Cipher 8's Video Game Central


If there's been one game I've completely enjoyed playing the past few years it's been NCAA Football. While I'm sure many of you out there prefer Madden I think NCAA is the cream of the crop when it comes to football video games. Maybe it's the Online Dynasty mode that is superior to the Online Franchise that gets me to think this but I just think NCAA is more polished and ahead of curve when compared to the Madden games and developers. The NCAA Football design team has taken an all-encompassing approach to development. Instead of highlighting a marquee focus for the year, the NCAA team made sure that they made improvements in a wide swath of areas. It paid off in 2011 and hopefully it'll do so again in NCAA Football 12. I thought they took a big step forward in 2011, especially in presentation. As for the gameplay to me it as okay and it still had a few solid improvements although it could use some more tweaking and improvements in key areas.This year they went into the development process promising to take the next serious step in innovation that they initiated last year with NCAA Football 11. To focus on their fundamental strategy and improve upon three key elements “ Core Experience, Authenticity, and Innovation." You can expect to see improvements to both PRESENTATION and GAMEPLAY as well as additions in various areas of the game, like online dynasties and custom playbooks for example, but right now EA Sports is only talking about two features in particular: the game's presentation and its new animation system.

Last year, a big deal was made about the new visual presentation, and this year the improvements continue...

This year they improved how the game is rendered and in the process improved how the game looks and plays greatly. One of the first upgrades and features announced was HDR Rendering. Without getting too technical, HDR (High Dynamic Range) Rendering gives them a way of rendering bright and dark parts of the game while still maintaining a high level of detail. And by detail we're talking picture quality. HDR Rendering and Dynamic Exposure is basically a new lighting system that uses different layers of exposure to reveal extra player detail as well as provide a visual pop. They wanted to address how the game looks when being played under shadows and in previous versions playing in the shadows made them have to sacrifice contrast to maintain brightness on the shadow side. Now I can talk all day about it but it's just best to watch some of it in this video.

What stands out the most to me is the addition of 3-Dimensional grass and particles!

Take a look at this picture to compare and contrast.

While it may not sound like a major change it really is a significant upgrade for the game series. Instead of being a flat mass like a tennis court the field surface actually looks more photo realistic with 3D blades of grass. Not only that though you'll see the grass and dirt clumps kicked up on and pellets kicked up on artificial surfaces when players make cuts. Plus with a raised surface as a buffer between the ground and players feet we should never have to see another replay where players are striding along the field gliding above ground with their feet never touching down anymore.

Authentic Team Entrances and Game Day Rituals!

Last years biggest standout feature was by far the presentation of capturing in essence what we see on Saturdays. The passion, pageantry, and tradition of College Football. Authenticity is one of their key goals within the game and it’s a huge part of what college football means. Plus it goes a long way into keeping the player immersed in the college football atmosphere. They are making another big push forward in this area in 2012 as a lot of work has been done to beef up the custom team entrances and mascots, whether that's Florida State's Chief Osceola riding out to the field and throwing the spear into the mid field logo, USC's mascot Traveler with "Tommy Trojan" doing the pregame ceremonies with his sword, Colorado U's running of the Buffalo (bison), the Tiger of LSU in the cage on the field, Georgia’s Bulldog snapping at the other teams players, or Texas’ Big Bertha Drum and the Real (Bevo) Longhorn on the field. A short list of other teams with new entrances include Auburn, Florida, Georgia Tech, Oklahoma, Oregon, and North Carolina State. The teams listed highlight just some of the changes coming to NCAA Football 12 but it's important to note they are not the full list of teams so if your favorite major school wasn't listed or if your a fan of a small school that you wouldn't expect to see that level of focus on don't worry. The NCAA team goes along way into making sure all 120 teams are meticulously and painstakingly represented in an authentic manner.
In the first “sizzle” video and in the presentation video they show off these team specific rituals and other game day details that they’ve added to the mix this year. Years ago, we all thought it was a big deal to have Notre Dame’s human mascot accurately represented but now that we’ve got livestock and vehicles running around the field there’s no turning back. Best of all, these entrances will be shown from different angles each time to help keep them fresh in this years game. NCAA 12 is going to be a great tool for people to use to find out and learn about the history and gameday experience of a lot of these schools in Division I football that they may normally never get the chance to watch.
(Click photo for larger view.)

More on presentation...

There will be bowl-specific and conference-specific intros as well as special openings for some rivalry games.

The familiar ESPN presentation has also been taken to a completely new level complete with authentic telecast wipes, animations, and style just like you see on TV. With end-of-quarter highlights, cinematic cut-scenes after big plays, and Gametrack which occurs as the second half starts with Erin Andrews breaking the game down with full highlights. The new wipes that show a highlight after a big play are even conference-specific instead of generic ESPN if you play as conference rivals. Replay montages will also kick in when a player is having a stand out day reaching career stats or is having a very bad day with monumental bad stats. The overall presentation package is much closer to the actual ESPN TV package than NCAA 11 was, so it's really great to see that level of connection between real-life and the game. There will also be band sections in the stands this year and they are actually playing! The bands will be visible in the cutscenes and wipes as will coaches rallying their team on or maybe even jawing with officials.

Other presentation additions...

You’ll be able to fully customize entrance music this year, so get your tracks ready. With options for pregame situations such as ‘anticipation,’ ‘entrance,’ or both and more. There will also be higher resolution crowd models in the stadiums and the crowd sounds are brand new and sound more realistic than they ever have before. If your playing in Michigan or Ohio States stadiums you'll know it and can tell the difference than say if you were playing at Arizona or a smaller stadium. There will be new stadiums for schools like Indiana, new stadium signage for schools like Oregon, and updated field art for schools like Arizona State, East Carolina, Florida State, and Ole Miss. There is also new weather options like heavy fog that some teams will experience during games. As for the players themselves you can expect to see new gear and increased player equipment options i.e. More Pro Combat Uniforms and even subtle uniform details like team colored gloves and bowl patches. Fans of the special logo used by the TCU Horned Frogs at last year’s Rose Bowl Game will also be quite happy to see the inclusion of that helmet design when they play the game this year. Fans of the Arizona State Sun Devils and Washington State Cougars will be happy to know that these schools’ new uniforms—released publicly just weeks ago—are already in the game and ready to go on the field for the game’s launch in July. Oh and there will finally be dreadlocks! Everything contributes to the realism and authenticity of what you see on Saturdays.
With new stadium camera pans, new between quarter highlights, and score overlays as well as custom soundtracks, improved crowds, and new player gear it all goes into making one of the most impressive presentations in a sport game ever. If you enjoyed the presentation in NCAA Football 11, you will be impressed by what they have done with NCAA Football 12.