am a big fan of how they’ve added a training mechanic. Educational tools and cues of how to read defenses are a huge step in the right direction. Since it’s such a huge part of the college game, it’s nice to see a focus on this as it has gone largely untouched for years.
NatureBoy: This is music to my ears. Like I said before, I love to run the football.. This new feature will help guys like me who go with a run oriented offense.
OneEighth: NCAA’s option game of the past has been lackluster especially when it came to timing those pitches. I am not an option guy and I run very little options in my NCAA game planning and play calling so I may not be the best to speak on this subject. The one thing I noticed and liked a lot is the new option icons above your players. This lets you know who the option players are and when is the best time to pitch or keep it.
Paakaa10: The Option offense is so great and such an essential aspect of college football today, but there’s been a definite steep learning curve involved with trying to master it in NCAA Football in the past. Hopefully the attention paid to this offensive style will have immediate results in terms of making those Option teams more viable to play as in the game, and hopefully the in-game visual cues meant to illustrate the defenders to watch for will have the side effect of actually teaching more NCAA Football 14 players about how the offense works so that they can run it more effectively.
Romo Time: I have never been one to run the option for fear of making the untimely mistake that would cost me the game, but down at EA when they had told us about this feature I tried it out, and let’s just say it is a very good teaching tool on the fly. It gave me a new dimension to my offense, and I’ll be using the option more this year for a new wrinkle here and there.
6. Do you feel that the fatigue meter might calm down some of the online players from using exploits with fast receivers who run “4 Verticals” all game with hurry up and never get tired?
Buckeye: If it works as it should, it will be a great feature! Maybe we will have a game where having a deep team with strong back up players will finally mean something.
CoreySA: The fatigue meter is much needed. It’s also nice to hear that we’ll have the ability to mix up personnel as well. I just hope the meter doesn’t take up a huge amount of real estate on the screen. I think you’ll definitely see less exploitation of specific routes that rely on speed continuously.
NatureBoy: Online cheese will be cut down in a big way. No more wide receiver running down the field catch a 40 yard bomb every play. Frankly, this should have been included in the game years ago.
OneEighth: I absolutely love this feature this year. Long gone are the days of sending receivers down field on streaks every play. This adds so much to realism. Endurance will play a much larger role as well as how and when you use player substitutions. You will also be able to see just how tired a player is by his body language on the field.
Paakaa10: One of my favorite things about NHL 13 this past year was seeing how various maneuvers on the ice could directly impact your player’s stamina when playing in Be-A-Pro mode; it really brought some grounding and realism to the experience of playing as a professional athlete in the game and seeing how various moves can impact their performance level when you do them too often. NCAA Football has long been in need of a way to make your back-up players more important and make it important to have a substantial amount of depth on your roster; perhaps this emphasis on tracking player fatigue will be a feature that finally makes it important to recruit for depth instead of need.
Romo Time: Absolutely! Guys will be forced to manage the game and their players just like a real coach would, and if you don’t you get the pleasure of watching your 99 SPD, and 99 ACC, WR get caught from behind because he is totally winded from running all those Verticals. I’m smiling on this one!
7. From early video and impressions, player movement seems more focused on foot planting and speed at which you can make cuts. How do you think this will affect how players attack the other side of the ball?
Buckeye: As long as the agility and acceleration is applied in a realistic fashion on both sides of the ball then I think we will see some real “stick skills” competition in both online and vs. CPU. Taking the correct angle will be key to the success of the play.
CoreySA: What’s interesting is we have yet to learn if locomotion and foot improvements have made it to any position other than running back. There were a few instances in the video where the defenders would make strange cuts or movements. It’s obviously early still, but I need to see how defenders will be improved to really gain an understanding of how the system will work overall – especially on how they pursue the ball carrier. With that said, I’m very excited to finally see an end to the ‘zig-zag’ running motions and this could be a huge plateau moving forward in Tiburon’s football titles.
NatureBoy: For all of our sakes, let’s hope it affects both sides of the ball. Defensive players need to able to do this as well as the offense.
OneEighth: One word I will describe it for both sides of the ball is: Explosive. Players can burst through the gap, jump to the outside, or cut back in a swift juke. Not to be out done the defense gets the same acceleration and explosiveness so I am sure we will see some big plays as well as some hard hits.
Paakaa10: In NCAA Football 13, it was definitely more fun to play on offense than it was on defense; the game seemed to pretty heavily favor high-scoring contests. However, sometimes it felt like this was due to the game not really penalizing offensive or defensive players for making movements too quickly. While obviously I won’t know until I get the chance to play for myself, I’m hopeful that the work done on foot planting and cuts on the field will give both sides of the ball equal opportunity to get plays made. I am a little nervous that the ballcarrier moves might be too effective against defensive players, but I’m hopeful for a solid balance which gives the defense some tricks to use to make the tackle as well.
Romo Time: Well it should force guys to break down, and play the position. I hated it when you saw a hole develop to the backside, and not be able to make the proper cuts. Defensive guys will have to play more conservative or face giving up more big plays in my opinion.
8. Do you have any additional thoughts on the information out now? Have you found any new tidbits from the screenshots or video released so far?
Buckeye: I’m cautiously optimistic, we will see what Madden NFL 25 releases and hopefully it doesn’t ruin my excitement again this year about NCAA Football 14.
CoreySA: Although it was mentioned that line play and blocking AI had been fixed, we still haven’t heard exactly how far they’ve taken these improvements. For me, this will be integral to the success of the other gameplay mechanics because foot planting and locomotion is all for nothing if the line can’t block appropriately. Going into this year’s football titles, I said footwork and line interactions would be the most pivotal necessities and so far we’ve seen strides in one department but I’ll remain cautiously optimistic until I get further details on the second system. Overall though, I’m very happy with what I’ve seen and heard so far on NCAA Football 14. It appears as if the team is preparing to give us their best attempt at fixing the ship after last year’s less than stellar edition.
NatureBoy: From what I have read and seen so far, it looks like this will be a breakout year for NCAA Football. I was very disappointed with last year’s game. I’m excited to see all of the new features implemented in this year’s title. Hopefully, little brother (NCAA Football) will be running neck and neck with big brother (Madden NFL).
OneEighth: The stumble and recovery mechanic really makes the Infinity Engine pop with realism. No longer will I see the start of an animation and set the controller down because I know the play is over. Keep fighting, reach for that extra yard. Also the player avoidance mechanic will really not only add realism but take away a lot of frustration when running the ball up the middle or behind a lead blocker.
Paakaa10: Not so much a gameplay note, but the early screens and video of Texas A&M seem to show that the undershirts and sleeves which are part of some college football uniforms are making their way into NCAA Football 14; the “12th Man” arm sleeve is highly-visible for the Aggies. It also looks like Georgia’s new uniforms—just unveiled by the university earlier this week—are in the game as well, based on the screenshot of Georgia and Florida against each other. From the first Oregon screenshot, it would also appear that new glove designs and styles have made it into the game too. As for gameplay, I’m optimistic about all the things I’ve seen thus far—the apparent return of the Truck Stick and the Hit Stick are particularly exciting—but I know, just like with Madden NFL 13 last year, that the true test will come when I get a controller in my hand. Here’s hoping everything works as well as it sounds right now.
Romo Time: I have to say that the physics are looking very sharp in the game at this point, and the Oregon Ducks helmets look sick, and I can’t wait for them to release presentation stuff.
That concludes our first official Under The Code staff roundtable for NCAA Football 14; what do you think about the Gameplay news and details so far? Join our Community Forums and let us know your take!