NCAA 09 Probably Doesn't Suck Comment Count

Brian July 7th, 2008 at 3:51 PM

Every July NCAA Football comes out, and starved college football fans go through The Five Stages of EA:

  • Hope. Surely, this is the year they add something bleeding obvious like simming through the end of blowouts or online dynasty. And there's no way they'll have every other pass dropped or intercepted again.
  • Suspicion. Feature X sounds pretty stupid and time-consuming. They probably could have spent their time better if their weren't directed by EA market-droids. And they do this every year.
  • Joy. THEY FIXED IT. I LOVE IT.
  • Annoyance. You know, I don't think the computer should never miss a field goal. And they call timeouts weird. And the CPU quarterback throws more interceptions than completions. I'm tired of winning 99-0.
  • Rage. AAAAAAARGH NOT ANOTHER SIX INTERCEPTION GAME. Maybe I'll bump it up to Heis- AAAAAAARGH I'M LOSING TO ARMY BY 60. [flings controller at cat]

Lather, rinse, and repeat until about May, at which point "hope" starts anew. It would be cute if it didn't cost 50 bucks.

Via Dubious Quality comes welcome news for those uncertain about whether Tiburon's latest version of NCAA is more than a roster update and some stupid-marketer-driven unrealistic features*: Gameshark editor Bill Abner has latched onto an early copy of the game and is blogging his first impressions a week and a half before the game's official release date. Abner is a seasoned video game review vet and on his blog he's thankfully blunt. He's also an Ohio State fan. Can't win 'em all.

Some highlights follow.

First game against Michigan State ends 31-3:

I can already tell that playing with a good team on AA lvl (default) isn't gonna fly. Not just due to the INTs but Ohio State is just friggin loaded. I feel like I can lob it to Robiskie almost at will. Keep in mind I have *never* liked NCAA on default settings so this is by no means a shock or something to take too seriously. It's the first half of one game on settings we all know to be a bit easy out of the box. ...

But -- I really, really hope we are not stuck, again, with the CPU INT problem. If sliders do not fix this, it will yet again by a bust as a solo game and it will depend on online dynasty mode to save it. Normally I'd say "Eh, it's just one half" but with how NCAA 08 turned out in this regard, the red flag is up.

Heisman -- previously a realm of controller-throwing frustration -- seems better:

And best of all -- at the half it's 13-10 OSU and that was the only USC INT. USC QB is I think 8/13 at the half. Beanie has 70 yards on the ground. AND -- Heisman feels extremely playable this year. If you are an NCAA vet--trust me. Start on Heisman. Don't even mess with AA. Well, if you are playing with a good team at least. Even so, it plays SO much better.

Another game:

But to me it seems clear at least thus far that it's w/o a doubt a Heisman thing. [the lack of 16 CPU interceptions -ed] The game just flat plays better on this level and look..I'm killing Iowa so it's not like the AI is going to whip you at this level mercilessly.

The first truly annoying issue to rear its head:

Kick coverage is 100% ass. Sorry to keep repeating this--but this needs fixed. Maybe longer punts? You are going to average 30 yards per kick return in this game.

...but they've accurately modeled Jay Paterno!

But late in he game PSU had several 4th down plays when they were down 21-13. On 3rd and 5 with 2:12 left they called off tackle and lost a yard -- 4th and 6 ...same play. No gain. Kinda odd. Then the next possession they had 4th and 10 and threw a 5 yard square out and the WR caught the pass out of bounds. The HBs and FBs still have NO Idea where the sideline is on flare patterns. This is an OLD problem and that is still in the game. This sealed the game for me for the most part and was kinda anti climatic.

The interception issue gets largely cleared up and Abner gets waxed by FSU as Tulane, plays an every-yard-counts defensive struggle with FSU as OSU along with some other games. The end result:

I have not even opened up the recruiting model yet and I'll try to take a look at it this weekend. But right now -- based on the still somewhat small sample size of games -- NCAA is a green light. I have not had this much fun playing NCAA since the 2004 version. Usually by this time we had discovered either the crazy INTs (NCAA 2008), the huge number of dropped passes (NCAA 2005..), terrible secondary AI (NCAA 2007..) -- something that ruins the experience, for me at least. So far, this is a really, really fun game and I cannot WAIT to start our Online Dynasty.

This is Stage II of a typical year with NCAA: "I Love It, They Fixed Everything." HOWEVA, further gameplay...

That said, there are things that the more I play the more I think might be real issues that are not just going to go away. The CPU run game isn't very good. I know I am using OSU but even in the games where I used lesser teams the AI struggles UNLESS I refrain from switching players. If I stick to playing my chosen player for the entire play the CPU runs a lot better. But if I switch...it's lights out. He can't get away and most HBs average about 2.5 a carry. Note: I have yet to mess much with the CPU Run and RBlock sliders.

The Ghost Juke cost MSU the win in the 31-30 game. This one is really annoying. MSU was returning a kickoff and found a seam and then raced to the sidelines. He was home free -- gone. All he had to do was outrun OSU backup LB Brian Rolle but instead of just running for daylight he juked no one in particular and allowed Rolle to catch him. I have seen the Ghost Juke about 5 times now. Not good.

I also don't see much variety in the AI offensive playcalling. Deep passes are *rare*. I see them , but maybe 1 per game tops and it is not uncommon to see zero. (By deep I mean 20+ yards in the air.) A lot of dinks, dunks, and 7 yard passes over the middle. Because of this it is hard to tell a difference between playing against, say, San Diego State and Michigan State. The plays all feel similar it's just that MSU is better at running them.

...often reveals issues that range from minor to infuriating. Still, Abner's upshot even after these annoyances reveal themselves: "I still feel it's the best version on the field (I have not touched recruiting or checked the sim engine or the ranking AI) since NCAA 04, which was in my mind the high point of the series." That + online dynasty might be worth a look even if you're severely jaundiced towards EA and their exclusive licenses.

*(okay, there is one no-BS must-have feature: online dynasty is a huge freaking deal and might cause me to not only spring for the game but for a 360.)

Comments

gsimmons85

July 7th, 2008 at 4:13 PM ^

to see how low michigan is rated. If they just use wvu's playbook. If the running out on to the field has changed. Will anyone else still be playing it on an old ps2 like me?

MaizeNBlueJ

July 7th, 2008 at 4:16 PM ^

To each his own, Brian.  I'm about as Anti-Microsoft as they come.  Couple that with the fact that I've been playing NCAA Football on Sony systems since the '98 version for PS1, and I had to have the PS3.  Blu-Ray player too which is nice.

Back to the point of the post though, I'm really excited for this years version of the game.  I've played the demo a few times and while there are problems, it does seem a LOT more polished than '08.  The game looks a ton better than last year, IMO.  Anyway, I'm looking forward to it, as I do every year.  Go Blue!

Josh

Jim Harbaugh S…

July 7th, 2008 at 5:22 PM ^

Gsims - I'll be playing it on the PS2 also. EA hinted that last year was the last time they were making NCAA for the PS2 - but luckily they game through with this years version. I just hope it is up to date like the next gen systems because 08 on the PS2 was basically 07 with updated rosters and 3 wildcat plays. I'll be picking this game up next week as well as the new NaS cd.

Ziff72

July 7th, 2008 at 7:53 PM ^

Why would he test it out with OSU?? Why not pick the Sparties or Ole Miss and get a better idea what is going on. Yeah passing is wasy with OSU...no crap. It's like analyzing Norm Chow's playcalling ability based on the year he had Leinart, Bush, White, Williams etc....the analysis isn't that bad the logic supporting it is...

ubrakto

July 8th, 2008 at 9:57 AM ^

In Bill's defense (as his Feisty Weasel co-blogger, I'm obligated) he's an OSU guy and he's posting impressions on a personal blog and not as a professional website review. He's gonna play where he's gonna have the most fun. Of course he's going to use the Buckeyes first.

That said, if you go to and read the blog you'll see that he's also done some testing with smaller schools and has just launched a Ball State dynasty to look deeper at how the game plays out when not using a 5-star school.

---Todd

UMichGA

July 7th, 2008 at 8:45 PM ^

Hello all.. I will be getting this on the PS3 when it comes out, if anyones interested in some games just drop me a line..

PS3 Gamer Name is JeffMurdock01 

megalomanick

July 8th, 2008 at 12:19 AM ^

There's an asshole out there who recently bought out many of the old free roster sharing sites. This guy steals rosters from those that spend hours upon hours naming all of the players on every team and then sells them for profit. Never pay for rosters, there are a number of ways to get them for free. http://freencaa09rosters.com/ is the main site this year. Also, PastaPadre at http://www.pastapadre.com/ got an early copy of the game and already has rosters up for the 360, so they're ready to go on release day.

anthem_1

July 8th, 2008 at 12:32 AM ^

if you are going to be in the market for an xbox360, you may want to wait for e3 and what microsoft is going to announce.

there is a definite $50 price drop coming on the 20 gb model, and may announce a new 60gb model with better hardware. i don't know how many xbox360 owners have experienced the "red ring of death", but the new model will supposedly solve that problem. also, target is going to offer a $25 gift certificate with xbox360 purchase this weekend.

enough of my yammering - here's an article with all the possible particulars in case anyone cares.

xbox price drop/new model?

sca1zi

July 8th, 2008 at 8:54 AM ^

Some of the newer models(last year or so) already have an improved heatsink in them. And, the new Jasper chipset will also helo with the RROD/overheating issues. Having played both consoles in a professional capacity, I would say that if you want a pure gaming console, buy a 360. If you'd like a blu-ray and a gaming console, get a PS3.

ubrakto

July 8th, 2008 at 10:02 AM ^

Hey, Brian. As Bill's co-blogger on The Nut and Feisty Weasel I just wanted to thank you for the plug. I'm glad to see you're enjoying the impressions Bill has been putting up. He may be a Buckeye (we can't all be perfect), but he knows his sh#@ when it comes to the EA NCAA franchise. Hopefully he'll have a good set of slider settings for the game going soon after it comes out. That said, I am pissed at him because he got an early copy of the game and I didn't. :) I love the site re-design, by the way! ---Todd

Tim Waymen

July 8th, 2008 at 10:15 AM ^

It's just a great piece of technology. Yes, everything that is out now will be outdated in 5 years, but the PS3 is superior to XBox 360. Better hardware, more reliable, blu-ray, and better with updates. 360 supposedly has better games, but the games that I would play on 360 are available on PS3 or are somewhat similar to one on PS3. More stuff is coming out for PS3 now that it is becoming more popular and has been around for longer (the 360 came out about a year before). If you just want something to play games on and don't need anything fancy, then maybe just go with the 360. NCAA 09 is also out for the Wii though, and that is cheaper than both systems (I think).

dex

July 8th, 2008 at 10:22 AM ^

I enjoy the Wii when with friends and drinking, but playing Madden on it was one of the most miserable video game experiences of my life.

k bizzle

July 8th, 2008 at 10:26 AM ^

"The HBs and FBs still have NO Idea where the sideline is on flare patterns. This is an OLD problem and that is still in the game. This sealed the game for me for the most part and was kinda anti climatic." Very very dissapointing. How many years now has this been a problem and EA hasn't solved it? EA continues to just make minor adjustments here and there and not actually fix the most obvious of problems. Can't wait to throw it to McGuffie while he is running behind RR on the sidelines on a 4th and 8........ We can only hope Barwis will also be our mascot and when Michigan scores he will make the other mascot do push ups or run the stairs!

sca1zi

July 8th, 2008 at 11:27 AM ^

I worked at EA Tiburon as a tester. I worked on NCAA and Madden 04 and 05, plus many other titles. "Simple fixes" aren't so simple.Fixing that problem may in turn create many more problems in the code. Some of these issues are deemed "known shippable", which means EA knows about it, but they don't think the effort to fix it is worth it.

That being said, you have no idea how many times I hear " How did you guys miss that (issue)?" I'll answer in 2 parts:

1. Many times the testers, producers, etc didn't. It was identified and not fixed because of time or code restraints.

2. You're a bunch of math geeks, so here goes. Each console has a team of 10 testers. These testers average around 1000-1500 hours actually banging on the game. So, we'll say 20000 hours is a generous estimate. How many copies does this title sell on the first day ? 200k +. If each person that bought the game only played 1 hour on the first day, there has already been 10 times as much in game time than the testers have. So, it magnifies exponentially.  That's why no one found the 10 th year of SMU dynasty crashes. There's simply too many variables to find them all.

 

just sayin'.

k bizzle

July 8th, 2008 at 1:34 PM ^

I understand you can't fix all of the problems that come along ever year, but this has been a problem with the game for at least 3 years or more. I know the timelime to make a game like NCAA or Madden every year is very tight.

 I would think that each year they would be able to go after at least one major problem and fix it for years to come. The problem with the RBs not being able to tell where to turn before going out of bounds is pretty glaring out of all the other problems.

 So I guess this will be the fourth year and counting of them "not having enough time" to fix a major problem and make the game that much better.

ubrakto

July 8th, 2008 at 3:15 PM ^

Game testers have a thankless job, no doubt and I think its almost always a mistake to assume that a game's faults lie at the feet of the people who do QA testing on it. The problem, in my limited experience, with buggy titles or bugs that repeat year after year (mostly sports games) isn't even the developer, rather most often it's the publisher. There are exceptions, but I think, most of the time, developers want to do a lot of things in terms of adding features or fixing bugs that publishers prevent them from spending time/money on because they don't think it'll have the least bit of impact on game sales.

With NCAA, though, I do think Tiburon has to shoulder some blame for the year to year stuff. I get that some problems (like the players running their routes clear out of bounds) aren't easy to fix, but they're supposed to be professional game developers. If it were easy to address, they could hire me to do it. So, I don't want to hear that fixing route running issues or DB AI issues or kick coverage problems is hard. Of course it's hard. Tiburon is supposed to be a professional outfit and they've had years on the current-gen consoles (360/PS3) to fix some of this stuff and they still haven't. Now, it's their choice not to devote the necessary time to it. But if they're not going to be bothered, then don't expect me to fork over $60 for the game every year.

---Todd

sca1zi

July 8th, 2008 at 4:11 PM ^

I'm with you guys on most of this stuff. I've submitted numerous major gameplay issue bugs, and was shot down. I wasn't defending EA at all, just giving people a different perspective on the process. Would I rather memory be alotted for correct routes rather than mascot celebrations ? Hell yes, but that's not gonna happen.

ubrakto

July 10th, 2008 at 1:26 PM ^

Oh, believe me, I sympathize. I hope my comment didn't come off as a shot at you. Video game testers have the single most thankless job in the industry. My comment was more about the developer/publisher problem that I don't think gets anywhere near enough discussio. Testers are an easy scapegoat when a game is released with problems, but I would wager that they are *very* rarely the reason a game goes out with crushing bugs/problems in it. 

papabear16

July 9th, 2008 at 10:54 AM ^

Is it true that the '09 games (NCAA and Madden) won't be out for the XBox? If so, it's time for an upgrade. What do you recommend, and any advice on getting a system cheap? Basically, I'm only using the Xbox for sports games like NCAA/Madden.

sca1zi

July 9th, 2008 at 12:57 PM ^

Ea is phasing out titles for the "current gen" consoles. I'm thinking this is the last year for both, seeing how the xbox and PS2 are over 7 years old.

papabear16

July 9th, 2008 at 1:32 PM ^

And just to be clear, I don't think NCAA 09 is available for Xbox, unless I missed it somewhere. So, I think LAST year was it for those games. Darn it.

hat

July 10th, 2008 at 1:53 AM ^

I love the Ghost Juke. That's the kind of weird screwy gameplay that all video games used to have, in the old days of 8-bit Nintendo and the like (sniff).