As we continue to approach the release of NCAA Football 14 in a little over a month, the news cycle is pushing out some of the last major information about this year’s college football game. EA SPORTS released a trailer for Dynasty Mode improvements yesterday, with plenty to be gleaned from it if you look closely enough. Today at Under The Code, we welcome cdj and JBHuskers from The Gaming Tailgate to have a Roundtable discussion of this career mode news.
1. Before we get into the details of what’s been added to NCAA Football 14, let’s take some time to talk about your prior experience with Dynasty and Online Dynasty in the NCAA Football franchise. How much do you play this career mode in the game? What are your favorite things about it, and what do you most want to change based on how the mode is as of NCAA Football 13?
Buckeye: I have been playing NCAA Football since back when it was Bill Walsh College Football on Sega Genesis. When it comes to Dynasty Mode I have been playing that since they first introduced it. I want to see recruiting become harder without the feeling of being cheap. I’m a big fan of using small schools just because it’s so much harder to recruit players.
Drifterbub: I was an offline dynasty guy growing up as a kid and became instantly hooked on NCAA Football 09 and its introduction of Online Dynasty. I founded ‘The Deuce’ and it has become one of the most successful NCAA Online Dynasties in existence. To me, Online Dynasty is the pinnacle of online league gaming as it allows a close-knit group to power through many seasons of on and off the field battles.
NCAA Football 13 was a big letdown as far as I’m concerned. As a dynasty nut, NCAA 13 fell on its face with a redundant and often broken recruiting system; made getting into the game very tough to do for most hardcore OD guys.
JBHuskers: I have been playing dynasty since I got into the series with NCAA Football 2002. Been playing Online Dynasty since its inception, and basically it is about the only thing I play in the series now a days being into three and sometimes four Online Dynasties. My favorite thing about it is competing with members of The Gaming Tailgate. Based on NCAA Football 13, I would like to change the time it takes to get in, recruit, and play your game; which we have learned will be much improved in NCAA Football 14.
Official Mole: I play Online Dynasty every year. In fact it is my favorite Online League mode out of all sports video games. My favorite part of Online Dynasty would have to be the options of Conference Re-alignment. Gives you a way to keep up to date with what’s going on in the real NCAA changes. I would love to see expansion to 16 users instead of 12; being able to run a Power-Conference Dynasty with every team as a user would be very exciting.
OneEighth: I almost only play Dynasty mode. I always play with Akron, and truly enjoy building a team from the ground up. Recruiting players, watching them grow then sending them to Madden NFL where they can continue their careers. That is why I enjoy playing NCAA Football.
Paakaa10: While I haven’t had much experience on the Online Dynasty side of things, I usually try to play at least one Dynasty each year with the game. Honestly, I like the concepts of recruiting and building a team and working through the college football season, but there have been a lot of “legacy issues” with regard to loading time and progression through the mode which have hamstrung my willingness to commit to the mode in the past. Playing Dynasty mode just a few weeks ago in NCAA Football 13 was just a reminder of how slow the mode can be, so I’m excited that NCAA Football 14 is introducing ways to streamline the experience.
2. The big changes that are coming to Dynasty mode in NCAA Football 14 can be split into two features; Coach Skills and Power Recruiting. The first feature, Coach Skills, introduces new “skill trees” which focus on the development of your Head Coach or Offensive/Defensive Coordinator through earning XP. As a Head Coach, there are two branches of the “skill tree”: Game Management, which affects on-field performance, and Recruiting, which obviously affects the recruiting process. Which branch are you most interested in and think you will put the most XP into? Why?
Buckeye: I’m interested in both really. I can see myself agonizing over where to spend points first. Obviously recruiting is important but I will also use points to help cover up deficiencies of my team on the field.
cdj: Recruiting. Personally, I feel that if I can get the best players possible it keeps them away from my foes and that I can make up for any shortcomings in Game Management/OC/DC skills with top-notch talent on the field.
Drifterbub: Definitely the recruiting branch. I feel like the Game Management tree has a lot of neat features, however, feel their effectiveness or value may not be realized. I feel like the perks from the Recruiting Tree are very easy to translate to actual advantages. This assumes that you believe in recruiting and since you are reading a discussion on dynasty features, I hope that you are.
JBHuskers: Recruiting gives the sweetest rewards between the two categories. There are boosts there that you will have to have in order to have a competitive recruiting class.
Official Mole: Chances are I will use Wisconsin, a big team with a power-run type of offense. My goals would be to increase Game Management to get my team better throughout the season so we can finally win a Rose Bowl. Losing three straight already, I can’t see them lose another one.
OneEighth: Most likely recruiting, although I am not 100% sure yet. Since I enjoy building up small schools I may need that ability to pull better athletes then rely on my stick skills on the field.
Paakaa10: I’m leaning towards the “Game Management” tree in the early going here; having the ability to “coach up” my players and get them prepared for the actual gameplay experience could go a long way towards building up a successful program that lends itself to recruiting solid players.
3. In the Game Management skill tree, there are skills like “Antifreeze” to prevent your kicker from being “iced,” “Setup Artist” to help set up your play action pass plays more quickly after successful runs, and “Clutch” where your team gets performance bonuses in high-pressure situations. Each of the skills has three levels of development, with different perks at each level. What is your take on having Coach Skills which affect on-field performance? How do you feel about such perks affecting player-versus-player games in an Online Dynasty?
Buckeye: That is the way it should be. I should get bonuses for being a better coach. It shouldn’t be all about who has the faster players. I’m excited to see how it plays out in user vs. user games. I know for sure I’m going to max out the “Setup Artist” perk early since I love running play action.
Drifterbub: Honestly, I like to see most of the perks minimized for on-field performance with regards to ratings. I find it realistic that a coach can motivate his team or affect the composure of individual players, however.
I feel like the coaching skills differentiate each user and just adds dimensions on top of things like talent and ‘stick skills.’
JBHuskers: As long as they don’t give the player an overpowering advantage, they will be perfectly fine. Unfortunately we won’t be able to truly judge it until we set it in motion.
Official Mole: NCAA Football needed to have a way for us to affect our players throughout the season. Skills like “Anti-Freeze” and “Setup Artist” are great ways to replicate how coaches prepare and improve their players each week from a real life perspective. Kickers over time should be able to handle being “iced” if you’re a clutch kicker and if your team executes run plays you should increase your chances of a successful play-action. I can’t wait to dig deeper into the coaching tree elements and seeing how they affect my team.
OneEighth: This doesn’t bother me much since I am strictly an offline guy. Although I think it would be just as fun having them in an online setting as well.
Paakaa10: I really like the idea of Coach Skills affecting the on-field performance, though I am a little bit wary of it for a few reasons. Obviously in user-versus-user scenarios, there’s a chance that the playing field might become unbalanced if the Coach Skills are too easily built up by certain players to the detriment of their competition. I do also wonder, however, whether or not the CPU players in an offline Dynasty might build these Coach Skills up quickly as well, lending an artificial feel to playing against the AI. I think it’s definitely something that can be managed to avoid issues, but it remains to be seen until the game is out in the wild.
4. In the Recruiting skill tree, there are skills like “Locksmith” to get back into “locked out” recruiting battles, “Letter of Intent” to gain extra off-season recruiting points and a better chance to steal a prospect away from their top school, and “Insta-Commit” to help boost your chances of getting an instant commit when offering a scholarship to a recruit. Again, each skill has three levels of development, with different perks at each level. What is your take on having Coach Skills which affect the recruiting process? How do you feel about such perks affecting recruiting between human players in an Online Dynasty?
Buckeye: I would say it’s excellent. All players have access to these based on performance. I’m sorry but in the real world great coaches have a clear recruiting advantage over average ones. I’m glad to see it in the video game world as well. Hopefully it works properly.
Drifterbub: I feel that this is a very accurate representation of the differences between coaches who are considered elite recruiters and your run-of-the-mill program salesman. Coaches like Nick Saban have specific strategies and skill sets that allow him to be more effective. Ron Zook is another guy that comes to mind. In an Online Dynasty users will have to pay specific attention to these coach skills or they will be left with a team of scrubs.
JBHuskers: Same thing goes within the previous question. As long as it isn’t too overpowering, these types of boosts will add a nice strategy to the game where a coach can mold their skills their way.
Official Mole: It’s fair game when it comes to user vs. user. Personally, if you use your XP and skills wisely, this could be a deadly way to improve your team over the course of your Online Dynasty. Even if a player “locks” you out of his teams of interest, you should be able to work your way back in but you have to earn that ability. NCAA Football 14 will make you work harder for your recruits, which is something I am happy about. Skills such as “Insta-Commit” and “Letter of Intent” sound very interesting; can’t wait to learn more about it.
OneEighth: Again, I am an offline guy. All this does is add an extra layer of strategy online or offline. No longer are all coaches the same, now you must take into consideration what your rival coaches may be doing when recruiting.
Paakaa10: Since the recruiting process is so key to the college football experience, it makes perfect sense to have a whole set of Coach Skills which tie into the recruiting experience. I have some of the same concerns as in the previous question when it comes to user-versus-user recruiting battles in an Online Dynasty, but again it’s something that can be tuned and policed to hopefully prevent any single player from being able to easily run the table.
5. Playing as a Coordinator features 9 skills on the skill tree for both Offensive and Defensive Coordinators, also featuring three levels of upgrades with different perks at each level. These skills typically tie into specific player attributes and ratings; for example, “Ball Security” on Offense boosts the Carrying rating for your players while “Ball Burglar” on Defense boosts the Catching, Spectacular Catch, and Catch in Traffic ratings for your defensive players to help in the turnover battle. Do you like how the Coordinator skills are more player-focused while the Head Coach skills are more team-focused? Where do you think your Dynasty/Online Dynasty career will begin; as the head honcho, or as a coordinator?
Buckeye: The last few years I have run Online Dynasty with 2 star teams or less and everyone had to start as a coordinator. To me it’s much more of a challenge, my biggest complaint was that I handled my side of the ball very well but the CPU AI was terrible for my other half of the team. Hopefully we get a chance to add the perks all the way around and they play out during the game.
Drifterbub: I think they did a good job of splitting the skill tree benefits into the appropriate categories. Most of our online dynasties at TSO start as HC, just because guys want full control. We always seem to have a few dynasties that start out as lower tier coordinators. It’s a good challenge.
JBHuskers: I do like how the Coordinator Skills are more player oriented as it somewhat reflects what happens in real life. The head coach manages the overall picture, and the coordinator deals more with micromanaging.
Official Mole: First and foremost, 99% of any Online Dynasty I join I prefer to be the head coach. With that being said, for those who are Coordinator type players I’m glad to see that the skills are player focused. I mean you only work with either offense or defense so by having more focus on one side of the ball you should be able to make a bigger impact on your players.
OneEighth: I always go straight to Head Coach because I need that control over my team. I do like how they balanced the skill trees between the coordinators and head coach; it does make sense that way after all.
Paakaa10: Differentiating the experience of being a Head Coach versus being a Coordinator is definitely key to the long-term enjoyment and development of Dynasty/Online Dynasty as a mode, so I’m a big fan of how the Coach Skills trees have these differences. I think I might actually decide to go as a Coordinator first in NCAA Football 14 to build up some of those skills and then transfer that experience to an eventual Head Coach position.
6. The other big feature for Dynasty and Online Dynasty in NCAA Football 14 is Power Recruiting. Gone are phone calls, replaced by a system where you invest a number of points each week of the season into scouting, recruiting, and scholarships. There will still be Dynamic Pitch Grades that recruits will consider about your school; you just won’t be engaging them in the “phone call conversation.” How do you feel about this move away from that system? Will you miss the phone call structure?
Buckeye: The phone call system was cool the first year. After that it was just monotonous. I’m looking forward to the new system and hopefully it doesn’t make me dread doing it every week like last year did after season 1.
cdj: This is a welcome move. While the old system was fun, it was the competitiveness against other users and feeling of success when landing top players that made it so – and each aspect still exists in the new system. The revamped methodology’s biggest benefit will be the time saved each week, if you decide to ‘let your points ride.’ However, the new system will still allow users to ‘go deep’ in looking for prospects, and invest time & strategy with the Lock and Deal Breaker features.
I definitely understand those in the NCAA Football community who will miss the phone call system (we’ve had several members say as much at The Gaming Tailgate) as it allowed the user to feel as if they were directly interacting and driving the discussion with student-athletes, however IMO this change is the best in the long run for users and the game alike.
Drifterbub: I would encourage people to not get hung up on the facade of the phone call system. It’s the same principle. Each college team has a bank of resources that it has to allocate to different prospects in a strategic way. The new power recruiting is more transparent with the point system and I think it allows people to both apply a ‘set it and leave it’ strategy or really micro-manage where the points are going.
JBHuskers: I love the change. Sometimes early in the season when you’re doing a lot of adding and dropping recruits, you can spend 30-45 minutes just in recruiting alone. I will somewhat miss the phone call system, but I won’t miss how tedious it was.
Official Mole: I’m happy the phone calls are gone. This new system seems quicker and simpler but still adds the excitement and depth of recruiting each and every week. I would probably have a more in-depth opinion on it if I had more time with the system, but I like what I have seen.
OneEighth: Good, I am glad it is changed. The phone call was getting dated and was taking so much time to do something so repetitive.
Paakaa10: The concept of the phone call was fine, but the execution certainly left a lot to be desired; it simply took too much time and there were too many instances of the game pausing to load in the process. A few weeks into a season, I would be hammering away at the buttons just trying to skip through phone calls and get the points I needed. I’m greatly looking forward to getting acquainted with Power Recruiting and how it can cut down on the amount of time I need to spend outside of the actual gameplay state.
7. One goal in the setup of Power Recruiting is to make the process as seamless as possible while simultaneously keeping the same depth of strategy as in previous years. For example, point allocation for what you spend on a player that you’re recruiting will carry over from week-to-week, meaning that user input is minimal if you get your recruiting system set up perfectly; you’ll only have to adjust as the recruit starts narrowing down his schools and “locking out” schools that don’t have a chance to be his selection. Will these changes to Recruiting in the hope of streamlining the experience make you more interested in spending time on this part of the game?
Buckeye: For me personally it will. As much as I love recruiting… it does get tedious; especially when all the big names are off the board.
cdj: I believe that it will as now there will not be repetitive grind. Some weeks will see a focus on surviving the potential cut-off for a recruit, some weeks facing a dreaded Deal Breaker, and some weeks where points will ride and no action will be necessary.
Drifterbub: This is an area of the game I’ve always spent a lot of time. The new recruiting system will make user battles very intense in online dynasties. I can see people really paying attention to what they are doing and utilizing the coach skills as ‘kickers’ to hopefully give them an edge.
JBHuskers: I already spent a lot of time on recruiting, so it will actually be less time, but probably more enjoyable.
Official Mole: Absolutely. I also believe it will make you want to study your recruits more and more each week to see how their “Teams of Interest” have updated.
OneEighth: Amazing. I was so happy when I saw this implemented months ago while in Orlando. Points are now the equivalent of “resources” or “time”. What it is called changes nothing but now the menus are streamlined and everything runs faster while maintaining all the same recruiting features and depth. If you want to spend max time on recruiting a player, instead of setting the max time every week like years past, all you do is set it to the max (or however many points you wish) and it stays that amount from week to week. You then can raise or lower that amount how you see fit from then on. This is the best recruiting system so far in NCAA in my opinion. Allocating points needs to be easier because now you need to focus more on where you stand on a players list and if you are moving up or dropping. All that matters so much more now.
Paakaa10: It’s definitely my hope that the changes in Power Recruiting will make me more likely to not only pay attention to the recruiting process but also be more involved in the process of building up my team over multiple seasons in the mode. If the amount of time saved translates to a more enjoyable overall experience, I think I’d be more willing to commit to multiple years in the mode instead of feeling frustrated and giving up after a single Bowl Season.
8. Each recruit in NCAA Football 14 will have Top Interests—the three things they find most important in the school they want to attend—which will either grant you a Bonus or set up a potential Deal Breaker which will lock you out of the race for that recruit, depending how well your grades match up to those interests. How do you feel about this overhaul to the recruiting system and the chance that you may not even be able to talk to the dream recruit based on how your school stacks up? Do you think this will help better show the difference between great schools and bad schools?
Buckeye: This is pretty slick in my opinion. If it’s a deal breaker then cool I will just go find someone else. Last year you could keep working at bit and convince them to sign most of the time. That’s not very realistic.
Drifterbub: Love it. Love it. Love it. The ability to recruit and have the potential to sign any recruit you want is simply not realistic. Kids shun schools all the time for various reasons. I think it helps separate the good and bad schools and hopefully will prevent things like taking Rice and having a top 15 class in season 1.
JBHuskers: I think it’s fair. If you’re not good at the things that star recruit wants the most, then it’s fair that he would rather go elsewhere. The coach will still have the tools once they’ve leveled up enough to make a run at those recruits with the right skills unlocked.
Official Mole: This is a great feature. Schools that don’t meet a player’s expectations or demands shouldn’t play a major factor right away. However, if your team increases the grades on those specific interests over time then you could possibly move your way up. Dynamic Grades are definitely something NCAA Football needed.
OneEighth: This most certainly does set up a visible difference between large and small schools. I played as Akron while testing the game and a lot of the top prospects where not interested in me at all because I had such low grades on there “Deal Breaker” interests. This of course bummed me out as a coach but made me happy to see that it will take more work to build up that small school. A much bigger hill to climb, as it should be.
Paakaa10: I think this could be the “great equalizer” in recruiting for the future of the NCAA Football franchise. In real life, there are some schools which simply can’t meet the requirements for what a player finds important. Being able to see this replicated in the game will just make the experience feel that much more authentic. If I decide to start off at a school with very low prestige whose attributes really only appeal to a specific type of recruit, then I shouldn’t be surprised when the 5-star players don’t even want to talk to me in the process.
9. Scheduling campus visits are also more important in NCAA Football 14 than they were in previous editions of the game. One change to the system which boosts the importance is “complimentary” and “competitive” visits; complimentary visits happen when you have recruits on campus who will be part of the same offensive unit if they come to your school, while competitive visits happen when you have more than a set number of players at the same position coming to the school at the same time. Campus visits will also get a boost if you schedule later in the season, or if you schedule the visit for a game against a rival or a ranked team. How do you think these changes will affect how you schedule recruits in this year’s game?
Buckeye: Oh I see a lot of Competitive visits coming! You want on my team, you had better prove it! I have always tried to schedule as many recruits as possible for rivalry games so no change there for me.
cdj: This will add a welcome change and strategy to scheduling visits. Users will need to bring in complimentary visits while also racking up corresponding stats to earn extra XP.
I would add that the key to visits isn’t necessarily being late in the year, but being the last school to bring them in for a visit. Be the last school they visit and being on their mind may pay off when it comes time to decide on a school.
Drifterbub: I think the visits will not necessarily change too much, but how you apply them will definitely change. Visits carry more weight at the end of the season which is the exact opposite of what you wanted to do in previous NCAA versions (where it was just a race to a point cap and the earlier the visit the faster you were able to build up to that point). Competitive and Complimentary visits add a layer of strategy and decision making to complicate it. You can no longer blindly schedule visits if you have say three QBs on your board, for example.
JBHuskers: It’ll definitely affect me because I’d always have guys visit during cupcake games (LOL) but I love the change. Gonna add another level of strategy when trying to land those recruits.
Official Mole: In the past I have always tried to schedule recruits to the most important games. To know they will play a major factor this year is great and I’ll have to be more careful when scheduling visit. “Complimentary” and “Competitive” visits sound very promising. I’ll have to mess with it when I get my hands on the game more.
OneEighth: More strategy, more realism, more depth, more planning. This will definitely have an effect on recruiting.
Paakaa10: I like that there’s more of a risk/reward element, as well as more nuance, to the visit process in general. In the past, getting 5 quarterbacks on campus in the same week didn’t really have any negative effect on your recruiting process; it’s good to know that these players will be wary of each other in NCAA Football 14 and you’ll need to be more strategic about the scheduling. I also really do like the concept of “complimentary” visits and trying to engineer camaraderie between members of the same unit when you bring them to campus at the same time.
10. Finally—as revealed earlier in the news cycle—Neutral Site Games have been added to Dynasty and Online Dynasty Mode, allowing you to play the 2013 Neutral Site Games while setting up some of your own using Custom Schedules. Studio Updates are also back, and they have been tuned to be more specific to your team’s situation and to appear during natural breaks in the game you’re playing. Are these presentational elements important to your experience with Dynasty and Online Dynasty, or are they something you’ll largely ignore in favor of getting in-depth with Coach Skills and Power Recruiting?
Buckeye: They are a nice addition for many people but for me I could really care less. Not my cup of tea so to speak.
cdj: Presentation items are very important. Everyone wants their team – and surrounding aspects – to be correct. If a user cannot recreate the basic set-up for the game they just watched, it puts a huge dent into realism and may keep the user from even digging into other features such as Coach Skills and Power Recruiting.
Drifterbub: While I would say that I welcome the additions and they are very much needed, I’m more of a gameplay and dynasty mode guy at my core.
JBHuskers: I definitely love the presentation updates to this year, especially the live ticker showing the play result and that player’s game stats; been asking for that for years. These presentation elements were added to Tiger in a different aspect, and they added a lot to the enjoyment of the game this year. I think that it’ll do the same for NCAA.
Official Mole: Neutral Sites Games were #1 on my “Presentation/Dynasty” wishlist. I can’t wait to set up my own Neutral Site games for my Online Dynasty. I’m glad to see the studio updates will at least mean more to my team and will stay relevant throughout the game. Personally, I don’t favor one major feature over the other when it comes to the news of NCAA Football 14 Dynasty Mode. Everything that has been added sounds like it will create a better experience for everyone. I fee Dynasty Mode for NCAA Football 14 will continue to be my favorite online mode between all sports games.
OneEighth: Presentation goes hand in hand with Dynasty. It can help meld the experience into something immersive. A will structured presentation can feed you all the info you need to help plan your attack on opponents or just make you feel like you are watching the game on TV.
A cool thing about Neutral site games is, if your team doesn’t play a Neutral site game in real life, you can schedule your own. These things just add to not only the realism factor but the fun factor. Last year’s game felt incomplete and I didn’t enjoy it much if at all. This year is the total opposite. I am so excited for NCAA Football 14.
Paakaa10: Presentation is a focus of mine every year, so it’s exciting to see Neutral Site Games in the game and to learn that more tuning is being done with Studio Updates so that they might be better integrated into NCAA Football 14 after their introduction to the franchise last year. I’d say that the presentation elements are of equal importance to me as the Coach Skills and Power Recruiting “gameplay” elements, so it’s good to know that we’ll be seeing improvements across the board for Dynasty/Online Dynasty.
What’s your take on Coach Skills and Power Recruiting and how they’ll affect your Dynasty/Online Dynasty experience in NCAA Football 14? Join the conversation in our Community Forums here at Under The Code.