We are in the twilight of Playstation 3 and Xbox 360′s year with another round of next generation consoles almost upon us. But if NCAA Football 14 is any indication, EA Sports seems focused on making its collegiate football title’s last few years on the current gen, memorable ones. NCAA Football 14 is slated to receive a nice number of upgrades including a new Infinity Engine 2 which promises to deliver a whole new game play experience and new dynasty tools called Power Recruiting and Coach Skills. XXL recently caught up with Ben Haumiller, the producer of NCAA 14, to talk more in-depth about some of the new additions we will see this year.—DJ Rhude (@DJRhude)
XXL: There was a lot done to ramp up the presentation this year, what are some of the improvements we can expect to see?
Ben Haumiller: Presentation is such a big part of college football, from the fight songs to the traditions, to the uniforms; pageantry is what sets the sport apart from everything else. This year a premium was placed on streamlining the presentation moments so that we keep all of the emotion and tradition but show it at a much quicker pace. The pre-game runnouts have been replaced with music videos that serve as hype pieces for that game, these are much faster than previous year’s intros, but hit all of the key moments you want to see in a pre-game. Once the game kicks off you will see a bunch of improvements to the pacing of the post play scenes, the addition of pre-play chatter that gives the players on the field a more alive feel, the addition of new crowd chants in the form of “Seven Nation Army” by the White Stripes and “Kernkraft 400” by Zombie Nation, and new playable camera angles to let fans see the field from new perspectives. Commentary also received a big upgrade this year with the addition of Key Player stories and Drive stories. Key Player stories focus on the performance of a star player and their impact on the game. If the star player is having an off day and another player is taking the spotlight the Key Player story can also branch away from the initial player to talk about someone else’s performance. Drive stories focus on talking about how a team has been doing over multiple drives, if they started out hot and have cooled off in the 2nd half the Drive stories will call out that the coach needs to light a fire under the offense to get things back on track. Outside of the game we have done a lot of work to the menus to make them much more responsive and streamlined so that you can navigate them quickly to get you where you want to go.
How will the ESPN Living Game Clock work?
BH: The ESPN Living Game Clock will function just like it does on a real ESPN broadcast. The living gameclock serves as a constant information stream as stat information pops up on post play and pre-play. ESPN implemented this Living Game Clock as a way to minimize the number of banners that they need to display during the game while still providing fans with a steady stream of stat updates from player performance stats, to a team’s run/pass ratio, to a team comparison of turnovers, you will be constantly informed without the need to pause the game to go to a stats screen or have some big bulky banner clutter up the screen.
I read there will be a halftime show complete with highlights, will a post game show with highlights be included as well?
Joining Rece Davis in the studio this year for the new halftime show is David Pollack who calls games with Rece for ESPN’s Thursday night college football broadcasts. In our halftime show Rece and David will give their perspective on the first half action as well as their thoughts on what might be in store in the 2nd half. While Rece and David are breaking down the action there are highlights from the first half as well as stat banners to help reinforce the story of the 1st half of play. Rece and David have a natural chemistry from working with each other in real life and you can hear it in their banter back and forth. We aren’t including a post-game show this year.
Talk to us a little about the addition of the new Infinity Engine 2 for NCAA Football 14. What kind of impact can we expect it to have on the game and how gamers approach playing this year?
I think the biggest impact you will see with the inclusion of the Infinity Engine 2 will be the limitless possibilities for what can happen on a play. Under the old animation system, there was only so much variety that you could see on those impact moments like tackles or stiff arms, now that physics are applied to all of these moments you really get a dynamic look and feel in the game. With the new Force Impact System, where the ballcarrier makes contact with a defender on a stiff arm determines how the defender will react. Punch him in the facemask and his head bends back, hit him in the shoulder and his torso turns accordingly. Gone are the days where a hand just shoots out from a ballcarrier and the defender just falls down. Now you can actually see the ballcarrier’s arm follow the defender to the ground or if he’s a smaller back, you can see the game of hand-checking going on as he’s just trying to keep the defender far enough away so that he can’t make the tackle.
Traditionally, people have shied away from using power backs in NCAA Football as it always seemed to be more advantageous to use a speed back. Will the Force Impact System make using a bruising runner a more fruitful experience?
All I ask is that when you get the game in your hands, find a big back, call a stretch play from I-Form, watch the fullback blow up the linebacker on the lead block and then get into the open field where there’s just a safety by himself. As you are coming up to him either give him the stiff arm or truck him. There are few things in the game more rewarding then watching what happens to that safety when you successfully stiff arm them into the ground or decleat them on a truck stick. On the other hand though, with the new Acceleration Burst mechanic it’s also a lot of fun to take a little back, find that crease and explode through the hole for a big gain too.
In one of the NCAA playbooks, it was mentioned that the hit stick is even more powerful. Will we see more fumbles or injuries in a typical game as a result of this?
Force Impact has allowed us to do some fun tuning to the Hit Stick, and it’s more effective than ever. There’s definitely an opportunity to cause more fumbles, but you still have to time your hits right and catch the runner when he’s not protecting the football.
What kind of changes was made to improve the running game?
BH: As mentioned before, the Infinity Engine 2 goes a long way to improving realism and eliminating legacy issues like the swerve. We’ve also added a ball carrier avoidance animation which will let running backs and scrambling QBs avoid offensive linemen who are engaged in blocks. Since you don’t have to worry about tripping over your own man you can focus more on finding the hole and shedding defenders. The addition of the Infinity Engine 2 and the Force Impact system were huge upgrades for the running game, but those improvements would have fallen flat if there were not also big upgrades made to run blocking. A new targeting system has been implemented which will prevent guys from peeling off at the last second to go after a linebacker that has no impact on the play rather than blocking the safety that’s closing in on the ballcarrier. Additionally each running play has had their blocking assignments updated vs. each front so that the linemen are targeting the correct players at the snap.
There have been improvements made to the CPU ballcarriers as well so that they are more intelligent in their actions. In the past it was not difficult to shut down the CPU’s running game, but this year be prepared to give up some yards if you are not focused on shutting down their attack.
My favorite improvement for the running game though is the upgrades to the option game. Not only did the blocking overhaul help tremendously with running the option, but the entire option system has been overhauled and is an absolute blast to run. There are over 30 new option types including midline options and the shovel option. If you are a fan of Oregon’s up tempo spread option attack or if you want to go old school with an old Wishbone attack the option is where it’s at in this year’s game.