Community Event Impact on NCAA Football 09

Posted July 17th, 2008 at 8:45 am

One of the biggest benefits to the early community events is being able to provide input that can be acted upon. This is the first year with the football titles in which that opportunity has been available. So it’s important to look back at what was mentioned coming out of the first event for NCAA Football 09 and see how much impact it actually had on the final product.

The game was reeled in from then to now and I have somewhat mixed feelings on that. It was much more “wide-open” originally which provided a greater feel that anything could happen at any time which I enjoyed. But the frustration of realizing the defense couldn’t get any stops started to build along with how many interceptions were being returned for touchdowns. Now the game is more constrained, and while keeping the possibility that “anything can happen” it just does so much less frequently. Playing defense can still be frustrating but not because of allowing big plays, instead because stopping the short safe ones consistently is unlikely.

Continue on to read quotes from my event impressions and my feelings on those areas now. For reference you can check out impressions from the first event through parts one and two. How much was acted upon based on the feedback that was given?

One thing I came to realize quickly is if you concentrate on stopping one aspect of the opposing offense you’ll be leaving the other open. So if you play defense to try and stop their running game it gives much more opportunity for them to move the ball via the pass and vice versa. Balance as an offense can really pay off. At times though it felt like you were picking your poison when playing defense. Stopping the opposition on a consistent basis just didn’t happen.

Frustration can still stem from the defense’s inability to get stops. At times it feels like an INT is more likely to stop a drive than forcing a punt. In an online game a few nights ago I was up by two points with a minute remaining and had to punt. Right then I knew I was going to lose the game. I didn’t have any expectation of preventing them from getting in field goal range. It is tough enough to do that with three downs but in four down situations like that you almost feel helpless. Still though it doesn’t mean the defense can’t do anything to prevent first downs, it just feels that way at times.

When it comes to the offensive-defensive balance I’d say the leaning is clearly towards the offense. However in most of the games that were played the scores ended up realistic. It brought about more excitement due to the big plays. Scores will likely depend heavily on the styles of the people playing. With longer quarters (7+ minutes) on All-American the scores would probably be unrealistically high.

As I mentioned earlier the gameplay is more restricted now than back then. For as much as people concentrate on the wide-open gameplay the scores are realistic if even a little lower than expected. It is just the difference between a quick drive that resulted in a big play TD vs a long drive that involved plodding down the field using a short consistent passing game. Six minute quarters seem to produce the most realistic results on All-American.

Penalties play a more significant role this year. If you watch the replays you can even see the holding which generally proved to be the right calls. LG #75 on UCLA was the biggest culprit we saw as he held three times in a single game. Also seen were pass interference, facemasks, offsides, and roughing the passer (see later in the write-up for more on roughing).

I’ve experienced a handful of penalties but they aren’t being called at the rate they were back then. I fall in the middle on how penalties should be handled. I get frustrated when something happens that was completely out of my control (a holding call on a quick slant for example) but would like to see a higher ratio of them when they are deserved (such as QB dropping back too far or holding the ball too long).

Completion percentage seemed to be on the high side. There were not all that many incomplete passes. It was relatively easy to run an efficient offense and move the chains on a consistent basis. I don’t know if that was due to the increased time thanks to the improved blocking or defensive back AI not covering very well. It may be a combination of both (although I really enjoyed the improved blocking so I wouldn’t ever ask that to be reduced). Because of that it seemed as though forcing a turnover was your best shot at stopping the opposing team from scoring.

This was never really addressed. I see a few more errant passes now but generally QBs finish around 80% completion. It still tends to feel as though forcing a turnover is a better bet than preventing a first down.

The pass rush was not something I specifically noted, and even coming out of the second event which used a largely final build I had not spotlighted that as a major issue. What I had realized was the ease of the passing game. Not having a clear idea of what was leading to that other than spotting the high completion percentages and saying the offensive line protected really well…which we now know the ineffective pass rush is a big factor in. For whatever reason though online games are offering a much more balanced experience, completion percentages are more reasonable and the pass rush is fair.

There were a high % of interceptions returned for touchdowns. This seemed to be due to the speed/acceleration and taking bad angles that are impossible to recover from. Off the top of my head I’d say on average 1-2 every game. This got to be a little frustrating that they were occurring so often and there was little recourse to preventing them being taken the distance.

This was one of the aspects of the game that was easy to identify as having been fixed. There are still some INTs for TDs but not nearly like were happening back then. Acceleration has been somewhat toned down and the players take better angles to prevent those from happening.

High jump catches are effective but I don’t think it had to do with spectacular catch. They just made a good deal of jumping catches. Actually I don’t think I saw any spectacular ones completed, a few times there were attempts at it that resulted in the player getting hit in mid-air and dropping the ball.

I was at the events with people who generally aren’t looking to find exploits and that isn’t ever going to be a focus of mine so it looks like I missed on this one. Stick skills are a big part of success this year and those who user catch seem to be able to pull almost anything down regardless of the situation if they know what they’re doing.

We didn’t really see the CPU throw deep which is a concern when considering this has been an issue for a while.

From what I’ve seen and heard this continues to be an issue. I’m not sure why it hasn’t been addressed by now.

We saw a couple times where players returned missed field goals. The CPU actually reacted well to it. Considering the kicking in the game it’s doubtful there will be a lot of them (we only saw them when setting them up on purpose) but it’s a nice addition.

I still like this addition to the game but the chances of returning missed attempts is rare considering the overpowered field goal kicking. When college kickers are hitting 64 yarders and barely missing from 65 (as I did in an online game) that is a big problem. Kickoff distance comes out about right but field goals are ridiculous and one of the most glaring problems I’ve come across.

Despite the variety of penalties one that wasn’t being called appropriately was roughing the passer. We did see one called but there were several blatant late hits that weren’t. Hopefully that can be adjusted by release time.

I haven’t noticed if this is being called properly now. Has anyone seen a roughing penalty or had instances where it should have been called but wasn’t?

Interception returns and other big plays sometimes would have the ball carrier with a lead blocker but no one out ahead for him to block. In that situation he continued to run ahead instead of turning around to block someone who was trying to catch the ball carrier. It looked awkward but I don’t think it ended up costing any of us because it’s so rare to see a player get caught from behind.

I believe this has been fixed. Once that video came out showing “convoy blocking” I assumed it was just the early stages of getting that built in. But to this day I haven’t seen or heard that anyone has actually come across the convoy blocking, especially in the way it was displayed in that video.

The sideline catch animation had an issue where even a few yards off from the sideline they would try to “get their feet in” and then fall straight down.

Not fixed.

Playbooks still default to special teams after punts/fgs/kickoffs. This was an annoyance last year and hopefully they’ll fix it.

Not fixed.

The cheerleader cut scenes are shown a little too often. I would rather see more post play continuation than so many cheerleader scenes.

Thankfully there is much less of the cheerleaders now than back then.

No squib kicks again. This is something they should really bring back.

I knew that wasn’t going to make it in for this year, but they desperately need different options for kicking and kick returning.

Ball carriers when in the open field had the tendency to carry it held out away from their body in one hand. It didn’t seem to increase fumble risk so it likely was just a visual bug.

This still appears to happen though it isn’t as pronounced as back then.

Online Play

Check out my full early impressions of online play here. This was a topic discussed at several points as it was stressed that online needed vast improvement. It looks like they’ve delivered that this year. 09 offers a better online experience than NCAA has ever had. It literally almost feels like a whole new mode has been added now that it is playable.


So while I feel as though improvements were made in response to the feedback out of the first event I’m unsure as to how much difference it actually resulted in. Most of what changed seemed to be things that would’ve been naturally tuned regardless. Still I found that opportunity to have been a beneficial one for the community. Not only did it help by providing suggestions for 09 but by taking an active interest and learning from this experience better ways to take advantage of community feedback will be understood going forward.

NCAA Football 09 is arguably the deepest sports title ever made. Concerns over some gameplay elements are certainly justified through. Online Dynasty is fantastic (along with Online Team Play the best additions to sports gaming in years), custom stadium sounds add the ability to personalize the game, a full blown Campus Legend mode remains, and online play actually runs well this year. Those elements will keep me playing NCAA through Madden 09’s release and beyond.