• Real Assignment AI in NCAA Football 11

    This year, EA Sports has made some dramatic changes to how offensive linemen select their blocking targets. While some defenders may have went unblocked in NCAA 10, this year they are picked up and perhaps even double teamed.

    Associate Designer Mike Scantlebury breaks down some of the big changes that will shape the game.

    Hey NCAA Nation, Mike Scantlebury here Ė Associate Designer on NCAAģ Football 11. So, we have made some very dramatic changes to the way the offensive linemen select their blocking targets. Last year you might see some plays where defensive linemen lined up at the point of attack would sometimes be left unblocked. This year those defenders not only get blocked but they are often double teamed by run blockers. This has improved the effectiveness of run plays exponentially. In NCAA Football 11 youíre going to find shotgun runs to be more effective than they have ever been in any of our games. In college football shotgun running is a huge part of many teams high powered offense. You have to be able to mix it up, whether that means throwing in a Read Option, HB Sweep, Jet Sweep, HB Draw, Wild Cat, etc. That is where a lot of our focus has been for NCAA Football 11.

    Read Option >

    The Read Option is one of the most popular, and with the right personnel one of the most lethal plays in college football. The í05 Longhorns won the National Championship with little more than the Read Option, but weíve never felt that the play had reached its full potential in the NCAA Football series. With that in mind we went back to the drawing board and completely rebuilt the play from the ground up. First you will notice that we use our new zone blocking matchups. The threat at the point of attack is always priority number 1. So if a safety wants to creep up into the box to try to blitz that guy will get targeted, we want you to get to the outside. Working your way down the line you will notice how covered offensive linemen get help from their uncovered teammate. As for the backside defensive end, he is intentionally left unblocked; thatís your read to make. If you donít know how a Read Option play works then Iíll break it down for you right now so you can start running for glory as soon as you get the game.

    Read Option Rules

    1. If you see that unblocked backside defensive end crashes down, you keep it and take off with your quarterback.

    2. If you see that unblocked backside defensive end sits back and stay home then you hand off to your running back.

    You see, if you decide to hand it off when that defensive end is crashing down, then heís going to tackle your HB in the backfield. If you decide to keep it when the defensive end is staying home then heíll be waiting for you when you try to take off with your QB and the play will more than likely go for a loss. Thatís why itís best to follow the rules if you want to be successful running the Read Option. Now, remember when youíre running this against a formation where a LB is the end man on the line of scrimmage (e.g. 3-4) thatís who youíre going to be reading - in those cases the outside linebacker will be left unblocked not the defensive end.

    Triple Option >

    This is another play that has been revamped for NCAA Football 11. This play also uses our new more realistic zone blocking matchups. The same two rules from Read Option apply for this Option play; however, the only difference with the Triple Option is that once you take off with the QB you have the option to pitch it to a running back or wide receiver depending on which play you are running. You can run both plays frequently and become comfortable with your reads since the behavior is the same.

    For the under center Triple Option the blocking logic is different. Against most fronts you will notice more interior double team blocks than on the Shotgun Option plays. This is because handing it off to the up-back needs to be a legitimate threat for the play to work as intended. Now like the Shotgun Option plays, when running the Triple Option from under center, you must also make a key read in order for this play to be truly successful. The read that you will be making on Triple Option from under is even more critical than the read you make on the Read Option play because this time we intentionally leave the play-side defensive end that is left unblocked.

    If youíre running it to a side where a tight end is lined up youíre going to notice him let that DE go by and seal that outside linebacker so you can make it to the outside with your QB. This play is a lot of fun to run. Hey, I wasnít going to tell you guys about this but Anthony White (our playbook guy) even added some misdirection plays this year so itís even harder for a user to predict where the play is going. You know the Option is all about deception and misdirection.

    HB Stretch >

    On these outside run plays, blockers will follow the true rules of zone blocking. Linemen will see if their play-side teammates or backside teammate is covered. If their teammate is covered (and they arenít covered in many situations) they will look to double team a defensive lineman. Zone blocking is often a successful scheme because defensive linemen are often double-teamed at the point of attack. This allows the offensive line to get a better push and creates multiple running lanes for the ball carrier to choose from.

    After engaging in a double team block, youíre going to see the appropriate player move up to the second level depending upon the situation. We have reworked this aspect of our double team blocking and it has made a huge difference in the effectiveness of our Stretch run blocking. Combine this run logic with our new locomotion for ball carriers and you will be able to create fantastic looking runs that you were not able to pull off in NCAA Football 10! With the way blockers hit their double team assignment and then work their way up to the second level, you have to be very reactive on defense or else those hogs up front will quickly work their way up to and get you in their grasp.

    HB Draws >

    In previous years the effectiveness of HB draw plays has been hit or miss -I know for a lot of user it was mostly miss. This year the blocking on draws has been redone to truly emulate a pass play where the QB hands off to the running back instead of passing the ball. Youíll see the pocket starting to form because defensive ends will drive the offensive tackles into the back field while the defensive tackle tries to drive the guard or center into the face of the QB. This opens up big holes for the running back to go through when you make the handoff. Combine that with the defensive reaction to the draw plays this year where defenders actually drop back as if itís a pass play and you have a real formula for success when you call a draw versus a pass defense.

    Some teams have HB draws in the same formation that they run bubble screens out of, when the defender covering the slot sees him flaring to the outside to catch that bubble screen the defender follows. If you run the draw to the side where the slot is clearing out that defender you can image how much field will be in front of you. You can pick up significant yardage before you even get touched running this play. Third and long has become a lot more precarious for the defense as a user will have to be very judicious because he has to respect the threat of the draw.

    CPU Running >

    To top it all off we have totally overhauled CPU ball carrier logic. The CPU has had a hard time establishing the run game in previous years. They were always looking to take it outside, making unnecessary jukes and spins, not looking to truck defenders. This year the CPU is looking to get yards. AI controlled ball carriers are not always going to be looking to run away from defenders, sometimes they will look to run over defenders.

    Getting a first down needs to be a ball carrierís number one priority. Now, Iím not saying that the CPU will never look to bounce it outside. The run lanes are weighted, and if the CPU recognizes that they have a high chance to pick up more yards or even take it to the house then they bounce it outside. A number of factors play a role in what lane the ball carrier takes; ball carrier vision, the amount of defender within or closing in on a run lane, and the speed and acceleration of a ball carrier (we donít want slow fullbacks trying to bounce runs outside). The CPU is better at running the ball on every type of run, which includes Dives, Tosses, Stretch Runs, Counters, Power Os, Off Tackles, Read Options, Triple Options, etc. So youíve been warned, containing the CPU running game this year will be harder than any other year.

    These new blocking improvements will make the running game in NCAA Football 11 much more realistic and more fun than it has ever been. Whether youíre the one pounding the rock or defending against the ground attack, in NCAA Football 11 the run game is a whole different world. Thanks for reading and expect more gameplay info for NCAA Football 11 in the coming weeks...
    Comments 4 Comments
    1. Kwizzy's Avatar
      Kwizzy -
      CD guys,

      I was reading this new Madden blog on the new run blocking:

      Assuming that this is the same as assignment AI (and comparing the 2 blogs it looks like they are), it got me wondering if you guys might be able to answer a few questions about how this affects the defense:

      -I love the idea of realistic double-teams & peeling off to the backers. My question is, did you noticed how this worked if it was up against a dominant defensive lineman? Do higher rated Dlineman eat up the double team keeping the backers free? Do they flat out beat the double team at times?

      -If you called defenses geared towards stopping the run, did it have a legitimate shot at stopping the run? Do extra men in the box frustrate the blocking schemes like they should?

      -Do lower rated lineman execute these blocks less effectively?
    1. cdj's Avatar
      cdj -
      I didn't look at the ratings as much as I would have liked to break it down (the build at that time didn't like us looking at depth charts), but your second question is a yes. Put enough guys in the box and they will stop the run. The blockers can only do so much but they don't get as confused so easily like they did last year even with fewer men in the box.

      I saw some people asking raczilla on twitter about ratings and he said there should be a dev chat soon on this topic where that would be a great time to get Scantlebury to answer it in detail. This blog is basically the same as in NCAA, so just apply it to the game.
    1. Rudy's Avatar
      Rudy -
      I'm wondering if they got the online roster editor going. Adam Thompson hinted last year that they were looking into something like that. It would be fantastic as you could share rosters across platforms and you could have full rosters ready before the game even released.
    1. Solidice's Avatar
      Solidice -
      the CPU running sound really nice.

      looking forward to seeing the HB draws. hoping to be able to catch some people off guard when using Texas Tech for once.