NCAA 14: Exclusive Interview with Series Producer Ben Haumiller

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NCAA 14: Exclusive Interview with Series Producer Ben Haumiller
image from EA Sports

The release of EA Sports' NCAA Football 14 is just two weeks away. I recently had the opportunity to speak with the game's producer, Ben Haumiller, about the latest version. We discussed various details around the retail version as well as the demo that released June 18.

Overall, the feature set of the demo was robust by preview standards.

It was a bit unique in that it allows gamers to adjust difficulty and other settings. There's also some commentary, which is rare considering many demos ship without much of the audio.

The video below has the audio of the interview in its entirety. Gameplay and a view of the menu from the demo was added as a backdrop. In the event you don't have 43:46 to watch or listen to the entire interview, I've pointed out the key points as well.

 

Customizing Rosters and Coaches

Because the demo auto-generates new names for the playable teams each time you play, I asked Ben if the rosters for the retail version would default to fictional names or numbers as it has been in the past.

He confirmed the rosters will still have jersey numbers for each team.

This obviously leads us to the roster editing question: will gamers still be able to create and share rosters as we have in the past?

The answer is yes.

Nothing has changed on that front, so many of us will still benefit from hard-working teams of gamers who input the names of every player in the sport and share them online.

Beyond customizing and sharing players, NCAA 14 also allows you to create and share coaches. This was possible in NCAA 13, but more details are available to customize the men on the sidelines this year. 

Good Game Bro posted this list of editable options when creating and sharing coaches:

Bio

• First Name
• Last Name
• Skin Tone
• Body Size
• Head
• Apparel
• Hat Type
• Glasses
• Alma Mater
• Level
• Age
• Specialty

Stats
• Years Coached
• Wins
• Losses
• Winning Seasons
• Longest Winning Streak
• Rival Wins
• Rival Losses
• Top 25 Wins
• Top 25 Losses
• Bowl Wins
• Bowl Losses
• Conference Championships
• National Championships
• Years at Current Team
• Team Wins
• Team Losses
• Average Recruiting Class Rank
• Top 25 Classes
• Coach of the Year Awards
• Heisman Winner
• Player Awards
• All-Americans
• Contract Length
• Years into Contract

Offensive Style
• Offensive Playbook
• Run Offense/Pass Offense (slider)
• Aggressive/Conservative (slider)
• Sub Frequency (slider)
• CPU No-Huddle Style

Defensive Style
• Defensive Playbook
• Defend Run/Defend Pass (slider)
• Aggressive/Conservative (slider)
• Sub Frequency (slider)

How Close to the Retail Version Is the Demo?

image from NCAA Football 14

According to Ben, the demo development was cut a couple weeks before the final version. Many of the bugs that were reported have been fixed for the retail version.

There are some that will still appear, but fixes are either already completed or in the works. These fixes should be available via patch on release date or shortly thereafter.

Ben did mention the gameplay in the demo is a good representation of the retail version. The CPU A.I. will be noticeably tougher on both sides of the ball, especially when playing on Heisman skill level.

The various ways to use The Option is perhaps the biggest changes to the gameplay. The pitch relation has been drastically improved.

While the gameplay from the demo should translate to the retail version, the presentation would be significantly more elaborate once the game is released.

The demo version does not include many of the improvements that were added. The aforementioned dynamic player and team stories were kept out, as were the pregame presentation sequences from Rece Davis.

The halftime show with Davis and David Pollack was removed from the demo. All of these omissions were done in an effort to make sure the download size didn't exceed the 2 gigabyte cap for demos. Rest assured, all of these things will be included in the retail version for your enjoyment.

 

Name Database

No new names were added to the database for players, but there are still roughly 10,000 names available that are based on census data. Additional names were added via an online tool a few years ago and there is a chance the developers will revisit that resource for expansion in the future.

 

Beefing Up Commentary With Branching Storylines

image from NCAA Football 14

Brad Nessler and Kirk Herbstreit's commentary will reach back to the beginning of the game when constructing narratives about team and player success/failures in a game. Previously, comments wouldn't go back any further than the previous drive.

Player-specific commentary focuses on the players who are performing well in the current game. Comments won't default to rhetoric about the top-rated player on the team if he's not performing at a high level.

The game will adapt the focus of the color commentary to highlight top performers regardless of their rating.

In your Dynasty and Season modes, any player can become an impact player. This designation is solely based on their performance and not their ratings. This can also impact the commentary, as a running back rated a 66 overall could become the focus of a team if he shines.

 

NFLPA License for NCAA Ultimate Team

Ultimate Team is introduced to the series this year. The NCAA version features the traditional gameplay and features most are accustomed to with the mode, but there are also a few distinctions.

EA acquired the license to use NFL players in the game as a means to build super teams through the pack opening process. But there are also past collegiate stars who aren't in the NFL who will appear in the mode.

Ben confirmed that former Nebraska Cornhuskers legend, Tommie Frazier was on the list of players to acquire for use in the game. The deal wasn't done, but there is no doubt his presence would augment the appeal of the mode—at least to those in Nebraska.

There is also an online option that functions as a season mode with a playoff structure.

 

Road to Glory Improvements

RTG wasn't a major focus this year, but the single-player control mode will now feature the use of Game Face. For those that aren't aware, this is an EA Sports tool that allows gamers to use an actual image of themselves to create players.

The Game Face option will only be available to create RTG players, not players in other modes of the game.

Gamers will now have the option to play RTG games with different camera angles as well. No longer will you be restricted to the player lock camera as you have been in previous editions. Any camera angle in the game is available in this mode.

 

Stay Tuned For the Preview and Review

image from NCAA 14 on Facebook

Look for my official preview of the game on July 5. There will also be a full review and ratings examination on July 9 when the retail version releases.

 

Follow me and Franchiseplay, my sports video game alter ego.


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