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NCAA Football 12 Community Event Experience (with Exclusive Screenshots!)

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The first big news regarding EA SPORTS NCAA Football 12 is finally out there for all of you fans to see, and it’s time for me to reveal a secret I’ve been keeping since just before Christmas last year: I’ve been attending Community Events for this year’s game.

Indeed, the development team has done four Community Events—two of which I attended personally—since the week of the BCS National Championship Game in January 2011. As I understand it, this is the earliest that the NCAA Football team has requested community input, and from what I’ve seen, a strong game is even better as a result.

This past Tuesday, Heisman Trophy winner Mark Ingram visited the ESPN studios to be recognized as the winner of this year’s cover voting campaign and that great “sizzle” trailer was released; I still get chills every time I watch that video, which is saying something when I’ve been playing the game in various builds for about 40-50 hours so far already. And today, my fellow Community Event attendees and members of the EA SPORTS Game Changers program are weighing in with our thoughts on what we’ve seen so far to coincide with media site impressions.

The great part of the Community Events has definitely been the depth of knowledge that the attendees have had throughout the process. We have some guys who played football at various levels themselves, and they have brought with them entire playbooks to suggest to the development team; some of those plays were even released through the “25 New Plays Coming to NCAA Football 12” series on Facebook. Other invitees come from computer development and programming fields, and they are able to lend their expertise working with technology to help the developers produce an even more accurate representation of video game football. Some of our members are tournament champions with a particular skill-set that helps them excel at their play and also allows the developers an opportunity to address any potential game balance issues before the game hits the stores.

Then there are people like me who are relatively new to the college football experience, and I’ve become a student of the things that make each school’s football program unique. A great deal of my effort so far has concerned making sure that tradition and presentation continue to get attention in the game so that every fan of the 120 schools in NCAA Football 12 can play with their team and recognize those “small” details which separate their school from everybody else in the country. Those of you who frequent community gaming websites like The Gaming Tailgate, Tradition Sports, and Operation Sports have seen developer Ben Haumiller’s requests for details like Band Sections and Cannons, and I’m pleased to be able to say that my research and the research of the community have allowed the team to get these presentation elements in the game already. This is what can happen when the development team involves the community so early in the process.

On another small-yet-important presentation notice in terms of authenticity, 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. At our most recent Community Event—which happened just last week—those of us playing the game were stunned to see these new uniforms in the game on such short notice. 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.

Throughout the process leading up to this week’s information release, however, both the developers and Community Event invitees have been very aware of the community’s concern that this year would be a “down” year for the game where few things would be touched in the “important” areas—Gameplay and Features—while the team focused all their energy on making the game look good. And even though the fan models in the stadiums have seen improvement and the addition of 3D Grass—going so far as having the grass kicked up on those fields and “pellets” kicked up on artificial surfaces—really helps to ground the players in the game world, rest assured that there are some “game-changing” elements at the core of this year’s title.

One such improvement is the overhaul of zone defense effectiveness. The developers heard your complaints about “Zone D” in NCAA Football 11 and it was the first feature discussed when we met with the team back in the second week of January. After all of the time I’ve spent playing the game so far, I am happy to say that zone defense is no longer an indication of automatic big gains on offense. There are going to be a lot of people facing a complete overhaul of their offensive play style to accommodate a defense which allows linebackers and defensive backs to “pass off” a receiver to the next zone defender—just like you see on the field every Saturday during the season—to ensure that there are no fundamental breakdowns in the coverage.

Another great addition to Gameplay in NCAA Football 12 comes through the general improvement of the tackle system. The game is now designed so that tackles do not happen until players actually make contact in the game world, eliminating the issue of tacklers “warping” to an offensive player to make the play. Even better, the game now allows for consecutive hit tackles, which makes the experience on the field considerably more dynamic. In NCAA Football 12, your halfback can be hit with a glancing blow by a linebacker and then “cleaned up” by a closing cornerback. This year there is even greater “risk/reward” based on how you decide to play on defense as well, as pressing “X” on Xbox 360 or “Square” on PlayStation 3 will make your defender attempt a “wrap-up” tackle which has a higher chance of success than blindly relying on the “Hit Stick” to lay big hits on the offense. Prepare for a big gain against you if you flick the Right Analog Stick and aren’t successful at bringing down the ball-carrier.

On the offensive side of the ball, blocking has seen continued improvement from the big strides made last year, and receivers with the right ratings will be able to take advantage of new diving catch animations to help cover that extra ground to catch a pass and drive into the red zone. There are few things more satisfying than correctly reading the defense and throwing the deep ball where only your stud receiver can catch it for a spectacular diving touchdown.

Yet for all of the things that my fellow Community Event invitees and I are able to share today, there are still a number of surprises in store for you NCAA Football fans over the next few months. Big features await and—while I can’t say anything about them specifically—I can say that anybody who thought that the development team was taking a year off from major additions and improvements will be surprised at how wrong they were. The developers at EA SPORTS have an infectious passion for this game, and that made it even easier as a Community Event invitee to share my thoughts—both positive and negative—in the interest of making a better college football game for everyone.

I hope—as more information is released and the game eventually finds its way into your hands—that the work put into NCAA Football 12 this year impresses you as much as it has impressed me.

Special thanks to Ben Haumiller, Russ Kiniry, Larry Richart, Roy Harvey, Jean Adams, Mike Scantlebury, Anthony White, Alex Howell, Greg Heddlesten, and the rest of the development team for their hospitality and for opening their work to the community and helping us contribute for this year and the future of the game.

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  1. CLW's Avatar
    Nice work man!
  2. Jayrah's Avatar
    Yeah Boi. Good write-up. I'm getting jacked up!
  3. NatureBoy's Avatar
    Great job on the article. Today's new info and blogs have me more excited that ever.
  4. JeffHCross's Avatar
    Great write-up, Brian!
  5. steelerfan's Avatar
    Great job, Brian. I know the Community is going to be very happy with the news to come!